Readers comments 5-3-19
Last week, I attended the architectural commission meeting in which our city was being asked to extend, for a fifth time, a plan approved 12 years ago to build an additional 96 high-density townhomes in the northwest parking areas at Foothill and Indian Hill.
I was appalled to watch how our city’s representatives appeared to be poised to kowtow to the developer. It was obvious at the meeting that our commissioners are being hoodwinked. Our own city planner even changed the wording of the question given to the commission to steer them to rule against the best interests of our community.
The level of deception is phenomenal— describing these as two-story by not including the only partially submerged “garage level” below the first and second floors, trying to hide the Colby Circle project by not including it in the city development info in our mailers. Also, acting as if these are affordable units when only three will be, since most of the limited number of affordable places earmarked in this so-called “revitalization plan” are in the 30 townhouses already being built.
Further deception is seen in the suggestion that that there is adequate parking by adding street parking (wait—isn’t there a city ordinance against overnight street parking?), that these homes are near public transport when only one regular bus (the 188) goes to Indian Hill and Foothill. The list goes on.
In addition, the developer continues to threaten the city. As written in last week’s COURIER, if the city does not grant another extension “The property owner would say that’s a legal taking of their property rights and the city would be in a legally challenged position.” That doesn't make sense.
Electing to not extend for a fifth time so a new buyer can “evaluate design changes, prepare construction plans, secure financing, obtain necessary approvals and permits and construct improvements that are prerequisites to the project” only illustrates how the developer failed to complete the proposed project in time, and needs to resubmit their plan in the customary fashion. There is no “taking” and so the threat of the developer suing the city falls flat.
To the city of Claremont, you are not required to extend this permit again, and in good faith to the community you were elected to serve should not extend this application. The current developer has had over a decade to work on the project and failed to do so. There is no compelling argument that there was an unavoidable circumstance; many other developers who suffered financially during the market crash have had time to recover and have completed their projects.
The new buyer should go through the regular process of review since the time to act on the stale plan has expired several times over. If they feel the current plan is appropriate, they could resubmit it for approval.
However, since so much has changed over the last decade, I would hope the developer/new buyer works with the city and community to create an up-to-date plan that would guarantee the responsible development of the Colby Circle corridor to match our community’s needs and values.
Marla Abrolat, MD
About Pilgrim Place
Thanks from our 300 residents to the COURIER and Jan Wheatcroft for last week’s column about Pilgrim Place. While after more than a hundred years we still call ourselves “Pilgrims,” we are increasingly far removed from only being New England Congregationalists.
If retirement is viewed as being ready to put your feet up while telling one another stories about one’s pre-retirement years, it doesn’t take long to be caught up in our very different lifestyle.
Many of the most important changes are reflected in our newer residents. A number of years ago a significant group of Catholics was welcomed, followed by Buddhists. Pilgrim Place is committed to welcoming those of other religions, and those of no religion. A decade ago the notion that we only welcome returning missionaries, pastors and other religious professionals was broadened to welcome anyone whose vocational life had been spent in a charitable institution.
More recently the matter of one’s vocation was set aside but now it is still expected that all new Pilgrims evidence a serious active commitment to matters of peace and justice—words which define a central ethos of the community, together with our commitment to each other. No Pilgrim is an island entire to itself. We live in a very wide world.
Gender identity has not been an issue for years, and gays and lesbians—married or not—are warmly welcomed. High on our agenda is an effort to include more residents with diverse racial and ethnic heritages.
We are also seeking ways to welcome those with fewer financial resources. Anyone 60 or older and ready for a vital encounter with a group of friends with lives and minds open to a journey without limits, give a look.
Charles and Wendy Bayer
Pilgrim Place residents for 17 years.
Wait for final reports
In a letter to the COURIER’s April 26 edition, Ludd Trozpek shares some remarks on the most recent meeting of the Police Station Citizen’s Advisory Committee.
Information was presented that may, indeed, turn out to be good news for the citizens of Claremont: based on a recent engineering review, it appears that the present police station may be reusable as part of a future police station after all, and that it may be less costly as a result. However, it is important to note a couple of issues before we reach these conclusions, perhaps prematurely.
First, it is not yet fully confirmed that the current station can be refurbished and meet current seismic standards. The information that was presented is certainly promising and I am myself hopeful that this will be the case. However, the citizen’s committee has not yet seen the reports that will be needed to verify this. So, I suggest we remain cautiously optimistic until this information is available for full review.
Second, assuming that the new structural analysis ends up supporting this conclusion, it is not accurate to say that the building will be “perfectly usable…without substantial structural work.”
In point of fact, the same firm that is reviewing the future usability of the building is presently preparing what may be as much as $2 million worth of structural work that would be done more immediately to ensure the safety of our hard-working police department employees and volunteers.
These figures are also not final, but the full cost of a re-use of the building would properly include these costs, which would make the total cost of reuse something more like $20.9 million rather than $18.9 million in 2019 dollars.
In addition, the building isn’t being built this year; the election cycle for the bond could be more than a year away, and any construction would typically not begin for more than a year after a bond would pass, given the time needed for the preparation of construction documents, approvals, bidding and the actual financing of the bond.
In short, we will need to take an additional inflation factor into account, which may further reduce the difference between a newly conceived project and Measure SC.
So, yes, we may have some good news coming our way. Let’s let the process continue and wait for the final conclusion. It is important that we conduct the current process in a thorough, careful way so that we can deliver a result that our community can both trust and be proud of.
The other $3.6 million
In last week’s COURIER, a letter to the editor quoted $18.9 million as the cost to strengthen and expand our existing police station. Perhaps mistaking our consultant’s slide to represent the total cost of the project, the writer declared that costs had “plummeted” from the Measure SC plan two years ago, and it was definitely right to have defeated it.
The problem is that the $18.9 million number we saw at the citizens advisory committee will not be the total cost. What was missing?
First, it will cost $2 million to strengthen the roof and protect personnel in the existing station before the remodeling and addition can begin. That first step is not included in the $18.9 million budget, but the project cannot be completed without it. Adding that $2 million increases the new proposal to $20.9 million.
Second, the estimated cost was presented for “2019 dollars.” Why? It will take at least two years to again complete the design, determine the contributions from all sources, get voter approval and then get bids. This two-year process was budgeted in Measure SC to cost $1.6 million for the escalation in labor and material costs.
The consultants verbally reported to our committee that construction costs are rising rapidly now, but they gave us no guidance on the estimated escalation. Perhaps they didn’t want to forecast that number yet. They zeroed out the escalation cost with the note “2019 dollars.”
When the time comes, we will need to raise enough money for the 2021 cost of construction, not the 2019 cost. If we add the prior $1.6 million into the budget, the new project now totals $22.5 million.
This total is only 10 percent less than the Measure SC cost for an entirely new police station that did not require the police department to relocate into portables for a lengthy time.
It is good news that we can save the station and add to it in some manner. However, when I said at the meeting “We can’t tell the public this can be done for $18.9 million,” it was because we need to have an official accounting of the full cost of this new proposal.
OLA, a home away from home
As a student at the Claremont Colleges coming from Houston, Texas, I initially found it quite difficult to adapt to life in Claremont. Not only was the transition to college in itself difficult, but trying to assimilate with the community here while maintaining my own social and cultural identity from back home, was a big challenge.
After stumbling across the Our Lady of the Assumption parish and deciding to attend mass on a Sunday morning, I was completely taken aback by the sense of belonging I felt when I stepped inside.
It was the priest’s commencement of mass with introductions of first-time attendees and the fact that everyone around me seemed to know each other and partook in conversations before and after mass that made me realize how strong of a community this was.
Offering mass in English, Spanish and Vietnamese throughout the week, it shows to be a unifying place of congregation and it serves a growing multi-ethnic community in Claremont.
I am extremely grateful for the community OLA has given me and for allowing me to continue practicing and growing my Catholic faith alongside a great community.
Without a doubt, the dedication the priests and staff at OLA put toward the people of Claremont is one to admire.
Housing and homelessness
I have been a part of the Claremont community for almost three years now, and one of the main issues I continue to have with the city is how they deal with their issue of homelessness.
For the past three years, I continue to see a fair amount of homeless people in the Claremont Village or down by the corner of I-10 and Indian Hill Boulevard, but the city seems to do almost nothing for this group of individuals.
When I looked at the city’s website for resources for the homeless, I see a plan that was developed over a year ago with no concrete evidence that anything has been done with that plan.
In the list of resources provided by the city, there are actually no homeless shelters or housing opportunities within our city limits. Instead of actually taking the initiative to provide something for these people, we just ship them out to neighboring cities like Pomona or Upland.
The city of Claremont also does not provide affordable housing or opportunities for the homeless population to get into homes. Housing prices in the city are far too expensive for this group, and that needs to change
With Gavin Newsom taking on the role of Governor of California, he has made getting housing costs under control a priority through the Marshall Plan as the homeless epidemic in California continues to grow. Under this new plan, Claremont has not met the standards set by Mr. Newsom. If this issue of no affordable housing and no place for the homeless continues to stay, then we should be prepared for plentiful lawsuits and fines from the state.
The city of Claremont needs to step up sooner rather than later to provide resources for our homeless, affordable housing and stop pushing our issues to other cities like Pomona, Montclair and Upland.