Readers comments 5-8-20
Be fair about Village South
The Claremont City Council is scheduled to discuss increased density in the Village South Specific plan at its Zoom meeting on May 12. This is not a suitable item to be placed on this agenda.
Claremont residents are facing the challenges of loss of income and school closures while staying home to remain healthy. Now is not the time for consideration of density changes on a long term development project.
It is appropriate that council work on supporting its citizens through this these trying times by pursuing federal and state disaster relief monies. Continuing to consider the budget for 2020-2021 is also necessary. These are short term items essential for all of us who live in Claremont as we shelter at home.
Discussing major changes to a long term plan with goals and principles agreed upon almost two years ago is not a short term necessity. Changing the density in that guiding document requires input from all Claremont residents when the community is back to a new normal. It is unfair to expect Claremonters to give their attention to this subject now.
If the Planning Goals and Guiding Principles for Village South are revised, the revision process needs to be as inclusive as the process that created them.
Village South: how big?
In July 2018, our council adopted Planning Goals and Guiding Principles for Village South, the proposed residential/commercial development along Indian Hill Boulevard, south of the railroad tracks.
After a lengthy process of commission meetings and resident input, our city chose “Village-scale” development, which includes setbacks from the street and limited heights. On Tuesday, our city council will be asked to consider removing these constraints on the size of Village South from the Guiding Principles.
These constraints are reasonable and are compatible with “Village scale.” They are:
“Buildings located within 200 feet of Indian Hill Boulevard or Arrow Highway will be limited to two stories with potential for limited third stories that are creatively designed, stepped back, broken into small masses, and otherwise minimize the appearance of the third story.”
“Buildings located in all other areas of the Plan Area (along Bucknell Avenue at least 200 feet north of Arrow Highway) are limited to one to three stories in height with the potential for limited fourth stories that are creatively designed to set back and break up the massing of the fourth story.”
If these constraints are removed from the Guiding Principles, the Council will be telling the developers, city staff and commissioners that it’s okay to go urban, up to the sidewalk. Is this the impression we want to give customers who drive up Indian Hill to patronize businesses in our up-until-now charming downtown Village?
In the March 10 council meeting, the developers’ architect mentioned 1500, 1600, even 2000 residential units. The proposal already includes a hotel, food court and retail businesses as well. Do we really want a city within a city? How much traffic do we want coming and going in one place? Where will all of the residents, their visitors, business owners, employees and customers park?
We can have a fine Village South without it being massive. Actually, at “Village scale” it’ll be more livable for its residents, as well as more inviting to visitors who come to shop and dine, and more capable of achieving environmental sustainability.
Before Tuesday, please tell our council members to retain the above principles, which were so carefully crafted after so much input. You can send them by email to our city clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opportunities in Village South
The Village South development will be the only of its kind in Claremont, creating history and offering unique opportunities for housing. If more units are included, more homes would be available to all different groups of people. It’ll be a step toward making a more inclusive Claremont. With the future ahead of us and lively discussions about what it should look like taking place, it might be time to take a step into the past.
The housing history of the United States past is troubling. Throughout modern times housing, very unfortunately, was used as a tool against different groups of people and has caused harmful financial and physical damage to communities.
Redlining was a critical tool in separating people by race, class and ethnicity. Redlining was a system that the federal government developed to determine its distribution of housing loans. It developed community maps of neighborhoods based on housing type, income levels and race and ethnicity.
The red line encompassed neighborhoods that were diverse, barring people of color from receiving loans that would have gone toward property ownership. Including in Claremont.
These practices have been outlawed yet they are still embedded in our society. Redlining helped generate and define suburban sprawl and its related “white flight” and left cities underfunded.
Today, we are trying to correct these historic wrongs and one way to do this is to create pathways to property ownership. It remains one of the strongest means of accumulating generational wealth. Making that process accessible and open to all will help mend past inequities
City planning now requires that we address these problems head on. This means we can no longer fall into the trap of the appeal of an old system that manufactures inequality.
If we continue reproducing past housing practices in Claremont and elsewhere and offer no alternative, we will be continuing a system that has disadvantaged many.
Claremont can be a leader by acting in the smart and sensible manner that a dense Village South represents. This exciting development needs to create more opportunities for housing stability, economic growth and individual success.
Village South will open new pathways to those who are young and beginning a new family. It will also begin to address the years of systemic harm in a tangible, positive way: Village South will build a more inclusive Claremont.
The moral of “The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs” is provided at the end of the story. The final line reads, “Those who have plenty want more and so lose all they have.”
Claremont is blessed with the results of forward thinking community involvement in city planning. We were the first California city to have a General Plan in 1950. That plan envisioned parks adjacent to schools for conjunctive use.
Our founders established the tradition of city street trees. The community fought hard to keep the Village viable during the 1970s era of abandoning civic services (city hall, post office, library) for easier expansion elsewhere. Money was spent making the Village inviting with flowers and trees (a major controversy at the time).
The auto center development in the early 1980s helped save our bacon in sales tax revenue following the state passage of Proposition 13, which destroyed real estate tax revenue for cities and local control for our schools.
We have had past questionable community decisions: giving Pomona annexations of Foothill Boulevard to avoid commercial designations, rejecting a mall, the rural area. Whether those decisions were wise is still debated.
We all point with pride to more recent successful community projects—Metrolink, the Wilderness Park, Village West and the Packing House preservation and, yes, even the hard-fought-for submergence of the 210 freeway. All were results of this community’s hard work.
Again, we are blessed with the opportunity to look forward in planning for the future of another vital area of our community, the neighborhood now being called Village South.
Two primary components of this area are the former Richard Hibbard Chevrolet dealership and the Vortox Company, both of which provided so much to our city for decades. I salute their contributions.
As we all look forward to planning for this area, many community values, some new, are in play. We value the historical context provided by Vortox. We want to continue the economic (essential) and cultural enrichment that Village West has brought to our town. We want the area to add to the sustainability goals of our city. We want this area to add to the cohesiveness our town.
Housing, density, parking, traffic....ah, here’s the rub; here is the delicate balance. We want to welcome new Claremonters with new lifestyles. We want to welcome seniors and millennials who want this vibe. We are not, however, on the cusp of the public transit generation. We are not built for that. We want to incorporate new thinking, but we don’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
Developers (good, local, bad, whatever) have a profit goal. That is proper. That is their business goal. We as a community have goals. To see them implemented is our job as Claremont citizens. 91711 is a hot zip code now. Village West is hot. I think that is our leverage.
Former Claremont Mayor
Council meeting circus
[The following letter was sent to Mayor Larry Schroeder with a copy forwarded for publication.]
It is unfortunate that you felt the need to censor my question directed at David Teykaerts, the PERS rep who spoke at the last city council meeting.
In the end, the whole event was nothing short of a public spectacle, as the sheer ignorance of the entire council was on display.
From Councilmember Corey Calaycay using the “hindsight-is-always-20/20” investment strategy to criticize PERS investment choices, to Councilmember Ed Reece’s multiple claims of “no control” over the city’s PERS costs, to your conclusion that expected investment returns are the same as realized returns, it is clear why the city is in a financial crisis.
Councilmember Calaycay’s baseless attempt to hold PERS accountable for investment decisions related to tobacco stocks was met with an answer that highlighted the stark realities of investing.
Mr. Teykaerts explained that PERS thought tobacco stocks were going to underperform so they sold. It turned out that tobacco stocks did quite well. THAT is the difference between expected returns and realized returns. It is not opinion as you might think, it is reality.
If Councilmember Calaycay believes he can pick stocks better than PERS, I suggest he quit his daytime job and submit an application. I’m sure they would love to hear what his top stock picks are.
Councilmember Reece was determined to convince the public that the city council has “no control” over the city’s pension costs. In just 75 seconds, Mr. Reece uttered “control” and “no control” nine times!
This, too, was met with reality. Mr. Teyhaerts was very clear about the control the city does have. The control lies with “the conversation between the city and its employees.”
He went on to say that “these are very tough conversations” about “what’s the proper allocation (between employer and employee) of the contributions”.
While the city doesn’t have control over how those funds are invested (thank goodness!), it is clear that it has a significant control in defining the pension formula.
And if anyone wants to lay blame on PERS for the high pension costs due to the reduction in expected returns from 7.5 percent to 7 percent, you aren’t paying attention. This will undoubtedly go even lower and the city’s pension cost will go higher, yet.
Finally, the fact that you prevented Mr. Teykaerts from explaining to the council the difference between expected returns and realized returns because you felt it was an “opinion” is testament to the ignorance of fact that is displayed by this council, and goes a long way to explain the Golden State Water debacle that you supported.
Mr. Teykaerts was spot on with his answers to the council’s questions. Unfortunately, however, I suspect that you and the rest of the council didn’t fully understand what he was saying, and as such, this entire exercise has most likely gotten us nowhere.
If you, or anyone on the council, would like to discuss any of the issues I’ve raised here, I’d be happy to have that conversation.