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Viewpoint: The Commons will eat up valuable commercial land

by Carole Callon

Among the primary reasons for the City to reject “The Commons” proposal is that it requires the loss of 6.5 acres of commercially-zoned land and its potential to provide commercial amenities and tax revenues.

The next opportunity to deny the project is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 6, when the Claremont Planning Commission is scheduled to address the proposal to eliminate the commercial zone, replacing it with mostly residential development (only one-ninth acre of the 6.5 will remain commercial).

Claremont recently had a failed ballot initiative to increase our sales tax. The city council approved $261,000 to place the measure on the ballot. We were told that this was for a much-needed increase in revenues to support city services.

So, how can the city now justify giving up 6.5 acres of commercially-zoned land for a residential development which includes only 5,000 square feet of commercial use, without discouraging future support for city revenue requests?

Because it is an excellent site for commercial uses, previous councils, commissions, staff, and Claremont voters (in a 1986 referendum) had the foresight to keep the General Plan and zoning commercial, and not just because its location is unsuitable for homes (situated directly under airplanes taking off from Cable Airport, isolated from other Claremont residential areas, surrounded by commercial and business/industrial uses, with attendant noise).

The commercial site, at the northwest corner of Monte Vista and Foothill, is an eastern gateway to Claremont. It is situated along major commercial arterials: the Foothill Boulevard commercial corridor and Monte Vista’s access to both the 210 and 10 freeways. 

Commercial zoning is consistent and compatible with the surrounding zoning and existing commercial and business/light industrial development along Foothill, Monte Vista, and Claremont Boulevard.

The conversion of this commercial property and its sales tax potential to primarily residential use also conflicts with General Plan Policies that promote commercial development and increase of the sales tax base, including: land for commercial and industrial areas to generate taxes (Policy 2-1.5), retail nodes and new businesses to serve adjacent neighborhoods and draw from beyond Claremont (2-6.2, 3-1.4), and encourage a diverse mix of commercial and industrial land uses to maintain a competitive edge (3-6.1).

Retaining the site’s commercial zone will not deny the owner profitable use of the property. Our municipal code identifies 63 automatically permitted non-residential commercial uses within the existing zone CH, another 45 permitted with a conditional use permit, and an additional 11 permitted with a special use permit (Permitted Use Chart, Table 16.051.A).

In recent years, hundreds of homes have been built near the site in Upland and Montclair, and more are pending. Commercial development at this site is now more viable than ever. Approving the requested conversion to residential use would produce a property tax increase sooner, but it would give up sales tax forever. 

Our planning commissioners and city council should deny the The Commons proposal because it conflicts with, rather than implements, the General Plan’s goals and policies, Cable Airport’s Land Use Compatibility Plan, state aeronautics laws, and common sense. 

We would forfeit forever the opportunity to benefit all of Claremont with a site for vital commercial development and provide what city leaders have told us is necessary sales tax revenue.

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