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Title search yields surprise for Sycamore Elementary

After 126 years, Claremont Unified School District will finally own Sycamore Elementary School free and clear. Perhaps we should back up a bit.

At the May 5 school board meeting, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Lisa Shoemaker brought up a legal anomaly that was recently discovered as the district prepares to go solar.

CUSD will be leasing its solar arrays so, per standard procedure, PFMG Solar ran a title check for each property in the district. It turned out that certain portions of the land on which Sycamore rests didn’t belong to the district.

Some parcels on Claremont’s oldest elementary school were, improbably, listed as belonging to Pomona College. Others were listed as belonging to the Palomares School District, which no longer exists. Armed with this information, the business services department set out to remedy the situation.

Ms. Shoemaker and her staff reached out to Pomona College and discovered the university was unsurprised that it owned the parcels. It turns out the City of Trees’ oldest university—it was established in 1887—used to own all manner of property throughout the area. 

As it typically does in such cases, the college willingly filed a quitclaim, relinquishing ownership rights to any property on the Sycamore campus. The board was asked to authorize a certificate of acceptance of Pomona College’s quitclaim deed and did so at the meeting.

Palomares School District’s ownership of property on the Sycamore Elementary School campus was a bit more complicated. The Palomares School District was long ago absorbed into the Pomona Unified School District. The Claremont Unified School District is the successor to the Palomares District, but there is no record of the change.

Still, CUSD is required to file documents with PFMG Solar’s title company, proving that Claremont Unified is itself the erstwhile Palomares School District. Liz Jefferson, assistant to Superintendent Jim Elsasser, proved quite resourceful in this area.

Ms. Jefferson looked through the district’s voluminous archives and retrieved minutes from a 1936 school board meeting. During the gathering held eight decades ago, board members voted to change the name of the local district from the Claremont Elementary School District to the Claremont Unified School District. 

With the documentation, such as was available, sent to PFMG Solar for submission to its title company, the board was presented with a resolution for “Claremont USD to essentially transfer the property to itself as a successor to Palomares School District.” The board voted to authorize “the conveyance of the property from Claremont USD to Claremont USD pursuant to a quitclaim deed.”

The process has to be finalized by the title company, but Ms. Shoemaker told the COURIER it won’t slow down the district’s green energy plans.

It’s hoped that the solar arrays, which will be placed on the playing fields of the elementary schools, El Roble, San Antonio High School and in the parking lot at Claremont High School, will be installed beginning this coming fall.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com