2022 city council race candidate profiles: Aundré Johnson

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

City council candidate Aundré Johnson decided to run for office because he truly loves Claremont and felt a sense of duty to his adopted home.

“You can’t sit and complain and say you don’t like certain things about the city if you are not willing to stand up,” Johnson said.

In a sense, when Johnson moved to the City of Trees five years ago, it really was a homecoming, considering he was raised in nearby Pomona and attended Claremont High School for three years.

“My mother used to take me to Wheeler Park when I was a kid. I remember the fire truck there and playing with my brother and cousins and always dreaming of living in Claremont,” Johnson said.

He eventually lived in Claremont while working at Ontario International Airport and studying at Chaffey College in the 1990s. He then received a full scholarship to attend Chapman University in Orange where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2000.

“I was in student government there, where I fought to make sure that students who did not have enough money got funds to buy their books so they could complete their classes and not flunk out,” Johnson said.

He’s been married 16 years and has two sons, ages 6 and 11, who attend Condit. Prior to his most recent move to Claremont, he lived in Los Angeles for 20 years, where he ran a film production company.

Johnson was a member of the Claremont Police Station Citizens Advisory Committee, formed after the first bond measure to finance and build a new police station failed. He was also a member of the No on Measure CR committee, which in November 2019 succeeded in defeating the ordinance that would have increased sales tax in Claremont by 0.75%, with the money going into the general fund.

When asked why he decided to run for council Johnson replied, “If not me, then who?” He added that it’s healthy for the city to have differing opinions and no candidate should run unopposed. Johnson is running against Jed Leano in District 4.

“I moved here five years ago with my family to come back to the Claremont I remember growing up [in] as a kid, which was a sense of community, the great schools, the small town feel, and also the low crime rate,” he said. “I am running for council because the direction the city is going is not conducive to the reason I moved here.”

He said while canvassing neighborhoods people have said they feel unsafe in their homes and believe Claremont is changing but they don’t have a voice in the process.

If elected, Johnson hopes to achieve a sense of unity among Claremont residents, regardless of where one stands on the issues. He envisions a program where a volunteer would convene neighborhood meetings where people could come together and talk.

“That is something that is seriously needed that we have to sit across the table from each other,” Johnson said. “Yes, we may have disagreements, but we can come together, sit around a table, whatever it may be, and figure out a solution or a compromise.

He says the way the current process has unfolded over Larkin Place, the proposed permanent supportive housing development for formerly homeless people, may actually have divided the community.

“For example, if you are looking at Larkin Place you have one side that says they are for it but would like to see something else and you have one side that says ‘I’m for it as is.’ I don’t think at this point those two groups have actually sat in the same room together and actually talked. They have talked on the internet, I have seen that, but I don’t think they have actually sat in the same room,” Johnson said.

“I think a lot of people thought it was going to be just regular affordable housing. I don’t think people knew what the actual project was, so everybody was cool with it. But after the research was done people found out it wasn’t exactly what was presented to city council. That is why the easement was voted against. If you are asking me if I would have done the same thing? I would have voted against it as well. Because it’s not stopping the project.”

Asked for clarification on Monday, Johnson said: “My understanding is that the site plan with the easement through Larkin Park was submitted to city council and was rejected. Special counsel [Tom Clark] said the developer would have the option to resubmit a new site plan with access from Harrison Avenue.”

Regarding affordable housing, Johnson has championed the use of accessory dwelling units but says that is just one option. With a project like South Village, which would include hundreds of new units and up to five-story buildings, he would like some assurance that affordable units actually get built.

He is concerned that having too few parking spaces in the South Village development could start a domino effect where residents of the complex are forced to park in the surrounding neighborhood, which could lead the repeal of the city’s longstanding overnight parking ban.

“Why are we making it that big down there?” Johnson asked about the South Village, which is in the Village South Specific Plan zoning area. “Is it for money or because we have to do it? Is there another way we can fulfill our housing requirements but not having it go so high and being something like The Gabriel [on Bonita and Garey avenues in Pomona] four stories high? Do we want to build communities where we can’t see the sky? Do you want to build a community that doesn’t have trees? We are a city that is known for its trees. Are there going to be any trees in that place? I don’t think so.

“We have to be willing to think outside of the box. Just because a project is presented to us doesn’t mean we always have to capitulate and say ‘Yes, that is the only way.’”

Asked about his opposition to Measure CR, Johnson replied, “I can ask the opposite question, why were people supporting it?

“The premise on that was if we didn’t raise the sales tax then the county was going to take it immediately. The other premise was that we weren’t going to have money for feeding the seniors with Meals on Wheels [or for] afterschool programs. Now we are four years after that and Meals on Wheels is still happening we still have afterschool programs [plus] we have a surplus. And no one was even talking about the other thing that was coming down the pike, which was the internet sales tax. They kept saying it was only a few more pennies, right? But there are actually people in Claremont who are pennies away from not making the mortgage payment.”

Some Claremont residents have questioned how new developments can be approved when existing residents have to cut back on water usage. Johnson said he agrees that it seems like a contradiction. He suggested that if a new development were approved maybe it needs to have mandatory water recycling like grey water and should have solar panels as well.

“It seems a little ironic for us, for politicians to say don’t water your lawn or cut your water usage but we are going to build more buildings that is going to strain the water supply. And also they are not even talking about the rolling blackouts too. I think you are putting more strain on the actual power grid as well,” he said.

For more information, visit johnsonforclaremont.com.

Editor’s note: according to the Village South Specific Plan, all the streets in the proposed South Village development would include trees and open spaces.

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