Barger responds to local concerns at first Claremont meeting
by Steven Felschundneff | email@example.com
Bright and somewhat early Monday morning, the Claremont community got a chance to hear from Kathryn Barger, our new representative on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
During a special online-only meeting of the Claremont City Council, Barger spent two hours answering questions based on five preselected topics: crime and directives from the Los Angeles County district attorney; open space preservation and wildfire prevention; housing and homelessness; library services and funding; and transportation.
Barger’s only other appearance in Claremont since becoming our supervisor was to attend the Meals on Wheels gala last month. So Monday’s meeting was an introduction of sorts for both Claremont and its new supervisor.
Asked straight off about how the county can help to curb crime in Claremont, which sits on the border of Barger’s district and the county line, she responded that battling crime requires a regional approach.
“Crime doesn’t know borders, [so] it is important to coordinate together,” Barger said.
“Contrary to what you read in the press, I have a strong relationship with our sheriff’s department and with all our local police departments and it is important to look at it from a regional standpoint because I know that in certain areas, when cities start to focus on the crime, they [criminals] move to another city.”
She acknowledged the frustration many civic leaders have with Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon and his directive that certain misdemeanor crimes not be prosecuted. However, Barger also voiced support for the inspiration behind his order, namely finding alternatives to incarceration as a way to rehabilitate, not punish, some offenders.
“Obviously, from day one I reached out to the DA to try and understand some of the thought process on how he was going to change the filings,” she said. “I am less than happy. I have talked to all my cities about their concerns, especially from a law enforcement standpoint.”
However, Barger also spoke of “investing in community,” referencing Measure J, which sets aside no less that 10% of unrestricted county funds to incarceration alternatives, including youth development, job training, small business development and supportive housing services.
“I’ve always said it’s not an either/or, we need to continue to support law enforcement and invest in our communities, especially for our at-risk youth,” Barger said.
Loitering for prostitution is one of the crimes Gascon has declined to prosecute, but when it comes to ,human trafficking, the district attorney and Barger are on the same page. The county will commit the resources not only to charge anyone accused of forcing someone into prostitution, but will commit to assist those who are victimized.
“This is really an issue that is growing, we are seeing young people who are targeted from the foster care system and it’s truly frightening what is taking place,” Barger said.
Naturally, when open space came up, the conversation turned to the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park and the current campaign to acquire the Clara Oaks development site. Barger said she would help the city secure funding to buy that land, which is a connection between Claremont and La Verne, which Barger also represents.
“You only get one bite at the apple. If there is open space available we should work hard to purchase it,” she said. “I take hikes to ground myself and clear my head. And living in such a densely populated area, it’s important for us to have open space.”
While many communities have sought to preserve the open space along the foothills, that has also become a source of available land to satisfy the state’s housing needs. However, this may also increase a city’s wildfire exposure. In addition, under the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, every city in California has to make a plan for more development, which may result in more destructive fires.
“So, I hear you loud and clear on wildfire [and] development. I think it is going to apply pressure to many cities especially in the foothills as to meeting the RHNA numbers,” Barger said.
Mayor Jed Leano asked the supervisor about the Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness and its recommendations, that included restructuring of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, that was passed by the supervisors by a 3-2 vote.
“For those who have a lot of interest in homelessness, this is a really important piece and a big potential change in the way we are delivering homeless services,” Leano said.
The commission was formed in response to community frustration over the allocation of Measure H funds, which are intended to combat homelessness countywide.
“We are really going to change the way we address homelessness countywide,” Barger said. “It’s going to make LAHSA what is was created to be and that is a focus on continuum of care.”
Currently, there is no one entity that is held accountable, so the plan is to create a department that would answer directly to the board and be responsible for allocating Measure H funds. Barger said she anticipates the new entity would be up and running in 60 to 90 days.
“We are putting together a recommendation of what that entity is going to look like, it’s going to be transparent and data driven,” she said.
The council only spent four minutes on the subject of library funding, but were in general agreement that expanding the hours of operation remains a shared goal.
The transportation discussion quickly focused on the light rail system, formerly called the Gold Line, and its prospect of reaching Claremont, but then veered off to issues affecting the area around the intersection of Indian Hill and the 10 Freeway.
Barger expressed optimism that the Gold Line would get funded through to Montclair as originally envisioned, and noted how under the leadership of CEO Habib Balian, the Foothill Extension has been delivered on time and on budget.
She mentioned that when built out, the Metro light rail system would be an efficient means of transportation that could take a rider from Claremont to Santa Monica with few transfers.
Indian Hill at the 10 Freeway tends to get very congested, particularly with the widening work under way to add express lanes. Residents in the south part of town want a soundwall on the south side of the 10, but Caltrans does not build them next to commercial areas and there is a narrow self storage facility adjacent to the freeway.
Barger represents the county’s largest district by square miles, which includes 20 cities, and 83 unincorporated communities in the Antelope, San Gabriel, San Fernando, Crescenta, and Santa Clarita valleys. She was first elected to the board in 2016, reelected in 2020 and has served as its chair. The City of Claremont shifted from Hilda Solis’ First District to Barger’s Fifth District during the realignment process in December 2021.