Larkin Place application making progress

by Steven Felschundneff |

A revised application for the affordable housing project Larkin Place has been with city planners for a couple of months and is moving through the approval process.

Jamboree Housing Corporation’s new plan for the permanent supportive housing development includes the same number of units, 33, but parking at the site will be significantly reduced to make room for a combination fire lane and driveway. The building will have a smaller footprint, which means the four-story portion of the structure will be significantly larger. It will still be a tiered design, meaning the facade facing Harrison Avenue will start at two stories, but will step up much more quickly to three and four stories as one moves deeper into the property.

The company’s original plan, which received the blessing of both the architectural commission and city’s planning staff, called for an easement across the city-owned parking lot at Larkin Park, which is adjacent to the proposed development. That plan was dashed when the Claremont City Council rejected the easement on a 3-2 vote last June.

A man walks past the empty lot at 731 Harrison Ave., where Jamboree Housing Corporation plans to build the permanent supportive housing project Larkin Place. Courier photo/Steven Felschundneff

That vote resulted in the California Department of Housing and Community Development threatening legal actionagainst Claremont if the city did not find a way to get Larkin Place approved.

For readers unfamiliar with the project, it would be built on a vacant lot at 731 Harrison Ave., about a half block from the corner of Mountain Avenue and Harrison, between Larkin Park and the Quaker’s Claremont Friends Meeting location.

Larkin Place has faced considerable resistance from some in the community, particularly people who live near the site, who are concerned the project will bring problems to the area, including drug dealing and other crimes. They also worry the building will become a magnet for other unhoused people.

Those who would be housed at Larkin Place include people with very low or extremely low incomes, or 30% lower than the median income for the area. They will also be either currently unhoused or in danger of losing housing.

In Jamboree’s new application, Larkin Place will be completely contained within the property, which means that under state law, no further public hearings will be held as long as the plan meets the minimum objective standards for the area’s zoning. The property is zoned institutional residential, which permits multifamily residential housing. Additionally, the city has identified 731 Harrison Ave. as an opportunity site for low- and extremely low-income households.

This architectural rendering shows the redesigned Larkin Place permanent supportive housing project, part of Jamboree Housing Corporation’s new building application with the City of Claremont. Image/courtesy of Jamboree Housing Corp.

At the core of the project’s controversy lies the very real possibility that Claremont officials, including the City Council, have little or no power to prevent Larkin Place from being built. California code identifies housing as a critical issue for the state’s future, and requires that “a local government not reject or make infeasible housing development projects, including emergency shelters, that contribute to meeting the need.” As such, affordable housing developments like Larkin Place are considered “by right,” meaning that the approval process is largely ministerial.

“Jamboree’s application has been submitted under the requirements of California Assembly Bill (AB) 2162, which streamlines the approval process, removes environmental review requirements, and does not require any discretionary approvals,” according to a city staff report. “The project will not require Architectural Commission nor Planning Commission review. The project review and approval will be conducted at a staff level as outlined by AB 2162.”

Following the submittal of the new application in January, city planning staff sent a letter to Jamboree outlining certain corrections that will need to be made before the application is deemed complete. Jamboree has now responded with its own letter and Claremont has 30 to 45 days to respond, according to Community Development Director Brad Johnson.

Jamboree has secured much of its funding for Larkin Place, according to Johnson, but that will not include $1.5 million from Claremont’s Successor Housing Fund which was part of the original application. Johnson said the council felt rushed in approving that funding in January 2022, so the offer was not extended to the most recent application.

Jamboree did not respond to a question about the project’s funding as of press time.

Prior to the no vote on the easement, Jamboree actively engaged in a conversation about Larkin Place, hosting a series of public meetings. Chief Development Officer Michael Massie said last spring that his company prefers to get buy-in from residents and the city, rather than focus on a project’s by-right status. However, that open communication stopped once the original project was sidelined.

Asked about the status of Larkin Place, Jamboree’s Director, Marketing & Communications Marissa Feliciano offered a brief statement.

“Thank you for following up with us on this development,” Feliciano said. “We continue to see the need for housing to address the homelessness crisis in California, including in the City of Claremont. There are a number of paths to support this crisis, and we continue to explore possibilities under local and California laws, including AB 2162, SB 35, and other avenues. As we are exploring, there is a good deal of uncertainty in the process. We look forward to sharing our path with the community when we have a more substantive update.”


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