Residents raise numerous concerns over new Forbes development

Forbes Avenue residents made their voice loud and clear at a preliminary review of a proposed single-family home development last week: high density projects are not a viable option for the North Claremont Street.

More than a dozen residents spoke out against the proposed project brought forward by Brandywine Homes of Irvine, a developer who is currently in escrow for the 9.7-acre parcel at 2475 N. Forbes Ave., formerly home to the short-lived La Puerta Intermediate School. Should the deal go through, the Claremont Unified School District, current owners of the property, would fetch an estimated $18,875,000.

It was standing room only at the preliminary hearing, held only to solicit initial comments on the housing company’s concepts. The Planning Commission conducts early reviews in order to give developers community feedback prior to making concrete plans for the site, which is often times a costly venture, pointed out Planning Commissioner KM Williamson.

“We are not approving anything,” the commissioner said. “These preliminary reviews give the developer basic direction about what the commission and the community values about that site, what the community would like to see and what we think are great features to be played up and enhanced.”

Brandywine’s early concept features 59 two-story homes, ranging from 3550 to 4000 square feet each on 6000 to 7000-square foot lots. Much remains before this vision becomes a reality, however. If the company wants to move forward with this plan, a zoning change will be necessary. The lot is currently zoned public and does not allow for residential development. The adjacent neighborhood, comprised of mostly one-story homes, is zoned as residential with single-family homes that are each required to be situated on a minimum 13,000 square-foot lot.

Forbes residents were overwhelmingly opposed to the construction of homes much larger than those currently in the neighborhood. They were also averse to Brandywine’s plans to build these homes on what local realtor and former Forbes resident Ryan Zimmerman described as “postage stamp-sized lots.”

“It doesn’t look good when you can reach out and shake your neighbor’s hand from the second story,” Mr. Zimmerman said.

The added traffic, on an already busy street, is another major concern for many.

“Forbes is a pretty wide street, there are no stop signs from Miramar all the way down to Base Line, and it’s very, very busy. People drive extremely fast…traffic is already a problem,” shared Forbes Avenue resident Greg Hohn in a recent interview.

In addition to opposing the square footage, locals shared apprehension with the concept’s overall design, which includes one main driveway on Forbes Avenue with all the homes facing in to the center of the property. While Commissioner Williamson liked the project included a small pocket park, a feature that is not always included in urban developments, she was not fond of the exclusivity of the prospective development.

“The design wasn’t as open to the surrounding community as it could have been in terms of access and street design as well as the adjacent park and the Thompson Creek trail to the north,” she said. “It’s a little too self enclosed.”

The biggest issue, for commissioners and Forbes residents alike, remains the high density of the proposed plan. Residents hope the developer will reconsider including single-story homes congruent with the existing neighborhood or continue with the educational zoning for a future site for the school district should it need to expand.

“We are seeing a lot more young families moving into the neighborhood. With population growth, all we keep hearing around the country is how classroom sizes have been impacted. Is the school district prepared?” Mr. Zimmerman questioned. “Nobody is saying we want to this land [Forbes property] to remain vacant, and we understand the school district needs to make money and has the right to do what they will with the property, but not at the detriment of the neighborhood.”

Locals hope the developer will continue to keep an open process as plans move forward. Brandywine executives have yet to reach out to city officials since last week’s preliminary review and have not yet discussed holding community meetings to discuss development, according to Brian Desatnik, director of community development.

Though the developer did not return multiple requests for comment as of press time, CUSD’s superintendent of business services Lisa Shoemaker noted that the school district and the developer is currently in a period of due diligence, at which time the developer as the opportunity to pull out of the deal if they determine the purchase is not financially viable for them.

“The planning commission was not supportive of their plan so they [the developers] are crunching the numbers again to see if they can incorporate the concerns expressed by the community and see whether or not they can bring that project to fruition,” Ms. Shoemaker said.

The due diligence period comes to a close at the end of the month, according to the superintendent.

“Before the end of the due diligence period we will regroup and see what can be done,” she said.

—Beth Hartnett



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