Residents concerned about College Avenue tunnel hours

The hours for the pedestrian underpass tunnel located at south College Avenue and the I-10 freeway will remain unchanged, following a unanimous vote from city council on Tuesday.

Equipped with gates on each side, the tunnel provides for pedestrian access under the freeway, eliminating the need for pedestrians to walk to Indian Hill Boulevard or Mills Avenue to cross the freeway.

The gates were installed in 2006 in response to resident concerns regarding unwanted activity in the underpass and are manually locked and unlocked daily, seven days a week, by a custodial service contracted by the city.

The current gate hours were established in Spring 2013 and were challenged in December 2014 after the city received a petition with 21 signatures from nearby residents requesting that the city revert to the original tunnel hours of 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and closing the tunnel entirely on the weekends, citing safety concerns. A neighborhood forum held at Blaisdell Senior Center in January 2015 resulted in council members and city staff agreeing they would review the hours.

Some residents felt the current hours were too limiting and didn’t allow working residents that live south of the freeway to benefit from the tunnel. Others expressed concerns about safety, loitering and vandalism. Several of those residents addressed the city council on Tuesday.

“It connects us to the rest of the city,” explained Darvin Gomez. “It’s great to be able to walk to the Village or the park in just a couple minutes, and it’s a safer alternative than taking Indian Hill Boulevard.”

Another resident shared personal stories of strangers resting on her lawn, using her hose to bathe and people loitering in the tunnel.

“I don’t feel safe in my own home,” she said. “I had one man in a black hoodie knocking on my front door, and it was right after that murder in La Verne. I didn’t call police because I saw him walk away and he didn’t stop to bother anyone else.”

The Claremont Community Services Department and Claremont Police Department reviewed vandalism records and police calls in recent years to see if there had been an increase in crime since the hours had been extended. Finding no measureable increase in vandalism, graffiti or police calls for service during that time, the city council directed city staff to continue to lock and unlock the pedestrian tunnel gates daily consistent with the current hours.

Weekday hours for the tunnel are April through September from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.; October through March from 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and year-round weekend hours of 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

—Angela Bailey

news@claremont-courier.com

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