Housing development future heads busy council agenda

The Claremont City Council pushed through more than 20 agenda items during a busy Tuesday night meeting, the last before the August recess.

A revisiting of PACE (property assessed clean energy) financing programs, a closure of a portion of Auto Center Drive for an upcoming car dealership and a relaxation of watering restrictions highlighted the crowded agenda.

City Manager Tony Ramos provided an update on the situation involving a seemingly abandoned housing development on the southeast corner of Base Line Road and Towne Avenue. The Meadow Park development, spearheaded by William Lyon Homes, has been halted since early 2016, with the developer citing “market issues” as the reason for the stoppage.

“We have requested that Lyon Homes either complete the development in full according to the approved plans or remove the construction in place at the time Lyon Homes stopped work,” Mr. Ramos said.

Mr. Ramos noted that he, Director of Community Development Brian Desatnik and the city’s special counsel met with William Lyon representatives on Tuesday to discuss the issue. The city expects a response from William Lyon “very shortly,” and will update the city’s website with information if it comes during the August recess.

“It’s necessary to ensure that our community does not continue to suffer the nuisance and the blight created by the development,” he said.


Water restrictions

Mr. Ramos also informed the audience of an easing of state water restrictions due to an adequate amount of water reserves reported by Golden State Water Company (GSW) to the state in June. The easing comes on the heels of a relaxation in May of Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order that outlined strict water conservation across the state.

“Due to [GSW’s] adequate reserves, Claremont is no longer under a mandated conservation goal,” Mr. Ramos said.

The agenda item changing the restrictions, placed in the consent calendar, moves Claremont from a “level two” water shortage—including a mandatory water conservation target of 30 percent—to a “level one” shortage, or voluntary water restrictions.

More to the point, Claremonters can now water their lawns up to three times per week. A statement from GSW released July 27 noted that all “outdoor irrigation” must occur before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. and should not exceed 10 minutes.

While this is a welcome sign for many homeowners, other restrictions are still in place across California—hosing off sidewalks and driveways, washing a car with a hose not fitted with a shut-off nozzle and operating a fountain that does not use re-circulated water are still prohibited.

While the 30 percent reduction goal is now voluntary, the city and GSW is asking each Claremonter to “continue to do his or her part to be water-wise” and try to meet that goal until the state has a better idea of the status of the years-long drought.


Clean energy programs

The city council also approved allowance of third-party PACE (property assessed clean energy) programs to operate within the city. The public hearing is a redux of a similar hearing on June 28, which the council deferred for more information.

PACE programs allow customers to opt-in to financing energy efficiency, water conservation and renewable energy improvement on their properties, the cost of which will be included on their property tax bill.

The assessments are entirely voluntary and contingent upon both city and homeowner approval.

At the June 28 meeting, the council was concerned about city liability and the possibility of one of these companies, Ygrene Energy Fund, using aggressive sales tactics such as robo-calls and door-to-door salesmen to get residents on board. But Ygrene representative Crystal Crawford noted at that meeting that Ygrene has a consumer protection policy that does not allow aggressive selling tactics.

The city would not be liable if a customer calls and complains of aggressive tactics, noted Principal Planner Chris Veirs, but staff would have to draft a separate resolution stripping a particular company of their right to operate within Claremont if they were deemed unfit to operate within the city.

During discussion, Councilmember Larry Schroeder cautioned residents to shop around to find the program that is right for them.

“This is not right for everyone and choose your contractor very wisely,” he said.

Mayor Sam Pedroza welcomed the allowance of the programs, but noted that Claremonters would be more aware of any potential wrongdoing by these companies, should any malfeasance arise.

“I’ll tell you, to all the representatives there, Claremont’s a very knowledgeable town,” Mr. Pedroza said. “Our residents know what they’re doing and if they catch something, they’ll not only let other people know, they’ll let the council know.”

The resolution passed, 5-0. Four PACE programs—Ygrene, Figtree, CSCDA (California Statewide Community Development Authority) and CMFA (California Municipal Finance Authority)—were granted the right to operate within the city.


Auto Center Drive rehab

The council also unanimously passed a “summary vacation,” which will close an easement around the far west end of Auto Center Drive. The decision is an additional step in the process to open a new Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge dealership on the long-abandoned site.

The closure will include the removal of a roundabout on Auto Center Drive that will then be re-graded by Premier Automotive Group, the company opening the dealership, Mr. Desatnik said.

The future dealership is already well on its way to fruition—the red-roofed buildings on the north end of the property have been torn down to build a larger sales lot, and a building at the south end is undergoing conversion from a maintenance garage to a showroom and service facility.

The roundabout is currently six feet above grade, and will be re-graded to increase visibility of the upcoming showroom from the street.

The far west portion of Auto Center Drive has been blocked off and had not been used for over five years prior to the acquisition by Premier in 2015, Mr. Desatnik noted.

The resolution passed unanimously, 5-0.

The city council will recess for the month of August and will resume in September. Additional information about other items on Tuesday’s agenda will appear in next week’s COURIER.

—Matthew Bramlett



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