City council approves latest police station plan
The Claremont City Council opened the door for two projects that could potentially change the face of the city during Tuesday’s meeting.
The meeting—the council’s first since July 26—saw the unanimous approval of the Police Facility Ad Hoc Committee’s report and the Southwest San Jose Specific Plan.
The ad hoc committee’s report is the culmination of several months of meetings between residents and city officials on an effective police station ballot measure. The committee was appointed in the wake of Measure PS’s failure in 2015, and featured a mixture of residents who were for and against the measure.
“One thing we all agreed on immediately was we need a new police station. That wasn’t the problem,” Committee Chair Mark Sterba told the council.
The committee was tasked with figuring out several elements of the proposed station—the location, size, budget, financing and other elements of varying importance, such as technology and furniture. The committee toured other police stations around southern California and debated about the size of certain station elements—such as the jail or the impound lot—relative to their average usage stats.
The committee’s recommendations included keeping the new station on the same lot as the current station; a multi-tiered $25 million financing bond featuring a general obligation (GO) bond; a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) from the Claremont Colleges and grant and general fund money for tech and furniture costs; a 25,000-square-foot two-story building and reductions in the size of the impound lot and jail.
The committee also recommended the plan be put to Claremont voters no later than the June 17, 2017 ballot.
Councilmember Opanyi Nasiali, while supportive of the report, was skeptical of the financing mechanism, bringing forth the possibility of getting a lower figure from the Colleges, or nothing at all.
“What if we don’t get the PILOT program and/or not enough general funds to put into the project, how do we then proceed?” he asked.
Mr. Sterba noted that Colleges’ contribution was a fundamental piece of the puzzle, and the project could not move forward if the Colleges don’t contribute. “That was the opinion of the committee,” he said. “Without PILOT, it’s done.”
City Manager Tony Ramos told the council that he is currently in negotiations with the Claremont University Consortium (CUC)—the consortium’s CEO, Stig Lanesskog, was a member of the ad hoc committee—in regards to how much their contribution would be, but noted getting two incoming college presidents up to speed on the issue is delaying the process.
In terms of financing, Mr. Sterba recommended the council look into the possibility of a lease buy-back program, which means a developer buys the property, uses non-prevailing wage work and sells the property back to the city for a low rate. Mayor Sam Pedroza inquired further about this “more creative” financing method.
“It allows you to not pay a prevailing wage, so that is the big advantage,” Mr. Sterba said. “You won’t have to pay somebody $70 to push a broom. That is the big difference. But as a municipality, I don’t know what your latitude is there.”
Ultimately, the council was pleased with the work of the committee and approved the report, 4-0. Councilmember Larry Schroeder was on vacation and therefore absent.
Mr. Pedroza referenced the voting down of Measure PS as a positive catalyst for the committee’s findings.
“A couple of times it was referenced that the [Measure PS] election was a failure. It was actually a big success, because I think to get to this point took an election, and in Claremont I always say, how you lose matters,” he said. “And I think when we learn from these elections that don’t pass, when we step back and think, ‘Okay, what happened?’ That’s when the success comes in.”
Hampton Inn plan moves forward
The council also approved a specific plan centered on the lot on the southwest corner of San Jose Avenue and Indian Hill Boulevard. The Southwest San Jose Specific Plan would tear down the current Knight’s Inn—formerly a Howard Johnson’s—and build a four-story Hampton Inn in its place.
Director of Community Development Brian Desatnik noted the nearly four-acre plot has been a focus of the city’s attention for a decade, ever since the city placed the area under a “specific plan” zone during the general plan update in 2006.
“It was the city’s intention that any major development be done through a specific plan,” he said.
The hotel is slated to have 121 rooms, a north entrance facing San Jose Avenue and a pool and spa.
The plan initially came from property owner Roger Desai’s desire to add on to Motel 6, which his company, Smart Investments Inc., also owns. The city had a number of meetings with commissions and residents beginning in September 2015.
After approval, the hotel design will be vetted by the architectural commission, and the planning commission will consider a joint-use parking agreement that would share parking for hotel guests and customers of the nearby BC Café, Mr. Desatnik said.
The council and public commenters expressed excitement for the redevelopment of the property, which has been a hotbed of illegal activity for a number of years.
“From the beginning of this project, the neighborhood has been 100 percent behind it,” resident Jim Keith said. “Everyone’s very excited. And I know—it’s several city managers ago—the objective was the get the Howard Johnson’s to deal with the problems that had arisen at that facility, and I know the current owner understands that you’ve got to change the facility to change the usage.”
Mr. Nasiali praised the plan, and expressed a desire to add a public art installation to beautify the upcoming development.
“This is another example of that spirit of having the city have good businesses that are good to have in the community, that are liked by members of the community and are providing economic benefit for the community,” he said.
The plan passed unanimously, 4-0.
City, William Lyon reach conclusion
Mr. Ramos’ city manager report revealed a positive step in the standoff between the city and home developer William Lyon over the status of an unfinished development on the corner of Baseline Road and Towne Avenue.
“I am pleased to say that we are finalizing an agreement that will get that project moving more, and our residents will hopefully see, within the next two weeks, the project moving to completion,” Mr. Ramos said.
He noted that the agreement is still taking steps to being finalized.
“We will give an update, hopefully, at the next council meeting on when construction will actually start again,” Mr. Ramos added.
The development comes after a months-long impasse between the city and the developer after William Lyon stopped construction on the 95-unit Meadow Park townhouse project in February. At the July 26 council meeting, Mr. Ramos issued an ultimatum, directing that William Lyon either finish the project to completion or tear it down.
The next city council meeting will take place on September 27.