With lawsuits settled, museum of art gets green light
The city and Pomona College have settled two lawsuits challenging the upcoming Pomona College Museum of Art.
The settlements against Citizens to Save College Avenue and Claremonters for Honest Governance were announced during the October 10 city council meeting and following a closed session meeting earlier that afternoon.
In statement to the COURIER on Wednesday, Pomona College Vice President of Communications Marylou Ferry said the college is excited to “bring this new academic and community resource to life.”
“We are delighted to move forward with the new Pomona College Museum of Art,” Ms. Ferry wrote. “We will be meeting with city officials soon to discuss the next steps for the site and we hope to begin construction in November.”
The settlements put to bed a saga that has lasted over a year against the proposed museum project, which was narrowly approved by the council in May 2016. A major component of the project, which drew the most controversy, was the moving of the 107-year-old Renwick House from the northern corner of Second Street and College Avenue to the southeastern corner of the same intersection.
Renwick has since been moved, and its new located is now peppered with new plants and other accouterments.
Citizens to Save College Avenue filed their lawsuit in June 2016. A judge dismissed CTSCA’s suit in its entirety in February 2017, but they had since appealed.
Claremonters for Honest Governance, together with resident Martin McLeod, filed their suit in May 2017.
Citizens to Save College Avenue cited California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) violations in the environmental impact report (EIR), while Claremonters for Honest Governance claimed the city worked with Pomona College on drafting responses to public comments and passed them off as the city’s responses, as well as violated mitigation measures through a lack of oversight, according to a previous article in the COURIER.
Multiple calls to Mr. McLeod were not returned by press time.
Under the terms of the settlement, both Citizens to Save College Avenue and Claremonters for Honest Governance agreed to drop their lawsuits with prejudice, agreed not to object or disrupt implementation of the museum project and enter into a covenant not to sue in the future.
Claremont has agreed to develop a process to designate a College Avenue Historic District, which would include Renwick House as well as Cook House, Sumner House, Baldwin House and potentially the President’s House and Seaver House at the lower corner of First Street and College Avenue. The city will schedule meetings with the planning commission and city council about the proposed district to develop a work plan, the settlement states.
The parties involved in the suits will be invited to give input on the creation of this district, per the language in the settlement.
The city also agreed to work with both groups on a “citizens’ academy,” which will consist of workshops that would teach residents how to participate in local government. The city may hire, with input from the two groups, a “third-party consultant” to conduct these civil engagement training sessions.
City spokesperson Bevin Handel categorized the term as a “win-win,” noting the academy was a feature the city used to do in the past
The city will also establish a “mitigation measure hotline or web-based form,” meaning there will either be a telephone number or a form on the city’s website for concerns about mitigation measure compliance. Ms. Handel said the city is currently figuring out the best way to incorporate this feature.
In a statement, City Manager Tony Ramos said the settlement against the two groups allows the city to “refocus our resources and attention to move forward on the Pomona College Museum of Art.”
“I believe the terms the city agreed to reinforce our dedication to civic engagement and can only enhance our feedback process,” Mr. Ramos said.
Pomona College’s terms mostly center on aesthetic aspects of the museum. The College agreed to restrict the usage of the proposed loading dock of the museum to one van, truck or other vehicle at a time, and shall be mandated to use said loading dock in the event of loading and unloading people or projects, making deliveries or pickups, maintenance, repair and security.
A door will also be added on the south side of the museum, facing Second Street.
The college is also mandated to add more landscaping around the loading dock, and will restore elephant toe curb cuts at three locations around the perimeter of the museum. The Claremonters for Honest Governance lawsuit specifically zeroed in on curb cuts, claiming the college wasn’t following the statewide definition.
Pomona College will also not “oppose or contest administratively or judicially” the city’s consideration of the College Avenue Historic District, per the language in the settlement.
The college is also on the hook for the attorney’s fees for both groups—$105,000 for Citizens to Save College Avenue and $67,200 for Claremonters for Honest Governance.
Pamela Casey Nagler, who was named in the settlement as a member of Claremonters for Honest Governance, called the terms of the settlement “a good step for more open government,” and noted it allowed for a better museum design. She said the group would also be looking at other projects in the future, including the Gold Line and hillside developments.
“I’m anticipating a better working relationship in the future,” Ms. Nagler noted.