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What Claremont news took center stage in 2017?

2017 was a busy year for Claremont—full of ups, downs and roadmaps for the city’s future.

The year began with Claremont mulling its decision to appeal the outcome of the water trial, and ended with the city dropping that appeal and agreeing to a settlement.

After an LA Superior Court judge ruled against the city in December 2016, the council vowed to fight on, issuing a formal appeal in February and retaining ace appellate firm Horvitz & Levy to guide them through the process.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. In September, the city announced it would drop their appeal and make a deal with Golden State Water Company, paying around $2 million this year and $200,000 in interest every year for the next 12 years.

The settlement is a disappointing bookend to years of work by the city to try to take over the water system. Part of the deal with Golden State prohibits the city from drafting another Resolution of Necessity for the entire lifetime of the payment.

The water trial was a dominant topic in the city council race earlier this year, as eight candidates—two of whom were incumbents—vied for two open spots on the council.

The council field was large and diverse—Claremont McKenna professor and Traffic and Transportation Commissioner Zach Courser, real estate developer Abraham Prattella, real estate agent Anthony Grynchal (who called himself “Mr. Claremont”), Democratic Club of Claremont stalwart Murray Monroe, local gadfly Michael Keenan, mysterious resident Korey Johnson and council incumbents Larry Schroeder and Corey Calaycay.

After several spirited forums covering a wide range of issues, Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Calaycay kept their seats in the March 5 election.

The next city council election will take place on November 8, 2018, and two additional seats will be up for grabs.

This year also saw major movement on the construction of the future Pomona College Museum of Art. After the council denied appeals on the site plan, the historic Renwick House was moved across the street to make room for the museum.

Two lawsuits sprung up to challenge the museum plans, but Pomona College and the city reached settlements and construction was allowed to continue.

Construction broke ground in November, and Pomona College noted it would take 18-20 months to complete the museum, which will surely become a significant force in Village culture.

The Foothill Gold Line extension dominated Claremont headlines in 2017, though not everyone in town was on board.

In June, the city revealed that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) would require a bridge over Indian Hill Boulevard, which was rejected by the council in 2016 after some residents came out against it. The CPUC cited safety and traffic concerns in its mandate to build the bridge.

That led Claremont to literally go back to the drawing board, hiring local architect John Bohn to create a span that was less of a “wall” between north and south Claremont. The city held several informational meetings and gathered public feedback about the bridge, and the council approved the new bridge design in October.

The Gold Line officially broke ground in December, kicking off a nine-year construction project that will change the face of transportation in Claremont—not to mention the face of Claremont itself.

Still, there are some parts of the plan up in the air. The expansion is facing a $280 million budget shortfall, and a 60-day study introduced and co-authored by LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis will weigh the pros and cons of eliminating the Metrolink station. That study was met with overwhelming condemnation from the public during a town hall on December 11.

The Metro board of directors will be making a decision on the future of the Metrolink station on January 17.

Development played a significant role in 2017, as Claremont heard plans for two major commercial and residential projects.

The plans for the proposed Village South expansion began to take shape at a citizen workshop in July, as representatives from Sargent Town Planning took feedback from residents on what they would like to see in a development that would be placed on the west side of Indian Hill just below the railroad tracks.

Claremont also heard initial plans for an expansive high-end residential development in Webb Canyon. The developer behind Clara Oaks proposes to build several homes in the hillsides above the Webb Schools, with assurances that it would not significantly alter the topography of the land.

At an informational meeting at the Hughes Center in May, residents were skeptical at best of the plans, highlighting an increased fire risk and a desire to keep the hillsides above Claremont free from development.

Another potential development was shown the door by city officials after years of inaction. Denley Investment and Management, developers of the proposed Village Lofts, had their architectural approvals vacated based on what the city claims were years of stalling and accusations of mismanagement.

The project, a mixed-use development to be built on the former Rich’s Products site, was supposed to be the final piece of the Village West expansion puzzle. Now, the site sits vacant, and it is unclear what the future holds for the property.

The proposal for a new police station got a little bit closer to reality. In December, the council chose a funding mechanism—a general obligation bond based on a property’s assessed value—for the $25 million, 26,000 square foot project, and chose a June 5 special election for Claremonters to go to the polls.

The plans have come a long way since an ad hoc committee was formed in January 2016 after the failure of Measure PS. Come June, Claremonters will once again make a decision on the future of policing in the city.

College students played a major role in Claremont news throughout 2017. They came out in droves in support of Claremont becoming a sanctuary city in January, and rallied in front of Honnold Library in support for students under the endangered Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

But some of their activism was met with pushback from the powers that be. In July, several students were issued unprecedented sanctions by Claremont McKenna College after forming a human blockade in front of the Athanaeum entrance and preventing people from listening to a talk by conservative author Heather Mac Donald. Three of the students were suspended for an entire year.

The Colleges also saw a changing of the guard, with David Oxtoby retiring after 14 years as Pomona College’s president. His successor, G. Gabrielle Starr, was inaugurated in October. Ms. Starr is the first woman and first African-American president of the 130-year-old college.

The colleges’ governing body also simplified their name, going from the Claremont University Consortium to, officially, The Claremont Colleges.

This year also saw the retirement and departure of a number of city officials and representatives. City Manager Tony Ramos announced his retirement in September after 11 years of working for the city, six as city manager. The search continues for his replacement, so he will stay as interim city manager in the beginning of 2018.

City Attorney Sonia Carvalho also retired after 25 years with the city, opting to scale back and devote her time to working solely as Santa Ana’s top counsel. Jeffrey Oderman is serving as interim city attorney as Claremont looks for a permanent replacement.

City Engineer Loretta Mustafa retired as well, and Community Development Director Brian Desatnik left Claremont for a job in Redlands.

This year also saw a re-imagining of a local favorite. Wolfe’s Market decided to scale back its operations after decades of faithful service as Claremont’s legacy grocer. Wolfe’s will still operate as a deli, while The Meat Cellar will open their new location where the grocery store used to be.

Based on the topics Claremont tackled, 2017 was a year that charted the course of the city for years to come. The next year will be even more vital, as the city determines the future for policing, transportation and city representation.

Here’s to a vibrant 2018.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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