Village South plan needs further review, Gold Line discussed

The foundation for the proposed Village South specific plan will be sent back to the commissions for further feedback.

That was the direction of the council, who voted 4-1 to send back the goals and guiding principles of a proposed southerly addition to the Claremont Village to either the planning commission or a joint planning and architectural committee. Mayor Opanyi Nasiali voted against the motion.

The motion, from Mayor Pro Tem Corey Calaycay, followed hours of conversation and back-and-forth from the council, Principal Planner Chris Veirs and David Sargent of Sargent Town Planning that extended the council meeting past midnight and into Wednesday morning.

In his presentation, Mr. Veirs revealed the city was dropping a controversial component of the plan—the possibility of a five-story building. He explained it was originally included when some residents desired a rooftop restaurant or lounge at Village South, but negative reaction from both commissions and the public led them to strike that option.

The planning goals include shaping new development, promoting a mix of uses, expanding the Village, promoting active mobility and high quality design. There were 10 guiding principles presented as well, including promoting walkable blocks, complete streets (a balance of pedestrians, bicyclists, cars and mass transit), “Village scale” architecture and sustainable design.

There was some confusion leading up to Tuesday night’s meeting, because the plans submitted to the council in the agenda packet did not include the suggested edits by the commissions but were only briefly referred to in the council meeting agenda summary.

For example, planning commission chair Richard Rosenbluth wanted the sixth and second goals incorporated, which relate to expanding Claremont’s housing stock in the Village and calling for a mix of uses on the proposed development.

City Manager Tara Schultz apologized for the confusion, explaining that the original planning document was included as reference.

“What we’ve done is bring the original document to you, as well as the comments and suggestions from community members and from the two bodies when they reviewed it,” she said.

A revised staff recommendation presented at the council meeting included recommendations from the commissions and the public and incorporating them into the final goals and guidelines to be used in the creation of a specific plan.

Mr. Veirs went over the goals for the future specific plan, which is set to transform an “underutilized” portion of Claremont into a vibrant mixed-use extension of the Village. Some suggestions relayed by the city and Sargent Town Planning include commercial along the northeast end of Indian Hill toward the railroad tracks and a flexibility of uses everywhere else on the 17-acre piece of land.

The current site houses the Vortox building, which is owned by Keck Graduate Institute; the former Richard Hibbard car dealership, which is currently in the process of being purchased by Newport Beach-based developers Village Partners; the Garner Glass building and a number of small commercial and residential properties dotting the lower perimeter.

The council had many questions and concerns about the draft goals and about the proposed development itself, including more specificity on sustainability and a desire for a fiscal impact analysis on balancing a mix of uses.

Mr. Veirs noted that the city has “a very short timeline to turn this around” due to a $415,000 transit-oriented development grant received by the city in 2016. He indicated they have until June 2019 to develop a specific plan for the area.

But most of the council moved to send the documents back to the commissions for further feedback. Councilmember Joe Lyons said there were “so many excellent opportunities in this plan to be much more specific and leave less to the imagination,” and Councilmember Sam Pedroza wanted to make sure this project fulfills all elements: live, work, play and learn.

“I want to make sure that we’re not missing elements that define this project as a Claremont project,” he said.

The only exception was Mr. Nasiali, who was pleased with the goals and guiding principles as they were presented and advocated moving forward.


Gold Line bridge and parking structure

The council unanimously approved design elements for the upcoming Gold Line overpass and proposed parking garage.

The council approved the recommendations from the architectural, planning and traffic & transportation commissions, including a Karl Benjamin-inspired design on the walls of the bridge and a pocket park underneath the bridge and landscaping.

Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor presented cost estimates from Metro for the bridge. It would cost the city about $40,000 to implement the “Claremont-specific” design on the abutment walls of the bridge and an additional $40,000 to create a pocket park and for other landscaping underneath the eastern end of the bridge. It would also cost an additional $30,000 for “staining” the abutment walls, meaning making it a slightly different color than concrete.

The city has indicated no general funds will be used for these features—but they did find $750,000 to $1 million in Proposition C transit funds that can be used, Mr. Tudor said.

Pendant lights, which were suggested to both commissions last week, received a no-go from Metro, who vetoed anything hanging below the bridge span. Mr. Tudor, who received that direction from Metro on Monday, noted the city was “not ready to give up that fight” just yet.

Two conceptual versions of the parking structure were also presented.

Neither of these structures are going to be built, rather they are examples of structures that the city could see on the corner of College Avenue and First Street, Mr. Tudor said.

One concept was based on a regular Metro parking structure. The other, created by architect John Bohn, is what the city would like to see; it features jagged sides, solar panels and the potential for adaptive re-use in the future.

This aspirational design from the city currently has no funding source and would cost “several million” dollars more, according to Mr. Tudor. These designs are merely presented as a way to get ahead of the Gold Line Construction Authority and show them what the city would like to see as opposed to dealing with Metro’s design.

“We’re being proactive about what we want the design to be, not reactive of the design they come up with,” he said.

Additionally, the city’s design was created before they knew of the $250 million shortfall for the Gold Line project. Initially, the city had hoped there would be money left over to fund the parking garage design.

While the project goes out to bid at the end of May, there are many elements that have yet to be hashed out, including the number of parking spaces. The Claremont parking garage currently calls for 1,260 spaces if it was the end of the line or 1,100 spaces if the line goes to Montclair, but Metro is looking at shrinking that size to 870 spaces for a Claremont terminus and 539 if it continues to Montclair.

These numbers will be finalized as contracts with bidders are finalized within the next six to eight months.


Schroeder moves to end SLWA deal

Claremont will be ending its relationship with an insurance company at the end of their three-year deal.

The agreement with Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA), which was reached in May 2017, allowed the company to send out mailers to Claremont homeowners offering an optional insurance plan to cover a rupture on a property’s lateral water line. 

However, controversy ensued when SLWA used a facsimile signature from then-Mayor Larry Schroeder as well as the city logo in the top left corner of the envelope. These additions confused residents and led the city to ask SLWA to stop the mailings until things get sorted out.

The consent calendar item contained a draft letter to homeowners from SLWA Executive Vice President Rob Judson explaining why they received the letters, who SLWA is and their relationship with the city—specifically how they are not a city program or funded by the city in any way.

But Mr. Schroeder, who took the item out for discussion, moved to terminate the city’s relationship altogether. This was in response to the first letter, which he claimed he did not review or approve despite his signature on it, and the subsequent mailers sent out to residents that made no mention of why they used his signature.

“I also would like to know if SLWA’s chairman of the board or president would like to have their facsimile signature on the letter without reviewing or approving the wording or content,” he said.

Mr. Calaycay said as excited as he was about the program itself, which would safeguard residents from a potentially costly water line repair, he was disappointed in how the program was marketed.

Since Claremont cannot break the contract itself, the deal will continue for another two years until the contract ends, at which point Claremont will not renew.

The motion passed unanimously, 5-0.

The next city council meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 8.

—Matthew Bramlett



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