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Residents express concern over new development

Claremonters got a look at a residential development Monday night that could transform the eastern border of the city.

The people behind The Commons, at the northwest corner of Foothill Boulevard and Monte Vista Avenue, want to turn that piece of underused vacant land into a multi-family district of single-family homes, condominiums and retail storefronts.

The goal of the initial scoping meeting was to introduce the project and talk about elements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and how it pertains to the project. Ray Hussey, a CEQA project manager hired by the city, noted the meeting was like an open house, and no decision on the project would be made that night.

“Right now we’re really early in on the process,” he said. “There hasn’t been any analysis. The project is still making its way on the planning side through the city of Claremont as well as Upland.”

The Commons is the latest iteration on a plot of land that people have been trying to develop for years. Ben Swenson, a representative for Americal Management, said the owner, Clare Properties, has been trying to develop the property for nearly 35 years.

At one point, the city approved an office park in 2008, right when the recession hit. A Target store was also considered for the site, Mr. Swenson said.

“I’ve got probably 25 or 30 site plans just in the 14 years I have been working on this project,” he said.

The project straddles the line between Claremont and Upland and, therefore, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. The owners and city officials had earlier discussions with the city of Upland to try to move Claremont’s boundary east to Monte Vista, with Claremont transferring some undeveloped land further north at Base Line and Monte Vista, but no agreement on a land-swap was made.

It also sits about 2,000 feet from the Cable Airport runway, which concerned owner Bob Cable. “Planes will be about 344 feet above [the development],” he said.

A no-build zone, a 150-foot by 1000-foot space running through the middle of the property, was handed down from the Federal Aviation Administration as a result of the position of Cable Airport and flight takeoff patterns. The clearing area would serve as park space, but would also double as a spot for a disabled plane to land. 

The proposed project includes around 105 residential spaces—including single-family homes mostly in Claremont, townhomes mostly in Upland and about 5,000 square feet of retail.

There are plans for at least two entry points into the development, according to John Moreland, a senior project manager for architecture firm KTGY—a roundabout in the lower west corner that connects Armstrong Garden Center and the development itself. Each residential unit will have a two-car garage, and there will be parking along the center area as well as parking for retail.

The discussion quickly turned from environmental questions to questions about the development itself.

Erik Griswold surmised the residential portion would eventually bring in less tax revenue due to Proposition 13, and was also concerned about walkability and pedestrian access and safety. One resident predicted the project was going to be a “lost community, not going to belong to Upland or Claremont.”

Geoff Hamill and Nicholas Neece, both of Wheeler Steffen Sotheby’s, took issue with the layout of the proposed townhomes being three stories, and asked for more single flat-level housing for seniors and others who can’t use stairs.

Mary Stoddard noted those in attendance have a reason to be cynical about the project—when the EIR is completed and the project goes to planning, many think it’s already a done deal.

“I understand what you’re saying, but we’ve been through this before,” she said.

Claremont city planner Jennifer Davis assured her the project would go through all the appropriate public channels—including the commissions and the council—providing ample time for public input.

“Glad to hear you say that, we’ll be here,” Ms. Stoddard said.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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