Residents concerned after monument sign is removed from Foothill

As the Foothill Boulevard improvements continue, one aspect of the plan has concerned some locals.

A number of the street monument signs that run along Claremont’s main east-west thoroughfare are scheduled to be removed as part of the year-long, $16 million refurbishment project. The Mills Avenue sign, which motorists see driving east toward Upland, was taken down on Wednesday. 

David Shearer of Claremont Heritage raised the issue during public comment at last week’s architectural commission meeting. He said he spoke to Deputy Director of Community Services Dave Roger, who let him know that the signs were scheduled to come down.

“So of course he said, ‘They’re not historic, are they?’ Well, yes they are,” Mr. Shearer said in public comment.

The signs, he said, are part of a program from the studio of famed artist and architect Millard Sheets. He told the commission that the city should save the signs, “which really are part of the heritage and the history of Claremont.”

“I thought that maybe there was an opportunity here to preserve the signs we have, instead of spending money on replacing them, and maybe they could be removed and put back or worked around,” Mr. Shearer said.

There are inconsistencies in materials published by the city regarding removal of the existing Millard Sheets monument signs—some renderings have the signs replaced, while others clearly show the existing signs as part of the new landscape.

Construction plans drafted in March 2018 show that some of the street signs are marked “reconstruct decorative street name structure” and others are marked “protect in place.” At the Mills Avenue intersection, for example, the sign facing eastbound motorists that came down on Wednesday is marked “reconstruct” while the sign facing westbound motorists is marked “protected.”

City Manager Tara Schultz asked staff to do a photo survey Thursday morning of the 15 monument signs along Foothill Boulevard from Claremont Boulevard west to Towne Avenue. In all, seven signs, including the Mills Avenue marker, were previously scheduled to be removed and rebuilt as part of the Foothill Boulevard refurbishment plan.

“The Mills Avenue sign would have been in a turn lane and needed to be removed,” Ms. Schultz said. “We are saving letters as much as we can and leaving signs as they are if they are in good condition.”

Ms. Schultz said the stone markers that were determined to be originally designed by Millard Sheets are not slated to be removed. The city has restored those stone markers over the years.

“Several have been damaged over the years,” she said.

The seven stone monuments to be rebuilt along Foothill do not include the larger marker located at the southwest corner of Mountain Avenue. That sign, which sits under the large tree that served as inspiration for the city logo design, is in desperate need of repair, Ms. Schultz explained.

“This sign is not included in the Foothill project, but we have had several restoration companies out to look at it,” she said. “There are holes that have formed on each side where you can see rebar and a previous restoration company didn’t replace the glass with similar glass.”

The master plan for Foothill Boulevard includes installing new entry and monument signs along the road. The entry signs are tall and striking, with “CLAREMONT” spelled out vertically down the right side.

Discussion of removing and replacing the signs was noted in a COURIER article from December 2017, when Mayor Corey Calaycay, back then a councilmember, asked Principal Planner Chris Veirs if the existing entry signs could be recycled and installed on Base Line Road. Mr. Veirs said he would look into it.

Mr. Shearer made reference to the Base Line signs during his public comment at last week’s architectural commission meeting, noting that he was told it was an “example of what might be done.”

“Those designs just don’t really match or kind of fit,” he said. “It’s the same materials, but things are just off. The signs that we have currently, which you have some images of, really work.”

Architectural Commission Chair Mark Schoeman asked city staff at the meeting to look into the matter.

“I can recall reviewing and approving the Foothill Master Plan, and I don’t recall what the discussion was about these specific street signs,” Mr. Schoeman said. “I would hope that they are something that do preserve more than replace, because the craftsmanship that was done 56 years ago, of course, is hard to match now.”

More work will be done on the markers in phases as the project moves further west down Foothill, Ms. Schultz said. She noted that the city recognizes that maintaining that same look is important.

“We have reached out to Claremont Heritage to see what they want them to look like,” Ms. Schultz said.

As the Foothill project moves forward, Ms. Schultz hopes residents will be pleased with final product.

“As we get to each phase, we want to coordinate presentation of new landscaping and the monument signs at the same time,” she said. “The goal is maintaining that same look.”

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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