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Village South EIR meeting attracts large crowd

In what could be a forecast for things to come, Claremonters packed the city council chambers Monday night to voice concerns about the Village South plan.

The specific plan for the 24-acre area is still being worked out, but elements the environmental impact report (EIR) will consider have already drawn the ire of residents worried about the potential density of the project.

Monday night’s gathering was a scoping meeting to discuss potential environmental impacts of the future project. The meeting also kicked off a 30-day commenting period for the public to weigh in.

The full-house crowd was mostly concerned about the number of potential residential units that was first unveiled in the notice for Monday’s meeting—up to 1,140 units, with a 73-key hotel.

Peter VanderWal of Sargent Town Planning noted that the number was the maximum number of units that could be scrutinized during the EIR process.

The environmental review process would be split into two tiers—tier one estimates a mix of two- and three-story buildings with a maximum of four stories, complete with up to 30,000 square feet of retail, up to 20,000 square feet of office space and up to 736 residences, which they say would mostly be two bedroom apartments and condos.

Tier two is what could happen if there was a community benefit program in place that would allow for more density on the project. That program would allow for a developer to build more units and create more density in exchange for community amenities such as a park or more retail space, Mr. VanderWal said.

Under tier two, up to five stories could be allowed in the interior of the plan area, with up to 60,000 square feet of retail, 50,000 square feet of office space, a 73-key hotel and up to 1,140 units. Those units would mostly be studios and small apartments.

Many of those in attendance took issue with that level of density. Jim Keith said those numbers came as a surprise.

“It was an absolute shock to almost everyone that I spoke to, and these are people who have been following it for the past two years,” he said.

Mr. VanderWal and Claremont Principal Planner Chris Veirs claimed that the 1,140 units were the maximum amount, and did not anticipate that the project would be developed to that level. Mr. Veirs called it the “worst case scenario,” where everything could be developed to its highest potential within each zone.

Helaine Goldwater was also concerned with the proposed density. In terms of architecture scale proposed in the goals and guiding principles of the Village South Specific Plan, “I’d like to know where in the Village there’s a five-story building.”

“This isn’t typical Claremont,” she added. “I know we need to be progressive and have some smaller units, but they also have to be realistic.”

Ms. Goldwater and Mr. Keith were both concerned about parking. Mr. Keith claimed that a denser development would force cars to park into surrounding neighborhoods and would clash with Claremont’s overnight parking ordinance.

“What’s the population you expect to move into this thing? Because you’re talking about at least seven percent of Claremont in one little box,” Mr. Keith said.

Bob Gerecke asked about the potential for a hotel under the tier two option and wondered why it hadn’t been included under the first tier proposal.

Mr. Veirs responded that the hotel was being viewed, “as an additional amenity that helps the area that’s bringing something to the community that’s desirable” and was not anticipated at the lower tier.

Mary Stoddard, who noted that she had been a part of several EIR processes, said, “When you send in the worst case scenario, that’s usually what you get.”

She cautioned city employees to “listen to the people who live here and know what’s going on.”

There will still be ample time for public comment in the future. After the draft EIR is presented, there will be 45 days for additional comment and a public workshop, according to the city. More comment will be received when the final EIR is presented.

This current public comment process will extend until August 20. Written comments can be directed to City of Claremont, 207 Harvard Avenue, Claremont CA 91711 Attn: Christopher Veirs. Comments can also be emailed to cveirs@ci.claremont.ca.us.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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