Planning for future change highlights a busy 2019 in Claremont news

Claremont had a spirited 2019, with decisions made that laid the groundwork for big things to come in 2020.  

—The year started off with three new councilmembers—Jennifer Stark, Jed Leano and Ed Reece—taking the mantle from the departing old guard.

The new council jumped into the fray in January by deciding on a map that divided Claremont into five separate council districts, forever changing how the city votes in local elections.

—The city moved forward on district-based elections due to state law and to avoid getting sued by voting-rights groups. Cities across California have transitioned to district-based elections as a way to curb vote dilution among minority voters.

Many in the city felt forced into district-based voting, with some stating vote dilution wasn’t a problem in Claremont. Still, residents sent in their own versions of how Claremont should be split up.

In the end, the city council chose a map created by the National Demographics Corporation that groups south Claremont into one district, while central and north Claremont are divided into four. District 5 in south Claremont and District 1, which runs from the Village to north Claremont, will hold elections in 2020.

—This year also saw the narrow failure of Measure CR, a proposed sales tax increase that would have cut down on future budget deficits.

CR was initially borne from the Future Financial Opportunities Committee (FFOC), a citizen panel tasked with seeking out revenue-generating options for Claremont. CR proposed a three-quarter cent sales tax increase to 10.25 percent, which would have generated about $2.5 million in annual revenue, the city said.

But while similar tax measures easily passed in other cities, Claremont’s campaign proved to be more difficult. Opponents of the measure claimed CR unfairly targeted local businesses and low-income residents and questioned the cost and reasoning behind the measure.

That rhetoric struck a chord with just enough Claremont voters—CR narrowly failed by 146 votes, giving it the distinction of being the only sales tax measure to fail in California in 2019.

In response, the city announced the creation of another citizen committee to look at the city budget, but formation of that committee was postponed in part due to transparency concerns. 

—Foothill Boulevard underwent big changes in 2019. The work along Claremont’s major east-west thoroughfare was paid for entirely through grant money from the state, and features new protected bike lanes, redesigned medians and new welcome signs at the east and west entrances.

But some residents were concerned about the existing Millard Sheets-designed street signs, some of which were taken out as part of the project. Trees and shrubbery were also removed along the south end of Foothill near Mountain Avenue, aggravating residents. The project is supposed to be completed this month.

—There was yet another police station citizen committee that worked to create a winning package to present to Claremont voters. The committee, which struggled at times, was made up of supporters and detractors of Measure SC, a $25 million police station bond that failed in June 2018.

The committee voted to retrofit the current dilapidated police station building, with a square-footage parcel tax totaling roughly $17.5 million over a 30-year bond lifetime. The committee initially targeted March 2020 as the ballot date, but that plan was scrapped. It is currently unknown when Claremont voters will get a chance to decide on a bond.

—The year will close without a contract between the city and the Claremont Police Officers’ Association. The city and the CPOA have been at a stalemate throughout the year, with the city imposing terms and conditions of employment in June without the police union’s approval.

Part of what the CPOA wants is a salary increase, which the city has denied due to the fact that no other employee group received such a raise. The CPOA went on the offensive in September, releasing a video accusing the council—and specifically Mayor Corey Calaycay—of “dismantling” the police department and imposing two “unfavorable” contracts, leading to low morale among officers.

—Housing issues dominated headlines throughout 2019, as residents opined on future developments.

Some residents protested a proposed 96-unit condo complex scheduled along Colby Circle. The project, which has been extended numerous times, is seen as the final piece of the Old School House Specific Plan. Ultimately, the council determined the new owners of the development, Intracorp Homes, could not avoid another delay, and approved another extension.

Another proposed development along the Upland border also caused a stir among residents. The Commons features condos, single-family homes and retail, but residents were concerned about the lack of affordable housing options and its proximity to Cable Airport.

—Speaking of affordable housing, Claremont grappled with creating an ordinance for accessory dwelling units (ADU), better known as granny flats or back houses. The idea was to allow homeowners to build another smaller unit on their property to rent out, which could chip away at the ongoing housing crisis. Alas, once the city finalized its ADU ordinance, the state came back with changes in the law, forcing Claremont to revisit it.

—The highly anticipated Village South Specific Plan, the upcoming southerly expansion of the Village, will be discussed in 2020. That should prove to be a spirited debate.

Claremont enters a new decade with a fair amount of uncertainty. The repercussions of CR’s failure will be felt, Village South will dominate headlines, and the city’s first district elections should be fascinating to watch. Here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2020.

—Matthew Bramlett


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