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The Commons developer files lawsuit against Upland

by Rebecca Norden-Bright | intern@claremont-courier.com

Clare Properties, the developer of the Commons, a proposed development on the northwest corner of Monte Vista Avenue and Foothill Boulevard, is suing the city of Upland due to a conflict regarding environmental review.

The plan for the Commons encompasses 9.5 acres, three acres of which are located in Upland. The Upland side of the project would contain 48 of the 68 total townhomes included in the plan. 

Mike Poland, the contract planning manager for the city of Upland, and Ben Swenson, a representative for Clare Properties, both confirmed the existence of the lawsuit but declined to comment further because the lawsuit is still pending. 

Due to initial backlash from the city of Upland regarding the development, Clare Properties has said that it will either build the Upland side of the project pursuant to Senate Bill (SB) 35, or not build it at all. 

SB 35, signed in September 2017 and effective since January 2018, allows for a streamlined approval process for the construction of affordable housing. Projects that go through SB 35 are subject to a ministerial approval process and do not require environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

Because of this, the draft environmental impact report (DEIR) issued in April only included an assessment of the 6.5 acres located within Claremont. On June 15, the city of Upland responded to the report demanding that a new DEIR should include the Upland portion of the project and be recirculated for public review and comment. 

A letter sent by the Upland planning division also expressed frustration with the developer’s plan to construct via SB 35.

“[Going through SB 35] would mean that the environmental consequences of developing 48 new homes on 3.0 acres that lie within the flight path of the Cable Airport would never be analyzed or disclosed to the public,” the letter reads. 

The city of Upland also asserts that the project does not qualify for construction under SB 35, which Clare Properties disputes. To qualify for SB 35, projects must meet a number of criteria, including that at least 50 percent of the proposed residential units are classified as “affordable” and that the project meets the objective standards of the city’s planning code. 

“The city of Upland has determined as a matter of law that development of the project within Upland does not qualify for SB 35 review because it does not meet several of the city’s objective standards,” the letter reads. 

On July 22, Claremont city staff responded to public comments, including the letter from the Upland planning division. In a series of letters, the city of Claremont stated that despite Upland’s concerns, no revisions to the Draft EIR would be necessary.

“The city of Claremont has no jurisdiction over the 3.0 acres of the applicant’s property in the city of Upland, and discretionary review or approval of development within the city of Upland is outside the scope of the Draft EIR,” the letter responding to Upland’s comments reads.

The letter from Claremont city staff also disputes Upland’s claim that the DEIR does not account for possible building on the Upland side of the project and noted that Clare Properties disputes Upland’s assessment that the project does not qualify for construction through SB 35.

“The Draft EIR does not ‘ignore’ or ‘omit’ the potential Upland development from its analysis,” it reads. “[Its] analysis of cumulative impacts discloses and examines the potential impacts the proposed project may have in combination with the potential future development in Upland.”

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