Village West project will set standard for mixed-use development

With unanimous approval by the Claremont City Council Tuesday night, the Village West Expansion Plan, nearly 12 years in the making, is complete.

The council approved a code amendment to allow the development of a 4-story, commercial mixed-use and residential building to take over the last available parcel of Village West. An internal parking garage and additional mixed-use building next door to the main attraction also received approval. Brought forward by Denley Investment and Management Company, the project will take over the vacant Rich’s Product site located on the corner Oberlin Avenue and First Street.

The council gave its approval to allow commercial mixed-use throughout the first floor of the building. Approval was given under the condition that proposed personal services businesses would be required to have a conditional-use permit, and council review, to ensure its compatibility with the surrounding area.

“As great as this project sounds, I would feel more comfortable if we had just that small little involvement,” said Councilmember Sam Pedroza, addressing the developer. “Perhaps that could be something that helps you to identify and work with retailers that want to come in.”

Mr. Pedroza initiated the conditional-use requirement to address the concerns of Village West residents. One of the concerned, a homeowner in the Village Walk adjacent to the proposed development, feared businesses would take advantage of the commercial mixed-use designation.

“I just would not like to see a massage parlor or fast food or any type of business that could use a loophole where a conditional-use permit is not required to establish itself,” said Claremont resident Jason Ryan, who says he lives less than 100 feet from the proposed development.

Tentatively titled “The Village Lofts,” the project was deemed favorable by the Claremont Planning Commission last month because it fit the “urban environment” Village West’s expansion plan originally called for, according to Commission Chair Jeff Hammill. The 1.66-acre parcel includes retail and live/work spaces on the first 2 floors, with residential apartments on the 2 floors above and a rooftop pool. A restaurant is proposed for the corner space on the first floor.

The development also gained the commission’s favor in what they view as the flexibility provided by the commercial mixed-use designation.

“We view this as an opportunity to allow the developer to have the possibility of doing a couple of different things as market conditions will ultimately dictate,” Mr. Hammill said, “so we don’t find ourselves in a position where a project is scrapped or we go into another review because the nature of the project has to change.”  

To some, the plan is inconsistent with what was originally envisioned for the Village West parcel, alluded former Planning Commissioner Tom Anderson, who came forward during public comment.

“We wanted something that would complement and not overshadow the residences to the north. Anything taller than 2 stories would be relegated to the area along the tracks and moving west,” Mr. Anderson said. “To allow something of this scope and size to go in moves away from the tradition and history, and what everyone wanted the Village to be, which is just that: a village.”

But the council was satisfied with the height, stating that it compares with nearby buildings like Casa 425 and The Packing House. Though commission reviews of the development leading up to the council’s deciding vote drew a slew of concerned residents, Tuesday’s meeting remained relatively light on the public comment, most statements merely offered feedback on how to ensure that the use of the project aligns with the nearby residential communities.

Mr. Pedroza said he recognized residents’ concerns with the project, vocalized or not, which was the reason the conditional-use permit requirement was added. The council hopes it will provide a safeguard and partial source of comfort for those with lingering doubts.

“The height issue scares some folks, just like it scared some folks when the expansion was just starting out,” Mr. Pedroza recognized. “But I think the other issue is what’s going to go in there. That’s where there could be perhaps more cooperation and more involvement.


Occupy Claremont pushes for transparency

Transparency and fair process is still at the core interest of the Claremont City Council and its banking practices, assured Claremont City Council members at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The statement was sparked after Occupy Claremont members came forward during public comment to urge the council to adopt a responsible banking ordinance. The ordinance would promote banking “with local or regional businesses who have a record of community investment and demonstrate good corporate citizenship through local charitable giving and volunteering.”

The ordinance also asks for full disclosure from the city on the names and locations of all banks receiving a Request for Proposal (RFP) and that all bids remain available to the public. Occupiers would like to see all criteria used in selecting a bank—as well as any bids and information received—published on the city’s website.

“We hope that the process you use will be transparent,” said Terry Donnally of Occupy’s Foreclosure and Bank Task Force, who encouraged the formation of a citizen’s advisory group to help in the process.

Council members are restricted from making any formal motion on items discussed during public comment as outlined in the Brown Act, however, Councilmember Joe Lyons noted the council’s support of Occupy’s efforts on banking and foreclosure, and requested that city staff review the group’s ordinance and requests.

“The RFP itself is something we discussed as a council earlier and thought there was an opportunity,” Mr. Lyons said. “What is being asked of us is something we have agreement on…and the transparency issue is one that I certainly assume will happen.”

Mayor Larry Schroeder assured residents that the council will continue to do so with proposals for a new bank, though he cautioned against too many restrictions or criteria within the RFP as called for in the banking ordinance.

“If we put more requirements on them, I think we would get less responses to the RFPs,” he said, noting his own experience working with other cities on similar requests. Mr. Schroeder added, “We can certainly discuss it.”

Councilmember Corey Calaycay urged fellow councilmembers and city staff to adhere to a consistent, transparent policy on the RFPs, if and when the time comes.

Mr. Schroeder also explained that the city keeps very little money in checking accounts, with the bulk of the city’s cashflow held by the state in a pooled account.

Claremont administrators will review Occupy’s submission while continuing its research into moving available city funds to a local bank.

—Beth Hartnett


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