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New development approved for old district property

As the budget continues to boom, so does development. The council lent its approval to a 4.2-acre housing development at Base Line Road and Mountain Avenue. Previously owned by the Claremont Unified School District, the property was purchased by developer DR Horton for $6.2 million last February. The Claremont Unified School District still owners an adjacent lot, currently home to the CUSD Service Center. Figuring out what to do with that property has been a hot topic of debate recently for both school officials and residents.

A set of 54 condominiums will now fill the property, a lower amount than the 61-unit maximum allowed by the land’s zoning, noted Mark Carnahan, senior planner for the city of Claremont. Each condo will be equipped with an attached 2-car garage and private backyard. The condos will be designed in 3 different plans, ranging from 3 to 4 bedrooms.

While most of the condos will be sold at market price, approximately $400,000, 8 will be sold as moderate-income housing, or for $250,000, said Daniel Boyd, DR Horton’s Vice President.

While a majority of the council supported the development, issues lingered with the complex’s proximity to the 210 freeway. As Claremont resident Ranji George, a scientist with the local air quality agency, pointed out that for those within 800 feet of a freeway, “the cancer risk is about 350 times higher…I would strongly urge you to consider this.”

Others were confused why DR Horton’s development would be approved while a similar project proposed several years ago was rejected by the county because of freeway health concerns. Councilmember Corey Calaycay said the former development was rejected for more reasons other than its proximity to the freeway. That development had been labeled as affordable housing and the county had withdrew its funding of the project because of concerns over environmental justice, which argues against the purposeful placement of affordable housing complexes in less-desirable areas.

In response to Mr. George’s concerns, Bill Halligan of the Planning Center, the consultant hired by the city to conduct the environmental review for the project, explained that each home will be outfitted with Merv 11 air filtration systems capable of keeping air quality at safer levels.

“By installing those filters we reduce the cancer risk to a background level,” Mr. Halligan said.

Condo applicants will be informed of the health risks associated with living near a freeway. Steve Bush, who conducted the health risk assessment, added that health risks were evaluated in a recent study of the development. The study—which took into account both the indoor and outdoor activity of a resident living in the complex for 70 years—showed that residents would be no more at risk for cancer or other airborne illnesses than the general population living away from a freeway.

The reassurances were not enough to convince Mayor Pro Tem Opanyi Nasiali, who opted to remain consistent with his past opposition of such developments.

“I am very concerned,” Mr. Nasiali said referring to studies that have show children are greatly impacted by air pollution by the freeways. “Even though we are putting in mitigation measures…the kids are going to play outside and they are going to be exposed to that pollution.”

While respecting Mr. Nasiali’s decision, the rest of the council lent their support to the project. Councilmember Sam Pedroza hopes it will provide more housing opportunities for those of the Claremont workforce who are looking for housing opportunities near their places of employment.

“This housing project is providing a niche that I think we sorely need in our community,” Mr. Pedroza said.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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