Claremont’s open space lends to housing boom

Undeveloped land across Claremont will be growing scarcer in the coming months as a multitude of development projects begin their long-anticipated moves forward, much to the delight of Claremont administrators and commissioners.

Five different developers are advancing with housing developments in the City of Trees’ barren areas as Claremont plays its part in the rise of the local real estate market. Among the noted projects is the “Citrus Glen at Pitzer Ranch” housing development at the southwest corner of Base Line Road and Monte Vista, an enterprise that has remained idle for about 3 years.

“The housing market is just starting to picking up, and it’s not just here [in Claremont],” said Brian Desatnik, director of community development. “It’s all over.”

After years stuck in the “planning stages,” Mr. Desatnik says the 3.31-acre Citrus Glen development will finally break ground this summer. The change in status is partially thanks to a change in developers, he noted. Originally owned by a smaller developer, the project was recently sold to Taylor Morrison of California, a more extensive firm.

“The larger developer had more capability of or better access to financing,” Mr. Desatnik explained. “So they have the ability to push the project forward faster.”

Originally approved in 2007, the “Citrus Glen at Pitzer Ranch” will include 50 townhome-style condominium units.  Seven of the units will be for moderate-income housing with the rest at market rate. The track will also help preserve 2 historical stone buildings located on the site: the pump house and barn. The pump house will be used for storage while the barn will be restored and used as a rentable community space.

However, the original Pitzer Ranch building will likely be demolished should a prospective buyer, interested in moving the rock structure, not be located, according to Mr. Desatnik. The building itself is free, though the prospective buyer would incur costs of moving the building. The move could prove troublesome.

 “I don’t really know if it is feasible to relocate a rock structure,” Mr. Desatnik remarked. “It would probably take some rebuilding.”

As the developer seeks to get rid of one historic rock structure, they look to add a stone assemblage of another kind to the property.  The project layout includes the building of a rock wall and mosaic on the very corner of Base Line and Monte Vista. The mosaic will be produced by local artist Alba Cisneros, a colleague of Millard Sheets, according to James Sink, chair of the Claremont Architectural Commission.

While noting the high density of the project, Mr. Sink said he was pleased with the way the developer coordinated with the city to create open space.

“The developer has really gone out of their way to work with us to create a project that fits into the character of our community,” Mr. Sink said, acknowledging his pleasure with the developers the commission has been working with as of late. “It’s hard, with these higher-density projects, to compare to the local neighborhoods, but the developers are doing a good job respecting the open spaces. They really are investing in our community.”

Mr. Sink noted the same about DR Horton, developing a 4.2-acre housing project down the road at Base Line and Mountain Avenue, also expected to break ground this summer. DR Horton brings forward a similar-sized development, featuring 54 condominiums equipped with attached 2-car garages and private backyards. 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, Daniel Boyd, DR Horton’s Vice President has noted. The Claremont City Council approved the project, to replace the former Claremont Unified School District property, 5-1 with the hopes that 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 at the February 12th meeting.

Another developer, City Ventures, LLC, seeks to further bolster Claremont’s need for affordable housing options to the tune of 98 townhomes in a 6.2-acre property located on the south side of Base Line Road, just south of Towne Avenue. Though the planning commission approved a preliminary review of the proposed 6.2-acre development project last July, much of the review process, including the project design, remains unfinished as the city was dealt an unexpected setback. A month after the commission’s positive review, the state’s Department of Finance offered a different take. As prescribed by rules outlined after the dissolution of California’s Redevelopment Agencies (RDAs), finance department officials believed the property should be turned over to Los Angeles County for distribution to taxing entities.  

Claremont officials immediately set up a meet-and-confer with department representatives and the Department of Finance in January. The department recently conceded. With the site’s fate no longer in limbo, City Ventures moves forward with developing the site plan. Mr. Desatnik says the developer hopes to have the map to the architectural commission sometime this summer as the other Base Line developments break ground.

Three other undeveloped spaces are also in various stages of development: the Olson Company has proposed building 21 two-story units on empty space at Indian Hill and Vista Drive, and Harry Woo, owner of the Old School House complex, seeks to convert the vacant Doubletree building in the 500 block of Foothill into a series of apartments while also converting empting parking lot space behind Griswold’s into a series of townhomes. There is no set time frame on any of these 3 projects, though they are slowly moving forward, Mr. Desatnik acknowledged, all with eyes on how the local housing market absorbs the influx of the new living space currently taking shape.

“There is certainly a demand for housing here,” Mr. Desatnik acknowledged. “I don’t think all these developers would be moving forward so aggressively in Claremont if there wasn’t.”

—Beth Hartnett


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