Strawberry patch likely to get townhome makeover

The undeveloped lot at Base Line Road and Towne Avenue, known to many as Claremont’s “Strawberry Patch,” may be getting a makeover similar to other vacant stretches along the north Claremont Highway.

Planning commissioners Tuesday conducted a preliminary review of developer City Ventures plan to build up the empty 6-acre lot with townhomes. Similar townhome developments are filling in vacancies along Base Line Road at both Padua Avenue as well as Mountain Avenue.

The City Ventures development will feature 95 craftsman-style dwelling spaces, outfitted with solar panels, sprawled across the property. It’s a different concept than originally proposed to the commission last July. City Ventures opted to change their initial vision for the proposed development after receiving feedback on the original plans. Instead of a mixed-use and residential development to take up just the western portion of the lot, the developer is proposing to build a multi-family residential community, to include 95 townhomes, on the entire open space.

The developer steered away from commercial or mixed-use development because of constraints placed on the lot—with the property’s small size and limited access to the adjacent streets.

In order to go ahead with this new vision of a solely residential development, a zoning change will be required as the western portion of the space is currently designated for mixed-use development. While City Ventures hopes to change this designation, Barbara Kermode, a resident in the unincorporated portion of Claremont near the development site, hopes the developer will consider including commercial property in their plans.

Ms. Kermode believes including some sort of a commercial service on the property, like a gas station, will relieve a burden on her and her neighbors as she says they are currently inundated with requests for services from people exiting the freeway.

Our door [gets knocked on] day and night with people wanting water, tools, a phone, car jacks. We are not a service station, we are a resident just like everybody else is,” Ms. Kermode said. “We are being dumped on.”

While sympathetic to Ms. Kermode’s plight, Janet Peddy, director of finance, planning and operations at The Webb Schools, is supportive of a solely residential development.

“A commercial use so close to our campus is a further encroachment on our way of life as a boarding school,” Ms. Peddy said. “We are already feeling that impact from Towne Avenue…we would like to see the community stay residential if development must happen.”

Also supportive of keeping the space residential, resident Joseph O’Toole suggested providing future townhome residents with a buffer from the traffic of Base Line and nearby 210 freeway. Being so close to a main highway and freeway could create opportunity for crime, Mr. O’Toole acknowledged.

“If I lived there, I would want a gate,” he said.

Still others questioned the legality of establishing the property because the county had rejected a previous residential project on the same plot because of freeway health concerns. Associate Planner Luke Seibert clarified that project was rejected because it was labeled as affordable housing. The county had withdrawn 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. City Ventures is not an affordable housing development, though 13 of the spaces will be reserved as “moderate-income” housing.

Further concerns with the amount of parking spaces were dispelled by city officials, who said the developer more than meets the requirements in providing 2 parking spaces per household in addition to 40 visitor spaces.

While the Strawberry Patch Claremonters have come to know and love may soon be a part of the past—a concern to several residents present on Tuesday night—those beloved berries are not being totally uprooted. Though the owner of the patch may not be able to sell his berries from Towne and Base Line, he continues to sell at the Methodist Church in La Verne. And for the past year and a half, he has taken to growing his strawberries just down the street at the residence of Councilmember Corey Calaycay.

Commissioners appreciated residents’ concern—Commissioner Martin McLeod shared his own memories of the Strawberry Patch—but were pleased with City Ventures initial development plans, despite the site’s constraints.

“This actually looks like an advantageous site,” Commissioner KM Williamson noted. “95 units is a lot, but I think they are doing a very admirable effort in accommodating the parking.”

While the Planning Commission was tasked with giving the plan a preliminary lookover, City Ventures’ development is far from finished with commission and government review. It will return for another review by the Planning Commission in the fall with final say to be given by the city council.  

—Beth Hartnett


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