Trumark developer reveals specifics of ‘builder’s remedy’ plans
by Steven Felschundneff | firstname.lastname@example.org
New details have emerged about the “builder’s remedy” construction plans submitted by developer Trumark Homes for the former La Puerta school site.
Last month Trumark sent a letter to Mayor Ed Reece and the city stating it intended to file a supplemental building application under a relatively untested provision of Senate Bill 330, which guarantees an expedited approval process if the developer agrees to set aside 20% of new units for low income buyers.
“Trumark submitted this application under a State Housing Law process commonly referred to as the ‘Builder’s Remedy’ that requires a streamlined review of housing development projects that will provide a certain percentage of affordable units,” read a news release from the City of Claremont. “The ‘Builder’s Remedy’ is only available in jurisdictions that do not have an adopted housing element update that substantially complies with the State’s Housing Element law. Like over a hundred other municipalities in California, the City of Claremont is still in the process of completing its sixth cycle housing element update.”
In order to provide the affordable homes, Trumark bumped the unit count up to 87 from its existing application which includes 56 single family homes. The new application is for 69 two-story single family homes and six triplexes. The 18 townhomes located in the triplexes would likely be the affordable units, however, the exact details have yet to be hammered out, according to Trumark’s Vice President, Community Development Eric A. Nelson.
The proposal includes two different single family home plans, each with four bedrooms and either two and-a-half baths or three. The homes will be relatively large at 2,400 to 2,500 square feet, with two-car garages, but the lots will be much smaller than those in the existing plan. Eleven of the single family homes will front onto Forbes Avenue.
The six two-story triplexes would be clustered together toward the south end of the 9.7-acre parcel, with a row of single family homes built on the southern property line. The townhomes range in size from 1,326 to 1,826 square feet with three bedrooms and three baths and two-car garages.
“Right now the future of La Puerta is really uncertain,” Nelson said about the builder’s remedy application. “And so our supplemental application is really a guarantee that whatever gets built in that neighborhood, it is as close, or consistent, with [the project] that almost three years of work went into: our current 56-unit plan, which is the plan we want to build.
“What it really does is locks in the single family character of the neighborhood without turning the site into high density housing, which we don’t believe is a good move. And it ensures that we can actually transact with the school district in a timely manner and get them the funding they need as a result of us being able develop on this site.”
Nelson said feedback since Trumark’s first application nearly three years ago made it clear many people in Claremont want a lot more houses built on the parcel at 2475 Forbes, while another group wants fewer homes or none at all. That is why he believes the 56 single family home project fits best, even if no one gets exactly what they asked for.
In the past people who live adjacent to the development have labeled the 56-unit proposal high density housing, citing the zoning of adjacent neighborhoods with minimum lot sizes of 13,000 square feet. Others have questioned why the school district is selling the property at all, stating that the city needs to preserve its open space, and feel a park or cultural center would be a better use of the land.
The Courier asked a group of residents who oppose the development for on the record comment, but all declined.
“Trumark’s decision to exercise its right under SB 330 is a process that is solely between Trumark and the City of Claremont,” said Dinah Felix, CUSD’s assistant superintendent, business services in an email. “The District’s interest in selling the La Puerta Property is to obtain proceeds that would be directed toward the improvement of facilities that will benefit our students. To the extent possible, we support a process that would achieve that outcome.”
Felix said any questions about the long, drawn-out approval process were best directed to the city’s planning staff.
According to Felix, the current negotiated price for the property is $12.25 million, however at this point the district has yet to identify specific projects it would address with the funds.
“The District last conducted a facilities needs assessment in 2015,” Felix’s email continued. “In the near future we will conduct an updated facilities needs assessment to identify and prioritize capital projects throughout the District. With our campuses all over 50 years old, we look forward to addressing some of these needs with the proceeds from the sale of the La Puerta property.”
“There is another option that no one is really talking about, it’s one that really we want to ensure doesn’t happen,” Nelson said. “That’s the current high-density designation that’s in the city’s housing element [which] would be the third option which would allow for, as written, almost 300 homes, or units, lets call them because they would not be homes on that parcel.”
Community Development Director Brad Johnson said this city’s target density for the property is closer to 135 units, in part to help the city reach its state mandated goal to plan for 1,711 new homes by 2029.
So, what happens with Trumark builder’s remedy application? It sits for the time being as a “bookmark” while the city processes the 56-unit application from 2021.
The city and its consultants must complete the parcel’s draft environmental impact report, which will then have a public review period. That document will then go to the planning commission for approval. If that all goes smoothly, the 2021 application will then be reviewed by both the planning and architectural commissions.
If both commissions sign off on the plan, the Claremont City Council would have to amend the city’s general plan to rezone the property for residential use and agree to subdivide the lot.
In the interest of full disclosure, Felschundneff resides on Forbes Avenue, about a quarter mile from the development site.