Trumark looks to ‘builders remedy’ to fast-track Claremont development

Trumark Homes has submitted a new application for the former La Puerta School site, seen above, that will increase density and add affordable units, and hopes to fast-track it through the “builder’s remedy” provision in state law. Courier photo/Steven Felschundneff

by Steven Felschundneff |

The developer who wants to build luxury single family homes at the former La Puerta Middle School site has elected to use a somewhat obscure provision of state law to get the project fast tracked.

Late Wednesday, Vice President of Community Development Eric Nelson at Trumark Homes sent a letter to Mayor Ed Reece and the City of Claremont stating that it intends to invoke a provision of Senate Bill 330 called the “builders remedy” which would allow the developer to avoid much of the usual approval process a housing project must normally go through to secure approval. To qualify for the builders remedy, Trumark must set aside 20% of the units for low-income families.

Trumark’s new plan calls for 87 units to be constructed at the roughly 10-acre La Puerta site, with 15 units set aside for low-income residents. The builder did not indicate whether all the units would be for sale or if some would be rentals, but state law prohibits it from making the affordable ones of lesser quality.

“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.”

The former La Puerta School site. Courier photo/Steven Felschundneff

“Despite this positive momentum, the City and its consultants put the review of our La Puerta proposal on the ‘back burner’ in processing the plans and required Environmental assessment,” read Trumark’s letter. “We understand this is because Claremont has placed our application on hold until the California Department of Housing & Community Development (HCD) approves the updated Housing Element of the City’s General Plan.”

The city is in the process of obtaining certification for the sixth cycle of the housing Element, which covers the period from 2021 to 2029. Claremont must plan for 1,711 new housing units, its share of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation for Southern California. The sixth cycle of the housing element was supposed to be completed by October 2021

The city recently finished the public review period for the third draft of the housing element and was scheduled to submit it to the Department of Housing and Community Development on Thursday. If HCD accepts the third draft, it would still require approval from the planning commission and City Council.

Claremont recently settled a lawsuit with Californians for Homeownership over its noncompliance with the housing element law. That agreement means that the city has until July 31, 2023 to get the plan approved.

The former La Puerta Middle School property. COURIER photo/Steven Felschundneff

“Trumark and the local community have waited patiently for over a year as the City focused on its Housing Element,” Trumark’s letter read. “During this time, our region’s housing crisis has only worsened, and it is clear today that HCD adoption is far from complete. As a result of this indefinite delay, and in accordance with SB 330, our development team has formally filed an application with the City of Claremont to pursue a ‘Builder’s Remedy’ at the La Puerta site.”

Under this provision, projects receive an expedited approval process and Trumark estimates construction could begin next year. The builder has not submitted any site plans showing how the 87 homes would be oriented on the property or indicated whether it intends to build single family homes, townhomes, or condominiums.

Referencing the city’s settlement with Californians for Homeownership, Trumark says its plan is consistent with that “stipulated judgment.” However, in a bit of a twist, the builder says it would prefer to construct the 56 single-family homes it proposed for the location in 2021.

“Trumark Homes would much prefer to build the 56-unit compromise plan proposed in 2021, and we believe a path still exists for this to occur,” according to its letter. “HCD approval of the Housing Element is not required for the City to consider our earlier application.”

Trumark called on the City Council to act quickly to approve its 2021 plan.


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