They aren’t called growing pains for nothing

By John Pixley

“Yes, we support the subway, but don’t touch anything, and don’t inconvenience us in any way.”

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Who remembers the veterinarian office in the Village along the west side of Indian Hill Boulevard? What about the Union Ice Company?

I remember taking a kitten to the vet there when I first started living in my own place in Claremont. This was after I graduated from college in 1985. Years before, my family took our pets there.

Now, it seems that the vet office, as well as the Union Ice Company, was part of another town, part of another world. It seems weird and impossible that these buildings, lonely and isolated in a barren landscape, were where the busy plaza with the Laemmle Theater is now. Not only that, it seems weird and impossible that the movie theater wasn’t always there, and it’s getting harder to remember that the adjacent Packing House wasn’t always a nice destination with cool polished hardwood floors, restaurants, clubs and artist lofts and not just a citrus packing plant left abandoned for many years.

This isn’t just the case for what was known as Village West and also as the Village Expansion Project and is now just a part of the Village. What about the tall office buildings along the south side of First Street? Who remembers when they weren’t there? And who remembers when, much more recently, there was pull-in parking along the middle of First Street?

I was thinking about this after reading the above quote last month in the Los Angeles Times. More specifically, I was thinking of when the Village Expansion Project was very much a project.

This was when there was a dark steel monstrosity rising high up against Indian Hill Boulevard, looming over what was the Village at the time and had been the Village for a long time. Not only was there a growing unsightly visage invading the Village for months on end, there was lots of banging and grinding, as well as plenty of dust and debris.

“Pardon our dust” was an understatement, and saying that it wasn’t pleasant is another. But with the plaza and packing house renovation in place, even for not that many years, it is hard to remember all this. Again, it seems weird and impossible that this all took place. I would argue that even those opposed to the Village being expanded would agree.

I don’t remember the office buildings on First Street being built, but I bet it was a mess. Like a bad dream.

Then there are The Colleges, which have, it seems, different construction sites every year. There are areas of the campuses that I hardly recognize.

Don’t worry. A subway isn’t being built under Claremont. This isn’t even a bad dream—although it would be pretty cool to have a subway stop or two in Claremont hooking us up to Los Angeles. Nevertheless, the quote from Metropolitan Transportation Authority Dave Sotero  refers to how most people are reacting to the long-awaited Purple Line extension under Wilshire Boulevard in LA, but it rings oh-so-true here far from the big city.

Although it is planned to end at the Veterans Affairs campus near UCLA and not be the once envisioned and ballyhooed “subway to the sea,” almost everybody is looking forward to it. It will ease traffic and pollution, but people sure don’t want to put up with the mess involved—streets torn up and some buildings razed—in building it. They, quite literally, can’t wait for it.

As the Times story headlined “Nightmare scenario?” explained, there has been lots of complaining about debris and displacement but mostly noise, especially at night. A “Sleepless in Miracle Mile” petition decries noise that “would condemn thousands of residents to nine years of living hell.” Some people now look out their windows at sound walls. And this is before a tunnel has been bored, a station has been built, a track has been laid, with only the most preliminary work being done.

I had to laugh when, a few days after this article appeared, there was another article from someone near the ongoing lane project on the 405 freeway saying, essentially, join the club.

This was also more or less the message from the Los Angeles Police Commission Executive Director Richard Tefank: “This is all about balance, about recognizing that a project has to be built and will be built, and that the nighttime work reduces the inconvenience of the time it takes to be built.”

It is also “all about balance” when it comes to the wilderness park here. The park is cherished and popular, called “one of Claremont’s greatest assets,” but for the people living near the park it has been something of a nightmare.

The nearby residents aren’t having to put up with buildings being built or with the yells of construction workers and the beep-beep of backing trucks—far from it—but they are having to deal with major change. They don’t like all the people who are now parking in the area when using the park. More specifically, they don’t like it that the park-users aren’t parking in the right area (a parking lot that charges a fee to pay for the $365,000 lot), but are parking along their streets.

There are also concerns about too many people using the park. Park use is estimated to have risen from 30,000 to 300,000 people annually since 2006. People are concerned about left-behind water bottles and other litter, long dog leashes, hikers wearing headphones unaware of approaching cyclists and the high fire danger. This is supposed to be a wilderness area, left in its natural state, after all. But the parking looks to be the biggest problem, with one local resident, Lynn Hartman, saying, “It’s car after car after car. It’s become a huge issue. I don’t want to say force people to use the park, but I want to know how we are going to address this.”

I may have said this before, but it’s crazy that the city didn’t address this long ago, when there was vote for the purchase of the park land, when it was said that the park would be a great asset for all to enjoy. Did the city not think that many, if not all, would want to enjoy the park?

The city, surprised as it is, is now working on a six-figure master plan for the park, facilitated by MGI Consulting, specializing in recreational areas and based in Berkeley, which, by the way, is where the wonderful Nimitz Trail in Tilden Park is. Then again, that trail is far, far from a neighborhood.


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