Readers comments 9-4-15
Claremont, City of Trees…
If you go to Google Earth and start navigating to a point over southern California, something very interesting happens. Claremont is easy to locate from quite a distance because it is greener than any of the communities surrounding it. Closing in on the image of our fair city, the reason becomes apparent: mature trees. Parks and playing fields aside, the trees of Claremont distinguish us from our neighbors even from space.
As more and more turf areas throughout southern California are replaced with decomposed granite and gravel, I wonder about the potential consequences from increased heat-island effects.
Decreased humidity and fewer insulating turf surfaces—all the more reason for each of us to pay close attention to the condition of our shade-providing trees this summer and going forward. They are an irreplaceable asset well beyond the value they add to any one person’s property.
I received in the mail a flier that explained the best ways to keep our trees alive and how to keep watering.
On my property, we have 27 trees that are between 20 and 100 feet tall, and many more smaller ones. Without extra allocation of water, there is no way I?can keep them all alive. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.
Congratulations, Claremont! The latest statistics show that our cumulative water consumption from June 2015 through July 2015 is down 45 percent compared to the same time period in 2013. Collectively, we are all doing our respective parts in a big way to conserve water during this severe drought.
That said, many of the trees in our community have been severely stressed by the drought and the changes in our watering habits. Some have died.
It is undeniable that our trees are very much a part of the heritage and character of our community. A few have questioned the wisdom of having some of the species of and number of trees that we do in the arid climate in which we live. The fact is that many of these trees have been in our community for decades. The oak and sycamore trees are actually native to southern California.
Short of this extreme period of drought, these trees have weathered the local climate for years and have served us well in shading our community, filtering the air, and providing the aesthetic charm that they do. Trees add to the market value of our properties, and if one were to purchase and transplant a mature tree, the cost to do so is in the tens of thousands of dollars. It is a wise and sound investment to maintain and preserve the mature trees that we have.
We have many experts in the community, including volunteers from Sustainable Claremont Tree Action Group and Claremont Heritage, who are working hard to educate our residents as to how they can water and maintain their trees without a significant increase in their water usage.
I implore all of our residents to educate themselves on this topic and invest the same amount of effort that they have in water conservation to help us maintain and preserve our trees in Claremont. I make this appeal to you humbly and out of love and concern for the city that we have all chosen to call our home.
Chess in Claremont
The Joslyn Senior Center regularly announces its ongoing activities in the COURIER, one of which is chess on Wednesday afternoons at 1 p.m. However, for the past couple of years only two of us have shown up regularly to play. We certainly would welcome newcomers for more variety and competition.
Donald Trump’s side show
I realize that in a sophisticated city such as Claremont there are unlikely to be many Donald Trump supporters. However, in order to that we recognize what is at stake in his popularity among Republican voters, it is necessary to make a public comment.
Trump is not funny. Oh, yes, he is a buffoon, but being a buffoon has not prevented others elsewhere from being elected to high public office. It is impossible to tell at this point whether, if Trump were president, he would more resemble Mussolini or Berlusconi. In either case, as both were disasters (for Italy surely but for the world also), so would Trump be both for us and for the world.
He is a racist, a misogynist (women are acceptable only as arm candy), and someone who has no vision about this country and its place in the world. Those who positively respond to him are a species of nihilist: destruction of what America has grown to be is their aim. They want a country and a world in which they can feel superior. Trump has mastered the art of speaking to those with that kind of disaffection.
The rest of us must strongly resist. Don’t laugh—cry that there are so many of our fellow citizens who respond to demagoguery.
On August 22, I, along with six other elderly Claremont residents, participated in a counter-protest in Pomona against those who wish to dismantle Planned Parenthood and stop the important, live-saving reproductive health services they provide to women and men.
Although we were outnumbered by 50:1, our presence was significant and noticed. The coalition of anti-choice forces who are leading the latest assault against Planned Parenthood are calling for 40 days of uninterrupted protests. They claim that Planned Parenthood engages in the selling of fetal body parts for profit; that abortions constitute 97 percent of their service operations; and that the organization is nothing short of a charnel house used for the torture and killing of innocent babies. All of this has been demonstrated to be completely false by the findings of six state legislative bodies and the New England Journal of Medicine.
Nonetheless, they persist in their claims and will not be satisfied until Planned Parenthood is destroyed. Voices in opposition to those wishing to annihilate planned parenthood are needed.
On second thought
Pomona College has an endowment of over $2 billion, and can buy whatever it wants. It risks losing the good will of the Claremont community if it muscles another oversized building on to the edge of the Village. South campus on First Street is better suited for the college’s architectural ambitions, especially in light of its transportation advantages.
If Pomona’s commitment to sustainability is anything more than window-dressing it will think twice before demolishing serviceable buildings.
City of ‘Dollar Trees’ and PhDs?
A tenant has finally been lured to the long-vacant Pepper Tree Square, but I was disappointed to learn from last week’s COURIER that the new “anchor” is a Dollar Tree store.
Dollar Tree is a “chain store” of the sort that Claremont has generally eschewed, with no roots in or commitment to the community. Dollar Tree has also recently come under fire for its poor labor practices.
According to Huffington Post, “the stingy payroll required by the dollar store business model leaves many employees overworked, underpaid and even injured, according to workers and litigation filed over labor practices.”
Dollar Tree is currently trying to fend off a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) class action case involving 4,000 to 6,000 current and former employees. The lawsuit alleges that Dollar Tree required or permitted its hourly associates and assistant store managers to work “off the clock” and overtime without compensation.
Part of the problem is that Dollar Tree stores appeal to the absolute bottom of the consumer market. According to Business Insider, 40 percent of Dollar Tree’s shoppers have a household income of less than $25,000 (only slightly higher than the poverty level for a family of four), and the average Dollar Tree household has an annual income of just under $45,000 (roughly half Claremont’s median household income), and spends just $11 per visit to the store.
Who exactly is going to shop at this Dollar Tree, and how long is it going to last when the 99 Cents Only store that used to be in that location couldn’t make it?
The sad truth is that Dollar Tree is at the leading edge of a deplorable trend in America, as national mass market chain stores race to the bottom of the market by paying workers less in order to cut costs so that they can sell cheap goods at razor thin margins. It’s sad to see Claremont jumping on that bandwagon. But this is what happens when land is bought up by foreign investors who live thousands of miles away (in this case someone from China), and when business decisions are made by drawing circles around locations on a map to see whether there is a match between the business model and the surrounding population.
Instead of bringing to town a business that makes Claremont less unique and more like its neighbor to the south, it would have been nice to see a commercial establishment that aligns more closely with the special character of this community.
Wilderness Park Master Plan
[Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to the Claremont City Council and City Manager, with a copy forwarded for publication. —KD]
The League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area has a long history of supporting the protection and preservation of our local hillsides. It was with great interest that a committee of our local League studied the draft of the Wildness Park Master Plan. After several weeks of review, we offer the following recommendations:
1. More attention must be given to water and its conservation. The watershed must be conserved and protected for the benefit of the whole San Gabriel Valley.
2. Preservation of the hillsides and their natural resources must be a main priority. Claremont must take primary responsibility for planning, management, protection and policing, and for acquisition of additional areas in the hillsides around the park. The park is a regional resource, so working with federal, state and county agencies is appropriate and beneficial.
3. The management of the Wilderness Park must be coordinated with the long-range sustainability goals of the city, so acquisition choices, funding sources, rules for public usage, maintenance responsibilities, volunteer development plans and options for governance must be left open with no limitation on options such as the use of general fund monies.
4, There must be careful, thorough, well-informed and ongoing oversight of the hillsides. Management will require a new city committee with status, a routine meeting schedule and a carefully balanced, knowledgeable membership selected from the whole community.
5. The parking situation dominated this report and its solution is still elusive. Options must avoid privatizing public roads. Requiring parking permits for public streets is not the answer and sets a dangerous precedent. Will parking be restricted around all schools, churches, parks and public spaces for fear that noise, congestion and possible property damage might occur in surrounding neighborhoods? One option might include making parking free, while charging an admission fee to help maintain the park.
6. The League strongly supports the wise use of public funds. Spending $10,000 on a minor name change is not a wise choice.
As you may know, the League makes recommendations and takes action based on positions formed after thorough study and membership consensus.
Director of Natural Resources
What’s in a Name?
America is blessed with a rich assortment of National Parks, ranging from Mount Rainier in Washington to the Florida Everglades, and including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Death Valley and all the rest. These are places of great natural beauty whose protected status ensures environmental conservation while still allowing access for hikers, campers, photographers and nature lovers. Similarly, our California State Parks offer public access to diverse protected open spaces including beaches, mountain sites and desert locations.
I was surprised to discover that one of the recommendations in the recently released draft of the master plan is to change the name from the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park (CHWP) to the Claremont Hills Wilderness Area (CHWA).
The reason given for the recommended change is that “the term ‘park’ may connote conditions contrary to natural open space areas.” This seems to me a narrow and shallow vision of the concept of a park.
As illustrated above, the word “park” encompasses far more than just playgrounds, sports parks and amusement parks. The city of Claremont General Plan lists different categories of parks including pocket parks (e.g. Shelton), neighborhood parks (Higginbotham), community parks (Memorial), sports parks (La Puerta) and Natural/Wilderness Parks (CHWP).
Although these differ in nature and function, they share the greater purpose of “providing beauty and opportunities for mental and physical recreation” (p. 5-2 of the General Plan). Understanding this connotation, the word “park,” when preceded by the adjective “wilderness,” seems to me the most accurate way to describe our local hillside treasure.
The name “Wilderness Park” is also more appropriate than “Wilderness Area,” because the latter designation, as established in the Wilderness Act of 1964, has a specific, narrow meaning within the US National Park and Forest Service community. It refers to areas (such as the Sheep Mountain Wilderness Area in the Angeles National Forest) of near-pristine condition that lack roads and buildings, are usually difficult to access, require permits for entry, and have been minimally impacted by humans. That is certainly not an accurate description of the CHWP, existing as it does at the interface between the newly-designated San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and the densely-populated urban San Gabriel Valley. Our local hillsides have felt the impact of human activity for centuries.
As a final point, the draft master plan states that the name change is related to the goal of “environmental preservation” and is expected to result in “increased environmental stewardship.” It is not clear to me how the proposed name change would accomplish this.
In our surveys last summer at the Mills Avenue entrance to the most heavily-impacted section of the park, we discovered that many of the visitors weren’t even aware that it is part of Claremont Hills Wilderness Park; they know it simply as “the loop.” Neither the number of visitors, nor the frequency of their visits, nor their behavior when they arrive will be affected by changing the official name from “park” to “area.”
If we are serious about the goal of increased environmental stewardship, we will get a lot more bang for the buck if the estimated $10,000 allocated for changing the official name from “park” to “area” is used instead for habitat restoration, trail repair and maintenance, or public outreach and education.
A TAC meeting to discuss the Wilderness Park master plan will be held Thursday, September 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Hughes Center. The draft is available online on the city website and also at city hall, the library and the Hughes Center.
Member of the board of
Claremont Wildlands Conservancy