Readers comments 10-23-15
The time is now
The time is now. The need is great.
On November 3, voters in Claremont will be asked to pass Measure PS that will build the future of public safety here in Claremont. The current police facility is too old and too small. It is time we the citizens of Claremont take action and show our support for the men and women of our police department and let them know we care and support them.
Built in 1972, the existing station fails to meet the needs of the police department—janitor closets are used as offices, the women’s locker room is located in a trailer outside of the station, and the heating and cooling systems are 43 years old.
Our community and our officers need an up-to-date public safety facility to serve you better. This measure will provide the much-needed building that is accessible for use by the entire community to ensure your health and safety.
In addition, it will provide a community room that can be used by our local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) for classes and training.
The time is now and the need is great. Please join me and other members of our community by supporting Measure PS on November 3. Vote yes on PS.
Just meet our needs
Yes, we do need a new police station. No, we do not need a Taj Mahal. I advise the city to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new design that is commensurate with our needs.
Jay B. Winderman
Less consulting, more action
Our three children have benefited greatly from the opportunity to swim at the El Roble pool over the past five years, including as members of the Mount Baldy Aquatics swim team and as participants and volunteer aids in summer swim lessons. The closure of the pool many months ago because of major mechanical problems has been a source of great frustration for us and many other Claremont families.
Now we read in the COURIER (October 16) that, before any repairs can be done, a CUSD study to “determine the scope of the potential pool projects” at El Roble and CHS will have to be undertaken, at a cost of $45,000, even as funds from real estate sales have become available to finance these sorts of projects.
My first thought about that $45,000 was that the COURIER must have accidentally added a zero or two but, okay, let’s stipulate that months of work by a fancy consultant would allow us to identify the boundary between pool “renovation” and “repair,” whether locker rooms are ADA-compliant and all that. Nevertheless, I am reminded of the title of a good book from some years ago—The Death of Common Sense.
For my own part, as a parent, I imagine that $45,000 would make a nice down payment on doing enough repairs to get the El Roble pool operational again. Can we please just get on with it?
The Chaucer Lady
The Village Venture is going to make Claremont come to life in a special way again this Saturday. Many people are excited to gather there once more in a celebration of the fall season. This year’s venture will be missing a treasure that hundreds have counted on enjoying every year.
Claremont’s own author Dolores Cullen, or “The Chaucer Lady” as she is also known, has been removed from her 15-year Chaucer Celebration place outside the Claremont Public Library.
This year was to be her final afternoon at the library, sharing her books, her famous pound cake, her stories and her knowledge. In the past, some people have traveled from out of state to come and see her. She has quite a following. Every year, there has been a constant stream of fans—students, professors and people from all walks of life—who deeply appreciate the writing of Geoffrey Chaucer and Dolores Cullen expounding on his amazing words, as no one has ever done.
As Dolores was about to gather her trusty helpers for a pound cake-making afternoon, she received an email from the library stating that they were not going to allow her Chaucer Celebration there this year. It was such an unexpected development. Why would they stop her from bringing such joy to all those who come to the Village Venture to see her? There must be some mistake!
Yes, it is definitely a mistake. The library staff has demonstrated that they do not realize it has been their privilege to have this remarkable woman celebrating Chaucer on their premises for the past 15 years. If the library does not value authors, especially from their own city, what are they doing? Their entire building and work is about authors, young and old.
It is very sad to see that this valuable library has lost sight of their purpose and the desires of their patrons. They treat Dolores Cullen, the Chaucer Lady, as if she is of no use. How wrong they are!
Thank you for allowing me to express my deepest sorrow to see this excellent lady shoved aside, as if she did not belong. To those of us who know her and love her work, this is a tragedy.
[Editor’s note: On Thursday just before press-time, The Friends of the Claremont Library offered Ms. Cullen a spot at their table, a move approved by the head librarian. —KD]
Measure PS is not the right plan
After attending the Active Claremont meeting last Thursday to learn more about the upcoming vote on Measure PS, I came away thinking the plan, as currently proposed, is not what Claremont needs.
First, I agree with many of the voices in the room that a 39,000-square-foot structure is excessive. Yes, the current structure is a little less than 10,000 square feet and the number of officers and staff has doubled since it was built in 1972, but even accounting for additional square footage for ADA requirements, why wouldn’t a 20,000-square-foot station be sufficient? The police department is currently operating with less than 10,000 square feet. By the commission’s own admission, Claremont isn’t going to be able to grow much over the next few decades because there isn’t any more land to develop, even for a police station.
Second, a parcel tax is not the best way to pay for the project. I purchased my home two years ago for $525,000. According to arguments on both sides, my home value is about at the median, so I would still be on the hook for about the same amount, whether we finance with a parcel tax or a general obligation bond.
The problem with a parcel tax, however, is that it’s more expensive than a general obligation bond. According to the commission, a parcel tax would cost Claremont an additional $400,000 a year in financing costs. Holy cow!
So why did the commission choose a parcel tax rather than a cheaper general obligation bond? Apparently, some very vocal residents want the nonprofits in Claremont (i.e., the Claremont Colleges) to share in the cost of the project. A parcel tax gets around their tax exempt status and would cost the Colleges approximately $65,000 per year ($286 x 225 total plots). This is akin to residents wanting to cut off their noses to spite their faces.
In fact, most of the $65,000 per year collected from the Colleges under a parcel tax would also be collected under a general obligation bond. Of the 225 parcels owned by the Colleges, 133 are residential and would still be taxed under a cheaper GO bond. The real benefit to residents from the Colleges under a parcel tax is a little more than $26,000 per year.
According to the city, there are 365 tax-exempt parcels in Claremont. The total amount collected from these would amount to less than $105,000. Again, why would we choose to pay an additional $400,000 a year just to collect $105,000? By any rational analysis, this choice is hardly a good financial decision.
I won’t go into why some might think taxing Claremont Toyota, Von’s, the DoubleTree and large apartment complexes the same $286 a year as a small one bedroom townhouse is “fair.” It’s no surprise we see “Vote Yes on PS” signs posted on the DoubleTree property and some of the large apartment complexes just north of the hotel.
Finally, many residents voiced their concern about the location of the new building. I have to agree. A centrally located police station is important for the entire community. Nothing can substitute for a police presence. Moving this presence to the outskirts of town is a mistake that cannot be underestimated.
Crime would almost certainly increase in and around the Village if the station was moved. Yes, building a 39,000-square-foot structure on the current location would be cost-prohibitive. But, again, most residents don’t think we need a 39,000-square-foot police station just because the architects and engineers say we do. Architects and engineers get paid more when they build bigger buildings!
For these reasons, I will be voting no on November 3. We should build a more-modest, 20,000 square foot building on the current property, that meets both our current and future needs, and finance it with a cheaper alternative to the currently proposed parcel tax.
I would like to thank Active Claremont for sponsoring this important meeting and opening it up to the public. I would also like to thank Mayor Calaycay, Frank Bedoya and Bob Tener for attending the meeting and answering a lot of very tough questions.
Wilderness Park master plan
The Claremont Hills Wilderness Park—a passive park intended to preserve natural resources while allowing visitor access—could well have become an area covered with homes, fences, swimming pools and streets. It was privately-owned land.
The park was created through the efforts of people of good will and with imaginative, bold city policies. A “transfer of development credits” concept enabled a fairly dense residential development to be built along Baldy Road and Padua Avenue, in exchange for the dedication of hundreds of acres as permanent open space. Additional acreage was purchased with local bonds. About 40 percent was purchased with state and regional grants.
The only guarantee that privately-owned properties adjacent to the park will not be developed is the purchase as parkland (with the help of grants) or dedication as permanent open space through another transfer of development credits scheme, particularly on the west side of the park.
To support the idea that as much hillside as possible remains undeveloped, the master plan should include park expansion as a “desired outcome.” The Wilderness Park should encompass Claremont’s hillsides from east to west and become part of a region-wide open space corridor.
The master plan should also emphasize coordinating with neighboring communities as well as regional agencies and the National Forest Service to ensure public access along the foothills while protecting watershed and wildlife resources.
Claremont Wildlands Conservancy
Open space for all
In a recent letter, Jack Sultze suggests that the unforeseen popularity of the Wilderness Park is a problem and the solution is to “restrict access to the park, allowing only Claremont residents to use it.” He says, “We paid for it and should be able to decide who can use it.” This statement is not accurate.
The city acquired the original 1200 acres in 1996 through a development agreement with Pomona College, supplemented by regional and local funds. Today, the park is 2000 acres. The 800 acres added since 1996 have all been purchased by state and regional sources except for Sycamore Canyon, funded by an exchange with a developer, and Johnson’s Pasture, funded by a local bond measure. Of the nearly $20 million that has been spent on park purchases, approximately 40 percent has come from outside Claremont. This includes monies from three state sources—Prop A, the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Board.
As we seek to preserve our hillsides from development and extend the open-space corridor along the San Gabriel foothills, we will undoubtedly continue to depend on non-Claremont revenue sources. The park’s appeal to regional visitors is a major advantage for us in applying for these grants.
The popularity of the Wilderness Park is an asset for Claremont. It is not only fitting but also beneficial for us that we share it with our neighbors.
James Van Cleve
Claremont Wildlands Conservancy
Increasing city indebtedness
I read the Impartial Analysis of Measure PS and the Proposed Ordinance of Measure PS, which appear on the ballot. One thing jumped out at me: The huge $50 million bond is cleverly downplayed as a $286 assessment per parcel. It also fails to state that the total cost after 40 years will be approximately $119 million. I am not saying it was done intentionally to deceive, but that is the way it reads.
The second thing that jumped out at me is, why are we “borrowing” money for 40 years to fund the election for this tax Ordinance section, page 14, top paragraph)? The Analysis and Ordinance were misleading and inaccurate by omission.
I am very concerned about the escalating indebtedness of the city. We still owe roughly $8.2 million on the bond for Johnsons Pasture, and the water company bond of $135 million was recently passed. It is supposed to be repaid through billing fees, however, it is projected that the water rates will go up an undetermined amount to cover that cost. The city is also spending millions of dollars in litigation just to acquire the water system.
The County of Los Angeles has indicated it will assess the city a fee of approximately $6 million for clean water run-off. These debts, coupled with the $50 million police station, are approximately a $200 million financial obligation to the city. We must also keep in mind that the city remains liable for growing unfunded pensions. For a small city, with only 11,608 households, the trend to incur extraordinarily high debt is not prudent.
There is no debate whether Claremont needs a new police station, it does. But let us first determine how much money the water company is going to cost. Let us consider that while the parcel tax is supposed to be equitable, it is not. There is nothing “equitable” about the DoubleTree paying the same $286 per parcel as a family in south Claremont or a senior citizen living on a small fixed income.
We are building a lot of multi-unit “housing that is affordable” in Claremont; taxation is also a consideration when deeming ownership “affordable.”
The Montclair station built in 2009 is about the same size (45,600 sq. ft) as the proposed Claremont station. It houses more officers and has a shooting range. It was built at a cost of $24 million; $50 million for a similar station is extravagant.
These considerations weigh heavily on my mind. My views have been shared with most of the council, the city manager and friends who support Measure PS. I respect their position. I respect the Claremont police and recognize they are working under less than ideal conditions. But the financial stability of the city must be paramount.
There are times when saying no is very hard. This is one of those times. Claremont has an outstanding police force. The rejection of Measure PS is not a rejection of the force. It is a rejection of a proposed highly-inflated financial obligation. Measure PS is too expensive. It puts the city in financial jeopardy, and itas cost is not equitable to all. For those reasons, I am compelled to vote no on Measure PS.