Readers comments 8-25-17
Claremont Heritage on town-gown relations
On behalf of Claremont Heritage, I applaud the COURIER for the focus on town and gown in the recent Almanac. Claremont’s history is exceptionally unique, primarily due to the town’s relationship with the Colleges. Praise for the Colleges is certainly due, especially for Pomona, but had it not been for a reciprocal relationship between town and gown, Claremont would not be what it is today.
Claremont Heritage is the primary non-profit organization charged with documenting and preserving the city’s history. It is the mission of Claremont Heritage: to advance, preserve and celebrate the historic, architectural, natural and cultural resources of our community through collaboration, education and advocacy.
There were a few items in both Matthew Bramlett’s piece and Marc Rod’s piece that might benefit from further explanation.
I was quoted by Mr. Bramlett as saying the proposed Pomona Museum of Art is an example of “college creep.” Technically the museum project may not be a traditional example of college creep, where residential neighborhoods are bulldozed and redeveloped with institutional buildings.
Although residential in scale and design, the area, known as the “Victorians and Cottages” neighborhood, had long been used by the college for institutional purposes through a conditional use permit (CUP) issued by the city. But, as someone commented to me recently, “Transforming a sleepy section of residential-looking spaces into a massive, public-attracting building with no parking is college creep.”
Speaking for Claremont Heritage, what concerned us was the change to the historic character of the neighborhood, including impacts on historic trees. We publically stated our full support for a new Pomona College Museum of Art that would be a benefit to the community.
The ideals and policies that shaped the Village Design Plan, the city’s general plan and Pomona College’s Campus Master Plan, were the impetus for a number of community members to question if this was the right-sized project for this particular site.
In addition, there was concern that the building design was not compatible with surrounding development as outlined in our city code. Ultimately, our concerns were not supported by a majority of the city council.
As Mr. Rod stated in his article—“In stark contrast to the recent conflict between Pomona College and some of its residents regarding the Pomona art museum, early Claremonters saw the college as an essential and central part of Claremont and its identity.”
Sorry to disagree, but drawing the conclusion that including the new art museum in the Pomona College master plan has somehow caused certain community members to view the college as non-essential or a non-central part of Claremont’s identity just doesn’t make sense.
Certainly we at Claremont Heritage are extremely proud of this history, and collaborate with the Colleges on many levels, such as sharing resources with the special collections at both Honnold and Denison libraries by digitizing our archives and uploading them to the Claremont Colleges Digital Library’s “City of Claremont Collection” for public access.
We also engage Claremont Colleges students, including Pomona, Scripps, Pitzer, CMC and CGU, with internships that offer real-life hands-on experience in archival research, media production and publishing, marketing and fundraising.
We bring educational programs and tours to the college campuses, offer a speaker and film series and guided walking tours of the significant public art and architecture offerings. We have produced documentary films and publications highlighting the rich historic resources the Colleges have brought to our community.
Unfortunately, at the end of the day, memories fade. Unless we document and disseminate our collective history, buildings such as the old public library—a beautiful Spanish Revival building designed by Marston and Maybury—the Claremont Inn, the Renwick Gym and other historic buildings lost over the years and that were the impetus for forming Claremont Heritage will eventually be forgotten.
We should be grateful that the community has come together to save a number of historic architectural icons in our city such as the Old Train Depot, now home to the Claremont Museum of Art, the Packing House, a thriving restaurant and retail center, and the Padua Hills Theatre—all buildings that were threatened in the past but now help to preserve Claremont’s unique sense of place.
Keeping and adaptively reusing these buildings not only breathes new life into our community but it is environmentally superior to demolition and new construction. It has been said that “Preservation Equals Sustainability” and that the “Greenest Building Is the One Already Built.” This is a win-win for any community by allowing visitors and residents alike to experience the history of our built environment and promoting cultural heritage tourism that will generate tax dollars for the city.
As our general plan states, Claremont did not happen by accident. We owe it to future generations not to lose sight of the values that make our city special and unique. Preserving our architectural, cultural and natural resources is one way to ensure that we will succeed.
I was interested to read the article in the Almanac last week titled “College Creep: Is It Fact or Fiction?” To help sort out the question posed, I thought I would correct a misconception in the article.
The article refers to an assertion by David Shearer, executive director of Claremont Heritage, that a controversial project in the early 1990s, the Pomona College Hahn Building on the east side of Harvard Avenue between Fourth and Harrison, was an example of “college creep.”
It is true, as the article states, that the Hahn Building was the subject of a lawsuit and that the property was formerly a wooded area that some considered a “bird sanctuary.” However, the site on which the building was constructed was zoned for educational use as far back as 1951 and was designated for use as “Claremont Colleges” by the city’s General Plan Land Use Map as far back as 1969.
Construction of an educational building for Pomona College on the site is thus not an example of “college creep” given the long history of the site being designated for educational uses.
[Editor’s note: Brian Desatnik no longer works for the city of Claremont. He submitted this letter as a resident of Claremont. —KD]
Our latest eclipse of the sun by our moon occurred on August 21. Mark Twain, in his celebrated 1889 time travel book A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court used a solar eclipse that only he anticipated, as a means of preventing his demise by burning at the stake. The day of that eclipse in the story was (you guessed it) the 21st of the month.
Jay B. Winderman
I was very disappointed by some of what I read in two of the articles included in the Almanac issued on August 18.
In the article on “College Creep: Fact or Fiction,” Claremont Heritage Director David Shearer reiterated statements he has made a number of times in previous issues of the COURIER, continuing to claim “what he thinks is a worrisome movement of the gown into the town.”
This despite the information included in this same article, regarding the manner in which the two were historically very compatible. As a reader, I can but wonder whether we are being given history as imagined or history as manipulated for some unknown purpose.
Of particular concern to me in this article was the concern of Mr. Shearer about the number of residential properties owned by the several Claremont Colleges, and his belief that “the Colleges buying up homes in the Village puts regular prospective homeowners at a disadvantage.”
He explains that “It takes things off the market that would be available for the general public for someone who would want to move to Claremont.”
I have never been accused of being intellectually dense, but I cannot understand why anyone would think it wrong for employees of the Colleges to want to live near the Colleges, or for the Colleges to help make such possible. Would it be preferable to have more Claremont residents required to commute to other cities to work? Or would anyone suggest the Colleges should actively discourage their employees from living in Claremont, or that it would be better for anyone to expect employees to live outside the community in which they work?
In the other article, which I found frankly somewhat aggravating, titled “The Changing Relationship of Town & Gown,” John Neiuber declares that “The Colleges’ purposes and growth at times may be at cross to the purposes, needs and viewpoints of the citizens or the city.” He appears to be citing his own subjective opinion as if it is established fact, which it is not.
I have never met either Mr. Shearer or Mr. Neiuber, thus cannot know their motivations, and it is not my intent to insult or malign them in any way or to question their personal integrity. However, I do wonder whether they may perhaps have investments in residential or other properties in Claremont, the value of which they fear might become endangered if the Colleges were to become their competitors?
Is there some other reason they might feel themselves potentially disadvantaged were more employees of the Claremont Colleges to live in Claremont?
Am I perhaps indeed just being dense?