Reconsider Village South as a sustainable development

This coming Tuesday, May 12, the Claremont City Council will consider the next phase of planning for the Village South Specific Plan (VSSP). In our state, planning decisions are meant to be local, and they’re meant to be an open process of community input, expert research and continuing discussion.

In the current VSSP draft, written by city staff and their consultants, the building height limitations that are proposed are not viable. These limits put essential features of the plan like adequate housing, open public spaces, and environmental sustainability measures in jeopardy. After due consideration, the draft written by city staff and their consultants concluded:

“From financial analyses and feedback from the development community, it is not at all clear that what the community has asked for is economically viable. Given the broad and persistent shortage of housing in the Los Angeles area, the highest economic values are typically related to multi-family housing, particularly housing within an easy walk of transit and commercial and civic amenities…”

As we learn more about how the plan actually affects the economic and environmental sustainability of the Village South plan, we need to reconsider the scale, building height and housing density that is required to make it a success.

With small, reasonable adjustments by city staff, we see the current plan as offering a diversity of housing options, efficient and active modes of transportation, human-scaled design with safe, walkable streets and open public spaces.

We see it preserving Claremont’s heritage by repurposing historic buildings. We see Village South residents and visitors using our Metrolink connection, high-frequency bus lines and the coming Gold Line leading to fewer vehicles, fewer miles traveled, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and better air quality.

These goals are not attainable under the restrictions on height and housing units currently under consideration, and we strongly urge the council to direct city staff to determine the increases in size, scale, building height and housing density that are necessary for accomplishing these goals.

A lot of people hear the word “density” like it’s a threat, and immediately imagine the worst-case scenario of big, ugly buildings, traffic snarls and full parking places. Unfortunately, the idea of density and housing has also brought out darker fears in opponents to reconsidering the Village South plan.

Unfounded fears of “failed housing projects of the 60’s and 70’s,” a “spike in crime rates,” or that the “city shouldn’t keep cramming into south Claremont” more “limited-income residents than other parts of the city” have circulated in petitions against reconsidering the Village South plan.

 There have been a lot of strawman arguments about a reconsideration of the Village South plan leading to a “super high density” development with 2,000 units. This is to scare people out of considering changes, because no one is seriously calling for a development at such an absurd scale. These fears have contributed to the current California housing crisis, and threaten to take away local choices about development.

The truth is that the Village South plan can accommodate more than the current limits allow for in a way that increases the utility, function, heritage and livability of the area. A lot of thoughtful and reasonable people who care a lot about this community have looked this plan over and come to this conclusion.

The boards of Housing Claremont, Sustainable Claremont and Inclusive Claremont believe that reasonable increases in size, scale, building height and housing are necessary for making Village South a sustainable development that will bring desperately needed housing to Claremont. It will also allow Claremont to live up to its state-mandated housing goals, and maintain our local control over land use decisions.

We invite you to learn more, review the plan, and ask questions. We hope you will come to the same conclusion.

Zach Courser, Hugh Coxe

Rachel Forester, Richard Haskell

Julie Medero, Sorrel Stielstra

Paul Steinberg, Jennifer Tilton, Stuart Wood


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