Readers comments 5-22-20
I am very glad that the letters and petitions sent to our city council after the agenda packet was sent out were read aloud by the city clerk and her assistants online during the council meeting.
This wasn’t done before council meetings were closed to public attendance and began to be offered online only. I hope that this practice will continue after the pandemic and will be extended to commission meetings.
It will encourage community participation by more residents, especially by those who find it difficult to attend in person, because they will know that their input will be heard by other residents. It will also enable listeners to know what all of the other commenters are saying.
I also hope that when reporting a petition the clerks will report how many signatures are from people with Claremont home addresses. When almost 50 percent of the signatures are influenced by paid “boosters” and come from people with home addresses outside of Claremont, the total number of signatures is very misleading.
Conflict in Claraboya
[Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to Chris Veirs, principal planner, with a copy forwarded for publication.]
Dear Mr. Veirs:
The mission of the Planning Department is “To provide guidance for the orderly development of the city and to ensure that new development is attractive and compatible with its surroundings.”
Now your department is considering giving approval to a pool project which is not at all attractive and is fully incompatible with its surroundings.
For the first time, a home in our neighborhood is seeking to build a pool completely within a slope. A few houses have extended their pad a little to install a pool. The home on Via Sinaloa, according to a letter sent to some homes by the city dated May 5, plans to install a pool encroaching in the hillside several feet below the grade of the house pad.
Original plans for this pool were not approved by your department. Now it appears the approval is likely because the large retaining wall that was a vast eye sore is now in tiers. These new plans and the tiered retaining walls still present a negative visual impact with massive cement walls destroying the natural landscape which currently exists.
The combined retaining walls are still 13.5 feet tall (the height of a house) with the base wall being over 61 feet long! This 20-yard long span of concrete is supposed to be mitigated because of proposed plantings which will cover the giant wall.
The undersigned neighbors are concerned about these plans for several reasons. The extended pool, pool deck, and entertainment area will obstruct the views of adjacent homes. These plans give the owners of the hillside home closer and lower access to the backyards of five homes below the proposed construction.
Party guests standing along the edge of the cement deck will be able to look into the homes down the hill. This intrusion will be a violation of the privacy the neighboring homes currently have.
The supposed mitigation of landscaping to make the 830 square feet (13.5 times 61.5) of cement wall is not reassuring. The claim that there will be planting made to mask the wall are not a guaranteed mitigation. There are examples of plantings made on proposed and approved plans that never were installed, installed but died, or were not maintained by new homeowners to the detriment of the neighbors.
Finally, prerequisite approval from the Claraboya Homeowners Association needed before the planning department can even consider these plans was flawed. When this massive pool project was voted on last October, the homeowner proposing the pool was a member of the five-person board. He did not recuse himself.
The approval vote of 3 ayes and 2 nays would not have passed if the homeowner didn’t vote to approve his own project.
As vice-president of the Claraboya board, Tom Telford recently sent an email to Claraboya homeowners which is full of untruths and misinformation. Mr. Telford was the realtor who sold this property to the current owners. He voted to approve the pool plans when he should have recused himself.
A letter from Harold Gault falsely claims the plans have been “fully approved” when the vote was 3-2. These plans are not “consistent with pools, decks and retaining walls that have been permitted” because no pool in Claraboya has ever been built completely within the slope. No retaining wall has been built which is over 61 feet wide. This property did not have a “limited pad size” when it was built.
An extensive add-on by the flipper who bought the property occupied much of the existing backyard before it was sold by Mr. Telford.
These shenanigans promote plans that would never have been approved if conflicts of interest had been observed honestly. For all these reasons, we hope these plans will again be rejected.
past Claraboya Architectural Chair and current Claraboya board member
past Claraboya board presidenst
past Claraboya board member
Mario and Brenda Ricciardi
Lisette di Pillis, Jan Lindheim
Betty Lee, Jay Jablow
Marla Abrolat, Fahima Alikhan
Singing the blues
Imagine for a moment that you liked to go to a piano bar every Friday, have drinks, kick back after a tough week, and listen to the piano stylings of the featured performer. Then imagine that this performer only knew three or four songs, which he played over and over again, as if you were in some surreal loop, trapped and unable to escape.
Such is what I feel with our current president. No matter what crises, problems, scandals arise, he always plays the same tunes: “The Incompetent Obama Blues,” “The Crooked Hillary Rag” and “It’s Always Someone Else’s Fault,” along with a few other greatest hits.
Why this stale default behavior hasn’t become more obvious to his ardent fans is beyond my comprehension, but for those of us who are tired of hearing the same three or four tunes ad nauseam, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something about it in November.
High density is a bad idea
From the “City of Trees” to a “New York City Sloppy Second” with all of its faults. Why can’t our city administration provide a forward thinking plan that isn’t destined to fail?
In light of the current pandemic, Claremont’s plan will mirror our nation’s deadliest hot spot (NYC) with high density housing and inadequate parking, forcing people onto mass transit, which doesn’t look like it will become a reality for decades, if ever, since no one here has any political muscle.
Do they think it’s an okay plan with the hope that most of those people will probably stick to Baja Claremont? Other than being a perfect target for crime, viruses, terrorists, gridlock and even more city services (that they won’t budget for), what could go wrong?
For a group that has only been able to expand city services without being able to pay for them, why should anybody trust them to do more than beautification projects?
With thanks to Zach Courser
In the aftermath of city council’s vote to amend the planning goals and guiding principles for Village South Specific Plan, we find it imperative to express our gratitude not only to the city council for unanimously voting to increase the plan’s density and sustainability, but also the more than 900 people who signed our petition (including more than 320 Claremont residents).
A very special thanks must go to Zach Courser, our petition co-author, former chair of the Traffic and Transportation Commission, Claremont Heritage board member, and president of Housing Claremont.
We had the privilege of working with Zach as co-authors of the successful petition. So much of the petition’s success is a result of Zach’s meticulous attention to detail, comprehensive understanding of the issues, and ability to craft an outstanding argument based on facts, research, and data.
During the lead up to the Village South vote, it was easy to view the issues through a lens of fear, misinformation and personal attacks. Zach engaged in none of that. He was so committed to making our case in a way that was both convincing and honest. While some sought policy directed by unfounded assumptions, Zach artfully made his case without attacking or misleading anyone. More than 900 people meritoriously agreed.
On the night of the council debate, Zach’s public comments reflected what we should all want in our leaders. He was persuasive. He argued based on facts. He discussed the right thing to do without having to tell anyone why they were wrong. He was composed. He was smart. He represented the very best of our community.
His effort on Village South and the tremendous leadership he displayed the night of the vote prove to us that he is remarkably fit for office.
Claremont deserves leaders who see all issues through facts and hope, not misinformation, innuendo and fear. We hope he will run for city council in district 5 in the upcoming 2020 election.
Village South Development
From the early suggestions that a Village South development would include high density residential, I aligned with the Claremont citizens who think it a very bad idea. I went away from the first public presentation of the proposal I attended with the opinion that the whole thing is developer driven. Developers drove most of the presentation.
Citizens were very concerned about density, with 1,140 residential units and numerous shops and restaurants packed into two square blocks. The developer and the city council had totally ignored the standing Village South Specific Plan, Planning Goals and Guiding Principles.
Ask yourself, who is going to benefit most from the proposed high density development? Follow the money. The more residential units they pack into a small area, the bigger their profit.
There was a block party hosted by would-be project developers to sell their ideas to the public. There is apparently a propaganda Facebook page managed by the would-be project developers.
Proponents of the project have even adopted developer-speak like, “human-scaled design,” “walkable streets” and “sustainable and equitable.”
Sustainable development (I looked it up) “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” What is sustainable about 2,000 more people taking showers and flushing toilets? Where will that water come from? Has Golden State Water Company participated in the “sustainability” conversation?
“Water Management Planning” legislation passed in 2018 that allows for severe rationing, with $1,000 a day fines, during the next drought cycle.
I get that not only the developer would profit greatly from high density development. The city would benefit from the expanded tax base, an important consideration given the current financial situation.
Nevertheless I suggest that the city council members resist pressures and reconsider their positions on the scope of the Village expansion. Support a greatly scaled down plan. Resist pressure from consultants, academics and developers and use your own common sense, considering what is really best for current residents and the future of Claremont.
This might help the city council, and supporters of the high density concept, visualize the scale of the proposed housing element of the Village South and what it might look like.
Go on a field trip to Montclair, the west side of Monte Vista Avenue, south of Arrow Highway. 211 apartments have recently been completed. The proposal being considered for Village South is about five of those!
Overnight parking fines unfair
I attended Tuesday’s marathon council meeting to speak in favor of denser and more affordable housing in the South Village, but something else caught my ear.
In City Manager Tara Schulz’s report, she mentioned that the overnight parking ban, which had been suspended due to the county’s Safer at Home order, was due to be reinstated last Saturday. This was the first I had heard! In fact, the city’s website does not mention this, and the city’s COVID-19 information page still says that the ban is suspended.
I finally found a reference buried on page 3 of the City Manager’s Newsletter (which I do not receive) that says the ban will resume “unless notice is provided by CPD that the date is extended.” Note that this is right next to a graphic that states, in large print, “Overnight Parking Ordinance Suspended,” and then, in small print, “Enforcement of ONP will resume May 16, 2020.” To be blunt: nobody will see this.
Given that so many Claremonters have had their lives disrupted by the pandemic, it is no surprise that some of us have to temporarily park on the street. That has not changed, and it will not change for quite some time, it seems. It is thus inappropriate to resume the parking ban, especially with so little public notice.
Moreover, since the ban was suspended in response to the Safer at Home order, and the new order has been issued without an expiration date, it is irresponsible not to continue the suspension. I fear that many people will get ticketed, and additional mental and financial burden is precisely the opposite of what we all need right now.
I spoke during public comment to express my surprise and disapproval. I have to say, I was not impressed with Chief Shelly Vander Veen’s response. She justified resumption of the ban by citing a rise in property crime, including a doubling of vehicle theft. Rising crime is concerning, yes, but please consider that while crime always poses some risk of hardship, the city is guaranteeing hardship to those who must park on the street due to the unusual situations many of us are facing.
Surely the police department and the council can think of a better way to address crime than one that imposes economic penalties on those of us who can least afford them—especially now. Given the economy, many people are in precarious positions where a $50 fine could snowball and eventually lead to ruin. This issue does not affect me—I have one car, and I keep it in a garage—but I know that many Claremonters, particularly in South Claremont, are frequently cited for parking ban violations.
By reinstating the ban, the city is putting many people in an impossible position. They should hold off and extend the suspension at least until things get back to normal.