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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

Viewpoint: La Puerta is an opportunity for all of Claremont

by Eric Nelson,
Vice President, Community
Development Trumark Homes

For 40 years, the closed La Puerta school site has sat mostly idle—a dusty lot in north Claremont. But today, it has the opportunity to transform into a beautiful neighborhood that benefits the entire city.
A plan we have submitted is poised to bring millions of dollars to the community for local schools, parks and the arts. It can bring new housing, including affordable housing, to this part of the city. And it can do so in a way that matches the density and character of the neighboring communities.
But perhaps its most exciting opportunity is for youth sports.  

An opportunity for sports equity
The closed La Puerta school site is adjacent to La Puerta Sports Park. The park is owned by the school district but leased by the city. It is primarily used by AYSO, club soccer and Claremont Fastpitch Girls Softball.
But there are long standing issues at the park. While talking with coaches and parents, I was moved by their description of these challenges: the fields are too small, girls softball only has one diamond with a fence and cannot use the lights (per city ordinance), field conditions are causing injuries, and public parking is woefully insufficient.
It was only natural in our minds that, since we are proposing to develop a new neighborhood, why not take advantage of economies of scale and seize the opportunity to solve these challenges as part of our plans for the adjacent park site.

Facts of the plan
Unfortunately, these plans have been misrepresented by some in the community. So it’s important we set the record straight.
These are the facts of the plan.
• Homes: 65 single-family detached homes, including nine with Accessory Dwelling Units
• Size: Approximately 11 acres
• Density Range: Low density, same General Plan designation as the surrounding neighborhoods
• Architecture: A variety of styles inspired by historical neighborhoods of Claremont
• Sustainability: Net-zero energy demands, sustainably sourced lumber, other resource-saving measures

Facts of the park improvements
Under the current proposal, La Puerta would become a dedicated soccer facility.
Its soccer fields would be expanded by about 90 feet to create full-sized U-19 fields, an outcome one Claremont soccer leader said would be the “dream scenario.” New practice areas would be created and parking capacity would substantially increase. Unsafe field conditions would be improved and new public facilities, including ADA access, would be installed.
To better serve Claremont’s female athletes, girls softball would get its first true home field in Claremont at Cahuilla Park. Relocating girls fastpitch would afford them the same access as other sports teams in town.
The current ballfields at Cahuilla would be reconstructed and improved. Existing lights would be modernized to give the girls an ability to play at night, just like a men’s softball league does there now.  
To achieve these outcomes, we would purchase additional land that stretches about 75 feet past the original school boundary. This land provides the revenue needed to modernize both parks and the space to solve these long-standing challenges. Without it, economies of scale could not be achieved and long-standing issues at the parks would remain.
So far, we’ve been encouraged by leaders in town that see the potential of this plan:  
“This plan provides the opportunity for young girls to finally have nice fields to play on and equitable sports opportunities for all of Claremont.”
—Bobby Antillon, Claremont Girls Fastpitch Softball President
“This new proposal is beneficial to a lot of kids in the city.  It lets the girls feel important and gives them an actual home to play.” —Jenny Ballesteros, Claremont Little League President
“[This plan creates] Claremont’s first girl’s softball facility to provide equity in sports…an accomplishment that a city like Claremont should embrace.” —Lynn Forester, Former City Commissioner and Project Neighbor
Unfortunately, some have tried to mischaracterize these plans. According to an April 9 Claremont COURIER article, a project neighbor distributed flyers with grossly and verifiably inaccurate information. The tactic was described as “fear-mongering” and a “false narrative” in the article.
To be clear: our goal is to solve the long-standing challenges at these parks while creating a beneficial new community for Claremont.  

Pursuing a different outcome
For nearly 20 years, various proposals have been made for this site—new homes, a satellite college campus, even an elementary school. These potential plans were met with resistance from some neighbors and previous applicants eventually walked away, leaving the site as a dirt field for decades.
We believe in a different outcome—one that can benefit all of Claremont.
Trumark believes housing is a social enterprise. High-quality housing needs modern parks, youth sports, a well-funded educational system, strong public safety and community spirit.  We know our current plan does that in a multitude of ways, none more exciting than improving youth sports, and especially girls sports.
But ultimately, this is your city. We are eager to continue an honest dialogue with this community and welcome the public process that this project requires.  We simply hope we can have this discussion with the facts of the proposal, not false narratives.
For those who’d like more information on the La Puerta plan, I can be reached at enelson@trumarkco.com to discuss this project further.

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