Viewpoint: Water….another red herring

Each time an affordable housing plan, or homeless shelter project, or permanent supportive housing development is proposed, the advocates for the no-growth/no change coalition, joins with our “not in my city” neighbors, to deter our City Council from fulfilling our Community’s moral and legal obligations to shelter the homeless; provide permanent supportive housing for our physically, mentally, and chemically dependent residents; and support, encourage, and assist developers to include housing options for low income individuals and families in their development.

For those readers who are familiar with the public “debate” that occurs when any issue relating to housing reaches the dais of one or more of our Commissions, and on the rare occasion when it makes it to the dais of the City Council, …… well, you know what happens at the podium, the not so ennobling expressions demeaning the character of those who need the assistance of permanent supportive housing to survive and recover, and the repeated reference to debunked reasons and stereotypical myths.

Unfortunately, in the setting of the Council chamber, these passionate and fear driven expressions of concern, almost always results in Council decisions that disregard the affordable housing needs of more than 50% of the households that already reside in Claremont, and 75% of persons who work full time in Claremont, where the median annual salary is $63,000.

And when anyone attempts to intentionally shelter, or even provide basic life and dignity supporting programs and services, like showers, laundry, and bad weather overnight shelter to the homeless, it is not uncommon for our own Councilpersons, past and present, to initiate objections to such proposals, even when forwarded by respected persons and non-profit organizations within our own Community.

Which is why I read with interest and concern, the two stories written by Courier Reporter Steven Felschundneff on the water shortage crisis, which appeared in the June 3rd Courier.  Both touched on the likely impacts that a continuing drought will necessitate, particularly our need to further curtail water usage for landscaping and other non-essential uses.

Clearly a real concern given the role that landscaping plays in establishing and protecting property values and preserving the character and standards of our unique neighborhoods, and our large, dated developments at the time of their construction.  (Yes, not just a bit ironic, given that both property values an neighborhood preservation are two talking points used by opponents of building low income or multistory housing in Claremont.)

However, from my perspective, the biggest concern is that the crisis related to water will be used as yet another “red herring” to distract our Council and our Community with half-truths spun into a “whole” truth.  And with the history as an informant, it is my opinion that the “whole” truth will likely be used to undermine our current Community effort to build a permanent supportive housing complex at Larkin Place, a development that by design is water efficient to meet both its residents and property maintenance needs.

The inconvenient truths are obvious, if the drought continues, we will ALL be required to use water more efficiently and in unaccustomed and annoying ways, and our City will be required to permit only those construction designs and features, both new and renovating, that meet water use standards that should have been put in place during the mid -0th century, if not earlier.

The whole truth is NOT that because the above are true, we must consider placing a moratorium on new residential construction permits until sufficient water is available for our preferred uses, and only then should we remove the moratorium, always exercising caution when considering high density developments like the Larkin Place permanent supportive housing project.

The real truth is that because the above are true, and that other facts relating to a more global perspective on water supply are available that support a very different policy approach, it would seem that a bit of critical thinking will be required before using the scarcity of water as a reason to obstruct any affordable housing or permanent supportive housing projects.  When as much as the 80% of the State’s water supply is being used by the agricultural sector versus 20% for all other sectors, and when 100s of thousands of acre feet of storm water get discharged from the Delta to the Pacific Ocean, for lack of a means of conveyance south, the question of scarcity is more one of location rather than supply.

That said, I realize that we must make decisions in real time, and that our council must weigh the concerns of residents and put those concerns into context and alignment with existing policies and priorities, and mandates.  On all counts, neither water scarcity nor the pending consideration of an easement to accommodate the Larkin Place development, should be considered sufficient to block or otherwise delay the project moving forward.  There is no reason to continue finding reasons to continue ignoring the needs of our most vulnerable residents, and our collective responsibility to meet those needs because some of our neighbors feel no such obligation.

In addition to the excellent reporting of Steven Felschundneff, reporting on the same issue from a more global perspective, can be found in the LA Times story by Liam Dillion at the following website https://www.latimes.com/homeless-housing/story/2022-05-31/does-california-have-enough-water-for-lots-of-new-homes-yes-experts-say.

Joe Lyons

Claremont 

 

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