Readers comments 6-25-21
Clara Oaks Viewpoint
Open Letter to Claremont City Council:
I just received notice of the “Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report and Notice of a Public Scoping Meeting” for the proposed Clara Oaks Development Project up Webb Canyon, directly north of Webb School’s football stadium. The meeting will be held Wednesday, June 30, 2021 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
Here’s why I oppose this project:
It’s unsustainable. It’s not a question of whether it will burn, but rather, when, accompanied by a devastating flood season that follows. In 2003, the region already experienced the Grand Prix Fire. With climate change and drought, our fire seasons are longer than before, occurring with more frequency, with fires burning hotter and covering more ground, and costing more to control.
The more people we load onto our CalTrans-designated Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones, the more possibilities for fire ignition. The result of the proposed Clara Oaks Development Project is that more lives will be threatened and more money expended trying to protect homes & families. If we truly ‘love’ our fire-fighters, we should not keep increasing their risk by putting them in harm’s way protecting property and people in previously unbuilt, fire-sensitive zones.
Much ecological damage will be incurred if these homes are built. ‘Hardening the houses’ —our government’s policy to lessen fire danger on residences means eliminating vegetation surrounding the house. This results in denuding the landscape, removing both indigenous species and heritage species, which contributes to both desertification and loss of habitat.
Fighting fires to protect property means dumping toxic chemicals.
The requisite reseeding process after a fire (to prevent erosion) encourages the growth of invasive species.
Since this particular proposed development lacks a suitable ingress and egress and will require the installation of gas, electrical, water and sewage infrastructure, it will mean the eradication of countless live oaks—the very oaks the project is named after, along with other important species.
Coast Live oaks (Quercus agrifolia) are a tricky species. Lots of them along the road leading to the project are old growth and have already been hard hit by drought which has made them subject to harmful insects. Attempts to replace them with new, younger ones have had mixed results. Oaks grow and seed themselves where conditions are just right.
Also, a stand of multi-branched laurel sumac will have to be removed as a result of this project. Some call this species a bush, but in the area above Webb School, they have the canopy of a tree. This species is perfectly-suited to fire conditions. When a fire sweeps through the high resin content of the leaves makes them burn swiftly like a torch. The fire moves on leaving the roots unharmed, so they regenerate quickly. These plants are part of our cultural heritage. These are a sentinel species—they gave orange growers useful information where the frostlines were.
At present, taxpayers who live ‘on the flats” subsidize multi-million dollar housing on the hillsides through fire department budgets, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), etc. This money could be more productively spent creating housing in less vulnerable areas. We can decide if we want to subsidize multi-million dollar housing for the wealthy few by allowing development on our Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) or we can divert that money towards subsidizing sustainable housing that addresses the needs of the many in less vulnerable areas. The housing LA County actually needs is housing for the moderate, low and very low income folks—not housing for the rich at our expense.
It’s time for us to face the reality that, in this era of climate change, we may not be able to fund the redevelopment in our hillsides after a fire. FEMA dispersed 80 billion in recovery funding from 1979-2016, and it funded an additional 80 billion from 2016 to 2019. That’s right—we matched in three years what we had managed to disperse in the previous 37.
The mitigations that the Clara Oaks developers have suggested—a public hiking trail and water tank—are inadequate considering the adverse effects of this development project. The ‘dedicated open space’ is land too steep to build on anyway.
Pamela Casey Nagle
Affordable housing at Village South
Bob Gerecke’s letter in the June 18, 2021 COURIER, arguing that we should exclude affordable housing from Village South because it will exacerbate economic segregation in Claremont’s elementary schools is misguided. Mr. Gereke correctly notes that CUSD has a serious economic and racial segregation problem in its elementary schools. The four Claremont schools in the southern and western portions of the city have double or triple the percentage of low-income students as Sycamore, Chapparal and Condit. But Mr. Gereke is wrong to think that adding more affordable housing in these neighborhoods will increase economic segregation in CUSD.
The truth is that the school-age population of Claremont has been shrinking for decades and Claremont Unified currently imports about 25% of its students from other districts. The segregation arises because these inter-district transfers are not evenly distributed among the elementary schools. Many families living in western and southern portions of the city use intra-district transfers to avoid their local school and enroll their children in Sycamore, Chapparal, or Condit. The district then backfills the other schools with inter-district transfers, who are more likely to be low income and less likely to be white. Adding affordable housing to the southern or western parts of Claremont would replace some imported low-income students with low-income Claremont residents, but probably will not change the overall demographics of the elementary schools.
Clearly the School Board should do more to reduce economic and racial segregation in the elementary schools. But this is not a reason to reject affordable housing in the Village South Specific Plan. Claremont has not lived up to its affordable housing responsibilities for years. I agree with Mr. Gereke that the city needs more affordable housing in all parts of Claremont. Village South is a good place to start.
Restaurants take over parking
Like the idea of supporting local business. But there comes a time when I draw the line and take my business elsewhere. I wanted to go to Ecoterra today. After driving around, the downtown area for 20 minutes I gave up and parked illegally in the bank. Parking was never great in Claremont but now that restaurants have taken over the valuable parking spots, it is impossible to locate a legal parking place.
When will the restaurants give back our parking? Until then, I will use Amazon.
Help save the theaters
Dear editor:I personally do not believe all theatres will recover to the extent they need to. AMC chain is apparently trying to take over some of the Pacific Theatres but I believe they have a debt load that is in the multi-billions. Thus the long-term effects of the pandemic will result in many changes from “business as usual” pre-pandemic.
Just as people are now continuing to work at home, which many employers and employees find an acceptable alternative going forward, so it is that people are streaming films and concerts and able to avoid having to go to theatres and pay the higher ticket prices. This trend started well before the pandemic hit, of course.
Disney+, for example, enticed subscribes by showing “Hamilton,” filmed with the original Broadway cast. (Beats paying hundreds of dollars to get a ticket on Broadway or during the Pantages run, if one could even get one! All for $6.99 per month!) “In the Heights,” another filmed Lin-Manuel Miranda musical, is now in theatres and stream-able. And other streaming services are now releasing films both in theatres and on their sites simultaneously.
Laemmle, the only theatre in Claremont as far as I know, sold and leased back their Pasadena 7, as I understand it, and may try to do the same in Claremont to raise capital. I hope they and other chains can make it through this, but I don’t believe it will be easy.
La Verne, CA