Readers comments 10-8-21
Women’s rights march
In response to the October 3 March for Women, I have two observations: (1) It was wonderful to see all the younger women who gave their time, energy and hearts to the movement. It gives me hope for the future when I see young people becoming involved in the political process; and (2) I was disappointed in the low percentage of males attending the March. We, as a nation, need to involve ourselves in all political issues, not just the ones that only affect “us.” Attacks on anyone’s freedoms are attacks on everyone’s freedoms. Our wake-up call has been sounding since January 20, 2017; let’s work together to Build Back Better.
Impact of our housing plan
On September 29, our city staff and consultant held a public meeting to discuss the scope of the Environmental Impact Report on the draft Housing Element update of our General Plan. Limiting myself to the relevant categories covered in an EIR, I sent the following comments. The EIR categories are capitalized.
“The concentration of large buildings around our traditional small-town Village shopping district will degrade its aesthetics by changing its character from suburban to a motley mix of urban with suburban and by partially blocking the views in several directions, thereby creating a sense of being closed in rather than open.
“The concentration of hundreds of housing units within a small area of our town will impact the air quality of that area because of the increased vehicular traffic from owned and ride-hailed vehicles, especially the latter, which make more trips (i.e., before and after the actual transport) than owned vehicles do. Parking insufficiency planned because of nearby public transit will cause a shift from owned to ride-hailed vehicles which make more trips, thereby increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
“Construction of multiple buildings on contaminated land south of the tracks will release hazardous materials.
“The cluster of large buildings around the Village will directly induce substantial population growth in this limited area.
“The population cluster around the Village will overload its tiny nearby recreation areas and create a demand for additional recreation spaces.
“It will also increase traffic, causing congestion and parking overload in and around the Village. Enforced use of ride-hailing services will double the amount of traffic that would have been experienced from owned vehicles. Emergency vehicles will be impeded.
“The proposed concentration of population will overload the utilities and service systems in the immediate area.
“All of these impacts can be mitigated by spreading our housing more widely around our city. Similar adverse impacts can be avoided throughout our city by building small developments rather than large ones.”
While these comments adhered to the EIR outline, they reflect my broad concern that the draft Housing Element prepared by our consultant is on the wrong track in two respects.
First, it emphasizes the construction of large developments, each with hundreds of units, which will change the character and ambiance of our city and will separate the developments’ occupants into their own cocoons. Neighbors in nearby single-family homes will resent these hulks and, by association, possibly the people who live there. If so, the feeling will be mutual. This will be a socially unhealthy environment.
Second, it concentrates most of these large buildings around our Village. This will make the Village less charming and attractive to out-of-town shoppers and diners, on whom we depend for business and tax revenues. Customers choose Claremont because it’s different. If it feels less different, it will be less desirable to them. Some will go elsewhere to spend their money, and our loss of them probably won’t be offset by repetitive spending from residents in the developments. We already expect competition from more than a million square feet of commercial development planned in North Montclair, and the competing old-fashioned downtowns of La Verne and Upland aren’t far away, either. We can’t afford to risk degrading the image of our Village.
I grew up in a small New Jersey suburb. Duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes were scattered among the single-family homes. With affordably small units, these plexes didn’t loom over their neighborhoods. The largest were no larger than many of our city’s homes. Their residents were part of their neighborhoods, as sociable as it was in their personality to be. This remains my image of how a small town can supply affordable housing without losing its soul.
No crossing guard in sight
The October 6 National Walk to School had a very large turnout for Oakmont Outdoor School. It’s unfortunate, however, that once again there was no crossing guard at the corner of Arrow Highway and College Ave. Since the 2021-2022 school year, there has been inconsistent crossing guard coverage for Oakmont. There has been zero crossing guard presence at a four-way intersection, with zero dedicated left turn signals and right turns on red permitted. I have been crossing this intersection almost daily for the past 10 years and it is quite dangerous, especially in the morning. I see older elementary students walking home alone, usually not making the safest decisions, with no crossing guard in sight. When is this going to be a priority? Our children deserve better and parents should feel confident that their children will make it safety to and from school.