Readers comments 4-23-21
I am writing this letter in regards to the April 27th appeals hearing by city council for The Commons Project with the specific concern of potential liability for the city if approved.
In looking at all of the various pros and cons of this proposed project, I have come to the conclusion that a residential project in an airport safety zone is an ill-conceived idea. The State of California Aeronautics law clearly disallows for residential development in an airport safety zone. Despite the developer’s proposed mitigations for the present and potential health and safety risks, these risks cannot be adequately mitigated which I imagine is one of the reasons that the state aeronautics law disallows for residential development in an airport safety zone.
If the city council chooses to approve this project it will not only be in disregard of the state aeronautics law but also the unanimous denial of this project by both the architectural and planning commissions, and the denial by the city of Upland to approve residential development on their portion of the project due to the potential hazards from the development being located directly in the airport’s flight plan. As a result, I think the city would put itself at risk for liability if a Commons resident filed suit for health and safety related issues, including noise, and property damage due to airplane crashes.
I hope that you will address this issue at the hearing.
Do not pass up housing opportunity
On April 27th the Claremont City Council will be given an opportunity to appeal decisions made by the planning and architectural commissions about the mixed use development known as The Commons. With respect for the commissions, circumstances have changed since they made their determinations and as such the council should grant this appeal. Here’s why—
The Commons will provide the first low income housing units from a for-profit developer since the creation of Claremont’s inclusionary housing ordinance. The ordinance states that any housing development with over seven units must provide either 15 percent of its units below market rate to moderate income households or 10 percent to low income households. Thus far every developer in Claremont has opted to provide the moderate income units. The Commons has proposed setting aside 15 percent of its 62 residential units as affordable housing, six of them for moderate income households and four of them for low income households. This goes beyond what the ordinance mandates and sets an important precedent for future developments, that truly affordable housing can and should be a part of every project.
The site on which the Commons is to be built is not ideal but folks in desperate need of affordable housing can no longer wait for ideal—they need housing now and good enough will do. A total of 16 percent of California’s essential workers lived in overcrowded housing during the pandemic with some of the worst overcrowding right here in Southern California. These populations were left at greater risk to COVID as they were not able to isolate after exposure or if they became ill. In general, overcrowded housing has been linked to poor physical and mental health, reduced academic performance in children, and higher rates of crime. (It should be noted that high-density housing shows no such correlations.)
Beyond overcrowding, much of the existing stock of available affordable housing is such because of its current state of imperfection. It is not uncommon for low income housing to exist near noise and environmental hazards that are equal to or greater than what a future resident of The Commons might be exposed to, only without the benefit of new construction to tamper sound and filter particulates. (Speaking first hand, our apartment exposes my family to the noise of fire engines, police, ambulance sirens, train horns, the 10 Freeway, racing at the Pomona Fairplex—all through louvered windows that let the sound in when they are closed just as well as when they are open.) To deny residential housing on this site due to environmental contaminants from plane fuel one must ignore the fact that residential neighborhoods 500 feet northwest of the site and 760 feet southeast are exposed to these same contaminants. Should we ask those residents if they’d like to move because their housing has been deemed unsafe?
Much has been made of the threat of a plane crash. The EIR states there is a 27 in 1 million chance of a plane crash on the site. I truly cannot believe we are having this discussion. Set aside that IF a plane crash were to occur an individual would have to be present and in the plane’s path at the exact moment of impact to be injured (further decreasing the odds to any one individual) these are ridiculously slim odds. We should spend our energy focused on the very real threats associated with inadequate housing.
California has spent 60 years digging itself into a hole that has left too many without safe homes, too many on the verge of homelessness, too many without a place to call their own. There is no perfect development but we must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We should look at all aspects of a development and reject those that don’t meet the needs of our community. When we are given the opportunity to diversify our housing stock in an unprecedented way and start filling in that hole, even a little, to work towards meeting our legal and moral obligations and provide housing for our neighbors in need, we must not pass it up.
Rachel Leigh Forester
No fine-tuning will fix The Commons
It is unfortunate that the developer for the Commons project has put effort into trying to make their proposal more acceptable and attractive to the community and the council when the real issue is that there should be no residential development in this location of any sort due to the health and safety hazards of being located in an airport safety zone.
So, whether there are now more single level units or if they were to offer more affordable housing units in their proposal it ignores and misses this key underlying problem and no amount of fine-tuning the types of residential units offered will fix it.
Therefore, I am asking the council to deny this appeal.
Why we should reject The Commons
Next Tuesday, April 27, our city council will hold a public hearing on whether to approve multi-unit housing (The Commons) directly in front of the Cable Airport runway, NW of the corner at Foothill and Monte Vista. Our council has received extensive expert advice on this housing, and it is all in opposition. We have ample acreage for housing elsewhere. We should not give up the sales tax potential of our largest remaining commercial site for a small residual commercial space after telling voters we needed a sales tax hike.
Our own architectural commission and planning commission have both opposed the project—unanimously. The developer is appealing those decisions. The commissioners are capable and respected people whose deliberations were well-reasoned, based on evidence, and the council usually upholds their recommendations. Nevertheless, the outcome isn’t a foregone conclusion; the developer has hired a former Claremont city manager and a public relations firm who have been promoting the project.
State law instructs local governments to follow the California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook, which opposes housing developments in front of airports. Three dozen aviation, airport and environmental consultants participated in developing the Handbook. One of those expert consulting firms then prepared the Cable Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan, which explicitly declares housing to be incompatible on this site.
The city has also received letters of opposition from the California Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics, from the City of Upland planning staff, and from the Los Angeles County Airport Land Use Commission staff.
The Housing Element of our General Plan lists 91 acres of vacant or underutilized land that can be used for housing. We need housing, especially affordable housing, and we should all support that, but it doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) in this our least safe and healthy location. Persons who choose to live at this site won’t know how bad the cumulative psychological and physical health impacts of noise and leaded gas exhaust will be until they’ve occurred. People will assume that the city wouldn’t build in a bad place.
The proposed conversion from commercial property with sales tax potential to primarily residential use conflicts with several general plan policies to encourage sales tax and to group similar uses. Our city even mounted a ballot measure to increase our sales tax. The commercial potential of this site has been increased within the last few years by construction of hundreds of homes with potential customers in Upland and Montclair south of Foothill between Monte Vista and Central, and more homes are planned there. The site is on busy streets and is accessible from the 210 and 10 freeways. It is surrounded by non-residential uses.
I urge our council members to follow expert advice and our own general plan, to retain the commercial zoning of this property, and to avoid placing future Claremont residents in harm’s way. I hope that readers will urge them to do so by email sent to our city clerk sdesautels@ci.
claremont.ca.us (subject: Public Comment—Hearing on The Commons) and by speaking at the Council meeting on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. https://zoom.us/j/256208090.
Do the right thing Claremont
Here’s to hoping our councilmembers can see through the slick PR campaign and deny the appeal for the proposed development at Monte Vista and Foothill Blvd aka The Commons. Putting homes in what the Cable Airport Land Use Plan designates a departure zone, will be reprehensibly irresponsible and a legal liability for the city for decades to come. County and state agencies and at least one neighboring city have all weighed against residential uses at this site. Councilmembers shouldn’t flinch no matter who the developer’s PR team has convinced to speak in favor.
We all want housing and especially affordable housing in Claremont, but we should not place future community members in harm’s way at the end of a dangerously loud and potentially deadly airport runway. And while it may be politically expedient even well-meaning to include affordable housing here, it would “place on the poor a disproportionate risk and exposure to (noise) pollution and the associated effects on health.” This is the definition of an environmental injustice.
Do the right thing Claremont, deny the appeal and uphold the Architectural and Planning Commissions’ denial of the Commons. We can and should do better.
Keep property commercial
I am a resident of Claremont, residing near the intersection of Foothill Blvd. and Mills Ave. My neighbors and I are subjected to loud noise from the nearby airport on a daily basis. We often have to stop a conversation midstream as the noise from the airplanes makes us unable to hear each other. I strongly urge the city to consider the well-being of future Claremont residents who would live closer to the airport if residing at the proposed housing development The Commons. Not only the daily noise which is injurious to our health, but the inevitable safety hazard of living so near to an airport needs to be given primary importance. I urge the city to keep the property for commercial use.
Cruz-Elena Sundquist, MD
Reject The Commons
I have been watching the actions and responses of the Claremont City Council, the Claremont Planning Commission, and the Claremont Architectural Commission with regard to the ill-conceived residential development proposal for “The Commons,” located at the corner of Foothill Blvd. and Monte Vista Ave.
Now, at the next meeting, the decision will be made by the council to disapprove or approve this proposal. Please recall that both the planning and architectural commissions have unanimously rejected the proposal presented by the developer. The decision is now up to you. Please reject this proposal.
I read with dismay the appeal document from the developer citing what they consider to be reasons to ignore the findings of the two commissions and to approve this development (which will require rezoning the parcel.) Rezoning this area to allow for residential development was already proposed and denied by Claremont residents many years ago. I don’t believe that the developer has presented a cogent argument as to why we should rezone now and allow/encourage people to live there.
I will respond to the appeal arguments in greater detail at the meeting on the 27th, but I would like to just mention some of the problems with that appeal. For the main, Clare Properties makes many statements that simply have no bearing on the decision about placing residential development at this site. For example, Clare says that there is “no factual basis for the existence/amount of air pollution for future residents,” mentioning that other potential uses of this plot might cause even more pollution than their residential development would. They make the same statements with regard to noise pollution and safety issues. First, what might or not be put there if their proposal is denied and whether it might be noisy, air-polluted and unsafe has no bearing on the rightness or wrongness of the proposed development. Second, on Tuesday I will cite the data on levels of air and noise pollution which exist on that site and which contribute to the unsuitability of locating residences there.
I believe, along with other Claremonters, that most of the problems inherent in The Commons project are caused by its proximity to Cable Airport, which creates air and noise pollution and quite a safety hazard for this plot of land. As you know, there have been a number of plane crashes in that area, and a strip park in the middle of the proposed development so that a crashing airplane can land in a safe spot is insufficient to ensure the safety of residents. Mr. Bob Cable even asked at one of the commission meetings who will be liable for the injuries caused by the next crash? And I wonder what the answer is. The airport? The city? Certainly not Clare Properties. They will be long gone, having left the residents with an unsafe and unpleasant place to live.
Please, I hope you will agree that the right thing to do is to reject this appeal.
Claremont resident since 1976
Think about housing differently
As this discussion about the housing element continues, I want to challenge our community and our community leaders to take a step back and think about housing a little differently.
We’ve talked about traffic and developers; we’ve talked about this neighborhood and that neighborhood; and we’ve talked about economic development impacts. But it’s time to appreciate our community for the beacon of opportunity that it is, and perhaps take a look at housing in Claremont from a greater community, social justice standpoint.
Claremont boasts excellent schools, quality human services programs, and excellent parks. We enjoy having our own police department, with officers we know by name. As a core value, Claremont is committed to public discourse, human rights, and civil liberties. So it’s not surprising that people want to build homes here, because people want to live here.
Our community housing discussion needs to stop focusing on why we can’t build houses in various spots in town, and instead look at how we can accommodate the myriad diverse, potential neighbors who aspire to live in our community. We should stop emphasizing the imperfections of certain plots of land, and instead embrace the benefits our town has to offer.
As a longstanding member of the Claremont community, I can appreciate the desire to keep things the same. But if we instead look at the potential that comes with some of the adjustments being proposed in the housing element that accommodate more community members, there is no question we can all grow and thrive as we welcome and appreciate these new fellow Claremonters.
Incredible housing opportunity
The City Council has a tremendous opportunity to correct some of what has been going wrong in our community. For decades, our community—not necessarily by design, but by default—has been creating very little affordable housing, shunning state and regional mandates. Compounding the problem, on the rare occasion we create opportunities for low income families to live in our community, we do so in only one area—south Claremont.
After much negotiation and the generous agreement of the developers to absorb the cost, The Commons has now agreed to include low and moderate income housing opportunities in their development, which is located off Foothill Boulevard, near Monte Vista. This is an incredible opportunity! Now we need to get it right on the policy side.
There has been a lot of opining about the level of perfection related to that particular plot of land. Frankly, for me it’s déjà vu all over again, with the very similar “concerns” and “flag raising” to the transportation oriented design (TOD) housing located in the Village Expansion, just north of the train tracks. Today, it’s difficult to even find a unit for sale in that area because it is so desired. I anticipate the same potential for this beautiful development.
We need to get over it. We need more diverse housing. Yes, sometimes it will be near a freeway, sometimes near rail, sometimes near a small airport. But for certain, all housing in Claremont will always be by Claremont schools, near five grocery stores, with access to our parks, services and amenities that support a healthy lifestyle. It’s time to open the doors to new Claremont neighbors and stop telling people they’re not welcome here. It’s time for our City Council to take a stand and call for good, attractive, diverse housing across all of Claremont.
Landing strip not a “park”
Next Tuesday, April 27, the council will be hearing the appeal to develop the site at the corner of Foothill and Monte Vista, known as The Commons.
This development was denied unanimously by both the City Planning Commission and the City Architectural Commission. Developing that corner for residential use was a bad idea and still is. The reasons are basic and clear: living in the residential housing at this site would be dangerous. This site is within a few hundred feet of the departure runway of the very busy Cable Airport. The emergency landing strip for takeoff would have to continue to be located within and among these houses! The developer calls this strip a “park.” Several small plane crashes have occurred around Cable Airport in the last few years.
In addition, well documented air pollution is found this close to small airports and will be present. The noise pollution from the many old small planes still very low at that point will also create physical and emotional stress for the residents.
Let’s not build housing in unsafe areas in Claremont!
Rev. Dr. Tina Blair
Response to Jim Belna’s April 16 letter
As an attorney in practice for over 41 years, I too, had questions about the resignation of Ms. Shultz, her abrupt departure and the payment of approximately $160.000.00 plus other benefits.
The process does not pass the ”smell test.” I therefore join in Mr. Belna’s comments. I think disclosure under the California Freedom of Information Act is warranted, and if denied, exploration of further legal remedies by the citizens of Claremont.
Stuart A. Holmes
La Puerta Development
The plan to sell the La Puerta property on Forbes Avenue to a developer has encountered passionate opposition from the neighbors. This land belongs to the Claremont School District. If the sale is completed, our schools will receive around 14 million dollars. My concern is: if this proposed development is thwarted, how will the school district ever get its money out? This is the third proposal in a decade. The previous two projects were also successfully opposed by the neighbors.
It seem obvious to me that no developer is going to be interested in this property after three plans have been rejected. It’s not clear what the neighbors would settle for that would still allow the school district to sell the property. If what they want is much lower density, ranch-style homes, that would lower the value of the parcel to a developer by millions of dollars. Meanwhile, the property sits vacant, a forlorn sea of dry grass surrounded by a chain-link fence.