Claremont Insider: Theater of the Absurd

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Theater of the Absurd


A reader pointed a short, one-sentence note at the very end of the June 6th Human Services Commission meeting minutes:

There will be a meeting on June 19 with the City Manager's office and the Houston Group to discuss Padua Park and funding options.

We thought this worthy of interest because the sports complex at Padua Park has been a particularly contentious issue for the past six years. As Human Services Chair Valerie Martinez and the rest of the Claremont 400 are wont to do, the opposition to the sports complex has been framed around several false notions: "They [opponents] hate kids"; "They hate parks"; "They're just a small group of NIMBY's."


The Padua Park opposition, as we understand it, is composed of several different cohorts. The Claremont 400 has been too lazy or arrogant or both to bother to look at the dynamics involved. They just sort of lump everyone together under the heading "HATERS."

One component of the opposition is the population of newer residents of Northeast Claremont, neighbors of the park site, who live in an area that had been designated Rural Residential and which had severe street and landscape lighting restrictions that created a very dark at nighttime atmosphere. The Claremont 400, in their autocratic way, simply did away with the Rural Residential designation so that they could put sports stadium lighting on the park, even though the majority of people in the area seem to enjoy the darkness.

There are also older residents who remember when they agreed to be annexed by the city long before the new developments like Stone Canyon Preserve went in. Those people, many of whom have lived there 30, 40 or 50 years, submitted to annexation by the city in exchange for Claremont's promise that the area would remain rural with one-acre lots. These folk say they can see how well the city kept that promise and simply don't trust what they view as the city's false promises downplaying the park's traffic, lighting, and noise impacts.

The largest opposition to the park comes from fiscal conservatives and extends throughout the city. The park - which the city in 2001 was advertising as costing $3 million - is now estimated to be a $10 million-plus project for there currently is no funding, other than $900,000.00 to clear rocks off the land. As we pointed out recently, the city's own survey in December, 2005, showed that only 39-
percent of the respondents felt that building new park facilities was a priority. New parks and recreation facilities were, in fact, last on a list of eight priorities named in the survey.


There is also a "green" factor to the opposition. According to the readers who've written in on the subject, about half of the park site's main 20 acres is comprised of a habitat called Riversidean Alluvial Fan Sage Scrub (RAFSS). The green opponents to the park have argued that a smaller park should be built and that the RAFSS should be preserved as an interpretative park.

There is more than a little irony to the green bit. First, in the Environmental Impact Report for the park, the city's consultant used a biology expert whom the Claremont Courier reported had a Ph.D that he got for $100 from the Internet's Universal Life Church. The biologist downplayed the significance of the RAFSS.

And, whereas with the Padua Park site the city claimed the RAFSS was not worth saving, with the adjacent Vulcan Materials Co. project they are are using the opposite argument, saying that Vulcan should not be allowed to mine gravel there because of the sensitive RAFSS habitat. Can you spell H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E-S?

Which brings us back to the Human Services Commission note about a June 19th meeting with the Houston Group. That company is a lobbying concern that advertises its services as "Governmental Affairs Consulting." The Houston Group's website lists among the company's clients:

  • California Nevada Cement Promotion Council
  • California Concrete Contractors Association
  • California Portland Cement Company
  • Cemex California Cement LLC
  • Construction Materials Association of California
  • Hanson Aggregates Mid-Pacific, Inc. and Affiliates
  • Hanson Permanente Cement
  • Lehigh Southwest Cement Company
  • Mitsubishi Cement Company
  • National Cement Company of California, Inc.
  • RMC Pacific Materials
  • Riverside Cement Company
  • U.S. Borax, Inc.
These companies are all in the construction materials business, just like Vulcan. So, the city's money is going to a lobbying group that represents a large number of companies in the very industry the city is currently fighting on a plot of land right next door to the park site.

What all of this really shows is that the Claremont 400 has pushed a $10 million-plus project that it acknowledges will not provide the fields the town's sports groups say they need. Why push such a misconceived project rather than simply build a smaller park on the Padua site for much less money and work for a partnership with La Verne or Upland on a shared regional site that would spread the costs and provide all the fields needed?

Because it's all about punishment now. The Claremont 400 and Valerie Martinez don't care about real solutions, they just want to shove a flawed project down the throats of anyone who has opposed it for any reason, fiscal, environmental or otherwise.

Rather than looking rationally at the situation and considering all options, they just keep repeating to themselves, "Stay the course, stay the course."