Claremont Insider: Courier Makeover

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Courier Makeover


The Claremont Courier celebrates its centennial this year (yes, another one for our town).

The Courier redid its layout this past year, and they've finally gotten around to changing their website, which seems to be much more readable and user-friendly. The new website debuted last week.

There seems to be more editorial content available now. For instance, the editor's "My Side of the Line" column is online now. Saturday's "My Side" by Courier editor Rebecca JamesCourie talked about the Base Line Rd. affordable housing project, which will come before the City Council on Tuesday.


Tuesday night's council meeting will not be at City Hall. Rather, it will be held in the Padua Room at the Alexander Hughes Community Center, located at 1700 Danbury Rd.

The meeting starts with a closed session on the Base Line Rd. property for the council at 5:15pm. The public portion of the meeting begins at 6:30pm., and the affordable housing discussion will not begin before 7:00, according to the agenda.

The meeting should be an interesting one. The council will vote to on whether or not to certify the draft Environmental Impact Report for the Base Line project. If the council certifies the EIR, then the project will move forward.

As we've chronicled, the draft EIR found that the building the affordable housing units on the Base Line Rd. site would create unavoidable, hazardous impacts to children living in units because of the proximity to the 210 Freeway. The EIR noted a USC School of Medicine study that found that children who grew up in homes within 500 feet of a major highway were likely to suffer from impaired lung development.


Tuesday night's debate should be an interesting one, judging from Saturday's Courier print edition. Besides an article on the subject, there were a number of reader letters, including one by Professor Ed Avol, who teaches in the Environmental Health Division of the USC Keck School of Medicine, which authored the study mentioned in the EIR. Professor Avol's letter says:
Because human lung growth is essentially complete by the late teens, the study results imply that observed reductions in lung growth associated with outdoor air pollution exposure will likely be permanent losses in lung function for the remainder of the affected children's lives. This will result in decreased reserve capacity for breathing, and will become increasingly important as the children age into their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. (This is because there is a normal gradual loss in breathing capacity that occurs with aging, so having reserve breathing capacity becomes increasingly important as we all age; Personal active or passive smoking, occupational exposures, and genetic pre-disposition will also affect this gradual loss to a greater or lesser degree).

…. While several of the proposed mitigation strategies for the proposed housing construction project are theoretically likely to improve indoor air quality (IF the systems are rigorously maintained—which they often are not—and IF the doors and windows are kept closed to provide an effective closed environment that can be filtered—which seems unlikely), these strategies will still accomplish nothing to minimize exposure outside the buildings, which is where the children will likely be spending a portion of their time at hours likely to be higher in outdoor air pollution (such as during daytime traffic, rush-hour times, etc).

Oddly, the city staff agenda report for Tuesday's affordable housing EIR discussion contains this paragraph on pages 5-6:

Chapter 3.2 of the Draft EIR discusses the USC School of Medicine Children's Health Study, a 10-year study that monitored the lung function of children. The Air Quality consultant for the project attempted to contact USC regardig this study to inquire as to any further recommended mitigation measures. No response was received from the authors of the USC study.

[Emphasis added]

Hmmm, they must not have tried too much to contact because Saturday's Courier article by Tony Krickl included comments by Dr. Frank D. Gilliland at USC, who was one of the study's lead authors. And Ed Avol obviously had no trouble sending his letter to both the Courier and the City Council.

Really, they didn't try too terribly hard to get input from USC because they knew that USC would tell them that the problems with the Base Line Rd. site cannot be mitigated and that they should build it elsewhere.

The line by the city and by the Claremont League of Women Voters, who are responsible for foisting this poorly sited project on us without being willing to listen to scientific evidence, is pretty simple: Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

They think if they don't talk about the site's hazards, they don't exist.


The affordable housing issue is instructive because it shows how Claremont's absurist politics work.

The Base Line Project has been from the beginning pushed by the League of Women Voters, whose statement of principles claims:

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political membership organization which:

- acts after study and member agreement to achieve solutions in the public interest on key community issues at all government levels

- builds citizen participation in the democratic process.

- engages communities in promoting positive solutions to public policy issues through education and advocacy.

In fact, the local league chapter has violated all three of its organization's principles in this and many other Claremont issues. We'll delve more into the League's abandonment of its principles later this week and provide some past and current examples where the League has acted more as an agent of the City of Claremont and the Claremont 400 than they have as a neutral conveyor of information.

Saturday's Courier, in fact, contained a full-page ad signed by the League and by several official city bodies: the Committee on Aging, the Human Services Commission, and the Committee on Human Relations.

The ad's reasoning for having to put this project at the Base Line Rd. site, despite the obvious problems, show perfectly the deficiencies in the League's reasoning. For instance, they claim the problems can be mitigated by planting dense foliage at the site (oh no, the air won't flow around the trees). Or they say that "mandated reductions of diesel particulate emissions by 2020" will reduce the impacts.

Of course, the League offers no hard evidence in its ad, and they must not really believe themselves because they know they can't argue against the weight of evidence of the USC study, which the League's supposedly eductional ad conveniently omits.

The League deliberately ignores the USC study, saying that current and past councils have approved building housing along freeways. Yes, the League really so stupid that they adopt a rationale arguing that since we've allowed hazardous behavior in the past, we shouldn't change it now.

There are, of course, alternative sites, but the League won't discuss those. They claim that it's a matter of equity - the alternatives are in South Claremont. North Claremont should bear it's share of the affordable housing burden, they say. Yes, even if that means putting the people who would most use things like mass transit at a place where there is no bus stop and where it is farthest from the downtown bus and rail transit stations. Great public policy, ladies and gents.

No, the real reason why the League won't budge is because they're incapable of change and incapable of admitting they're wrong on something. They say, we thought of it, so this is how it's going to be. No amount of medical and scientific evidence, no amount of persuasive arguments to the contrary, can prevail over that sort of stupid muleheadedness.

Watching the League and the Claremont 400 when these things comes up is like watching a train wreck. You see the train barreling down the line, you know it's going to hit that spot where the rails are split, but it just has too much momentum and is stuck on its track. The wreck, when it comes, is inevitiable.

What the League doesn't realize, is that its credibility suffers each time they pull these sort of power plays. The League, and the people their members have pushed onto the Claremont City Council and city commissions, risk their legitmacy when they make these types of irrational, unsupported decisions. Small wonder, then, that the turnover in the city council has been so high in the past six years.

Come on out on Tuesday night at 6:30pm to the Hughes Center and watch the wreck. Bring some popcorn!