Claremont Insider: Baseline Site Woes

Monday, February 11, 2008

Baseline Site Woes

The Daily Bulletin editorial board this weekend weighed in on Claremont's troubled Baseline affordable housing project. The Bulletin's conclusion: put it out of its misery. We couldn't find the editorial online, but provide a low-quality a scan here:

The Bulletin opinion concludes,

At Tuesday's meeting, council members doubt take another look at alternate sites for the project, some of which are closer to schools and public transit than the Base Line land.

They should maintain the same zeal to get an affordable-housing project built at one of those alternate places...

In reaching this conclusion, the Bulletin reprised some of the points made many times earlier: the USC study cited in the environmental impact report showed freeway vehicle exhaust "detrimental to residents, especially children." However, the silver bullet seemed to be the decision by Los Angeles County to disqualify projects within 500 feet of a freeway.

Of course, Council could proceed by finding buckets of money to make up the shortfall, but to do that it appears that the City would have to have a live project--such as the one by Enhanced Affordable Development with a detailed design and that has undergone environmental scrutiny. As Will Bigham details here, City staffer Brian Desatnik has been busy trying to get Enhanced Affordable Development to walk the plank; failing that, Desatnik plans to push them. Bigham reports,

On Wednesday, Desatnik sent Marc Gelman, CEO of Enhanced Affordable Development, an e-mail seeking to terminate the exclusive negotiating agreement [ENA] between the city and Enhanced.

Desatnik asked Gelman to sign the termination agreement before 2 p.m. Friday. If it was not signed, Desatnik said, the city "intend(s) to exercise our unilateral authority to terminate the (exclusive negotiations agreement)," Desatnik said.

The e-mail exchange is quite informative; we include it at the end of this post.

All in all, the city council will have a lot to discuss at its Tuesday meeting, (February 12, 6:30 p.m. at Taylor Hall [not named for Ellen Taylor so far as we can determine, but we have to check with Judy Wright], 1775 N. Indian Hill, corner of Scripps). Don't imagine for a minute, though, that the council discussion will be free-wheeling; council members will have already been briefed on their roles by City Staff, and the speeches will likely be mere set-pieces. Maybe, as the staff report says, there will be a study session: [page 3 of the link, "Staff also schedule a study session [sic] with the council on alternative sites...].

While all this is going on, life imitates art over at the Courier. Some time ago we posted correspondence we received imagining how low the Courier might go. It went there last week in its article containing, among other things, the bit about La Verne City Manager and Claremont resident Marty Lomelli eating a sandwich. Oy.

* * * * *

As promised, here is the email exchange referred to by Bigham above [E-mail addresses have been slightly altered to help keep the bots away, and a cell phone number has been redacted].

From: "Marc Gelman"
To: "Brian Desatnik"
Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2008 19:14:50 -0800
Subject: RE: Termination and Release Agreement

Dear Brian:
We have no intention of signing any release that would potentially release the City from any liability or obligation to defend and indemnify us for any claims that may arise out of the political, zoning, environmental studies or other work done on this property by the City, when we've been bombarded with potential threats of lawsuits by local residents and interest groups.

Most importantly, we have difficulty understanding why (after 18 months) there is this sudden rush to get this termination signed when last week you were trying to rush us to sign a DDA. Also, it is strange that the voice mails from you and Tony suggest that the Council has already decided to terminate the ENA when there hasn't been any public discussion on this issue. Unless this is another attempt to replace us with another developer, the ENA should be terminated the same way like it was approved, as an item on the Council agenda presented to the public. We are taking a lot of unnecessary heat in the press and on the Internet and we can't let the City dump their political garbage on us and make it look like we are walking away from something that we have worked very hard for the people of Claremont.

Sincerely, Marc Gelman, CEO
Enhanced Affordable Development Co.
4221 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 260
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Dir: (323) 634-0561, ext. 215
Cell: (323) xxx-xxxx
Fax: (310) 356-6007


From: Brian Desatnik []
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2008 1:41 PM
To: Marc Gelman
Cc: David Rubin
Subject: Termination and Release Agreement

Please find attached a termination and release agreement. As you know, I requested documentation as to your third party costs pursuant to the ENA last Thursday and have yet to receive a response. Therefore there is a blank in number 3 of the agreement to be filled in upon our receipt of your third-party cost documentation. Please execute this document and return to me via fax or e-mail by Friday, February 8th at 2 p.m. If we do not receive a signature from you by this time we intend to exercise our unilateral authority to terminate the ENA. Call me if you have any questions.

Brian Desatnik
Housing and Redevelopment Manager
City of Claremont

909) 399-5342

909) 399-5366 fax