Claremont Insider: Yao Held Hostage by Affordable Housing Proponents

Friday, February 1, 2008

Yao Held Hostage by Affordable Housing Proponents


Claremont Mayor Peter Yao remains held hostage by the Claremont League of Women Voters (LWV) and an assortment of Claremont power brokers, including former Police Commissioner Helaine Goldwater.

331 days have passed since Yao was re-elected to the Claremont City Council on March 6, 2007. Yao won by admittedly relying on the help of Goldwater and other Claremont 400 members to win election. In return, he has had to support a number of indefensible, irrational positions - the Base Line Rd. affordable housing project, the Claremont Off-Track Trolley, and others - that Goldwater, et. al. have pushed down the throats of Claremonters.

In the latest twist, as we've written the past few days, the Base Line Rd. project is on life-support because the developer, Marc Gelman at Enhanced Affordable Development, has lost out on $2.5 million in L.A. County grant money.

The county agency in charge of doling out the affordable housing money has instituted a policy of not allowing the county money to be given to projects within 500 feet of a freeway.

As we've noted time and again, the Base Line project is entirely within 500 feet of the 210 Freeway, and the project's environmental report cited the concerns raised by a USC Keck School of Medicine study finding that children growing up near freeways and major highways are likely to have impaired lung development as adults.

The Claremont LWV and Goldwater, in their irrational, stubborn insistence that this project be placed on the site at Base Line and Towne Ave. in northwest Claremont, have ignored the 10-year long USC study and have acted as if it did not exist. They have also refused to consider any alternative sites (of which there are several), and have actively worked to have alternative sites removed as possibilities.

Mayor Yao and Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Taylor (the real power on the council given her friendship with Goldwater) will not work to get an alternative project going, even though Yao must know that without county money the Base Line Rd. project is almost certainly dead in the water. We've come to expect intransigence from Taylor (pictured at left in her royal regalia), but we would think that Yao, who originally ran as something of a reformer in the wake of the Irvin Landrum shooting, would be more reasonable and open-minded.

Yet, an article by Will Bigham in today's Daily Bulletin indicates that Yao may want to push forward with the Base Line site, even if it means using $2.5 million in city funds:

Mayor Peter Yao disputed Gelman's response to the loss in funding, calling it a "premature conclusion."

"[Gelman is] a contractor," Yao said. "He does what we tell him to do. If he won't do it, we'll find someone else. He's not a key link in this project."

Yao said the city could contribute the $2.5 million from property taxes collected by its redevelopment agency. He also indicated that money may be available from state sources.

"Clearly, what we have to do is find a source of funding for that missing $2.5 million," Yao said. "If we can't over come that hurdle, then we'll have to consider an alternative."

Centinel at the FC Blog picked up on Yao's comments regarding Gelman in a post today:

Hmm. If I was Marc Gelman, I believe my response would be something like this: “Wow, what a jerk.”

Seriously, if this isn’t an expression of the petty arrogance of city officials, I don’t know what is. “Damn the torpedos, the county funding rules, the EIR, the USC report, the community opposition, the poor children who will grow up asthmatic, and the underlying premise of affordable housing (I subsidize your housing through taxes so that employers don’t have to pay you better wages); I want an affordable housing project and I’m going to get it, because I AM PETER YAO!”

Actually, Centinel, Yao's behavior is pretty easy to explain. It's Stockholm Syndrome. Poor guy, he's going Patty Hearst on us.

Or has having been mayor for two years gone to Yao's head? (Another nod to the Claremont 400, for brokering a deal to support Yao for mayor another year in return for control of his vote.) Perhaps he's forgotten he is an elected official and has fallen into an authoritarian way of thinking. Yao's certainly acting as if the city would follow him on a forced march if he ordered one.

Well, one thing's for sure, Yao's willingness to use Claremont redevelopment funds for the Base Line project will require him using his position as chairman of the Claremont Redevelopment Agency to free up the money. Chairman? Yao? Hmmm....