Claremont Insider: Southard Sightings and Other News

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Southard Sightings and Other News


Several readers wrote in to report sightings of Claremont's former city manager, Glenn Southard, about town last Thursday. No doubt our esteemed friend was in the area to survey the wreckage he's wrought - for example, $17.5 million settlement to Palmer Canyon residents for fire damages resulting in part from the city's failure to properly maintain the Claremont Wilderness Park during Southard's administration.

Call it pride of authorship.

Or maybe he just wanted to check out the Village Expansion, where the exodus continues only a year after the opening of the Claremont Packing House.

One reader said:

Wonder what God's gift to Claremont could be stirring up now? Do you think he is here to take credit for the wonderful Village Expansion he gave us of which ersatz Claremont historian Judy Wright now says she is not so enamored ( according to John Pixley's column in Wednesday's Courier)? Only the Shadow knows!

The reader was referring to John Pixley's Observer column in Wednesday's Claremont Courier. Wright, who as mayor of Claremont was one of the persons most responsible for the imposition of Southardism on Claremont, spoke at the Claremont Museum of Art earlier this month and gave her thoughts on the Claremont Village Expansion, according to Pixley:

Regarding the Village Expansion, Ms. Wright is concerned that not enough thought was put into what its streets look like or the views they provide. She also said that the Indian Hill frontage remind her of Orange County. She urged that there be an outcry for public art. (What about the controversial fountain in the courtyard?)

I don’t know if I agree with Ms. Wright’s exact concern and solution, but I do agree that there is something to be concerned about in the Village Expansion. As impressive and exciting as it is, it appears that all is not well with the downtown addition. And it does have to do with views.

There has been noticeable rumbling in recent months, and the rumbling is coming from within. There have been accusations and finger pointing, talk of misleading and broken promises. Some artists have decided not to stay in the artist lofts in The Packing House, complaining that the rent is too high or that the lofts, which are upstairs on the second floor, don’t get enough foot traffic. Tally’s for Men is breaking its lease, with the owner saying that its Second Street location is a dead zone with almost no traffic.

These may well simply be the grumbling that comes with anything new. Almost by definition, there are always kinks to be worked out. But I am wondering if it isn’t something more that is happening.

Wright's concerns are touching, but disingenuous. Wright, her claims to the contrary notwithstanding, has been more than a mere observer or amateur historian with the Village Expansion and other projects in town. As usual, she and some of her fellow former councilpeople and city commissioners just do not want to take credit for their work when it goes bad.

Back in 2003, when the future was still bright, it was a different story. Even though Wright had been off the Claremont City Council for years when the Village Expansion ground-breaking occurred, this plaque was unveiled at the corner of Oberlin Ave. and First St.:

There you go. Dead center, right above Southard: "Judy Wright." In 2003, as ever, plaques represented the dominant form of public self-aggrandizement in the less-than-humble village of Claremont, CA.