Claremont Insider: Local News Briefs

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Local News Briefs

tThe Daily Bulletin had a couple pieces on local Claremont news:


The Peppertree Square shopping center at Indian Hill Blvd. and Arrow Hwy. is getting a facelift, according to the Daily Bulletin:

The center, at the southeast corner of Indian Hill Boulevard and Arrow Highway, has been a source of consternation in recent years because its owner, who lives overseas, hasn't performed basic upkeep, city officials say.

"Fifteen years ago it was a pretty nice neighborhood center, and it's really just deteriorated," said Brian Desatnik, housing and redevelopment manager.

Four of its retail spaces sit vacant, including two of its largest - a space that used to house a small market, and another that used to be a music store.

Nick Quackenbos, a commercial real estate agent who is responsible for leasing in the center, said renovation plans could be presented for city approval by the end of the summer.

You may recall that Quackenbos is also the realtor trying to broker the sale of the land adjacent to the Claremont Auto Center on the south side of the 10 Freeway. A portion of the land is the former site of a Chili's Restaurant, and the City sunk several hundred thousand dollars into infrastructure improvement as part a deal to help Auto Center owner Roger Hogan acquire that land back in 2005.

That deal was sold to the City Council by then-City Manager Glenn Southard and his staff with the promise that Hogan would expand the Auto Center onto the Chili's property, which would lead to increased auto sales tax revenue that would give the city a great return on their investment.

Tony Krickl in the Claremont Courier reported on the possible sale of the land earlier this month. Krickl's article said:

The right decision?

In 2005, the city mediated the sale between the Chili’s property owner and Mr. Hogan, who had plans to expand his dealership there. A financial review of the agreement shows that the city may have gotten the short end of the stick, while Mr. Hogan appears to be the bigger beneficiary of the deal.

As part of the agreement between the 3 parties, the city’s Redevelopment Agency was required to invest $200,000 in street and signage improvements. It also purchased an operating agreement for $100,000 “that requires the new land area be used for the Toyota dealership for at least 7 years,” a September 2005 city staff report reads.

The report indicates that the return on the city’s investment could be between $600,000 and $700,000 annually for the first 5 years as a result of Toyota auto sales taxes, with millions more to follow in years after. But it remains unclear if the city made back its hoped return on its initial investment.

When Claremont Ford shut down in January, Claremont Toyota’s expansion plans shifted from the Chili’s property to the Claremont Ford property, which already had some infrastructure and equipment on site. The Chili’s land today remains unused by Claremont Toyota, except for the display of some used cars at the site.

In addition, doubts remain that any future use of the property will generate the level of sales tax revenue for the city that a successful auto dealership is capable of.

As with most of these sorts of things, the city staff report painted a wonderful picture of the revenue stream that would issue from the deal. The land was never developed for additional auto sales, and now Hogan is selling a large chunk of the land with the prospect of making several million dollars off the deal.

At the time the Chili's land purchase was debated, Councilmembers Corey Calaycay and Jackie McHenry expresed reservations about the deal and questioned whether it would pay for itself. Calaycay and McHenry were criticized for their dissent and were labeled as being negative. A number of Claremont luminaries, including former Mayor Judy Wright, stepped up to the council podium urging the city to make the deal. And Sam Pedroza, who was not on the council at the time, had a letter published in the Courier in support of Hogan and all he's done for Claremont. The letter was clearly written to add pressure on Calaycay and McHenry.

Well, time has proved the negativists right. And Wright, Pedroza, and the rest were just your typical Claremont 400 dupes, throwing your money away needlessly, foolishly.

At least Quackenbos can make a buck off helping sell Hogan's land, a good portion of which the city helped him buy. Incidentally, Quackenbos is a former city commissioner and was a contributor to the "Claremont Business PAC" mailer that was part of the Preserve Claremont smear campaign in 2005.

Quackenbos is also pretty well connected to City Hall, having endorsed Mayor Ellen Taylor and Councilmember Sam Pedroza. Maybe he can land a gig as the city's leasing agent for any future city affordable housing since Taylor and Pedroza were the ones who selected the new Affordable Housing Task Force.


Tuesday night the Claremont City Council approved a new municipal ordinance governing door-to-door salespeople, who will now be required to obtain permit and ID from the city.

The ordinance is the city's second attempt at regulating the such visitors. According to another Daily Bulletin article by Will Bigham, a previous law was too restrictive and applied to religious and political solicitors as well as commercial ones. Bigham tells us that in 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that such laws were unconstitutional.

Bigham explained the new ordinance:

The law, characterized by city officials as one of the toughest of its kind in the nation, was in response to two rapes committed by door-to-door magazine salesmen in the last year and a half, officials said.

For commercial solicitors - those going door to door selling goods - each salesman must undergo a background check and be issued an ID card from the city.

All solicitors - both commercial and noncommercial - must obtain a permit from the city before going door to door.

The new law also establishes a "do not knock" registry that allows residents to sign up requesting that solicitors stop visiting their homes.

The latest solicitation ordinance also carves out an exception for people with religious and political purposes.