Claremont Insider: February 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

Steven Llanusa

We've always thought the election of Steven Llanusa to the Claremont Unified School District Board to be a little queer. Here was a guy, out of nowhere, who all of a sudden had the support of lots and lots of people in Claremont, seemingly centered around the remnants of Sam Pedroza's failed 2005 city council campaign.

We know that early in his campaign he had absolutely no clue about some of the sources of revenue for the district nor the financial issues facing it. His kickoff was filled with generalities, vague statements, and Apple Pie.

And yet.

As election day approached, the most popular yardsign grouping was Jeanne Hamilton, Mary Caenepeel, and...Steve Llanusa. As we recall, more money went to Llanusa (from the usual suspects) than went to either the incumbent, Hamilton, or long-time-toiler-in-the-public-school-vineyard Caenepeel. In the end, there were hundreds of votes--make that 2000 votes--of daylight between the group of Hamilton, Caenepeel, and Llanusa, and the out-of-the-money finisher Kevin Arnold.
The Claremont 400 had scored again. But who did they put on the school board in Steven Llanusa?

Apparently someone whose judgment is at least open to question.

For example, in 2006 Llanusa and one of his children seem to have scoured his Claraboya neighborhood removing American flags and tossing them into a dumpster in Fontana. Nice headline in the Courier on September 9, 2006: "DA forgoes criminal filing for Steven Llanusa" That's the kind of headline you want to see about your school board member. Well, we guess its better than, "School Board member Steven Llanusa charged in vandalism incident."

And now we read in the Daily Bulletin
that Llanusa has apparently annoyed some of his handlers by the frequency and tone of his emails to Superintendent David Cash. Cash decided to be the sole conduit of information between the Board and the District Staff, and then stopped answering Llanusa's emails. The School Board had an illegal closed-session discussion of the matter on February 12. From the Bulletin article,

Board communication with the superintendent was discussed in closed session Feb. 12, Llanusa said.

Hamilton expressed concern Monday that Llanusa publicly discussed an issue that was addressed in closed session.

She said there had been no discussion of censuring Llanusa for the action, but she also said "I suppose it's possible."

We don't know that there are any heroes in this story. We do know that there are echoes of the epic McHenry-Southard battles circa 2004-5. So far, though, we are unaware of any district employee alleging hostile work environment, harassment, theft, hurt feelings, or other Bad Acts. History repeats itself, the saying goes, first as tragedy, then as farce.

Maybe this is an example of running with the other lemmings. You might go over the cliff.

And can anyone think of one positive contribution that Llanusa has made?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Village Expansion - Growing Pains?


The Claremont Courier had an article in yesterday's edition reporting that a couple of the new Village Expansion shops not faring well because of the lack of foot traffic. The shops are on 2nd St. across from the Laemmle Theater and both are moving because of the lack of business.

The Courier article, by Tony Krickl,focuses on the owner of Talley's for Men, a men's clothing store:

Michael Talaee was so excited about the new Village Expansion project that he was the first business owner to sign a lease.

But ever since his high-end clothing shop, Tally for Men, opened in late November, Mr. Talaee has regretted that decision. Citing numerous complaints with the management, he has already called it quits on his 5-year lease and is planning to move out of the Village Expansion.

The problems began when he was asked to have his store open by September 2007. Excited to get started ahead of the holiday rush, Mr. Talaee set up his shop, purchased his merchandise and was ready to go on time.

Unfortunately, nothing around him was open yet. Tally for Men sits on Second Street, just west of Indian Hill Boulevard. Due to delays on landscaping and lighting by the city and the developer, Second Street did not open up until late November.

“I missed out on a lot of exposure,” Mr. Talaee said. “Christmas came and went, and we missed out.”

Mr. Talaee also believes he was misled about the structure of the project as stated in his lease. He accepted the location along Second Street under the impression that two restaurants would have entrances and windows facing his business, which he felt would draw in a steady stream of foot traffic.

A moving-sale sign hangs outside of Tally for Men on Second Street in the Village Expansion. After only five months at the location, owner Michael Talaee is looking to relocate his business.

One of those restaurants, Le Pain Quotient, only has a kitchen door facing Second Street, while the other is not yet open for business.
“With the way the project is built, this street is like a back alley,” Mr. Talaee said. “Nobody ever walks by. All you see is delivery trucks driving by.”

The article goes on to say that Talaee plans on suing the Village Expansion developer, The Tolkin Group. Krickl also indicates that Celley's, a women's clothing boutique, is relocating to a different site in the Expansion.

We've heard similar complaints about the lack of foot traffic, both in the Expansion and in the Packing House.

Affordable Housing News

The Claremont City Council Tuesday night approved the formation of a seven-person task force to find affordable housing sites in town.

According to Will Bigham's article in today's Daily Bulletin, Mayor Peter Yao has appointed Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Taylor and Councilmember Sam Pedroza to an ad hoc committee to make the selections.

The task force decision passed 4-1 with Councilmember Corey Calaycay voting against it because he wanted to see a larger task force. Councilmember Linda Elderkin apparently got passed over by Queen Ellen for the selection committee. The city staff report for the issue had indicated that Elderkin and Pedroza were interested in doing the selections.

All of this means that the task force will be hand-picked by Queen Ellen. It's difficult to imagine Pedroza standing up to the Queen's bullying in the selection process, especially when it's just the two of them with no backup for Pedroza.

Assuming Taylor has her way, expect no people who opposed the Base Line Rd. affordable housing project to be appointed. You will see plenty of League of Women Voter and Claremont 400 members on the task force. Taylor may appoint her former campaign manager, Helaine Goldwater (one of the League members most responsible for the Base Line Rd. mess) so that Goldwater can chair the thing and make sure that everyone toes the 400's line.

Given the personalities involved, we half expect the task force to find that there are no alternative sites to the Base Line Rd. project and to continue to push that site. One thing's for sure - with Taylor running the show, whatever comes out of the process will be a square peg jammed into a round hole, same as before.

If you are interested in applying for the task force, Claremont's website has applications online. The deadline for applications is Tuesday, March 11th.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Kimya Dawson Concert Notes

David Allen caught Kimya Dawson's appearance at the Claremont Rhino Record store on Sunday and has a post about the performance:

The store was cleared of customers before some 400 fans, many of them under 30, were allowed inside for the free show. It was said to be the best-attended in-store performance in Rhino's 34-year history. Most of the audience hung on Dawson’s every utterance and seemed thrilled to be there.

In a rarity for an in-store show, Dawson was onstage for a full 90 minutes, performing 18 tunes in her sing-song, stream-of-consciousness style.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Claremont Artist Passes

The Daily Bulletin reports that Claremont artist Milford Zornes passed away at his home Sunday.

Zornes recently celebrated his 100th birthday, and the Square i Gallery on Yale Ave. just finished a retrospective show of Zornes' watercolors. You can also see a fine example of Zornes' work at the Claremont Post Office, where a WPA mural he finished in 1937 adornes the walls. The post office is located at 140 N. Harvard Ave.

Bulletin reporter Diana Sholley's article today says that there is no service planned and that the family considers Zornes 100th birthday celebration last month a fitting tribute to his life.

A Blast From the Past

A reader sent in a link to a Desert Sun article about the city of Indio facing a $1.66 million budget shortfall that could force Indio to delay a number of projects, including park improvements and a new senior center.

Former Claremont City Manager Glenn Southard is now applying his special ministrations to Indio as the city manager there. Those of you familiar with Southardian tactics know the playbook's awfully thin and predictable.

Taking a cue from Claremont circa 1990, Indio is considering some possible remedies, the Sun reported:


Items up for discussion:

Creation of a city-wide landscape and lighting assessment district that could generate about $3.7 million annually.

Voter approval of bonds to pay for public safety buildings, parks and a library.

Asking voters to ratify a 2 percent increase to the Utility User Tax implemented by the City Council in 1992 without the vote of the people.


We're going to guess an assessment won't fly in Indio, depending on how organized the opposition is. If Indio property owners want to know how easy it is to defeat an assessment district vote, they might want to study Claremont's 2006 Parks and Pasture Assessment, which lost 44% to 56% despite being pushed the Claremont 400.

If he goes the assessment route, Southard has a few tricks up his sleeve. We'll wait to see what Southard's play is before commenting on those tricks.


Indio is not alone in its potential fiscal problems. However, unlike other communities that have played the frugal ant in trying to plan for the current economic downturn, Indio, with the exception of Councilman Mike Wilson, has apparently been happily playing the grasshopper's fiddle, the Desert Sun article indicated:

"Everybody is feeling the pain," said Councilman Mike Wilson, who is not surprised by the city's financial state.

He was the only council member who voted against adoption of the 2007/2008 fiscal year budget because of concern over sales tax and building/permit fees revenue projections.

"My very concern and comment (then) was that revenues were over exaggerated," he said.

The budget approved in June 2007 anticipated a $1.57 million increase in sales tax and now it appears as though the fiscal year will end with almost $1.8 million less than expected in sales tax.

"They made a huge jump in what they projected in the budget that didn't come to fruition," he said.

Monday, February 25, 2008

One More Meeting

We missed one city meeting in our list yesterday.

Claremont's Traffic and Transportation Commission will be discusss the city's proposed residential parking permit policy at the commission's regular meeting this Thursday, February 28th, at 7pm.

The city staff's report, by City Engineer Craig Bradshaw, is posted on the city's website.

Back on Valentine's Day, we wrote about our take on the proposal.

Lessons for Claremont

The Foothill Cities Blog has been following the story about the discovery in Pomona of the body of a woman who had been reported missing in Covina. On Friday, February 15th, Eileen Ponce-Orta's van was discovered parked illegally in downtown Pomona, not far from the Pomona police station.

The problem came when the Pomona police department notified the missing woman's family without searching the vehicle first. So it was the family who actually found the woman's body in the back of the van covered with blankets when they came to pick up the vehicle.

Pomona Mayor Norma Torres, who may be running for the 61st State Assembly District seat, called for an investigation of the Pomona PD's handling of the incident. Pomona Police Chief Joe Romero explained in newspaper accounts that the police did not believe they had legal reason to search the van and had also contacted the Covina police department before calling Ponce-Orta's family.

Chief Romero was gracious enough to email the FC Blog a response to some of the questions that had been raised, and Romero's statements helped clarify his department's perspective on the case.

Romero managed to defuse any concerns about problems between himself and Mayor Torres over the matter while at the same time supporting the officer who discovered the van and displaying concern and empathy for Ponce-Orta's family. In doing so, he avoided inflaming the situation.

Claremont would do well to take notes on crisis management from Chief Romero. For instance, the 1999 Irvin Landrum incident could have been handled very differently in order to avoid creating the community upheaval that then-City Manager Glenn Southard did.

And last year's Paystubgate, an incident that was wholly the result of City Attorney Sonia Carvalho's overreaction without properly investigating all of the facts of the situation, would have fizzled harmlessly had Carvalho acted properly and responsibly.

But, here we do things the Claremont Way, or, as we said during Paystubgate, "Ready, Fire, Aim!"

Sunday, February 24, 2008

This Week's Meetings

COUNCIL CLOSED SESSION MEETING

The Claremont City Council will be holding another of its closed session meetings this Tuesday at 5:15pm.

The meeting will be in the City Council chambers at City Hall, which is located at 207 Harvard Ave. in the Claremont Village. As usual, the closed session will precede the regular council meeting.

The closed meeting will allow the council to discuss the possible purchase of the Golden State Water company's water utility for Claremont. Price and terms will be the topic of the discussion.


COLLEGE PARK LIGHTING

And the winning bid is... Musco Lighting Company of Muscatine, Iowa.

At least, that's city staff's recommendation to the city council this week for the 6 new sports lighting standards at baseball field #2 in Claremont's College Park. That award of the lighting bid is on the agenda for Tuesday's regular council meeting, which begins at 6:30pm.

No surprise here. Not that Musco's products are necessarily the best or most cost effective. Mayor Peter Yao had asked staff for an comparative analysis of the Musco lights with other products, including those manufactured by a company called Softlite Lighting Systems, but staff gave their usual thumb to the nose response to Yao's request for information.

Musco is the big dog among sports light manufacturers, but control of market share does not necessarily mean that any company produces the best product - just ask Mac users if a PC is a better computer.

Musco's size and sales force does enable them to provide certain services like "expert" lighting studies for project environmental impacts reports, such as the one they did for Claremont's Padua Park. It isn't really surprising that once Musco's experts make their findings, that their lights find their way into city parks.

Musco's sports lights, by the way, may not necessarily be the best product to fit Claremont's new sustainabilty push, but of course the people pushing that initiative, such as Planning Commissioner Bob Tener, have remained typically silent on what has to be the city's single largest electrical expense.

The staff report states that Musco was the lowest "responsive and responsible" bidder. Only one other company, Qualite-Mark V Design, was listed as having bid on the College Park lights.

Qualite-Mark was actually lower than the Musco bid ($47,856.65 vs. $50,132.74), but apparently Qualite-Mark ranked lower in responsiveness and/or responsibility. Or so says the staff report by Claremont Human Services Director Jeff Porter. No word on how the Musco lights compare to other products in terms of spillover, glare or energy efficiency, all things that one would think the city's sustainability task force ought to be concerned about.

If you are curious about this, ask about it Tuesday night. You're sure to get that special, assuring Porter fast talk. Don't expect any real answers though.

Musco's sports lighting standards do offer one thing that other companies' products apparently don't: They can be used for cellular phone towers. Look for more of these things in Claremont city parks in the future.


AFFORDABLE HOUSING TASK FORCE

The city's affordable housing task force is also on the council's agenda for Tuesday. The task force's job will be to identify possible affordable housing sites now that the Base Line Rd. project is on hold.

The staff report on the subject is signed by Tony Witt and Brian Desatnik, two holdovers from the Glenn Southard-era in Claremont. Witt and Desatnik say that Councilmembers Linda Elderkin and Sam Pedroza want to be on the two-person Ad Hoc Committee to interview prospective task force members.

Don't be surprised Elderkin and Pedroza to freeze out people who had been opposed to the Base Line Rd. project and to load up on their cronies. We suspect the two haven't learned a thing about coalition building and want to punish the Base Line Rd. project opponents by not allowing them a voice on the new task force.

Now, tell us if this makes any sense to you. A faulty project is pushed by a group of Claremont insiders (small "i") who refused to listen to any voices outside their little group. The project fails as predicted. An ad hoc committee is then formed and stocked with the same people responsible for the initial, failed project to the exclusion of alternate, more reasonable voices.

Does anyone see another trainwreck coming?


COUNCIL BUDGET WORKSHOP

Finally, for you policy wonks out there, the City Council will hold a special budget workshop on Wednesday, February 27th, at 6:30pm. The meeting will be held in the college room of the Alexander Hughes Community Center at 1700 N. Danbury Rd.

You can read more in the meeting's agenda packet.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Annals of Healthcare

The front page of today's Los Angeles Times leads off with an article about a $9.37 million arbitration award to a plaintiff in a case represented by Claremont attorney William Shernoff.

Shernoff's client, Patsy Bates, had her medical insurance coverage cancelled in January, 2004, by her insurer, Health Net, while she was in the middle of a course of chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Health Net's actions left Bates stuck with $129,000 in medical expenses. The Times article reported that internal Health Net documents uncovered in the arbitration proceedings revealed that Health Net had established bonuses to employees for meeting policy cancellation quotas.

According to the Times piece, $8.4 million of the award was for punitive damages, and the amount award was apparently very unusual for an arbitration proceeding, which generally tends to favor the health insurer (that's why companies like Kaiser, for instance, make arbitration in the event of a dispute a condition of their policy as opposed to a civil trial).

The Times has posted a PDF of Bates' arbitration award on their website.

The article indicates that Health Net has placed a moratorium on cancellations and that other health insurers may be following suit:

When Health Net dropped her in January 2004, Bates was stuck with more than $129,000 in medical bills and was forced to stop chemotherapy for several months until she found a charity to pay for it.

Health Net Chief Executive Jay Gellert ordered an immediate halt to cancellations and told The Times that the company would be changing its coverage applications and retraining its sales force.

"I felt bad about what happened to her," he said. "I feel bad about the whole situation."

Gellert said he would move quickly to "give people the confidence that they can count on their policy." Specifically, he pledged to stop all cancellations until an external review process could be established to approve all cancellations.

Other insurers were considering changing their own practices. A spokeswoman for WellPoint Inc., which operates Blue Cross of California, the state's largest for-profit insurer, said the company was in favor of such an idea. Blue Shield of California declined to comment.

Until Friday, the companies had uniformly defended cancellations, saying they were necessary to hold down costs by weeding out people who may have failed to disclose pre-existing conditions on applications for coverage. They say cancellations happen infrequently.

The judge's strong denunciation of the way Health Net carried out Bates' cancellation and big money award stunned and pleased regulators and patient advocates.

The Times also noted that Shernoff has filed a proposed class action suit on behalf of 1,600 people whose health insurance was cancelled over the past four years. Shernoff is a partner with Shernoff Bidart Darras in Claremont, a firm that has successfully handled many high-profile bad faith lawsuits against insurance companies.

Free Music Sunday

Singer songwriter Kimya Dawson, who performed several songs that were part of the soundtrack for the film "Juno," will appearing Sunday at Rhino Records in the Claremont Village at 3pm.

Dawson, along with Adam Green, started the indie group the Moldy Peaches. The Moldy Peaches' "Anyone Else But You" was one of the songs used in "Juno," and it was the second Oscar-nominated film to use "Anyone Else." The documentary "Murderball," about quadriplegics playing rugby in the 2004 Paraplegic Olympics also used the song.

Kimya Dawson at Rhino Records
235 Yale Ave.
(909) 626-7774

Admission Free


The Moldy Peaches' song "Anyone Else But You" from the movie "Juno," performed by Ellen Page and Michael Cera. Uploaded to YouTube by Fox Searchlight Pictures
:


Friday, February 22, 2008

Bright College Days

The possibilities for a new Alma Mater for Pomona College are endless. We find ourselves favoring one based on the current rap (or is it hip-hop?) idiom. We are sure all the college contituencies could get down with it. The tone might seem a little harsh at first with the references to "Niggaz", Hos, Mutha****a's, S**t, Phat--stuff like that. We admit we haven't thought through the "implications" (See this TSL article, quotation of Clio Beauvoir, third to last paragraph), and we further admit that we don't entirely comprehend the nuances of all of the lyrics, but perhaps "School Spirit" by Kanye West (lyrics linked here) (YouTube audio linked here)would provide a suitable beginning for the discussion.

Or perhaps in a somewhat subtler motif, Pomona could just adopt the lyrics of "Bright College Days" by satirist Tom Lehrer. While a few of the references could use updating, we think it possible these lines still capture the desired spirit,

Bright College Days, oh carefree days that fly
To thee we sing, with our glasses raised on high.
Let's drink a toast, as each of us recalls
Ivy-covered professors, in ivy-covered halls...

and ending,

...Soon we'll be out amid the cold world's strife.
Soon we'll be sliding down the razor blade of life.
But as we go our sordid separate ways
We shall ne'er forget thee, thou golden college days.

(spoken, with feeling)
Hearts full of youth.
Hearts full of truth.
Six parts gin to one part vermouth.
(This link to YouTube provides a rendition of the Lehrer song sung by Lehrer himself. Ignore the video and listen in.)

Claremont PD News

SATURDAY NIGHT PATROL

Not that there's really any time to be drinking and driving, but tomorrow evening would be especially bad in Claremont. So says the San Bernardino Sun.

The Claremont Police Department will have its patrol officers on the lookout for drunk drivers from 8pm tomorrow night until 2am Sunday morning.

Be forewarned.

* * *

DENNY'S, AGAIN

The bathroom Denny's at 820 S. Indian Hill Blvd. in Claremont is in the news again. This time it's the men's room that's making headlines.

An article in the Daily Bulletin by reporter Wes Woods II said that a man was detained by Claremont police after a Denny's employee saw the man covered with blood going into the restaurant's bathroom at around 4:30am Wednesday, February 20th.

According to the article, the man claimed the blood was from an animal:

The man, whose name was not released, later claimed to have killed an animal and thrown it in a nearby trash receptacle, though his story varied between having killed a cow and a pig.

"The subject walked in and out of restaurant and the bathroom and changed clothes several times," Vander Veen said. "Officers observed a trail of blood coming from the suspect's truck up to the restaurant, but there was no blood on the suspect. We're deducing he cleaned himself up in a restroom before officers arrived."

The man is being kept on a 72-hour psychiatric hold, said Claremont police Lt. Shelly Vander Veen.

Claremont police apparently located a dumpster at the Von's shopping center at Base Line Rd. and Mills Ave. where they found was seemed to be animal remains.

You may remember last month a woman tried to set fire to herself in the women's bathroom at the same restaurant.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Law Doesn't Concern Itself with Trifles

Those wacky college deans.

First, Dean of Students Debra "Debbie Downer" Wood of Scripps College willfully--or not--misinterpreted a flyer advertising a party at Claremont McKenna College, finding all kinds of racism and sexism therein (here, and here).

Then, in a bit we did not cover, but which was commented on here, Dean of Students Jeanne Noda at Harvey Mudd College got all exercised over a comment written at her college on a white board, to wit, "Hillary is a foxy lesbian".

Now, in a trifecta (but always remembering there are still two more colleges to go), Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum at Pomona College waxes earnest about what she sees as the very possibly incorrect origins of the Pomona College Alma Mater (circa 1910):

The nut graff of her memo, reproduced below, is this:

Learning that the origins of our Alma Mater--a song that many of us cherish, and one we sing at Orientation, Commencement, and numerous other times--is rooted in a minstrel show that was held at the College is very upsetting.
Really.

Is there some kind of chromosome for over-reaction that all college deans are required to possess? Or do the deans see their jobs as firewall busybodies protecting ever and ever small groups from ever and ever slighter slights? Don't they have better things to do with their time?

It's a losing battle to take on college students in this way. They are too shrewd in manipulation and we think there is at least a possibility that is going on here.

We remember a challenge taken on by a sociology class of ours in college. See if you can make the professor lecture from the corner of the room with one leg in the wastebasket--that was the idea. We never did get her leg in the wastebasket, but by paying rapt attention whenever she approached the corner and by shuffling papers and losing interest whenever she departed from it, we had her far into that corner most of the time.

Don't these over-educated, over-reactive professionals know when they are being played?

Click on Image to Enlarge

Claremont Colleges Stereotypes

We were on the campuses over the weekend trying to keep our fingers on the pulse of the Young Generation. As Yogi Berra said, "You can see a lot just by observing". While lots of students were wearing college T's, sweats, and hoodies, we saw these examples of self-referential commentary:

Pomona College: "The Ivy League Called, They Want Their Pretension Back"

Scripps College, the Women's College (and this shirt antedates the recent episode of "Foot-in-Mouth" disease suffered by the Dean of Students): "Its not PMS, We're Just Indignant"

Claremont McKenna College: "Love Fades, but Money Is Forever"

Harvey Mudd College (from the women's viewpoint): "The Odds are Good, but the Goods are Odd"

Pitzer College: "Why Go to College When You Can Go to Pitzer?"

We understand that these shirts may have originated as a fund-raising tool for one of the college clubs. Our rendition may not be exact; we weren't taking notes and are doing it from memory. We would welcome corrections and additions of any memorable phrases we may have missed. We'll print those that are printable.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Housekeeping

At the request of a few readers, we've appended our Claremont Colleges blogroll in the left hand margin. We've also moved the colleges up the list.

Our Claremont Colleges additions include:

  • A link to Claremont McKenna College's Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum website. You can get lists of speakers and make reservations on the site.

  • The Claremont Port Side, a newsmagazine that says of itself:

    "The Claremont Port Side is progressive magazine dedicated to advancing debate at the Claremont Colleges with thoughtful insights and reporting."

  • The Compass, a blog run by The Port Side.

  • The Claremont Independent, a print and online news source covering the five colleges:

    "The Claremont Independent is a 5-C monthly newspaper that covers everything from campus issues to international politics to entertainment reviews. We seek to engage our campuses with a journalistic eye and act as a catalyst for discourse on a wide array of subjects.

    We do not receive funding from any 5-C school and are thusly independent in our funding as well as our partisianship. We are unabashedly conservative but are not beholden to any party in particular."

  • Stagafling, a CMC blog:

    "One Humble CMCer's View of Academia in Claremont."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Area News

There's lots of local news in the Daily Bulletin and the Los Angeles Times to pass on today:


AFFORDABLE HOUSING OPTIONS

Will Bigham reports today in the Bulletin that the problem with affordable housing in Claremont isn't funding - the thing that killed the Base Line Rd. project. Rather, Bigham's article says the sticking point is lack of options in a built-out city.

Bigham quotes Claremont commercial realtor and former city commissioner Nick Quackenbos and city of Claremont Housing and Redevelopment Manager Brian Desatnik in his article.

Desatnik, especially, has not been the most reliable source on these matters, and he has seemed more an instrument of the people pushing the Base Line Rd. project than a neutral bureaucrat seeking the best possible solution. We'd take anything he had to say about affordable housing with a grain of salt.


GOLD LINE STILL DEAD

The Bulletin has and article by Fred Ortega reporting that the MTA Gold Line extension from Pasadena to Claremont remains stuck in unfunded limbo, though it seems that most of the cities along the proposed route are going forward with their respective transit center developments:

"It puts a major portion (of these projects) up in the air with respect to economic viability," [Azusa City Manager Fran Delach] said, adding that there is about $40 million to $50 million in development near his city's other planned station, on Citrus Avenue, as part of the massive Rosedale housing development.

Despite Metro's decision, Delach said his city is proceeding as planned in the hopes that the project will eventually be built.

"We are obviously concerned that the projects will suffer (from the delays), but we are going to continue because it is obvious the Gold Line is drastically needed along the 210 corridor," Delach said, adding that the Metrolink line along the 10 Freeway corridor has been extremely successful and should be replicated in the north Valley.

"Frankly, I don't understand what is wrong with the MTA," he said.

Officials in Monrovia and Glendora, which also have development planned around their respective stations, vowed to push forward with their projects.

HONKING TICKETS RESCINDED

Will Bigham also tells us that Claremont is rescinding those traffic tickets handed out by the Claremont Police Department last month to people honking in support of anti-war protesters at Indian Hill Blvd. and Arrow Hwy.:
"There's the issue of the Vehicle Code, about excessive honking, but there's also the issue of freedom of expression," said Stephen Patten, one of the ticketed drivers.

Mayor Peter Yao said the ticketing sent "the wrong message to the community."

Cooper and City Manager Jeff Parker met and decided to void the tickets, because "we felt the people who were honking weren't doing it intentionally to violate the law."

BODY RECOVERED IN VAN NEAR POMONA

The LA Times had an article today about the family of a woman reported missing in Covina. The family received a call from Pomona police telling them that the woman's van had been found parked illegally near the Pomona police station.

When the family went to pick up the van, which had not been checked by police, they were shocked to discover the woman's body in the van. The family was naturally upset with the Pomona PD for not having searched the van, which was found with its windows rolled down.

Pomona Police Chief Joe Romero defended the department, and Pomona Mayor Norma Torres also weighed in, according to the article:
Pomona Police Chief Joe Romero defended his department, saying officers had followed proper protocol. When the van was located, Romero said officers were sent to inspect the vehicle. After running a check of the license plate, they learned it was part of a missing person's report filed in Covina.

He said the officers called Covina police and were told to release the van to the family or it would be impounded, Romero said.

"There is no way the officers could have known" there was a dead body inside, Romero said. "There's no mistake on our part. We have no right to go inside the vehicle."

But the victim's family disagreed. They said that because Ponce-Orta was missing and in possible trouble, police had an obligation to conduct a thorough search of the van.

Pomona Mayor Norma Torres said she wants to know more about the department's protocols in dealing with such cases.

"It's certainly upsetting to hear, and my heart goes out to the family, who had to discover the body," Torres said. "I have a lot of questions that require follow-up."

Pomona's Superdelegate

When she's not busy endorsing phony Medal of Honor winners or feuding with Pomona Police Chief Joe Romero, Pomona Mayor Norma Torres is a Democratic Party superdelegate pledged to Barack Obama.

Thanks to the Foothill Cities Blog for finding that nugget.


Goings On

If you have nothing better to do, head on over to the Claremont Public Library at 208 Harvard Ave. across from City Hall tonight at 6pm.

The city will be holding one of its neighborhood meetings there. The city's website says that although the meetings are for particular neighborhoods, in this case the Claremont Village, anyone can attend.

The two council representatives tonight will be Mayor Peter Yao and Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Taylor. The two are hosting the Village Neighborhood Meeting because those residents are the ones they see as their core constituency.

Come on out and see Taylor in a rare amiable performance. For the most part, she comes off better in smaller groups. Not too small though - one-on-one, with no witnesses, she can be a bear. Look for Taylor (AKA, Queen Ellen) to take over the meeting from Yao. She hates to defer to anyone.

City Council Neighborhood Forum -
Claremont Public Library, 6:00 PM
208 Harvard Avenue
(909) 399-5460

Monday, February 18, 2008

Send in the Clowns - UPDATED

"This really is not a circus."

- Claremont Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Taylor, speaking at last week's City Council meeting during a discussion on the Base Line Rd. affordable housing project.


WRONG. Queen Ellen had it exactly backwards. This and every contentious issue that's come before the Claremont City Council since at least 1988 is a full-on three-ring circus.

Call it Cirque du Claremonsters.

We've called this thing a train wreck before. We just didn't know it was a circus train.

Saturday's Claremont Courier had an article by reporter Tony Krickl about last Tuesday's City Council meeting. As the article noted, the Claremonsters are not content to let the matter die and move on. [UPDATE: The Courier article is online now.]

Led by Ellen Taylor, Claremont League of Women Voters president and Claremont Police Commissioner Barbara Musselman (aka, Miss Personality), and Claremont Human Services Commissioner Andy Winnick, the increasingly small faction of Claremont 400 members backing the Base Line Rd. project were arguing that the city should question the legality of the L.A. County decision to not allow county funding of affordable housing projects within 500 feet of a major highway - a move that effectively killed the Base Line Rd. site as a viable affordable housing location.

During the meeting, Queen Ellen ordered her loyal retainer, city attorney Sonia Carvalho, to see if the L.A. County Community Development Commission (CDC) violated California's Brown Act sunshine law in making that decision. Taylor and company also hinted a dark conspiracy of county representatives who wanted to thwart the Claremonsters' affordable housing plans.

Such is the Claremont 400's outsized self-image of their town that they imagine that a county of over 10 million people would choose to scheme and skulk around in backrooms in order to single out one very small town of 35,000 people on the county's far eastern fringe.

The same group headed by Taylor has made similar arguments regarding the USC School of Medicine study that was published in the Lancet medical journal last year. That study formed the basis of the county funding policy change. Using Taylor's twisted reasoning, the USC researchers, using their evil prescience, knew 11 years ago that they would have to conduct their study in order to put a halt to the Base Line Rd. project.

Taylor, Musselman, and Winnick would have us believe that the researchers then falsely obtained grant money and 11,000 test subjects in order to justify their spurious findings, which they then handed over to the L.A. County CDC to cut off the funding for the Base Line project.

All of this kooky thinking really explains many of the Claremonsters' past actions. They actually believe that Claremont is the center of the universe. No wonder Claremont Heritage's map of the town (pictured at left) seems to lack a proper sense of scale.

We've preached the need for humility before, and the affordable housing issue certainly illustrates how the absence of that quality causes us no end of trouble.

So, now, instead of focusing on finding a viable alternative for the project they say is vital to Claremont, Queen Ellen and her court want to spend staff time and resources proving their odd, conspiratorial theories, mostly because they cannot admit they were wrong.

Citizen Michael John Keenan had the best commentary on this red herring. Keenan and remarked on the Brown Act question. He brought up the City Council's closed session decision last year to spend $1 million from the city's General Fund reserve to make up for the $1 million state of California grant that was denied Claremont for the purchase of Johnson's Pasture.

Keenan was basically saying, "Claremonsters who live in glass houses...." You go, Michael!

Look for more silly council behavior in April, when Queen Ellen succeeds current Mayor Peter Yao.


* * *


There were more than a few notable absences at last Tuesday's meeting. Claremont 400 candidate-to-be, Planning Commissioner Bob Tener, has apparently gotten off the Base Line project train. No dummy he, Tener knows a dog when he sees one, and he no doubt doesn't want to be too closely associated with a loser. Wouldn't want to imperil your run at a council seat, would you, Bob?

The League of Women Voters point person on the Base Line project, Karen Vance, was also not at the meeting.


* * *

Saturday's Courier also carried a "My Side of the Line" op-ed piece by Courier editor Rebecca JamesCourie, who didn't mince words on the Base Line Rd. issue:

Let’s take the blinders off and direct staff to look for other viable locations. The old COURIER site certainly has our vote. Although we were loath to give it up, we consider the location to be ideal for affordable housing. Youngsters could walk to school, parents could walk to markets and the need for transportation would be minimal. Not to mention they would be right by the Metrolink to take them to other locations.

As far as the Baseline Road site is concerned, write the check! Please write the check, give it to the redevelopment agency and get on with it! Let the police department have their much-needed and larger facility. We have truly given this project too much of our time. It has become a political volleyball that has been tossed around for so long that it has become ridiculous. The idea of affordable housing is certainly relevant. Let’s make it workable.

Hear, hear! We would also add that if the city does go forward with a citizen's committee to look at alternatives to the Base Line Rd. project, they must take care to select a committee that includes people who were opposed to the Base Line Rd. project.

The Claremonsters have falsely claimed that the project opponents were NIMBYs (shorthand for Not In My Backyard). The 400 loves to pin the NIMBY label on anyone who questions one of their project. Now that the 400 have lost, though, they should forfeit the right to have exclusive control over the choice of an alternative. They screwed up the last one, what would lead us to believe they can be trusted to do any differently this time around?

Moreover, the equation the Claremonsters posit, opposition to the Base Line site = opposition to ANY affordable housing, is a lie. A number of Base Line opponents have expressed a desire to participate in the alternatives committee, and they should be welcomed into the process.

Let's see the 400 put their money where their mouths are. If the "process" is really fair and open, anyone who wants should be allowed to participate. Maybe then we can forestall the faulty decision-making that has plagued us for far too long.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Scanning the Blogosphere

The Los Angeles Times has new blog on its website. At 7'2" the new Times writer may be the world's tallest blogger and certainly holds the record for most career points scored in the National Basketball Association by a blog writer.

Former LA Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the author of the eponymous Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Blog, but don't dismiss Kareem' new endeavor as the self-serving ramblings of an ex-jock.

Kareem, who graduated with a degree in history from UCLA, devotes many of his posts to African-Amercian history, as he did with this recent piece on Charlotte Ray:

Charlotte E. Ray: Beyond the law

Sometimes there’s a heavy price to be paid for being an innovator. The greater the innovation, the greater the price to be paid. This is especially true for African-American women innovators, who not only braved the cruelty of racism, but also the harshness of sexism. How hard it must have been to come home after a long day facing racists, only to find the same hostile intolerance on the faces of men of your own race, even your own family. That’s how it was for Charlotte E. Ray (1850-1911), the first African-American female lawyer in the United States.

Ray was born in New York City to a father who was a minister and journalist, and a mother who partnered with her husband as conductors on the Underground Railroad. Getting a good education was important to Ray, so she attended one of the few schools that allowed women, the Institution for the Education of Colored Youth in Washington, D.C. Knowing that women had an even more difficult time being admitted to law school, she applied to Howard University as “C.E. Ray." She graduated in 1872 as a Phi Beta Kappa and passed her bar exam the same year. However, despite her ambition, discipline, courage, and intelligence, the first black female lawyer was unable to maintain a law practice.

She returned to New York City in 1879, and she became a teacher in the public schools as well as an activist with the National Women’s Suffrage Association and the National Women’s Suffrage Association. Eventually she married, moved to Long Island, and died at the age of 60 from bronchitis.

Maybe what makes Charlotte Ray especially admirable isn’t her historic milestone of being the first black female lawyer, but that in face of failure as a lawyer, she didn’t turn her back on the community that failed to support her dream, but renewed her commitment to making others' lives better. That is the definition of heroic.


Kareem, formerly known as Lew Alcindor, came west from New York City in 1966 to play for UCLA coach John Wooden, won three consecutive NCAA championships with UCLA and very well might have one a fourth if freshman had been allowed to play in those days. He went on to have a Hall of Fame career with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Lakers, winning six NBA championships and being named the league's Most Valuable Player six times.

Kareem's skyhook, which he could shoot with either hand, was nearly unstoppable, and he never seemed to get enough credit for his defense. A lot of the Showtime Laker fastbreaks in the 1980's were ignited by Kareem blocking an opponent's shot to a teammate. And, unlike former Laker centers Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem could make a free throw.

We still remember that Game Six of the 1988 NBA championship series against Detroit with the Lakers down by one point with 14 seconds left to play and Detroit up three games to two, Kareem getting fouled by Bill Laimbeer and then making two free throws to win the game and tie the series, which the Lakers went on to win in the seventh game.

During his playing career, Kareem was seen as aloof and sullen, and he had a somewhat distant relationship with the press, partly because he wouldn't be pigeonholed. After a fire destroyed his home in Bel-Air in 1983, we learned that he had a world-class jazz album collection that was lost, and that generated much sympathy for Kareem. Around that time the public's perception of him seemed to soften a bit and fans were much more willing to just let Kareem be himself rather than trying to make him fit some preconception of what he should be.

Kareem's post-NBA career has been nearly as interesting as his playing years. He has spent time as a volunteer coach in Whiteriver, Arizona, on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and wrote a book called "A Season on the Reservation" about his experiences there. He's also written several books on African-Amercian history.

Kareem reputation for aloofness may have cost him more than one head coaching position. The Wikipedia entry for him notes:

Many basketball observers, in addition to Abdul-Jabbar, believe that Kareem's reticence, whether through disdain for the press corps or simply because of introversion, contributed to the dearth of coaching opportunities offered to Kareem by the NBA. In his words, he said he had a mindset he could not overcome, and proceeded through his career oblivious to the effect his reticence may have had on his coaching prospects in the future. Kareem said: "I didn't understand that I also had affected people that way and that's what it was all about. I always saw it like they were trying to pry. I was way too suspicious and I paid a price for it [Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog]."

Kareem is currently a special assistant to the Lakers and has been credited with helping in the development of current Laker center Andrew Bynum.

One always associated a certain gracefulness with Kareem, lofting a skyhook or patrolling the lane to block a shot, and he has carried that grace into the rest of his life.

Leo Greene Memorial

The Daily Bulletin reports that a memorial for Leo Greene will be held this coming Friday, February 22nd, at 3pm the Claremont United Church of Christ.

The church is located at 233 W. Harrison. The Bulletin note announced that "In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the ALS Association, Greater Los Angeles Chapter, P.O. Box 565, Agoura Hills, CA 91376."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Is There a Problem Here?

Claremont's Three Forks Chop House (logo, left) has made a huge splash in the short time it has been open, serving exotic wild game, cuts and chops.

We are no experts on trademark and copyright law, but we wonder if there might not be storm clouds on the distant southeast horizon due to the similarity of name and business with the III Forks Steakhouse of Palm Beach Gardens (also Austin and Dallas)--logo, right.

Just wondering.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Expedition to Johnson's Pasture

An Alliterative Adventure

The planned parking prohibition on the upper streets of Claraboya (Klar-A-boya in the indigenous language) is reminiscent of the decades-ago closure by the Chinese of the direct route through Tibet to Mount Everest, forcing climbers to make a lengthy approach through Nepal.

Now, the City of Claremont, headed by Politburo Chief Peter Sunway Yao (Chairman Yao) will likely close off the routes for the most direct ascent to Johnson's Pasture. This has the nature-loving world scrambling. How will they get to Johnson's Pasture without aerobic effort? What will happen to the formerly-clandestine moonlight hikes? Where will the founding members of the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy conduct their private and mystic rituals?

Heretofore, intrepid mountaineers would approach Johnson's Pasture via the direct-aid route up the South Wall to the South Col. The primitive road system of Klar-A-boya would provide a steep but usually-reliable path where the teams could park their Land Rovers for the final pitch to the Col.

Click on Image to Enlarge



Now, however, mountaineers will have to establish Base Camp in the flatlands and make a long, dry approach march up the mighty Cobal, fording many rivers, before switching back and edging along the exposed and precipitous slopes hurtling to the depths of Suzanne's Couloir. After the "Long Traverse", Camp One is established on the divide between Suzanne's Couloir and Burbank Canyon.

From Camp One, a steep route grades inexorably upward ever upward to the knife-edge ridge and High Camp and a well-earned rest. Many is the climber reaching this point who has said, "I've had enough!" and turned back to comfort and safety.


But our Johnson's Pasture explorers are made of sterner stuff, and they proceed generally south along the ridge keeping the mighty East Buttress to the left, before coming out in the verdant mead of exotic grasses dotted with loden stands of non-native trees that is Johnson's Pasture.

A wonderful view is the traveler's reward. Don't forget to see Chi Cwm in the southeast corner of the pasture. While you are there, be sure to regard Worley's Waterway, tumbling downward ever downward from Johnson's Pasture to the east and south, and in season watering Thompson Creek Concrete Drainage Ditch amid a spray of debris and trash. The Geographer in our group may point out that the South Chute drains much of Johnson's Pasture along the west edge of Klar-A-boya and waters--well--it waters the same Thompson Creek Concrete Drainage Ditch but further downstream, near the corner of Webb School. These waters remain safely in concrete, adding nothing to the water table, until being deposited in the San Gabriel River above Whittier Narrows. A little of the water falling on the far west of Johnson's Pasture makes its way into Live Oak Canyon where it does its small part to enhance the water supply--of La Verne.

The fortunate wanderer may catch a glimpse at the first dagger of dawn, or as the sun softly sets, of the down- and fleece-clad she-priests of the Conservancy leading a small group to the highest hill of the Pasture. There, where the coarse grass lays down before the wind, we see a pillar of dust rise on the gray breeze and the soul of some departed solves silently into the firmament.

We quietly follow the narrow tread back to High Camp, reflecting on these many matters.

The trail down to Base Camp can normally be made by a healthy person in less than a day, and it is with a heavy heart but with keen anticipation of another trek that we leave this natural Paradise, having seen many Wonderful Things.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Punish the Innocent, Reward the Guilty: The Claremont Way

No Parking

Anyone with business downtown, or near the Colleges, knows that parking in certain areas of Claremont has reached infarct status. Because of the continued good planning decisions over the years, Village visitors commonly park as far away as College Avenue as do visitors to the Pomona campus, CMC, Scripps, and the Graduate School blocks to the north. We wonder how many gallons of gasoline are wasted circling, say, City Hall, trying to find a place to light. Or how many cars circumnavigate Honnold Library several times before parking over near 8th and College and walking blocks to their business on one of the campuses.

Part of the City response is to step up enforcement of parking time limitations. City Manager Jeff Parker, in a recent "City Manager Update", cheerily reports, "This past month [December] the new parking enforcement officer issued almost 600 parking tickets." ...And "Happy Holidays" to you, too.

We heard from a prominent Village businessman, "...and you have that Nazi [his word, not ours] handing out parking tickets to our customers like candy. I saw her write four in three minutes..."

We don't mind city government doing its part to relieve congestion; what we do mind is city government spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars--or maybe even millions of dollars--failing to do so; and that is what has happened.

Now we read (see page 2 of the link) that "It is anticipated that staff will be reviewing the possible implementation of residential permit parking in the following areas:

+Via Santa Catarina, Via Montevideo, and Highpoint Drive
+Streets adjacent to the Claremont Colleges
+Oberlin Avenue and Cornell Avenue, near the Village Expansion

The Courier reports that permit-only parking is also being considered for Claremont High School, The BC Cafe, and Baughman Avenue located south of Foothill.

Can there be any doubt that the problems at the Colleges, in the Village, and near the Village Expansion are the direct result of the failure of City leaders and City Staff adequately to plan for and require adequate convenient parking? And now that Claremont is practically covered with buildings, we have the ever-helpful Ginger Elliott, Claremont's Intermeddler-in-Chief, writing, "Underground parking should be encouraged in the in the institutional zones where the demand cannot now be met." Thanks.

We do hear, though, that Pomona College might gut Big Bridges and put a parking structure inside, keeping the exterior facade to evoke the idea of an auditorium rather than some dull-witted, sterile, academic support structure similar to the ones they've recently plopped down on Sixth Street.

We would be remiss to end this without commenting on the surprising inclusion of "Via Santa Catarina, Via Montevideo, and Highpoint Drive. Via Santa Cata-where?

It turns out this is the street at the top of Claraboya where Suzanne Thompson, Beverly Speak, and their Claremont Wildlands Conservancy friends have been parking for years to visit Johnson's Pasture. Much of the curb was painted red some years ago, but parking is still allowed in front of the residences. According to the Courier article, "On Via Santa Catarina, near the entrance to Johnson's Pasture, residents have complained about overcrowding and vandalism to their vehicles from people entering the park." We recall several years ago the City "plan" for Johnson's Pasture parking consisted of an anemic five or six diagonal spaces on the very stub end of Mountain Avenue next to the Highpoint Condos. To our knowledge the City has no firm plan to provide any parking adjacent to the $11.5 million Johnson's Pasture property, and when the City finally does, the residents will look back on this time as "the good old days" in terms of traffic, noise, and vandalism at all hours of the day and night. Just go on a "used condom" patrol of the upper streets in Claraboya some Monday morning if you don't believe us.

Where the City has caused parking problems, such as the Village, near the Colleges, or even up in Claraboya, it now plans to go not to the guilty, such as the Colleges or its own planning staff, but rather to punish the innocent: those who merely committed the excusable sin of driving their car on their errands.

Torres for Assembly?

A reader sent us a link to California List, a political organization that describes itself as "a political network to elect Democratic women to California state government."

The organization's website posts the California List newsletter. The February 11th edition is interesting because it lists Pomona Mayor Norma Torres as a candidate for the California Assembly's 61st District, which includes Chino, Montclair, Ontario, and Pomona:

(Click to Enlarge)



Torres, you may recall, has had a rough past year, feuding with Pomona Police Chief Joe Romero and having Xavier Alvarez, the person she endorsed for the local Three Valleys Municipal Water District, arrested on a federal charge of falsely claiming to be Medal of Honor recepient.

Torres is seeking the seat currently held by Pomona's Nell Soto, who preceded Torres on the Pomona City Council (1986-1998) and on the State Assembly (1998-2000 and 2006-2008). From 2000 to 2006, Soto served as a State Senator.

Soto herself had some problems last June, when she was discovered missing in action because of health problems that were well-chronicled in The FC Blog.

Wikipedia's entry for Soto also had this to say about Soto's sick time in 2007:

Controversy

In 2007, Soto was not in Sacramento for 25 days while she was out sick, but collected a total of $22,032 as a per diem that is supposed to be for travel and living expenses - as long as the Legislature is not in recess for more than 3 days in a row. Soto's office defended her taking the money, claiming that she was entitled to it because she has to maintain an apartment in Sacramento and "The rent for the apartment wasn't waived by the landlord" while she was at home recuperating, as explained by her Chief of Staff, Paul Van Dyke.

If the California List information about Norma Torres' candidacy is true, perhaps Soto's health and/or age (she's 81) may account for her not running again since she is not being termed out from the Assembly.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Daily Bulletin: Baseline Project "Effectively Killed"


Just up on The Daily Bulletin website, under "Breaking News", a Will Bigham article on Tuesday night's City Council meeting. (We will try to keep the link current while the Bulletin moves it from "breaking news" to "regular news" to "stale news"; the paper will then put the article in the archive which will require an iffy search.) The article is well worth reading, and we tease it with the first few lines:

The Base Line Road affordable housing project was effectively killed Tuesday night by the City Council.

Council members voted 3-2 to end the city's efforts to find funding for the project, which faced an unexpected $1.5 million funding shortfall after it was disqualified last month from receiving $2.5 million in Los Angeles County funds.

The decision means that the city's exclusive negotiating agreement with the project developer will lapse, and the city will not apply for additional state grant money for the project.

The council instead decided to form a citizens "task force" to identify alternative sites in the city for affordable housing projects.

The affordable housing committee is expected to be formed following a discussion at the next City Council meeting, on Feb. 28, about how members should be selected. The task force's work would be ideally finished within two months... (read more here)

Taylor Bombs at Taylor Hall

The reviews are in, and Claremont Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Taylor was a bust in her audition for the mayor's job last night at Claremont's Taylor Hall.

Because current Mayor Peter Yao was not feeling well, Mayor Pro Tem Taylor ran last night's city council meeting in Yao's stead. The meeting's hot topic was the Base Line Rd. affordable housing project, which had appeared dead in the water after a change in Los Angeles County rules that barred the county from giving grant money to projects within 500 feet of a major highway.

The Base Line Rd. project is within that 500-foot limit and so is automatically disqualified from county funds - funds which the city had counted on to build the project. Now, the city is on the hook for $2.5 million or more if they want to go forward on Base Line Rd.

There were a number of speakers last night, though there seemed to be fewer than the last meeting last month when the council certified the project's environmental impact report (EIR).

It was particularly interesting to watch Taylor run the meeting, which she seemed to do with the efficiency and fairness of a banana republic dictator. For instance, Taylor continually enforced a 4-minute rule for people wanting to address the council on the issue. Claremont had relaxed that rule in recent years, opening the council meetings up to better and fuller public discussions of issues.

But it was clear last night that Taylor would seek to cut people off at the 4-minute mark, though she did allow last night's speakers to finish their comments after she interrupted them to make her point that their time was up and that she was through with them.

Queen Ellen doesn't seem to get that members of the public are equal to her, or if she does, she sure doesn't much like it.

Taylor also told the audience up front that their remarks were to be limited to discussion of the funding of the project. So, when opponents of the Base Line Rd. housing seemed to bring in other points, such as the problems raised by the EIR, Taylor repeated interrupted those speakers. In contrast, when people in support of the project, of which Taylor has been a champion, rambled or strayed, Taylor didn't interrupt those people because they were in favor of Taylor's position.

The meeting was streamed last night, so we should be able to get video up of some of Taylor's choicest moments, the worst of them being when she more than once told the audience that if they continued to clap or boo to express their feelings for a speaker's remarks, she would have the room cleared. Amazing.

As to the meeting itself, the council did not instruct the city staff to seek alternate financing means. Instead, they opted to create a task force to consider different sites. Let's hope the task force consists of a mix of people from throughout the community rather than being a reprise of the League of Women Voter's group that has given us this fiasco.

We'll try to have a more complete discussion of some of the nuances of last night's meeting as time permits. It was clear last night that a majority of the council - Councilmembers Corey Calaycay, Sam Pedroza, and Linda Elderkin - are for seeking alternatives, though Elderkin's comments focused more on the funding and her concern against using additional city money on the project.

Theatre Developer Chosen

The city of Claremont has decided on a developer to do the renovation and earthquake retrofitting for the Padua Hills Theatre, the Daily Bulletin reports.

Bulletin writer Will Bigham's article said:

Arteco Partners was selected unanimously last week by the Padua Hills Theatre Advisory Committee following interviews with Arteco and another company that submitted a bid.

Jerry Tessier, president and owner of Arteco, said he hopes to begin construction at the theater in December and finish the work within six months.

"We're excited, obviously," said Tessier, a Claremont resident. "Padua is an amazing historical complex. I think it's one of those hidden gems in Claremont."


The project will cost $5 million, and will include complete renovation of the theatre, which currently sits unused. Bigham's article also stated that some of the auxillary buildings will be turned into a bed-and-breakfast operation.

Chantrelle's, the catering company that presently services the theatre for weddings and other functions will continue as the caterer.

Checkpoint Friday

The Claremont Police Department will set up a sobriety checkpoint at an unknown location in town beginning Friday at 6pm until 2am Saturday, according to the Daily Bulletin.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

City Council Meeting Moved

Don't forget that tonight's Claremont City Council meeting has been moved to Taylor Hall at Claremont's Cahuilla Park, located at the corner of Indian Hill Blvd. and Scripps Dr. just north of Claremont High School. The meeting begins at 6:30pm.

Item number 12 on the agenda is the Base Line affordable housing project, which has had some interesting developments in the past week, leaving the two council people who'd been pushing the thing the hardest, Peter Yao and Ellen Taylor, looking for a gracious way out - probably the first and only time the word gracious has ever been associated with the acerbic Ms. Taylor.

The meeting has presumably been moved to Taylor Hall to accommodate more people, given the interest in the affordable housing issue. The last council meeting on the subject when the environmental impact report (EIR) was certified by the council, was in the Padua Room at the Alexander Hughes Community Center.

If you don't see a live video stream of the meeting on the City's website tonight, it's likely because Taylor Hall might not be wired up for streaming video, which might be a good break for the council and for some of their League of Women Voter and Claremont 400 friends who haven't been particularly telegenic when it comes to affordable housing.

* * *

Chances are, if the project goes down in flames, as appears to be the current case, you won't be seeing many of these so-called champions of affordable housing around in the near future with any alternative plans. They're likely to show their true colors and just take their ball and go home.

At some point, in a sane city, the powers-that-be would sit down after an affair such as this and try to figure out what happened. Project opponents argued early on that there were better sites for the affordable housing, sites closer to the center of town and closer to transit and shopping. The opponents also argued that there were serious air quality problem, and those opinions were proved right by the project's EIR.

The opponents said, "Let's put the police station on the Base Line site, and move the project to an alternate location, maybe closer to the Village." And, in fact, that may be what ends up happening.

In retrospect, there really was no evidence of any citywide backing for this project. There was no grassroots groundswell of citizens wanting the project on Base Line. At every meeting, the proponents consisted of the usual League of Women Voters talking heads and current or former council members and city commissioners. At every meeting, the proponents were outnumbered by the opponents.

Yet, the proponents insisted that it had to be this project on this site and no other. The proponents are responsible for a colossal waste of time, energy and city resources (the cost of purchasing the 2.6-acre site, tens of thousands to the developer, $160,000 for the EIR, and countless hours of staff time). Tell us again, why did we have to go down this road?

We hope that some of the current opponents to the project step up with some of the ideas they've tossed about and provide a real solution to this problem. Those people stand to gain or lose a ton of credibility depending on how they follow through on the things they have talked about during the affordable housing debate. Let's hope if they prevail, they don't take their ball and go home.

In any case, the meeting commences with public comment at 6:30pm. There is also a closed session council meeting at 5:15pm. The closed session apparently has nothing to do with the Base Line project, though you never can tell what really goes on behind those closed doors.

Claremont City Council Meeting - 6:30pm tonight
Taylor Hall
1775 N. Indian Hill Blvd.



Downtown News



The Claremont Packing House has been open one year now, and according to an article in Saturday's Claremont Courier, the tenant reviews are mixed.

Courier reporter Tony Krickl wrote:

After one year, 4 store front business owners have walked away from their second story lofts out of 11 listed on The Packing House’s website. Some did not have the success they were hoping for, while others left for personal reasons.

Kathleen Galipeau, who ran an art studio in her loft, decided to move out due to poor business sales. She had hoped for greater foot traffic throughout the building to support her business and believes she will have more success in her previous location in Upland.

“There have been some growing pains along the road there,” she said. “Live/work lofts are such a new idea. It’s a great place to be, but there are a few integral problems with how upstairs is laid out.”

Lynnette Barron, who ran a floral business, worked an agreement to cut out of her lease early. She complained of difficulties with the building’s management, structural problems in her loft and excessive noise.

A 3rd tenant not renewing his lease was Chas Seward, whose ad agency, Spitfire Studios, ran Claremont’s holiday marketing campaign. Mr. Seward said he left because the loft was too big for his company’s needs and has moved to a smaller location in the Village.

“As far as environment, it’s a great space,” Mr. Seward said. “It just wasn’t conducive to our business.”

Krickl's article went on to quote several other tenants who were doing just fine, though one of them was Jerry Tessier, the president of Arteco Partners, who was the developer for the Packing House project. Tessier told Krickl that there's no shortage of prospective tenants lined up to fill the vacant units.

Some of the businesses seem to be making it. Three Forks Chop House reportedly has a waiting list of several weeks, and Meg at the M-M-M-My Pomona blog wrote that the Hip Kitty Jazz Club was jumping when she visited a couple weeks ago.

On the other hand, the Maui Wowie smoothie place appears to have been up for sale, and some of the other Packing House businesses haven't seemed especially crowded with customers or window shoppers.

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 will...no 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
Message-ID:

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
marcgatenhancedaffordable.com

_________________________



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

Marc:
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
bdesatnikatci.claremont.ca.us