Claremont Insider: Friends Helping Friends

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Friends Helping Friends

The Claremont City Council meets tonight to for its regularly scheduled meeting in the council chambers at 225 Second St. in the Claremont Village.


The council convenes at 5:15pm in closed session for a conference with counsel over the latest Palmer Canyon lawsuit. The current dispute with the Palmer Canyon Homeowners Association has to do with land the City pledged to cede to the HOA as part of the $17.5 million lawsuit settlement reached over damage from the 2003 Padua Fire. The homeowners claim the City did not transfer ownership of all of the land that it said it would.

Claremont was supposed to have its answer to the HOA's complaint this month, so perhaps the council will be reviewing that in their closed session. You can see that agenda here.


The regular session begins at 6:30pm. You can review that agenda here.

Among the more interesting items are:

  • Agenda item 10, the continuation of a remote caller bingo ordinance. We'd never heard of such a thing, but we did see the city's public notice of that item in the February 17 edition of the Claremont Courier:

    Click to Enlarge

    We assume that some non-profit in town with friends on the City Council wants some sort of fundraising event using remote calling bingo. This apparently is an arrangement in which different locations are linked together via video links into a single bingo game. A company in Ontario called Bingo Innovations, Inc., has more information on how this all works.

    In any event, something must have come up between last Wednesday when the Notice of Public Hearing for the discussion of the proposed ordinance was published in the Courier and Thursday when the agenda for tonight's meeting was posted on the city website.

  • The other main item of interest to us was item 13, the termination of the operating covenant with Claremont Toyota for the old Chili's property at the northwest corner of Indian Hill Blvd. and Auto Center Dr.

    Back on September, 27, 2005, the City Council agreed to help Claremont Toyota owner Roger Hogan acquire the property by giving him $100,000 with the understanding that Hogan would use the land to expand his dealership. The City was also supposed to kick in another $200,000 in street and signage improvements (we're not sure what happened with that bit of change).

    The big selling point, as Councilmember Peter Yao said when he was explaining his "Yes" vote, was that the expanded Claremont Toyota would generate much more sales tax revenue for the city. City staffer Anthony Witt promised in his report that the council could expect between $600,000 and $700,000 in additional sales tax revenue for the first five years of the agreement, and $1,000,000 for every year thereafter.

    Well, the dealership never expanded onto the Chili's land, never generated the promised payoff, and now Roger Hogan wants to pay the city back only half of the $100,000 the city gave Hogan and release him from the agreed upon covenant. That operating covenant stipulated that Hogan would use the land for auto sales for at least seven years, from 2006 to 2013.

    None of it happened, and now the current council seems prepared to make an apparent gift of $50,000 worth of public funds to Claremont Toyota. Tonight's staff report on the issue, this one by Claremont Housing and Redevelopment Manager Brian Desatnik, is remarkably brief and notes that Hogan hopes to sell the 1.25-acre parcel to someone interested in putting a restaurant there.

    Oh, baby, now that's a deal!

    With the city facing another year of cutbacks in staff, employee benefits, and services, this all looks like just another case of the city staff papering over one of their blunders. There's another twist to this story, but we'll withhold commenting on that part of it until we see how this one plays out.

You can catch all the action in person tonight, or you can watch it on the city's website.