Claremont Insider: Unintended Consequences

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Unintended Consequences

It came as no surprise that the proposal for a 7-Eleven at the northwest corner of Mills Ave. and Foothill Blvd. bit the dust. The person whose conditional use permit application was rejected by Claremont's Planning Commission withdrew his appeal to the City Council at the end of March.

What was a surprise was that anyone would want to put a 7-Eleven in there in the first place. The way the building is situated on the site, with its back facing Foothill Blvd., always struck us as strange. The only access is from Mills Ave. and from the frontage road that runs parallel to Foothill. Laying the property out as it is now guaranteed complaints from residents who live along E. Morelia Dr., which connects to the frontage road, because some of the traffic leaving the site would inevitably have ended up on their narrow street.

Even worse for potential 7-Eleven customers was the exit from the site onto Mills Ave. The City planned on that particular exit being a right-turn only driveway. So, if you wanted to get from that exit to Foothill Blvd., you would have had to turn right, then make a U-turn farther up Mills.

Here is what the property looks like in its current configuration:

(Click to Enlarge)
7-Eleven site: 6/19/09

Why would anyone create such a cockamamie layout in the first place? The answer is that the property owners were following Claremont's "design vision" for the area. When the design was reviewed by Claremont's Architectural Commission on 7/25/07, city staff recommended approving the design. The staff report for that meeting said on page 3:
The proposal is well planned and makes efficient use of the property. The placement and height of the proposed building is consistent with the standards of the CH zoning district. The site plan is consistent with the city's design vision for Foothill Boulevard in that the building is placed adjacent to the street with the parking area to the north of the building, thereby minimizing the visibility of parking areas to the major street.

The site wasn't always laid out like as it is now. It used to be a Union 76 gas station with a building farther away from Foothill Blvd. than the current building. The location had four driveways rather than two, and two extra entrances opened onto Foothill, making it easier for traffic from the main road to get in and out easily.

Here is what the site used to look like:

7-Eleven site: 12/30/03

However well-intended the reasoning behind Claremont's design vision for Foothill Blvd., the result was a property that will be difficult to fill, and any business owner considering the site in the future will have to contend with its limitations, as well the perception that Claremont simply isn't a business-friendly town.

As always with our screwy town, there was some irony involved. On his COURIER City Beat blog, Tony Krickl posted a letter from one of his readers that addressed the 7-Eleven issue. If you listened closely to the complaints about the 7-Eleven, there was an undercurrent of snobbery in some (not all) of the comments. That haughty attitude is one Claremont has affected for years, probably all the way back to its founding.

The letter Krickl posted on his blog noted that Masatoshi Ito, who lent his name to the Peter Drucker & Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University, is the founder of the corporation that owns 7-Eleven. Not a 7-Eleven. Over 10,000 of them.

Krickl's reader said:
It was Peter Drucker's insistence that Ito's name be added to his school. Drucker was so impressed with Ito's customer focus success and highly ethical operation all grounded on principles learned by Ito from Drucker. Ito's monetary donations to the school was significant but far short of the level in getting his name on the school.

The dichotomy of the large number of Claremont residents demonizing 7-11 while the world renowned "management guru" having given this 7-11 owner the highest expression of praise.

So, to Ito-san, Claremont says, many thanks for any prestige that your name brings to CGU. Now leave.