Claremont Insider: We Stand Corrected

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We Stand Corrected

Our post last Friday generated this response from Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper (photo, right):

Date: Mon, March 21, 2011 7:11:16 AM
Subject: [ No Subject ]
From: Paul Cooper

Hi Claremont Buzz,

A friend sent me the link to your most recent story on March 18, 2011. I thought I would share with you that the proposed communications tower project was presented at City Council, Police Commission and Community Services Commission meetings. We have discussed the project with Cable Airport management and they have no issues with the project. We have also submitted the project to the FAA and received a “No Hazard” certification. Following the council presentation, the tower project was also in the Courier and the Daily Bulletin The most recent agenda report is to simply update the new council on the project and its status. There’s been no attempt to “slip this one in.” If you have any questions about the project, I am always available.



Paul Cooper
Chief of Police
Claremont Police Department

We noticed that Chief Cooper's concerns about clarifying the record must have extended to the City's public relations arm. Over the weekend there was a change in the City's online materials for the tower. When we originally looked on the City's website last Friday, this is what we saw:

This is what you see now:

So the City's information on the tower is much more helpful now than it was last week. However, we'd still like to see a link to the so-called "Initial Study". Among other things, apparently, this contains the deadline for public comment. Presumably it also contains a discussion of the height and how the initially-proposed 200-ft tower in Upland transformed into a 174-ft tower in Claremont.

We checked the City's records, and we were able to find the references Chief Cooper mentioned. Cooper made presentations regarding the tower to the City Council, the Police Commission, and the Community Services Commission. Searching the City's document archives when we were composing our original post didn't turn up the documents the Chief was able to point us to, so we took another look.

We were glad the Chief wrote us because, when we looked for the meetings he referred to, we were struck by how much all of it seemed to serve seemed to underscore our original concern about the City "slipping one in." For instance, the tower was originally slated to be located in the northeast corner of the City Yard on Monte Vista Ave. That placement, however, put the 174-foot tower in Upland and under the aegis of Upland's planning process, which didn't give the Chief and City Hall to opportunities to maneuver that having the tower on the Claremont side of the property did.

(It also reminded us that when Claremont originally built the building, at the end of the Glenn Southard regime, they built out past the city and county limits without getting the permission of Upland, which cause a minor row at the the time.)

Click to Enlarge

Chief Cooper mentioned the change in the tower's placement in his 2/10/11 report to the Community Services Commission:
The location of the tower was originally proposed in the far northeast corner of the city yards which is actually in the City of Upland. As staff worked with Upland staff, it became apparent that this project could not move through Upland's process in the timeline needed to meet the needs of the project and the grant. The tower was moved approximately 20' from its originally proposed site so that it is now located within Claremont while still being constructed in the far northeast corner of the facility. This will allow the management of the project to be handled within Claremont's process and staff has the ability to manage the timeline better.

The communications tower is on the agenda for tonight's City Council meeting, by the way. The Chief's report for the council lays out a timeline for the the tower's installation. Note the implied inevitability:
March 22 Report to council for FYI on project.
Agenda Published March 17. Report due March 14.

March 25 - April 19 Publish CEQA (21 days).

April 4 Bid Specs Completed.

April 19 Planning Commission Meeting. C U P approval. CEQA hearing and approval.
Agenda Published April 14. Report due April 11. Notice April 7. Appeal until May 2.
April 27 Architectural Commission Design Review.
Building design needed.
Agenda Published April 21. Report due April 18. Notice April 14.

April 4 Bid Specs Completed.

May 10 City Council approval to go to bid
Agenda Published May 5. Report due May 2.

May 24 Approval for bid if CEQA Appealed.
Agenda Published May 19. Report due May 16.

June 27 Open Bids.

July 12 Award Bid.
Agenda Published July 7. Report due July 5.

July/Auqust/Sept Build Project.

The Chief doesn't foresee any problems arising in the public process that might change his timeline, and there's real no need for him to worry. His certainty is guaranteed by the fact that he can shepherd the project through Claremont's rubber stamping commissions. We assume the commissioners, especially the Architectural Commissioners, are in line on this matter and no one will raise the objection, well, that the tower is buck-ugly as proposed, looking like a cross between a rocket gantry and a 1920s Signal Hill oil well tower, except taller than either.

As to the FAA, we note that there wasn't much public comment on this matter. For example, we didn't see the City or Chief Cooper circulate the materials they presented to the FAA. Incidentally, though the owners of Cable probably didn't realize when Chief Cooper apprised them of the tower plans, in the long term building the tower might be good not only for police communications, but for the anyone who might want the for airport's land for some other use like commercial development or even future expansion for the Claremont Colleges. Somewhere far down the road, the tower's existence will make it easier to argue that development has so crowded around airport that safety will become a concern.

And this is how Official Claremont uses the process to batter the uninitiated. In Claremont, there's never one meeting you can point to and say, "You must be there." If you showed up for, say, the Police Commission meeting last November 4th, you could have heard Chief Cooper talking to the commissioners about the proposed tower. If you raised an objection, however, you would have been told that this was really just an informational agenda item to address your concerns and that you would have your chance to air your concerns at a future meeting.

So you then you would have gone to the Community Services meeting on February 10th. You again raised your concerns, but would have been told there was no need to worry and that your concerns would be addressed at the City Council on March 22nd, or at a future Architectural Commission meeting. By the end of it, when you've had more than your fill of meetings, you'll be told that you should have had your concerns addressed earlier on when you had the opportunity and that the project had already been vetted by the city's commissions and by the City Council.

The unstated fact of the matter is that none of the meetings really mattered. It was all just window dressing. The idea for a trolley gets floated at someplace like a dinner party at former Mayor's Judy Wright's home, and the next thing you know, the project is a fait accompli.

Only after you've experienced the vaunted Claremont public process will you come to appreciate the machinery at work in our town. Only then can you truly call yourself a Claremonter.