Claremont Insider: Claremont #5 Best Place to Live

Monday, July 16, 2007

Claremont #5 Best Place to Live

Money magazine has named Claremont #5 on its list of top 100 U.S. cities to live in.

Money editor Jean Chatzky was interviewed on NBC's Today Show this morning and explained the criteria used. Money focused on towns with populations between 7,500 and 50,000, which eliminated cities like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and a host of others.

California had 9 cities in the top 100 with Claremont being the highest ranked in the state.


So, how does this all square with a website like ours, where we've been very critical of the people in charge of running Claremont?

Oddly, it fits perfectly with what we've been saying. First, like most of our neighbors, we've chosen this place because it's a nice place to live. The weather's unbeatable, the Village shops and restaurants are great, and the colleges offer many cultural and educational opportunities.

We just don't happen to think that the Claremont 400, the group that runs the Claremont City Council, it's city commissions, and the local schools, deserve credit for all of that. Do they make the weather? And many of the good things would exist here without the 400. We also think that as long as they're taking credit for good things, they ought to take responsibility for the many and costly bad things that have happened. Instead, they run from those issues and refuse to even address them.

Take the trees here, for instance. Claremont's got 23,000 of them, most of them planted and maintained by the city. The trees are a great amenity. They create the shady walks that give Claremont a real college-town feel. Yet, homeowners have to foot the bills for damages caused by city-owned trees, the City Council routinely denies claims against them for those costly damages, and the city bars citizens from doing preventative maintenance on those same damage-causing trees.

People like Claremont 400 representative and current Councilperson Linda Elderkin apparently believe that if you can't afford to pay for the damages the city trees cause, you shouldn't be living here. We think that there could be better, more mature, more reasonable ways of working with citizens who have legitimate complaints. Instead, Claremonters like Councilmember Elderkin want them to take a hike if they don't like it.

So, Claremont's a great place to live as long as you don't have a run-in with the city and the Claremont 400, as Irvin Landrum and his family did in 1999.

Or as the residents of Palmer Canyon did in 2003.


We expect there'll be a lot of gloating on the part of the 400 and their supporters over the Money ranking. We should be happy that our town ranks so high on the Money list. But we also ought to look more carefully at the information. If we don't we're likely to misinterpret the information, as the 400 will inevitably do when they use it as an endorsement of their ill-conceived actions.

The rankings really seemed geared towards retiring baby boomers. Money editor Chatzky noted, "The big trend is that people really want to stay...." People, she said, are "aging in place." That is, they're not retiring to Scottsdale, AZ; they're staying put in these top 100 places. That means that people are looking to places like Claremont for retirement opportunities, and one of the things the Money survey looked at was the availability of elder care facilities.

Of course, we've argued this before. The demographics show that Claremont is aging, and housing here is not really affordable for young families looking for starter homes. Don't believe us? Check out Money's data. The median price of a Claremont home is $643,549 - 179% higher than the average median home price for the Money top 100 list.

People are staying here longer, and new people moving in tend to be folks looking primarily for retirement advantages. But we don't seem to be realistically facing up to that reality.