Claremont Insider: June 2008

Monday, June 30, 2008

David Allen Reviews New Pub

David Allen reviews The Back Abbey, the new Belgian pub on Oberlin Ave. next to the Claremont 5 Laemmle Theatre. Allen thought that at $13 his burger was "possibly the most expensive in the Inland Empire." He was very impressed with the fries, and the beers he could take or leave, though he does tell us he's not a real beer fan.

Like Meg at M-M-M-My Pomona, Allen thought the noise was overwhelming.

Courier Covers CHS Sports News

The Claremont Courier had two articles this past Saturday on Claremont High School sports. The first was an article by Tony Krickl about baseball coach Mike Lee. Krickl's articles gave some details on the decision to not renew Lee's coaching contract (Lee will continue on as a PE teacher).

The other article, by Landus Rigsby, was about CHS hurdler Kori Carter, who as a sophomore won a state championship in the 300-meter hurdles. The article reported that Carter will be off to Poland to represent the US in the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) World Junior Championships, which will be held from July 8 to July 13:

Last Saturday’s USA Track & Field Junior Nationals was held at Ohio State University. At the event held in Columbus, Kori took 2nd overall in the 400-meter hurdles and placed 7th in the 100-meter hurdles (14.24).

The efforts of the CHS track and field standout earned her a place in the IAAF championships as a hurdler and also as part of a pool of US athletes that are eligible to run in the 4x400-meter relay. Now, instead of representing Claremont and representing the state of California, Kori now will represent the nation against competitors from other countries.

“I’m really excited,” Kori said. “I didn’t think I would make it there and didn’t think that I would even make the finals. It’s crazy because I was competing against girls who are in college. But after the prelims, I saw I could run with them.”

We should also note that the IAAF Junior category is for runners ages 18 and 19 but is open to athletes as young as 16 years old, so Carter, who will be a high school junior is really competing against hurdlers older and more experienced than herself.

Here is an interview with Carter after her 2nd place finish in Ohio:

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sinking into the Swamp

Our thanks to the readers who waded through all this information and distilled it for us and to the Insider Hydrology Institute, which vetted the piece.


As we noted last week, the Claremont City Council Tuesday night voted 5-0 to dedicate $25,000 to a League of Women Voters (LWV) project dedicated to buying the area around Thompson Creek Dam and turning it into a park with cienegas (or marshlands or fens or bogs or fever swamps), a wooded area, and about 50-60 acres of endangered Riversidean Alluvial Fan Sage Scrub (RAFSS).

The LWV has applied for a $7.6 million grant through the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, a state agency that takes state bond money and distributes it to local projects throughout land drained by the San Gabriel River - a very wide area that runs from the mountains to the sea and which encompasses large sections of Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

Our previous post on the subject included the observation that the there was some hypocrisy implicit in the LWV grant application. For instance, the argument that the project is needed because it saves 50-60 acres of endangered RAFSS is specious given the fact that the city of Claremont is also applying for another grant of $1.5 million through the same Conservancy for the Padua Sports Park. That project will destroy 10 acres of the same, precious RAFSS habitat.

So, if the habitat is so rare that we should spend $7.6 million to save it, why are we also asking for $1.5 million to bulldoze it? And why are we asking a land conservancy for that money? The answer is that it depends on a good deal of Claremont logic: The habitat is good when we want it to be and bad when we don't want it.

The irony is you have the same hypocrites on the City Council, on city commissions, and in the LWV pushing both projects. Leave it to City Councilmember Sam Pedroza (AKA, WJM's Ted Baxter) to sum it up perfectly as he did in his rush to show his support for the LWV project: "This is a no-brainer."

We couldn't agree more.

(To be fair, the city's evidence for removing the stuff on the sports park site was equally stupid: They hired a so-called "biostitute" with a Internet-ordered Ph.D in theology to write the biology report that supported their park project.)


It's truly remarkable how poorly conceived the LWV project is. One the other concerns we raised previously was the question of where does all the water they intend to spread around the site go? The area sits above the Canyon Water Basin, an underground aquifer that will take the water and carry it to lower, downslope areas. Add water and away it goes. So, how do you keep the water in the project area without having to constantly add more. How do you do that in dry season when the creeks dry up?

Also, what do you do about the water that seeps away? Cienegas are wet places where the area's geology is such that water pools underground and comes to the Earth's surface, sometimes via artesian wells. One such place called the Martin Cienega existed around 6th and Harrison in the Claremont Village near Pilgrim Place until pumping of the groundwater lowered the water table so much that the cienega ceased to exist.

Presumably, the geology remains in place, so if groundwater were to rise high enough, water would once again spout forth in the Claremont Village and in a number of other areas of town. Claremont's Human Services Department would no doubt put a happy spin on them and call them "Water Play Features."

In any case, in order to quell any questions about downslope artesian wells, the LWV grant application refers to a 2006 study by a consulting company called CDM Engineering. The study was commissioned by Three Valleys Municipal Water District and is titled "Mitigation Alternatives to Rising Groundwater Study." It turns out that Three Valleys needed the study because they want to increase the amount of water spread on the San Antonio Spreading Grounds below the San Antonio Dam.

Of course, the LWV grant writers likely did not bother to read the study all that carefully and certainly didn't cite any portions of it in their application. Nor did they attach it to the grant application. For the sake of their project, it's a good thing they didn't. What the CDM study found was that water springing up in Pilgrim Place need not be a concern, provided we're willing to spend $24.4 million to build the "Base Line Barrier Wells" protection system.

That's right - $24.4 million.

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

The barriers wells are just what the name implies: a network of six wells drilled along Base Line Rd. and connected by many thousands of feet of underground pipes that would act as a sort of wall to block groundwater from turning 6th and Harrison back into a swampy bog.

And there's more! Three more wells in Mallows, Larkin, and Memorial Parks to protect Pilgrim Place.

And how will we pay for this all? To begin with, the study says, $12 million in bonded indebtedness. And then another $12 million and change in - you guessed it - more grants! Federal and regional grants that flow as easily as aquifer water into Marilee Scaff's Pilgrim Place home.


We couldn't help but think about an article we read recently in the New York Times. The article discussed the state of Florida's buyout of United States Sugar and Florida's takeover of 187,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

The purchase will allow Florida to restore a large swath of Everglades land without having to install much of the huge network of pumps and piping that a year 2000 plan to maintain water flow had called for. Instead, the state will be able to rely on the natural water flow, the Times article said:
The impact on the Everglades could be substantial. The natural flow of water would be restored, and the expanse of about 292 square miles would add about a million acre-feet of water storage. That amount of water — enough to fill about 500,000 Olympic size swimming pools — could soak the southern Everglades during the dry season, protecting wildlife, preventing fires, and allowing for a redrawing of the $8 billion Everglades restoration plan approved in 2000.

It would essentially remove some of the proposed plumbing. Many of the complicated wells and pumps the plan relied on might never have to be built, water officials said, because the water could move naturally down the gradually sloping land.

Kenneth G. Ammon, deputy executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, which would assume control of the land, said it would be a “managed” flow-way, with reservoirs and other engineered mechanisms to control water flow. David G. Guest, a lawyer for Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, joked that he might have to go to blows to keep the area all natural.

Whereas Florida is able to utilize nature to its advantage in moving and storing water and restoring wetlands, the city of Claremont and its agents, Marilee Scaff and the League of Women Voters, want to spend fistsful of money to create a cienega where none existed historically. As a result, all the water they pour into the ground will seep downslope to the heart of the Claremont Village, requiring the construction of a system of wells and pipes to catch that water before it can burst up out of the ground.

Instead of using the natural water flow and recreating a cienega somewhere they occurred in the past (College Park or one of the parks near 6th & Harrison), they want to spend a total of $32 million (before financing is figured in) to do what the state of Florida is taking pains to try to avoid: the creation of a costly, convoluted, over-engineered, Rube Goldberg system of wells, pumps, and pipes to mitigate a self-created problem. And the LWV can't even be honest with us about the true cost of the project!

Who dreams these things up, the witless LWV or the construction companies and consultants who'll be on the receiving end of all those millions?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Marijuana Dispensary Ban Approved

The Claremont City Council last Tuesday ended up approving a municipal ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries.

The vote was 4-1, with two councilmembers, Linda Elderkin and Sam Pedroza, changing their support for the dispensaries. The lone "NO" vote was Mayor Ellen Taylor. Taylor apparently guessed how the vote would turn out, and she didn't want to have too much discussion on the matter. For no reason, Taylor limited the public to three minutes per person, and didn't hesitate to interrupt the speakers to tell them "30 seconds." (Wielding the gavel in Claremont excuses you from such normal human courtesy as not interrupting people who are speaking, as former Mayor Paul Held could tell you.)

It struck us as very odd that Taylor would not want the public speakers, who for the most part supported Taylor's position, to help argue her case. It's not as if there were 100 people waiting to speak. There were only four or five speakers on the subject, and the shorter time limit is normally imposed when there are dozens speaking. Very odd indeed.

We can only surmise that Taylor did not want to have to endure the embarrassment of being on the losing end of a 4-1 vote, so she sped things up. Still, she ought to have let people have their have as much time as they needed to make their points. Instead, she took us back to the days of the artificially short time, which gives the city the great advantage of not only being able to make a presentation of unlimited length, but also allows even more opened ended time for the city to rebut any concerns raised by the speakers.

We said when she became Mayor that Taylor would reimpose a time limit, and sure enough she did. Expect more (and worse) in the future.

Drying Out

Get ready for more dry years, reports the Daily Bulletin. According to an article by Wesley G. Hughes, NASA oceanographer Bill Patzert believes we are in a nine-year long drought and the next nine don't look a whole lot better.

Paztert, who works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, has appeared frequently as an El Niño/La Niña expert on local and national news programs. He says the nine-year long dry spell is the result of something he calls the Pacific Decadal Oscillation:

Patzert says the last nine years are consecutively the nine driest in a century, and that can be traced to the oscillation.

"We haven't had a big El Niño in a decade," he said, and it is having a profound effect on the water we depend on from the Colorado River and that is delivered to Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet.

He predicted temperatures will continue to rise in the region. Even in cooler years such as the one we are in now, temperatures will spike for a few days, resulting in dangerous triple-digit temperatures and heavy water use.

Patzert says a crisis is looming, and the only solution is for all of us to reduce water consumption by 50 percent, something he calls doable....
* * *

In other water related news, we came across a very informative blog called Aquafornia, which deals with Southern California water issues. One link to an article in the Stockton Record about so-called "megadroughts" was particularly alarming.

According to the Record's piece, the 20th Century may have actually been an anomaly in terms of precipitation in California and appears to represent the wettest century in the past 4,000. And between 900-1500AD there were two megadroughts, one of about 140 years and one that lasted over 200 years.

So, many of the water supply assumptions urban planners and developers had when Southern California was assuming its amorphous, sprawling shape may have been utterly wrong.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Gold Line Left Out of the Money - For Now

[UPDATED 9:30 p.m.]

The LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted yesterday to leave Phase I of the Gold Line Foothill Extension off its Long Range Transportation Plan. This means that the first part of the extension, from Pasadena to Azusa, will not only not receive $80 million of county money, but will also lose out on a $320 million federal grant because that money had been dependent on the county providing some matching funds.

The extension will now have to wait until November to see if a possible ballot measure for a half-cent county sales tax increase passes. In the best case, the Gold Line Extension's construction start is pushed back a year.

The FC Blog has the a full discussion. One comment raised an interesting question. With all the transit-oriented development planned around the Gold Line extension's stations, what happens if it doesn't come through.

[Update, 9:30 p.m. We hear from a reader that the Foothill Transit Board didn't take the smack in the face from the MTA very well. MTA sent a representative to the Foothill Transit Board meeting this morning (Friday) in West Covina. Seems the MTA wanted approval by the Foothill Transit Board of some cockamamie plan--you'd have to figure such things originate in Washington--to turn the HOV lanes on the 10 and 210 freeways in to TOLL lanes. This is the so-called Congestion Reduction Demonstration Initiative. Well, the Foothill Transit Board was having none of it. Pomona College graduate and Pomona City Councilmember (and Foothill Transit Executive Board member) Paula Lantz opened up on the hapless representative, who was reduced to citing a poll of poor people saying that 80% of them supported the toll lanes because--we're not kidding--they hoped someday to have enough money to use them.

Ms. Lantz brought three of her colleagues with her, and the motion to support MTA's pursuit of the Federal Congestion $$$ failed, 4-1.

Apparently there is NO support in the San Gabriel Valley Legislative Caucus for this crazy plan, which will accomplish nothing so much as grinding the regular freeway lanes to a stop. How much intelligence does it take to figure out if you want people off the freeway, those people need an alternative?--like the Gold Line. This plan is to nothing more than one to turn the left lane into a profit center.

Kudos to Lantz for pointing out the elephant in the room.]

4th of July - One Week Away

Claremont's annual Independence Day Celebration is coming up in one week. A festival at Memorial Park, the parade, and the fireworks show, all those things we've come to expect on the Fourth.

You can get more information from the city's website. Or call the city's Human Services Department at (909) 399-5490 for more information.

Here's a list of events drawn from the city's information:

Pancake Breakfast
7 to 10 a.m.
Claremont Kiwanis Club members will serve a Pancake Breakfast at Memorial Park just north of the band shell. If still available, Fireworks Tickets will be sold from 7-10 a.m. in conjunction with the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast, and may still be available at the Information Booth at 10:30 a.m.

Proceeds from the breakfast help support a variety of organizations and community events, such as: Ability First, The Claremont American Red Cross, Concerts in the Park, Best B.E.T., plus other youth and community activities.

Tickets for Breakfast
$3.00 each

Tickets may be purchased the day of or in advance at the following locations:

Claremont Print & Copy - 108 Spring Street
Office of Jess Swick - 414 Yale Ave
Office of Neal Coble - 915 West Foothill Blvd Suite #G
Note: Tickets may be used for either the July 4th or September 20th Kiwanis Club Pancake breakfasts.

Claremont Village Freedom Walk 5000
7:30am - 1k Fun Walk
8:30am - 5K Race & Walk

Click here for information.

Opening Ceremonies

10 a.m.
The Flag Raising Ceremony marks the official beginning of the Independence Day Festival in Memorial Park. Together, the VFW and American Legion help the Independence Day Committee with this reverent ceremony, which includes musical selections, the reading of excerpts from the Declaration of Independence and a ceremonial raising of our nation's flag. This profound event emphasizes the importance we place on our nation's independence and provides an opportunity to celebrate our national pride.

Speakers' Corner
10:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
In order to celebrate our country's First Amendment Right, Speakers' Corner provides a forum for citizens in our community to speak their minds on any subject from personal to global.

Past speeches have focused on politics, religion, history, travel, and personal fulfillment. Age is no barrier. Previous orators have ranged in age from 5-years to over 80.

Speakers' time slots will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis and must be pre-arranged. Interested persons should contact the Speakers' Corner Chair Bil Seymour by e-mail at

Festival Booths & Tables
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. - Information, Game and Selling Area
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. - Food Booths
In the tradition of a hometown event, the festival will feature over 70 non-profit groups providing food, information, games and a wide variety of items for sale. Applications will be available March 1st thru May 9th .

If you are looking for a particular booth or table, a complete list of all groups and their locations will be available at the Independence Day Committee information booth located just north of Garner House (next to the Police Command Station).

Entertainment & Family Activities
FREE Fun for People of All Ages
On July 4th, Memorial Park is truly transformed as a wide variety of performers rove the park providing color and frolicsome fun for people of all ages!

Stage entertainment will include a variety of bands, and other types of entertainment and demonstrations will occur throughout the park, including clowns, strolling bands, jugglers and even a very tall Uncle Sam!

Family Games
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (approximate)
Just east of the band shell
These games, FREE to all, may include a 3-legged race, the World Famous Tug-O-War and much more. Everyone who participates in the games is a winner, and all children receive a participation ribbon.

Children's Games
10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
East side of the park just north of the game booths
About a dozen different non-profit organizations, including the Independence Day Committee, will provide FREE games and activities for children including:

A rock-climbing wall
An inflatable jumper
A variety of wood and rope set ups like simple stilts, a wood slat (jungle) bridge, a rope (monkey) bridge, balance beams, a horizontal ladder, and land skis

Organizations interested in participating in the game booth area may contact the Human Services Department at (909) 399-5490.

4th of July Celebration Parade
Begins at 4:30pm at the corner of Indian Hill Blvd. & 10th St.

The 4th of July Parade is the highlight of the day. Beginning at 4 p.m. at the corner of Indian Hill Blvd. & 10th St., the parade route moves south to Harrison then west to Mountain Ave., ending at Larkin Park.

The parade has approximately 90 entries including bands, floats, specialty vehicles, musical and novelty groups, and dignitaries. The parade is designed to provide a venue for celebration and is non-commercial.

Children and kids at heart, bring your bicycle and helmet and join the Bike Brigade that leads off the parade. This is a time to use your decorating skills!

Spectators are encouraged to select their spot early. Please remember that we do not allow items such as candy, water or flyers to be thrown from the parade route, and we ask that any soliciting be done from the sidewalk.

Click here for parade route.

Claremont's Fireworks Spectacular!
Pomona College - Strehle Track
Gates open 6:30 p.m.
Show begins 9 p.m.
The Independence Day Celebration culminates with an fireworks show and a live Rock & Roll concert by the LCR Band, a hometown band and local favorite that has performed for many Claremont functions. We are excited about having them back!

The fireworks show has developed over the years and has become one of the biggest and best shows in all of Los Angeles County! The 20+ minute show is fully synchronized to music and electronically fired. Each year, the Independence Day Committee has added a new element to the fireworks - from "waterfalls" and "silver bees" to "happy faces." Come check out the latest addition this year - it is sure to make you "pop!"

Click here for Fireworks Event Map

Tickets Available June 1, 2008
Cost: $6.00 pre-sale, $8.00 at gate

Purchase Locations:
Claremont City Hall -207 Harvard Ave.
Claremont Human Services - 1700 Danbury Rd.
Claremont Chamber of Commerce - 205 Yale Ave.
Vons - 550 E. Baseline Rd.
Wolfe's Market - 160 W. Foothill Blvd.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Class Action Suit Sought Against PFF Board

Former Claremont McKenna College official Jil Stark and the rest of the PFF Bancorp board of directors are being sued for selling the Rancho Cucamonga-based company in what amounts to a fire sale price of $1.35 per share. That deal, which would allow FBOP Corp., to takeover troubled PFF, is awaiting approval by the Securities and Exchange Commission and PFF shareholders.

According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the lawsuit was filed earlier this month by a shareholder upset with the sale:

The lawsuit was filed June 18 in Los Angeles Superior Court by attorneys for plaintiff Menachem Maiman. It alleges PFF officials "breached their fiduciary responsibilities to maximize" shareholder value, failed to engage in an orderly sale of the company, and agreed to sell at a price that is "grossly unfair."

The suit notes PFF stock had once traded as high as $30 in July 2007. As recently as April 30, it closed at $3.78 per share. On the day the merger was announced, the closing price was $1.25.

The suit asks the court to stop the merger, or rescind it if a court judgment is not rendered until after the merger is completed. It also asks that the defendants account to plaintiffs for all damages caused to them, and account for all profits and "any special benefits' obtained by defendants in the planning of the merger.

Joseph Levi, the attorney handling the suit for the plaintiff, is seeking to have the case certified as a class-action suit. PFF officials kept characteristically silent on the matter.

You can read the complaint on Attorney Levi's website. One of the interesting points it makes is that at a time when PFF's most immediate concern should have been a $44 million debt obligation that was coming due, the PFF board wasted valuable time trying to generate $460 million in cash through a stock offering that seemed to have very little likelihood of working out. In the meantime, the loan payment was coming due, and the PFF board was forced to hold their fire sale rather than conduct what the plaintiff's filing called "an orderly sale." According to the lawsuit, the $460 million the PFF board was chasing "far exceeded its historical equity."

Great leadership shows its strengths in times of crisis, no? This certainly seems to support what PFF employee Virginia Soper was saying back in May when PFF stock was still trading above $1.50 per share. If the FBOP takeover is allowed to go through, the PFF name will cease to exist after 116 years.

Imagine a financial institution surviving the Great Depression and then succumbing to this latest turn of events. That's a truly remarkable mismanagerial acheivement. An Inland Empire all-timer even.

PFF Bancorp shareholders can get more information about the lawsuit here.

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Area Sports News

Sorry to be late on this one. Congratulations to Claremont High School sophomore Kori Carter, who won a state championship in the 300-meter hurdles on May 31st. Carter also placed fourth in the 100-meter hurdles.

Here is a video of the 300-meter state final (Carter is in lane 5 wearing a red top).

It's worth noting that the three runners who placed ahead of Carter in the 100-meter hurdles were all seniors. Claremont tied for 9th place in the team standings with Carter scoring all of the Wolfpack's 14 points.

You can see also a video of Kori running and being interview here.

* * *

We expect to hear a lot about another area athlete, Los Osos High School quarterback Richard Brehaut, in the future. Although he doesn't attend Claremont High, Brehaut has some strong ties to our town. We're told his dad went to CHS, and his mother still lives in town.

Brehaut will be attending UCLA in the fall of 2009 and should benefit from working under the tutelage of Bruins offensive coordinator Norm Chow, assuming that Chow is still with UCLA in another year. Chow helped develop the skills of some great college quarterbacks over the course of his career. 13 of the top 30 NCAA Division single-season passing yardage leaders have been coached by Chow, including Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, and Matt Leinhart. Detmer, Palmer, and Leinhart all won Heisman trophies as well.

* * *

One last bit of news on the story of CHS baseball coach Mike Lee, whose coaching contract was not renewed by CHS administrators. LA Times sports blogger Eric Sondheimer had a short post on the subject. He made an interesting observation about Claremont, something that certainly applies to the Claremont Unified School District, but which applies to the city government as well:
A Claremont parent writing a blog offers some observations. What's clear is that Claremont's fondness for secrecy only adds to the likelihood that the people in charge don't know what they're doing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Light-Rail Spotlight


The Daily Bulletin reminds us that the Gold Line Foothill Extension's fate could be decided tomorrow at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) board meeting when the MTA board will consider the agency's Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP):

The 24-mile project to extend the Gold Line from Pasadena to Montclair has received a federal pledge of $320 million - if the county's transit agency funds the remaining $80 million required to start the first phase of the project.

The first phase would take the line out to the border of Azusa and Glendora.

At Thursday's meeting, the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will vote on whether to commit the $80 million.

The article, by Dan Abendschein, goes on to say that current Gold Line ridership is up 19-percent over the past year, primarily due to the rapid hike in gas prices. That increase, however, may not be enough to get the MTA board to support the Gold Line extension. As we wrote a few weeks ago, there's more than a little behind-the-scenes politicking going on here.
Thursday, June 26th, 9:30am -
MTA Board of Directors Meeting

One Gateway Plaza, 3rd Floor
Los Angeles, CA


The Gold Line is competing with the proposed Expo Line light-rail from downtown LA to Santa Monica, and the Expo Line proponents are pulling out all the stops to make sure they get funding over the Gold Line.

MTA board chair Pam O'Connor is scheduled to appear tonight from 8pm to 9pm on a call-in cable TV talk show that available only to viewers in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. The call-in phone number hasn't been made available and won't be giving out until it appears on viewers' TV screens tonight.

So, the calls to the MTA board chair the night before the crucial vote will be limited to callers from areas that would be serviced by the Expo Line. Hmmmmm, anyone want to guess which project the callers will support?


Then there's the LA Times editorial board, which ran a piece in today's paper arguing that the decision on the Gold and Expo Lines should be put off until after the November election when county voters may have a chance to vote on a half-cent sales tax increase to fund transit projects. If the sale-tax measure should pass (currently there appears to be a 71% approval for the increase), then there would be enough money to go around.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

LWV: All Wet - UPDATED, 8:30PM

(Click to Enlarge)
Etching of Artesian Well from a
Pacific Land Improvement Company advertisement (January, 1888)
From: The City of Claremont History Collection,
Honnald Mudd Library Special Collections

The Marilee Memorial Marsh will be considered at tonight's Claremont City Council meeting, where current Mayor and former League of Women Voters (LWV) president Ellen Taylor will hand off a promised $25,000 over to LWV representatives Marilee Scaff and Freeman Allen.

Scaff and Allen are seeking a grant of over $7.6 million from the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (RMC) to purchase a plot of land around the Thompson Creek Dam in Northeast Claremont with the idea of turning the area into a cienega or wetlands or marsh (take your pick).

Before this area was developed water used flow out of the mountains and into the alluvial plains at the mouths of the area's canyons. Some of the water would soak into the riverbeds and floodplains and fill up underground reservoirs. The excess would spring up out of the ground in spots in the form of artesian wells at cienegas, as this bit from the Bernard Field Station website explains:
The San Antonio alluvial fan, like the other fans and bajadas of the Los Angeles Basin, is able to hold a large volume of ground water, derived from snowmelt and rainfall in the mountains, which is mined (pumped) for domestic and agricultural use. Before pumping began to lower the water table (meaning that pumping extractions exceed replenishment, that is, the ground water is in overdraft), some of the water-bearing layers (aquifers) actually brought water to the surface as artesian flow. Called cienegas by the Spanish, these areas supported startlingly lush growths of bulrush (Scirpus), cattail (Typha) and other aquatic vegetation, and served as breeding areas for local amphibians and other aquatic and semi-aquatic animals. Once such a cienega was located where Pilgrim Place is now. After the 1969 rains, artesian water flowed along Sixth and Berkeley for several months. Other local cienegas included one at the present site of Wig Beach and several north of Foothill Blvd. The only surface water flow after the 1978 rains was north of Foothill and east of Padua Ave.

[Emphasis added.]

As we noted yesterday, the LWV grant application makes a very brief mention of the fact that when you put water in the ground around here, it can pop up in other, lower-lying areas. The LWV doesn't really explain how that problem is avoided. Presumably, in order to keep a cienega near the Thompson Creek dam wet, you either have to keep adding water as it flows away down gradient, or you have to confine the water artificially, something which would add significantly to the cost of the project.

A reader contacted us with another problem with the LWV marsh grant application. The reader pointed out although the grant application is dated June 6, 2008, it claims on page 18 that the city of Claremont's $25,000 is already pledged. The actual wording on page 18 says that in addition to a pledge by Pomona Valley Protective Association of $25,000 for the project:
The City of Claremont is to match PVPA's $25,000.

Huh? The City Council isn't even voting to approve the $25,000 until later tonight - June 24th! Talk about a done deal. Hey Richard McKee, Mr. Brown Act, why don't you look into this one?

The point of the LWV's listing the city's and the PVPA's money is to show the Conservancy that there is seed money out there and wide community support. It'd be nice if it were true at the time the grant application was written, but it was not and verges on a fraudulent claim as a result. Of course, to the grant writers, since they also run the city, the matter of public discussion and deliberation was a mere formality.

At least this proves our point about what we've been arguing in these posts. The LWV can lie in their grant application on June 6th, saying in essence that the $25,000 had been approved, when it really won't be allocated until later this evening. Fittingly, the grant application is signed by current LWV president, Claremont Police Commissioner, and city Affordable Housing Task Force member Barbara Musselman. It is also lists the contact persons as "C. Freeman Allen, Ph.D, WTF Co-Chair" and "Marilee Scaff, Ph.D, WTF Co-Chair." We thought the WTF was a particularly apropos acronym for the Water Task Force.

You can watch the meeting here.

Below are the LWV grant face page dated 6/6/08 (left) and page 18 of the grant application (right), declaring the City's $25,000 contribution a fait accompli, when in fact it hadn't yet been presented to the Claremont City Council. We rest our case:

(Click on Images to Enlarge)


No surprise here. The Claremont City Council voted 5-0 to support allocating the $25,000 for the grant. As the grant application indicated, it was already decided long before tonight, as most things are in this town.

The two LWV representatives, WTF'ers C. Freeman Allen and Marilee Scaff, were given unlimited time to make a presentation (the public, if they had wanted to, might have gotten four minutes to speak, depending on Mayor Taylor's mood). Such is the way these things are weighted against the general public.

Scaff made a point of citing the enormous public support she's noticed for this project ("the whole community") and named those members of the public she's spoken with: the city of Claremont, Golden State Water Company, the Pomona Valley Protective Association, and so on. Notice that she didn't name the average citizen - you perhaps.

That's because you peons don't register on Scaff's radar. She will, however, take your $25,000, and let's not hear any complaining about it, you ungrateful rabble.

Councilmember Calaycay, who voted "YES" along with the rest of the council, did ask a question of the two LWV representatives. Calaycay asked if the $25,000 the city was allocating had any designated purpose. C. Freeman Allen answered, saying, that they have no idea what the money would be used for. It's not programmed at all. Allen did say that the money could be returned if it wasn't need.


Calaycay also raised the fact that the LWV grant application is competing against a $1.5 million grant by the city of Claremont for Padua Sports Park. Ironies abound here. In Marilee Scaff's remarks, she said that the LWV Thompson Creek project was important because it would save "50-60 acres of sage scrub" habitat - something that Scaff said is one of the most threatened habitats in California.

Yet, at the same time, the city of Claremont in seeking money for Padua Sports Park is asking the same Conservancy for $1.5 million to destroy 10 acres of the same sage scrub habitat that Scaff wants to save - and the LWV, Ellen Taylor, and the rest of the Claremont City Council in on the scam: Give us money to destroy the habitat here, give us more money to save it over there.

This, ladies and germs, is Claremont's hypocrisy in a maddening nutshell, and the State of California, through the San Gabriel Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, is being asked to join in the scam to the tune of $7.6 million for the LWV marsh project and $1.5 million for Padua Sports Park. Such worthy projects. What's a little lie here, a little hypocrisy there?

It isn't criminal, but it outta be.

Claremont Grow House Raided

Our Carnac powers must have been set on high (no pun intended) when we wrote about the increase in marijuana grow houses in California two weeks ago.

Last Saturday's Claremont Courier had a blurb in its Police Blotter about a marijuana grow house on Cleary Ct. in Northeast Claremont a few blocks from La Puerta Sports Park.

The Courier's Police Blotter had this to say about the June 6th raid on the Cleary Ct. grow house:

Police found over 500 marijuana plants at a home in north Claremont, the first ever ‘grow house’ discovered within the city limits. Police could not determine an estimated street value of the plants.

A search warrant was served at the residence around 3:18 p.m. after extensive police surveillance. Police were initially tipped off about the home, located at 167 Cleary Ct., from suspicious neighbors. The windows of the home were covered in black plastic tarps, the trash was not taken out regularly and nobody seemed to live at the location permanently.

Jeffrey Gway, 52, has rented the 4-bedroom, 2-story home since April. Mr. Gway was arrested at his residence in Rancho Cucamonga. Another suspect connected to the operation, Carl McEntire, 28, of Rancho Cucamonga, was also arrested. Mr. McEntire was often seen driving to and from the home. Police believe the owners of the home did not have knowledge of the operation.

The Blotter also reported that the suspects had stolen about $4,000 worth of electricity by wiring around the electric meter.

Our Insider Security Team may have stumbled onto this grow house phenomena** (see below) in its nightly Claremont surveillance. We'll have to check on that. In the meantime, we've found some ways for estimating the street value of the Cleary Ct. plants. The articles we were able to find on the subject generally agreed that each plant can produce up to one pound of processed marijuana. The articles also varied between street values of $1,500 and $4,000 per pound of marijuana, depending on the market and the quality of the product.

So, using the lower figure, we get an estimated value of $750,000 for the 500 plants (one pound per plant times $1,500).

* * * * * * * *

[**We checked with our Security Team. As a cost-cutting measure, we have outsourced all of our security work to India, and Anand in Bangalore was a bit slow in reviewing the data. With the large antenna arrays you see on the mountain above town, we capture every phone call, police communication, Code Red signal, video camera image, and most private conversations in town. Hey, we're not the Government, so it might be OK. This Insider Echelon system produces terabytes of data daily, and it takes poor old Anand a little time to get through it. But here we provide the recently-declassified image taken from the Claremont Police Helicopter (betcha didn't know about that, either) from two weeks ago.]

Monday, June 23, 2008

This Week's City Meetings

The city of Claremont will have several meetings this week.


The Claremont City Council holds its regularly scheduled meeting tomorrow night at 6:30pm i the City Council chambers at 225 W. 2nd St. Among the agendized items are:

  • CITY BUDGET FOR FY2008-09 AND 2009-10
    The city's two-year budget plan is up for approval. The city splits the budget in two parts: the operating budget (costs of services) and the capital improvement works plan (CIP) budget. Operating budget for the next two years runs between $37-38 million per fiscal year. Then, you tack on another $7 million or so in the CIP budget in FY2008-09 for projects like sports park lights and Phase I of the Padua Ave. Sports Park.

    After having voted down an ordinance to approve allowing a medical marijuana dispensary in town, Claremont tomorrow night will vote on an ordinance banning the dispensaries. Read the staff report here.

    This is a strange matter. The League of Women Voters (LWV) pushed by the League's high priestess Marilee Scaff, is asking the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy for $7.6 million to acquire land around the Thompson Creek Dam and the Thompson Creek Trail in Northeast Claremont just west of Mills Ave.

    Scaff's idea is to have the land developed into a park that would include a cienega, such as the ones that used to dot the area, according the League's grant application, which you can see here.

    For those of you who don't know, a cienega is a nice sounding word for marsh. In days gone by, water flowing out of the San Gabriel mountains used to percolate through the ground and bubble up through artesian wells, such as you can still see in Claremont's College Park. Pilgrim Place has historically had problems with drainage because of the way the underground water flows.

    The grant application addresses these problems by claiming, without proof, that they're already solved. For example, there's this paragraph on page 4 talking about the potential for those old drainage problems to reappear:
    LADWP [LA County Dept. of Public Works] may have been concerned that spreading the water [from Thompson Creek Dam] might overflow in local cienegas [i.e., Pilgrim Place]. However, rising water is not an intractable problem as shown by the "Mitigation Alternatives to Rising Groundwater Study" prepared for Three Valleys MWD by CDM Engineering in May 2006.

    The LWV grant writers state this with such confidence you want to believe them, but they didn't quote a fact, result, or conclusion from the report.

    Further, the fact that mitigation might be needed shows that there is a potential problem. So, what do they have to do? Put the LWV's cienega in an underground concrete liner to prevent water from seeping to lower lying areas such as Pilgrim Place?

    Of more concern to Claremont taxpayers is this bit on page 8 about who will foot the bill for the ongoing costs of maintaining the LWV Memorial Marsh:
    If the land is turned over to the City of Claremont it will cover supervisions tasks and other expenses as part of the local recreation and park maintenance budget.

    Taxpayer, this means you; AYSO parent, this means your lights and fields are now competing with the maintenance costs of Marilee's Marsh. Those costs, by the way, could be considerable depending on what mitigations might be needed to keep Pilgrim Place from floating away.

    The LWV marsh grant application is signed, by the way, by LWV president and Claremont Police Commissioner Barbara Musselman, who also sits the city's Affordable Housing Task Force. When you're a Claremont 400 member, you get to wear many hats.

    By the way, this item was on the agenda for the last city council meeting two weeks ago, and we wrote that there had been no public discussion of the issue by the city. Oddly, it was pulled at the last minute, and is back on for tomorrow night.
Click to Enlarge


The city's Affordable Housing Task Force meets Wednesday, June 25th, at 5pm in the Citrus Room at City Hall. LWV member Sharon Hightower is chair of this task force and is also co-chair of the City's Sustainability Task Force. She also chaired the city's General Plan "citizen's committee."

We know the city's into recycling, but this is getting a little ridiculous.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

CHS Baseball Update

We came across a relatively new blog by Claremont High School baseball parent Sid Robinson. Robinson blog is called Sid's Side, and its seems oriented primarily towards sports news, local and otherwise.

Robinson had a couple posts about some news we'd heard but haven't been able to confirm. According to Robinson's posts, CHS officials did not renew the coaching contract of CHS baseball coach Mike Lee.

Robinson wrote on June 12th:

Claremont High administrators will have some tough decisions to make regarding a new varsity baseball coach, since Mike Lee's contract was not renewed. Mike did a lot of good for the program, but it was a losing proposition for him from the start. In the long run, it probably wasn't a good fit for either side. He's a good guy and a decent coach, but probably better suited for a different situation where the expectations -- and personalities -- are different...

And on Friday, Robinson had a pretty candid and thoughtful take on the situation:
Let's hope it stays somewhat calm until the new coach arrives. The impression I get is that CHS and CUSD administrators are already looking for a replacement, but that they will publicly post the position and go through the search process. No word on when they hope to have a new coach on board, and it's unclear if they are looking for a baseball coach who will also be a teacher or coach in the school district. Lee coached PE and is reportedly returning to that role for one more year. I hope the new coach will continue the concept of assembling a real baseball program from top to bottom, and will bring together players and coaches from the varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams not only for practice, but to teach fundamentals and team goals. The thing that was missing -- and apparently has been missing for several years -- is a program that focuses on developing players through the ranks. For example, players at the freshman and junior varsity levels should get the kind of instruction that prepares them for what the coaches want to see at the varsity level. Practices need to be instructional and productive. That was certainly lacking at the freshman level this year. The team was successful, and won the Baseline League title, and the coach was a nice guy and a decent game manager, but the team's practices were not productive and the players didn't learn and develop the way they should. Aside from a handful of players who play for good coaches in the offseason, the freshman team was lacking in fundamental instruction. The overall program should be paying attention to players all the way down the line, so those kids will be ready to play at a higher level. All of the coaches throughout the program need to be on the same page with the same goals. My observation is that, while the players worked out together at the start of the year, that's where the common teaching techniques ended. There is a great coach in place at the JV level, and I hope Bob Smith stays on in that role.

Money Matters


Daily Bulletin business reporter Matt Wrye has a post about PFF Bancorp on the Bulletin's blog The Bizz.

Wrye says the numbers underlying the collapse of PFF's stock (PFB:NYSE) are, to say the least, sobering:

The Rancho Cucamonga-based financial holding company released some mind-boggling data on Thursday morning in its 186-page annual 10-K financial report, and the numbers aren't surprising.

For starters, customers collectively pulled out almost $520 million in deposits between March 31 and June 13. That's about 16 percent of the bank's total deposits reported for the fiscal year ending March 31.

Over the same fiscal year, PFF's debtors couldn't pay back 468 loans worth $955 million, and about $608 million of this shows "weakness in the underlying collateral or borrower strength."

PFF announced last week that it had worked out an agreement to allow Illinois-based FBOP Corp. to takeover PFF. That sale will have to go to PFF shareholders for approval.

The Press-Enterprise reported that PFF has no alternatives to the takeover
because its cash reserves have fallen precariously low. The Press-Enterprise article actually described the withdrawals by PFF customers as a "run on the bank":
Because of bad home loans, the bank lost $225.4 million in its fiscal year that ended March 31, according to filings.

Since that time, a run on the bank by customers pulling out their deposits put PFF in position where it had no cash flow and no means to pay off its debts.

PFF's auditors, KPMG LLP, wrote in the Thursday filing that the company wouldn't be able to pay off its debts without being sold.


The Bulletin's Will Bigham has an article about the budget Claremont's city staff is presenting to the City Council for the next two-year budget cycle.

Bigham reports that city sales tax revenues are off $1.7 million from the $5.8 million staff had previously estimated for the current fiscal year which ends June 30th. Staff is claiming that property tax revenue will be up, however, and the city has also seen an increase in revenue from the transient-occupancy tax money it receives thanks to the new Hotel Casa 425 and the spruced-up Doubletree Hotel.

City staff has trimmed the city's operating budget slightly, according to the article. The current fiscal year's operating budget was $38.4 million. That drops off to $37.5 million for FY2008-09 and $38 million for FY2009-10.

The article did not indicate how the belt-tightening would affect any large-scale projects, such as a new police station or a new affordable housing project.

Claremont staff reports that they did not have to lay off any employees and they achieve the budget cuts by not replacing employees who leave, other than a few key positions, as you will read below.

People visiting Claremont should also take note that the city is counting on another revenue stream for money. Call it a highway end-user tax:
The city is also estimating that money collected from traffic fines and parking citations will balloon in the next two years.

Parking citations are expected to rise from $110,000 in this fiscal year to $200,000 in each of the next two years. Traffic fines are expected to rise from $325,000 annually to $405,000 annually.

Police Capt. Gary Jenkins said the increases are expected mainly because vacancies have been filled at the department for traffic and parking enforcement.

There's no effort at all to go out and do more traffic enforcement with the intent of gaining revenue," Jenkins said. "It's more an issue of proper staffing, and these are the revenues we're projecting because of proper staffing."


Claremont would never institute speed traps or traffic citation quotas, nudge nudge, wink wink.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wrong Way Ellen


Fans of college football may remember Cal's Wrong Way Roy Riegels, who back in the 1929 Rose Bowl against Georgia Tech returned a fumble 65 yards in the wrong direction before being tackled at the Cal 3-yard line by teammate Benny Lom.

Georgia Tech ended up scoring a safety a short time later to take a 2-0 lead and later won the game, and a national championship, 8-7.

It's easy to see how a player could get confused and turned around in the mad scramble for a fumble, and it happens much more often than you might think.

Back in the 1903 the Skidmore College Thoroughbreds of Sarasota Springs, NY, were playing the Alvernia College Crusaders in the Ferret Bowl and were tied 6-6 with five minutes left in the fourth quarter when Skidmore alumna "Wrong Way" Ellen Taylor (pictured above), the first woman to play in men's inter-collegiate athletics, got turned around and ran a flubbed kickoff into her own endzone, effectively losing the game for the Thoroughbreds.

The embarrassing play scarred Taylor for life, leaving her a bitter and angry woman, even after she married and settled 3,000 miles away in Claremont, CA. Taylor's miscue also led colleges to segregate women into their own, separate sports teams, a division that has lasted to this day.

Taylor suffered in secret shame until discovering that her poor sense of direction is caused by an extremely rare neurological disorder, Ellen's Syndrome (so far identified in only one case), which is marked by irritability, haughtiness, arrogance, a false sense of superiority, and a general inability to follow rules while at the same time zealously imposing them on others.

Heat Wave

It's gonna be another scorcher today. So much for our traditional June gloom. Whether you think it's human-caused or natural variation, is this a taste of the future?

The weather instruments at LA County Fire Station 62 recorded a maximum temp of 104 yesterday at 1:40pm, and figures to be almost as hot today.

The city of Claremont has designated the Alexander Hughes Community Center a "Cool Zone" today from 8am to 5pm. The city has invited Claremont residents to come cool off and also offers some tips on surviving the heat from the American Red Cross:

· Drink water continuously even if you don't feel thirsty and avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate the body.
· Avoid high protein foods, which increases metabolic heat. Eat small meals and eat more often.
· Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
· Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous activity, do so during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning from 4 - 7 a.m.
· Stay indoors when possible.
· Take regular breaks in a cool place.

For additional information about staying cool in the summer visit Additional information about the Alexander Hughes Community Center is available by calling (909) 399-5490.

Community Cool Zone
Saturday June 21st - 8am - 5pm

Alexander Hughes Community Center
1700 N. Danbury Rd.
Claremont, CA 91711
(909) 399-5490

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Cost of Ownership

The Daily Bulletin reported last week that the city of Pomona owes $5.8 million to six families in the Phillips Ranch area of Pomona after losing a lawsuit.

The affected homes suffered damages from land movement in an open space area owned by the city. The Bulletin's Monica Rodriguez explained:

The families first realized there was a problem when they started seeing cracks in the floors of their homes and yards in February 2005 after a period of heavy rains.

The cracks grew quickly. Before long, they turned into gaps and drops of as much as 2 feet.

During the trial, information was presented that in the late 1970s and early 1980s engineers for the builder of the homes found an ancient landslide, said Michael A. Hearn, the lawyer representing the families.

The engineers produced a report that went to the city and recommended the landslide be removed and the area regraded, Hearn said.

The city approved a plan that left much of the old unstable landslide and area dedicated to the city for open space, he said.

"The judge found that when the city accepted the land, it accepted the liability," Hearn said.

Rodriguez went on to report that the plaintiffs had argued that city had stopped monitoring the area for gophers, which allowed the gopher population to run wild, opening holes in the slide area that made it easier for rainwater to seep into the ground, undermining the area. As the open space land moved, it affected the homes in question.

Pomona City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman indicated in the article that the city would appeal the decision. There's a lively discussion of this issue over at the M-M-M-My Pomona blog, where K has posted some thoughts on the matter.

K has a hard time seeing any liability on the part of the city of Pomona, and he seems to argue that the homeowners assumed the risk posed by a landslide when they bought their homes:

How on earth is it that the owner of a great big empty hillside (empty, because it can't be built upon due to fear of landslides) is responsible for maintaining the hillside so it doesn't slide or endanger the millions of dollars worth of real estate perched above the hillside!? Call me crazy, but I'd assume that the folks on top of the hill would have a strong interest in maintaining the integrity of the hillside, rather than the folks who own the (relatively) worthless hillside land. Especially when the folks on top picked the hillside location due to the great views.

This whole thing seems to us a lot like the city of Claremont's situation with the Palmer Canyon homeowners following the 2003 Padua Fire. In that instance, the homeowners argued that the city-owned Wilderness Park was not maintained according to Claremont's own Vegetation Management Plan for the Wilderness Park, allowing dangerous amounts of fuel to accumulate.

Claremont, and the Claremonsters, argued that it was the homeowners' own fault that their homes burned. They should have known Palmer Canyon was a fire area, the thinking goes.

Claremont, however, must have seen the writing on the wall in the Palmer Canyon lawsuit. Their attorneys and their insurer, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority, settled the suit for $17.5 million.

Just because a land is open space does not absolve the owner of the land, in these cases the cities of Claremont and Pomona and the taxpayers funding those municipalities, from maintaining the land so that it does not damage neighboring properties.

In Pomona's case, for instance, they could have exterminated the gophers to control the population. Even if you think the plaintiffs' arguments were spurious, taking care of the gophers would have eliminated the argument that the holes allowed the hill to be undermined. In the same way, if the city of Claremont had simply cleared the brush around Palmer Canyon, as their own formal policies said they would, the plaintiffs would not have been able to make some of the key arguments in their case.

The moral of the story is that there are additional costs to preserving open space that cities need to take into account. The costs merely begin with land acquisition. With ownership comes responsibility, and cities, no less than individual property owners, are accountable for damages caused by their negligence.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor, Scofflaw

Taylor Drives Wrong Way down a One-Way Alley

Sometimes you just live right and your everyday experience confirms what you fervently believed anyway.

The ol' Insider was heading to the Village this morning on an Important Mission to Undermine the Foundations of Society, and was law-abidingly waiting to turn left from Indian Hill to east-bound Harrison. Whom should we espy but our esteemed Mayor, Her Honorable Majesty, Royalty-on-the-Hoof, Ellen Taylor? She was crossing in front of us on Harrison, west to east, destined (as we later found out) for the parking lot behind former mayor Sandy Baldonado's office.

Birds of a feather and all.

Mayor Ellen was driving her fancy late-model Lexus; the Insider was in Mrs. Insider's late-80s Ford Pinto with the broken air conditioning--a beater like this would not have registered on her Queenship's radar.

Anyway, due to the circumstances of Fate and the operation of Kismet, we found ourselves following Mayor Taylor, radiator to tailpipe as it were. We were a little surprised when she stopped just a bit short of Yale to wait for a car to exit the one-way alley (one-way, northbound). Ah, we thought, a little noblesse oblige and courtesy to one of her Citizens. But then we saw, no, she was waiting to turn south down the alley, against the two bright red "DO NOT ENTER" signs and arrow showing the alley was one-way, and that way was against Ellen's intended and actually-taken route (see above, for Actual Image).

There oughta be a law.

We were so shocked, shocked to see this transgressive behavior on Ellen's part that we could do nothing other than continue on our errand but a bit later we returned to the quote scene of the crime unquote to see if we should believe what our lying eyes had shown us. Sure enough, there was Ellen, Lexus, Sandy, and ladies of the club numbering near a half dozen. It must have been some kind of hen party, because even later Ellen, Lexus, Sandy, and said ladies were gone.

Now we understand that this crime is not of the caliber, say, of the Crime of Xavier Alvarez, and we disdain (well, maybe we actually embrace) the Politics of Gotcha. And we presume that Chief Paul Cooper is at one of the many excellent local donut shops working on that waistline of his, so "no harm, no foul".

But you must remember this when you are on the wrong end of one of those preachy little lectures that Ellen likes to give, or snide comments she likes to make: that she is just as big a hypocrite as you are, and maybe more so. We didn't have to go any farther back than the June 10 council meeting to hear her expound on another traffic matter. (20-second clip, below) She writes the policies for you and me to obey, but of course they don't apply to her.

City Budget Plan Ready to Go

Yesterday's Claremont Courier reported on the state of Claremont's municipal budget (the article is not posted on the Courier's website). City staff will present the next two-year budget proposal at the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 24th, and the budget cycle starts July 1st.

The Courier article said that city staff looks to sales tax revenue to remain flat for a year, then increase by five percent the next year. In anticipation of the state withholding funds because of its own $15 billion (or more) deficit, city staff is figuring on receiving $385,000 less in sales tax revenue from the state.

Staff figures that property tax revenues will not be affected, but Councilmember Peter Yao seemed more concerned, the Courier reported:

"Some 10 percent of housing in Claremont is in some state of foreclosure," Mr. Yao said. "Property tax is a significant part of our budget, so I have asked staff to offer a presentation of where department cuts will be made in case there is a short fall."

The article also pointed out that city's CalPERS employee retirement account is still underfunded by several million dollars. The city is not budgeting anything to bring that account back into the black.

As usual, staff is putting it's typical spin on the budget, saying that the budget is balanced and that we're not as bad off as some other area cities who've had to lay off employees or borrow from reserves to fund their budgets.

The article also indicated that Clarmeont Mayor Ellen Taylor's two biggest goals are building more affordable housing (see yesterday's post on the Cal Poly project) and getting more sports fields for Claremont's youth (a self-created problem, as we've reported in the past).

Bet on this, Queen Ellen (pictured above) will find some way, come hell or highwater, to spend that balanced budget into the red.

Alvarez May Face Recall

The Three Valleys Municipal Water District yesterday approved a resolution calling on District I boardmember Xavier Alvarez to resign, according to the Daily Bulletin's Will Bigham.

The one "NO" vote belonged to Alvarez himself, who has faced ever-greater criticism since his guilty plea to a federal misdemeanor charge of lying about being a Medal of Honor recipient:

Alvarez has pleaded guilty to a federal charge connected with his false claim that he won the Medal of Honor. He never served in the military.

He also is being investigated by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office for the potentially criminal act of signing up his ex-wife for district-paid health benefits.

Despite the pressure to resign, Alvarez said he had no intention of leaving his seat. Alvarez was censured by the board in October after his alleged misuse of health benefits was exposed.

And it now appears that Alvarez will soon face a recall campaign in his south Pomona district.

The article goes on to say that former Pomona City Councilmember Marco Robles spoke at the meeting and announced the formation of a committee to recall Alvarez. The two have battled in the past, with Alvarez having tried without success to recall Robles.

Alvarez remains defiant as ever, accusing his fellow boardmembers of being drunk at water board meetings and accusing them of bigotry in their comments about Alvarez. Bigham's article said Three Valleys board president Bob Kuhn seemed to laugh off Alvarez's claims, calling them ridiculous.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Affordable Housing Comes (Close) to Claremont

Fair Oaks Walk,
141 E. Foothill Blvd., Pomona, CA
(Click to Enlarge)

Imagine our surprise when a reader brought to our attention a new affordable housing project going in on Foothill Blvd. near the border of Claremont and Pomona. The project, Fair Oaks Walk, is the result of a partnership between Cal Poly Pomona, the Cal Poly Foundation, and The Olson Company, which built the Claremont Village Walk townhomes and was going to build a similar development on the old Claremont Courier site at 111 S. College Ave. in Claremont.

The Fair Oaks development is open to employees of Cal Poly and other local educational institutions. The project's website gave a description:

Just 25 miles east of Los Angeles in Pomona, at the foot of the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains, Fair Oaks Walk—developed for Heroes in the Education Sector(Faculty & Staff)—strikes the perfect balance between charming small town life and convenient city living.

Enjoy local parks, great schools, shopping, dining and more. Or head to nearby Claremont Village, one of Southern California’s most idyllic college town destinations. And it’s all yours with easy access to the 10, 210 and 57 freeways, plus the always convenient Metrolink.

These classic townhomes feature up to 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths, plus a host of modern amenities.

Fair Oaks Walk in Pomona serves up the ultimate combination of small town comforts and Los Angeles County fun.

  • Plans starting at $289k
  • Close to shopping, dining, schools and Metrolink
  • 34 stylish homes
  • Up to 3 bedrooms & 2.5 baths
  • From 1,548 to 1,741 sq. ft.
  • Two-car attached garage
  • Outdoor BBQs and community “Tot Lot”
  • Kids can walk to Sumner Elementary School
  • Outstanding Claremont School District

The website also explains who can buy one of these units:
Who is eligible to purchase homes in Fair Oaks Walk?
Current Cal Poly Pomona Faculty, staff, as well as employees of other academic partners of Cal Poly Pomona: CSU Fullerton; Mount San Antonio College; Western University of Health Sciences; Claremont Colleges; school districts of nearby cities such as Pomona-Walnut-Diamond Bar-San Dimas-La Verne-Industry-Claremont; CSU Emeriti; Cal Poly Pomona alumni; Innovation Village affiliates. All purchasers must live in Fair Oaks Walk as their principal place of residence and remain affiliated with Cal Poly Pomona during their residency.

Yes, that's right. Employees of the Claremont Colleges and the Claremont Unified School District are eligible.

Did we miss something, or did Cal Poly Pomona and The Olson Companies actually manage to get an affordable housing project built near Claremont's western edge while the Claremont 400, the Claremont Area League of Women Voters (LWV), and the Claremont City Council, led by former Mayor Peter Yao and current Mayor Ellen Taylor, wasted four years dithering and throwing money at a project doomed to failure from the outset?

You might have noticed that the Cal Poly's Fair Oaks Walk is smaller than Claremont's defunct Base Line Affordable Housing Project (34 units versus 45) and has purchase units rather than rentals, both things that would have been acceptable to the Base Line project opponents. Mayor Taylor and the Claremont LWV refused to budge on these points, however, and the project eventually died because its proximity to the 210 Freeway made it unable to qualify for LA County affordable housing funds.

It's also interesting that one of Fair Oaks' selling points is the fact that children living there will go to Claremont schools and that the homes are close to the Claremont Village.

It is remarkable what you can get done when you're not trying to shove a misconceived, poorly sited project down the throats of a community that has a better idea of what should be done. Practicality trumps intractability and foolishness every time.

Score: Cal Poly Broncos 1, Claremonsters 0.