Claremont Insider: LWV Finds Police Station Site

Monday, July 7, 2008

LWV Finds Police Station Site

Leave it to the Claremont 400 to always pick the hardest, most costly way to do things.

Saturday's Claremont Courier had an article by Tony Krickl reporting that the city's Police Commission has identified a site for a new $25-35 million police station. The site is located on Monte Vista Ave. just south of the Claremont City Yard and is currently owned and occupied by the Corey Nursery.

The Courier article gave the background for the decision:

In December 2007, an architectural firm was contracted to review the top 10 sites identified by the commission as viable locations for a new police station. The 7-acre site was the top pick by the firm and won unanimous support among police commissioners.

The location is ideal for several reasons, said Carol Painter, Chair of the Police Commission. It is not located in the middle of a residential neighborhood, which could hinder mobility for emergency vehicles. It would be adjacent to the city yard where city vehicles are fueled and repaired. It would also be located across the street from the Pomona Valley Hospital development.

The commission has been looking for a 4- to 5-acre site that would provide enough room for a single or two-story building and ground level parking. The 7-acre site along Monte Vista Avenue would offer plenty of space for current needs and allow for future expansion, according to the architectural firm’s report.

The article also noted that the Police Commission eliminated the former affordable housing site on Base Line Rd. as a consideration, as well as the Holliday Rock site to the north of the city yard.

We're betting the city will have to use its eminent domain powers to take the land, not necessarily because the Corey Nursery would be an unwilling seller. As we've seen in other Claremont land transactions, private parties selling and to Claremont want the threat of eminent domain because that confers a certain tax benefit. The Johnson's Pasture owners wanted this threat at one time, and it was also used to help Claremont Toyota acquire the former Chili's property (another great deal for the citizens of Claremont).

So, we rather than using the land at Base Line Rd. and Towne Ave. that Claremont already owns, the city is going to have to go buy land and then build the station. The Corey Nursery land also has the added problem of extending over the county line into Upland, adding the problem of having to negotiate the running of the police station with San Bernardino County.

Moreover, the Base Line Rd. site raised the possibility of a joint facility with the neighboring city of La Verne. Something that would allow for sharing the cost of building and running the station and jailing facility - a not-so-insignificant hurdle that La Verne's City Council has been grappling with.

Why not use the Base Line Rd. site? One reason that the Base Line Rd. site is smaller than what Claremont Police Chief Cooper is seeking. Of course, there's always the chance that he's been told, "Hands off the Base Line site," by the Claremont League of Women Voters (LWV), League president and Police Commissioner Barbara Musselman, and Mayor Ellen Taylor (herself a former LWV president).

Musselman and Taylor, you may recall, were two of the LWV forces behind the failed affordable housing project at the Base Line site. Musselman is also on the city's Affordable Housing Task Force, along with several other LWV members. We suspect they will try to resurrect the Base Line Rd. site for affordable housing sometime in the future. So, whether it would work for a police station or not, that land is spoken for.

Another problem with getting a larger property is that the city and the CPD will want to fill it. Give them more land and they'll just build a larger facility. Give them two acres, they might just find a way to make do for a lower cost.

With the city contemplating a $100 million or more water company take over, building an affordable housing project somewhere, and starting in the fall on the first stage of $12 million Padua Sports Park, they may have a hard time going to the citizens of Claremont for the bonds to pay for that $25-35 million police station, especially at a time when Claremonters and people everywhere are having to cut back on their own household budgets.

Proposed CPD Station Site
(Click on Image to Enlarge)