Claremont Insider: September 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Party's Over

Ed at M-M-M-My Pomona has a post with a breakdown of our local congressional reps voted on the failed $700 billion financial bailout package (the numbers to the left of the names are congressional districts:

26 David Dreier Rep Y
32 Hilda Solis Dem N
38 Grace Napolitano Dem N
39 Linda Sanchez Dem N
40 Edward Royce Rep N
42 Gary Miller Rep Y
43 Joe Baca Dem N
44 Ken Calvert Rep Y

So the wrangling in Washington goes on. In the meantime, credit markets are freezing up as fear causes institutions and individuals to hang on to their cash. On Saturday, the Los Angeles Times had an article about the great credit freeze and the potential impact on local government:
Credit -- the lifeblood of the economy -- has simply stopped flowing in many parts of the financial system over the last two weeks.

"Figuratively, institutions are putting money in a mattress," said Bill Gross, the chief investment officer of money management giant Pimco in Newport Beach.

Many banks have stopped making short-term loans to other lenders. Big investors are hoarding cash, and the only IOUs some will accept are those of the U.S. Treasury. States and cities suddenly face crushingly high interest rates if they try to sell bonds to finance government operations. And for many businesses and consumers, credit is harder to get -- if it's available at all.

The root of this crisis is the housing market's collapse, but the shock waves are reaching well beyond the real estate market and are threatening to make a full-blown recession inevitable.

At the same time Claremont is thinking about building a $20-25 million police station, the cost of financing the facility may likely be on the rise, and voters may balk at at the thought of yet another city construction extravaganza at their expense.

Claremont's local taxes are already on the high-end of what Southern Californians pay for their services, and some recent events have folks questioning questioning how much bang they're getting for their buck. The majority of our City Council seems to think the money flow will go on unchanged, but events far beyond their control will quite likely reshape those assumptions. The state will have to come back next year and deal with another budget crisis that's likely to be as bad or worse the this year's, especially if the economy contracts and financial markets take a long time to recover. In the meantime, though, our City Council may be leaving us a deep hole to contend with when the bill finally comes due.

Monday, September 29, 2008

LWV Lines Up Against Neighborhood - AGAIN

Next week, Claremont's Planning Commission will review the draft 2008-2014 Housing Element of the City's General Plan. The city's website has this information:

A Draft 2008-2014 Housing Element has been completed and will be reviewed by the Planning Commission. The Draft contains goals, policies, and programs to achieve the community's vision of a diverse and sustainable community that increases housing choice for current and future residents.

  • When: Tuesday, October 7 [7:00pm - ed.]
  • Where: Council Chamber, 225 W. Second Street
The public is encouraged to participate in this review process. Copies of the Draft are available for review at the City Hall public counter, 207 Harvard Avenue, and you may click the link below to view the Draft.

For more information, contact the City's Planning Division at (909) 399-5470.

The draft Housing Element did have some useful information. For example, it contained a couple tables that showed how the city's age distribution seems to be changing - something we've written about in the past. One table showed that between the 1990 and 2000 US Censuses, the number of children of preschool age (0-5 years old) declined by 7.1%. Also, the number of adults ages 25-34 declined by 11.4%. And the number of adults 35-44 declined by 9.7%. The last two groups are the ones whom one would expect to be starting families, so those declines feed into the diminishing preschool-age cohort.

In contrast, older adults, the groups ages 45-54, 55-64, and 65 and older, increased by 26.5%, 5.5%, and 23.3%, respectively.

Click on Images to Enlarge

Household sizes, too, declined between 1990 and 2000, also sign of fewer children:

Like almost any city enterprise, the draft Housing Plan is a political document shaped in large part by the League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area. Affordable Housing figures prominently in the plan, and there is every indication that the local LWV has not forgiven the residents who live around the site of the former Base Line Rd. affordable housing site at the southeast corner of Base Line and Towne Ave.

You might recall that the LWV squared off against those residents and lost when they tried to push their affordable housing project at that location. The LWV lost primarily because a Los Angeles County agency decided it would change the rules by which it allocates certain affordable housing funds, ruling that projects within 500 feet of a major highway cannot receive the funds in question.

The LWV hasn't given up, and the Base Line Rd. site with its potential for up to 46 affordable housing units is still mentioned in the list. Also, an adjacent Base Line site 1000 feet east of Towne Ave. is listed in the draft Housing Element as one of the top potential affordable housing locations in Claremont and could hold up to 78 homes.

Of course, that second Base Line site would have the same problems as the first one - it is next to the 210 Freeway and so would not be ideally suited to affordable housing.

Still, the LWV and the city's establishment, including Mayor Ellen Taylor, have had it in for this neighborhood for a long time, going back to when the 210 Freeway was being planned and they wanted to dump the westbound traffic onto Base Line Rd. with hook ramps. The city lost on the 210 Fwy. ramps, and they lost Round One of the affordable housing debate. Out of spite, rather than as a matter of public policy, they're coming back for Round Two.

Should be interesting.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

News of the News

A reader who caught our post about the Claremont Courier's quality assurance problems had some thoughts on yesterday's Courier's city council report:

SUBJECT: demand grows for poor cell phone service
DATE: Saturday, September 27, 2008, 12:55 PM
TO: Claremont Buzz

The Claremont Currier:

"With the additional funding of $527,859, Padua Park will now host two soccer fields, one of them with lights, walking trails and native landscaping."

- A soccer field with native landscaping -- that's really gonna interfere with the passing game....

"The strawberry patch section of the property is privately owner."

"The Police Commission will bring the requested information back before the council by December, Commission Carol Painter said."

- I didn't realize the Carol Painter problem was serious enough to require its own committee.

"As demand grows for better cell phone coverage that is notoriously poor in many parts of the city..."

"The presence of the horses...provides an extra bonus."

- At the equestrian center.


Courier publisher Peter Weinberger, whose father Martin published and edited the paper for over 50 years, had a "My Side of the Line" column yesterday announcing the departure of Courier editor Rebecca JamesCourie. JamesCourie has been replaced by 30-year Claremont resident Kathryn Dunn, who had been working at the paper as a production editor.

Weinberger also wrote that he would be taking a more active hand in the paper's management:
So after working 30 years at 7 different newspapers, carrying a wide range of titles and responsibilities, I assume the role my father carried since before I was born. As many of my colleagues around the nation leave the newspaper industry crumbling around them, I feel fortunate to be managing this newspaper in such a great town. Let us not forget my parents are still keeping an eye on all stuff going on around Claremont. We are excited at what the future will bring.

But this story does not end yet. We have another announcement to make. The COURIER has promoted Kathryn Dunn to managing editor. She will run the daily operations of the newspaper by coordinating our news and editorial coverage. In my opinion, this is the most important job at the paper.

Ms. Dunn has the perfect background to handle her new role. She is a Claremont news junkie with a keen sense on what issues are important to us. She’s lived here for 30 years and is raising 2 young boys going through the Claremont school system. Ms. Dunn has worked at the COURIER for 17 years, working in almost every capacity during that time. She will continue to play a role in the design and story placement for future issues.

Good luck to Dunn, who will undoubtedly discover that the Claremont 400 can be a terror to deal with if they're displeased with the coverage they get on their issues. The pressure the Claremonsters bring can be pretty awful. The elder Weinberger was an expert at getting the real news out and at presenting balanced views of local issues without bowing to the peer pressure of people like current Mayor Ellen Taylor or former Mayor Judy Wright.

The town's doyennes are of the opinion that the Courier should be more of a community cheerleader, a kind of Chamber of Commerce newsletter, rather than a real newspaper. If the new editor and publisher can't maintain that balance, then expect more fluff, more of the party line, and a less representative portrait of the community.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Stinkin' Laws

After seven years, sports groups are celebrating the decision by the Claremont City Council to go forward with Phases 1 and 1A of the Padua Ave. Sports Park. The sports groups and Human Services Commissioner Valerie Martinez have long pushed for the park. The sports groups are happy because they say there is a severe shortage of lighted fields, and Martinez cheers because she sees the sports groups as a power block to support her own plans for rehabilitating her tarnished post-Preserve Claremont image. (You have to hand it to Martinez, the original Transparent Woman; she has no shame and certainly isn't lacking for chutzpah.)

Tuesday night, the Claremont City Council approved going forward with the first two phases of the park at a total cost of about $3.6 million. The council had already approved approximately spending $2.4 million for Phase 1, which consists of one unlit soccer field and 52 parking spaces. On Monday, however, the city received an additional $850,000 from the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (RMC), and that allowed the city to go forward with Phase 1A, which includes the lit soccer field and 58 more parking spots.

One thing the council didn't really discuss is how their approval of the two park phases will mean raiding the city's General Fund Reserve and taking nearly $1 million to build Phase 1A. In addition to needing to burn an extra $527,000 of General Fund Reserve funds, they are "borrowing" another $450,000 in reserve money and promise to repay that from city Park Development Impact Fees. The problem with that is that those fees are paid by developers when they build new projects in town. As you may have noticed, there's not a whole lot of building going on right now, and there's no guarantee when developers will move forward with new projects. So that repayment money may be a long time in coming.

Another thing they didn't talk much about Tuesday night was that because the RMC money comes from a conservancy that is supposed to be preserving the 8.9 acres of sage habitat that the sports park would otherwise destroy, the city sold the project to the RMC as a project that meets the city's draft Sustainability Plan, and the city made representations (false?) that it would use part of the grant to preserve a chunk of the sage habitat. The city dangled a promise to the RMC that the city might set up a 6 acre habitat area with walking trails.

Of course, you know all about Claremont's history of promise keeping. Once they received the RMC's $850,000 for Phase 1 on Monday, the city council on Tuesday night turned around and were then able to use Claremont money that would have otherwise been used on Phase 1 and plugged it into Phase 1A. In effect, the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy is underwriting the destruction of the habitat in Phase 1A and the introduction of sports park lights into a foothill area that has very strict lighting restrictions. This is a bait-and-switch of extraordinary proportions. Well executed, Claremont!

Judging from Tuesday night's discussions, Claremont's arguments for being able to break the lighting rules for Northeast Claremont, courtesy of City Attorney Sonia Carvalho, are that the city's own rules don't apply to the city itself. No surprise there, since we know that Carvalho seemed to believe last year that the First Amendment and quaint notions about prior restraint had no place in Claremont.

The city is apparently foregoing Phase 2 for the present. Phase 2 would have included a lit softball field and unlit tennis courts. It originally included a lit roller hockey rink in place of the tennis courts.

(We've received a little more information on the RMC grant, complete with some spiffy images, and we'll be serving that up in the coming days.)

The Daily Bulletin had a story on the park decision. Because the 100-foot sports lights in Phase 1A were an issue for Councilmember Corey Calaycay, the council bifurcated the vote. The council unanimously approved going forward with Phase 1 and voted 4-1 for adding in Phase 1A, with Calaycay dissenting. According to the Bulletin:

The council voted for the project in two phases. Council members voted unanimously in the first phase for one soccer field without lights, among other items. In the second phase, Corey Calaycay cast the dissenting vote because he opposed a soccer field with lights.

``I have no objection to the park,'' Calaycay said. ``My objection is to the lights.'' Calaycay said that while he supported the park, the property needed to have its designated zoning changed from rural, and he didn't like ``bending rules.''

``They've always had lighting standards there,'' Calaycay said Wednesday.

``A big criticism of government is when they make rules apply to others and not themselves,'' Calaycay said. ``It brings government into question.''

The RMC might want to know (if they cared) that the council was already talking about replacing that 6 acres of sage habitat they said they were going to preserve with another sports field. Councilmember Peter Yao said he did not want to accept $50,000 from the RMC for a habitat feasibility study because he wanted a third sports field on the Padua site. Yao said he knew how what a conservancy's study would say, and he wanted no part of it.

Yao's support for the Padua project was quite a change from September, 2002, when then-candidate Yao sent a letter to the Claremont Courier that laid out all the reasons why he was against not only Padua Sport Park but Village West as well:
I initially agreed with the City's decisions to build more homes in the Village West expansion and to construct a sports facility in Padua Park. However, the comments from the public have caused me to rethink my position. Four public statements voiced in various city council meetings have prompted my re-evaluation:

1. Who would want to live in the new upscale Village West homes built next to an active railroad track?

2. Padua Park will generate a heavy volume of traffic on Padua Ave., a narrow two-lane rural road.

3. Lit up, the Padua Park, with tens of thousands of megawatts of lighting, will ruin the character of the quiet North Claremont.

4. It makes no sense to locate the largest Claremont sports facility in the extreme northern corner of the city.

The problem is that both the Village West and Padua Park capital projects do not adhere to Claremont's zoning philosophy. The zoning laws caution us not to put houses in a noisy zone and not to put large sports facilities in a quiet zone.

Click to Enlarge
It's easy to see why Yao has changed back to supporting the park. As he has learned by now with the able tutoring of one Sonia Carvalho, in Claremont, we don't need no stinkin' laws!

Police Station Decision on Hold

The Claremont City Council Tuesday ended up sending the question of where to put the proposed new city police station back to the Police Commission for more information.

The commission had sent the council a recommendation to put the new facility at the Corey Nursery site on Monte Vista Ave. and Claremont Blvd. just south of the city's maintenance yard.

The council decision will have Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper (right), who had his heart set on the nursery site, revisiting some other options that had been raised, including the idea of working with the city of Pomona on a joint facility. Wes Woods II had the story in today's Daily Bulletin:

Council members asked the police commission to return later with additional information on more sites.

``I'm not necessarily disappointed,'' Cooper said.

``We started this in 2002 and as each year ticks by, there doesn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. But we'll be getting the information to them (the council) by the end of the year.''

Cooper said the commission was asked to look at the current site at 570. W. Bonita Ave., the strawberry patch fields at Baseline and Towne Avenues owned by the Pomona Valley Protective Association and the Corey Nursery at Monte Vista.

Council also directed the commission to again talk to Pomona about working together for a possible station at Towne and Bonita avenues, Cooper said.

The cost of the new station, an estimated $25-30 million, is one thing delaying the decision. No amount of grant money will come close to funding the facility, so the city's taxpayers will have to foot the bill. As the Johnson's Pasture purchased showed a couple years ago, not only does the project have to be worthy, but the funding mechanism has to be free of gimmicks or it will be rejected. The city council may have learned its lesson from that previous experience.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Clairmont Currier

The Claremont Courier has finally done it. Driven us cuckoo. Bonkers. Crazy-ape-bananas.

What is with the near-illiteracy of the paper? For example, on Page 1 of yesterday's paper, the caption to the photo reads, "Claremont has faired better than nearby cities". "Faired"? How about "fared"?

OK, everybody makes a mistake. Even us, occasionally. But then scanning the articles we come to the sad story on page 5 of the untimely death of yet another member of the Claremont College community, Pitzer student Luke Rogers.

We read that Mr. Rogers sang in an a capella group that held its last performance on September 9th outside "Prairie" Dining Hall at Pomona College. H-m-m-m...that's a new one on us. We have heard of Frary Hall, the north-quad dining room containing the famous Orozco mural, Prometheus. And Frank Dining Hall. But never heard of "Prairie".

And then we turn to page 6 where John Pixley's column starts out referring to "Frerry" Dining Hall and the famed Mexican artist "Orasco".

Please. The business of a newspaper is words.

Mistakes such as this do no honor to the memory of people like Luke Rogers, nor to Pomona College nor to José Orozco. They are an embarrassment to an educated community. We were so put off we didn't even bother to finish the articles.

Maybe the paper can start with baby steps. Resolve merely to avoid bonehead typos on page 1. And when it has gone several weeks successfully accomplishing that modest goal, try for two pages. And so on.

Can the Courier please, please, please get a copy editor? Please. Thank you.

Turf Wars

Last week we covered the anticipated war at Wheeler Park (Vista School) between the Junior All-American Football and the Claremont Stars soccer club. Like most gang rumbles, this one was about turf. Specifically, the practice turf at Vista where the teams were to practice. The Claremont Stars had "historical rights", but the Junior All-American Football league had juice on the Sports Committee which allocates fields. Thus, as we hear it, the Stars lost a day to the young gridiron guys.

We hadn't heard the outcome. Our correspondent must have been seriously injured in the melee because all attempts to contact him were unsuccessful. However, we received this special report from war correspondent Mary Noonan who had been in the thick of the action:

From the way she describes it, the Stars really kicked some booty, and besides that trash-talked the 13-and-under Peewees, Elfs [sic], Midgets, Shrimps, Teeny-tinies, Gremlins, Leprechauns, Nanos, Small-worlders, Hobbits, Tinkerbells, Lollipops, and Dwarves (various age groups of the JAAF).

Here is the victorious generalissimo, John Hall, President of the Claremont Stars, walking off the field after his glorious victory. He didn't even have to loosen his tie. Way to go against those 13-and-unders!

Blogospheric Gleanings

Considering the recent (temporary?) demise of The Foothill Cities blog, we were happy to see that the Goddess of Pomona is back on the air after a month-long silence. Goddess has some observations about her fair city, as well as a plug for mayor of Pomona.

Meanwhile, over at M-M-M-My Pomona, we were beginning to worry about Meg, who'd been quiet for an extended period as well. We're happy to report that Meg, too, is back among the e-living and had a post about her trash pickup that for some reason reminded us of Jean François Millet's "The Gleaners."

M-M-M-My Pomona, by the way, is sporting a new, brighter look. The content remains insightful as ever.

The Allen Who Would Be King

David Allen had a comment on his blog about a recent LA Times article on North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il. Allen mentioned how North Koreans are required to keep portraits of Kim and his late father in their homes and that people are fined if the portraits aren't dusted regularly. Allen went on to say:

But here's what grabbed my attention:

"Foreign visitors are advised upon their arrival in Pyongyang not to throw away any North Korean newspapers lest they despoil a photo of the leaders," the story notes.

" 'Don't tear or crumble the newspapers. Don't throw it in a dustbin. Don't wrap something with it or use it for some other purpose,' warned guide Gil Hyun Ah, who said offenders would have to write formal letters of apology before being permitted to leave the country."

When I rule the Inland Valley -- it will be a benevolent tyranny -- I expect to apply the same rule upon the populace regarding the Daily Bulletin. Do not tear or crumble it, don't toss it away and for goodness' sake don't wrap any fish or coffee grounds in it. You might despoil my image.

The Onion News had a panel discussion on Kim's popularity a while back (before Kim's health took a sudden turn for the worse):

In The Know: Kim Jong-Il's Approval Rating Plummets to 120%

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Calling All Telecoms

If you like cellular towers, get ready for more.

The Claremont City Council last night approved a streamlined process for getting the beasts installed. They're much nicer now than they were 10 years ago, so you may see them masquerading as trees or even barns.

The wireless industry pays cities well for the use of parks and other public places to set their towers, and with our town's habit of spending like a drunken sailor, even with the current economic climate, an ever-shrinking municipal General Fund reserve, and a now-deferred $15.2 billion state deficit waiting to raise its ugly head in a year, Claremont is seeking out every available revenue stream possible.

Desperate times require desperate measures. Or, a cell-tower in every park.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tonight's Council Meeting

The Claremont City Council meets again tonight, beginning with another one of their closed sessions at 5:15pm at City Hall. Do you get the impression this is where the real business of the people gets done?

The Council reconvenes at 6:30pm in the Council Chambers for its public session. Here's what's on tap tonight:


In their ultra-secret bunker, the City Council will:

  • Meet with their labor negotiators, City Manager Jeff Parker, Assistant City Manager Tony Ramos, and personnel manager Shawna Urban to discuss negotiations with the Claremont Professional Employee's Association.

  • Discuss the Protect Our Neighborhood lawsuit against the City and Claremont McKenna College.

  • Meet with Jerry Tessier regarding price and terms for the Padua Theatre renovation.


When the Council reconvenes, they'll give a report on their closed session actions, then jump into the regular part of the meeting, beginning with public comment. Among the agenda items are:
  • A second reading of the residential parking ordinance.

  • Authorizing City Manager Parker to sign a lease agreement with Tri-City Mental Health to lease that agency the city's Youth and Family Support Center facility.

  • Awarding a $2.2 million contract with Mega Way Enterprises of Pomona to build Phase 1 of the Padua Ave. Park. According to the staff report, Phase 1 will include one unlit soccer field and 52 parking spaces.

    Additionally, the staff report says that the City is expecting to receive $850,000 from the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy for aspects of habitat restoration and water conservation. The city's agenda report seems to indicate that if the City receives the money, staff wants the council to shift $850,000 of money already budgeted for Phase 1 and go forward with Phase 1A, which is the lit soccer field and 58 more parking spaces.

    This money transfer keeps the RMC's hands nominally clean when it comes to taking out the sensitive habitat they are supposed to be saving, but in reality it allows the City to go forward not only with removal of habitat but also with introducing sports field lighting that is not in keeping with the City's Draft Sustainability Plan or the rural area lighting restrictions for Northeast Claremont.

    The report says the total for Phases 1 and 1A is $3,667,859. If the City receives the RMC money and goes forward with Phase 1A, it will have to appropriate another $527,000 from the City's General Fund Reserve to build Phase 1A with its lit field.

    The RMC was supposed to vote on granting the $800,000 to the city yesterday, and the staff report seems to indicate that the deal was a done one ahead of time, so it's likely that the council will be voting on raiding the General Fund Reserve for that extra $527,000 to go forward with Phase 1A.

    The Daily Bulletin's Wes Woods II had an article on the Padua Park agenda item in today's paper.

  • Considering the Police Commission's recommendation for the Corey Nursery site at 1650 N. Monte Vista as the best location for the proposed new Claremont Police Station. The Council is also being asked to direct staff to seek funding for the station, which is projected to cost between $20-25 million.

  • Considering recommendations from the Architectural and Planning Commissions on streamlining approval of wireless communication towers. Not enough of these in town, and the do generate a steady revenue stream.
  • An appointment to the Human Services Commission to replace Commission Chair Gwen Carr, who recently resigned her position. Carr was a casualty of former Human Services Chair Valerie Martinez's Preserve Claremonster scheming. No good deed goes unpunished is the lesson here. Maury Feingold will replace Carr on the commission.

Foothill Cities Blog--RIP

Perhaps news of its death has been greatly exaggerated, but the Foothill Cities Blog ('t try it; it's down) has been off the air for days now.

Posting there has been a bit spotty of late; we understand how life happens to the most committed bloggers, and wish Centinel well in dealing with his father's health. Publius, formerly a reliable source for thoughtful commentary, seems to be on an extended vacation far far away from Internet access. Here's hoping that tan is coming along nicely.

We are thinking that some of the enemies made by the FC Blog have finally done their dirty work. Probably the most likely suspect is Arnold Alvarez-Glasman, city attorney of West Covina and other cities, who was involved in a dust-up with the FC Blog last year. (We'd provide a link but, as we may have mentioned, the FC Blog is no more; gone; kaput; a former blog.)

The key here is to take down the blog and not leave any fingerprints.

They finally figured it out. Maybe they used the hacker who outed the Chinese gymnast or the one that hacked Sarah Palin's email.

Alvarez Returns (to Court)

Three Valleys Municipal Water District board member Xavier Alvarez is back in the news today. Wes Woods II writes that the Los Angeles District Attorney's Public Integrity Division is charging Alvarez with three felony counts:

CLAREMONT - Three felony charges have been filed against Three Valleys Municipal Water District Director Xavier Alvarez in connection with accusations that he had the district pay for his ex-wife's insurance.

Alvarez, 50, was charged Friday with misappropriating public money, insurance fraud and grand theft of personal property, said Sandi Roth, a prosecutor with the Los Angeles County district attorney's Public Integrity Division.

Roth said Alvarez - who represents south Pomona on the water board and was elected in 2006 - placed his ex-wife, Juanita Ruiz, on his insurance from Jan. 24, 2007, to Oct. 31, 2007.

The water district - which provides medical insurance to its directors, their spouses, children and other dependents - paid $4,100 in premiums, Roth said.

"I don't have (the date) when they divorced," she said. "But they are divorced and have been for years."

The felony counts continue a turbulent period for Alvarez. He was fined and sentenced to probation in July for violating the Stolen Valor Act, which criminalizes false claims of military valor.

According to the article, Alvarez will be arraigned at the Pomona Courthouse on October 21st and could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

Monday, September 22, 2008

You Must Remember This

According to an article by Daily Bulletin court reporter Will Bigham, a Claremont citizens group is suing Claremont McKenna College and the city of Claremont to try to stop CMC's planned Kravis Center:

CLAREMONT - A neighborhood group that opposes plans by Claremont McKenna College to construct a new campus center has filed a lawsuit against the college and the city and is seeking a court order halting the project.

The group, called Protect Our Neighborhoods, filed the complaint July 28 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The group contends that the city, in approving plans for the college's Kravis Center, failed to properly address the project's impact on air quality, noise and parking in surrounding neighborhoods.

"The residents are just trying to make sure the problems the project is going to create are adequately mitigated, so it doesn't create problems outside the university," said Ray Johnson, a Temecula attorney who represents the group.

Plans for the four-story Kravis Center include construction of classrooms, space for five of the college's 10 research institutes, and offices for faculty, admissions and financial-aid staff members.

In July, the City Council had rejected Protect Our Neighborhood's appeal of a Claremont Planning Commission's decision to allow the Kravis Center plan to go forward. The Council voted 4-1 to deny the appeal, a decision that led to the present lawsuit.

That lone "No" vote was Councilmember Sam Pedroza's. It was nice, for a change, to see him stand up for a neighborhood trying to fight for its identity. Pedroza is usually at his best when he votes his conscience, rather than taking his marching orders from some of his Claremont 400 supporters like former Mayor Judy Wright, who ran Pedroza's first, failed 2003 campaign for Council.

The neighborhood Pedroza supported with his "No" vote is the Arbol Verde area, which has historically been Claremont's Latino enclave and the residents have traditionally been treated by the City as second-class citizens. Mills Ave. used to run through there, and the neighborhood have their own church at one time. However, when the Claremont Colleges decided the City needed to close off Mills Ave., one of the results was that the neighborhood church had to be razed.

The story of what happened to Arbol Verde's church, doesn't make it into Judy Wright's "Claremont: A Pictorial History," or in Claremont Heritage's narrative of the town. For the real story, you'll have to look elsewhere.

Proposed Downtown Parking Ordinance Nixed

Parking in downtown Claremont has long been a problem. Too many cars, too few parking spots. The problem is compounded by workers at Claremont Village businesses who take up prime parking spots in the Village's two-hour parking areas. Some of these workers move their cars throughout the day to the nearest open spot as their time runs out.

In response to this so-called "car shuffling," in June this year the city's Traffic and Transportation Commission approved a staff recommendation on a proposed downtown parking ordinance that would restrict people from parking within 300-feet of their previous parking spot. The parking ordinance was supposed to go to the City Council on July 8th for a vote, but it was pulled for some unknown reason.

Now we know. It turns out the staff recommendation, pushed by Claremont City Engineer Craig Bradshaw and the Claremont Chamber of Commerce's Past-Chair Sonia Stump and Chair-Elect Paul Held, is illegal. The Daily Bulletin's Wes Woods II reported on the subject:

A Traffic and Transportation Commission ordinance passed in June designed to making it harder for Village employees to park in the downtown core had to be thrown out, city officials said.

"There's legal issues to work with in terms of what's enforceable. So it's not a simple issue," said city engineer Craig Bradshaw.

The soonest a new ordinance could be created to address the troublesome issues is January, Bradshaw said.

Mayor Ellen Taylor said prohibiting moving a car in the Village to a parking spot within 300 feet of its initial spot was at odds with state law.

"The commission dealt with incomplete information," Taylor said. The issue of shuffling cars to different parking spots in the Village has been around for 20 years, Taylor said.

When he was a councilmember and, later, a Mayor of Claremont, Held loved using his power to back illegal or unconstitutional measures. Remember Measure A, the anti-conflict-of-interest law that passed with 55% of the vote? After the initiative passed, Claremont and City Attorney Sonia Carvalho did everything within their power to prevent the new city ordinance from being enacted.

Yet, contrary to what Carvalho was telling the City Council, the law was ultimately upheld by state courts and was ruled to be constitutional. Carvalho and the City Council tried to undermine a city ordinance lawfully approved by a majority of Claremont voters, but they failed.

So it's not surprising that once he got a little taste of power again on the local Chamber of Commerce, that Held would be up to his old tricks. Held, too, was one of the main forces behind the 2005 Preserve Claremont campaign. As you can see by his support on the Chamber of Commerce, he's suffered no ill-effects from his efforts at manipulating that election either.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Move Over Paris

Not content with scraping the ground in the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park clean, Claremont - the self-proclaimed City of Trees - is set to become the City of Lights, or so a reader says:

SUBJECT: Wilderness Park Lights
DATE: Saturday, September 20, 2008, 12:09 PM
TO: Claremont Buzz

Dear Insider,

We were walking up into the Wilderness Park a few weeks ago when we noticed the city had dug trenches along Mills north of Mt. Baldy Rd. The trenches were for conduit and wiring that ran to cement stanchions that were a couple feet high. The wires and conduit stuck up out of the cement and there were 4 bolts sticking up around the conduit. I snapped some pictures and am sending them with this note.

If I didn't know better, I'd say the city's planning on lighting up the parking lots with street lights on big metal poles. I live up here by the park and am concerned. The area has pretty strict lighting restrictions, which most people here kinda like. It's nice at night with the quiet and the dark to take a walk out and hear the owls hooting and the frogs croaking.

Any idea what's up or what genius down at city hall thought of this?

Not a clue. Maybe something to do with the break-ins into cars in the Wilderness Park overflow parking lot at Mills Ave. and Mt. Baldy Rd. Of course, those happened during the day and the park is supposed to be closed at dusk according to what the city had promised when they opened it. So there shouldn't be any cars parked there at night that would require lights.

Now that the city's plowed up Thompson Creek, maybe they're just planning on lighting up the area so everyone can admire the city's handiwork, like lighting up the Empire State Building or the Eiffel Tower. Or maybe they're planning on nighttime plowing - more efficient if you can go 24-7, you know.

Or maybe they're just planning on streetlights everywhere in that area. They've insisted on putting in 100-ft sports lights into the Padua Park site on the high-end of a slope 80-feet above Padua Ave., so they might as well illuminate the rest of the area while they're at it, only they ought not prattle on about sustainability if they aren't going to be consistent about it.

City of Lights or City of Hypocrites? Take a look at the reader's photos and decide for yourself:

(Click on Images to Enlarge)
City of Lights I

City of Lights II

City of Lights III

Intrepid Columnist Braves Blogosphere Year II

Congratulations are in order for Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen, whose blog last week celebrated its first birthday. Allen had a print column on the happy occasion:

My 10th anniversary as a Bulletin columnist slipped away last spring, as best as these things can be pinned down.

I say that because even though my first every-single-week column was April 26, 1998, I'd managed to sneak 19 of them into the paper at random points in the previous 13 months.

So the anniversary of my column is hard to explain...much like my column's appeal.

What's easier to pinpoint is the date I became a blogger: Sept. 12, 2007. Or one year ago last Friday.

Butler, bring me a cake and candle.

In case we're not past the what's-a-blog discussion yet, it's an online column. You know, on what President Bush calls the Internets.

Allen also blogged about the anniversary:

Based on comments I get, most of you are happy enough with this blog. And that's satisfying. I wish it were better, frankly, and were blogging my fulltime gig it would be. But I barely have time to think about it, really.

So this is what you get for the hour or two a day I can spare -- something off-the-cuff, mildly entertaining, more personal and casual than my columns (is that possible?), plus responses to many of your comments.

Some stats I've been pondering as I look to the future: Although there are readers at any point of the day or evening, on weekdays there's a peak around 9 or 10 a.m., and then a second peak around 4 p.m. Hmm.

And while weekends have the lightest readership, the 250-ish people reading then, compared to 300-ish to 500-ish on weekdays, is higher than I'd have expected.

In response, the boss has suggested that I post not just weekday mornings but in the afternoons as well, to give the morning people an excuse to check back for something other than fresh comments and, of course, to rack up more page views.

"It doesn't have to be long," he says. "Just something like 'I had a burrito at lunch.'"

Uh, well, I'm skeptical anyone would check back for dispatches like that. But I can kinda see his point. I could do with some shorter posts.

Friday, September 19, 2008

David Foster Wallace in His Own Words

Today the Wall Street Journal reprinted a 2005 commencement address by Claremont author David Foster Wallace. An excerpt:

...If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is and who and what is really important...then you, like me, will not consider possibilities that aren't pointless and annoying. But if you've really learned how to think, how to pay attention, you will know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars--compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things...The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't...

Friday Crime News

The Daily Bulletin reported on FBI crime data for three area cities: Claremont, Ontario, and Pomona. According to the Bulletin, murders in Pomona increased to 27 in 2007, up from 19 in 2006 and 21 in 2005. Ontario also had a slight increase and had 15 murders in 2007.

Nationwide, the article said, both violent crimes and property crimes decreased last year.

Claremont did experience an increase in rapes, a stat the CPD tried to spin:

Claremont experienced an increase in rapes to 11 in 2007 from six in 2006 and two in 2005.

Claremont police Capt. Gary Jenkins said the increase is attributed to two likely unfounded rapes, one rape out of the country that was reported back to Claremont and two victims who did not want to prosecute.

* * *

The Bulletin and the San Bernardino Sun have a "Breaking News" blog that reported last week that Claremont's police department will be conducting roving DUI stops on Fridays and Sundays:
CLAREMONT- The Claremont Police Department will conduct roving DUI patrols on Friday and Sunday nights.

Officers will be looking for drunken and/or drugged drivers as well as valid driver's licenses.

One of the funnier comments came from an Upland respondent:
Uplander said:

That's great timing. The downtown Claremont Wine Walk is tonight. Should be like shooting fish in a barrel.

September 12, 2008 8:47 AM

Kiwanis Breakfast This Sunday

The Claremont Kiwanis Club, along with the the CHS Football Boosters and the Claremont Police Dept., is hosting its 43rd Annual Community Pancake Breakfast fundraiser this Sunday, September 21st, from 7am to noon in Claremont's Memorial Park.

The breakfast is $3 per person, and The Richard Barnes Players will be providing music. Come on out to the park and start your day off right.

Kiwanis Club of Claremont
43rd Annual Community Pancake Breakfast
Memorial Park - 7am to noon
810 N. Indian Hill Blvd.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wilderness Park Mail

We got a note the mail from a thoughtful, concerned reader responding to Tuesday's post about the damage in the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park:

SUBJECT: Scraping the Wilderness Park
DATE: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 10:30 AM
TO: Claremont Buzz

Hi Buzz -

Yesterday you wrote: "If a private landowner had done what the city did, these groups [you mentioned Sierra Club, Claremont Heritage; I'd add the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy, since I'm a board member] would be all over the hapless private party. But since it's the city creating the damage, they hold their tongues, giving tacit approval to the actions with their silence."

I don't think it's a matter of holding tongues and giving approval. Rather, I think it's shock that something so egregious happened, and no one really knows where to go or what to do. It's one of the Insider's founding tenets: who does the City report to? And why do the individuals working for the City hide behind the façade of 'The City'?

It's also somewhat analogous to a family of kids (all of us) and parents (the great city of Claremont). When a private landowner (a kid) does something wrong, then -- yes -- another kid (Sierra Club, etc.) tells on them to the parent (the city), and there are repercussions. Who was that guy who took his own bulldozer up to his property below Johnson's Pasture and scraped off some 'picnic' areas? That was quickly reported to the City and stopped.

But what do you do when you witness your parents do something terribly wrong? Who do you go tell? Well, if my memory serves me, you whisper to your siblings and friends, and you wake up each day feeling a bit more disillusioned about your upbringing.

I think that's what the silence is here. It's not approval. It's dumbfoundedness. Maybe you tell the Claremont Insider and take some pictures, but is there a top-down state organization that can give the City a penalty? Don't think so. Is there a bottom-up grass roots groundswell of disapproval that can change this outcome -- either current or future? What is the outcome if the Sierra Club or Claremont Heritage drafts a statement of disapproval of the City's actions? Not much, truth be told.

As with all analogies, this family one breaks down when you push it far enough. We're not kids. The City isn't our parent. We're all adults here. The City is supposed to work FOR us. I'm sad and disillusioned.

Pomona Music Scene

We received a press release yesterday announcing a music event at Sakura Ichi Bar on Mission in Pomona. Singer Adjoa Skinner will be there tomorrow night beginning at 10:30pm:

Live Music in Downtown Pomona

Following the opening night success of the new entertainment series featured at Sakura Ichi in Downtown Pomona, the Bar will host another promising musician sure to delight the patrons of Downtown Pomona.

Last Friday night, singer/songwriter Jason Diaz left a welcoming crowd delighted with his soulful and innovative musical offerings. Though the area is known for its up tempo thrashing musicians and a legendary once renown punk scene, Downtown Pomona can soon boasts itself as a beacon for acoustic musicians and a more settled audience.

Sakura Ichi provides a change of pace to the locale and a dip in decibels with their musical receptions. On September 19, Vocalist Adjoa Skinner will bring her Jazz infused folk-pop arrangements, which have serenaded crowds at world famous venues like the Viper Room in Hollywood and The Derby Night Club in Los Angeles.

Place: Sakura Ichi Bar
101 W. Mission Blvd, #101, Pomona, CA 91766
Date: 09/19/08
Time: 10:30pm

SUITE 101 Presents: Adjoa Skinner

To listen to Adjoa Skinner visit:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again

The recent news concerning the City's inexplicable action in bulldozing acre after acre of the Wilderness Park left us with the nagging feeling we'd seen it all before. Sure enough, a quick rummage through the Stack Of Old Newspapers led us to the January 22, 2003 number of the Claremont Courier. Page 9 was graced with an advertisement reading, "Bulldozer Replaces Tree as City Logo". It's a nice touch that the graphic shows the City pushing a tree down the hill. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

click on image to enlarge

Sumpin' Nasty Goin' Down on Thursday

Just when we thought we would swear off--forever--anything having to do with youth sports in Claremont, we heard about The Battle For Vista Field. As we hear it, the first skirmish was fought last Thursday when the Claremont Stars lost 2 practice days at Vista to Junior All American Football. But the real battle is expected this Thursday, September 18th, when the Stars bring reinforcements. Forces are already massing, one side led by Field Marshall Napoleon Pedroza. Junior All American Football and Cheer versus The Claremont Stars, Club Soccer. The City Councilors versus the Gigolo Furriners. The Home Team versus the Visitors.

It's the Battle of the Century, Ladies and Gentlemen.

As we were returning to LAX from our long weekend in Paris, aboard our luxury jet Insider One, we were able to snap a picture of the forces maneuvering for position at Vista Park.

We don't know if this will be a fair fight, or if the fix is in. Will "Historical Rights" to practice at Vista Park win out over "The City Staff Playing Favorites"? Is the Sports Committee on the take? Will there be retaliation?

Ya know, when we think of it, youth sports in Claremont is pretty good training for real life after all.

City Hosts Senior Program Open House

The Claremont Senior Citizens Program is having a free open house on Saturday, October 4th, from 11am to 2pm at the Joslyn Senior Center. The event is sponsored by the Claremont Kiwanis Club and will include a patient advocacy workshop. The center is located at 660 N. Mountain Ave. The city's website has all the details:

Guests will be treated to an afternoon of lively demonstrations, exhibits, entertainment, and an absolutely FREE backyard barbeque sponsored by the Claremont Kiwanis Club. This insightful community event is open to all ages and anyone who may be curious about what programs and services the City of Claremont offers to it's older-adult community as well as what support they offer to their family and friends. Such services include nutritious lunches, engaging classes, various support groups, social services, and a wide variety of fun recreational activities.

Join us just before the Senior Program Open House as Community Partners hosts an empowering patient advocacy workshop titled, "What Was That My Doctor Told Me?" at 10:00 am. This helpful workshop will be presented by skilled professionals who will describe the role of the patient advocacy and share important insights about awareness skills and the knowledge necessary for navigating the healthcare system for a loved one. In the process, participants will acquire skills on how to be more proactive in their own health care. This is a truly beneficial program for you and/or your loved ones.

Guests are encouraged to make reservations through the Joslyn Center. For more information, please call (909) 399-5488.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Paving Paradise

(Click to enlarge)
City of Trees I

Saturday's Claremont Courier had an article by Tony Krickl about the city of Claremont bulldozing several acres of its Wilderness Park, including a large section running along Thompson Creek:
The city decided to bulldoze the land in an attempt to save money on an unexpected project. City officials acknowledged they made a big mistake.

“I admit our actions were wrong,” said Community Services Director Scott Carroll, speaking at Tuesday night’s council meeting. “I’m deeply sorry for putting the city [in this position]. Our intent was to comply with [the county regulations] and protect the homes on Via Padova.”

Bare terrain is all that remains next to these Padua Hills homes after a bulldozer was used to clear the area as part the city’s fire abatement plan.

The decision to bulldoze caused irreparable damage to the land, said residents and ecological experts, and will end up costing the city upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix. The exact price tag has not yet been determined.

Back in July, the city was notified by the Los Angeles County Fire Department that the territory had been surveyed and the brush needed to be cleared behind the homes. This year has been particularly dry and prone to fires, so the extra safety precautions were necessary. The city had already set their budget for the next 2 years, and the unexpected abatement expenses had not been planned for.

But fear of liability was an overriding concern for City Manager Jeff Parker in case a fire did break out. He did not want to be in the same position as the previous city manager back in 2003 when fire ripped through Palmer Canyon, destroying homes and leading to a $17.5 million lawsuit settlement.

“I told [Mr. Carroll] to get it done,” Mr. Parker said.

Community Services Department staff came up with a plan that was quick and cost-effective. In mid-August, the bulldozers were brought in to complete the work.

Residents are now concerned that the area is prone to erosion, excessive dust and the invasion of non-native plants. With fall and winter rains around the corner, time is limited to repair the damage.

One thing we're being told by readers who seen the area is that you really can't appreciate the extent of the damage unless you walk down inside that canyon running along the east end of the Wilderness Park. It's apparently very difficult to get an idea of the scope of the damage from the road. The Courier photos do show how wide the swath was, though.

Another thing readers are telling us is that while the ground in the photos looks like hard-packed clay, most of it is really a fine powder several inches deep that gets picked up and blown all over by the wind - remember the Dust Bowl? Once the soil goes, whether by wind or rain, it's going to drive up the cost of fixing the damage.

The silence from groups like the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club, whose newsletter editor Robin Ives teaches math at Harvey Mudd College, strikes us as particularly odd. The Angeles Chapter is involved enough in Claremont local politics to have endorsed Sam Pedroza in the last city election. Why no involvement in this issue?

Or what about Claremont Heritage, which has a particular interest in the Padua Theatre? That same bulldozer ran up the canyon all around the Theatre, causing damage there. You'd think the people interested in preserving the Theatre's structures would be concerned about the ground under the buildings being undermined by erosion or that the view of the Wilderness Park would be marred by that bulldozer blade scraping great red gashes in the canyon. Is historical preservation something that's confined to the built environment, or does it extend to the the natural environment as well?

If a private landowner had done what the city did, these groups would be all over the hapless private party. But since it's the city creating the damage, they hold their tongues, giving tacit approval to the actions with their silence.

Odd indeed. But then, that's Claremont in a nutshell.

* * *

One reader who wrote in commented on the Courier article's grammar:
SUBJECT: Courier editing staff
DATE: Saturday, September 13, 2008 11:05 PM
TO: Claremont Buzz

Over the past couple weeks I have noticed a couple of jaw-dropping printing errors in the Courier. But somehow this headline from the Courier website reminded me of you, dear Insider: "In the eastern portion of the Claremont Wilderness Park, plots of baron [sic] land covered with tire tracks can be seen behind dozens of Padua Hills homes."

Who knew that Claremont had a real-life aristocracy?

We caught that bit too, but with our occasional typos and misspellings, we're hardly in any position to criticize the Courier.

And then there was this reader who thinks we need a plaque on Thompson Creek to commemorate the damage:
SUBJECT: bulldozed
DATE: Saturday, September 13, 2008 1:07 PM
TO: Claremont Buzz

Someone with a couple hundred dollars to spare should put up a commemorative plaque with the names of city officials at the site of the bullzdozer massacre. A great piece of political theater, for people who follow Claremont politics and get the joke.

Free Speech Tuesday

The First Amendment has had a tough time at the Claremont Colleges (and Claremont in general). Just this past year, as the Claremont Conservative points out, several of the colleges have been accused of squashing free speech.

So it was great last night to see people exercising their right to speak inside and outside of Claremont McKenna College's Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. Former presidential aide Karl Rove spoke at the Athenaeum and sparked a protest by hundreds of people opposed to the Bush Adminstration's policies. The Daily Bulletin's Wes Wood II reported on the goings on at CMC:

CLAREMONT - Karl Rove, the former Deputy Chief of Staff and senior advisor to President George W. Bush, discussed presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama and gave his take on the legacy of the current president.

But hundreds of protesters greeted Rove before, during and after his speech.

When Rove tried to leave the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, at least two people and possibly a third claimed they were pepper sprayed while campus officials said they were not.

A bomb threat was also determined to be unfounded, campus officials added.

Meanwhile, over at Pomona College, the debate goes on over Pomona's alma mater, "Hail, Pomona, Hail!" Depending on your point of view, the issue is either one of racial insensitivity or hyper-sensitivity. When this controversy first arose, Pomona did what academics do best: They created a committee to study the issue. The point of the committee will be to educate the community and, more importantly, wealthy alumni, to the point where they can accept the committee's recommendations.

Wes Woods II had an article on this a couple days ago:

CLAREMONT - About 250 people watched a performance outlining the history of blackface minstrel shows last week at Pomona College, designed to help students understand the issue of the college's alma mater.

"We're trying to get as much information as we can so the committee can make a decision," said Kim Bruce, co-chairman of the 11-member college songs committee, which includes students and alumni.

The song, which was composed for the finale of a blackface minstrel show nearly 100 years ago, became a controversial topic in February after fliers were posted during a "family weekend."

An anonymous photocopied flier of the back sleeve of a 10-inch record of Pomona College songs included "Hail, Pomona, Hail!"

. . . .

Eric Hurley, an assistant professor of psychology and black studies at Pomona College, said he found the issue "fascinating" because it's "subtle" and not something as overt as trying to change the racial makeup of the student government.

"I could say my generation wouldn't have gone after this," Hurley said.

Hurley said the college has made a "good public face of being sensitive" toward the issue. He said he heard that many of the older alumni have threatened to withhold donations if there is a song change.

"They're in a precarious position," Hurley said of the school.

One problem with the demographics is that the alumni with the most money to throw at the college are the ones most likely to be offended if the college drops the alma mater. That threat of a loss of income has to temper Pomona's moral righteousness. We'll have to wait to see how it plays out.

Monday, September 15, 2008


The Claremont College community lost two members this past week.

Claremont McKenna College senior Atul Vyas (Class of 2009), was killed in the Chatsworth Metrolink train crash on Friday afternoon. Vyas was studying physics and math and had planned on going to medical school.

CMC issued a statement yesterday announcing that memorial services are pending. The statement read in part:

“As saddened as members of our community are, our heartfelt sympathies are extended to the Vyas family,” said Dean of Students Jefferson Huang. “I met with the Resident Assistants last night to discuss this with them, and it was very clear how much Atul’s passing is going to hurt our community.”

"It is always sad when we lose a young person,” noted President Pamela Gann. "It is especially poignant when one of our own, bound for a career of helping others, is snatched from a life of public service. All of us at Claremont McKenna College feel great sadness at Atul's tragic death. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his brother, Aseem Vyas, who graduated from CMC in May 2008, and to his parents, here in California.”

Memorial services are expected to be held within the next week, although arrangements are still being finalized. The CMC Web site will update this information as it becomes available.

* * *

The community is also mourning the loss of writer and Pomona College professor David Foster Wallace, who was found dead in his home Friday evening. According to news reports, Wallace was was an apparent suicide. The Los Angeles Times carried an obituary yesterday:
Wallace, who had taught creative writing at Pomona College since 2002, was on leave this semester.

Times book editor David Ulin was in New York City for a National Book Critics Circle Board meeting Saturday.

"What was a party is now a wake," Ulin said as the news of Wallace's death circulated. "People were speechless and just blown away.

"He was one of the most influential and innovative writers of the last 20 years," Ulin said.

"He is one of the main writers who brought ambition, a sense of play, a joy in storytelling and an exuberant experimentalism of form back to the novel in the late '80s and early 1990s," Ulin said. "And he really restored the notion of the novel as a kind of canvas on which a writer can do anything."

Wallace won a cult following for his dark humor and ironic wit, which was on display in "The Broom of the System," his 1987 debut novel; "Girl With Curious Hair," a 1989 collection of short stories, and "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments" (1997). In 1997, he also received a grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

The LA Times observed that Wallace was the Pomona College's first Roy E. Disney professor of creative writing, and one of our readers recalled that Wallace was a dedicated teacher who touched the lives of many students.

The New York Times also noted Wallace's passing:
A versatile writer of seemingly bottomless energy, Mr. Wallace was a maximalist, exhibiting in his work a huge, even manic curiosity — about the physical world, about the much larger universe of human feelings and about the complexity of living in America at the end of the 20th century. He wrote long books, complete with reflective and often hilariously self-conscious footnotes, and he wrote long sentences, with the playfulness of a master punctuater and the inventiveness of a genius grammarian. Critics often noted that he was not only an experimenter and a showoff, but also a God-fearing moralist with a fierce honesty in confronting the existence of contradiction.

“David Foster Wallace can do practically anything if he puts his mind to it,” Michiko Kakutani, chief book critic of The New York Times, who was not a consistent praiser of Mr. Wallace’s work, wrote in 2006. “He can do sad, funny, silly, heartbreaking and absurd with equal ease; he can even do them all at once.”

Mr. Wallace, who had taught creative writing at Pomona College in Southern California since 2001 and before that had taught at Illinois State University, came to prominence in 1986 with a broadly comic first novel, “The Broom of the System” (Viking), published when he was just 24. It used the narrative frame of a young woman’s search for identity to draw a loopy portrait of America on a comic and dangerous spiral into the Disneyesque confusion of reality and artifice.


In contrast to the lively spirit of his writing, Mr. Wallace was a temperamentally unassuming man, long-haired, unhappy in front of a camera, consumed with his work and its worth, perpetually at odds with himself. Journalists who interviewed him invariably commented on his discomfort with celebrity and his self-questioning. And those who knew him best concurred that Mr. Wallace was a titanically gifted writer with an equally troubled soul.

“He was a huge talent, our strongest rhetorical writer,” Jonathan Franzen, a friend of Mr. Wallace and the author of “The Corrections,” said in an interview on Sunday, adding later, “He was also as sweet a person as I’ve ever known and as tormented a person as I’ve ever known.”

Pomona College President David Oxtoby had this remembrance
on the college's website:

In Memoriam: David Foster Wallace

A Letter from President Oxtoby

The death of Professor David Foster Wallace Friday night was, for the world, the loss of one of literature’s brightest stars. For Pomona College, it was the loss of an equally brilliant teacher — as well as a colleague and friend.

When the search committee for the inaugural Roy Edward Disney Professor of Creative Writing first convened to discuss this important new position on our faculty, they began by talking about the type of writer they wished to find, and they agreed — conceptually — that it should be someone like David Foster Wallace. By this, they meant a writer not only of note, but of genuine importance — a writer who had already raised the bar in American letters and whose promise for the future was truly unlimited. When they actually spoke to David himself and he agreed to come to Pomona, they were overjoyed.

By that time, the College knew that David was also considered a fine and thoughtful educator. What they had no right to expect was that he would be as spectacular a teacher as he was a writer. But after his arrival in 2002, he showed himself to be exactly that. Many of his students have come to me over the years, marveling at the transformative experience of working with him in one of his intense creative writing classes. They told me how tough and demanding he could be, and at the same time they wondered at how a man of such creative genius could also be so kind, so caring, so generous of his time, his energy and his wisdom.

He was a man who truly understood what a liberal education at a place like Pomona is all about. In fact, in a commencement address at Kenyon College in 2005, I think he said it as well as it can be said: “The really important kind of freedom,” he said that day, “involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think.”

It is this Dave Wallace, as he preferred to be called by friends and students — the brilliant teacher who worked so tirelessly to teach his young writers how to think and how to be serious in their engagement with the world — who will be most profoundly missed here at Pomona. In the near future, we will find appropriate ways to memorialize his life and work among us, but for now, our deepest condolences go out to his wife and family as we mourn this tremendous loss within the privacy of our college community.

—David Oxtoby
September 15, 2008