Claremont Insider: Happy Anniversary, Mr. Allen

Monday, July 27, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Mr. Allen

Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen recently celebrated his 10th year in Claremont. Allen wrote that for a journalist, 10 years in one place is a long time indeed, and he touched on some of the things about the Claremont Village that he likes.

From my house, a half-mile walk takes me downtown. And Claremont's downtown is the gold standard. It's a functioning neighborhood with a lively street scene.

L.A.'s planning director once said her three criteria for a neighborhood are being able to walk to a coffeehouse, a bookstore and a movie theater. I can do that.

(Although Claremont could really use a better bookstore.)

The colleges are even closer. I count myself lucky to have attended free talks on campus by so many cultural figures: cartoonists Art Spiegelman and Marjane Satrapi, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, humorist David Sedaris, journalist Elizabeth Kolbert and essayist Gore Vidal, among others.

South Claremont doesn't get of a mention in the piece, and Allen says that compared to the Village, the north part of town is pretty much like any other bedroom community, but then those two parts of town don't usually get much attention, unless it's has to do with the Claremont Auto Center or a big project like the Padua Theatre or the Padua Ave. Park. The only time something gets left alone is when it's on a slope, like the Claremont Wilderness Park.

I'd have to agree with Allen that the Village's attraction is its walkability and the intellectual and cultural energy of the Claremont Colleges. There is another kind of community, though, and that one happens at the neighborhood level, and that's happening all over town, not just in the Village.

The Claremont General Plan even makes point of the uniqueness of our neighborhoods as being a hallmark of our city. Outside of the Claremont Village, the uniqueness part sometimes gets forgotten, especially when someone wants to build a big project or expand the Claremont Auto Center. It makes me think of a philosophy professor I used to know who taught a comparative world religions class. He used to say, "I don't want you tell you what a Hindu is or a Muslim is or a Christian is, but I want you to learn to see the cow the Hindu sees, the cow the Muslim sees, the cow the Bhuddist sees."

In Claremont, that's been a big problem. Our friends who make the decisions don't take the time to see the neighborhood the neighbors see. People in the south part of town are looked down on for being from " Baja Claremont" and people in the north part of town are snooty rich folk. But they're really people who are interested in their own immediate community as much as anyone in the Village is.