Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Council meeting tonight

The city council will meet again tonight.

On the agenda is a review of the residential Permit Parking systems on Adirondack Lane and Baughman Avenue.

The council will consider an appeal by residents on Piedmont Mesa Avenue of a Planning Commission decision to deny a variance for a reduction in their front yard setback.

Based on a 4 to 1 vote at the previous council meeting, the council will likely pass an ordinance to extend the Redevelopment Agency's authority to use eminent domain on non-residential properties in the city.

The council will also conduct a public hearing on the increase of some parking fines that were discussed at a previous meeting.

The regular session begins at 6:30 p.m. in the city council chambers. You can also watch the meetings online by following this link on the city's website.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

H1N1 shot clinic today

There's still time to get a H1N1 shot or nasal stray. A clinic is taking place at Taylor Hall off Indian Hill Boulevard until 5 p.m. Unlike at other clinics throughout the county where people have waited for hours for the vaccination, the line is very short. People are getting in and out in about 10 minutes. The clinic is run by the Los Angeles County Department of Health.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Meeting on economic development

The city council will meet tonight to discuss plans for economic development in the city.

Should the city bring in a Costco, Target or Wal-mart to bring in extra sales tax revenue?
What's a bigger priority - marketing campaigns, renovating existing shopping centers or building news ones?

These are some of issues on the table tonight. With businesses suffering and the city's sales tax revenue dwindling, there will be some important decision to be made.

The meeting will NOT be streamed live on the city's website so those interested in the meeting can attend in person. The meeting begins at 6:15 p.m. in the city council chambers. Click here to see a staff report about the meeting.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How out of touch are city leaders?

There were a couple of eyebrow-raising incidents at Tuesday night's city council meeting that might make one wonder if some of our city leaders are out of touch with what's going on in town.

The first incident happened when the council was voting to relax some of its overbearing signage laws that regulate every little detail about how businesses can advertise their goods and services with signs. For example, banners can only be used to promote a new business or a change of ownership. And window signs can take up no more than 15 percent of window space.

With the holiday shopping season coming up and with businesses struggling to keep their doors open, the Chamber of Commerce pushed for an urgency ordinance to relax some of these restrictions. Being able to advertise and promote their businesses a little more freely might go a long way at this time of year.

The urgency ordinance needed a supermajority vote or it would fail. Luckily for business owners, 4 council members voted in favor. But one did not. That was Larry Schroeder.

"I just don’t want to give up the charm of our Village, the small town charm, for a possible short-term gain,” Schroeder said.

During his campaign for the city council last year, Schroeder's platform was largely based on promoting economic development in the city and fiscal responsibility on the council.

But now it appears "charm" outweighs economic viability for city businesses whose owners are desperate to find new and creative ways to attract more customers. Anyone who has listened to Claremont's business owners knows that signage restricts has been a serious problem. I would think a councilmember interested in economic development would know that by now.

Besides, I think business owners in the Village have some sense of what's appropriate and what isn't. As Councilmember Sam Pedroza noted, "Our businesses know how to do business. I highly trust that businesses know what's good for them and if they're going to be tacky, they're not going to be very successful in this town."

In any case, the ordinance passed. Businesses will have more free reign to use A-frame signs and banners throughout December 31, 2010. In the meantime, city staff will be reviewing Claremont's outdated signage laws in order to bring them into the 21st Century.

The other curious incident happened when the council was discussing the bailout of the Claremont Museum of Art. City Manager Jeff Parker was describing some the key businesses in the Packing House other than the museum.

"[The museum] has been one of the cornerstones [of the Packing House] along with the restaurant that unfortunately had the fire and the other restaurant on the other end, the Mediterranean restaurant, and the Hip Kitty and the children's cooking school there."

Does the city manager honestly not know the names of The Forks, Casablanca and The Young Chef's Academy - businesses he sees as "the cornerstones" of the Packing House? Maybe he was just drawing a blank at the moment. I certainly hope so.

The Forks has been shut down since December 2008 because of an electrical fire. Problems with securing money from their insurance company have delayed the owners from re-opening. But they are hoping to be up and running soon. I'm planning to get a complete story on The Forks and their future plans in an upcoming issue of the Courier.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Museum gets bailout from the city

The Claremont Museum of Art will live to see another day thanks to a $18,879 donation from the city. Actually about 50 mores days. The money will keep the Museum open throughout the end of the year. It will also buy museum officials some time to get more funding to keep the museum going beyond 2009.

Despite a unanimous vote from the city council at last night's meeting, council members were skeptical about handing over a large chunk of money to a non-profit organization at a time when the city has cut about 25 percent of its budget and laid off dozens of staff members.

Council member Peter Yao was frustrated with the idea of giving money to the museum without any assurance that they can sustain themselves past beyond the end of the year.

"We have a lot of needs within the city [like non-profits and struggling businesses]," Councilmember Peter Yao said. "It's really tough to say 'I'm going to help this one but I'm not going to help this one.' ... We're not a federal reserve bank. We can't help all the people out there as much as we'd like to help."

Museum board members promised to do all they can in the next few weeks to secure more donations. Fifty days isn't a lot of time to generate the kind of money they will need to maintain operations. Only time will tell if they can actually pull it off. And the clock is ticking.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Update on the Metrolink crash

Police have released the name of the woman involved in yesterday's Metrolink crash.

Velma Curley, 79, of Claremont died shortly after being struck by the train around 3:15 p.m.

According to Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper, the LA County Coroner notified Ms. Curley's family last night about what happened. An autopsy will take place today.

Still no word on what caused the woman to walk out onto the train tracks. While some have speculated that it was a suicide, police still need to conduct their investigation.

"There's some conflicting statements (from witnesses) and it's still pretty early (in the investigation) for us to tell," Chief Cooper said.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Woman dies in Metrolink crash

A woman's body is covered with yellow tarp after being struck by the Metrolink train

A woman died after being struck by a Metrolink train in what appears to be a suicide. Around 3:30 p.m., the woman got up from her seat on a nearby wall and walked in front of the train, according to bystanders at the scene who had talked to an eye witness.

Shortly after the incident, the eyewitness (pictured below), drove off. She was too distraught to speak.

The incident occurred just east of Indian Hill Boulevard at the Claremont Train Depot.

Claremont Police, LA County Sheriff and Fire Department officials were quickly at the scene to close off the area and maintain traffic control.

It is unknown at this time the age of the woman or further details about her death. I'll try to provide more information as it is released.

Indian Hill Boulevard is blocked off to traffic as law enforcement handles the scene of the Metrolink crash

A distraught eye-witness, seen in the blue vehicle, is comforted by bystanders.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Caenepeel, Stark, Llanusa come out on top

The elections results are in! Congratulations to Jeff Stark and incumbents Mary Caenepeel and Steven Llanusa who took the 3 open seats on the CUSD governing board.

Current Board President Mary Caenepeel earned the most votes in Tuesday's election with a total of 3,023 votes (30.31 percent). Jeff Stark came in a close second place with 2,975 votes(29.83 percent). And Steven Llanusa rounded out the winners with 2,121 votes (21.27 percent).

Jeff Hammill was 266 votes shy of earning a seat on the Governing Board, earning 1,855 votes.

The winners will join current Board Members Beth Bingham and Hilary LaConte to represent the District for the next 4 years.

The COURIER will have full election results on our website tomorrow. Landus Rigbsy, our education reporter who's out covering all the election excitement right now, will have a detailed report on the election in Saturday's edition.