Green Light on College Ave: Pomona Art Museum Survives Lawsuit, Council Vote

This proposed design rendering of the new Pomona College Museum of Art was presented to the Claremont Architectural Commission. (Courtesy of Machado Silvetti and Pomona College)

Proponents of Pomona College’s plan for a new art museum can breathe a sigh of relief — the project recently cleared two crucial hurdles that could have derailed proceedings.

The Claremont City Council voted 3-2 on Feb. 14 to confirm the city architectural commission’s earlier approval of the museum design plan and relocation of the historic Renwick House to make room for the museum between Bonita Avenue and Second Street along College Avenue. Moving Renwick has sparked protests and pushback from community members committed to preserving historic sites in Claremont.

“I supported the museum because I believe it will not only bring the colleges and city together, it will also highlight our shared history of working together for the arts and education of the entire community,” Claremont Mayor Sam Pedroza, whose vote swung the decision, wrote in an email to TSL.

A group called Citizens to Save College Avenue is devoted to preserving the historic state of the eponymous street, and hoped for the museum to be built elsewhere. The group sued the city of Claremont last year, claiming its Environmental Impact Report — conducted for Pomona’s 2015 Master Plan — violated the California Environmental Qualities Act. If the lawsuit was successful, it could have delayed the museum project.

But Los Angeles Superior Court judge John Torribio issued a tentative decision denying the group’s petition on Feb. 9, and recently released a final filing to confirm the ruling. 

“The court finds that substantial evidence in the record demonstrates that City analyzed a reasonable range of potential alternatives (for museum locations), and provided a reasoned analysis regarding why the alternatives were not feasible,” the final decision said.

Pedroza is pleased with the decision and thinks Citizens to Save College Avenue’s misgivings were adequately discussed.

“Although I understand and appreciate the concerns, I do believe that many of the significant concerns over design and compatibility were addressed as best as they could given the city process that is currently in use,” he said.

Denise Spooner, a member of Citizens to Save College Avenue, says she is disappointed but not surprised by the ruling.

“We held out hope because we had some very good arguments against the Environmental Impact Report,” she said.

Spooner, who is similarly dismayed by the city council’s decision, says her group is considering appealing the court ruling, but has not yet decided one way or another.

Kathleen Howe, the director of Pomona’s current art museum, wrote in an email to TSL that she is “delighted” with the result of the vote. Howe is excited for the construction of “a beautiful building that is welcoming to our academic audiences, local community, visitors, and school outreach programs.”