Facing potential litigation, Claremont denies state’s claim that it broke housing laws over Larkin Place

(Asaka Mori • The Student Life)

Last month, Claremont city officials responded to an Aug. 12 violation notice from the state of California, claiming that the city did not violate state housing law — the latest development in a legal back-and-forth battle over Larkin Place, a proposed affordable housing complex. 

If Larkin Place is built, the 33-unit complex would house people with special needs who have been houseless or at a higher risk of experiencing houselessness. Its proposed site plan has been a source of debate among residents and City Council members, who have expressed concerns with the height and location of the building, which is near a local park and elementary school. 

California’s Housing Accountability Act (HAA) states that local governments can only deny housing for low, very low and moderate income people if it adversely impacts public health and safety. 

Despite this, Claremont’s City Council voted June 28 to deny an easement that would have allowed vehicular access to the proposed building through the adjacent Larkin Park. In doing so, Claremont rejected the preferred building plan devised by Jamboree Housing Corporation, the nonprofit developer set to build Larkin Place

In response, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) wrote an Aug. 12 letter to Claremont alleging that the city broke the HAA.

“Because the easement was imposed as a condition of approval for [Larkin Place], the denial of the easement equates to the disapproval of the Project,” the HCD letter said. “In denying the easement, the City of Claremont has violated the [HAA].” 

(Unity Tambellini-Smith • The Student Life)

On Oct. 12, Claremont City Manager Adam Pirrie said that denying the easement rejected one of several possible proposed site plans for Larkin Place, not the project itself.

“HCD fails to recognize that while the Site Plan as proposed has no vehicular access other than access through Larkin Park, other feasible Site Plans are available not requiring vehicular access through Larkin Park,” Pirrie wrote in his letter to the HCD.

Pirrie wrote that Claremont has been in “ongoing discussions with [Jamboree] regarding alternate site plans for [Larkin Place] that do not require vehicular access through Larkin Park.” 

Pirrie did not respond to TSL’s request for comment. 

Jamboree was unable to provide an update about the status of Larkin Place while there is an ongoing investigation, Marissa Feliciano, Jamboree’s director of marketing and communications, told TSL via email. 

Some members of Housing Claremont, a nonprofit that advocates for affordable housing, said the City’s response to HAA could bring fiscal and legal consequences to Claremont. 

Housing Claremont President Ilsa Lund told TSL that the nonprofit disagreed with Claremont’s legal argument and added that although the HAA is up for interpretation, Claremont’s decision could cost the city more money if the HCD pursues litigation. 

“This fight has already cost Claremont thousands in legal fees, on top of the loss of more than $700,000 in [Larkin] park improvements that Jamboree had agreed to pay for as part of [the] design that [the] Council rejected,” Lund said. 

Claremont McKenna College professor Zachary Courser, who is also a Board Member of Housing Claremont, said the state could apply enforcement mechanisms if Claremont is found in violation of housing law. 

Courser pointed to Santa Monica, a city that did not build enough affordable housing as mandated by the HAA and was put under the “builder’s remedy” this February. This means that any housing project with a certain percentage of low or moderate-income units will be automatically approved, even if it does not meet local zoning standards. 

“I think [Claremont] residents are going to discover, maybe painfully, that — either through enforcement actions that come with penalties or projects that are built without local approval — things have changed,” Courser said. “And if you don’t choose to cooperate, things get worse, not better.”

Despite the likelihood that Larkin Place will be built, the project continues to be a point of tension among residents and City Council members, who have different perspectives on the effects of the project. 

Some residents, such as Linda Mawby, supported Claremont’s response to the HCD. Mawby is the group administrator of Safe and Transparent Claremont, an advocacy group formed to oppose Larkin Place, according to its website. 

(Kareem Powell • The Student Life)

In an email to TSL, Mawby cited economic concerns for the city if Larkin Place is constructed.

“Seniors and their support families will think twice about signing up to pay expensive fees to live at the nearby retirement villages,” she said. 

Mawby also expressed worry that residents will be placed in Larkin Place from all over the San Gabriel Valley, not just Claremont, which she thought would make the city unsafe.

“Safe and Transparent Claremont will continue efforts to share concerns with project proponents that this is not the right population for this location,” Mawby said. “This population will create unsafe conditions for the elderly and our children.” 

Elizabeth Moore, a resident and Board Member of Pilgrim Place, pushed back against the idea that the future residents of Larkin Place will pose a threat to the community’s safety. 

“I’m very upset at how often I hear people say, ‘If they’re homeless, then they must be criminals,’” Moore said. “I know too many people who have struggled with addiction to say that they shouldn’t be helped first.”

Members of Inclusive Claremont, a group of Claremont Colleges students and Claremont community members that advocates for affordable housing in Claremont, canvassed in support of Larkin Place last spring and have continued to voice support for the project. 

Emily Dietrick SC ’25 told TSL that the housing project is necessary to alleviate pressing issues related to a lack of housing in the region.

“This is how we help fix homelessness. We build affordable housing,” Dietrick said.

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