After three years of planning and several public meetings, the city of Claremont has recently approved plans for a $9.7 million renovation project on Foothill Boulevard. Among other things, this money will go towards installing bike lanes, sidewalks, new trees and public art.
In 2012, the state of California gave Claremont ownership of the segment of Foothill Boulevard bordering the city. Recognizing that it was in need of repair, the state gave Claremont $5.7 million to go towards repairs and renovations.
Chris Viers, the principal planner for the city of Claremont, has been in charge of the planning process for these renovations. Viers stressed that “first and foremost, we want to maintain its current service levels for drivers.”
That said, the renovations seek to improve conditions for bikers and pedestrians. The city plans to install sidewalks on the whole length of Foothill and create better lighting levels and safer crosswalk situations. At some intersections the sidewalks will be extended with bulb outs in order to decrease the length of the crossing.
There are currently no bike lanes on Foothill. Viers said that the plans “are calling for bike lanes on the entire length of the roadway.” In most places, the bike lanes will be a few feet removed from traffic. In some segments, they will be separated from the road by an elevated strip of grass or plants.
Kenny Dennie PO ’19, an avid runner and road biker, said that “for bikers and runners, Foothill’s a really dangerous place,” even though using Foothill is often inevitable,
“It’s really ugly, so planting new vegetation is good,” he said.
Viers also said he’s “trying to create a roadway that’s authentic and that fits the personality of Claremont.”
Claremont is famous for its beautiful tree canopies, a stark difference from the barren roads of Southern California cities. To create a tree canopy, Viers will be planting a row of oaks on both sides. They will not have an immediate impact, as they will take decades to grow. But Viers hopes that once they grow out, the beautiful tree canopy will arch over Foothill for hundreds of years to come.
Viers stresses that he does not want Claremont to look too pristine, as do many Southern California cities such as Irvine and Rancho Cucamonga.
“We don’t want it to be overly-manicured and artificial,” he said. “We want a bit of a wild look.”
Viers says that the new plans include more sustainable landscaping with plants that require less water. Furthermore, many towns send runoffs into storm drains, which lead to the ocean. This pollutes the ocean and makes it unsafe to swim in after heavy rain. With bioswales, or depressed areas where water can drain and percolate into the ground, the topsoil neutralizes the pollutants.
Viers does not anticipate that the construction will cause much of disturbance. The city of Claremont does not plan to build anything using concrete, reducing the amount of noise or dust, and service to vehicles will remain open throughout the project.
However, the plan is not without its critics, including Marty Meyer, director of the Bernard Field Station, an 86-acre wilderness preserve owned by the Claremont Colleges that borders the north side of Foothill Boulevard. Although he generally supports the plan, he has a few concerns.
The planned plant palette contains plants not native to Claremont, and Meyer says that if he were in charge, he “would be thinking about using native Claremont plants.” He said that not only will these plants use no water, but they will support only native animal species. The nonnative species could also interfere with the ecological balance of the Bernard Field Station.
Meyer also notes that “in their plan, there is a lot of light,” which he believes will change the behavior of local fauna. He also notes the current lack of a sidewalk benefits the Field Station, as it discourages pedestrians and thus decreases ignition hazard.
“If someone throws a cigarette into the field station, it becomes a major issue,” Meyer said.
Additionally, Meyer “would like areas where buses could pull out” to drop off visitors and volunteers in front of the field station. Meyer said that he mostly supports the plan but thought that “the plan needs to evolve to incorporate the uniqueness of the Bernard Field Station.”
The plan will take effect in three phases: the first three years, the next five years, and the last seven years. The first phase will include planning and two-thirds of the work, according to Viers. The second and third phases include additional construction and maintenance, such as repaving. The cost of the three phases are $4.3 million, $3.4 million, and $3 million, respectively.