New Housing to be built in Claremont on beloved neighborhood park: La Puerta Park

Everyone has a favorite park in their neighborhood, a favorite place they grew up in, playing games and sports with neighbors. For many Claremont residents, that spot is La Puerta Park. This park has a long history in Claremont. In the late 1960s, Claremont Unified School District (CUSD) purchased the land and turned it into La Puerta Middle School, in order to make up for the increasing population of El Roble Intermediate School. However, the school was shut down only ten years later, in the late 1970s, when the district decided it no longer needed a second middle school. The district then leased the land to the city in order to turn nine out of the just over 18 acres of the lot into a sports park. The lot was put up for sale in 2013, but no contractors attempting to acquire the land ever completed the purchase.

In 2019, after years of the lot serving only as a place for Claremont youth sports teams to practice and community members to enjoy, CUSD approved entering into an agreement with the California-based company Trumark Homes. Trumark’s bid was for just over 13 million dollars, and it intends to build 65 stand-alone houses, as well as nine “Accessory Dwelling Units,” for members of the newly created community. These homes will be built on 10.8 out of the 18.7 acres total. This means part of the land from what is currently the sports park will be taken out of its lease with the city in order to make room for the housing plan. The remaining land will be renovated into a new sports park for the community to enjoy. Trumark plans to invest a minimum of one million dollars in order to rebuild and resize the soccer and softball fields, and add snack bars, storage units, and restrooms to the park as well. There will still be a park, but it will be significantly smaller than before—though it will border 65 homes that did not previously exist.

Although CUSD still owns the vacant lot, and the deal would bring revenue to schools, many neighboring residents are opposed to or have concerns about the project for a variety of reasons. First, the sheer number of houses seems excessive to many. The current Trumark plan is to cram six houses on each acre of the land, a ratio much higher than that of the surrounding streets. Many worry that a new development will attract traffic to the area and increase noise pollution, taking the charm away from the quiet neighborhood. Although the deal helps Claremont to create affordable housing and address the housing crisis in California, this location does not have easy access to public transportation in the same way houses in the village do. Living in the vicinity of such resources is something that should be taken into consideration when the goal is to create low-income housing. In addition, in order to stay in sync with the city’s general plan, the architectural styles as well as the scaling of the houses would have to fit in with the surrounding houses.

“I’m very comfortable with it being developed; I want to see the school district get the money … but developed in a way that is more in keeping with the existing neighborhood in terms of lot size, house size, and the overall look and feel,” Kendall Bronk, a neighboring homeowner, said.

The city’s general plan also prioritizes open space and parks. There is a group of citizens known as Preserve Claremont that does not want the land to be developed at all.
It would rather see the park expanded, if anything, or used in another way that is more consistent with the goals of open space.

“I think that parks are a really important part of life because it’s a place where you can go and be active which is why it’s so important to have one close to home. It’s so great that La Puerta is so close to my house because it gives me a place to meet up with my friends, other than our houses … and gives people like my brother a place to practice sports,” freshman Ian Ho, who lives near the park, said.

Whether or not Trumak will make adjustments to the number and sizing of houses has yet to be decided. Before any further action can be taken on the project, Trumark must submit an application and have it approved by the city.

Although many will be sad to see land that has sat vacant for years and a piece of such a beloved park and part of the community become suburbanized, a request for no development at all on the lot seems unrealistic. Since it appears inevitable that it will be developed in some way, using it to provide affordable housing appeals to many, as does the notion that the sale will raise additional funds for Claremont schools. It is uncertain what will be done with the money or if the deal will actually be approved, but the deal with Trumark provides a way to fund reconstruction of the El Roble locker rooms, and modernization in Claremont elementary schools. For now, the lot sits empty. Whatever shape the development takes, at least there will be some space left for soccer games and children at play.