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College-Community Relations Get Tense

September 21, 2008

by Kyle Ragins

The Contra Costa Times reported yesterday that:

A neighborhood group called Protect Our Neighborhoods filed a complaint against Claremont McKenna College and the city on July 28 in Los Angeles Superior Court.The group contends that the city, in approving plans for the college's Kravis Center, failed to properly address the project's impact on air quality, noise and parking in surrounding neighborhoods.

This law suit seems a little bit strange to me overall.  If their main complaints are really air quality, noise, and parking, those seem like relatively nonissues.  As far as noise goes, the construction is in the middle of the Claremont Colleges, across from the library, the health center, and other Consortium buildings.  While it might be a fair argument that the other colleges might be getting some serious noise from the construction, it seems doubtful that any significant amount of noise could be reaching all the way to the communities.

Similarly, parking also seems like an odd complaint, as the new construction project seeks to build a massive new parking structure under the building.  It would actually increase parking, how could that be a negative effect on parking?

The only one of Protect Our Neighborhoods' complaints that seem like it could be legitimate would have to do with air pollution.  And I suppose that something on that side of things may result from this lawsuit: some kind of promise to minimize dust release into the air during construction or the like.  Although, I must point out that overall, this one construction project (while large) seems unlikely to contribute any significant changes to air pollution in the neighborhood area--as the dust, etc. would have dispersed significantly by the time it drifts over into neighborhoods several hundred yards away.

Overall, while I have no expertise in local Claremont politics, I would guess that this issue has more to do with the neighborhood's efforts to extort money of the the colleges--which the neighborhood undoubtedly perceives as rich--to do something they want done anyway.  If I was a local person, and I thought I could get the colleges to pay for something in the neighborhood--parking, noise-blocking walls, etc.--through a lawsuit, it might make sense to go for it.  However, I must offer the disclaimer that this accusation is just speculation, reflecting my own cynicism with politics.  It could very well be true that the neighborhoods are plauged by unbearable noise, parking problems, and air pollution as a result of the constructio, and the college really must do something.

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