Expanding and Improving Constructed Open Space

Maintaining and expanding the natural environment is a critical aspect in preserving natural resources that are threatened by increased development and encroachment to open lands. This idea has carried over into wilderness systems but also the constructed open space.The constructed open space has never been so important until recent times when heightened awareness of removing ourselves from the idea of the “concrete jungle”, into a more environmentally conscious society.
According to the APA: “Open space design, also known as conservation development or cluster development, is a better site design technique that concentrates dwelling units in compact area in one portion of the development site in exchange for providing open space and natural areas elsewhere on the site.” With many traditional land use approaches becoming a thing of the past, sustainable principles have become a critical aspect for future developments to come.

Claremont has taken the initiative to expand on the open space system into the constructed open space of the city, by providing passive and active recreation; offering a fair distribution of parks, treed pathways and public gathering places throughout the community; increase the aesthetic quality of the community and provide urban agriculture as mention in the goals description. Moreover, handed over to Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens (RSBG) and Community Services to follow through with mentioned goals, each is responsible for the following:

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5.2.2: RSBG has partnered up with Graduate and Doctorate students from the Claremont colleges to create a list of environmentally friendly plants. However, no further goals have been addressed to expand on this idea that could be so promising. The 2013 sustainable Claremont report card stated that one of its goals is to reduce water consumption 30% by 2017, but they have fallen short of any promising plans.

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Some precedents of cities moving forward with water preservation is the City of Chino hills which helps residents switch their green lawns for artificial turf or drought friendly plants. The city can work with landscape architects to help residents make this switch and ultimately come close to that 30% reduction.

5.2.3: The city wants to create incentives for developers to build for more open space, but the incentives aren’t many and programs are not publicized. A way the city could potentially catalyze an effect for development that attracts to more greenery is to allow for tradeoffs in development proposals. Many cities are resilient on sticking by code requirements and zoning, if a design technique is created to concentrate development in one portion of the site in exchange for proving open space and natural areas many benefits could arise from this. For example, setbacks in between residential zones are relaxed in order to create open space, and removing those zoning ordinances that disallow open space development could be a proxy for green open space that is aesthetically pleasing and healthy for society. Developments do not have to be limited to only setbacks, also narrower residential streets, eliminating curbs and gutters and alternative turnarounds.

Precedents:

Massachusetts, allowed for cluster development and were found to appreciate 12 percent faster than conventional subdivisions over a 20-year period

In Atlanta, Georgia, the presence of trees and natural areas measurably increased the residential property tax base.

In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, the reduced impervious cover and increased tree canopy associated with open space development reduce the size and cost of downstream stormwater treatment facilities. The resulting cost savings can be considerable, as the cost to treat the quality and quantity of stormwater from a single impervious acre can range from $2,000 to a staggering $50,000. The increased open space within a cluster development also provides a greater range of locations for more cost-effective stormwater practices. Clearly, open space developments are valuable from an economic as well as an environmental standpoint. According to APA Open Space design.

Plans to increase open space and making a list of draught friendly plants do not have to be the only plans for the city. Creating sustainable open spaces can contribute a great amount to the overall environment of a city. This can easily carry over into civic zones, industrial zones, agriculture and land zones. To a  more extreme extent the city can even creating wildlife corridors that has not been mentioned in any plans by the city. Claremont has a tremendous opportunity to develop a sustainable city and a plan that can be used all across the nation due to its civic involvement, geographic location and institutional framework.

Protecting Natural Open Space

The purpose of this goal is to provide long term guidance to maintain, improve and protect the City of Claremont’s natural open space resources. Natural open space refers to natural or wilderness areas that provide important habitat for plants and animals as well as recreational opportunities and places of natural beauty. The City of Claremont has two wilderness parks within its boundaries; Claremont Hills Wilderness Park and Sycamore Canyon Park. Together these parks compose Claremont’s natural open space and provide opportunities hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding as well as ready access to the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Closeup of Claremont Trails Plan

Above is a portion of the Parks and Trails map taken from the Claremont General Plan.

The Claremont Hills Wilderness Park makes up the bulk of Claremont’s natural open space. The park, which opened in 1997, is located in the lower foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains along the northern portion of the City. It’s a topographically diverse wilderness area with over five miles of trails allowing for hiking mountain bike riding and horseback riding. These trails connect to the Thompson Creek Trail Marshall Canyon regional Park Palmer Canyon and Evey Canyon and a trail that leads to Potato Mountain peak off Mt Baldy Road.

Sustainable Claremont plans to conserve the City’s natural open space through the actions shown below.

5.1.1 to 5.1.4 actions

Action 5.1.1

This action protects the City’s open space by preventing new development of raw land through infill development. Infill development is the process of developing vacant or under-used parcels within existing urban areas that are already largely developed. Successful infill development is characterized by overall residential densities high enough to support improved transportation choices as well as a wider variety of convenience services and amenities and fitting in with existing development (which may be difficult for new development in the historical context of Claremont). It can return cultural, social, recreational and entertainment opportunities, gathering places, and vitality to older centers and neighborhoods. A great of example of this can already be found in Claremont with the Packing House which was formerly a citrus packing plant that is currently being used for restaurants and other local businesses.

Some obstacles to infill development include neighborhood opposition, financing challenges, inflexible building code and development regulations, lengthy permit processes, substandard infrastructure, difficult land assembly (oddly shaped parcels), and site contamination. If many of these issues cannot be addressed without assistance or incentive from a local city, developers will look for opportunities to develop on raw land.

The City of Sacramento has extensive history promoting infill development and has laid out goals for best practices;

  • Strong policy support and commitment from decision makers and City departments
  • Plans and zoning that support infill development goals
  • Streamlined regulatory process and flexible development standards
  • Significant financial incentives (in the form of reduced permit fees)
  • Clear design guidelines (must adhere to the historic character of the City)
  • Community acceptance

All of these general actions can be employed by the City of Claremont and will aid in conserving natural open space.

Action 5.1.2

The City of Claremont’s partnership with the Claremont Hills Conservation Corporation (CHCC) helps to ensure the continued vitality of the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park.  The CHCC is a nonprofit corporation created to receive and hold powers of termination, conservation, control of easements or other property interests to acquire hillside land for public parks other open space uses and recreation purposes. The board of the CHCC is responsible for assessing human impact on the park. If the board finds that human impact on the park is more than minimal, they can recommend that City ownership of the park be rescinded.

The City created the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park Management Plan to provide general guidelines concerning park management for City officials with the goal of preserving the natural characteristics of the park and giving visitors the opportunity for passive and recreational enjoyment of the park. The City is currently conducting research and analysis for a Wilderness Master Plan. The City has hired MIG Consulting to conduct the study and gather input from park users, residents, and other community groups.

Goal 5.5 Informing the Public

Claremont’s open Space and Land use goal area, within the sustainable city plan, states “Claremont’s open spaces are community resources that provide healthy ecosystems, natures services, wildlife habitat, physiological benefits, educational opportunities, aesthetic, recreational and cultural benefits, along with a decrease in the adverse effects of natural disasters” (Claremont 2013). Continue reading

Goal Area 5.4: Protect The Urban Forest

By: James Garganera

The City of Claremont has a diverse array of tree species networks all throughout its streets and parks, which make up its urban forest. In recent years the Claremont claremontSustainability Plan has called for objectives to protect the urban forest because it plays such a vital role in sustainability practices. One of the most important objectives that are in the sustainability plan is to educate the public on how to properly care for the urban forest around them, which in the long run will develop a sense of appreciation for the urban forest in the city.

Goals Towards Protecting the Urban Environment

  1. Develop a heritage tree identification program
  2. Conduct a tree inventory for management
  3. Publish and circulate guidelines for properly watering and pruning trees

Residents in the city have addressed this issue by creating a group called the “Tree Action Group” (TAG) in 2013. The group was created because of discrepancies between maintaining hardscape, which led to cutting down trees. In fact, the removal of trees was not consistent with the City’s Tree Policy Guidelines. The Tree Action Group was successful in saving the trees when the issue reached the city council, and since then the group set out to help the city avoid similar incidents in the future. The group focuses on educating the public regarding the value of the urban forest and the importance of properly maintaining trees in the city. According to Sustainable Claremont, the Tree Action Group has specific objectives that they want to accomplish. As a group, they want to obtain more knowledge about trees, as well as their importance to the local ecology. TheyScreen shot 2015-01-28 at 6.21.45 PM want to develop educational programs for the residents, and they want to review policies and practices of the city of Claremont to give suggestions for policy making, practices, and planning for the future health of the urban forest. According to the sustainability report card of 2013, the urban forestry in Claremont continues to meet its expectations.

There are a few precedents that are similar to Claremont’s Tree Action Group in other parts of the country. In North Carolina, there is a group that is called the “Urban Forest Council”. This group is mainly for educating the public on the importance of trees and how they impact the environment. This program also includes children in their education so that future generations are educated about the importance of urban forests. One unique aspect of the Urban Forest Council is that the group has created a fundraising system to help donate money to communities for tree planting projects. On top of that, the donations are tax deductible.

Urban Forest Council Goals:Screen shot 2015-01-28 at 10.09.52 PM

  1. Promote public interest and participation
  2. Encourage by providing forums to exchange ideals
  3. Engage in strategic planning and advocacy
  4. Identify resources needed to sustain the organization

Another advocacy group in the city of Missoula, Montana works on educating the public about the importance of planting and maintaining current trees as well as helping the city’s urban forestry division with keeping the tree census up to date.

The next objective that is in the Claremont Sustainability Plan is advocating is an inventory for public and private trees for urban forest management. These inventories are carried out by the Community Services Division Having a tree inventory mapped out is essential to keep track of the tree species, its location, any complaints, hazards, as well as finding vacant areas where future trees can be planted. In Claremont, specifically, their tree inventory data is used to calculate the value of the trees. There are examples of tree inventories within the City of Claremont. There was an Urban Ecosystem Analysis specifically done on the Claremont Colleges in which tree inventories were taken and mapped out using GIS.

After viewing the sustainability report cards from 2009-2013, Claremont is on the right track when it comes to protecting its urban forest. I would like to see more involvement with the children, such as programs that include children in their education about the importance of urban forestry.

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