Trumark Homes Turns to Builder’s Remedy in Order to Advance 56-Home Development in Claremont

Trumark Homes, Los Angeles, Claremont

By The Registry Staff

Due to the city’s prolonged environmental review process, Trumark Homes has been facing significant delays in its proposal to construct 56 single-family homes in the eastern Los Angeles County city of Claremont. As a result, the developer recently submitted a “supplemental” application known as a builder’s remedy project to expedite progress, offering a potentially faster route, according to a recent report in The Real Deal.

Eric Nelson, Trumark’s vice president of community development, emphasized the importance of time and predictability in such projects. Faced with limited options, the builder’s remedy project emerged as the clearest path forward. Trumark intends to build its residential development on a 10-acre site that was previously a vacant middle school located near downtown Claremont, close to the foothills of the Angeles National Forest. The developer entered into an escrow deal with the Claremont Board of Education in 2019, purchasing the site for $13 million. In the following year, the company submitted an initial application to the city for a 65-home development with nine Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), commonly known as “granny flats.”

However, the project encountered opposition and controversy, including a proposal to annex 1.25 acres from a neighboring sports park in exchange for constructing new facilities. This led to passionate Zoom meetings and the formation of a neighborhood opposition group called Keep La Puerta Public. After further community discussions in 2021, Trumark submitted a revised proposal for 56 homes, presenting it as a compromise following extensive deliberations with neighbors and local stakeholders.

Despite the revised proposal, the city staff has yet to complete the project’s environmental assessment, a prerequisite for approval or denial by the Planning Department and City Council. As a result, Trumark filed a builder’s remedy application last month, modifying the project to include 87 total homes, consisting of 69 single-family homes and six triplexes. In adherence to the builder’s remedy requirements, 18 of these units would be designated as affordable housing.

The proposed use of the builder’s remedy provision is somewhat unconventional. This legal provision, established in California since 1990 but gaining increased attention recently, allows developers to circumvent local zoning regulations in cities that fail to meet their mandated housing plans. Typically, developers have utilized this provision to file for multifamily projects, often exceeding local zoning restrictions. However, Trumark’s preference is to proceed with their 56-home project rather than pursuing a large multifamily development. The expedited processing timeline mandated by the provision is accompanied by a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) review.

Eric Nelson expressed his belief in the local approval process and stated that the builder’s remedy approach may not be the ideal solution. However, due to the prolonged delays in the routine environmental assessments, Trumark felt compelled to explore an alternative option. Their primary objective remains the construction of homes, and they are committed to finding the most effective path to achieve that goal.

Claremont, a suburban city located approximately 30 miles east of Downtown Los Angeles, has a population of around 36,000 and is considered an upper-middle-income area. It is required to plan for an additional 1,700 housing units by 2029, as mandated by the state. Along with many other Southern California cities, Claremont faced an October 2021 deadline to comply with the state’s housing plan, but it has yet to receive approval from the state, leaving it vulnerable to penalties and the potential use of the builder’s remedy provision. The city has recently submitted another version of its plan to the state, which is currently under review.

City officials stated that they are currently reviewing Trumark’s preliminary application to ensure compliance with state law and expect to provide an update in the coming weeks. The builder’s remedy application has introduced a new complication to Claremont’s overdue planning process. Last fall, Californians for Homeownership, a pro-housing nonprofit sponsored by the California Association of Realtors, filed a lawsuit against the city, one of several lawsuits the group has initiated to challenge cities that hinder housing development. According to industry reports, the suit has now been settled, and the agreement stipulates a July 31 deadline for Claremont’s compliance with the updated Housing Element.