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Friends of the Bernard Biological FieldStation . . . .Dedicated to Education and the Environment

The KGI siting controversy...

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Claremont Colleges approve a new school to be sited on the BFS...

In spring of 1997, the Claremont Colleges voted to add a seventh college to the consortium, the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences (KGI). KGI was planned to be principally a commuter biotechnology college with strong ties to industry. The Claremont Colleges Board of Fellows voted to give KGI the western 11.4 acres of the Bernard Field Station (BFS) for its buildings in spite of overwhelming opposition by faculty and students and the existence of alternative sites - the golf course on Indian Hill Blvd and the former gravel quarry (the "Pit") on the corner of Foothill and Claremont Blvds.

The Colleges submit a plan, an Environmental Impact Report is prepared, and citizens speak out...

Claremont University Center (CUC) submitted the North Campus Master Plan (NCMP) to the City of Claremont in April 1998. Because a preliminary investigation indicated potential adverse environmental effects from the project, an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was prepared according the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), released in March 1999, stated that the project would have significant unmitigable effects on habitat, wildlife, open space, views of the mountains, recreation, and Claremont's character. In addition, the project would have affected the educational value of the BFS to the colleges and the community. During the public comment period and at the City of Claremont Commission hearings in April, many Claremont citizens expressed opposition to building on the BFS, including the local Native Americans (Gabrieleno-Tongva), for whom the BFS is an important cultural resource.

Citizens also expressed concern for the future of the remainder of the BFS. In deciding where to site KGI and other possible new ventures, the Claremont Colleges had engaged in a land use planning study. Although the land use plan stated that no development of the BFS was "contemplated" during the planning period, the remainder of the BFS was not included in the NCMP, in spite of specific requests. The lack of guaranteed protection for any time for the rest of the BFS was of great concern to many.

After a period of public comment and revision of the DEIR, the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) was released on July 2, 1999. The FEIR did add a mitigation measure for loss of habitat -- 3:1 replacement of coastal sage scrub, but the replacement could be on or off-site. On the other hand, the FEIR reduced a Class I impact (significant even after mitigation) on Recreational Resources to Class II (insignificant after mitigation) with a 25-year preservation agreement on the Golf Course, effectively removing it as an alternative project site. Also troubling was an added aesthetic mitigation measure that placed setbacks and height restrictions on the remainder of the BFS. These are only needed if the rest of the BFS is to be developed.

In July, the AC held four hearings on the FEIR, and public comment was accepted by the City until July 21. At the July 21, 1999, meeting the AC added insult to injury by removing a Class I impact on consistency with the City's plan to "preserve the City's character" because they believed that a new institute was more in keeping with the City's character than the iconic view of Mt. Baldy.

The City approves the Environmental Impact Report and the Friends appeal...

Finally, at the July 28, 1999, meeting the AC certified the EIR and found that all alternatives except the proposed one were infeasible. Reasons that the Pit was found infeasible included greater costs, donor wishes, longer time for completion of project, the fact the property is split between Los Angels and San Bernadino counties, that the colleges plan to use that land for undergraduate institution(s) while using the land north of Foothill for graduate institutions, and that the Pit is farther from Harvey Mudd College, Claremont Graduate University, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, and the Claremont School of Theology.

The Friends of the Bernard Biological Field Station (FBBFS) appealed the Architectural Commission's decision on the basis that many areas of the EIR were inadequate. The City Council heard the appeal at a special meeting on September 9, 1999, and at the regular meeting of September 14, 1999, denied the appeal and certified the EIR.

The City approves the North Campus Master Plan and the Friends appeal...

In Spring 2000 the Colleges submitted the North Campus Master Plan to the City, and the Architectural Commission heard public comment on May 10, 2000. Approximately 150 people attended the meeting. Because the Hahn Building at Pomona College had to be vacated by 11:45 p.m., the meeting was continued until the next regular Architectural Commission meeting on May 24. At this the meeting, the AC approved the NCMP and adopted a Statement of Overriding Consideration, which stated that the benefits of the project to the community outweigh the environmental impacts.

On June 2, 2000, the Friends filed an appeal of the NCMP approval. On June 21, 2000, the City Council denied the appeal.

The Friends file a CEQA lawsuit...

On July 21, 2000, FBBFS filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate with the Superior Court of Los Angeles County asking the court to remedy deficiencies in the Environmental Impact Report for the North Campus Master Plan. The deficiencies specifically named are in essence failure to consider growth-inducing impacts of the Keck Graduate Institute, failure to produce a true master plan, and inadequate analysis of the alternatives.

As mandated by CEQA, a settlement conference was held on September 12, 2000. During Fall 2000 negotiations continued between FBBFS and Claremont University Center and the City of Claremont to see if it was possible to reach an out-of-court settlement on the pending CEQA lawsuit.

The Coalition to Preserve Claremont's Character files a petition to referend the NCMP Development Agreement...

On August 21, 2000, another citizen's group, the Coalition to Preserve Claremont's Character, submitted to the City of Claremont approximately 3,300 signatures on a petition requesting a referendum on the Development Agreement for implementation of the North Campus Master Plan. This number was well over the required 10% of registered Claremont voters, and on September 8, 2000, CPCC received official notice of sufficiency of the petition from the City of Claremont. The City of Claremont was then required by law to either repeal the development agreement or place it on the ballot for March 2001.

The Friends agree to settle and the City repeals the NCMP Development Agreement...

As of November 15, FBBFS, Claremont University Center, and the City of Claremont agreed in principle to settle out of court the pending CEQA lawsuit filed by FBBFS on July 21, 2000. While not preventing building of KGI on the westernmost 11 acres, the agreement preserves 45 acres of the BFS as a field station for a minimum of 50 years, to allow educational use of the BFS by community groups, and to have Native American monitor on site during the grading for the Keck Graduate Institute. For more information see our press release. (The final version of the agreement was signed in February 2001.)

On November 28, 2000, the Claremont City Council repealed the Development Agreement for the North Campus Master Plan and authorized City staff to process a new Development Agreement if CUC submits one. Thus the Development Agreement was not placed on the March 2001 ballot.

KGI stays put for now...

No new Development Agreement has been submitted to the City. On March 31 20001, a front-page article in the "Claremont Courier" reported rumors that the Keck Graduate Institute might stay at its present location on Arrow Highway instead of building on the BFS. When questioned about the rumors, KGI President Hank Riggs stated thatKGI is focusing on renovating its current facilities and noted that "KGI's Board of Trustees has made no firm decisions as to when or what might be built on the north campus."

Title on the 11.4 acre site was transferred from CUC to KGI in 2002, but on July 19, 2003, Sheldon Schuster, the new President of the Keck Graduate Institute, stated in an interview with the Claremont Courier that KGI is not planning to build on the BFS. "We're very satisfied with our present facilities,' Mr. Schuster said, adding that KGI does not have even long-term plans to build on the parcel of land.

A note on the Friends' position..

Many in Claremont painted this controversy as the Friends of the Bernard Biological Field Station (FBBFS) vs. KGI. This is not an accurate portrayal. Individual Friends differ widely in their opinions about KGI, and FBBFS as a group takes no position of the merits of the institute itself; we only protest its siting. Our mission is simply to preserve and enhance the Robert J. Bernard Field Station - for its environment, its beauty, its natural and cultural heritage, and its value in educating next century's citizens in the complexity of the earth that is home to all of us.

The Friends are also in no way connected with the person(s) who are anonymously posting and mailing anti-KGI propaganda under the acronym H.A.N.K. (Humanists Against Nefarious KGI). We do not know the identity of H.A.N.K. , we do not know how to contact H.A.N.K., and to our knowledge, no member of the Friends is associated with H.A.N.K.

Coastal sage - Artemisia californica
Renderings at top from the DEIR for the NCMP.
Page last updated 15 October 2003