Pomona’s cozy Council Chambers

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Chino Hills’ new Council Chambers seats more than 100 and has overflow seating for another 50 or so, plus plenty of standing room. A sign gives the maximum capacity as 214.

City spokeswoman Denise Cattern told me the room is available for rent, and I know who ought to rent it out: Pomona. Its cramped chambers are half the size of Chino Hills’ — even though Pomona has twice the population.

Even a moderately attended meeting like Dec. 15′s filled the room in Pomona, forcing some to watch on TV from the lobby.

Someday I’d like to know why Pomona’s ’60s leaders, visionaries in many ways, approved such a puny room. Even Montclair has a larger meeting space, I think. It’s hard to believe Pomona’s space was adequate even in 1968, not to mention looking ahead to future growth.

Not only is the room small, but the rows of seats are closer to each other than in a movie theater. It’s all but impossible for anyone to squeeze into a row without everyone else standing up or moving into the aisle for them to pass. People must have been shorter in the ’60s.

(Remodeling wouldn’t seem to be an option. With a round building, you can’t really add on.)

However, the exterior is kinda cool, even if the reflecting pool around the building’s perimeter was replaced years ago with plants. I like the Pomona Civic Center complex quite a bit — the architect was Welton Becket — with its City Hall, Council Chambers, Library, Courthouse, Police and Fire stations and Health Center.

But the council-meeting seating, it must be said, is perhaps the Inland Valley’s least comfortable.

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  • Ramona

    I lived in Pomona when the Civic Center was built. I would walk over to the area on nice days with my toddlers to watch the progress. The kids enjoyed the reflecting pool — no wading! — and the grassy surround.

    Many of the old-timers were aghast at the round design of the council chambers. One old crock said it was a good idea because the devil couldn’t get the Mayor and his cohorts in the corner.

    The small size? It seems to me that, in those long gone days, the citizenry was less likely to participate in the meetings. City government was best left to the ones who were elected to run it. Most us us didn’t know — or care — when the meetings were scheduled.

    I seem to remember that there were awards made to various folks during some of the council meetings, but other than that most folks just enjoyed the Civic Center as if it were a city park. No involvement.

    How times change.

    [And maybe that's the best explanation -- there was only limited seating because no one attended meetings back then. Although I still question why the rows are so jammed together. -- DA]

  • Tad Decker

    David,

    I have been a regular visitor to our round City Council Chamber building since about 1980 (first as a curious high school student, and for the last 12 years as a city commissioner). I am not sure if you are aware that the present interior configuration is not the way it was originally designed.

    Within the last 10 years or so, the interior was changed to accommodate ADA requirements, resulting in a significant reduction in seating for the audience.

    Formerly, the floor sloped forward at a steeper incline, terminating in the five or six steps which led up to the dais. The effect was that the council looked down from a higher perch than it does presently. There was a smallish table in front of the council desk (which actually abutted the desk), which sat two or three staff members on each side.

    The odd thing about this arrangement was that the mayor and those council members seated to his/her right looked at the backs of half of the staff at the table. Also, the staff was more prominently displayed than they are today, then being at the top of the steps. (This made for interesting drama in the glory days of Donna Smith, Clay Bryant and Tomas Ursua.)

    At present, a large area on the south side of the room is devoted to a staff table and audio/visual controls — before the remodel, this whole area was seating (with staff using a couple of the front rows).

    The end result of this reconfiguration of the chamber was a loss of 1/4 to 1/3 of the seating, I would estimate.

    I should also note that at the same time the above changes were made, the council conference room was added to the south side of the Council Chamber building.

    So, our city fathers may not have planned for a large meeting room, but they did not intend for it to be as cramped as it is now….

    [Tad, many thanks for the description. I didn't know how the interior might have changed in 40 years, to add seating or subtract it. Now I know. -- DA]

  • calwatch

    Pictures would be nice, actually.