Thursday, July 30, 2015

Is Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park Becoming Sierra Madre's Very Scary Place?


So here is a kind of serious question. And I never ask kind of serious questions except when I absolutely have to do it. So you know. Has Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park begun to take on certain morbid and frightening aspects, especially when it comes to people trying to do themselves in?

I am only saying this because there have now been two suicide attempts - one successful, one nearly so - in that park over the last 15 months. A place where suicides, or at least overt, public versions, have now found a home is Sierra Madre.

The following comes from the Pasadena Star News (link):


Here is how the City of Sierra Madre released that information on its Facebook page. Note that while the Pasadena Star News did not include the victim's name, this report did.


Back on April 24, 2014, we picked up on a story published by the now vanished Los Angeles Register. A paper we miss. Here is how they reported another Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park tragedy.


The Los Angeles Register article is no longer available on the Internet, so I cannot supply you with a link.

So why is Bailey Canyon Park, and not let's say Goldberg Park, the place where these things happen?

One more thing

I received the following e-mail from a resident earlier this week.

FYI, last night at 925 Singing Wood Dr. in Arcadia, there was a huge party with really loud music. My daughter and granddaughter heard the music at 10:30P and drove around until they found the house. Loud, DJ using th "f" word. The cops came and just sat there. The party continued. My daughter went by today and the house is basically empty. The house has been on and off the market. Owned by people from out of town and don't live in it.  The internet party has now come to us locally!  It's a little too close.

Anyone know why the Arcadia PD chose to do nothing?

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Leslee Hinton and John Hutt Get the City Council Nod for Two Open Planning Commission Seats

New EENER Commissioners please take note.
Honestly I would have voted for Barry Gold if I was making the choice, but would that have been over Leslee Hinton or John Hutt? Yes, sometimes being an armchair politician does have its advantages.

But now that this is over and nobody has to pretend to be fair anymore, it can also be said that this was a huge triumph for slow growth in Sierra Madre. A truly historic victory.

It is also something that would have been inconceivable just a few years ago when big development still had strong City Council support. But those people don't seem to have very much influence in this city anymore, right? It's like they have completely dried up and blown away. Does anyone even think about them anymore? Or care about what their opinions might be?

Sierra Madre now has the Planning Commission needed to back up and enforce the new General Plan. And if I can be so bold, I think it is now safe to believe that mansionization in this town is for all intents and purposes dead. Along with a lot of the other things people have fought against hard and long.

The soon to be seated new Planning Commission will be a fierce guardian and advocate for the Sierra Madre way of doing things, and will serve the desires of the people actually living here first. And not out of town developers or the nuts over at SCAG.

As was the previous one, now that I think about it. It does looks like we are on a roll with good Planning Commissions.

Here is the screen shot from a celebratory Facebook entry posted by Leslee Hinton.


This is how the City Council's deliberations shook out. All five candidates showed up and spoke. Only one audience member commented and that was Pat Alcorn, who supporting Leslee Hinton. Mayor Capoccia called for Councilmembers to pick their top 3 candidates, and this is what they came up with.

Denise Delmar:
John Hutt, Leslee Hinton, Matthew Blaine

Rachelle Arizmendi:
John Hutt, Leslee Hinton, Matthew Blaine

John Harabedian:
John Hutt, John Vandevelde, Leslee Hinton

Gene Goss:
John Hutt, Leslee Hinton, Matthew Blaine

John Capoccia didn't even have to give his selections. And since all four had named John Hutt and Leslee Hinton, he called for the vote and those are the two candidates that prevailed.

Another bad night for Bruce Inman

"Let's see if I have this straight. The city has failed to adequately secure water, causing us to suffer greater short term consequences than "three days a week" Arcadia. Having so failed, the city is now providing inferior water. For which it is now charging a 50% premium. And now they want to fine us for using too much of that bad tasting/residue leaving swill. Yup. Let's hire Bruce a consultant." 
                                                              - Reader comment from late last evening

Nothing that Bruce Inman advocates for these days seems to live. Both the $30,000 SRI/Raftelis water budget consultant and Ferguson Group renewal requests were shot down. Neither got a single positive vote from the City Council.

It could very well be that Mr. Inman has become a victim of the yellow water fiasco. He was given a lot of money and authority by the City Council to fix that problem, and nothing he recommended did what he said it would. The problem still exists.

Bruce apparently doesn't have a lot of credibility left with the City Council, and I am beginning to wonder how much time he has left here. They are still polite to him of course, but people who are about to be shown the door are always treated kindly.

It helps avoid lawsuits.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Architect Who Wanted To Raze The Historic Henry A. Darling Home Is None Other Than ...

Yesterday there were some questions about exactly who the architect was behind a highly complicated scheme to demolish a Sierra Madre community heirloom called the Henry A. Darling home. That along with executing a lot split, building something to replace it described by one Tattler reader as "a bunch of doublewides arranged together," all while both that architect and his clients pocketed some major coin.

Well, thanks to the determination of two fine folks on the Tattler Research Team, we now have our answer. It was none other than one of this evening's City Council meeting Planning Commission candidates, John Vandevelde. Below are your smoking gun screen shots.


If you look over at the far righthand side of that page you will see something that clearly identifies the author of all of the above, plus the architect's stamp establishing responsibility. For those of you who would like to avoid the unnecessary eyestrain, here is a close-up detail shot.


Yesterday we posted a video (link here) that pulled a few minutes out of a rather long and controversial public comment delivered by Mr. Vandevelde at a January of 2015 City Council meeting. In his spoken word performance John called for a lot of things that would have helped make his project happen. This included getting rid of the demolition moratorium that eventually did put an end to his plans.

In hindsight this was clearly the one true source of concern for Vandevelde, and the inspiration for his unnecessarily lengthy talk that evening. He was trying to save his project.

It is also a good indication of where his sympathies lie on slash and burn mansionization development issues, and why he is not a very good match for a Planning Commission seat this year.

One more thing. Here is another quick video clip from John Vandevelde's talk that evening. In this one you will be able to see exactly how he identified himself to the City Council that evening, and what he claimed was the purpose for all the talk.

Video link here.

Did you catch it? Not a single word about the actual reason for that long speech, which was saving the project he had put together for the Brown family. A project that, in my opinion, led the Browns sadly astray in their expectations while also making them the target for what was a lot of community anger over the threatened demolition of the Henry A. Darling home.

The last I heard the Browns were also suing the city. Another legacy of this sad misadventure.

Here is how one informed resident put it:

You have a critical City Council meeting where the members are about to vote on whether or not to pass an emergency interim demolition ordinance. The impetus for the emergency ordinance was that the Brown family was about to tear down a 1907 Craftsman home known as the Henry A. Darling House located at 126 E. Mira Monte. Then John Vandevelde goes to the podium and tells the City Council, the citizens in attendance and those watching at home, that he is here as a citizen of Sierra Madre, a former member of the Planning Commission and as an architect with 20 years of experience.

In short, he presents himself as an unbiased expert who is opposed to the demolition ordinance. What he doesn't tell anybody is that he is the architect hired by the Brown family who designed the plans for the structure that is to replace the historic home that is about to be turned into a pile of rubble. One of the Brown's family friends even had the nerve to shout "He's an expert, let him speak!" when Mayor Harabedian tries to get him to wrap it up. 

Vandevelde should have disclosed his connection to the Mira Monte house forthrightly so everyone could decide for themselves whether he had a vested interest in not having the moratorium passed.  Instead he concealed that fact from everyone in the room, those watching at home and even the City Council themselves.

Hopefully this will all be taken into account when the City Council makes its Planning Commission decisions this evening.

Can you make any sense of this?

One of the later items on tonight's City Council agenda (link), which is where controversial topics such as the following are often parked in hopes the community will have fallen asleep by then and won't be witness to such horror, involves hiring yet another consultant.

In this case we are talking about the $44,000 in combined consultant and new part time employee hires demanded by City Staff. This so they can issue cash money fines to Sierra Madre residents who use too much water.

Which I guess would be fair if we in turn were allowed to fine City Hall employees for spending too much money.

So let me ask you, does any of this make sense to you?


"Plant Factors" and "water budget methodology" aside (neat jargon, eh?), why is it City Hall needs to spend nearly $30K on a consultant so that they can issue fines to residents who use too much water?

I am not sure that a city government in perpetual whinge mode over the sunsetting of what were among the highest UUT rates in California should be asking for that kind of money right now. Especially when it is to be used so they can better levy fines on the very same people who supplied them with that money in the first place.

Raftelis, as you must know, is the consultant the city used to justify its most recent rash of water rate increases. Something that could make you wonder if this is all about the additional money that will be taken in, and not curbing anyone's bad behavior.

Whatever the case, this is all something that they should have been able to figure out for themselves months ago. And with the resources already given to them.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Monday, July 27, 2015

Did John Vandevelde Disqualify Himself For A Planning Commission Seat With This Speech?

A small portion of John's lengthy stemwinder. Link to video here.

Tuesday evening the City Council will vote to seat two new Planning Commission members. Since this particular commission had to make some very important decisions recently regarding unwanted and predatory mansionization in this town, and in the face of some pretty stiff pressures from the people who stand to profit greatly from their construction, this decision becomes one of the most important the City Council will be required to make in quite some time.

John Vandevelde went to the public comment podium at the critical January 27 City Council meeting and spoke in vigorous opposition to the Demolition Moratorium that all five City Council members later went on to approve. He also discussed the further changes being contemplated for the R-1 Zoning Codes. He was strongly opposed to those as well. Something that 3 out of the 5 City Council members also voted to put in place.

Vandevelde even managed to try the patience of the always accommodating then Mayor John Harabedian by refusing his request to wrap his marathon public comment up after going way past what had already been a generously extended amount of time. Probably the nearest thing to a filibuster this city has seen in quite a while.

The Planning Commission's job is to implement things like the General Plan and Municipal Code. Would architect John Vandevelde be the best person to do that sort of work when he has previously spoken out in opposition to everything the current Planning Commission and City Council voted for and enacted?

Things designed to keep Sierra Madre safe from the threat of mansionization?

If you listen to his remarks here, John says at the beginning that he had been an architect for 20 years. Something that people watching this video might assume would make him an unbiased expert. What John did not reveal is what his business stake in all of this might be. The rumor being he was the architect employed by the Brown family to design the large and generic house that was to replace what many here think of as a community heirloom. Plus configure what would have been a very controversial lot split.

That being the 1907 Craftsman home known as the Henry A. Darling House, located at 126 E. Mira Monte.


This perceived conflict of interest is not without relevance given that one of the main reasons the City Council voted on an Emergency Demolition Ordinance was to prevent places like the Henry A. Darling Home from being turned into a pile of rubble. Then replaced by a far larger and common looking home, and on a split lot. The architectural design is pictured below.


Given the popularity here of preserving Sierra Madre's architectural heritage, as represented by the City Council's repeated accommodation of measures designed to do just that, does it really make sense to place someone on the Planning Commission that advocated so fiercely against just those very things?

Do we really need to take that kind of radical step backwards?

Here is a portion of the Staff Report for the selection of two new members for the Planning Commission.


sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Pasadena Star News: Sierra Madre group rallies against development of religious retreat land

Behind Caesar's lines.
Mod: Great coverage in today's Pasadena Star News. Plus it really is nice that they saved this for their Sunday edition. Today's paper gets a much wider circulation than any of the editions that come out on weekdays, so this one will be seen by many more people. We're following that up with a virtual rotogravure of insightful pictures taken by the editor of the Sierra Madre Weekly, Terry Miller. If you don't know Terry, he runs around nine regional weekly newspapers in the area, and he is providing some truly impressive coverage of the SGV McMansion fight. If you haven't picked up a copy of the Sierra Madre Weekly lately, you owe it to yourself to do that. You will be in for a very pleasant surprise. They are hitting this news hard, and at just the right time. Ask the GemCoin guys.


Mod: I'm sorry, but Cam Thornton claiming his goals are the same as those of Preserve Sierra Madre is just about the most ridiculous nonsense I have heard in quite a while. Preserve Sierra Madre began as a local movement created to stop development at Mater Dolorosa. Does Thornton claim he is now opposing development there? I don't think so. He just wants the money. Some people have no shame. For the rest of this Star News coverage click here.

Terry Miller's Pictures


Thanks Terry!

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Arcadia Residents Set Out To Recall The McMansion Trio


Is it just me, or is there a new wave of political activism in the SGV? Can it be that people have reached the legendary "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore?" point, especially on the issue of McMansionizing their towns?

Yesterday we were treated to the refreshing sight of Sierra Madre residents demonstrating against the developmental desecration of the Mater Dolorosa Monastery, and by the very people who are supposed to be its caretakers. The voters over in Monrovia just dumped their faithless Mayor and are today gunning for even more political scalps. And now a group referring to themselves as Concerned Arcadians have begun a campaign they are calling "Take Back Our City Council."

So how do they plan to do that? By recalling three sitting members of the Arcadia City Council.

Yard signs, like the one pictured above, have begun to pop up all over the Peacock Peoples Republic, much to the chagrin of those whose names are featured on them in bright red. It is a fine looking sign too, and quite a sight for sore eyes.

The website Save The Arcadia Highlands has made the case for this recall (link). Thanks to the miracle of screenshots, we can show you here what they have to say.


Great stuff. Obviously the Sierra Madre Tattler will be watching this one closely. In my opinion the fight to stop McMansions in Arcadia is pretty much joined at the hip with what we are fighting for in Sierra Madre. Personally, I don't see that much of a difference. It is all basically one struggle.

John Wuo continues to deny his GemCoin woes

Video here.
Despite the fact that Arcadia City Councilmember John Wuo and various GemCoin properties and personalities are plastered all over the Internet in the form of photos, videos and written accounts, this rumpled little dude just keeps denying that he knows anything about this stuff. Except to deny that those who peddle the so-called crypto-currency are engaged in some sort of a Ponzi scheme. A topic where he suddenly seems willing to show a greater depth of knowledge.

But I have gotten a little ahead of myself. Here is some excellent reporting from Joe Taglieri of the Arcadia Weekly (link):

Gemcoin Controversy: Adding to the charged atmosphere in the council chamber over real estate development, in a July 1 article Arcadia Weekly linked former mayor and current councilmember John Wuo to a business headquartered in Arcadia that is using the councilman and his status as an elected official extensively in its marketing material for a financial investment product called Gemcoin, described as a “crypto-currency” similar to Bitcoin.

Tim Burch and David Arvizu are Highlands residents who consistently attend council meetings and voice their displeasure with the panel’s recent actions. Both berated Wuo for his endorsement of GemCoin, which they likened to a Ponzi scheme, and his business relationships with executives of the digital currency’s parent organizations – USFIA Inc., Alliance Financial Group and the U.S. China Consultation Association.

“City council people, mayors, should not be endorsing companies – especially ones that have been identified [as] or suspected of being pyramid schemes,” said Arvizu, head of Save the Arcadia Highlands. “This is an ethics violation, mixing politics with a pyramid scheme.”

Arvizu requested council members put the issue of Wuo’s Gemcoin connection on their next meeting agenda to “discuss this in public … and admonish his inappropriate behavior.” Wuo did not respond to Arvizu’s comments about Gemcoin at the July 7 council meeting, but he did on Tuesday. “Please be responsible with your comments and [don’t make] unfounded allegations,” Wuo told Arvizu.

“The first time I was Mayor I attended over 700 events in … Arcadia or the San Gabriel Valley,” Wuo said. “I’ve made a lot of ceremonial speeches and always wish them success in their business. I’m not going to go up there and say I wish your business fails.”

Wuo then reiterated comments he made in an interview with Arcadia Weekly: “I don’t know anything about GemCoin, I don’t have any financial interest.”

He also rebuffed the allegation Arvizu made July 7 that Wuo may be stashing Gemcoin compensation into an overseas bank account. “I challenge you to show me if I have an offshore account or have an account in a foreign country,” Wuo said after denying he has such assets.

Arvizu augmented his comments with a video monitor positioned so that council members and cameras that broadcast meetings could view videos posted online showing Wuo speaking at Gemcoin marketing events.

“I was invited to present awards … and the other one was a news conference [Gemcoin founder Steve Chen] invited me to say a few words,” Wuo explained. “Those are ceremonial speeches. It’s just a very regular, ceremonial, congratulatory speech.”

In the spirit of good times and fun, here is a video of John "I know nothingWuo lavishing some rather fulsome praise on Steve Chen and his GemCoin empire. Here he certainly does seem to be well-versed on the topic, and attempts to explain what it is all about to anyone who cares to listen.

Click here for the video.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Friday, July 24, 2015

While Some Realtors Ate Cheese With People Who Want To Turn Mater Dolorosa Into Rancho Cucamonga West ... Preserve Sierra Madre Took It To The Streets

No Access?
You do realize that I need say something nice about Realtors, right? After all, the immediate reason for that big protest outside the rather pricey looking black iron gates of the Mater Dolorosa Monastery yesterday afternoon was all about Realtors. Specifically, a secret meeting between Realtors and those troubled souls who want to sell what is truly magnificent monastery property to slash and burn developers. Something that was first exposed here on The Tattler. And once that big secret was out, so outraged were a significant number of Sierra Madreans that they stood at the Monastery gates and vowed to do whatever it takes to save that magnificent property from such an awful fate. About 150 Sierra Madreans to be exact.

It was an incredible sight, and also testimony to the great organizational abilities of Preserve Sierra Madre and its inspirational leader, Matt Bryant. Who, by the way, is a Realtor.

Part of yesterday's big turnout at the Monastery

So here is what I am getting at. The fight to save Sierra Madre from predatory development, and in particular the Mater Dolorosa Monastery, is being led by Realtors. Who, together with folks from other equally fine professions, organized an effective and well run protest opposed to that now not-so-secret meeting at the monastery for … Realtors.

Except very few Realtors showed up at the Monastery's cheese party. Like maybe 8 at the very most. Out of the 100 or so who were sent invitations by the wannabe Monastery real estate developers.

There were far more Realtors protesting at the Monastery Gates than there were eating room temperature brie and plotting destructive development with Jerry Pearson and Father Higgins up at the big house. And even some of those that did go expressed strong disapproval of slash and burn development at Mater Dolorosa.

Unlike with some of the development controversies of the past (the Downtown Specific Plan and Measure V come to mind), this time many of the agents for good were real estate people. Like Matt Bryant and Mike Paris. And some others, too. Like (Saints preserve me) Judy Webb Martin. Credit where credit is due.

More on that in a minute.

But here is the deal. We will now no longer tolerate gainsaying Realtors on this site. Yesterday was a turning point for this community. While there are still some bad actors out there, by and large yesterday's extraordinary and historic demonstration at the Monastery Gates was led by some of the finest (and smartest) members of this community. Some of whom just happen to work in the real estate profession.

Much love and respect to our friends in that community from The Sierra Madre Tattler. Yesterday some Realtors just might have saved this community from one of the worst land use schemes since the One Carter debacle of 2004.

We need to show some gratitude and say thanks.

Three time Sierra Madre Mayor and Preserve Sierra Madre leader Clem Bartoli speaks out.

While 150 stood at the Monastery Gates, we had our spy on the inside of the Jerry Pearson/Father Higgins cheese and community heirloom destruction party.

(Mod: Here is what our man on the inside - who is a Realtor - has to share with us.)

Cameron Thornton (developer manqué who is also on the Mater Dolorosa board of directors), gave a history of the place. When it was bought, etc. 88 acres.

Joe Sanders - also on Board of Dir. - Said they plan to donate 45 acres behind the Monastery to some conservancy group. They can't sell it for development because it's a designated protected area. So they'll try and make it seem like an act of generosity.

20 acres would be developed - 40 to 50 houses. Leaves 15 acres for the Monastery. They will continue to have retreats, etc. (That leaves 8 acres unaccounted for.)

An Audi heads to the Cheese Party
They have considered so many other options, make a preserve? Leave it as institutional? Never received any offers except from developers. They also know they have problems as witnessed by the Preserve Sierra Madre people outside the gate as witnessed as that handful of Realtors drove up.

Three hot button issues that they will push as being good for the city:

1. Money in the form of development impact fees and new property taxes.

2. Increase in revenue from utilities.

3. (These are the words on the slide show) No net new water usage-acquifer recharge. Judy Webb-Martin challenged this - and Pearson said a bunch of senseless nonsense.

Mr. Sanders then said that water was a state problem. People in Sierra Madre per person use more water than San Francisco. When we cut our water back there will be enough water for 50 new homes. Maybe we should start using more. I think I'll start watering my lawn again.

Mr. Pearson spoke about how they have tried many ideas to get the city more money. One being a parcel tax on the citizens of Sierra Madre to support the monastery. They realized that would never pass by the 2/3 's needed. Only way out of the problem for the city is through development fees.

Mr. Pearson then said with the passage of the General Plan they will conform to the poliicies set forth and will build to code. They will have drought resistant plants, water systems in place to save water. Houses will go for 1million to 1.5 million but nothing is written in stone. Lots will be 11,000 to 15,000 square feet.

Judy Webb-Martin is against the building project and wanted to knows what they were up to. They also handed out a paper that they wanted everyone to sign. It is a Support for Mater Dolorosa. There were 7 realtors including myself and Judy Webb-Martin.

Some have said Jerry Pearson is a good guy. However, he strikes me as being a first class (deleted). Nobody should put anything past him.

I will now to describe the area for the houses:

If you are facing the Monastery, to the left will be three streets. Each will be a cul-du-sac, with a certain amount per home. To the right, across the road there will be three streets. Houses will line both sides of the street.

No mention of egress at Carter/Grove. Doesn't mean it won't happen. They will need that to bring in trucks. Unless they want to dust-asphyxiate the people on Sunnyside. No mention if they are looking at two stories. I didn't do the math because it's not my forte to see how many houses of 11,000 or 15,000 sf can be built on 20 acres. My guess is they will pack in as many as they can get away with.

They then did mention 2 story houses. The perimeter will be all 1 story but as you move up they will be 2 story. Also, the reason New Urban West left was because when the city passed the water rules, moratorium on tear downs, etc. Not sure I believe that, might be misinformation.

NUW didn't feel the city was ready to have this kind of development and because they had other jobs in the offing that they needed to tend to, they turned to those. But, they said with a little time they would be more than happy to make their proposals.

Also, there will be footage around the perimeter that people can walk along. It will not be a gated community, everyone will be free to drive around, etc.

(Mod: Good stuff, and thank you. Our man on the inside did bring us one more thing. That being a form expressing Realtor support for the Mater Dolorosa land killers. Of the 8 in attendance, not a single one there agreed to sign it. At least at that time.)


Mod: You just might want to fill one of these out yourself, and then send it to the City Council. Be creative and have fun.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Monastery Protest: This Is How We Roll In Sierra Madre

I will have a full report up for you in the morning, including news from our spy deep inside the Monastery/Realtor Cheese Party. But for those amongst us who just can't wait to see how it all went - here is one picture that is worth a thousand words.


More tomorrow at 5AM. Thank you Preserve Sierra Madre!

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Rally @ the Monastery Gates: Stand Up And Be Heard!

 The following e-mail blast went out from Preserve Sierra Madre earlier this week.


Mod: I don't know about you, but I wouldn't miss this for the world. It is time to take a stand for what you know is right!

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

When the Old Sierra Madre City Hall Sued the New One

-
Mod: This is an article that appeared a little while back on the California Eminent Domain Report (link). It involves the current owners of the old Sierra Madre City Hall building at 55 W. Sierra Madre Boulevard, and electricity they had been unknowingly paying for since they bought the place in 1985. Apparently they had been paying those charges for lighting the parking lot out back, and without their knowledge. Now they wanted their money back.


Mod: A link to the Court document is available here.

Press Release from the SMPD Grenade Incident

Mod: Here is the official version of what went down over the weekend (link).


Is El Nino already here?

Mod: A possible explanation from the Los Angeles Times for our not very July weather lately.


Mod: You can read the rest by clicking here.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com