Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Is Our Chinese Funded Housing Bubble About To Burst?

Mod: There is a very interesting series of reports from a site called OC Housing News, which you can link to here. What is being claimed by OCHN is that the current California housing bubble is being largely fueled by cash from China that is, to use their term, "hot money." In others words, it is being illegally spirited out of China through the auspices of corrupt mainland bankers, and reappearing here where it is being invested in good old West Coast real estate. The only problem being the regime of what is still very much a Communist country is not only on to this, they are also not very amused. The cause of all this unhappiness? The real estate bubble there is just about to pop. Check it out:

Chinese government policy change kills Coastal California housing market - Coastal California housing demand from Chinese nationals surged in recent years; however, Chinese officials abruptly shut down this source of demand - The people who deny a real estate bubble in China are wrong, and the deflating Chinese property bubble could destabilize the world economy, but of greater interest to owners of Coastal California real estate, the deflating Chinese housing bubble could turn local real estate buyers into desperate sellers.

Both homebuilders and real estate agents delude themselves with notions about the desirability of Coastal California to convince themselves the influx of Chinese money is based on sustainable fundamental factors. In reality, this is hot money escaping a collapsing market, subject to the policy whims of an unpredictable totalitarian government. Chinese capital is an unstable source of investment, and it could reverse course in a moment based on policy changes in China.

Most California real estate market bulls and enthusiasts blithely assume the influx of Chinese money will never stop because everyone in China wants to live here, right? Unfortunately, in the real world, for money to leave China, it generally has to pass through a Chinese bank and get wired to an overseas location. The Chinese government could easily stop the flow of electronic capital by decree, and it appears they plan to exercise this power to shut off the flow of capital leaving China for US real estate.

Mod: A website that calls itself Quartz (link) has an article up with an intriguing title. Here is a taste of what they're sharing:

A Chinese housing market crash could be even more disastrous than America’s - Investment drives China’s economy. And housing fuels a large share of that investment, contributing 33% of fixed-asset investment, says Zhang Zhiwei, an economist at Nomura—and, consequently, 16% of GDP. The decade-long housing boom that’s kept China’s GDP aloft has so far defied the bubble warnings, which began as far back as 2007.

But the building binge is finally catching up with China. Not just because sales are faltering (paywall). After building around 13.4% more floorspace each year, China finally has too much housing, argues Zhang in a note this week. The quirks of China’s economic model mean that a housing crash will be more devastating for the economy than many realize.

Mod: The consequences to our local real estate market could be interesting. If you go to the local Redfin site (link) you can see that in this year alone approximately 100 Sierra Madre homes have been unloaded, and for a lot more cash than they were probably worth. Many were sold by people who realized that they could get a lot of money for their lovable shanties, and then use the profit to purchase something of relatively greater value elsewhere. But what happens when an extremely large chunk of volatile Chinese real estate money disappears? The following extended cite from The Financial Times of London lays it all out, complete with corruption trials (link):

This time China’s property bubble really could burst - Chinese property is the most important sector in the global economy. It has been pivotal in the country’s economic development, provided lucrative business for industrial commodity producers from Perth to Peru, and been the backbone of the surge in world exports to China. In the past few years, predictions that the sector was about to implode at any moment have not been borne out – but now is the time for the world to pay attention. Property activity indicators have been trending lower since mid-2013, and the downturn in the sector now threatens to turn into a bust. At best, China is entering a deflationary phase at a time of global fragility.

The default risks in the weakly regulated shadow banking sector – and the rapid rise in local government debt – are real, and property-related. Yet the government and the central bank have tools to limit the short-term consequences; they have already deployed debt rollovers, bank bailouts and recapitalisations.

The greater risk to China lies in the pervasive consequences of any property bust. Property investment has grown to account for about 13 per cent of gross domestic product, roughly double the US share at the height of the bubble in 2007. Add related sectors, such as steel, cement and other construction materials, and the figure is closer to 16 per cent. The broadly defined property sector accounts for about a third of fixed-asset investment, which Beijing is supposed to be subordinating to the target of economic rebalancing in favour of household consumption. It accounts for about a fifth of commercial bank loans but is used as collateral in at least two-fifths of total lending. The booming property market, moreover, has produced bounteous revenues from land sales, which fuel much local and provincial government infrastructure spending.

The reason things look different today is the realisation of chronic oversupply. As the property slowdown has kicked in, housing starts, completions and sales have turned markedly lower, especially outside the principal cities. Inventories of unsold homes in Beijing are reported to have risen from seven to 12 months’ supply in the year to April. But when it comes to homes under construction and total sales, the bulk is in “tier two” cities, where the overhang of unsold homes has risen to about 15 months; and in tier three and four cities, where it is about 24 months.

The anti-corruption crackdown, often targeting individuals who have built up ostentatious property wealth, has poured cold water over the market, in which, according to a recent investment bank report, the richest 1 per cent of households is estimated to own about a third of residential property. Elsewhere, the tightening of credit terms, including funding costs for property developers, especially in the shadow banking sector, is taking its toll. Rates of return on commercial property and infrastructure, and cash flows for developers and local government, have been deteriorating.

Mod: If you go back to the Redfin site you can read the following: "Find Sierra Madre homes for sale. In Sierra Madre see 17 homes for sale with a median price of $979,000." That is quite a few houses to be on the market here at one time, and a lot of money for houses that on average are not much larger than 2,000 square feet ... But perhaps we should also consider this. What will the end of the Chinese real estate bubble mean for projects such as One Carter, Mater Dolorosa and Stonehouse? Will there be that much money around for the kinds of crazy prices the developers of those vast hogans are hoping to get? Perhaps not. All of this may already be over.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Legendary Labor Day Edition Of The Tattler Weekly News

CETT's fabulous new One Carter designs?
(Mod: Well, OK, these news posts are not quite as weekly as they used to be. They've actually gotten to the point of being almost yearly. I can't honestly remember the last time I posted one. But there have been some pretty good articles in the papers lately, so I figure I'd catch up by posting a bunch all at once. That seems like the right thing to do. So fire up the bar-b-que, grab a cold one, salute the working man, and join us as we explore some of the greatest issues of our time. At least for the moment.)

WILX TV 10 (link) Couple Falls to Their Deaths While Taking Selfie: A couple on vacation in Portugal fell to their deaths yesterday, apparently while they were taking a selfie. The Polish couple was visiting cliffs at Cabo Da Roca with their children.

Investigators say the victims were taking pictures of themselves when they fell. Rescue workers were unable to recover the bodies from the Atlantic Ocean yesterday. The recovery mission resumed today and both bodies have been found.

The children are now in the care of Polish diplomats and have visited with psychologists.

(Mod: While it might have been appropriate to the funeral for the authorities to recover the bodies, the Internet mourns the loss of their camera.)

Sacramento Bee (link) Arrest rate in California Senate higher than rate in all of state's largest cities: Three of the 40 members of the California State Senate have been arrested this year, more than double the statewide arrest rate and higher than the rate in any of California's 25 largest cities.

State Senator Ron Calderon was arrested in February for allegedly taking bribes. State Senator Leland Yee was arrested in March for allegedly trafficking in firearms and taking bribes. State Senator Ben Hueso was arrested Friday on suspicion of drunk driving charges. A fourth senator, Roderick Wright, was convicted of perjury and voter fraud charges in January but was arrested prior to this year.

The statewide arrest rate for all Californians in 2012 was 1.3 arrests per 40 residents, according to figures from the FBI and the state Department of Justice. (If only looking at residents between the ages of 10 and 70, the arrest rate was 1.6 per 40 residents.)

(Mod: That's nice and all, but what about the other 37?)

NBC News (link) ISIS Forces Iraq Shopkeepers to Veil Mannequins: ISIS has ordered shopkeepers in the Iraqi city of Mosul to cover the faces of mannequins, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The Sunni extremist group recently declared a caliphate – or Islamic State - covering parts of Syria and Iraq. Shop owners in Mosul said they had been told to cover the faces of male and female mannequins, apparently in line with strict interpretations of Shariah law that forbid statues or artwork depicting the human form.

(Mod: Yet one more piece of bad news for Noah Green.)

Sacramento Bee (linkAtwater considers holding 1 council meeting a month: The Atwater City Council may soon hold only one meeting a month, making it the only city in Merced County to cut down on the number of council meetings.

In a 3-2 vote, the City Council on Monday approved the first reading of an ordinance that reduces the council meetings from two to one, as well as combines three city commissions into one “super” commission. Councilmen Joe and Jeff Rivero voted against the proposal.

City administrators say the efforts will save the cash-strapped city $21,000 by reducing staffing costs, but residents are angry at what they view as a lack of accessibility to their government.

(Mod: That would be bad news for The Tattler should it happen here. What would we do with our Tuesday evenings? The "super commission" meetings would be interesting, though. I'd go to that. What do you think they would call it?)

Wired (linkFederal Cybersecurity Director Found Guilty on Child Porn Charges: As the acting cybersecurity chief of a federal agency, Timothy DeFoggi should have been well versed in the digital footprints users leave behind online when they visit web sites and download images.

But DeFoggi—convicted today in Nebraska on three child porn charges including conspiracy to solicit and distribute child porn—must have believed his use of the Tor anonymizing network shielded him from federal investigators. He’s the sixth suspect to make this mistake in Operation Torpedo, an FBI operation that targeted three Tor-based child porn sites and that used controversial methods to unmask anonymized users.

But DeFoggi’s conviction is perhaps more surprising than others owing to the fact that he worked at one time as the acting cybersecurity director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. DeFoggi worked for the department from 2008 until January this year. A department official told Business Insider that DeFoggi worked in the office of the assistant secretary for administration as lead IT specialist but a government budget document for the department from this year (.pdf) identifies a Tim DeFoggi as head of OS IT security operations, reporting to the department’s chief information security officer.

(Mod: Your Federal taxpayer dollars hard at work. No word yet if DeFoggi will soon be visiting with Chief Giannone to tell him that there are two sides to this story.)

Sacramento Bee (link) Ben Hueso, other lawmakers, photographed drinking on Capitol balcony before DUI arrest: Hours before state Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, was arrested on Friday morning on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, he and four other lawmakers were photographed reveling on a Capitol balcony, drinks in hand.

In a tweet later deleted from her account, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, wrote “Yes.... Loving my Latino Caucus boys...” and attached a photograph of Hueso with Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens and Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella.

Hueso appears in the middle of the photograph, his shirt partially untucked. He is holding a glass in his right hand, with his left arm around Lara.

Hueso was later arrested by the California Highway Patrol, and the Sacramento County jail’s website listed him as being booked at 3:27 a.m.

(Mod: Astute Tattler readers will recall that Ben Hueso is the brother of none other Ruben Hueso, the defeated candidate for a PUSD Board of Education seat now occupied by Pasadena's Tyron Hampton. That a group of California State Senators should be photographed getting loaded on State Capitol grounds is not surprising to me. What is surprising is they apparently paid for the booze themselves.)

CBS News Sacramento (linkEast Porterville Residents Without Water As Wells Go Dry During California Drought: Hundreds of people in a California town have no water after wells ran dry during the state’s drought. The small town of East Porterville in Tulare County has about 7,300 residents, and at least 300 homes have been without water for weeks.

“We can’t shower. We’re wearing dirty clothes. My kids had to wear dirty clothes to school this morning,” said Elizabeth Baker. “I had to go across the street last night to get water for my kids from the fire department.”

The county set up a 5,000-gallon water tank for residents to help with flushing toilets and irrigation, but now drinking water is the problem. They had to distribute more than 15,000 gallons of drinking water last week.

There are fears the problem could be even worse as people believe some people aren’t reporting their wells have gone dry out of fear their landlords will evict them, or their children will be taken away. In fact, the county didn’t know how dire the problem was until they were tipped off by a nonprofit group

(Mod: This could never happen in Sierra Madre. I'm sure City Hall is working very hard to make sure that it doesn't.)

That is enough news for now. There was one more item I was going to include here, but I've decided to save it for tomorrow when we're all back at work.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Los Angeles Register: Child molester returning to Sierra Madre

(Mod: Finally one of the big Los Angeles daily papers has picked up on the "AWest" story - link.)

SIERRA MADRE – A convicted child molester who served eight years in federal prison has been released and has registered with the Sierra Madre Police Department, officials said.

Because of the severity of his crimes, the last address for Andrew West Reid Jr., 60, has been released under Megan’s Law on the California Attorney General’s website, at meganslaw.ca.gov. Reid, who legally changed his name to AWest, was sentenced in 2006 for molesting a 6-year-old girl and taking nude photos of her.

He pleaded no contest to two felony counts of commiting lewd acts on a minor and guilty to one count of possession of child pornography. He served three concurrent sentences for the charges.

The girl who was molested was a friend of AWest’s daughter, who also was 6 at the time, court documents show.

AWest worked as the art director for PBS Kids’ “Jay Jay the Jet Plane” animated children’s TV show at the time of his arrest in 2006, according to the show’s website. He was the recipient of two art direction awards for the Disney Channel shows “Rock ’n’ Roll Mother Goose” and “Adventures in Wonderland.”

He also acted as a liaison between the city of Sierra Madre and production companies wanting to film in the area.

“Mr. Reid was not a city employee, but did some independent contractor work 14 years ago as a film coordinator,” said Elaine Aguilar, Sierra Madre’s city manager.

AWest also provided art direction for five music albums that went platinum, according to his biography on PBS. His clients are said to have included Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Michael Jackson and Fleetwood Mac.

Zappa, who sang with AWest in the late 1980s and early ’90s, referred to him as “Brother A. West” onstage and in song titles.

Sierra Madre's "Building Moratorium" story is being talked about 

(Mod: An article published in the Desert Sun - link - about development and a lack of water in the Coachella Valley cited Sierra Madre. Here is how.)

Reacting to the extreme drought in California, some water agencies confronting shortages have taken steps that effectively block new development. The City Council of Sierra Madre, for example, adopted a moratorium on new water service connections in July. In Santa Barbara County, Montecito Water District suspended all applications for new or expanded water service.

In Arizona, the city of Williams announced in February that no new building permits would be issued because its water supplies are dwindling.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Unhappy Details About The Camillo Road Project Have Now Begun To Emerge

Creative Design Associates: Deep Valley Cheese
Mod: As we have said before, there are no secrets in Sierra Madre. Just things that the readers of this blog haven't gotten around to uncovering yet. Yesterday I received the following e-mail from a good friend of The Tattler, and she pretty much knocked this one clear out of the park.

John - Did some research on Camillo monstrosity. The address is 319 Camillo. It is owned by 319 Camillo, LLC (link). That LLC's main partner is Scott Yang, president of the Figure 8 Group. He is an architect and developer. He is also a partner in Creative Design Associates. These can be Googled. 

I e-mailed Danny today for info on these houses but received no reply. If I get one at all, it won't be until next week. I went by the houses yesterday and tonight. There is no way these houses are 55 percent of the lot size. I have not looked up to see what or how many feet the house should be from the property line. But I will. 

Also, they look bigger than 4000 sq. ft. So if it didn't go to the Planning Commission who is responsible for these ugly things? Does Danny have that authority? Who does? Hope this of interest and hope you are well and somewhat rested.  

There is some information about both the "Figure 8 Group" and "Creative Design Associates" on-line. While both make high claims for their special contributions to the causes of fine architectural design and civilization in general, neither entity seems all that remarkable. They appear to be pretty much made up of run-of-the-mill real estate hustlers, people who take whatever they can get.

Here is how Mr. Yang's F8G explains itself, and in what can only be described as halting English (link).

I think Batman used to wear a streets cape. I am also not certain that whatever it is they have hatched over on Camillo Road can be described as housing for "the working class." Or even Duty Man Housing, to use that hopeless term City Hall employs.

Rather it looks to me like a "who did it and ran" project, designed with one purpose only. To line somebody's pockets, and quickly. Presumably Scott Yang's pockets.

There is a smidgen of biographical information about Scott "The Mang" Yang on the Creative Design Associates website (link). It is pretty standard boilerplate stuff. Not that we should anticipate too much depth from this guy, or from the folks he is associated with, either. It doesn't seem that these are especially philosophical or artistic-minded people, and I doubt they would ever see the need to spend time thinking of interesting things to say to us.

For the record, I could find no LA Times article on-line dealing with anything involving Scott Yang and "Palos Verde" (sic). I did have marginally better luck with Nevis Homes, which turns out to be yet another LLC. But they do have a partially enabled, though rather generic looking, website. Sadly, it comes with no enlightening attachments. It also has very few words. Here it is (link):

As you can see by the pictures of the not quite so fabulous Nevis Homes designs in the background, these are of a purely plonked together cheese box design and made up of stacked generic parts, each of which appear to have been lifted straight from the pages of the Big Golden Book of Trite Architectural Cliche'. The 2009 edition.

So this brings us all the way back around to our friend's revelatory e-mail. Do the Terrible Twins of Camillo Road comply with Sierra Madre's applicable building standards and ordinances? Do they cover less than 55% of the available lot space? Are these two lost doggies less than 4,000 square feet each?

Would anyone we pay to keep track of this stuff even know?

And, to throw in my other two cents, where was the City of Sierra Madre staff when all this was first going down? Did anyone from City Hall get into one of those fine cars we pay for and drive over to Camillo Road to take a real time look-see?

Did they ever even leave their building? Except, of course, to go back to the towns where they actually live?

Something doesn't look right here. And I'm not just talking about 319 Camillo Road. We need to demand some answers.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Sierra Madre Mayor John Harabedian Endorses Paul Tanaka For L.A. County Sheriff? But Why?

Mod: You'd expect this kind of naive and irresponsible behavior from our previous Mayor. Nancy Walsh, beneath all of her sarcasm and arrogance, was actually pretty much a naive small town gal, one who could easily get conned into making bad decisions like her endorsement of Paul Tanaka. Face it, a career of browbeating clerks for the county hardly prepared Nancy for the smooth talking likes of Ed "Trash Talk" Chen. Our man from Athens Sanitation and the Chamber of Commerce, who is notably also the campaign manager of the now rather deeply troubled Tanaka for Sheriff campaign.

Ed, as anyone can easily see by the idiosyncratic way he has been running our somewhat dotty Chamber of Commerce (he heads two other out of town Chambers as well, so you know), likes to surround himself with weak and easily manipulated people. Nancy Walsh was definitely one of those. As are pretty much the rest of that bunch.

I say this with little fear of contradiction.

But on the other hand, that highly regarded Yale and Stanford Law grad, our current Mayor John Harabedian, is now in charge here. A guy equipped with enough wisdom to know that he needed to accommodate this community in its demand for a drought-driven building moratorium, and then actually took us there. Unlike his immediate predecessors, John also runs fair and open City Council meetings, listens to the arguments of all of his colleagues, and can actually change his mind on a position every now and again.

Plus he also lets people speak for more than 3 minutes at the public comment podium. A near miracle for this town given our recent history. You could almost find yourself forgiving this guy for past transgressions, and then getting off his back.

But then he turns around and does something as unexplainable as this (link):

"LA Couny" indeed. Now in all fairness Johnny did this when he was still Mayor Pro Tem, so it happened before last April. He was much younger at that point, and had yet to experience the seasoning process being a full on Mayor brings with it.

But still, Paul Tanaka was under investigation by the FBI even then, and for running the prisons under his control almost like ISIS runs big chunks of Syria and Iraq.

As you likely know, that FBI investigation into the brutal treatment of prisoners under the care of the L.A. Sheriffs Department continues to this day. Here is how an August 7 article from the Los Angeles Times (link) spells out just how rapidly Paul Tanaka is falling in this world.

In a stinging final rebuke, the longtime civilian watchdog for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department accused top leaders of letting their worst employees run rampant, causing a series of scandals that tarnished the agency.

Merrick Bobb has been the Board of Supervisors' special counsel reviewing the department for 22 years, and has written reports on how the agency is run.

But this last report before Bobb steps aside was particularly cutting, placing much of the blame for a jail abuse scandal — in which criminal charges have been filed against 20 sheriff's officials since December — at the feet of former Sheriff Lee Baca and his chief assistant, Paul Tanaka.

In the 62-page report released Thursday, Bobb described Tanaka, who is running for sheriff, as the leader of “an anti-reform counter movement” who encouraged deputies to “work in the gray zone” while Baca and the Board of Supervisors paid little attention.

Tanaka, the report said, has changed little since he was a member of a tattooed deputy clique in Lynwood that reportedly rewarded its members for using excessive force against suspects.

Tanaka is one of the sheriff's officials still under federal investigation. Six deputies were convicted of obstructing the FBI, and others have been charged with brutalizing inmates and jail visitors. Tanaka is now in a runoff election against Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, but his bid is considered a long shot because he received only 15% of the primary vote.

The L.A. Register also ran an article regarding Tanaka's controversial and cruel prison management style. Titled "Brutality Festered In Jails" (link), here is what The Register had to say:

In the report, Bobb said that some considered Tanaka to be good with numbers and budgets, but that there were problems with his leadership.

“With regard to police accountability, reform, rewarding constitutional policing, and engendering the active support and trust of the ever-diversifying community, the man seemed to avoid evolving substantially from his days as a Lynwood Viking,” the report said.

The Lynwood Vikings faced brutality lawsuits from plaintiffs in the 1990s, who described the group as a white supremacist gang. The department paid thousands to settle the cases.

Tanaka could not be reached for comment.

The Sheriff’s Department has faced a range of scandals during Baca and Tanaka’s tenure, many involving allegations of deputy misconduct and violence against inmates and visitors inside the jails. In July, six deputies were convicted by a federal jury of working to obstruct the investigation inside the jails.

I was reading an article published by the British paper The Economist earlier this evening. This piece was about the police brutality and riots in Ferguson (link), and their tarnishing effect on America's worldwide reputation. One paragraph in particular jumped out at me.

Smug television broadcasts in Russia and China have wildly exaggerated the sickness of which Ferguson is a symptom. But it is real enough. The police in and around Ferguson have shot and killed twice as many people in the past two weeks (Mr Brown plus one other) as the police in Japan, a nation of 127m, have shot and killed in the past six years. Nationwide, America’s police kill roughly one person a day.

So you know, the chart at the very top of this post came with this article in The Economist. That 409 figure is a stunning number to me. How did things ever get quite that bad in the country?

Paul Tanaka, in the opinion of many (myself included), is from that particular school of policing. The kind of leader who apparently thought nothing of sending uniformed goons into a prison to beat up prisoners, and without any real provocation whatsoever. Just because they all could, I guess. Pointless cruelty that has to make you wonder just what might be wrong with this guy.

Hopefully John Harabedian is now reconsidering his endorsement for Sheriff. He could certainly do a better job with this than he has so far.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Camillo Road Disaster: Before And After

And After:

Probably just about the worst example ever of the consequences of lot splitting in Sierra Madre. From what was once the kind of bucolic setting this town is famous for, to a pair of packed, stacked and indescribably ugly structures that only a time-serving SCAG apparatchik could love. Proving once again that when it comes to development of this sort, density truly is a state of their mind.

I have received a number of emails and blog comments about this. Here is an example of what people are saying here about the Camillo Road disaster:

That observation was followed up by this comment:

However, Caroline Brown, had this to say:

The two monstrosities being built on Camillo, one lot up from Grandview, did not go in front of the PC and Danny Castro did not give this a pass. The developer knew the city regulations and did everything as he was allowed. There were two lots of record and as someone earlier posted you can see from google earth the house and garage were very modest. The big mistake here was that the PC did not get the new regulations in place to stop this. We did in the new canyon zone building standards for the second story building envelope and the city now has this for the entire R-1 zone. I am not sure about R-2 and R-3. The second story has to fit in a pulled back area of 45 degrees from a line drawn up 8 ft from the property line.

So if Caroline is right (and over the years I have learned that she often is), apparently the City of Sierra Madre is wide open to this variety of predatory development, and there is nothing whatsoever in place to stop the kinds of destruction the Camillo Road disaster represents. 

That is, until the recent two year building moratorium was put into place. Making this an instance where the drought is actually working for us. We now have approximately 23 months left to put something in place that will guarantee that this kind of thing never happens here again.

Another notable thing about this project, and something that has already been commented about on this site, is that there is absolutely no signage in front of the place. Nothing about who is building it, or what they think they're doing. No cloying real estate jabber welcoming you to "Boxwood Estates" or whatever chump chatter they're calling this mess. 

And, perhaps most telling of all, absolutely none of the usual helpful informational signage from the City of Sierra Madre. When has that ever happened before? 

Something that also begs the following question. Do our employees downtown ever leave their offices and actually look around this town? Is it possible that you could build the architectural equivalent of both sides of a horse's ass in Sierra Madre (and on a single lot, no less) and nobody from our overweening local government agency will ever find out about it?

That would certainly seem to explain a lot of what is going on here lately. Though I suppose there are other possibilities as well. Maybe they do know all about this and have only considered the increased tax and rate collection possibilities. When you are carrying some of the highest costing employee health plans in the entire United States of America, fund raising can become an important priority. And perhaps for them the only one they care to consider.

I tried to dig up information about any of this excitement on the City's website, and not surprisingly I could find nothing. Not to say that there isn't anything to be found, it is just that their site is so idiotically programmed and clumsy to use I couldn't get anything to show up. And I am generally pretty good at finding things on the Internet. 

Just for laughs, if you go to the City of Sierra Madre's website and type the words "Camillo Road" into the search engine, these are the first six results that come up:

A steady diet of nothing, as they say. It is as if Camillo Road doesn't even exist. Though I'll bet there are a few property and other tax charts somewhere.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Video: Developer Todd Boden Presents His Radical Water Saving Proposal For Sierra Madre To The City Council

To see Todd's video click here.
Way back on August 13 we posted our synopsis of the special City Council meeting held the evening before (link). A number of things were accomplished at that storied event, the most important of which being our five elected officials locked in a drought related building moratorium for the next couple of years. A very good thing for them to have done.

I am not sure if you have noticed, but it hasn't rained since then, either. Nary a droplet has fallen from our eternally blue skies. Another couple of years of this and, well, let's just say the smart money will soon start investing in bottled water. I don't know if you've ever given much thought to what life might be like if water could no longer be piped into your home, but it would likely put any negative thoughts you have about the yellow version far away from your day to day reveries on life. You could even feel the urge to get nostalgic for those good old days. Which really weren't all that good.

So today I thought we should take a much needed break from our two day reflection on the local child molesters (who apparently love Sierra Madre as much as some of our recent politicians once did), to spend a moment with a developer named Todd Boden.

Todd spoke at the August 12th City Council meeting, and through the miracle of a technology that I don't quite understand yet (Thank God for friends), we have now captured on video his short though emphatic talk about the building moratorium. It is linked above and to the left (click under the picture, please), and you can check it out there. Or just click here if you wish. You'll get the same result.

This is how I described Todd's talk in that August 13th post.

The comedic highlight of the evening came courtesy of a developer by the name of Todd Boden. Like many who are attempting to make some major bank in real estate insane Sierra Madre, he wishes to take a single lot and magically double his pleasure by splitting it into two. Kind of like an amoeba. Much to his chagrin, Mr. Boden has lately discovered that he will not be able to get a water hook up for one of his reproductive plots. Or maybe both. I can't exactly remember those details at this moment.

But where Todd really rocked the planet was with his claim that by pulling down old homes and replacing each with a couple of new ones, it would actually save water. Kind of a version of the old "development is green" canard that John Buchanan and Joe Mosca used to try and endlessly shove down our throats a few years ago.

Naturally his proposal that we should tear down the 20+ (20?!) year old houses to put up new ones in order to save us all was greeted with a bemused silence. I guess we'll need to pull a video for this one.

So there you go, we got the video. It took us a while, though. I will tell you why in a moment.

Todd is apparently the young Boden. He is the pride and joy of Fred Boden, the alpha male at Fred Boden Development, Inc. Daddy Fred and his young scamp Todd are amongst the leading local area practitioners of lot splitting. Currently a scourge here in Sierra Madre that most residents hate worse than, well, just about anything truly worthy of that emotion.

We really do enjoy calling them Amoeba Lots, by the way. They split in two and each part takes on a new life of its own. Though it is a much smaller life. Something that I believe proves that density really is a state of mind.

Certainly Todd Boden understands the concept.

There was a series of funny comments about the Bodens on the 13th. I thought I'd put up some screen shots.

More KGEM "technical difficulties?"

Here is that promised explanation about videos. Up until recently we were pulling them right off of the KGEM site, and that was working quite well for us. The Richard MacDonald video in particular continues to get a decent amount of views. Maybe his pals down at the Courthouse got wind of it, and they're telling all of their friends to get a load of what went down.

It is a kindness to bring laughter into the lives of those who experience so little joy.

However, apparently someone got all upset about our posting such videos here on The Tattler, made some phone calls to our killjoy City Hall, with the result being we have now been blocked. We can't pull videos down from KGEM anymore.

So what we are doing instead is taking a video camera and recording this content right from a TV screen. Primitive perhaps, but our dedication to engaging the public in the important issues facing local government in these trying times supersedes any such inconvenience to us.

But whoever blocked us, you really should be ashamed of yourself. Where's the transparency, right?

Besides, we're going to come up with a workaround no matter what you do anyway, so why not knock it off already?


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Did "AWest" Ever Work For The City Of Sierra Madre?

How "AWest" depicts himself
The latest child pornographer to return home to Sierra Madre is a fellow who prefers to be called AWest. Which is also what they called him at the Mountain Views News. I guess it's because they've embraced a kind of a rock n' roll scene hip factor. A little more on that later.

But just so you are in the know about all of this, the name his momma gave him is Andrew West Reid Jr., and he is right around 60 years old now. Something that makes his penchant for naked pictures of very young children all the more wretched. Including pictures of the 6 year old girl he went to prison for raping. More on that later as well.

Fortunately Andrew W. Reid is now a registered sex offender, a designation that was hung around his neck by the Courts. Unlike Bob Matheson who, because he was convicted for his deviant crimes in a Canadian court, was able to connive his way into a pass on so demeaning a designation here in Sierra Madre. I guess it really does pay to have friends, and apparently Mr. Matheson had enough of them.

Andrew West Reid II, just so you know, does have a colorful employment history. Here is how his exciting art and music career is described on a website dedicated to the memory of the legendary Southern California rock impresario, Frank Zappa (link).

"Brother A. West" album art
Brother A. West (Andrew West Reid Jr ) illustrated The Real Frank Zappa Book, and "Broadway the Hard Way".  He also delivered a stirring revival onstage with the Zappa group in Philadelphia on February 14th, 1988.  This magic moment was captured to tape and reproduced for your amusement on the album, "The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life".

He also performed with Zappa at the March 25, 1988, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY, show.

Variously known as Brother A.West, Brother Awest or Brother AWest. "Brother A. West" provided graphic design and vocal for Broadway The Hard Way. The result of a stirring revival onstage with The Mothers in Philadelphia on February 14th, 1988.

The "Brother A. West World Salivation Ministry" is a comedy troupe that has opened for a number of different punk bands in the mid 80's.  

 Scoutmaster [Billy Jim Vaughn (http://www.scoutingmagazine.org/issues/0301/a-time.html)] recalls:

One boy he listened to in 1969 wanted to be an artist. He gave the Scout every job in the troop that required drawing or painting. Most important, he assured the boy that he could be an artist by working hard and believing in himself. "He was able to give me enough confidence to go forward and follow my talent and follow my heart," says that boy, now grown up and working under the professional name of Brother Awest. Now an artist and production designer in television, movies, and music, he lives in Sierra Madre, Calif.

Unfortunately for Mr A. West Reid, not everybody in the world was all that enamored of his claims to countercultural and media fame. And when it was discovered that this artist of underground renown was in the possession of a copious amounts of child pornography, he was thrown into jail for a few years.

Here is how that event was described by the Napa Valley Register in April of 2006 (link):

Ex-kid show artist arrested for child porn
SIERRA MADRE — An award-winning children's television artist was arrested for alleged possession and production of kid porn.

Andrew West Reid Jr., 52, known professionally as Awest, had pornographic images of children on his computer and digital cameras seized from his Sierra Madre home, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said Tuesday.

Reid, who was arrested Tuesday while visiting someone, was also arrested in January by Pasadena police and charged with molesting a child, Eimiller said.

After an investigation in that case by the FBI and Pasadena police, Reid was arrested by federal agents on the child porn charges, Eimiller said.

Eimiller said Reid has worked extensively in the record industry and last worked in production design and art direction for children's television programming. Reid worked four years, until 2000, as the city's film coordinator.

"He kind of popped in on the scene, he was the film guy to go to," former Mayor Doug Hayes said. "I didn't know him that well. He was the film guy, that's all people knew him as."

Awest was an art director on the PBS television show "Jay-Jay the Jet Plane," according to the pbskids.com Web site. Reid won two Cable Ace awards in the category of Best Art Direction in a Comedy, Musical or Series for Shelley Duvall's "Rock 'n Roll Mother Goose" and for "Adventures in Wonderland," both on the Disney Channel, the Web site said.

Interesting to see the name of former Mayor Doug Hayes pop up in this article. I'm certain he had no idea about the other kinds of photography this guy had been curating, and was as stunned as everyone else at City Hall by his arrest.

But was Reid really the "film guy to go to" for Sierra Madre? Did he actually work for this city back in the day? According to a Sierra Madre Weekly article from that sad moment in time (link), the answer is yes, he did.

A Former Sierra Madre Film coordinator, known legally as Awest, Ordered to pay $5.4 Million to Victim of Molestation
An 11-year-old girl who was sexually abused by a man who was living in Sierra Madre was awarded $5.4 million by a Pasadena judge Monday according to a report in the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday, Nov. 16.

The artist, who has legally changed his name from Andrew West Reid Jr. to “Awest,” is currently serving an eight-year sentence in federal prison for molesting the girl, who was 6 years old at the time of the crime.

Prosecutors say Awest, who worked in the record industry and in production design and art direction for children’s TV programming, became friends with the girl’s family through his own daughter, who is the same age as the victim.

Sierra Madre Weekly sources confirmed that Awest worked in Sierra Madre as Independent Contractor / Film coordinator for the city in somewhere between 2000-2004, working as liaison with the city and major film studios.

The judge has ordered the now imprisoned California sex offender to pay $5.4 million to the girl he sexually molested and photographed nude.

The victim, now 11 testified during the half-day civil trial. Awest acted as his own attorney and appeared by way of telephone during several hearings in the course of this trial.

Hopefully no CalPERS benefits were allocated to that particular hire. You can link to an appeal decision of the California Appellate Court by clicking here.

Sierra Madre, welcome home your latest prodigal sex criminal. Like I said earlier, unlike Bob Matheson, at least this one has been registered.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Does The Mountain Views News Have A Questionable Record On Child Pornography Coverage?

From a Chamber of Commerce site - link
In this weekend's edition of The Mountain Views News there is a notable expose' that discusses the registered sex offender Andrew West, a gent who was convicted and imprisoned in part for having been caught possessing child pornography. Apparently Mr. West's term in prison is now completed, and for whatever reason he is moving back here to Sierra Madre. Despite the high real estate prices. Why this town attracts people such as Andrew West being a question that needs to be asked. Perhaps we'll do that today.

The paper's coverage of the Andrew West situation is, in my opinion, commendable. A local newspaper should make the affairs of such persons available to the public. Photos, plus information about where this individual plans to live, is very important information. It is also something everyone needs to be made aware of, and the Mountain Views News has been doing just that. At least lately.

However, what isn't quite so good is the inconsistency of this paper's coverage about these matters. We are talking in particular about the case of the once upon a time well-connected Sierra Madre society bon vivant and political activist, Robert "Bob" Matheson. Arrested, convicted and imprisoned in Canada for the possession of child porn, Mr. Matheson later managed to escape being registered here as a sex offender.

It is perhaps the only instance in this city's checkered history where a person convicted of trafficking in child pornography ever was let of the hook in that way. Why this happened remains quite a mystery, even to this day.

In February of 2012 the following article ran in The Mountain Views News. It was the last time this story was ever covered in our city's adjudicated taxpayer supported newspaper.

Two notable passages stand out. The first being Sierra Madre Police Chief Larry Giannone's claim that he could not discuss the matter because an investigation of some sort was still going down. The other statement comes from MVN Publisher Susan Henderson. She also talks about a continuing investigation, and again that nothing may be said. This despite her acknowledgement that many residents in Sierra Madre were upset by this City's apparent refusal to register Mr. Matheson as a sex offender, even after his conviction and imprisonment for possessing child pornography.

There was an earlier Mountain Views News article on the Matheson case, which ran in December of 2011. In it Susan Henderson lamented that so much of the media coverage being given to this story was focused upon Matheson's local political and social connections, and not about the victims themselves. Which makes sense since most of the people being linked to Matheson in the press were close political associates of Susan at that time. 

It must also be noted that the topic of child victims in the Matheson case, oddly enough, was never discussed by Susan, either. At least not in any real depth. Apparently her concerns lay elsewhere. 

That article was titled "Reports On The Arrest Of Child Pornographer Fail To Focus On Victims," and can still be linked to here

So here are some elephant in the room types of questions. The most recent of the two MVN stories cited here is now more than two and a half years old. Certainly that official investigation should have turned up some useful information by now, right? Isn't it time these findings were shared with the public? Yet we have never heard anything more on this matter, either from city authorities or Susan's paper. 

Nor has Bob Matheson, convicted and jailed for some of the same things as Andrew West, ever been registered as a sex offender. He has apparently received some kind of a pass, both from the City of Sierra Madre and the Mountain Views News. At last report he still lives up on Liliano Drive, and remains free to go wherever he likes.

Why is this? Why did Matheson get let off, yet the likes of Andrew West did not? As longtime Tattler readers can attest, I have been mulling this issue over for a while. And in the absence of any additional information from the law enforcement agency in town (and for more than two and half years, let me remind you), I have been forced to come up with theories of my own. The Tattler abhors a vacuum, as you know. 

I have two of them, and if true they might also be linked. 

Theory # 1)  Matheson's influential social and political connections worked behind the scenes to get him off the hook. At that time his erstwhile allies held 4 out of the 5 seats on the City Council. Their argument could have been that, as an already imprisoned convict, he had suffered enough and, given his years of volunteer work and social popularity in Sierra Madre, deserved a break. So they quietly gave him one. Accompanied by a lot of marginally effective spin and damage control, of course.

Theory #2) The socially vibrant Bob Matheson was not the only person in Sierra Madre who enjoyed viewing child pornography. It could be that a few others, perhaps notable, were also in on the action. Bob let it be known to certain persons that, should he ever be forced to register as a sex offender by Sierra Madre's authorities, he just might decide to talk in public about certain things. Those with something to hide made certain Bob was never registered.

There is another theory. That Bob made a deal with the Feds and has turned in some of his compatriots. But I am not certain there is much of a reason to buy into that one. 

If you have any others, I'd love to hear about them. Since this matter continues to be covered up by the local authorities, theories are pretty much all we have.

So how well-connected was Bob Matheson in Sierra Madre? Both socially and politically? Any cursory exploration of "Google Images" should give you that answer. Just insert his name along with "Sierra Madre" and dig in. He was a guy who loved to have his picture taken, and a lot of folks were glad to join him in the fun.

This is not to say these people had anything to do with his failings, and it is likely none did. But what it does show is that without a doubt Bob Matheson had connections with what were (at least at that time), some of this city's most elite residents. Or at least they liked to think of themselves that way. Certainly they controlled our local government, and happily lorded it over the townies with their pretentious social outings. These people had juice.

Here are some of the photos that I found.

At the beginning of this article I said that we should speculate about why Sierra Madre seems to attract registered sex offenders. My guess is this town has developed a reputation for being soft on such behavior. One reason being the treatment Bob Matheson received when he returned from prison in Canada.

That someone convicted of the kinds of crimes Matheson was jailed for had been let off scot-free when he returned here was pretty much unprecedented at that time. I am certain some people noticed.

And that Sierra Madre officials, along with our in part taxpayer funded adjudicated weekly newspaper, should continue to remain silent about this particular case, to the point of possibly withholding information, would seem to indicate that such tolerance is still very much in effect.

Among other things.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Argument: You can’t hide the size of McMansions, regardless of the design

(Mod: Apparently our little debate over McMansions is resonating in faraway lands. Or at least in Illinois. The author of the piece below is "Dr. Brian Miller, assistant professor of sociology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. Brian teaches classes such as American Suburbanization, Urban Sociology, Culture, Media, & Society, Statistics, and Research Methods. His published work includes studies of suburban growth and development, McMansions, immigrants in the American suburbs, the redevelopment of the Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago, and social network site use among emerging adults." Or that is what they're saying. The blog is called "Legally Sociable" and is linked here. The quoted Tattler passages are from here.) 

Argument: You can’t hide the size of McMansions, regardless of the design
A local debate over McMansions draws this claim about whether the size of the homes can be overlooked:

However, I do feel that we need to bring the elephant in the room out into the open so everyone can appreciate it properly. If you strip away all of the polite planning jargon about massing, square footage, curb cuts, along with most everything else gets said in those circles, and then boil it all down to its core essence, the view becomes much clearer. What we are talking about here are some very large and quite ostentatiously designed houses.

I call it Adele Chang’s Dilemma. How do you build McMansions that don’t look like McMansions? You can’t. No matter what the design style, or where you place the garage, or how you reconfigure the roof, or bedeck the place with curlicues and cornices, or shuffle the massing, or even bring in a small gaggle of winged gargoyles and lawn gnomes, the result is still going to be one heck of a big barn.

In other words, some will argue that McMansions are just too big, even if are designed well or maybe even fit local architectural traditions. Underneath those design elements will always be too many square feet. And why is this square footage so important?

We are talking about a clash between two differing cultures here. On the one hand you have the traditional version of Sierra Madre. A place where people are comfortable with what they have and don’t view house size as a measure of their personal or spiritual worth.

The culture Adele Chang and her CETT bosses cater to, on the other hand, is a nouveau riche arriviste’ sort crowd who somehow believe that building a vanity castle on the side of an open hillside will be recognized by all of those living below as a sign of an innate personal superiority. It is a form of unchecked clodhopper consumerism that most people living here today do not respect or care to live beside.

The size matters because it (1) suggests something vain about the owner and (2) is resented by others because it is a blatant status symbol. A big new home in a community that does not want it is tied to an owner who is seen as a jerk.

(Mod: Amen.)

Do you know anyone in San Francisco? (Mod: This from the L.A. Times - link)
6.0 quake jolts Bay Area; outages, injuries reported - A long rolling temblor pegged at 6.0 by the U.S. Geological Survey shook a wide swath of the Bay Area awake early Sunday.

Centered about nine miles south of wine country's Napa at 3:20 a.m., the quake was felt as far south as Santa Cruz and into Sonoma County. It was the largest earthquake to strike the Bay Area since the Loma Prieta temblor of 1989, the USGS said.

Residents reported power outages in Napa, and fire departments in several counties, along with the California Highway Patrol, were on the lookout for damage to bridges.

Reports were beginning to stream in of gas leaks, downed power lines and at least one fire.

California is rising - Literally (Gizmodo link)
California's Drought Is So Bad, Its Mountains Rose Half An Inch - Water is heavy — ask anyone who screwed up the Ice Bucket Challenge. And California and the rest of the West Coast have precious little of it. The water is so depleted, it’s not weighing down the earth’s surface — and geologists have measured a rise of up to 15 millimeters at GPS stations across the West.

Poring over data from the GPS stations that monitor earthquake activity throughout California, researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at U.C. San Diego found that the land across the west has experienced an average “uplift” of four millimeters, or 0.15 inches, in the past eighteen months. Stations located in California’s mountains show the greatest uplift, topping out at 15 millimeters or just over half an inch.

You and I might think of the ground beneath our feet as rigid and non-pliable, but that’s not really the case. “Think of the Earth as a big rubber ball,” Scripps geophysics professor Duncan Agnew explained to Popular Science. “It’s made of material that is elastic, and if you push on it, it goes in a little bit. If that push is taken away, by water evaporating, there’s less weight on that part of the earth, and it goes up.”


Saturday, August 23, 2014

When It Comes To Her Personal Taste In Homes, CETT Architect Adele Chang Eschews The McMansion Lifestyle

We all need to work for a living. Or at least most of us do. Veteran Tattler poster Steve seems to have avoided the onus of honest labor, but there are other prices he has to pay. And the guy who leaves untrue comments here about me dating Sierra Madre City Manager Elaine Aguilar could be another individual unchallenged by daily toil. For the record I am happily married and have a wonderful family. Besides, I am not certain that Elaine and I would be a compatible couple. Our viewpoints on many topics are decidedly at odds. Frankly, I don't see this happening.

Like the rest of us, the architect for the CETT Set also needs to put bread on the table. And Adele Change has worked very hard to create plans for McMansion style development at One Carter. It is a living I suppose, and what an ambitious professional in a highly competitive field might find herself doing if need be. But would her overly bulky and somewhat ostentatious creations be the sort of thing she would choose for herself? Apparently that is not the case.

It may very well be that CETT has engaged Adele to lay down an architectural framework for a brace of controversial hillside Sierra Madre starter castles, obviously designed for a tasteless nouveau riche arriviste' crowd. But when it comes to her own personal taste in home design, the choice is decidedly different.

And I have to admit, while what Adele has created for herself is a little on the austere side for my taste (like where exactly would you leave your empty Pabst cans?), there is a certain "Wow!" factor to her creation. Something that could lead one to believe that perhaps she really is as good an architect as some of the folks on the Planning Commission have said.

Bonomo Development is a Simi Valley construction outfit that specializes in building the kinds of unique and custom homes that many of us would find hard to afford. This is the stuff the big money rolls with, and you don't find it just anywhere, either. Here is how they lovingly describe themselves on their website (link).

Bonomo Development is a full-service general contracting company that specializes in the delivery of highly-crafted, beautifully-constructed, custom residential and commercial projects. Tony Bonomo, the founder of Bonomo Development, brings over thirty years of experience in the construction industry to the table, and provides an unparalleled level of personal service and attention. Client satisfaction is Bonomo Development's first priority, and this, coupled with a careful attention to design integrity, has resulted in the realization of many successful construction projects. Tony works with a core group of skilled subcontractors, each of whom shares his desire to bring the highest of industry standards to bear on each and every project.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I get the feeling that Tony doesn't need to have a San Marino work permit sticker on his truck.

One of the things Mr. Bonomo likes to do is post beautiful pictures of homes he has built for his clients on the company website. And one of those creations is the home of Pasadena resident Adele Chang. Here are a few of his artfully done photos. The rest can be found by clicking here.

Now I didn't find the pictures we've posted here. A link to them was left in the comments to yesterday's article by an especially sharp-eyed Tattler reader. This also attracted a number of reader remarks, and I thought I would add one of them here. Posting as "Adele Chang - Super NIMBY!," a resident left this observation:

That is one awsome house on a perfectly sized lot that Ms. Chang has built for herself. If One Carter looked like this I would be all for it. And I am confident that Ms. Chang would be the first to protest if someone tried to build in her neighborhood the oversized crap boxes on tiny lots that she has designed for the alleged Indian burial ground.

I believe the point has been made.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Are CETT's One Carter McMansions Down For The Count?

Moat with crocodiles optional
"The Planning Commission was smart - make Chang & company return on September 18 for another turndown. That's another few weeks before they can appeal to City Council. If CC does the right thing by denying this massive structure, then they'll sue. If you weren't there tonight, be sure to watch - it's the best entertainment there is! So many great moments - Bob Spears telling Chang that we have to live in this town, you get your money and move on. Attorney MacDonald saying, "That's not true. The owner has purchased lot 17 (18?) and plans to raise her family here." Gina Freyer-Hunt, retorting, "Yeah, we hear that from every developer that comes before us. Then they disappear." Thank you Planning Commission!" - Reader comment last evening

It just goes to show, you should never ever count the Planning Commission out. Just when you thought that the end was finally here and nearly 10 years of One Carter development futility had come to an end, truth and justice prevailed as yet another poorly conceived project went down in flames.

Hear them roar.

The evening's festivities began on a bizarre note with Commissioner Paschall reading a statement declaring that he was not prejudiced against the project the CETT Set (aka "the developer") wants to build at One Carter. This apparently due to Attorney Richard "Lawsuit Richie" MacDonald's charge that Kevin, who he apparently suspects of McMansionphobia, was somehow opposed to their project for reasons other than it violates a raft of Sierra Madre building ordinances and codes, looks kinda stupid, and has generally been a lousy and poorly organized effort.

I guess Lawsuit Richie figured that he could win the love and respect of the Planning Commission by leveling a few rather bizarre accusations against one of its members. If so, it was a strategy that didn't quite work out as planned last night. Either that or the entire Commission is made up of McMansionphobes.

Maybe at the next meeting all of them will need to read similar statements? You know, perhaps stating that some of their best friends are McMansions?

The Architect, that remarkable and world celebrated Adele Chang, was either stuck in traffic or just late, so Lawsuit Richie ran the CETT show for a while. He continued to make wonderful use of his time by talking about how he had spoken to neighbors of this project, and surprisingly found that they were not necessarily unsettled by it. Rather opinions were instead "all over the map."

Who these neighbors are is anybody's guess, and apparently none of them had arranged to stop by and read any statements avowing their lack of prejudice against jumbo wickiups. Even ones designed by so great an architect as Adele Chang. But Richie did drop Marguerite Schuster's name a few times, and she did get up later to speak. Oddly enough, she expressed serious reservations about the project.

This apparently was some sort of fabricated "divide and conquer" strategy designed to make it appear that there is not just one set opinion in the community about this project. It must be noted here that the Harmen family, who are the only actual neighbors to what at this point is only a story pole castle, were not visited by Lawsuit Richie or anyone else from CETT. Something that only deepens the mystery here.

Perhaps the Attorney had instead been conversing with the spirits of the indigenous peoples buried at One Carter thousands of years ago? Last evening that could have seemed possible.

The highly honored Adele Chang did eventually show up, which gave Kevin Paschall the opportunity to quiz her about the promised "gray water plan" that was supposed to be a part of the overall presentation for this project. It was only logical to ask about this plan as gray water had previously been spoken of by CETT as being one of the many wonderful things they promised to do. Adele replied that she did not have one, and was no specialist in gray water, either. But when the time came she would hire someone to take care of it.

This pretty much set the theme for the evening, that being CETT just didn't have its act together. This despite all of the meetings they'd spent pushing for this thing. The result being the Planning Commission could not be convinced to vote positively on a project that still wasn't near ready for prime time.

This was later reinforced when the gifted Adele Chang began quoting square footage figures that just were not in line with what had been written into the project's plans. Plans that all the Commissioners were looking at as she spoke. Something that struck many as strange since even world famous architects are expected to have their math in order.

Other discrepancies became apparent as the evening wore on. One resident asked if a soil test had been done yet. This is important when you consider that CETT and the justifiably celebrated Adele Chang were now talking about digging a basement as big as many existing Sierra Madre homes.

The CETT Squad was forced to admit that they had done no such testing yet, which meant they also had no idea whether or not so big a basement could be dug there in the first place. If the soil isn't right any number of unfortunate things may happen. Like perhaps a portion of the mountain could collapse, and slide right into that famous wine room. Crushing what would otherwise have been some rather remarkable vintages.

The arborist report was questioned by another resident. With so many trees there having met unfortunate, and sometimes mysterious ends, what few remained needed to be properly filed in this report. That is, if only to acknowledge their current existence so they might somehow survive. At One Carter a tree needs a witness. However, it was shown that this tree report was sadly inaccurate and therefore of little use. Yet another blow to the CETT cause.

The proposed McBunker continued to be part of the conversation. It became the contention of the Planning Commission that CETT, along with the immensely gifted Adele Change, were taking unfair advantage of former Commission Chair Pendlebury's generous offer regarding subterranean building.

If the available math was correct, something that could not be assumed last evening, it appeared that while CETT had removed 268 square feet from on top of the structure, they added a full 1,350 square feet beneath. Making this a now three story building of around 4,600 square feet.

This did not exactly fit in with the Planning Commission's previous request that the developer and their fabulous architect reduce the overall mass and bulk of the structure. The impression left instead was this is yet one more CETT attempt at evading Sierra Madre's development ordinances.

Adele Chang, who as everyone knows is a fabulous architect, decided that another strategy was required, and pronto. She began to complain about how easy it is to paint architects and developers as bad people. Apparently a reprise of the McMansionphobe strategy Lawsuit Richie had employed earlier in the evening. The attorney then also joined in on the fun, albeit somewhat more aggressively. Which I guess is what you need to do when things have gone quite this badly.

Commissioner Spears countered by saying, "It is not our job to decide how large your house should be. That is something that you have to do." He went on to say that the Commission has to be faithful to the wishes of the community as they will still be here long after the developer has pocketed their money and left. The inference here being that CETT had not been living up to their responsibilities as an applicant.

Lawsuit Richie stated at last evening's proceedings that his client would in no way accept any further continuances on this project. They wanted a decision, and they wanted it now. So when the Planning Commission offered the CETT Set a continuance, they naturally had to take a sidebar to decide what to do. After around 10 minutes of high level consultation Richie came back and accepted the continuance.

Next month CETT, along with the preternaturally talented Adele Chang, will get one more opportunity to reduce the mass and bulk of this project. That plus fix the mathematical and other lapses that clearly embarrassed them last night. Given these folks have done everything they can to ignore and evade the Planning Commission's requests thus far, the odds are quite good that the results will be just more of the same. At which time CETT will appeal to the City Council and, should that fail, take us all to Court.

Which is standard practice for a One Carter development project. After all, that is pretty much how things have been going up there on the hill for nearly a decade.

Why would anything change now?