Monday, February 9, 2009

What Downtown Sierra Madre Might Look Like Had Measure V Failed

Ever wondered how Sierra Madre Boulevard might appear today if Measure V had not passed? It is possible to get an idea if you take a look around. After all, Sierra Madre wasn't the only place in this country where this particular concoction of downtown condo and storefront combination was being vigorously pushed. It was pretty much coast to coast. And as far as I can tell the closest in design locally to what we might very well have seen here can be found in the City of Monrovia at a sprawling something or other called "Colorado Commons at Old Town," a settlement of superficially varied designs that inside are 2 or 3 bedroom condominiums conjoined by plumbing, halls, stairways, and walls, with gated street level garages below. 

The brochure you receive from the nice lady for visiting refers to the lifestyle here as being "soft urban, " which I suppose means that if you bought in you'd be living in an apartment block in the middle of a suburban community. And it is within walking distance of downtown Monrovia, which is several blocks of shops, restaurants, and a movie theatre that shows the kinds of stuff kids prefer. 

Of course, there is a problem here. When they were put on the market nobody really wanted
to buy these things. And at $525,000 to $750,000 a pop, why would anyone want one? After all, for that kind of dough you could buy an entire house and get things like a lawn, trees, shrubbery, doghouse, private swimming pool, and properly distanced neighbors. All thrown in with the price of entry. Colorado Commons just wasn't very competitive if you look at it that way. You can only wonder why the people who financed this place couldn't figure that one out.

In time the folks who invested in this project, forced by the economic reality of what empty and unsold condominiums would do to their portfolios, concluded that with no cash coming in they would not be able to meet their payments to the banks that were daft enough to buy into this mess. So they gave up on trying to sell these places and put them up for rent, officially making them apartments.
Unfortunately even that has not worked out very well for them. When I was there on Saturday nearly 50% of the available units had not yet been rented. That they're asking pretty much the same price as the average monthly mortgage payment might have a lot to do with it.

I think that when the history of our times is written, and in particular when the historians discuss our current economic travails, they will discuss things like Colorado Commons. Banks, cut loose from any controls whatsoever by an economically retarded administration, became willing to throw money into projects that, in more sober times,
would have been considered economically unfeasible. And, of course, the hundreds of billions of dollars in our taxes that the Federal government has been forced to pump into the banks in order to help them survive these kinds of excesses, would not have to be flushed down holes like this poorly conceived jumble of concrete boxes, sunless walkways, tiny shops and dreary uniformity that so typifies these kinds of settlements.

One other thought. What if other communities around this country had shown the same kind of civic responsibility Sierra Madre did and had shut down the similar operations in their towns? And by stopping them prevented banks from making disastrous decisions like pumping money into bad projects such as Colorado Commons? Wouldn't this country be in much better fiscal shape than it is right now? 

In the end, though, we were the anomaly. The one city out of many that knew this was an atrocious idea, and stood up to those trying to sneak it by. Compromised local government, poor planning, cynicism and apathy were the norm, and this country is now paying a terrible price because of it.


  1. Sir Eric,
    Sierra Madre may have had one or more of these potential slums has we not voted for Measure V.
    It would indeed look like the sorry pictures you show us of Monrovia. It makes me sick when I drive by and look at that.
    There is another scenario, I point up to One destroyed,mud slide threat, causing serious damage to other property nearby. This property was on the auction block. Dorn Platz, one of the lowest echilons of developers, abandoned the project....bankrupt I suppose.Sadly, we didn't have Kurt Zimmerman, Don Watts and MaryAnn MacGillivray on our council at that time to stop this! Our planning commission tried to stop it, they were ignored by the Rob Stockly, Tonja Torres, John Buchanan and Enid Joffe council. These irresponsible puppets of the developers, voted to allow Dorn Platz to build up there.
    This very well could have happened in Sierra Madre's downtown leaving us in a terrible mess, we may never have been able to correct.
    We had two of the same two "puppets" Buchanan and Joffe, and traitor Joe Mosca to do their damndest to stop Measure V. Of course they had $170,000 war chest from the BIA and the CAR to fight us.
    Thanks to Kurt Zimmerman, Don Watts, Kevin and Katina Dunn, SMRRD and the majority of Sierra Madre voters......we stopped them.
    Government becomes corrupt, not from the top down, but from the bottom up. People have to take responsibility on a local level.
    We Sierra Madreans do that.

  2. The jeweler they show on the Colorado Commons website is going
    out of business.

  3. If government money is being used here, shouldn't
    Colorado Commons be forced to make at least some
    of their available units available to low income people?

  4. AA
    probably not.....seeing as the entire hideous project will all be low income housing soon enough.

  5. So much for the housing shortage in the area. I wonder what our friends at SCAG have to say about all the empty units in the San Garriel Valley area.
    I too am greatful that Measure V passed. I know of several properties that were quietly purchased side by side in the downtown during the DSP time period. Everyone talks about the SNF and Howies but that would have been only the beginning. A lot of people were quietly getting on the developmnet bandwagon.

  6. Well, Sir Eric's readers should definitely get the word out about this blog. Sierra Madre has a great identity as a unique city with citizens who want to keep it that way. Information to the residents will help enormously in this regard.

  7. pasta @ 8:53 - Great. So if the No V people had won the day, our entire downtown area would now be filled with 4 and 5 story parti-colored condos, most of them empty. Buncha geniuses.

  8. What did it take to pass Measure V? Great leadership - thank you Mayor Zimmerman, Kevin and Katina Dunn and Fay Angus - and a small group of dedicated people who walked door to door, informing people and gathering signatures. The foot soldiers brought the leaders' ideas into reality.
    Diane Shear alone got over 300 signatures, so she deserves our praise. It is much harder than it seems to get those signatures, and not enough of us do it.

  9. Thanks to all the smart citizens who signed the petitions, had YES on V signs in their yard, and had the courage to go to the polls and vote, in spite of harassment and intimidation by certain thugs in the downtowndirt camp.
    You can all be proud you took a stand and saved your town!

  10. Never forget that the proponents of these project don't give a rat's a%# if they ever sell, they've made their money on the first cut--the development. If they sell or rent doesn't bother tham. They get the cash and boogie. The city is left with an empty shell and the taxpayer and city has to cope. It never really matters whether it works. Pretty disgusting

  11. colorado commons is a blight on Monrovia -