Monday, March 2, 2009

An Approved Downtown Specific Plan Would Have Cost Taxpayers Millions

(The Sierra Madre Tattler continues its series on the events of our recent past as part of the build up to City Hall's upcoming investigations into the breaking Congregational Church/Downtown Development Scandal. This scandal has its roots deep in what was going on in 2006 (and before), and in many ways is a continuation of those events. Today we will revisit an article that appeared on the front page of the January/February 2006 edition of the Sierra Madre News, a publication that has existed here since its inception in the year 1907.)

Downtown Specific Plan to Cost $ Millions $: Water, Sewer & Traffic Infrastructure Needed for Future Growth to be Paid for by Current Residents - by Salvatore F. Tesoro, III.

The City of Sierra Madre's "Downtown Specific Plan" (DSP) is on a fast track for approval. Unlike the Residential Canyon Zone, the Senior Housing Project or Public Safety, the City Council has made the DSP a priority uber alles (over all). Several Site Plans within the Specific Plan have been submitted by developers and are being included in the DSP. A Site Plan is a plan for a specific piece of property or properties within the Specific Plan area. These include the former Skilled Nursing Facility, all property owned by the Sierra Madre Congregational Church and the former Howie's Market location.

Once the Downtown Specific Plan is approved, all individual Site plans within it become law as well. There is approximately 400,000 square feet of new construction already approved for the Downtown area alone in the form of Site Plans, with the Congregational Church making up approximately 50,000 square feet of it.

Site plans would not be there unless the City had already been working with the developers all along. Once passed, residents will have no recourse to stop construction of such monolithic structures. Developers would also have a legal basis for suing Sierra Madre should the City try and stop them.

According to the Notice of Preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) produced by RBF Consulting of Irvine California, dated January 2, 2006, one of the "goals" of the Downtown Specific Plan is to "Provide new housing opportunities and increase the City's housing stock." The same document includes, "An understandable, predictable project approval process" as an Objective.

The Notice of Preparation notes the potential impacts in 17 different areas, from aesthetics to hydrology to utilities. The impacts are divided into four categories; "No impact," "Less Than Significant Impact," "Potentially Significant Impact Unless Mitigated," and "Potentially Significant Impact."

The Downtown Specific Plan will have Significant Impacts to Aesthetics, Air Quality, Noise, Public Services, Traffic and Service Systems. What is most telling of the document on first reading is Section 4.16 (b), "Would the project require or result in the construction of new water or wastewater treatment facilities or expansion of existing facilities ..?"

On February 14, 2006, the City Council awarded a $3,520,300.00 design/build contract to Engineered Systems and Construction, Inc. of Corona, CA. for the construction of a new water treatment facility to be placed on the City's current spreading grounds, over one of the existing basins. The initial annual maintenance costs according to staff reports will start at $395,000.00 per year; a substantial amount considering the City's current, alleged, financial crisis.

According to City Manager John Gillison, the cost of the facility is paid for from current (increased) Water Department revenue. Not included in these figures is the cost of a "nearly completed" connection to the Metropolitan Water District's East Grandview Avenue pipeline.

Mr. Gillison stated that the purpose of the water treatment facility is to make Sierra Madre's water system "more reliable in the event of a major earthquake." However, after major earthquakes in 1971, 1987, and 1994, Sierra Madre never needed a water treatment facility to secure its water reliability.

Given that the City has always had more than adequate water resources in its 100-year history (even when the population exceeded 13,000 several decades ago), the only purpose for this facility is to accommodate substantial new development in Sierra Madre.

Note: The author of this article, Salvatore F. Tesoro, III, is the publisher of the Sierra Madre News and a native Sierra Madre resident.


  1. Thanks, Sir Eric
    Thanks, Salvatore (who is either the best investigative reporter of all time or a world class psychic).

  2. my feeling is that we should never ever vote for any person who moves into Sierra Madre and within 10 years of moving here he or she runs for a political office. didn't a couple Council members move into town and all a sudden they joined everything to get noticed?

    reeks of swarmy political ambition in our podunk town

    i'm very leery of these new out of towners who move in, overpay for a house and expect Sierra Madre to be a clone of their often distorted vision(s)of Santa Monica

    or the guy or lady who starts building a "resume" of community service (ala Little League President etc) and then announces a bid for Council - either volunteer as a good neighbor and leave it at that but don't tout "hey I was a Little League President so vote for me....blah blah blah"

    i'm not knocking volunteer work, but when it's part of a "resume" for Council, I'll vote for the other person every time

    if you haven't lived here for more than 7 years, please keep quiet...thank you

    Salvatore zeroed in on the developers and he was right on target

  3. Sal put out a very informing publication. I wish he would publish again.

    The citizens need to thank everyone who helped get Measure V passed. Measure V proponets beat the building association, the developers, and the residents who planned to make a fortune by destroying the downtown. If you think the "NO on V" group would have stopped at the downtown you are mistaken. The hillsides were also on their to do list.

    The quote from 8:41 If you haven't lived here for more than 7 years applies to all out of towners sticking their noses into our city's affairs.

  4. Not having been here all that long myself, I do find the relative newbie in me getting a little chafed. But I do think that the process at work is LA County political organizations (especially the Democrats) see small towns like Sierra Madre as a first rung in the ladder for their young rising talent. Joe Mosca came out of the San Gabriel Young Democrats, and his arrival in Sierra Madre was to be the launch of his political career. That he came already programmed with all the usual LA County Democrat agendas (high density development being the most prevalent) should not have been a surprise. I'm sure he was coached on giving lip service to preservation, but if you want to make your way into the big time bureacracies of Los Angeles and Sacramento, you certainly don't hold on to that message for longer than it takes you to get elected. Look at it this way, if we dump Joe in 2010 we will spare the taxpayer the burden of having to pay for his services later on. He obviously sees himself moving on to bigger and better government positions.

  5. Warning@
    841 makes a very important comment:
    building a "resume" of community service (ala Little League President etc) and then announces a bid for Council - either volunteer as a good neighbor and leave it at that but don't tout "hey I was a Little League President so vote for me....blah blah blah"

    Pete Siberal comes to mind....citizen of the year, Little League, Trail race......sounds great, right?
    WRONG.....Pete is a longtime supporter of dirt and development issues. He has NEVER supported a downtown preservation candidate.
    He got on my radar during the Lambdin, Stockley, Doyle, Hayes council where they submarined Kris Miller Fisher.
    He has always supported Brandley, Keith,Lambdin, Doyle, Joffe, and most importantly NO on V.
    So beware, people.....Pete seems a nice man, but he is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Do not be fooled.

  6. Curly,
    We have had three very dangerous ringers hit Sierra Madre, pretending they were what they were not.
    Tonja Torres, Joe Mosca and Susan Henderson.
    All three have caused this community a lot of grief.
    SMRRD and citizens for honest government and slow growth should "vet" these politicos more carefully. We can't afford to be complacent.
    I hope concerned citizens like Salvatore will use his obvious talents to continue to expose these frauds. Same with Sir Eric and posters such as Pasta, roia,Day, who obviously are very careful researchers who know of what they post. These people do not have political or financial agendas of their own.
    Most of all, everyone who cares...please support our decent city councilmembers, Mayor Zimmerman, Mayor Pro-tem MacGillivray and Councilman Don Watts. They are working for your best interests, not their own.
    Carefully vet all future political candidates.
    Read this website. Sir Eric will expose "ringer" candidates. Let's make sure we never, ever again get stuck with a city council like the Buchanan, Joffe, Torres and Stockly team-(they gave us the One Carter disgraceful legacy +pushed for the DSP) Let's make sure we defeat candidates who betray their supporters. Joe Mosca needs to be defeated if he is foolish enough to run for re-election. He doesn't deserve our votes.

  7. Don't let me start a fight here but haven't we been double-crossed by people who've lived here for many many years? Your ten year litmus test is not going to work, although I certainly support a way to truly take the pulse of candidates running for office. I think I hold the prize for numbers I've supported and who have later betrayed me.

    But back to the article. Thanks to Salvatore for selfless effort. That paper took very little advertising, just enough to cover expenses (if that) of publication. Salvatore at the time did not want to be beholden to advertisers and mainly wanted to expose the dirt (really) that was going on in City Hall. Personally, I don't think he drinks enough to be citizen of the year, but he certainly is owed a debt of gratitude for his work, particularly on this issue.

    The DSP is rapidly rising in my mind as one of the larger scams of government. Imagine having all those projects rolled into one little vote, scheming on how to get this through City Council without a vote of the people and yet never revealing the scope of these projects. I know several people who were involved in the "consultation" process of the DSP and I can tell you they never heard this. And what a fraud the consultation process was. It was nothing more than a bunch of meetings with slides and "talkback" so that the City staff could claim that the DSP reflected the town's desires. And they made that claim--to loud guffaws of anyone really listening. Another one of my favorites were the little polo shirts with DSP on the breast--like a designer logo. Get serious. How much money was spent on the debacle. Talk about impropriety. How proper is it for the City to spend the over $300,000 for a planning firm to aid the developers to build projects that 1) do not comply with the general plan 2) have no public support and 3) are completely disguised from the public.

    The pipeline and treatment facility were simply and always nothing more than an aid to development. Water has long been an issue in development and Sierra Madre has had water storage that it cannot access. The real water use figures have been obfuscated for years, but when carefully analyzed, we do not have enough water to develop endlessly and you can't readily tell that. Although couched as a safety measure, the water pipe was really meant to allow access to water for acquisition adn transportation. Why? Not for our existing water customers, thanks. It was for our nascent development projects.

    There's a lot of opportunity for open government here in Sierra Madre.

    p.s. I'll give some thought to how to evaluate new, unknown candidates.

  8. The people of Sierra Madre owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Salvatore. There was a time when his was the only public voice speaking out to inform the residents of what was going on in City Hall. He worked hard for the preservation of our town - the genuine preservation, meaning slow and thoughtful growth, not the expansion/development mask of preservation.
    If Mr. Tesoro is reading: thank you for helping us so much to keep our beloved, unpretentious town.

  9. Roia, I agree with you - I was just throwing out a ten or seven year minimum because I am sick of people who move into town and within a couple months of living here they are fixated on altering the historical terrain of Sierra Madre to suit their own visions and are pushing their way into the political arena

    I hope we all have taken pictures of Sierra Madre for out kids because when they return in 30 years they won't recognize the city - it'll just be another unincorporated suburb in Los Angeles County if some get their way in town

  10. That paper could get a little out there, what with the Frank Zappa, Mother Jones stuff, but as far as I can tell, it was the ONLY source of facts about the plans in the city government to jack up the town. Why did those folks want to change it so much? If you want Bev Hills, or San Mon, move there.

    We have a much better city staff now - but do you think the fight is over? uh uh.

  11. The reason they want to change it, can be summed up in one word.
    They were motivated by greed. Several invested in these projects, they gambled, they lost.
    Simple as that.

  12. The World's Largest Blossoming PlantMarch 2, 2009 at 12:49 PM

    I'm sorry, but when it comes to community longevity I far surpass all of you. But
    that said, I do appreciate the efforts
    you've all made keeping high density
    development away from the plot upon which
    I continue to grow and flower. Oh, and do
    keep the smokers away as well. The smell
    of burning vegetation gives me nightmares.

  13. Some people come to town only to smoke on weekends and want to tell us they have the right to set policy.

  14. They come to Sierra Madre to smoke because every other town in the area has driven them out. We are now the tobacco cistern of the

  15. Almost $400,000 a year tacked to the
    bottom line of the City budget? All
    to build additional water facilities
    that we didn't actually need? And
    people wonder why we're broke...

  16. Hardly anyone apprediated Mr. Tesora enough. He is a dedicated and brilliant journalist and investigative reporter who cut to the chase and reported what no one else dared to. He was never thanked enough because of his perception into our troubles, which he saw before few of us really noticed. We need him and Sir Eric now, with the CongGate causing traffic congestion and religious indigestion. Would Mr. Bradley and his holyangels work as dilligently if this were a Jewish or Muslim Temple going up in Sierra Madre? Please Mr. Tesoro, help uncover this holymoly scam.

  17. Thank you Sir Eric for finding this article, and/or Mr. Tesoro, whichever the case may be.

    I whole heartedly agree with many of your posters. Mr. Tesoro was an incredible asset to and for the good people of Sierra Madre. He created the conditions that not only stopped the Downtown Specific Plan, but the conditions for real change in Sierra Madre government and politics.

    Considering the personal risks and financial expense that he made to benefit my family and our quality of life, I will raise a glass to salute Mr. Tesoro any day.

  18. Mr. Maundry, your blog is positively fascinating.

    It's not a matter of agree or disagreeing-quite an uncommonly interesting read.

  19. Thank you. But you still haven't confirmed my Centinel deduction!