Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tattler Exclusive: The Marquez Letter

There's been talk about a supposed "written authorization" that has become known as The Marquez Letter. The author, Matt Marquez, as you probably know if you're a regular visitor to The Tattler, is a former Planning Manager for the City of Sierra Madre. But his sudden fame here is apparently related to things certain people are claiming he did more than anything else. And is Matt getting a fair shake from the town he used to work for? Has he now been set up to be a fall guy? Let's dig in.

(I've posted the letter here. If you click on it the size increases, making it much easier for you to examine.)

In last week's Mountain Views "Observer" a veiled reference is made to The Marquez Letter: "According to Mr. Pete Zimmermann, Chairman of the Trustee's (sic) of (the) SMCC, 'We have done everything that the city has required us to do. We submitted our application for a General Plan Amendment (GPA) in 2007. We were given written authorization to proceed with the construction once the application for the GPA was submitted ... We were advised, in writing, that we could proceed without the "prior" approval of the amendment.'"

What is being referenced here is a possible amendment to Sierra Madre's General Plan. One that would be required before the Sierra Madre Congregational Church could legally proceed with their building plans. And only the City Council could authorize such an amendment. The downtown property in question was zoned commercial, whereas the building they wished to construct (read: school) would need to be built on land zoned institutional. But rather than actually ask the City Council for an approval on this matter (which they never did in spite of the Planning Commission's admonition that such a thing was necessary), the SMCC tried to backdoor their way through the process. And they have now claimed that they were given a letter by the City that allowed them to circumvent the legally recognized authority in such matters and merrily proceed with their building plans.

So who actually signed the letter supposedly authorizing the Congregational Church of Sierra Madre to build this project without first getting the necessary City Council authorization for an amendment to the General Plan?

In comments to yesterday's column on these weighty matters, Marie Rose answered this very question with her usual grace and aplomb. "Mr. Zimmermann (two n's) said, when he handed the documents to the City Clerk at the City Council meeting of March 24th, that Matt Marquez signed the letter giving the SMCC the go-ahead to build prior to the zoning change. Review your recording. It's there for everyone to hear."

And then she added this observation: "... Mr. Marquez left the City a couple of years ago and was replaced by Danny Castro. I don't believe we can compel Mr. Marquez to come back and explain himself any more than we can compel Kurt Christianson, Tommy Gates, John Gillison, or any of the others who regularly rotated through our town looting and pillaging to stand up to scrutiny."

Well, perhaps we can't compel Mr. Marquez "to come back and explain himself," Marie Rose. But we can do the next best thing! Which is to help clear his name in this matter. Thanks to the kind assistance of concerned invisible hands, we here at The Tattler have obtained a copy of The Marquez Letter. It is the only letter City Hall has on file from Mr. Marquez that would fit the situation described by Mr. Zimmermann (with to n's). If there is any other such letter, the City of Sierra Madre doesn't know about it.

Here is what Mr. Marquez had to say in his now famous letter:

July 24, 2007

Kenneth L. Cromeenes
170 West Sierra Madre Boulevard
Sierra Madre, CA 91024

Re: General Plan Amendment 07-01

Dear Mr. Cromeenes

"On June 25, 2007, the City of Sierra Madre received additional materials related to your application for General Plan Amendment 07-01. Staff has reviewed the submittal and determined that the information provided is sufficient. In the upcoming weeks, City staff will contact you and discuss the procedures and timeline for processing this application."

(Now there is more to this letter, dealing mostly with news involving Mr. Marquez's job change. You can read all about it by clicking on the letter posted at the top of this article.)

So this letter, the one that Mr Zimmermann (two n's) apparently cited as being the authorization to "proceed without the 'prior' approval of the amendment," in no way indicates that the Congregational Church could now go ahead and build their "Kids Port" (read: school). All it says is that they could now proceed with their quest of getting a General Plan Amendment out of the City Council. Something that is very difficult to do. Which is why, I suspect, they never even bothered to try.

If this letter is all that the Congregational Church has to hang their hat on, then we might as well start firing up the wrecking ball right now. Or at least give them the opportunity to turn the building into low income housing.


  1. I am doing the undignified act of rolling on the floor laughing. Fire up the wrecking ball indeed!! This isn't permission to go to the restroom, let alone install an otherwise unapproved building. And by the way, if the City Council's approval is required (i.e., 3+ council members voting in favor) even a letter purporting to grant permission to build would be ineffective to actually grant real authority to do so. Pretty pathetic. And, by the way, the City is probably remiss in not red-tagging that building. It should not have been built and where is the City's authority to permit it to be used and occupied? The City has a mandatory duty to enforce its zoning laws. Why is it giving these people a free pass? Will others who are scofflaws get the same treatment?

  2. Why indeed Lady Catherine..Your comments are great.Also love Mary Rose comment including".....of the others who regularly rotated through our town looting and pillaging".
    This should remind us again that the Barbarians are still prowling about.

  3. Just about a shoddy as it gets. This letter has about as much
    to do with authorizing the building of a school as the Mountain
    Views Observer has with journalism. It's time we put aside all
    other considerations and started looking at them for what they
    are. They're nothing more than hillbilly con artists who, of
    course, got caught. And that they would attempt to pull a fast
    one as unsophisticated as this only seals the deal.

  4. City Council!

  5. If the Congregational Church gets away with this, they will be above the law.
    People who lie and break laws of the city should not be above the law.
    I agree with other posters who say their illegal building should be red tagged.
    The city has done this with other property in town that tried to pull a fast one like the Congs did.

  6. Sir Eric, a fine job of ferreting out the truth! Young Matt is vindicated. Mr. Zimmermann (2 n's) certainly doesn't appear to be a fool but if the letter in question is the document on which the SMCC is basing it's apparent illegal action, the SMCC bears sole rsponsiblity for a very foolish presumption. We wonder what the verbal committment made to the "trustees" consisted of? And, of course, who made it. And I quote Old Kentucky, "RED TAG THAT BUILDING...NOW!"

  7. The city has just discovered it has an extra million dollars. Put that money aside into a legal war chest to be used to fight lawsuits concerning land use. Once developers including the Cong know we have the money to legally defend lawsuits, they will not challenge our laws.
    Now the question is, Will the city council enforce the zoning laws or will they become a bunch of politicians who are more concerned about getting reelected or their own personal agenda? The building should be red tagged; have all gas, electrical, and communications services turned off. The building should be used as a mixed use commercial building since that is what it is zoned for. The church should also be required to provide parking for the building according the parking ratios in the downtown. Why wasn’t parking required for this building since it was zoned commercial?

  8. Great job, Sir Eric. I'm glad to see Matt moved out of the fall guy position. He was impressive in the developer wars, always sticking to the books - the developer lawyers would press him in public meetings, and he held his own, referring to the codes. Even when night-of-the-living-dead Watson pushed, he stuck to the books. Pretty good for such a young'un.

    Tavern is right about the bad consequences if SMCC gets away with this.

  9. Pasta, I don't think we actually have the mystery million. The surplus ended up being 30 thousand. (?) But I wish we could get that lawsuit war chest going.

  10. Sierra Madre never fails to astonish. Sometimes I wonder if that what this blog is conducting here isn't so much a revealing of important news, but an exorcism. There just seems to be an unlimited supply of strange ghosties haunting City Hall. And they are quite persistant and very difficult to get rid of.

  11. Hmm. I don't know, George. This might be simply be a case of reintarnation. Which is defined as coming back as a hillbilly.

  12. The only strange ghosties are in the old Ripple Mortuary building, now known as the "illegal Cong school/auditorium building.
    You Congs are in for some bad karma.
    You put up this illegal building, your business agent lied to the City Council.
    You tried to pin this on Marquez.
    Who really gave you permission, Congs?
    Could it have been Bart Doyle and his puppet, John Buchanan? Buchanan voted for you at the last council meeting. At the previous council meeting when Buchanan was suppose to be absent, he miraculously appeared, and it was over heard in the council chamber seats, Margie Simpson, turning to the Cong Rep, saying "thank God, he's here" when Buchanan came in the room.
    I don't know if any higher up, dirt, gave you permission or not, Congs, but it should be looked into. Either way, you are in deep trouble.....either you conspired against the city or you lied to the city and defied their laws.
    Why don't you just do some damage control before you hit bottom? Donate the illegal building to the city......in lieu of your penalty for building it illegally in the first place?
    If it is Buchanan that was involved in this.
    How about a RECALL, Sierra Madre, if he doesn't resign?

  13. I like "exorcism" of old ghosties, I like "prosecution" of miscreants, I like "recall" of individuals working hand-in-hand with the "shadow council", and I like a thorough vetting of any new individuals who run for political office or are seeking appointment to a commission or committee. Vigilance cannot be overrated!

  14. "Allons Enfant de la Patrie"onto the Bastille..Red Tag -Red tag!

  15. Mon aéroglisseur est plein d'anguilles!!

  16. Pretty much knocks this week's MVO article on this topic into the crapper ...


  18. According to the text translator on WORD

    Mon aéroglisseur est plein d'anguilles!!Translates to My hovercraft is full of eels
    Allons Enfant de la Patrie
    Translates to Let us go Enfant of the Fatherland

    Perhaps there is another meaning :)

  19. It's about the RevolutionMarch 31, 2009 at 1:12 PM

    Let's go, children of the nation!
    The French national anthem:
    Hovercraft & eels might be the sentence someone learned as a pronunciation exercise?

  20. And from casablanca.
    Viva La France!

  21. I spoke to a council member last week and was told that the million bucks was "found bookeeping" money. It wasn't locked up in a drawer somewhere. I was also told that our cost for the mountain fires was $550K and that payment for that cost would be coming out of the million.

    I still want to see an outside audit completed!

  22. Sierra Madre business ownerMarch 31, 2009 at 4:37 PM

    Yes, anon at 4:26, I think we must have an outside audit, too.

    And what a great idea to turn the illegal building into low income housing. Very much in keeping with the heart of Christianity!

  23. A forensic accountant and outside counsel is what is needed. Years of uncompleted audits coupled with the discovery of a million bucks nobody knew about should set off enough alarms to awaken even the residents of the Pioneer Cemetary. This city was run by some of the slackest characters ever for years. Time to put city finances back on solid ground. And just to make sure it happens, we should hold the UUT hike ransom until we have numbers we are all comfortable with.

  24. I agree S.M., we need a second accounting of those past years. I think that most citizens will not TRUST the city until a second accounting has been done. I wonder how much it would cost for a second accounting?

  25. Well, I do trust the city now.
    We have three councilmembers who, had it not been for them, this may never have become known.
    The dirts would have swept it under the rug, as usual.
    Zimmerman and Watts ran on a platform of acountablity in 2006. MacGillivray ran on the same platform in 2008. They have kept their promises to the voters.
    I totally trust these people to do the right thing on all these critical issues.

  26. I agree Old Kentucky. The current majority on the council is dedicated to transparency in government and fiscal responsibility. Any money that we have as a part of the strange auditing practices condoned by the council of 2004 and before, needs to be spent on an independent forensic audit.
    And let's get forensic about the SMCC circumventing the General Plan, too.

  27. Does anybody know anything about two of the people cc'd on the letter?
    Stanley W. Lamport, Applicant's Legal Counsel
    Ellen Fitzgerald, Applicant's Consultant

  28. I don't know who they are 6:17, but I'm sure Sir Eric's team of investigative reporters will.
    By the way, anyone think the PSN may run yet another Tattler story?

  29. Let's face it no one will ever fess up to who it is that is reaponsible to getting the document signed and approved. The real problem is not letting the
    Congs go through with their plan and saying "the devil made me do it." Isn't that really the intention? They figure we got this far no one can stop us now? They are good church people doing God's work and they cannot be wrong? Right? Marge Simpson,Buchanan,Mosca,and Susan are all arrogant enough to believe that they can do what ever they want and are above the law. So far they have done what they want. People of ethics must prove them wrong and do the RIGHT thing and RED TAG the building!!

  30. I have to agree, Canyon Mama,by all rights, the building should be red tagged.
    If it were in the canyon? Like the one at the corner of Las Rocas and Sycamore....it would be red tagged. That home on the north west corner of Sycamore....was illegally built and red tagged several years ago.
    There you go....City Council...you have your precedent.

  31. I'd like to know where or get a photo of the old Ripple Mortuary is/was located. In 1957, they had the funeral for my great-grandfather. Did another company take it over and would possibly have the old records? Is the building in Sierra Madre? shannonsmom2845@yahoo.com