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.