Friday, April 3, 2009

The Community Workshop On Sierra Madre's Housing Element Meeting Report! (Part 1 of 2)

The rule of thumb in Sierra Madre is that if the discussion of housing construction comes up, you should immediately know that we're actually talking about money. Saudi Arabia has oil, Las Vegas has gambling, and moderately corrupt L.A. County has redevelopment projects. It's just the way things are. And you know that when that kind of money is involved people will do or say just about anything to get it.

Now this meeting had all the elements of redevelopment bamboozlement. There might have been a plausible sounding reason for it happening, and it certainly included a carefully crafted ploy designed to play upon the better natures of those attending, but after reading between the lines it was easy to see that this was just the same old shuck and jive in a nice new dress. It's unfortunate that this affair wasn't held on April Fools Day rather than the evening before.

So anyway, last Tuesday night's confab was something grandly entitled "The Community Workshop On Sierra Madre's Housing Element." The purpose, at least on paper, was to open up the conversation on our "Regional Housing Needs Assessment" (RHNA) numbers to the public. You might recall similar dog and pony shows back when "Downtown Development" was first being peddled to the good citizens of Sierra Madre. Back in the bad old days before Measure V was passed.

A little background here. Our RHNA numbers were forced down the collective throats of Sierra Madre by a rather noxious group of folks who go by the ugly collective name of SCAG (Southern California Area Governments). SCAG, as many of you know, is made up of Lo-Cal local government types eager to impress both Sacramento and building trades lobbyists there with their willingness to do the central bureaucracy's bidding. The handmaidens of housing elements, so to speak. RHNA numbers are basically the amount of new housing we are being ordered to cram into our already cramped little town, whether we like it or not. The idea being that lots of people want to move to California, therefore we must destroy the place in order to accommodate them. And if we don't do what Sacramento says they will either make us hang out with SCAG members (no greater cruelty exists), or take away all of our future state grant money. Which is funny since they don't have any money to fund anything these days.

Another reason for building these new RHNA/SCAG multiple occupancy high density things is to create inexpensive housing here for people who can't afford our lovely mountain views and quaint downtown shopping village. Inexpensive housing being something that will probably happen naturally if people just wait long enough. Houses here becoming more affordable every day.

Now according to the presentation handout distributed at this meeting, our RHNA number has actually dropped quite a bit since it was first foisted upon us by the SCAG types. Because we have developed creative ways to find housing for the less provident, our number has dropped from 138 units, to 72 units, to our present number of 26! And if you think that this is good news, you are right. Unless, of course, you are either among those hoping to cash in on this housing boomlet, or one of their functionaries. Then you are probably not so happy about it.

An example of someone who thinks this is a bad thing would be our consultant on these matters, Karen Warner. Karen, whose vast wisdom we apparently pay dearly for, seems to be stuck with ideas that are a bit outdated for this community. First, she seems to be in some sort of denial about our radically lowered RHNA number and the creative methods by which we accomplished that feat. And at this meeting she repeatedly insisted that our number is far closer to the original 138. And she also advocated a resurrection of our long discredited DSP (the very expensive City plan that would have turned our downtown into Glendale had we allowed it), insisting that only by making this Frankenstein's Monster walk again would we be spared the wrath of Sacramento and its geeky henchmen. That this DSP (Downtown Specific Plan) called for the creation of 325 high density condos when our current RHNA number is less than a fifteenth of that didn't seem to discourage the sponteneity-challenged Ms. Warner in the least.

However, Karen Warner did concede that resurrecting the DSP might be a dicey proposition given the unfortunate fact that a majority of the voters here put a stake through its diabolical heart by passing Measure V. So she then suggested something that sent a wave of horror through the room. She proposed the building of low income multiple dwelling housing in our residential neighborhoods! This was not well received.

Now picture this level of mayhem. The Queen of Sierra Madre Real Estate, Judy Webb-Martin, the doyenne of the DSP, downtown development, and a major conspirator in the fight gainst Measure V, joining forces with Mayor Kurt Zimmerman, the slow growth crusader and preservationist that helped to defeat everything Judy hoped for not that long ago. An unlikely alliance? Sure. But Karen Warner, at this meeting, miraculously brought them together.

Judy, of course, abhors the building of low income housing in our residential neighborhoods because of what it would do to already challenged home values. Kurt, who feels that we already have enough potential existing homes to deal with the RHNA burden, is opposed to the arbitrarily forced building of new low income multiple family housing anywhere in Sierra Madre.

The dirty secret is this. In order to build the low income housing Sacramento and their toadies in SCAG are demanding, you're going to need somewhere to build it. And since this town is already built out to the limit, you're not going to find anywhere to do this deed without first tearing down already existing single family homes. And the only way to do that would be to seize houses through Eminent Domain and evict the families already living there. After all, isn't that what "redevelopment" is all about? Tearing down things that already exist and redeveloping the vacated properties?

And that, friends, is the ugly side of the picture that Karen Warner, along with John Buchanan and Joe Mosca, do not want you to dwell upon too much.

We'll tie this all up with Part 2 soon.


  1. Thanks for writing this, Sir Eric.
    Surely, Sierra Madre must now be in the top 10% in compliance with low income housing requirements?
    I sure wish I had attended this meeting.
    Mayor Zimmerman, Councilman Watts and Mayor Pro-tem MacGillivray have done a remarkable job to drastically reduce these numbers from an unfair number to a fair and workable number.
    Why are we still hiring and paying these "consultants"?

  2. Great comments..why indeed do we continue to fall the the sword !

  3. These people just never up! Can't we just quit SCAG and be done with these idiots?

  4. I think the time will come for Sierra Madre to withdraw from SCAG, The city's day in court is inevitable.

  5. Judy Webb Martin and the majority of the participants all all wanted one of the sites to be in the west end of Montecito by the parking lot or using the lot. This would reduce our commercial business zone. Since this area is part of Measure V the most that could be build would be 13 units UNLESS there was an election and 20 units were allowed. She really wanted this. Another group who had property that was up for discussion (next to City Hall on Mariposa) suggested building at the SNF and the lots next to it. All groups felt the city owned site (old YAC/ Lambdin dream church) would be a good site to identify as a possible site. The other site that was in agreement was the empty lot on the corner of Sierra Place and Sierra Madre Blvd. My group identified the property behind the Cong Church. There was a big push to have housing in the downtown area. Another question that was asked was "What should the city do to attract builders for low income housing? My group said the city should do nothing and spend nothing to subsidize the low income housing. People need to attend the next meeting as this one was full of people who were against Measure V. A few of us can't do it all.

  6. Good report, 8:40
    Again, thank you Sir Eric for alerting us to this.
    Least we forget the fight we all had to wage to get in Measure V. We need to remain vigilant and active.
    It doesn't surprise me, 8:40 that there was a group of dirts who had financial interests.
    This is their only motivation.....$$$$$$!
    They don't give a damn about what happens to the town.
    Fortunately, they are in the minority.
    Thanks 8:40 for attending this workshop.
    I am ashamed I did not attend. Won't happen again.
    Keep up the fight! We can and will win our battle to keep Sierra Madre small and wonderful!

  7. Thank you Sir Eric!
    What organization is Ms. Warner affiliated with? How was she chosen to be the consultant on this?
    Anyone who advocates the DSP has not bothered to look at the DSP EIR, released to the public despite the efforts of Mr. Mosca and Mr. Buchanan to keep it away from the residents. Read it, and there can be no doubt that the DSP would have destroyed Sierra Madre.
    26 is a number we can comply with - though I agree that leaving SCAG would be the best solution. That is not possible because....?

  8. Being a member of SCAG is not a bad thing IF and ONLY IF you are represented by someone who has the best interest of the city as their only agenda. Unfortunately for Sierra Madre that has not been the case ever since the City joined under Bart Doyle's guidance. Our SCAG reps appear to have ties to the Building Industry Asscoiation or political agendas of their own.

  9. what's low income housing in Sierra Madre? I heard a realtor once say that low income housing in Sierra Madre are tiny $ 500K condos

    anytime a straight commission salesperson is expressing an enlighted opinion that has a distinct self serving interest contrary to the will of the people, i run the other way

  10. One example of Low income housing is Senior Housing. That is what our group pushed for. Low income housing is not based on $ or size but on 20 units per acre. It can be rented or sold.

  11. Day, I read the EIR. So I get it that we would run out of water, have the worst level of congestion on our streets, push the police beyond their capacity to protect the residents, and during "construction", violate the air standards of the AQMD. Who the hell thought of that plan?

  12. I am absolutely AGAINST having low-income housing forced upon this city.

    It's not appropriate and it's not feasible. I say we give the middle finger to SCAG and Sacramento, along with Mosca next April. :-)

  13. Anonymous at 9:59, how about the fact that there were so many compromises made to get the funds for that senior housing, that many Sierra Madre seniors who want to live there cannot, as people from all over the area are in line before them?
    If there's a push for more of that, maybe we better come up with a way to open it up to Sierra Madreans.

  14. If SM helps fund senior housing there can be limitations to only SM seniors but if there are no subsidies by SM or gov't money is given(not SM) then the community has no say. There are always strings attached to govt money. Personally I too would like to have SCAG take a flying leap. Sacramento just doesn't get it. If there is no housing people will not come to the state. They will go to other areas of the country. If there is cheap housing and lots of welfare they will come in droves.

  15. Great comments FED UP. Would you consider running for council?

  16. FED UP

    " housing and lots of welfare" sounds like socialism to me. I think the market should decide where "low-income" housing is and is not.

    I disagree that people will not come to California based on the availability of housing. I think California is considered somewhat of a utopia and/or paradise to a lot of people around the world.

    Those that have the means and the resources to move here will do so. The only downside (if you want to call it that) is that property values will go up. I highly doubt that any property owner, nor any real estate agent would have a problem with that.

    Since I'm not interested in seeing my property values go down, I'm not interested in high density or low income housing in Sierra Madre.

    Also, considering that Sacramento takes much more than it gives, I couldn't care less about losing it's favor. The last I checked, Sierra Madre gets less than 20% of it's property taxes. Sacramento keeps the rest.


  17. 11:19
    Please attend the next housing event.
    Your voice is needed there as well as here.

  18. 10:39!
    I sure like the way you write!
    Please post here more often!

  19. Sir Eric,
    please inform your loyal readers when and where to attend any future housing discussions.
    This is a very important issue, thankfully, your column today, made that obvious!

  20. I learn more about what is going on from this blog than anything else. Keep it coming!

  21. FED UP is right. SCAG is enough trouble, but while they were ready to stick us with low income housing, Bart Doyle was holding the dagger--it is pretty certain that he was the representative when they came up with the outlandish numbers we're suffocating under. Of course, this figure was not publicly discussed or determined in any city council forum, etc.

    Personally, I think the remedy is in Sacramento. Since there's no money to be paid for any of this anyway, it would seem a good time to remove some of these requirements anyway. I suspect a number of cities would feel this way and would be able to collaborate to obtain a decent lobbyist and sell this objective in Sacramento. Aren't these people looking for ways to save money?

  22. FED UP, I'm with you! Keep in mind that our government wants the NAU, the North American Union. This will be a UNITED Canada, USA, and Mexico with new currency called the Amero.It is similiar to the European nations and the Euro currency.

    The name of the game in this B-I-G picture is to provide AFFORDABLE housing for ALL that want to come to California. It is an insidious plan, a socialistic plan, that governs all under a one world plan. I know it seems outrageous to say these statements, but I ask you to take a long look, connect the dots, and chart the course as to where California and our country are headed.

    Open the borders and come and get the affordable housing that we have created for you. It's all very scary to me!

  23. It's all about the money to be made. The "affordable housing" shtick is just what they feed the suckers. They want to seize property, tear it down, and build condos. And that's it. The rest is BS.

  24. Great article Sir Eric!
    Day@9:26, We can comply with 26 today but these jokers will be back in 2014 with higher numbers and then again in 5 more years with still higher numbers to meet.

  25. 2:12, how can we get out of SCAG?

  26. " Keep in mind that our government wants the NAU, the North American Union. This will be a UNITED Canada, USA, and Mexico with new currency called the Amero.It is similiar to the European nations and the Euro currency."

    This has been floating around for years, total bunk.period Cite your sources...

  27. Did you hear Starbucks had to pull there tables off the sidewalk, something to do with a seating fee that needs to be paid to the city...interesting!

  28. How can Sacramento dictate to anyone when they have no money? How can SM dictate a seating fee when there is no law passed and it comes outta the blue and everyone sits down to meet munch and greet in Sierra Madre. Who comes up with these off the wall crazy arse ideas? If Starbucks has to, then so does all of the other restaurants and coffee places YES???

  29. Every business that wants to use the public sidewalk in Sm must pay a $364 yearly fee. It helps cover the cleanup etc. Actually that's darn cheep rent, when you condider that is less than a dolllar a day and you can add several tables. Much cheaper than paying rent of a couple bucks per sq feet per month. The business are getting a bargin even at twice tat price..

  30. Can't Joe Mosca just turn his house into a multi-family residence? If he feels so strongly about this, shouldn't he lead by example? Or these sacrifices he would prefer that others make..

  31. We should be able to swap this obligation out with a city that has more space!

  32. The problem with these obligations is that your are never done with them -- there's always another cycle where your expected to build more. For a town 3 sq miles wide it doesn't make any sense. We should just say stick it in your ear to this requirement and damn the consequeces!

  33. These SCAGS are bad people.
    Middle finger to them all, and that includes Joe Mosca and Bart Doyle.

  34. Are you guys aware that the apt building directly to the side of Albertson's, the junky one is Section 8. It has been section 8 for a few years and have you noticed the number of car break ins have exploded in the last few years (not to mention other property crimes).

  35. I don't want more density! I'd rather disincorporate and become part of LA County than back fill every inch of Sierra Madre to comply with some F.... U.... State Law!!

  36. 6:46 brings up a very interesting fact.
    There has been a real increase in crime in Sierra Madre.
    Just what we don't need a bunch of low income projects. Sad fact, but true, they increase the level of crime in your city by big numbers.
    It only gets worse.

  37. 6:47

    You must be some Building Industry sock puppet.

    Becoming part of the County will only make things worse by taking local control away and giving power to people and special interests that couldn't care less about Sierra Madre or it's residents. But you already knew that!

  38. Back on 12/23/08, the City paid Ms. Warner $3,324.00 for "Consulting Service"(that's the term used in the City Warrants). Does anyone know for what she was paid? My best guess is the presentation she gave at the 11/13/08 Joint Session Meeting (with the City Council and Planning Commission).

    I'm really curious as to how much we paid her for last Tuesday night's workshop, too.

  39. I did a search for her and read some of the city write ups that she presented to different cities. Cookie cutter presentations. Exactly what she said Tuesday night. She did not reinvent the wheel. She only changed the name of the city to Sierra Madre. Pretty sickening if you ask me. She and her company are the consultants for almost every city going thru this sh*&. Must be making a bundle. She is not an advocate for any city. Just leading the lambs to slaughter.

  40. It isn't enough that we elect City Council members that want to preserve Sierra Madre, we also need to make sure that the people whose salaries we pay reflect our wishes as well. That the backroom folks should still be busily working on pushing this discredited agenda is just not right. And please let's fire SCAG. That organization is a cancer on our town.

  41. I'm looking forward to Sir Eric's part 2 of this issue!
    We residents should lobby our councilmembers to get Sierra Madre out of SCAG.
    They have NOTHING to offer us,especially in this economy.

  42. So is/was Ms. Warner affiliated with RBF? (RBF who designed the DSP, pushing four story development as the only way to be economically viable.) 10:49, did you see what business she's from, or is it her own? Who in our city has ties to her or her business?
    We've learned the hard way to ask those questions.

    6:47 pushing for the county - there has been a rumor for many years that some politically involved residents (and their chums from outside) have been working on intentionally bankrupting SM, in order to hand it over in toto to developers. Maybe some of the mystery million leads back to that. Certainly previous councils spent money like water, while simultaneously threatening imminent collapse. The County angle struck me as too much of a conspiracy theory when I first heard it, but given the attempts to remake this town all together, I'm not so sure anymore. Maybe a decade or two ago, a group of greedy developers and realtors got together and made a master plan of their own?

  43. Karen Warner Associates
    Private Company, Headquarters Location
    882 N Holliston Ave., Pasadena, CA 91104, United States
    (626)791-5596, (626)791-5596 fax,
    Primary SIC: Management Consulting Services, Primary NAICS: Administrative Management and General Management Consulting Services
    Description: Services: Offers experience in providing housing policy services to municipal clients. Firm provides the following range of housing services: Housing Plans (housing elements, redevelopment housing strategies, needs assessments, Consolidated Plans); Special Housing Studies (inclusionary zoning, affordable housing sites analysis); and Public Outreach (community education workshops, group facilitation, consensus building).

    Does anyone know how much the city pays to be a member of SCAG?

  44. Sierra Madre business ownerApril 4, 2009 at 10:38 AM

    Does anyone remember at the "the city will be broke tomorrow" meeting at the school, one county lady got up and defended the parks & rec, by saying that if we touched a hair on that head, we'd have to pay back a million dollars? I think the SCAG tie might work the same way. There's some big economic threat - funny how often it comes down to that single bullying tactic.

  45. Thanks for that info, FED UP. Wonder where she was before that.

  46. Karen Warner's previous company:
    Atlas Venture,

  47. 7:46 p.m. That's idiotic. Just because I prefer to live in Sierra Madre as it is and it seems to me like to do that with this City you have to fight ALL THE TIME and I don't find that a pleasant way to live. So given police issues, paramedic issues and the constant stress and paranoia the local issues seem to breed maybe it would be better to live as a County area where they'll satisfy these housing requirements somewhere else good police and fire service are a given and we're not charged 12 percent on our utilities and get more professional, competent services.
    I'm not saying being part of the county is my first choice, but why are we a town if we can't take care of our citizens and to stay a town we have to rape the land every 4 to 6 years to find more and more places to infill projects that are stupid, inconsistent and shouldn't be built in the first place.
    I think you're the sock puppet if you want to preserve city stucture at the expense of destroying the town.

  48. Sir Eric,

    Looks Like the B.I.A. has found your Blog.

    The poster above is obviously a sock puppet trying to convince everyone to just throw their hands in the air and give up.

    I say that anyone that apathetic and ignorant should just jump off a bridge and leave the rest of us alone.

    If they like the county so much, then they can move to Altadena.

  49. You're right 11:58 about you have to fight ALL THE TIME.
    I can't figure out if it's because the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, or if this has become a particularly vulnerable-to-development-abuse town. The county isn't the answer though. Many testimonies were given during the DSP debates about the failings of county services, esp. police.

  50. 12:34

    Yeah! Like Beth Buck.....good riddance.

    Oh that reminds me; doesn't Galettly have a couple of huge developments in Altadena? One is called "Lincoln Crossing" and the other is at the top of Lincoln Ave. Yep! Old Antonovich is right in the back pocket of development interests. I doubt he or any of the other County Supervisors would care about little Sierra Madre and its 11,000 residents.

  51. crazy conspiracy theoristApril 4, 2009 at 12:46 PM

    Can anyone find a connection between Atlas Venture and more local interest? How about with Dubai?
    I haven't heard that Emarr (eemar? Emmar?) has lost interest in Carter & Stonehouse.
    The Emmarr supervisor (from Laing) was still working in our hillsides recently.
    So is Atlas connected to Dubai, Dubai connected to us?

  52. Yeah, the Emaar thing was a hoot. One Carter saw Galettly fall on his fat fanny, as usual. Then Emaar through some sock puppet company invested in the place. Then the housing market tanked worldwide, sending them packing back to the Emirates. And now some clown who couldn't move the property at auction is attempting to put McMansions up there. We'll see how long that lasts. Looks like One Carter is becoming the La Brea Tar Pits for third rate developers.

    Could never figure out why Johnny and Joey are so impressed with developers. They're almost as stupid as they are!

  53. F.Olding, the Laing guy who runs the show on the ground is still there - and it Laing that is owned by Emaar.

  54. Oh. So Laing/Emaar is running a rent-a-super service?

    How could things get much worse?

  55. I nominate 122 N Baldwin as a good candiate for eminent domain -- it's zoned right, in a remarkable state of disrepair, and would be doing the community a trememdous service as a multi family abode!

  56. I am happy to have found this info and blog! I am a SM resident of 13 yrs who has loved this town for almost as long.
    SCAG is just another group like (CP)'COMMON PURPOSE'when they infiltrated and took over the UK under the auspices of 'community organizing' for dire needs and good deeds. The CP on YOUTUBE is long but worthy, if you want to know who, what, why, how total communitIes, counties, States and Nations are taken over, which we currently observe the results in Washington, D.C. BTW...didnt we hear those CP words uttered by our President before, during and after elections? YES we did!, Brian Gerish on...