Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Suing SCAG

A Tattler commenter by the name of Sam pointed out yesterday that if you Google "Suing SCAG," you will get all kinds of interesting results. And shortly after that post somebody checked this out and got a large amount of reports on SCAG's comeuppances. Apparently Sierra Madre isn't the only place in Southern California where this dismal regional bureaucracy is both unloved and unwanted.

SCAG, as you know, is the organization that saddled Sierra Madre with arbitrary and unreasonable RHNA numbers. Which has now led to the identifying of homes here as candidates for possible eminent domain seizure and destruction should the statute be revived, with the properties affected then being used as sites for multi-family high-density low income housing.

Now I looked through quite a few of the articles dealing with SCAG's many problems, and then picked out what I thought were the most enlightening. Some of these I can provide you with links as they were found on Google. Others I discovered on my News Server and cannot provide you with links because the publications involved only share their wisdom for a price. If you do wish to check them out you'll need to sign up for something called NewsLibrary. It'll cost you about $8 bucks a month. I find it to be well worth the price.

The first article comes from the Los Angeles Times, and it is called "SCAG a 'High Risk' Funds Recipient, Auditor's Report. Date it ran was May 02, 2002. It deals with SCAG's inability to properly deal with taxpayer money.

"The Southern California Assn. of Governments, the regional planning agency for a vast, six-county area with 17 million residents, has been designated a 'high-risk' recipient of state and federal funds after government auditors found a history of financial and other internal problems ... Documents obtained under the California Public Relations Act show Caltrans officials assigned the high-risk rating in December and reaffirmed it in February after a team of auditors examined the association's use of state and federal grants during the years 1998 to 2000 ... The audit, finished in June of last year, found 'material weaknesses' in the associations accounting system, purchasing processes and internal controls ... Auditors also suggested that the agency may have used state and federal grants for purposes other than those for which they were intended."

Interesting. The organization that believes it has the right to intrude into the affairs of anybody it wishes seems to have a lot of trouble minding its own business.

From my NewsLibrary account, and therefore unlinked, comes this report from The Press-Enterprise out of Riverside. The article is titled "Housing Goals Challenged: Area counties, cities, file suit over units required." The publication date is February 6, 2001.

"Frustrations over ambitious housing goals and the steps used to establish them have prompted both Inland counties and four cities to sue the state and a regional planning organization ... Riverside and San Bernardino counties banded together in filing a lawsuit last week with the cities of Moreno Valley, Hemet, Victorville and Chino Hills. The lawsuit targets the state Department of Housing and Community Development and the Southern California Association of Governments ... 'Some of the involved communities said "Enough is enough." This is not right,' said Mark L. Huebsch, part of a team of Newport Beach attorneys who filed the lawsuit in Riverside County Superior Court."

This next article, also from my NewsLibrary account, deals with SCAG's incompetence. The paper was the Daily Breeze out of Torrance. The article is entitled, "El Toro airport draws fire." The run date was May 21, 2001.

"A coalition of Orange County cities Friday sued a regional planning agency that favors building an international airport in El Toro and limiting the future role of LAX, claiming the agency violated state environmental laws ... The lawsuit was filed by the El Toro Reuse Planning Authority, which opposes plans for an airport at the former Marine Corps Air Station. The suit claims the Southern California Association of Governments understated the traffic, noise and pollution effects of building a 30 million annual passenger airport there."

Here have an article from the Orange County Register dealing with the City of Irvine's attempt to beat back some truly bizarre RHNA numbers SCAG saddled them with. The article is called "Irvine sues agency over housing mandate."

"City officials have filed suit in an effort to overturn a state mandate requiring Irvine to add 35,660 housing units in the next seven years ... The mandate, handed down earlier this month by the Southern California Association of Governments, would also require that 21,282 of the new units be deemed 'affordable' for moderate, low-income and very low-income households ... Mark Asturias, housing manager for the City of Irvine, said the requirement 'burdens Irvine with a mandate that is unfair, unreasonable, unattainable and inequitable."

Irvine has a population of 190,000 people. Forcing 35,660 "housing units" into that town could have almost doubled its population.

On City Watch, described here as being "a Los Angeles website/blog for grassroots neighborhood councils and groups to provide input for City and regional issues," an interesting article called "SCAG -- Problem-Solver or Obstacle," is to be found.

"Quote of the Month: 'I don't see any connection between SCAG and the real world.' Councilman Bill Rosendahl on SCAG's plans for 2008. We're in agreement with that ... SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments) is an agency that sets housing allocations and transportation policies that cities must meet and it's living in a different world. The agency is currently being sued by the City of Palmdale because the City cannot meet SCAG's 17,910 housing requirement for numerous practical reasons ... According to SCAG, over 40 percent of this housing must be low and very low income families. This allocation may require Palmdale to rezone some undeveloped property in Palmdale to high-density multi-family residential to comply with SCAG's demands."

The blog comments attached to this City Watch article are pretty amusing. You should check them out.

If you think we have it bad, wait'll you read what SCAG attempted to do to the entire Counties of Riverside and San Bernardino! Earlier I noted the lawsuit, but what were the events leading up to it? This from the April 6, 2000 edition of the Press-Enterprise. The article is called "Home goals upheld: County loses bid to lower target."

"Officials from a handful of cities and the governments of Riverside and San bernardino counties went to Los Angeles on Wednesday to argue against new housing planning goals they consider too high ... The proposed new goals would have San Bernardino County planning for more than 41,000 new homes in the unincorporated areas by 2005. That number assumes more than 8,000 units per year could be built in the unincorporated areas near Chino, Fontana and Rialto; in Bloomington; Muscoy; and throughout the county ... Jurisdictions in Riverside County would have to designate places for 99,350 more housing units by 2005."

(Aren't those the two counties that have seen among the biggest housing value busts in the last year or so? Looks like all that SCAG housing dumped out there wasn't such a good idea after all.)

So how did the good people of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties react to having these numbers apparently crammed down their throats? The only logical thing they could. They began plans to quit SCAG. From the July 25, 2002 edition of San Bernardino's daily paper The Sun, an article entitled "Inland group: SCAG's a drag. Breaking away from Southland agency is urged," put it down this way:

"San Bernardino and Riverside counties should withdraw from the governmental agency responsible for housing and transportation planning in Southern California, an Inland Empire business group says .. The Inland Empire Economic Partnership believes decisions made by the Southern California Association of Governments affecting land development and transportation have benefitted the coastal counties at the expense of the Inland Empire's economic prosperity and quality of life ... 'We're sick and tired of the Inland Empire being dumped on by the so-called regional organizations that don't have a clue as to what's going on out here,' Partnership Chairman George Reyes said Thursday."

So you see? It isn't just Sierra Madre that has trouble with SCAG. They're a problem everywhere. Nothing more than little bureaucrats who think they can play God. We need to get out of SCAG.


  1. Let's get out of SCAG.
    I sent Councilman Watts an email yesterday, asking him to please lobby to get us out. I'm sure I was not the only one.
    I had spoken to Councilman Watts a few years ago and he was not in favor of Sierra Madre's involvement with SCAG. He didn't consider this organization beneficial to Sierra Madre.
    Now we know why.
    Thanks for alerting us to this outrage, Sir Eric.
    I have confidence in the good guys(and gal) on our council to protect us all. The not so good guys who are beholding to Bart Doyle?
    Better re-think your positions Buchanan and are on the wrong side, again.

  2. This is the Invasion Of The House Snatchers. Joe and John
    need to be checked. They might be Pods.

  3. Good work Mr. Tattler. So, what was the out come of all the lawsuits? What class action would other cities want to jump on board with, very interesting. Thank you.

  4. Sir Eric?
    I trust the good guys at the Sierra Madre Weekly will print today's column.
    Sierra Madre Weekly is a good paper, the ONLY good paper in town.
    I urge everyone to pick up a copy everytime you are downtown, and support their advertisers.

  5. All of this really points up just how corrupt the government is in this state. That Sacramento and its minions should view the property of its citizens as something to be harvested for the benefit of those they do business with is abhorrent. We need a third party, one that would throw all of these bums out with the trash.

  6. How about throwing the "bums/dirts" out of Sierra Madre's government?
    Ever since Bart Doyle's BIA got involved with Sierra Madre, there has been one outrage after another!
    BIA secretary and close personal friend of Bart Doyle, Karma Bell, nearly got elected our City Clerk, due to the relentless slander of Nancy Shollenberger by Harriet Henderson's despicable "paper".
    Haven't we had enough of Bart's gang of dirts?
    We can't do all that much about who is controlling our government in Sacramento or Washington. However, we sure can do something about who controls it in Sierra Madre.

  7. Mayor Zimmerman, -- who is no friend of SCAG and has been highly critical of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment law --, has called for a City Council discussion of SCAG. It's been agendized for the last City Council meeting in May. Make sure you attend and let him and the rest of the City Council know how you feel.

  8. The only way to fight this is to get involved. Not just on this issue but everything (development, smoking, water issues, etc). Everyone in the town needs to be screaming not just those directly affected. Stroller Mom's-- many came to your aid, now it is time to help others. We must stand up for what is right whether it has a direct effect on us or not.
    In this city you may be next.

  9. Mayor Zimmerman and Councilman Watts saw through SCAG from the get go.
    MaryAnn MacGillivray will surely be up for ditching SCAG, as she is not any fan of big intrusive government bureaucrats.
    Don and Kurt ran on that platform, MaryAnn ran on that platform, and so far all three have kept their promises to the voters.
    Joe Mosca ran on that platform and so far has broken every promise he made. Buchanan????
    He is such a pontificating windbag, who knows what he ran on....oh yeah, it was BS.

  10. I'm a little behind the times. May I ask someone to post the e-mail addresses for all of the City Council members as well as Elaine Aguilar? I'd be happy to help by sending e-mails if I only knew where to send them. Thank you one and all for your efforts and especially to you, Sir Eric!

  11. A Non Ymous:
    You can contact all officials at this link:

    copy-paste and go to the link. It lists everyone you'll want to contact.

  12. from LA Times, interesting....see the 3rd paragraph.....

    The association develops transportation, air quality, aviation, housing and other plans to guide future growth in a sprawling region that includes Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties.

    The agency, which has 175 employees, depends on state and federal funds and membership dues to operate.

    The association does not have the power to determine land uses or decide the fate of development projects.

    But the little-known agency does wield significant influence over highway and transportation projects, which must be included in its regional transportation plan to receive state and federal funding.

    In recent years, the association has been at the center of Southern California's airport debate.

    The agency assigned Orange County a major share of the region's future air travel demand by backing an airport at the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, only to have voters reject the idea.

    Bounced Checks Lead to Caltrans Audit

    Caltrans initiated the audit of the agency after chronic cash-flow problems led to two bounced checks in 1999 and forced an agonizing self-examination of internal weaknesses at the nation's largest metropolitan planning organization.

    Sandra Balmir, a planner with the Federal Highway Administration in Los Angeles, told the association's Regional Council in February that the state audit found major problems.

    Balmir said SCAG has a history of unsatisfactory performance, is not financially stable, has a management system that does not meet standards, has not conformed to the terms and conditions of previous grants and otherwise is "not responsible."

  13. Paddy O'SheaApril 8, 2009 at 9:39 AM

    9:25AM - SCAG in itself doesn't have the power to back up their perfidity, but they do have the names and numbers of those who can. They're the bad cop, they do the dirty work their patrons in Sacramento would prefer not to dirty their hands with. The RHNA numbers being a classic example. Land hungry lobbyists for the redevelopment interests got their got their desires for other peoples' property thru the Assembly and State Senate, but it was SCAG that was assigned the nasty role of actually moving it along. Those cities who refuse to comply are refered to the Central Authorities in Sacramento for appropriate financial punishments. We're talking widescale corruption here. Think about that before pulling the lever for a Republican or Democratic state candidate next time.

  14. We need to do a study and file a report to the readers of The Tattler.....before all State and Local Elections.
    Name names of legislators who vote with developers.
    I'm sure many people in California just vote along party lines, without really knowing what and who these people stand for.

  15. Paddy O'SheaApril 8, 2009 at 9:47 AM

    They all vote with developers. Their political action committees pay a lot of money for their access and influence.

  16. Sir Eric, thank you for an excellent, town-changing, article.
    Great posts all, and does anyone know how to find out the status of the law suits?
    I believe we're on court watch for Ms. Henderson next week - maybe we can find out how SCAG is faring in the courts, too.

  17. Not our City Council in Sierra Madre Paddy,
    Mayor Zimmerman: Registered Democrat....NEVER votes with developers.
    Don Watts: Registered Independent.....NEVER votes with developers.
    MaryAnn MacGillivray: Registered Republican....Never votes with developers.
    Joe Mosca....registered democrat......Always votes with developers.
    John Buchanan.....registered democrat.....Always votes with developers.
    Watts, Zimmerman and MacGillivray are obviously not under the control of State party wonks. They answer to the people of Sierra Madre.
    Major political parties should keep out of Sierra Madre city politics!
    Hear that Mosca, Buchanan, et all?
    I'm talking to you.

  18. I changed from Democrat to Decline to State because of the 2004 Sierra Madre city council.

  19. So did I, 10:04.
    I didn't like the way Joe Mosca had the Democrat Party of the San Fernando Valley campaign for him, to the extent of calling all registered Dems in town telling them to vote ONLY for Joe!
    I questioned the man who called me:
    "why are you just endorsing Mosca? Zimmerman and Torres are also registered Dems"?
    The man's reply:
    "We feel Joe Mosca is best for Sierra Madre"
    They sure got that WRONG!

  20. It is probably best not to post the Councilmens' email addresses. Recently, one of them did not like his/her address being printed in a local newspaper article. Instread, go to the city's website and click on "Contact Us." Their addresses are not listed, but you can fill out the brief form and email any of the Councilmen (or Ms. Aguilar) directly.

  21. Hey Pasta:

    You've got stroller Mom's on your side...It's our kids future...WE'RE all worried about!

    We'll be where ever we're needed!!

  22. if Joe is blind to his own ambition he'll run for reelection

    and I'll lie to him just like he lied to me about his platform

    I'll tell him that I'll vote for him and then do a flip flop in the voters booth

  23. Does anyone know what the consequences are if we do NOT meet our RHNA numbers? Just the facts please!

  24. Another great article Sir Eric. Keep up the good sleuthing!

  25. Sierra Madre business ownerApril 8, 2009 at 1:19 PM

    Stroller Mom,
    Thank you so very much!
    There is a long history in town of activists, sometimes fewer in number than others, and you have no idea how grateful some of us old timers are when young people step up.
    And everyone, let's take a moment to send a special thought of gratitude to the inspired person who insisted that there be no stoplights in Sierra Madre, and fought to have that included in the General Plan. That was a brilliant move, and the fate of the town has rested on it more than once.

  26. 11:05 I've sent them things through the City and they say they don't get it. Post the email addresses!!

  27. Anonymous 1:06, google comes through again - type in:
    consequences for not meeting rhna numbers

  28. Thanks Sam, I'll give it a "google".

  29. There will be no consequences. The State isn't going to pick on little Sierra Madre, especially when we are making a concentrated effort to comply. We have the "granny houses" angle. We have the old Yac center on Highland that the city owns, for the purpose of constructing a few low income units.
    We have very clever council members, who will not allow the city to be penalized by RHNA or anyone else. Regardless of what BIA wonks like Buchanan and Mosca say........irrelevant.
    So, let's just give SCAG.....the middle finger!

  30. Talk is cheap. What are you all willing to do to bring light to the issue and get people to support resigning from SCAG?

  31. Well, we could hire Glenn Lambdin to wear and sandwich board on the topic and walk around in circles in front of Starbucks. All it takes is a little caffeine to get that boy rolling.

  32. You know those RHNA requirements will destroy Sierra Madre over time. They never end; and we have a parade of newbie Development Directors who all want to cut their teeth on a substantial project suggesting this type of C.R.A.P and then slapping it on a resume and moving on.

  33. What about promoting a moratorium on new construction? It takes care of overzealous religious institutions that want to eat our town (like CONG and now Alverno) and it takes care of preventing more RHNA housing.

  34. What a very good blog this is. Surprising, really, in that I've never posted on it myself. Well then, "I was never so man'd with an agate 'til now.... '

  35. Here's my question. How can this be happening in America?

  36. Anon at 2:53, that is a wonderful idea. We could become one of the towns that saves itself. Bolinas put a 30 year moratorium on new water hookups.

  37. No, you don't want to put a moratorium on building....just inappropriate building.
    2-30-13 must be followed downtown and we must get a new GP and Canyon Zoning to protect neighborhoods from inappropriate development projects.
    Sierra Madre can and will do this.
    However, we need everyone to pay close attention and follow leaders who have our best interests in mind....not Bart Doyle's BIA or Judy Webb Martin's CAR. Remember, these are the same organizations that spent $170,000 to defeat the people's Measure V. It didn't work, we voted it in anyway.

  38. 2:53

    Leave Alverno out of it! Just because a couple of attorneys with development ambitions tell you that Alverno is going to "overbuild" on its property doesn't make it so.

    Alverno has always been a good neighbor. Alverno has never done the "development creep" that the CONG has. Alverno has not taken commercially zoned property and used it for Institutional purposes, like the CONG has. Alverno has never LIED about its intentions, like the CONG has. Alverno hasn't sponsored corrupt politicians and thugs, like the CONG has.

    The real concern is, what happens to that property if developers get their hands on it? They have been trying for years to put Alverno out of business in order to build a large condominium complex there. They also have their sights set on the Passionist Father's Retreat Center.

    You would be wise to question more and do your own research rather than rely on the assertions of others.

  39. Get it? Agate, like agate type, see? It's a Falstaff. Oh well...were am I anyway?

  40. Anonymous at 2:53. Your remarks are appreciated, your style is recognizable. Why not skip the judgments that you close with? You want just the facts, write just the facts. Let others express what and how they want. Blogs are not term papers ya know!

  41. Also Anon....your comment contradicts itself, and is hypocritical. If you Dirts want a forum, start your own Blog.

  42. Anonymous @5:51, you are bringing a whole new level of sanctimoniousness to the comments. Are you actually on the slow-growth side?

  43. Also Anon...Give up or at least try on a new sock puppet name. You're still a hypocrite and still a Dirt. Go try your online thuggery elsewhere.

    You Dirts are all the same. you can't use factual information to defend your position, so you personally attack those that can and do.

  44. Alverno has tormented the neighbors with noise and traffic from an event rental business that violates their conditional use permit which allows only for the operation of a school. The City has done NOTHING to enforce the CUP. How is that different from CONG?

    Alverno rents the Villa out almost every weekend in the summer and the neighbors have no peace. That doesn't sound like a good neighbor. And the City does nothing with noise, traffic and other problems.

    Now Alverno wants a gigantic gym/auditorium with warming kitchens and refuses to say it will not be rented out every weekend. Have you seen the noise and disruption around La Salle on a Friday night? Have you seen the barricades at the Albertsons and in lower Hastings Ranch?

    Alverno wants a regulation soccer field which requires cutting down trees and say there will be no night lighting of the field, but La Salle said that too -- now look at it.

    Alverno also wants an outdoor amphitheater in spite of noise issues they haven't changed their plans one iota to address neighbors. So I don't think Alverno should be left out especially since the West side of town may be surrounded with noise from gyms La Salle, CONG and Alverno! That's not right especially since CUPs are routinely ignored in this town once something gets built.

  45. If we keep infilling high density housing that no Sierra Madrean wants by bull dozing charming and funky old homes that really define the quirkiness that is Sierra Madre we're going to have the ambiance and charm of Irvine or some other Stepford community that only allows your house to be two shades of tan.

  46. Alverno is off topic for this thread. We'll have something about the school in a week or so. Can't this wait until then?

  47. I'm quite distressed that the City is spending money on this same theme--SCAGINESS. How much money has the City spent on creating lists for "appropriate" development locations (i.e., turning your house into a tear-down)? How much money has the City spent on this whole planning charade -- okay, it was supposed to be a pun on charette--when there's just no support for this objective. How many projects have been built (I'm thinking Senior housing among others) that were supposed to meet one requirement or another. I continue to think that we ought to "legalize" the granny flats in this town, count the "unauthorized" multiple dwellings and come to grips with a real housing inventory before one more penny is spent on promoting this bogus objective.

  48. Sorry to digress some more, but Anon at 6:30, you are completely wrong about my affiliation.

  49. Alverno needs to be discussed. It has been around since 1960, and people who buy homes there KNEW they were purchasing near a school. The building is closer to Michillinda and not a nuisance. There is a huge difference between the Alverno permit and the Cong Permit. One is Legal. The Cong is illegal and in the Middle of Town. The Cong is pretending it is the Vatican while Alverno knows it is an institution of higher learning and developing young women of truth and ethics, grace and dignity.