You will see on the agenda for Tuesday night's City Council meeting an item up for discussion called Consideration Of Establishing Commercial Property Maintenance Standards. Originally agendized by Kurt Zimmerman, this is the long awaited Sierra Madre "Blight Law." Modeled on a similar law that Glendale passed earlier this year, owners of commercial properties bought on speculation would be required to keep these properties bright and shiny or face substantial fines. And the property that has become a symbol of just such "blight" here is the Skilled Nursing Facility. During the last City Council election the SNF became something of a lightning rod for those looking to blame a purported decline in Sierra Madre's downtown on Measure V. Here is a statement that was posed as a question on the dirtish (and apparently now deceased) Sierra Madre - A View From The Canyon blog in February of 2008:
"I want to know how the candidates intend to deal with the blight in downtown, the boarded up nursing home ..."
Well, it looks like the answer to that one is finally in the building. Here is how we described the situation last May when the topic of fining commercial blight jockeys first came to the city's attention:
Glendale Deals With A Major Cause Of Blight: Real Estate Speculators - One of the major causes of blight is real estate speculation. Banks and investors buy up foreclosed properties and then allow them to sit. Their hope being that when the market eventually improves the value of their holdings will increase as well and they can turn a profit. But until that time comes, they allow these properties to fall into disrepair. Why bother fixing them up until the time comes to sell them?
Until now that is. The days when secretive real estate investment LLCs can buy things up and let them rot until they get what they want are apparently over in Sierra Madre. The era of hostage taking has come to an end. In Glendale the fines were set at $1,000 a day.
So as far as the Skilled Nursing Facility goes? Windows would be nice. With some shutters and curtains, please. Oh, and some decent, living shrubbery as well. And paint. Whoever you are, you've held this town ransom to your deplorably nasty habits for long enough. Clean up or pay up.
The other item causing much excitement in these bloggly precincts is entitled Consideration Of A Ballot Measure Prohibiting Use Of Eminent Domain For Private Purposes In The City Of Sierra Madre. When you consider that Sacramento, through its draconian SB 375 manifesto, will soon be placing intense legal pressure on Sierra Madre (and just about every other city in California) to plan for development far beyond our ability to accommodate or sustain, outlawing eminent domain is a must.
While those advocating (SCAG, SGVCOG) this recipe for city destruction will never admit to it, the only way they are going to be able to clear the acreage necessary for the vast condo and mixed-use Higglytowns they are demanding is through eminent domain property seizures. And we must be prepared to help the residents of this town defend themselves.
And there is plenty of precedence for such measures in the State of California. As an example, the good citizens of Yorba Linda approved just such a measure in 2008. As we can see on the Ballotpedia site, it was called Measure BB, and the wording went this way:
"Shall the voters of the City of Yorba Linda adopt Ordinance No. 2008-920 relating to the elimination of eminent domain for private economic development purposes?"
It passed with 79.3% of the vote.
Trust me, what Sierra Madre and cities like us will be facing in the next four or so years is going to make the DSP and Measure V episode look like beanbag. The SB 375 RHNA numbers alone will be at a level never seen before. (RHNA numbers that will be cooked up by the SCAG "CEHD" committee that Joe Mosca works so diligently for, by the way.) By banishing eminent domain through the public vote now we will have taken a first big step in preserving what we love about Sierra Madre for future generations, while at the same time helping to protect the people living here from state government gone mad.
But remember, it is only a first step.