Thursday, February 25, 2010

Engaging SCAG

One of the things that came up during the City Council's deliberations on just how we were going to handle SCAG's demands regarding their 2012 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) numbers, as required by SB 375, was how we were going to engage our favorite Regional Planning Organization.

John Buchanan and Joe Mosca took a passive approach. John intimated that if we did not do what SCAG was demanding, some unidentified terrible things might happen. He also claimed that we should just acquiesce to their demands since SCAG wouldn't listen to us on the RTP/SCS numbers question, anyway. An odd thing for him to say since he had previously opined that this was a collaborative organization that wanted to work with us. Joe claimed that if we didn't pay the dues we were holding back from SCAG, Sierra Madre wouldn't even get a seat at the table, much less have our concerns get the hearing we wanted. Then he even went on to state in The Pasadena Star News that any attempt by Sierra Madre to fight for its rights there was tantamount to reality avoidance. "You can't just say 'no' and bury your head in the sand," said Joe. Again the inference being that we'd better knuckle under or face the music.

(As an aside, the irony in Joe's statement about all this 'no' saying is that when he was the City Councilman tasked with representing our interests at SCAG, Joe didn't even bother to show up at the meetings. Click on this link to read about Mr. Mosca's AWOL status at SCAG.)

But you want to know what? John and Joe were wrong. Three members of the City of Sierra Madre City Council, backed up by some inspired work from City Staff (big props to Danny Castro), decided to play some hardball with SCAG. We withheld our dues, threatened to leave the organization, and Mayor MacGillivray and Mayor Pro Tem Don Watts began to not only attend the meetings Joe never seemed to be able to make, but began speaking out about our rights as well. And despite all the surrender monkey warnings about the consequences of such bold acting up, we won a huge negotiation victory. Which was announced at Tuesday's City Council meeting to applause.

The issue we're talking about here is a very serious one. Sacramento passed a bill called SB 375 that pretty much dictates what exactly we can and cannot do in regards to planning for our city's future. It is a usurpation of much of this planning authority by a runaway central government, powers that traditionally have been the purview of cities such as ours. The year when this happiness starts kicking in is 2012. As a run up to all that joy was a request from SCAG that we supply them with an opinion of what our "Household, Population and Employment" estimated numbers should be in the years 2020 and 2035. All a part of the process of helping to create SCAG's 2012 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS).

The recommendation from SCAG was that we just accept their numbers. Which were quite outrageous in both their size and assumptions. In their opinion Sierra Madre would need to start planning for an increase of 140 new households by the year 2020, with an employment increase of 267. But at the same time they claimed our population would only be going up by 32 souls, which makes you wonder how exactly we were expected to fill up those 140 new households. Maybe SCAG was predicting a wave of divorces among current residents? Or that our kids would not only want to stay here, but live alone as well? And I don't know where we would be coming up with 267 new jobs in 10 years. Was SCAG going to situate a Nissan assembly plant here?

The consequence of our accepting these numbers at face value is that we would be setting ourselves up for a big fall in 2012. When our SB 375 driven RHNA numbers emerge that year, they are expected to be among the biggest we have ever seen. Something that, if enforced, could lead to our having to plan for development well beyond our capacity to sustain. And how could we possibly contest them if we had already agreed to the outlandishly large numbers SCAG was expecting us to submit for the RTP and SCS two years earlier? This had all the earmarks of a set up, and the better part of Sierra Madre's elected representatives, along with key City Staff members, decided to stand up and fight.

City Staff dug in and came up with some sound rationales for supporting numbers far smaller than the ones SCAG was demanding. Rather than 140 new households, that number was pared almost in half. The employment number was cut from 267 down to 82. And that population increase number? It went down from 32 to 17 living and breathing human beings.

Despite the warnings and threats issued by the usual suspects, MaryAnn and Don took our reduced numbers to SCAG and made them stick. They basically got in SCAG's face, spoke their minds, and refused to give in. SCAG was very concerned that we would leave their organization, something we had threatened to do. They even sent their two top executives here to beg us to stay. We were not very impressed. The symbolic $1,000 dues that would have indicated our willingness to stay in the RPO were withheld. And then MaryAnn and Don Watts proceeded to fight these guys on their home turf until they threw their hands up in the air, cried uncle, and gave us everything that we wanted.

So let me leave you with a final thought. When the crunch comes down in 2012 over those SB 375 driven RHNA numbers, which many suspect will be some of the largest to date, who are you going to want representing the interests of Sierra Madre? Elected citizens who are willing to stand up for our rights, or surrender monkeys?


  1. Thanks, John Crawford for your excellent article this morning!
    You have been attempting to warn the folks about SCAG for the past few years.
    So have Don Watts, MaryAnn MacGillivray and Kurt Zimmerman.

    Don and MaryAnn certainly deserve our thanks!
    So does Danny Castro, Danny is a stand up guy and has come through for us all.
    His work with the Canyon Zoning Committee has been crucial. Same goes for Elaine Aguilar, our City Manager.

    People can check out the confrontations Don Watts, Mayor MacGillivray and Kurt Zimmerman had with the SCAG officials, it's on Neuroblast YouTube videos.

    This is a prime example of your elected officials working for YOU, Sierra Madre. Not special interests!

    Bravo, MaryAnn and Don!

  2. The Js were visibly disturbed by the news. Again, as the night of the Measure V election, John's victory dance was twarted.

  3. both Joe and John are pansy lightweight lawyers who couldn't find their legal way out of a wet paper bag

    their motives are never about the city, but themselves, their perception of themselves and mostly their employers

    John can't argue at anypoint about slow development or against government drones who intefer with cities, because he works for a governmental type agency and his employer benefits from new development with new revenue

    both are as transparent as Josh Moran

  4. uhhhhhh, Joe....we had a seat at the table and you never showed up to sit in it!

  5. John and Joe are lobbyists. They only see Sierra Madre as something to be exploited for the benefit of their corporate masters.

  6. Sierra Madre needs strong leaders.

    MaryAnn and Don,John Crawford and Pat Alcorn.

    Watch our city gain respect all over the State of Calif. with these STRONG leaders.

  7. Can we get our dues back for the years Joe didn't go to the meetings? What a waste of taxpayer money that was!

  8. Everyone keeps jumping up and down about condos being built, etc. Why isn't anyone screaming about the building that Alverno has in their master plan? It is a huge building (13,000 sq ft) which is like at least 10 condos stuck together! Not only that, they will be conducting a event venue with many weekend parties there. They use the school as a cover for their reception business. Also, everyone is praising Danny Castro, who has recommended that Alverno get what they want! He has told the City Council that the "staff" approves Alverno's wishes, never mind what the people of Sierra Madre want.

  9. why isn't Alverno held to the same standards as the rest of the city? i can only have two garage sales a year at my house but Alverno can host parties every weekend if they wanted?

    maybe the neighbors around the school should buy those air horns and blast every few mintues during wedding ceremonies and the word would get out that Alverno isn't a good venue

    however, if Alverno closed, the developer vultures and realtors would swoop down and pick the bones of the city apart

    the issue isn't with Alverno as a school but it's permits that allow it to operate outside the ordinaces of the city without any consequences because it's a "school".

    the new council needs to curtail Alverno's reception business out of respect for the neighbors, jeez, it closed a parking lot because people that moved into apartments next to a parking lot and then complained about noise but won't do anything about the noise coming from Alverno?

  10. Please return to today's topic which is SCAG, housing numbers, and the great council member who slayed the housing dragon.

  11. We'll tackle the Alverno issue soon enough. If there are things you would like to see brought up in that article please email me at

  12. Couldn't be prouder of MaryAnn and Don! Real Councilmembers working for the residents, not lobbyists working for their own careers and the state! Thank them by returning Don to the City Council and give them Pat Alcorn and John Crawford to support them and us in returning the voice of Sierra Madre to the people!

  13. Thanks, 8:31

    SCAG is the topic on this thread.

    This is an issue that should concern the vast majority of residents.

    Our independence as a city depends on us standing up to these people.

  14. We oppose SCAG because it takes away the control of cities! It allows the State of Ca. central government to control any and all future development in any city.

    No wonder the head of SCAG is a former bureaucrat from the former Soviet Union!

  15. The message that those two have been putting out that we can't fight back is just wrong. We can, and we will. The first step is dumping their messenger boy, Joe Mosca.

  16. SCAG is no longer sustainableFebruary 25, 2010 at 9:54 AM

    That is smile bursting great news, an incredible victory !!! Way to go, Sierra Madre...Whoop, Whooop, whoop! My deepest appreciation to the efforts, stories, comments,
    of the Tatt. My on my knees, you are a master Sir Eric, and to the members of the council who told SCAG, to (censored) reconsider their figures, or go figure you again. Excuse me you want a thousand dollars for what??? handling of the skanks of SCAG, I thank you, the people of california should thank you, Thank you..


  18. Laurie, that is awesome. Thank you!

    Follow the link below.
    Mouse That Roared

  19. A trophy!! Big hugs to the mod, going back to the greenward site, thanks Ms Barlow, I have tears in my eyes, darn..

  20. from Laurie's great website...Greenward

    The City of Sierra Madre has documented their significant victory for local community control on a local blog over there, the Tattler. They went up against SCAG allocations of the RHNA numbers rather singlehandedly, and came out a winner. So the trophy goes to the two City Councilmembers and key staff for pushing this through. Forcing overdevelopment into communities is not what regional planning is about. Regional planning is about actual sustainable practices that reduce the demand for resources and keep the costs of development from being passed onto the local residents.

    Citizens have to hold Sacramento and local regional planning organizations accountable for what they impose in cost and resource burdens as well as using actual metrics for the statewide CO2 reduction strategy. Not fairy tales about less commuter driving having any measurable impact on pollution.

    Posted by L Barlow, AIA at 9:38 AM


  21. DON WATTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Enough of "we-better-surrender" leadership.
    The damage done to our hillsides is the result of that tactic, and when those mansions start popping up on top of the town, even the residents who never participate in city decisions will be horrified.
    Congratulations to Mayor MacGillvery and to Donald Watts, and as always Kurt Zimmerman, for putting integrity and intelligence back into the civic process.

  23. They balanced the budgets, got the
    audits done, and whipped the SCAG
    monster. What more can anyone want?

  24. Now let me see if I understand... we didn't have to sue SCAG, SCAG didn't sue us, we didn't capitulate and we're being called the "mouse that roared"? All it cost is a $1,000 in dues? I'd say we're getting our money's worth out of MaryAnn and Don!

  25. We got our money's worth okay.

    MaryAnn and Don are worth their weight in PLATINUM.

  26. We haven't paid them quite yet. That needs to be discussed by the City Council first. Which will be another chance to revisit this in front of the city.

  27. Alverno is a SCHOOL and the young women there have a right to have a gym. They do not use the school "as a cover." The school is EDUCATING Awesome Young Women who are very successful, and it is very expensive. They rent out the Villa. This helps cover the expenses.

    Under Title IX girls have the right to play sports and if you have followed their teams they do super well.Every school has a gym, they should be able to have one and the neighbors and the school CAN find a way to keep noisy/drunken people from driving through the neighborhood on weekends.

    Alverno is a treasure and so are the women who graduate from there. Go visit the campus. You will be very impressed.

  28. 12:29 I assume you learned how to read at Alverno, stay on topic.

  29. 12:29 - see the post from The Mod @ 8:43AM. Get your info in to him.

  30. Hey, I didn't say it was David and Goliath

  31. Laurie, it is wonderful to see that shiny trophy, to have the support from you and know that anyone who reads your work will 1) be smart and 2) hear about our struggles here.
    Some of us have been fighting for a long time, through some dark days (the loss of One Carter for one- Mosca's betrayal and rise of the Downtown Dirts in opposition to Measure V for another) and sometimes it has seemed hopeless.
    These wonderful successes, led by MaryAnne, Don and Kurt are more than welcome, as is your kind regard.

  32. I can't believe that after determining that SCAG is a "BLIGHT" to all of us, and as worthless as a tit on a boar, that our City Council is going to consider rejoining and paying dues.

  33. Jumping Jehosophat 2:42, can't you recognize a successful working within a system when it happens? Use some imagination - SCAG could be a perfect organizing base for small town solidarity. Might turn into what it was supposed to be all along.

  34. Proud to be a Sierra MadreanFebruary 25, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    I'd prefer another analogy: think of it as a cowgirl and her henchman fearlessly jumping onto the lead steers and turning the stampede from a precipice. MaryAnn and Don stood up to SCAG, turned them in a new direction, and we have now demonstrated to all of the small communities and all of California as well as Sacramento that SCAG will need to work with us in the future. Don't think for one moment that this feat has been lost on the J's. We don't need third rate lawyers to tell us we can't do anything! We need first rate Councilmembers to lead the way.

  35. A lot of contacts are being made at SCAG. Other cities that hate SB 375 just as much as we do. And recognize it for what it is, a paid for boondoggle to appease development lobbyists. Sacramento doesn't give a damn for places like SM. People are talking now, something is happening.

  36. Watts told me it seemed a little too easy, and wonders if we should have been tougher in the negotiations with SCAG, but at least we can probably use 2nd units as a means of meeting the new numbers, if he gets re-elected, and we loose Joe, and eventually John B....besides, by 2025, if the world doesn't end in 2012, he will be just haunting Sierra Madre, instead of sitting on the council

  37. I'm confused about that second unit stuff. I thought that Karen Warner ($50,000) said that was not possible, and the conversation went all around about the census, and post office, and addresses, but she ended up saying that the only 2nd units that could apply were those built after 2006. Anybody got info on that?

  38. Yes. To paraphrase, "Old Councilmen never die. They just fade away." Or in the case of former mayors they just go to Chamber of Commerce soirees and wine tastings.

  39. I heard that too, 3:47.
    I thought the consultant said we could only count second units from 2006-2009, and it was because of the privacy laws that guard census records....

  40. There isn't been another city who accomplished at SCAG what we accomplished. Up until now most SCAG attending city officials have been like Eloi in The Time Machine, willingly walking into the Morlock cook pots without even a whimper of protest..

  41. you know Joe is going to claim credit, it's in his nature to take credit for something he had nothing to do with

  42. Maybe he made it happen by not going to the meetings. It was a clever paln he hatched!

  43. SM dodged a bullet - so farFebruary 25, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    Something that irritates the heck out of me is the faulty aim of regional growth hustlers. There ARE towns that need more development, that need better downtowns, that could benefit from solid construction and planning, and low income (of course with covenants) housing - BUT THAT IS NOT US. We have a good town and don't need them.
    Why don't the ambitious Downtown Specific Plan types, and the Hillside development types, go where they are wanted and appreciated?
    Yeah, I already know the answer. They're not in business for the common good. Too bad they can't combine their schemes with real benefits for people.

  44. Sm dodged - great post. They only want towns where they can make a lot of money. So why is it they want Sierra Madre? Because we haven't let developers like these guys in before. That has kept the town interesting and appealing, and therefore a place where they can make a lot of dough if they can crack the barrier. What happens after they make their money is of no concern to them.

  45. This plague started with this bad guy.

    He caused most of the trouble, recruited thugs like Lambdin, shady characters like Stockley, then brought us Torres and Mosca. Has all the greedy realtors in town convinced he knows what he is doing.
    Truth is the guy is a big four flushing phony.

    I wish they would indict him along with his Titan pal. We've been waiting for a long time to see this old crook taken away in handcuffs.

    Too bad our new "blight law" doesn't include residential property....because that "rat's nest" Bart lives in is an eye sore.

  46. Anonymous at 8:16 said..."They use the school as a cover for their reception business." ya, and all the kids are props, the teachers are all waiters....that has got to be one of the dumbest things I have ever read!

  47. Bart Dolye, legal council for the Building Industry Associates (BIA), one of the big doners of outside cash to defeat Measure V, is indeed toxic to life as we would like to keep in Sierra Madre. Sitting on the City Council, with John Buchanan, and the others who sat on their hands in the face of the law suits by Maranatha (even with information the our mountain conservancy had a study grant from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to protect 1 Carter) and let that jewel slide into the mess it is today. We will all be sick about it as long as we live here and look up there!

  48. OK, going off-topic.

    Typically, private schools do not need to rent themselves out to balance their budgets, normally alumni committees, parents and fundraising Boards take care of that (expensive tuition covers half, at best). A parochial school may be in a different situation because it's constrained by its parent org. There's also the tradition in this case of support by the community and the City, rightfully so.

    There needs to be some kind of dialogue between the community and Alverno instead of the bitching about specific events, inasmuch as they're a burden to the neighbors. The Rose Bowl raises the same issues, and there's always give and take with the neighbors, unfortunately in public hearing. The difference is that here the facility generates significant revenue for the City.

    Alverno could be an anchor that prevents further development in the hillsides. In exchange, the City could negotiate fees for different types of events, as Pasadena does, so that a manageable number and type of events produce the revenue that is needed to keep this in balance. It's in the City's interest to do this, and it would allow Alverno the opportunity to budget around compatible uses.

  49. Monrovian for Sierra Madre...

    I bookmarked the blog Greensward:Civitas in my browser toolbar right next to the Tattler and would urge all to visit the blog and note the array of informational links pertinent to SCAG.

    In conjunction with the Tattler and the yeoman's effort done by John Crawford, her blog is a well of information and I'm glad it came to light for me today.

    A synergy of persons and information such as this, along with a couple of breaks and I think you will see a whole bunch of quick buck money know the ilk...developers, realtors (hah-spellcheck tried to make me cap the if), mortgage lenders and attorneys- the ones that used car salesmen thank profusely for bumping them 3 or 4 notches up from the bottom of the general respectability scale, will be running for the doors.

    I follow this information closely because I believe a template is being developed right here that can be expressed and utilized by a good many other communities in the region.

    It's too bad we didn't wake up in Monrovia before they stuffed that cookie cutter instafauxwarmfuzzy bs (yeah I mean all those apartments on Myrtle) down our throats.

    Be sure to vote!

  50. Thank you for checking in, Monrovian for Sierra Madre.
    Laurie Barlow is another friend of Sierra Madre.
    She is wonderful and we are so lucky to get her input on the Tattler. John Crawford found her website a long time ago, excellent resource.

    We also have at least one "good guy" Monrovia realtor who is pulling for Sierra Madre. There are a few good realtors around, who recognize the danger here.

    We have some additional readers here from Temple City and several, besides Laurie B. from Pasadena. There is interest out there. People are becoming aware!

    So you are so right, 11:21. We need to support candidates who put the people first before greedy special interest!

    Thanks again for posting.