Thursday, January 20, 2011

Don Watts: Use CRA Money To Pay Down Debt, Not Tear Down Churches

Governor Jerry Brown's carefully considered proposal to reclaim California Redevelopment Agency funds so that they can be spent on some of the more pressing needs of our state (public education being at the top of the list as far as I am concerned) is having some unfortunate effects on those who run City governments. And apparently Sierra Madre is not immune from the madness. In a letter to The Tattler former Sierra Madre City Councilman Don Watts spells it out.

At one of the recent City Council meetings the subject of the church site owned by the City came up. After years of allowing it to be vandalized and left vacant, suddenly the topic of what to do with the apparently millions of dollars accumulated by our CRA has finally "found" a use. To tear down one of the oldest, and what should be considered an historic structure, and use those funds before the state can reclaim them. The building was built by the original founders of this town, and because of this deserves to be maintained and used as it was originally intended to be used, as a house of God.

I now know why the urgency of tearing it down and using those CRA monies. Governor Brown wants to defund the CRA and use those monies to support our schools and support our vital services such as the fire, police departments and emergency services that so many depend upon.

The money that is now in the CRA fund should be used to pay down the infrastructure bonds that we owe. To me those bonds were pure and simply a way to pay for increased water capacity for the now dead DSP. To me a City like Sierra Madre has none of the real "blight" for which the CRA was created, and has served only as a mechanism to support developers and City Councils that use the funding as a political perk.

We as a town have been used and abused by those proponents on past city councils. This so-called "free" money is not "free," it comes from our property taxes. We should be the ones deciding how best to spend this money, not a City government desperate to spend that money on useless projects such as the Church demolition.

Please support those who are funding the coming lawsuit against the City to put an end to the irresponsible behavior of those people on the Council. Make a donation to their fund. Enough is enough.

This sudden mad rush to spend CRA cash on unneeded and regressive building projects is hardly unique to Sierra Madre. On the site the situation is described this way:

California cities race to shield funds from the state - As Jerry Brown seeks to kill redevelopment agencies, officials move to protect the groups' money. They see a raid by Sacramento, while the state says the funds are needed to protect vital services ... The move is an attempted end-run around Brown's proposal to scrap redevelopment and allow school districts, counties and the state to take the billions in property tax dollars the agencies now collect to improve blighted areas. Brown predicted that the move would save the state $1.7 billion in the next fiscal year and send much more money back to school districts and counties in years to come. The redevelopment agencies take in about $5 billion each year.

I guess it could be called an unintended consequence if this move by Brown should end up triggering a whole new wave of strip malls and car lots. Oh, and Church demolitions.

At a League of California Cities event called to discuss just this issue, Jerry Brown laid it out in clear and unmistakable language. And though the LCC crowd was not pleased, those who do not make a living spending the publics' tax money on things such as "transportation oriented development" and "car marts" should be elated. Here is how Governor Brown's thoughts are relayed on the site:

Jerry Brown calls redevelopment agencies futile - "If we don't do redevelopment, then what do we do, what do we take? Do we take more from universities? Do we cut deeper into public schools that have been cut year after year?" Brown told the group, some of whose members displayed posters and buttons opposing his plan. "I think we have to, all of us, rise above our own particular perspective, get out of the comfort zones and try to think of California first."

Can the development crowd and the politicians they control actually rise above their own petty interests and put the interests of the people of California first? Very doubtful. They'd sooner tear down a Church. And it is for those people who are madly rushing to spend every dime of our property tax funded CRA money that Jerry Brown had the following warning. Here is how puts it:

Brown also said "there's some legal question" on whether the funds approved are for "valid redevelopment projects," though he did not elaborate.

Seems to me that any city attempting to "mad dog" its CRA funds into specious projects such as the one our own Don Watts describes above might find themselves in Court facing a very unhappy Governor. And if you think Jerry Brown wouldn't really do something like that, I suggest you put in a call to the folks from the City of Pleasanton.

The LA Weekly Article on High Density Development in Los Angeles

This one is about as good as it can possibly get, and it clearly shows that we are not the only ones concerned about the SB375-style redevelopment madness that has gripped City Planning departments and complicit City Councils everywhere. Entitled L.A.'s Church Of Our Holy Density - Villaraigosa's Crusade Embraces Crowded Living And Lost Privacy As A Moral Duty (that is the print title, the web version is named differently), it just utterly demolishes the "save the world" development pretensions that we have been hearing from blitzkrieg faux greenies such as John Buchanan and Joe Mosca.

My favorite paragraph from the article is the following. It describes the kind of DSP-style redevelopment projects being are being pushed for here:

" ... people have historically refused to behave the way planners want them to. The 4,000 or so Hollywood residents who have packed into the 2,686 fashionable new housing units build by the time of the market crash in 2008 - many of them located above retail spaces - have jammed the narrow streets and freeway ramps with cars. Only a small minority use Hollywood's subway and bus lines, despite City Hall's glowing talk about "transit oriented development."

And would you believe that Villaraigosa and his cronies actually attempted to enact massive changes to the way planning is done in Los Angeles with absolutely no input or involvement whatsoever from the public? Fortunately the Courts stepped in and put an end to that one.

You can access the article here.


  1. That this article was printed in the "liberal" LA Weekly shows that saving our cities is not an ideological issue. It's just that now everyone wants to save their towns from lobby puppet half-wits like Villaraigosa. Oh, and 4/5s of our City Council.

  2. Thanks, Don and CrawfordJanuary 20, 2011 at 8:01 AM

    Don Watts, Kurt Zimmerman, MaryAnn MacGillivray have been calling for the demise of this damn CRA for years!

    Don now spells it out for us all.
    You would have to have a room temperature IQ not to understand this CRA is a boondoggle and should be eliminated. Either the gang of 4 is just plain dumb, or.........they are promoting development.
    Since two of the gang of 4 are educated attorneys, who along with MacGillivray could easily vote his crazy church demolishing make the call.

    This should be the final outrage. How much more are we going to stand?
    It's up to you, Sierra Madre residents.

    JANUARY 29th. Let's start by stopping the gang's horrible plan to raise our taxes and float more development bonds.
    Time is of the essence, we need to act fast....because Buchanan, Mosca and the bobbleheads will.

  3. Old Kentucky Thanks Don WattsJanuary 20, 2011 at 8:22 AM

    Don Watts reminds me of Winston Churchill!

    Churchill single handily, saved Great Britain during World WarII. He called for the people to fight on the land and on the beaches and never surrender.
    He saved England.....Winston Churchill's reward....the people didn't even re-elect him after the war.

    Don fought to save Sierra Madre from over-development and what would have been the destruction of our small town. He served on our council, came to meetings half dead after surgery to vote with Kurt and MaryAnn to SAVE US.......
    Ran for re-election, not because he wanted 4 more years, but because his supporters urged him to run. Being on the city council when it actually costs you, when there is nothing in it for you, but a lot of work and financial loss, in Don's case. His reward.......he wasn't re-elected by the naive and ungrateful voters of Sierra Madre.

  4. Nasty Little CynicJanuary 20, 2011 at 8:31 AM

    I love the idea of not wasting tax money on boondoggles. Now, explain how PUSD and the SMPD are not largely boondoggles. Platitudes like "support the schools" are as empty as "go green."

  5. You could be right, 8:31. Though anybody familiar with the shocking decay of such things as the PUSD might see things differently. Especially when it is their kids that are paying the price. Got to agree with you about the SMPD, though. Defund them and make sure they turn in all of their equipment on the way out.

    But who knows, maybe it would just be better to give that CRA money back to the taxpayers. Think the Gang of Four would be up for that? An across the board property tax decrease? Nah.

  6. I see why Don Watts wasn't reelected. He makes too much sense and Buchanan and Mosca want to use the money to build something they can been seen in photos and claim to their kids, "see, Daddy was a big shot"

    Buchanan, pfffffff, the lame brain pusdo lawyer lied constantly to us about the water tax and the whole time he was hiding the fact that he was plotting a 7 million dollar boondoggle library on us.

    Buchanan has his legacy.

    He will be known as the lying Councilman and a twin to Joe Mosca.

  7. Buchanan and Mosca will claim that Montecito is a blighted area and needs teh CRA money to build multi story condos for those less fortunate and need affordable housing.

    That would be $ 500 K condos, That is the price range realtors consider the less fortunate in Sierra Madre.

    Gosh I just wish Mosca and Buchanan would just move away.

  8. Anybody see the pictures on Patch of Mosca giving his State of the City speech at the Woman's Club? The people there are gazing at him as if he was their favorite nephew. Why isn't this speech given in the evening when taxpayers with jobs can attend? Is he hiding from us?

  9. I am cautiously optomistic that Gov. Brown is getting something right, attempting to get rid of the CRA, a true license to steal by big developers, at the expense of we taxpayers.

    Please attend Tuesday's City Council meeting, so that Gof4 knows we're watching. On my wish list...that someone actually ask Nancy Walsh during public comment if she actually read (let alone understands) whatever item is under discussion. It is so obvious that she doesn't know what is going on (senior issues excepted...sometimes).

  10. Here's a question for all y'all Tattlers. If the Governor takes away our CRA money, are we then obliged to still honor RHNA numbers? After all, how can we "redevelop" if all the redevelopment funds are being spent elsewhere?

  11. Small boondoggle: new street signs:

    "The new signs meet federal requirements for font size and reflectivity, the city said in a news release."

    Absolute stupidity. I hope they're also gluten free.

  12. 8:46 am, Mosca's support comes from the Women's Club, Civic Club, and all the other clubs in town. Most of their members are available during the day and too old to stay awake after 5:30 pm. He knows he won't get the push back he'd get if he opened his state speeches to the evening crowd.

  13. Just got back from Kansas. What happened to Dominoes?

  14. Pizza wars. Residents decide to support locals and not franchises?

  15. I'm shocked at the naiveté of some of these old ladies in town.
    Mosca and/or Henderson are privately telling them that ZIMMERMAN and MARYANN are responsible for all the problems in the city and they are blaming poor Joe. .
    It's unbelievable, I heard them talking with my own ears. THEY BELIEVE THIS BS.
    This is what's wrong with Sierra Madre.
    Naive, uninformed voters.
    You can't argue with these old ladies, it's useless. I blame Harriet Susan Henderson Poole Carpenter, or whatever her real name is.
    Her lies and spin in that paper she stole from Katina Dunn are responsible for a good deal of these misinformed seniors, and many of the club members in town. It's just sad.

  16. Dominos? It couldn't compete with our fine local pizza. The space should remain open forever as a warning to other pretenders to our pizza throne.

  17. Let's do the right thingJanuary 20, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    The very idea that one of Sierra Madre's oldest church buildings be torn down and replaced with high density housing is a crime. Only the current cc-1 would even consider the idea. The old church building should be repaired with CRA funds and turned over to the Sierra Madre Historical Society to be used as a museum. Glen Lambdin was correct this building needs to be saved.

  18. It's Joe & Susan's Bat Wing Brigade. They got all their smear cannons firing.

  19. The beautiful oaks were lost because people did know what was happening and were unable to act in time. Let's not make that mistake again with one of the city's historical treasures. The city is planning to spend $25,000 for an RFP (request for proposal) for high density housing at the church site. That $25,000 should be used to repair the church building.

  20. I like the idea of putting a Sierra Madre Museum there. We could let the Historical Society run it.

  21. Susan Warner stated the RHNA sites only need to be identified. If that is true, then why is the city looking for someone to develope the property? The city will probably give the developer the church land so high density housing can be built. Way to go ELaine.

  22. Isn't the neighborhood around the church R-1? Isn't the church an institutuional use? What do you mean high-density low cost housing? Do these people, the consultants and the CC-1 listed to the people? Do they think by ignoring us for a few months, as in water protests and street repair, they can then come back with smiley faces and it will all be okay?

  23. The Historical Society stores their material at the library. If they had their own museum it would free up library space. But wait if the library has more space... we would not need a new library. Scrap that idea.

  24. From today's Boston HeraldJanuary 20, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    Beacon Hill leaders unveiled further reforms to the state’s struggling pension system yesterday that they said would save $5 billion by increasing the minimum retirement age for state employees to 60 years old from 55 and targeting double dipping.

    The entire article can be read here but it is certainly a start:

  25. Funny that Joe should have his smear squad out. Does he think this is an election? As he will soon find out, his crap won't fly in a court room. He should just leave those poor old ladies alone.

  26. MaryAnn gave the "state of the city" talk at the Women's Club last year, it's a tradition. This is not to say that the Women's Club doesn't love Joe. Anyone who attended the "debate" there during the election can testify. Joe was given 5-6 minutes, all others were cut off at 3 minutes or less.

    I agree with the Council that monies spent on the Hart Park House renovation would be money well spent, but all else should go by the board. The CRA money is not Free in any sense of the word.

  27. The "State of the City" speech needs to be moved so that everyone can attend.

  28. Seems to me it ought to be in the Playhouse - the CRA has been very generous to them. It's a neutral venue. During the day at the Women's Club and an early evening at the Playhouse. Then maybe a transcript on the City's website.

  29. That speech should not be an exclusive event for a bunch as politically biased as the Woman's Club.

  30. By the way, did Sierra Madre have a Day of Service to celebrate the MLK holiday? Several local communities and the PUSD did... It was a four day holiday for the City... Seems like the Community Services Dept or the Community Services Commission could have put together something for the occasion.

  31. It is the only way to save CA.January 20, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    Like cockroaches running to gather their goodies and find another dark place to hide. Stop all redevelopment projects, before they get to divvy up the ill gotten gains. The property they own, thanks to the city will revert back to the city. They came to save and improve the cities and what do you see after 30 and 40 years, not much a pittance spent of the money compared to what is in their bank accounts, your tax money reverts back to the city. It is a win, win, hand them their hats and escort them to the California border.

    Bye Redevelopment Agencies, ours has been a very painful and dysfunctional relationship, we will enable you no longer. See ya!!!!

  32. I don't think the City could do that, 11:42. Monday was a holiday. Priorities, you know.

  33. The is no way the city or any commission should put funds to celebrate MLK day. The city charged the VFW to put out chairs and audio for the Veteran's Day celebration. If a group in the city wants to celebrate MLK they can do it on their own dime.

  34. I have heard at least 2 million as been socked away in the CRA fund, and must be used for CRA funded projects in the CRA area (downtown), they want to use the money to fund a project not in the CRA area. They can use the money to pay down the bond debt because the water project was part of the water demand required for the downtown expansion.
    I expect the governor will come down really hard on cities like ours that are playing this game.
    In the past, most developers won't build low income housing exclusively, there is no profit in it unless heavily subsidized by the CRA.
    The city will be some developers sugar daddy if the site is used for this purpose.
    They are determined to push this through, including illegally changing the zoning from institutional to R3. It will be a clear violation of the state CEQA process, if they do.

  35. The city would never use CRA funds to pay
    down debts. That $ is for us to pay with
    new bonds. CRA money is used for favors
    to developers.

  36. The reason Don Watts was not reelected is he tells the truth. All the suckers find that kind of behavior threatening.

  37. Elaine announced at the last council meeting that the CRA had 1.7 million in reserves. And that the low/mod dev on Highland should get going pronto.
    That property has been on the table for years, through more than one council. Glen Lambdin made speeches about it's importance historically. Bill Tice offered to restore at least part of the church. The councils were pushed by the state to identify possible sites. Cities have not been punished for not building on the sites, but they have been threatened about not identifying the sites.

  38. Mosca fools people in very much the same way Henderson (Carpenter? I haven't heard that one before - another aka?) fools people.

    Pretends to be nice and friendly to their faces, and turns out to be mean (as dirt) behind their backs.

    Sierra Madreans trust first, and ask questions much later.

    Take it easy on the 'old ladies' too. Mosca and Henderson fooled some very smart people.

  39. A whole lot of stupid ones as well, 12:30.

  40. Henderson claimed last week that all the bond
    debt comes from the 1990s. I guess she forgot
    about the millions of new bond debt that was
    acquired in 2003.

    Either that or she was on a truth hiatus.

  41. Thou shall not steal, or covet thy neighbors propertyJanuary 20, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    12:09 remember the story in the LA times recently that showed not one affordable house was built with most of the CRA money gotten specifically from grant money dribbled down through SCAG and The economic partnerships for low income housing, it showed like over 50 cities. That is insidious fraud, by the unknown government, against you, cities, the states and the US gov. Do any of you remember how beautiful CA was before the redevelopment agencies came? Do any of you remember, when your council people were council people and not forced to put on different hats, and harden their hearts to the people to sit on the redevelopment agencies also? There will be no more "must" just creative natural human development, in fact before redevelopment forced an artificial inflation on large family plots of land, you had more use of your property rights. We are built to death, we are overbuilt, we are a broke state in a broke nation. Stop the madness, the funding and bond addiction, it is an illusion created by concentrating the power into an manipulated shell game of payola and favored developers.

  42. Will all of the people who were taken in by Joe Mosca and Susan Henderson say "Oops" at once?
    It'll be heard by half the town.

  43. Don Watts is an honest man blessed with common sense, real old school American virtues.
    He would have been perfect for the early government of our country, when representatives were expected to spend only a season in political work, then return to their communities for a season or more, to remember the people, and then to go again to political centers.
    I haven't always agreed with Watts' ideas, but there's never been a time when I doubted his integrity or his willingness to disclose any process or information that needs to be disclosed.
    Thanks Don. You're a gentleman and a representative of the majority in Sierra Madre.

  44. The low/mod housing will only be low/mod with covenants. How many developers will agree to covenants?

  45. Given the ethics of the Gang of 4, I suspect covenants will not apply to the elite developers they're hoping to attract. Think of it as a land use used car lot with salesguys that wink and blink a lot.

  46. Yes yes yes!!!!
    "The money that is now in the CRA fund should be used to pay down the infrastructure bonds that we owe. "

  47. I think they should give the CRA money back to the people who paid those taxes. I don't think they should run around buying churches with it. Why do these people think our money is theirs to do whatever they want with it? It isn't their money. Have they forgotten who they work for?

  48. The best thing to do is support public education.
    Don't like the schools bureaucracy? Monitor it - get in their faces.

    The best chance we have is education.

  49. It's clear we must stop sprawl - it's clear we must be as intelligent as we can be in increasing density - but isn't there a limit?? Elevators have them - everyplace else does to.

  50. The question of development and density is a global problem.
    Look at Jared Diamond's Collapse.
    The hard fact is that everyone wants to make life better and live like we do.
    The whole world is moving towards improvement in living conditions, so from the lowest countries to middle to high, it's global hop scotch out of poverty.
    Don't know how "Built out" can ever be made policy.

  51. The problem with sprawl is the amount of automobile greenhouse gas that is produced getting to and from wherever. Most estimates are that the internal combustion engine has a round 10 years to go. After that sprawl won't matter in the global warming equation. So why build all this transit oriented development when it will be irrelevant in a decade?

  52. Thank you 3:59.
    Took forever to get the auto industry turned around, but it finally happened.

  53. That's a bunch of good suggestions about the State of the City speech being more available. But I have to confess, I've heard enough of Joe's self-congratulations as it is. Not interested in whatever cobbled together fantasies he constructed to keep the illusion alive that he leads anything.

  54. Jerry Brown has been a political insider most of his life, and has probably been aware of the outright corruption of the CRA for a long time.
    Good for him for taking action to get rid of it.

  55. transit oriented development is yesterday's solution to today's problems. by the time that kind of development is in place it will have no use.

    maybe for homeless hosuing, but that would be

  56. Jerry has no choice. Things are so bad he's been forced to take away money from the corrupt. That's how we know things are really bad!

  57. The vultures of the development/realty industry need to just find better things to do.

  58. Crawford, excellent cartoon. Accurate and depressing.

  59. Development and Realty are parasites claiming to be the boss. They need to cut loose from our taxes.

  60. i think we should take the CRA money and throw a going away party for Joe Mosca, John Buchanan and Joshy Boi Moran. I'd go to that party.

  61. Thanks 4:25. I swiped it from Chris Norby's book on redevelopment and the CRA. A wonderful read that one.

  62. There was a time in this country when developers and realtors worked for both the common good and their own enrichment. There were very respectable businesses that made communities more beautiful and more prosperous. What the hell happened? As need grew less, because so many places were developed and real-teed, only the sharkiest among them stayed in to the work, the ones who like the fight?
    Now it's necessary for developers and realtors to introduce themselves with "but not the bad kind" or have referrals given with "but they are not bad people."

  63. There was a realtor PR campaign that I think came out right before the economic collapse, at the top of the housing prices when busy realtors were becoming millionaires. The campaign stressed how realtors loved their communities.

  64. 11:42 please don't ask the Community Services to do anything special over the week-ends. It will cost the city big bucks, as they don't rely on volunteers any more to do an event, but pay their staff overtime to do the job. They have way too many staff now without adding another event to cause them to hire more!!

  65. Over on the Patchy site they have an article about how the farmer's market is gone for a long while. One of the reasons is the cost of SMPD security - $100 an hour. Which seems like a lot to guard a few heads of cabbage.

  66. Locals should support Taylors anyway.

  67. 4:58. I agree. Buchanan has been talking about getting rid of Taylors for years and replacing it with mixed-use. Need to support Taylors.

  68. We need your help!January 20, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    Stop the gang of 4 before they destroy us!

    Support Crawford, Support Kurt, Support Don and Support MaryAnn.

    They care about the quality of life here in Sierra Madre more than they care about $$$$$$

    Plan to attend the January 29th meeting/fund raiser.

  69. Taylors pays taxes and fees. What do the cabbage peddlers at the Framers Market pay?

  70. Taylors also has a great marked down section in the produce. I have bought a lot of things there, 99 cents a bag, and it's very high quality, but maybe not cosmetic - and also needing to be used sooner rather than later, but it's a very good deal.

  71. So I guess Taylor's wouldn' be able to move into the new facilities if something was built their?

  72. Think about it.... Takylor's would be out of business for at least a year while the new "mixed use" project was being built. They would lose their freezers and cold storage that's built into their current space, as well as their retail cases. They would face an escalation of rent/lease dollars that would undoubtedly double or triple over their current month to month rent. Don Taylor is a little old to be starting over after more than a half century. He's seen the market go from the Green Frog through the Robert's family and finally to Howie's and then closed.

    And I want to point out that if Sierra Madre couldn't/wouldn't support Roess', Howies, and the produce business that used to be in Kersting Court, why does the City think it would support a Farmer's Market with what is supposed to be dozens of vendors?

    As Domino's found out, the base just isn't here.


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