Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bay Area Cities Are In Open Revolt Against SB 375

I read a lot, and it is mostly because of this blog. I remember back when I started all this I had a fear that after about 20 or so posts I would have said everything that needed to be said, and The Tattler would then end up like so many other blogs, finished before it even began. So I started reading everything I could find on the Internet dealing with things like overdevelopment, mediocre or even dishonest local government, and the huge corporations and special interests that want to turn Southern California into one endless generic development project. And I just kept discovering more and more information. 1,020 posts later and I have to tell you, it has been quite an education.

This evening I came across three recent news articles that align almost perfectly. They talk about SCAG, SB 375, the daft notion that California can somehow build itself out its share of global warming, and that the real saviors of humanity are to be found in the central planning departments of Sacramento. Or so they are likely tell you. Personally I have my doubts.

The article that kicks this one into gear is an op-ed written by a gent named Rick Cole, the current City Manager of Ventura. Printed in the L.A. Times and entitled "Southern California hailed as a model of sustainability" (click here), it details this guy's fantasy that because this part of the world has become about as densely packed as any area in the country, it has somehow become a showcase for all that is ecologically wonderful about current regional urban planning trends. And then there is this vision for the future:

The plan includes expansion of housing near public transportation by 60% ... and projections of more than 4 million new jobs - with public transit within half a mile of most of them. Amanda Eaken of the Natural Resources Defense Council praised it as "the strongest transportation plan" in the history of "car-loving Southern California."

SCAG's new plan is born of the realization that as a region, we have to grow up, not out. That doesn't mean Hong Kong skyscrapers in Whittier and Redlands. It does mean more apartments near light-rail stations and more vibrant mixed-use areas like the ones in downtown Pasadena, Ventura and Brea. It doesn't mean wresting the car keys from suburban commuters. It does mean making jobs and housing accessible via foot, bike, bus and rail.

This is an interesting take on Southern California's problems. Rather than overcoming what are some of the endemic shortcomings of the area, you just declare the same old thing to be good, and then proclaim victory. Couple that with unrealistic visions of a future world where everyone lives in stack and pack development and happily rides the bus, and there you are. In this our post-CRA world perhaps that is all folks like Rick Cole will be capable of doing. They no longer have the money for much else.

Within hours of this editorial a blog run by Mother Jones Magazine posted an observation about Rick Cole's op-ed. The author, a guy named Kevin Drum, pretty much nails it. His post is titled "SCAG Wants to Make Southern California More Urban," which you can access in its entirety by clicking here.

In theory, a plan like this should have almost unanimous support. Developers like it because they can put up denser buildings. Environmentalists like it because it's more sustainable. Urbanists like it because it creates more walkable communities. City governments like it because it creates a stronger tax base.

There's really only one constituency that doesn't like it much: every single person who already lives in these communities and hates the idea of dense, high-rise construction near their homes. So there's going to be fireworks. It will be interesting to see how the NIMBY bloc gets bought off.

And it looks like the fireworks have already begun. In the Bay Area the central planning authority is the Association of Bay Area Governments, or ABAG. An acronym almost as lovely as our own SCAG. And the attempts of ABAG to enforce Sacramento's draconian planning edicts are not being met with much joy. Here is a portion of a CalWatchdog article called "Bay Area rebellion attacks housing mandate" (click here for the whole thing).

But a lot of cities are feeling like they're being dictated to. Last Month, Palo Alto sent a 20-page complaint letter to ABAG, arguing that the jobs and housing requirements are unrealistic, not accounting for market constraints, high costs and the impacts of intensive development. City officials also believe that the plan will have a negligible impact on greenhouse gas emissions in any case.

It's those emissions that are the driving force behind the discontent. ABAG and the Metropolitan Commission are implementing the One Bay Area Plan, which is designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 7 percent by 2020 and by 15 percent by 2035. It's authorized by SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, and AB 32, the Global Warning Solutions Act of 2006.

The goal is to supposedly save the planet. But many local officials and residents fear it's actually a case of politicians and bureaucrats destroying their villages to save them.

"For us this is about local control," said Ravasio. "We are a small town. We want to remain a small town, which is why people moved here in the first place. We should be allowed to do that and control growth and grow in a way that makes sense for us. And not have it mandated to us by a state or regional authority like ABAG. Which is what's been happening. Which is why we took this step."

It remains to be seen whether the roar from this mouse echoes throughout the Bay Area and eventually the rest of the state. If it does, it could be the first rebel yell in a new Civil War. Or perhaps it should be called the War of Sacramento Aggression.

The article goes on to detail how many of the communities there are up in arms about things like huge housing allocations, and as a result have actually had their numbers significantly reduced by a panicked ABAG. Something caused by the large numbers of outraged people showing up at meetings, with some cities actually leaving the RPO over insane RHNA numbers. And many more cities thinking about it.

L.A. County City Attorney Costs

There is now some interesting research available from the L.A. Times that shows Sierra Madre's per capita City Attorney costs are higher than most. Out of the 88 cities surveyed, only 19 are higher on this per capita costs basis than we are. Click here.

Happy Birthday MaryJane!

We'd like to wish one of our favorite Tattler readers a very Happy 98th Birthday today! MaryJane has been a supporter of a lot of things that we here on the blog believe in, and a big shout out is definitely in order here. Thank you for all that you do, MaryJane.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

87 comments:

  1. We need to shop around for a new city attorney firm. Looks like there are many qualified people who would like the job, have plenty of experience, and who charge a lot less.

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    1. One way to save money we don't have. Another would be to s-can the SMPD. One very expensive sacred cow..

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  2. This is the same left winger Rick Cole who was on Pasadena city council. Last seen trying to get out of ventura for a city manager job in Austin Tx. Well to bad. He did not get it! Of course texas would not put up with his "forward" thinking

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    1. Well, they certainly went the high density route in Pasadena. But there still seems to be plenty of cars there. Did they miscalculate?

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    2. The people who bought into the Pasadena high density developments, still want to drive to get their groceries etc., and the limited parking allowed for these developments has made having a vehicle, insane. Many people don't know it, but the Pasadena Planners were, and probably still are, trying to talk developers into build parking garages, because the problem has reached a critical mass.Oops.
      You are right, alot of the inhabitants who bought into the situation move out after a year or two.
      Sounds good until they actually see the reality of it.

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    3. My rule --- No parking, no shopping. Buh bye Pasadena!

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  3. Palo Alto is not the only mouse that roars, is it?
    Sierra Madre can claim with pride Mary Ann MacGillivray's excellent work in opposition to local governmental organization's idiocy.
    And of course the Tattler itself.

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  4. In the drug world "scag" is heroin, and "a bag" is, well, you know, a bag, and that's what these lefties have been smoking (on our tax dollars.)

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    1. Ugly acronyms for ugly people.

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  5. Remember when former Soviet planner and now SCAG head Hasan Ikhrata came to a City Council meeting to beg us not to leave SCAG? We were ahead of the curve then. Now we need to actually do it.

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    1. That was when the council majority was made up of intelligent adults.
      It remains to be seen how it will go now.

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    2. We did get out of it, but Mosca and Buchanan put us back in when they got the majority vote on the council.

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  6. And I would like to add that all of this new construction is creating tremendous amounts of carbon dump into the environment, especially with demolition going into landfill. The whole "rebuilding" thing is just a sham that creates more revenue from more square footage, as well as more traffic and consumption. How is this reducing the CO2?

    It's not, and the sooner this stops the better for the planet.

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    1. SB375 is just a bunch of cooked up Sacramento lobby hype designed to help sell mass housing development to towns that hate it. The idea is if you want to peddle something in California, claim it must be done to save the world. Only this time it isn't working so well. Only an idiot would believe in that nonsense.

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  7. If Cole believes that LA County is some kind of green paradise because it is jam packed with housing, well, then we need to send the guys with the butterfly nets to his office. He must be plain nuts.

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  8. Let's hope our three newly elected Council members will have the courage and foresight to fight the idiocy of SCAG and our RHNA numbers, which MaryAnn single-handedly got the government to reduce from around 400 to 32 or so. Did anyone hear John and Ken on Monday? They were quoting a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about how California is chasing people out of the state because of this "stack and pack" nonsense.

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    1. Which presents an interesting opportunity. I would suggest ALL Tattler readers begin contacting John and Ken about Nick Conway, the COG and all of his gas bag enablers at the COG Cartel.

      If enough publicity would be raised about their plans to raise our taxes and the stuff we read about here, maybe the DA or the Attorney General would finally do something.


      Call / Text: 1-818-566-4789 / 640640

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  9. ABAG O' SCAG at 7:25

    I love your posts!

    Thanks to the Tattler and people like you, we are becoming informed voters!
    What a concept! What a nightmare for the ABAGs and the SCAGs.

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    1. Don't forget SANDAG and SACOG. They'll be upset if you do. They're dangerous if ignored, you know.

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  10. The Scaggies must hate towns like ours. Why else would they be trying to destroy them?

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  11. 7:52
    They only hate us when we have the gumption to fight them, like MaryAnn MacGillivray did.
    These people can't afford to have honest and competent people like MacGillivray, Zimmerman and Watts were, it would put them out of their dirty business in short order.

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  12. LA Times: "Corruption can leave city with enormous legal bills." Click on my name.

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  13. The Green Committee loves SB 375. And in their "Accords" they say City Staff does, too. Talk about your 5th column...

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  14. Let's get San Marino's city attorney.

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  15. For the money we're paying we should at least get a City Atty that understands Measure V.

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    1. The Sierra Madre attorney DOES understand Measure V, which is why they spend so much time, money and effort trying to undermine it. Thanks to Zimmerman, it's pretty solid. The only thing they can try to do, which they are, is to undermine the definitions and deny the residents their right to vote.

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  16. Note to new Council. Hire Zimmerman.

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  17. Elaine has really made a mess of things. And, I don't buy this talk about her just doing Buchanan's bidding. Why can't she be replaced with a real administrator like Kurt?

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    1. I agree she should be replaced, but Buchanan is the one who is responsible for the ideas she promotes. And now, Good God, it will be Moran who tells her what to do!

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  18. RicK Cole: "We're makeing asphalts of ourselves." A comment made while on a panel at the AIA (Am. Institute of Archetects) in Pasadena a few years ago. He had already left Pasadena and was on the job in Ventura.

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  19. Front page of today's LA Times about the legals costs of corruption in cities long after the staff/elected officials leave the scene.

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    1. My God! Look at the San Gabriel Valley COG. It is not listed. The COG is already surpassed four hundred thousand dollars covering for Conway. And he is only a contract employee.

      Where is the outrage? Where is the newspapers?

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  20. Here's my request for an unscientific poll: Is Sierra Madre better off or worse for having hired Colantuono & Levin?

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    1. Colantuono & Levin gave us hillside development at Stone House and Carter, promoted the DSP, dropped the ball more than once on lowering the RHNA numbers, fought Measure V, hustled us into a bogus Prop 218 mess that ended in a big fat water rate hike, and are now trying to violate Measure V. That's not a complete list either.
      Yeah, I'd say things have been worse since they've been here.

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  21. Much worse, and now that law firm is trying to undermine Measure V claiming there's an ambiguity in the definition of dwelling units. They need to go!!!

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    1. The only ambiguity I see is why our money is being spent on a city attorney who works against our interests. That seems like a gray area to me.

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  22. Ok Tattler - The elections are over now. Getting pretty bored with all the tax conspiracy articles. I feel like Im sitting in the chambers of Sacramento. Im not really concerned about dense development and high rise mixed use condo's filling our blvd. here in SM as it would never happen in a century. The numbers would never pencil out for the developer.

    Get back to the juicy gossip that creates interesting blog conversation or you'll lose readership.

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    1. Sorry guy, but if you go back a few hundred posts you will discover that this had been a fairly wonky blog. And that is what I'm looking to get back to doing. And yes, I am prepared for monthly hits to sink down into the 40K to 50K range. It's not like I need to keep ratings up to please advertisers, right? Of course, should scandal erupt here in Sierra Madre we will be there to cover the events with joy and purpose. But outside of that, you're gonna hate it.

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    2. Those who are not concerned about the effects of SB375 should be. The Greenies and developers are out to change Sierra Madre as we know it into a place we won't recogize. Even the Wall Street Journal has picked up on the dangers of the stack and pack mentality in an article on April 7th. They write "Planners want to herd millions into densely packed urban corridors. It won't save the planet but will make traffic even worse."

      Pay very close attention to the Council and their zeal to make the Green Advisory Committee into a Commission which has policy making powers.

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    3. With the right council, it could surely happen.

      And isn't "Steve" wonderfully clever? Defending Harabedian, demeaning the Tattler, all in the guise of a casual observation.

      "Steve", I think you'll love the hyperlocal AOL site.

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    4. 9:24 is ignorant of city business and city documents, but knows the city otherwise - now who does that remind me of?

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    5. Somebody must be worried about something. I wonder what it could be.

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    6. 9:24 has confused some of the comments, which can get gossipy, with the very fine articles, which are always thoughtful and well supported.

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    7. Certain Council members are hot to make the Green Committee a Commission. Lead by soon to be Mayor Josh Moran. Watch your wallet.

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    8. That's an odd bit of projection from 9:24, including the tag line about losing readers.
      Huh?
      I don't think s/he understands what s/he is reading.

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  23. Elaine negotiated a huge severance package so she could never be fired.

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  24. Why would we hire San Marino's attorney when we have KZ right here.? Hire him

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  25. 9:24. You need to attend more Council meetings. There's one Council Member right now who is opposed to the ALF and is trying to bring stack and pack condos to town.

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  26. 9:24. Are you a troll? The City Attornery is trying to re-write Measure V so that the term dwelling units no longer applies to certain projects. You're living in a fantasy world if you think that big condo development couldn't happen here.

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  27. San Marino's attorney is in cahoots with the County, forget it

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  28. Steve-o, I heard the same thing from realtors after the draft DSP had circulated. "Just because the DSP allows for the construction of hundreds of condos doesn't mean that hundreds of condos would ever be built. " Of course at the time the DSP was being circulated, there were already plans to build over hundred condos in the downtown.

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    1. 9:24

      Go back to your real estate desk, start trying to sell some homes, and stop worrying about missing re-runs of the Kardashians on TV. Your real estate office requires you to be on the job at least a few hours a day.
      Sorry the Tattler isn't entertaining you! LOL

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  29. @ 9;42 Even if over a hundred condo were built that many wouldn't greatly effect the town. A hundred separate project sites would.

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    1. Right because Sierra Madre has plenty of magic water.

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    2. Paper water as Don Watts puts it. And that is the one thing City Hall knows how to produce. Paper.

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  30. What would readers here like to see happen to Kersting court? After the removal of the great pepper tree, Id like to the area refurbished. Put in a nice clock tower that rings on the hour. How bout a nice monument sign with a fountain and a Sierra Madre logo. We could make that piece a nice entry to our town. The current wood tower is termite ridden and of no use. The little kiosk needs updating. Any ideas?

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    1. 10:35, take action. Be responsible for forming the citizens' committee that will work with you. How's that for an idea?

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    2. There are no real leaders here, just individuals who lead by example.

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    3. Kersting Court is a City park. Bring your ideas to the Community Services Commission and present them. You know all your good ideas take money, so not only a committee needs to be formed, but fund raising as well, since the City is fresh out of funds. The Commission meets on the 3rd Monday of each month at 6:00.

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    4. Years ago, part of Kersting Court had a red line station building on the site. A picture of it is hanging on the wall in city hall. Perhaps something like that would be appropriate.?

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    5. Perhaps a nicely open air picnic pavilion ?

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    6. How about a place for all the homeless people who will be staying at the new shelter on east montecito that the 3 town wreckers on the city council will soon be pushing through? Plenty of benches and ash trays on stands would be convenient. Plus a recycling bin for glass liquor containers.

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  31. There have been a lot of great people who have called Sierra Madre home! Rick Cole is not one of them! Mother Cole was seen at city hall for the council vote tallies. Looking petty glum before marching out. Not happy with the results.

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  32. Annoyed and Getting Angry saysApril 18, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    It seems people arrive in town and fall inlove with it. Then think it needs improvement with stack and pack units
    One of the reasons Sierra Madre is "quaint" is because people have resisted change.
    That has been THE savior of its character.
    Leave it alone, and it will remain "the little walkable town that could".
    All the talk of more condos, apartments, and high density lofts happening are a form of incremental, creeping change that will turn it into a mini version of downtown Pasadena.
    Measure V already allows 13 units per acre, but the developers and realtors apparently can't live with that.
    Perhaps zoning out dwelling units entirely in the downtown would be a better policy.
    Particularly if they start monkeying with zoning definitions, and get people angry.

    If I were the developer interests I would leave well enough alone. The alternative could be far worse. Try a zero units per acre Initiative.

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    1. How about a 30 year moratorium on new construction, as in Bolinas?

      A water hook-up cost something like $300,000. Not a house - just the hook-up.

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    2. True 12:25, but we also want to remember that for a long time we were not all that desirable. Too far from the freeway, some eccentric residents, not a lot of money. Developers only started stalking us when they ran out of other places to ruin, and Bart Doyle told them the town was theirs for the taking.

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    3. Controlling infrastructure works for controlling growth in Bolinas—and has for many years.

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    4. Hey Annoyed and Angry
      Developers are not interested in ruining our town. The deal has to make sense. Sierra Madre could never be a mini Pasadena. It just wouldn't work. You anti progress people must live in daily fear of our little town turning into a big city. Be careful what we wish for just like 1 Carter. We might scare all development away for good and be left behind living in an outdated town. The McDonalds, Targets, supermarkets just would not consider SM for location. There just isnt enough population. I do site location for a living and Sierra Madre just isn't on our radar. People here in SM think its their own private town. If that's the case then maybe we should be paying an HOA fee so we can keep everyone else out.

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    5. The more outdated Sierra Madre becomes the more I like it. And sometimes what appears to be progress turns out to be a trip down the proverbial highway to hell. Why don't you take it and see?

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    6. Hey Steve L. The MacDonalds and Targets would never consider a town like Sierra Madre because of land space and parking. MaryAnn tried for years to interest Trader Joes and they couldn't do it because of parking and because of proximity of other Trader Joes. So, we have to be satisfied with small independent boutique shops that will bring people from neighboring cities.

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    7. Ah yes, in 9:26's mind, there's no slow growth, just anti-progress.
      More illogical generalizations and projections.
      And more ignorance of the history of the town, especially regarding the push for over-development that was the impetus for Measure V.

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    8. Do you mean this as a threat: "living in an outdated town"? Why do you think we live here now, you dufus?

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    9. Steve is into fantasy, and y'all are harshing it with a bunch of facts and historical accuracy.

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    10. Sierra Madre has charm however architecturally it is outdated. The buildings along Kersting need a facelift. Look at what old town Monrovia did. An awesome job! I shop there instead of town. Sierra Madre could be like that attracting people to our businesses. People dont want to shop here because the shops dont offer anything. Its boring. There is no entertainment value here. Like I said, people in Sierra Madre think its a "private town" and don't want any change. I even heard once in a committee meeting proposing gates at each entry to keep the outside traffic out. They want to keep it back in the 1960's. The homes will eventually lose value because of it. Evolution of our city will take place whether we like it or not.

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    11. Nonsense. Sierra Madre has resisted stupid development for decades. And will continue to do so. Nice to see you hate Sierra Madre's businesses, though. But your most ridiculous argument is home values. Unlike other towns that accepted the kinds of cookie cutter development to obviously want, the value of homes here actually increased. This despite the bursting of the housing bubble that saw home values plummet nationwide. Get your facts straight, Steve-o.

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    12. Oh really 6:18. Home values have increased. I know first hand of several people who purchased homes in Sierra Madre during the boom and have lost over $200K in value according to Zillow since they purchased. Yes they overpaid and you are correct that SM home values did not feel as much of the pain as the rest of the county. SM still did see a decrease in values since 2005. I am trouble by so many of the readers on this blog on how they are so contentious. It is these members who I am convinced that are the ones who stopped 1 Cater by slowing the process down. Yes you won. Congratulations! We dont have a single home built up there. Only a graded site that is now problematic with erosion. Congratulations on a job well done. We could have had a nice neighborhood with attractive architecture. Or maybe the old folks home that would of retained much of the park like setting. But you guys scared them away as well as our beloved Maranatha School. Congratulations you've beat them and kept others from coming into our "precious" little town that belongs to only us. Many of you know who I am if you bump into me on a stroll down Kersting CT. I love Sierra Madre and enjoy as much as you do this town. In fact during the start of the 1 Carter I was a member and participant of your Residents to Preserve Sierra Madre. After attending those meetings for several months I realized what a bunch of nuts those people were. The conspiracies were just unfounded. SM is overvalued. Just take a quick bike ride over to Monrovia above Foothill and see what you get for your money compared to SM. Or you can go west and go into Pasadena in Daisy Court area. If one needs to have their Beantown experience both places are within a bike ride away. It seems once one enters the "Michellinda Curtain" home prices jump. I live in Sierra Madre and have had my car broken into twice, been burgled, my neighbor is always having PD respond to a domestic dispute. The other neighbor has been cited constantly by Lisa V for having an unkempt front yard. Ive caught some homeless guy in the trash cans searching for cans. Tell me SM is any different than the flatlanders.

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    13. Realtor much?

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    14. If the city council members Stockly, Torres, Joffe and Buchanan, had listened to the Planning Commission's recommendation, and turned down the absurd chopping up of over-priced, undersized lots on 1 Big Stone Gate Crater, a better plan would have been made. A plan for maybe 15 houses on the flat lands, no mountain massacre. If that had happened, I'll bet you those houses would have been built by now.
      Place blame where it belongs - Galletly, Stockly, Torres, Joffe and Buchanan.
      As it stands now, only an idiot would buy one of those lots.

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  33. Can't you just hear Mayor Joshie-Poo now? "The DSP will save the world from global warming!" In California we are ruled by the mad.

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  34. Now that MaryAnn is off the council, who will fiercely defend Sierra Madre from the aggressive and idiotic overdevelopment mandates of SCAG/COG? I think we should form a residents' group to attend the next meeting of either or both bodies and protest loudly (AND insist on joining the buffet line since this is also being paid for with OUR tax dollars). Palo Alto clearly has a council that represents its community, not the outside development interests represented by ABAG. If only we had the same.

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  35. The City Attorney expenditure is misleading as our City attorney does not handle a huge percentage of legal matters including employment, slip and fall and police brutality suits. If you factor in those expenditures, our legal costs far exceed the reported $454,000.

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    1. City Hall hires lawyers like they hire consultants. Constantly.

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    2. True, Herm, true.

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  36. 5:35 makes a great point. We're getting ripped off. I hope the new attorney on the Council realizes that.

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