Friday, April 27, 2012

The Myth That People Somehow Prefer High Density "Stack and Pack" Urban Living

Last Saturday we reposted much of an article called "California Declares War On Suburbia" (click here). Originally published in the Wall Street Journal, the WSJ piece created a storm of controversy throughout the dystopian "stack and pack" advocacy community because it so effectively called out a lot of what is disingenuous about this state's efforts to turn low density suburban villages such as ours into much higher density so-called "transit villages." Something that is at the very heart of SCAG's "Sustainable Communities Strategy" and their rather unkind efforts to cram gouts of unwanted high-density housing into towns such as ours through their "RHNA Process." All backed up by the muscle of Sacramento, its development and real estate lobbies, SB 375, along with whatever useful idiots they can enlist locally in their efforts.

The author of the original article is Wendell Cox. Wendell writes often for a website called New Geography (click here). He is also the author of the book "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life," and a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National Des Arts et Metiers in Paris, France.

Cox has written a second article on the "California War on Suburbia" theme, mostly dealing with the concern the first one caused in the usual quarters. Here is how he introduces that theme:

My April 9 Cross Country column commentary in The Wall Street Journal outlined California's determination to virtually outlaw new detached housing. The goal is clear: force most new residents into multi-family buildings at 20 and 30 or more per acre. California's overly harsh land use regulations had already driven housing affordability from fairly typical levels to twice and even three times higher than that of much of the nation. California's more recent tightening of the land use restrictions (under Assembly Bill 32 and Senate Bill 375) has been justified as necessary for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The reality, however, is that all of this is unnecessary and that sufficient GHG emission reductions can be achieved without interfering with how people live their lives. As a report by the McKinsey Company and Conference Board put it, there would need to be "no downsizing of vehicles, homes or commercial space" while "traveling the same mileage." Nor, as McKinsey and the Conference Board found, would there be a need for a "shift to denser urban housing." All of this has been lost on California's crusade against the lifestyle most California households prefer.

You can access Cox's entire article ("California Declares War On Suburbia II: The Cost Of Radical Densification") by clicking here.

As we have stated before, the move to bring "stack and pack" development to Sierra Madre in order to somehow save the world from ecological disaster does have its active adherents here in town. The Green Committee, through its somewhat awkward attempts to make related findings contained in the United Nations Environmental Accords a portion of our city's General Plan, being the most freak forward effort right now. Though I am not sure that giving Madagascar and Albania a say in Sierra Madre's planning deliberations is at the top of anybody's priority list in town.

Today on the New Geography site Wendell Cox takes on another myth being pushed by the proponents of uber-development, that being people now prefer to live on 20 to 30 unit per acre lots, and they can't wait to sell their suburban homes to get in on all the transit village excitement. Something that, as anyone with two eyes and a brain can see, has not quite taken off yet in the San Gabriel Valley. A quick trip down to The Stuart on Foothill Boulevard should provide anyone with enough evidence of that.

This article, entitled "Staying The Same: Urbanization In America," takes a scalpel to all the hype over this new urbanist joy offensive. You can access the entire thing by clicking here.

The recent release of the 2010 US census data on urban areas shows that Americans continue to prefer their lower density lifestyles, with both suburbs and exurbs growing more rapidly than the historic core municipalities. This may appear to be at odds with the recent Census Bureau 2011 metropolitan area population estimates, which were widely mischaracterized as indicating exurban (and suburban) losses and historical core municipality gains. In fact, core counties lost domestic migrants, while suburban and exurban counties gained domestic migrants.

Later ...

Urban density in 2010, remains approximately 27 percent below that of 1950, as many core municipalities lost population while suburban and exurban populations expanded. This resulted in the substantial expansion of urban land area reflecting the preference for low-density lifestyles among Americans and most people in other high-income areas of the world. Between the 1960s and 2000, nearly all of the growth in the major metropolitan regions of Western Europe and Canada has taken place in suburban areas, as these nations' urban areas have dispersed in a manner similar to that of the United States. the trend continued through 2011 in Canada and domestic migration data in Western Europe shows a continuing movement of people from the historical cores to the suburbs and exurbs.

As we saw yesterday with our discussion about SCAG's phony baloney population increase projections for our part of Southern California, there is a lot of untrue nonsense being pushed out there. All with the purpose of radically changing the way we live. But the truth is most people do not want want what Sacramento and certain elements here in Sierra Madre are attempting to shove down our throats. We prefer things just as they are, thank you.

In other words, if we build it they won't necessarily come. Judging by the experience of other towns in the area, we will end up with half-filled high-density housing blocks that will fail economically and become a financial burden on the taxpayers. Despite the hype, nobody really wants SCAG Housing.

It is time we just told these folks we aren't interested in their plans and that they should go and try elsewhere. We do still have the right to make the decisions about how our own town is to be planned and look, correct? This is still America?

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76 comments:

  1. Near to us the stack and pack apartments above Albertsons morphed into some section 8 housing. I've seen kids playing soccer in the market parking lot.

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  2. Will we have to pay the UN a consultant fee?

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  3. This was the purpose of Measure V for Sierra Madre. The people don't want this type of living, the above articles the Tattler prints today are proof.
    We don't want to live in "ant colonies". We are not ants, at least not yet.
    In large cities these always turn into slums, in mid size cities they turn into slums, and in small cities they turn into slums.
    Slums, crack houses, flop houses, section 8's, and all the crime and ugliness they bring.

    No to over development. No to SCAG. No to RHNA. No to any "green commissions" in Sierra Madre!

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  4. This is just the latest in a long line of crazy cockamamie schemes to get the people in this town to accept big time development. The UN? Good Lord Almighty.

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  5. Where do the people at the Stuart do their grocery shopping? How does anyone expect people to function without a car in southern California to do this basic thing...shopping for bread and milk? Get on the Goldline and off at Lake. Walk south two blocks to Ralphs at Walnut, buy a little bit, what you can carry, maybe use a rolling shopping cart, back home to the Stuart. Repeat in a day or so. Not too likely.

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    1. Trader Joes is not far from the Stuart, but that still requires someone who has the time and the ability to hoof it. It's a good point 7:31. In traditional 'transit oriented' cities, there are bodegas, or small grocery stores, everywhere.

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    2. As a longtime resident of beautiful New York City, I was always a big fan of bodegas. Bread, beer and cold cuts to go. But that was a real organic city. Transt Villages are just an ersatz version of the real thing. Which is why the Stuart is such a failure.

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    3. how about ralphs about one block east on foothill? besides all of those apt dwellers have cars.

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    4. Or Whole Foods where all the hip and cool trendies shop? Going the other way is Sprouts and Smart & Final. On Average I'd say The Stuart is as close to comestibles and green cleaning agents as the residents of Sierra Madre...

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    5. Y'all are missing the walkability of it all. Folks in the Stuart are supposed to give up their cars - and a walk to Sprouts with a return trip with goods would be quite a work-out, especially along the crowded roadways next to the freeway that you'd have to take. Breathe deep. Or you could add an hour to the trip by catching the buses that would get you sort f there and sort of back. It is Southern California, no matter how much planners from Northern California and back East want to pretend it isn't.

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  6. Well put, all you early-birds!

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  7. What does the Green Committee have to do with the General Plan? Is the Green Committee on the General Plan Committee?

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    1. They're trying to bum rush a lot of development crap into the General Plan. They have Buchanan and Moran pushing for this. It is a dishonest attempt to get around what the people of our community really want. It is also very sad that they are using the good name of the ecology movement to push for grubby SCAG housing in Sierra Madre.

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    2. My family attended the Town Hall Forums about the General Plan, and there wasn't anything about the Green Committee. So how about the community input part of the process. Guess it doesn't apply.

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    3. Bet John Buchanan will be appointed to the Green Commission along with Enid Joffe.

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  8. Im not so sure that the apartments behind Albertson's are Section 8 housing but I agree it became apparent right around Albertson's went on strike a few years back that the tenants of those apartments were of questionable character. I have witness several arrests and swat PPD raids as I resided on Montecito and Sunnyside. Alberston's installed camera's in each aisle too. The customer's became more suspicious looking. I stopped shopping there as personnel changed.
    As far as having these stack and pack developments in Sierra Madre, it would never happen. It just doesnt make sense not to mention there are planning issues. I do like the concept of the mixed use but not in SM. I can see 3 stories over commercial but there would have to be architectural design standards in place to assure character conformity. There are to many design issues, parking issues, lot size issues for this to make any sense here in town for it to pencil out for a developer. Makes more sense around the Gold Line exchange down the hill at SM Villa. We have to come to realize that this country and Los Angeles in particular is at a turning point where urbanization and our habitat means are going to change. Resistance is only fear. If you have every been to Tokyo or Singapore where stack and pack is common, it really is not all that bad a life. Its very convenient, clean, orderly and efficient. The days of the single family home are over and will only be for the rich in the future especially in Los Angeles. The Chinese population is becoming wealthy and are coming to the US (San Gabriel valley) in particular in droves if not by the millions. Just look back how the Asian population has grown in Arcadia in just the last 10 years or so. Not to mention in Sierra Madre. You can double that 10 year rate in the next 10 years easily as our population becomes old and moves out and the Asian population immigrates here. So the pop numbers that were announced may seem preposterous, I wouldn't discount their study. For you "old timers" that can remember before the 210 fwy and even the 1980's look how much population and demographic change there has been in that short a period. Demographers and urban planners plan in generation periods 25 50 year increments. The paranoia here is unnecessary as by the time this feared urbanization would take place if it did in SM we'd all be dead.

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    1. Why oh why 8:00 do you keep posting without understanding the recent history of the push to over-develop Sierra Madre?
      Get thee to the library and educate yourself! The draft EIR is there for the DSP (thanks to Herculean efforts by the slow growth community - Mosca and Buchanan wanted to hide it), the proposals for the hillside development and the citizen responses are there, the history of the town is there for you to get through your verbose brain.

      To be knowledgable about developer schemes is not paranoia - it's educated assessment.

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    2. "Its very convenient, clean, orderly and efficient. The days of the single family home are over and will only be for the rich in the future especially in Los Angeles."

      You seem to understand South San Gabriel. Now take a stroll through the Arcadia Oaks and tell me the Chinese don't like big houses on big lots.

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    3. What is an "immigrate?" Is that an ungrateful new arrival to our country?

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    4. 8:00, rather than advocating that we model ourselves after Tokyo and Singapore, how about if you immigrate there?

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    5. Four stories were proposed for downtown Sierra Madre. F-O-U-R stories. 4.

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    6. Do we have enough water to sustain Hong Kong style development?

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    7. Sure we have enough water. Didnt you know that Bruce is working on a reclaimed water project. All our grey and sewer water will be recycled back into your drinking and bathing system.

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  9. The real problem is that open space, a wider gene pool, and good nutrition have made Americans larger than their ancestors. Now as we embrace the reality of Ant Farm, we should also recommend inbreeding and poor nutrition as a way to insure smaller, less robust Americans, who will fit more conveniently into 700 square foot condos. By my calculations, we should be able to fit twice the number of 'hybrid' Americans into a 'suite' by 2025.

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    1. Good idea. We could call them sustainable runt farms.

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    2. RHNA: RUNT HOUSING NEEDS ASSESSMENT

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  10. Remember, the dirt "guru" Bart Doyle, that bad man who has caused so much trouble here in Sierra Madre, is part of the scandal at "Transit Village" El Monte. Transit Village is a failed "ant colony" due to lies, theft and thuggery by Bart's gang.

    Joe Mosca (the cut and run to avoid scandal), John Buchanan (failed councilman/mayor) Josh(I'm not a crook), and pathetic Doyle puppet, Nancy Walsh, all voted to assign Bart Doyle, this very bad man, Bart Doyle to be a represenitive for Sierra Madre to the PUSD board.
    How can this be? How can we have slipped to this level of government in our little town? It's spelled D I R T S and G R E E D, along with a very evil plan by developers and realtors to convince the naive amoung us that this is the way things are suppose to be. This is the "civil" way, the "politically correct" way.
    No, Sierra Madre, it's the WRONG WAY!!!!!!!!!!

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  11. I know a very cost effective way to keep Sierra Madre to sustain the 1950's "Father Knows Best" lifestyle we all cherish here in town. There will be NO CHANGE forever and ever and we'll all live happily ever after. To heck with those flatlanders below. Are you all ready? Privatize Sierra Madre! The citizens buy out the town and create an HOA and their own "public services". Then we don't have to worry about any regional government policies imposed on us. We could put manned security gates at each entry. Maybe even build a plexiglass bubble around the town limits. After all we don't want to breath the same air as those "other" people down below. They have disease.

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    1. Is there a medication that is an effective remedy for trolling? Did you leave it untaken by the orange juice glass this morning?

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    2. Thank you, Steve. Although these improvements have all been suggested in the past, residents resisted buying a town they have already bought and paid for with their tax dollars.

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    3. If you don't like a small friendly quiet town, why are you here?

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    4. Here ya go Steve:
      How about if we declare the whole town an historic district?
      Bring the tourists in to see what other places have lost.
      Our smallness, our ability to hold on to a way of life that suits us, is unique.
      That's the marketing ticket - staying like we are, not turning into everywhere else around us.
      If the will was there to capitalize on that, instead of trying to tart the place up, it could be very successful, and I do mean money wise.

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    5. Whoa 9:03, you might want to ratchet back a bit from all that projected arrogance. Kind of an embarrassing frame of reference in your consciousness.

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  12. I dont know why everyone likes to call me Steve. Unless the comments being posted are of the Tattler and they can see by the IPN address of incoming mail. Call me anything you like. I especially like the "troll" name. I find it rather amusing and somewhat of a compliment as you liken me to the Dirts. Town was more fun when the Dirts ran it. They had vision.

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    1. When did the dirts stop running the town, Steve? Do you think maybe this blog runs it?

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    2. 9:20, thanks. You pick up slow days, generate hits and conversation. Very helpful.

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  13. I love a small friendly town. Sierra Madre small yes, friendly not so much anymore. To many cliques, back stabbing, personal agendas, notoriety of the same people, citizen of the year award is a joke, see the same people multiple times in multiple places a day. Sierra Madre friendly? Crabby elderly people live there. Sierra Madre is going to get worse. As the old timers die off and the new comers come in you'll see the town evolve more like South Pasadena evolved more trendy like Studio City. That's what's coming. Upscale urbanite hipsters pushing strollers.

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    1. Agism is not a pretty thing.

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    2. Upscale urbanites don't push strollers, their nannies do.

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  14. "Singapore where stack and pack is common, it really is not all that bad a life. Its very convenient, clean, orderly and efficient."

    "Alberston's installed camera's in each aisle too. The customer's became more suspicious looking. I stopped shopping there as personnel changed."

    You know, if caning were legal in Hastings Ranch, as it is in Singapore, we could restore order to Albertsons and 8:00am would be safe to shop there.

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  15. Crawford and Tattler posters?
    Even notice when a serious subject comes up, and Crawford exposes the TRUTH, and backs it up with facts and figures and often videos....that the dirt/trolls/steve/ whatever they call themselves come out of their caves and start responding with any bs lie they can come up with????
    It's comical.

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    1. I think it makes them feel inadequate and sad. They just aren't used to being told how things really are.

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    2. 10:25 they respond with BS because they've already lost based on FACT. That's why the UUT went down by a 61% NO vote.

      Whenever Steve and his ilk lose on facts, the personal attacks start.

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  16. Does anyone have issues with what old town Monrovia did with the "stack and pack" project recently completed at the south end of Myrtle?. It took a blighted block and developed an attractive mixed use residential/commercial property. I see nothing wrong with something like that here in town (a scaled down version however). Old Town Monrovia is what I would vision for SM. We could use the sales tax and DIF's. Outside people would want to come here and shop and eat. Then go home.

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    1. If you are talking about Monrovia Commons, there were some problems. The condos were originally supposed to be for sale, but nobody bought. So they had to be rented. And there are still vacancies. The store fronts that peak out from the first floor like basement windows are mostly vacant. Monrovia did well in spite of The Commons, not because of it.

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    2. Old Town Monrovia is fantastic! If you like to walk past vacant store fronts and looming empty condo buildings. I don't mind visiting their for a movie, but I like to come home to Sierra Madre, where I don't have to see the looming condos and vacant store fronts. Great vision for Sierra Madre, Steve (hoping you hear my sarcasm).

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    3. Monrovia's stack and pack was a disaster, Steve. Multiple commercial and residential vacancies because the lease and purchase prices were way too high to pencil out for the lessees. This is NOT what we need in Sierra Madre. Steve sounds more like Josh Moran, as I perceive him, folks.

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  17. So, what did smack us flat on the hometown front as regards to hometown shopping. Arcadia Mall, comes to mind. You can look back at years and years of city council race platform staements and see that revitalizing our downtown was a recurring theme. Not this last time, however, which needs some analysis.

    Ask the question: Mother Earth, how are you going to cope with all these people and exhaustion of resources? Sorry, kids, I can't. You just go on exhausting it all and never mind about the consequences.

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    1. No one is suggesting we not conserve. Our family is about as "green" as any can be. But I'm not giving up my car and truck to live in a stack and pack. Besides, our garden is full of fruit, veggies and flowers that are thriving because of compost made from kitchen scraps and cuttings from the yard.

      Revitalizing downtown is a great idea to bring more revenue to the City but not with 4 story buildings. Monrovia has a large commercial area in which to expand. Sierra Madre's commercial district is smack dab in the center of residential, with nowhere to go but to get rid of the residential. Montecito? Mixed with residential and commercial. Do you want to see an Arcadia Mall there? I think not.

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  18. Let's see why Monrovia does better that Sierra Madre when it comes to commercial endeavors. Two through streets to neighboring communities..Foothill Blvd through Arcadia to Pasadena, Huntington Dr. from La Verne to Pasadena, etc.
    Two 210-freeway off ramps.

    Sierra Madre is stuck in geography as a result of a water war between Baldwin and Carter. No amount of mixed-use, multistory can fix that reality.

    Take a look at the bilboard in the wedge lot across the street from 24 Hr. Fitness on First St in Arcadia. Transit village clone for the Godline extension. Investors are probably salivating all over themselves to buy up underused property (lots of single story, small manufacturing, dance studio, construction businesses there now) against this future use.

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  19. One very big difference between the General Plan Update Committee and the Green Committee is the outreach. The GPUC wants to find out what everyone thinks so that they can incorporate it into the General Plan. The Green Committee, on the other hand, doesn't really care what you think. They have a specific agenda, and they want to sell it to you. And if you don't buy it, then it must be you don't care about the planet. Or some such nonsense.

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    1. The biggest single difference is which Councilmember championed the Committee: Buchanan ralled the troops on behalf of the Green Committee; MacGillivray was the driving force behind the GPUC. Which Committee takes the needs and wants of the community to heart? Which committee is for and by the peope? There you have it.

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    2. An interesting aside here on the chairmanship of the Green Committee. I understand that Kim Clymer chairs the group, a group which champions the overdevelopment schemes of the 1 percent (high density development specifically called out in the group's expressed goals for Sierra Madre), and yet Ms. Clymer displays a large bumper sticker on the back of her car, along with a collection supporting other environmental causes crowding the small space, proudly proclaiming herself part of the 99 percent. Great hypocrisy raises its ugly head once again in Sierra Madre. This the same Ms. Clymer who was devoted to "Traitor" Joe Mosca, who reneged immediately upon election on his earnest campaign promises of preservation of our small town ambience/character by not only supporting the DSP but refusing to allow the residents a vote on the plan that would have destroyed Sierra Madre (thus was Measure V born). Clearly, the Green Committee is just another tool in the chest for Buchanan, Doyle, Moran and the rest of the active development cartel both in and out of this town. Not only should they not be transformed into a commission, I believe they should be disbanded and any "green" initiatives turned over the the General Plan update committee for review and inclusion into the General Plan as they deem appropriate.

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  20. I still don't think the Green Committee came up with their agenda all their own. I have seen this in the past, as with the UUT committee put together by the staff and city council to a predetermined end. Short of resigning, always a possibiity, they soldier on and try to do what is asked. Did anyone attend the meeting last night? I looked on the internet to see what other cities are coming up with for their Green Committee and it is all over the map. Egad!

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  21. I gotta think there's at least two types of humans who live in cities: 1) stack and pack; and 2) some variation of California ranch. And never the twain shall meet! 1) likes to eat in restaurants, canoe and ski on the weekends, postpone and limit families; 2) gardens, barbeques, goes on annual vacations and cruises, produces offspring and joins co-op day care/schools. Most of Sierra Madre falls in the 2) category and is just fine with that choice. Monrovia had more land, wider streets, and availed itself of CRA $$$, Overall it is just fine with the choices the city fathers/mothers made. Why all the comparison? And why the derision for The Stuart? Nobody lives their if they don't want to...

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  22. Here's a question: When the Green Committee was first formed did they set out a Mission Statement? Looking on the internet and you find a wide range of groups and activities under the heading of Green Committee with more that acceptable Mission Statements.

    Isn't this something that a group of volunteers started years ago with the Sierra Madre Envrionmental Action Council? That was an out growth of local activities for the first Earth Day. Nothing really so very new here except that of the doubts many Tattler readers have of the directions given to our current Green Committee--a SMEAC redux.

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    1. Another big difference between this "Green" committee and SMEAC is that SMEAC actually presided over constructive and environmentally conscious projects in town, like the twice-annual Bailey Canyon cleanup, completed with volunteers only, management of the compost heap in the community garden, and pressure on city government to adopt recycling mandates. The "Green" committee is not committed to anything even remotely environmentally conscious.

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    2. Maybe we can see a copy of the directions given to the Green Committee from the staff and the Mayor (what was Buchanan's motivation?)

      SMEAC was way ahead of its time when you see the current Green Committees nation-wide and the various "projects" that their Mission Statement have them focused on.

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  23. Perhaps the Stuart is just the most obvious and it is on our end, the last, of the Gold Line. Can you check out the fill of the mixed use over the Gold Line at DelMar, or what about the mix at the station nearest old town, Park something?

    Downtown rehab lofts fill in structures where manufacturing failed or moved (to China?). For lots of people, if that is all you know then that is just alright. It might be that we have to die off so there won't be tales to tell of a time when we could each have a nice patch of grass.

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    1. Everyone needs to go see the movie "The Lorax" to get a really good dose of people destroying their environment, or unconsciously allowing someone else to do it in the name of profit. What, indeed, will it profit a man if he lose his own soul??! Sorry to preach to the converted, but in a town rife with churches, I surely would expect the Christian element not to engage in such destructive, anti-environmental, development depravity, but it appears that it's the churchgoers who are most actively engaged in this heinous behavior. Again, hypocrisy reigns supreme in Sierra Madre.

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    2. You can go see The Lorax, or you can walk up to the north end of Baldwin.

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  24. I heard that at last nights green advisory committee mention was made to raise the committee to a Commission status. That means permanent status!

    They also spoke of meeting with the GPUC. I suspect the ultimate intention is to force the Green Agenda into the General Plan.

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    1. The Green Committe needs to be disbanded.

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    2. I agree with 2:49. The UN Accords have been pushed forward, the committee seems to have nothing else to contribute. Let's put the attention on a green group that actually promotes the small daily actions people can take, like SMEAC, and disconnect from green groups that have been compromised by development and realty interests.

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  25. We want Bedford Falls not Potterville!

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  26. How do you know what the Stuart's occupancy is? You know,Pasadena encouraged a lot of pack and stack stuff, but I don't know that anyone other than the owners really know whether the units are filled.

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    1. A really big clue is if signs located outside the building indicate that the owner is looking for tenants. Often these signs are very visible and use bright colors to attract interest. There are lots of them around the Stuart.

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    2. Looks like Steve is up.

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    3. The Stuart already looks in need of repair - dirty walls, tattered signage. It must be rough keeping up appearances when its bombarded with freeway 24/7. And I can't remember a time when the For Rent Move in Now signs haven't been up.

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    4. Is The Stuart in Pasadena or the county corridor?

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  27. Good Morning Tattler readers
    Beautiful day in town. Love to see all the cyclist in town.

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    1. Cyclists, Steve. Cyclists.

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    2. Somehow I get the feeling that the highlight of Steve's morning is when his parents leave for work and he can start getting high.

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    3. Steve, familiarity breeds contempt. I believe this to be your first typo/grammatical error! Do not stay too long on the Tattler or you will be discovered!

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