Saturday, May 12, 2012

Is City Hall Trying to Kill Off the Kensington?

Sometimes you have to step back and look at things from a distance. We have an eyesore in the middle of the downtown area, a blighted property located right across from City Hall, the Fire and Police Departments, and Memorial Park. This blighted property has been a topic of contentious debate for years, and the seeming inaction of the City to do something about it a point of frustration for many residents.

A developer comes to town with the bold idea of transforming this property from community eyesore to an economically viable medical facility for the aged. The company that would do so has had a lot of experience and success in this sort of thing, and is more than financially capable of reaching its goals.

After checking the project over, the community seemed to largely accept the idea, appearing more than willing to allow it to go forward. The one thing that could have been a point of contention, a voter approved municipal ordinance requiring large downtown projects of this sort to go to a public vote, became less of an issue when the developer claimed to have little problem with this, and called for a ballot measure on the question as quickly as possible.

When you take all of this into account, there really doesn't seem to be much of a problem, right? There are design points and a few other considerations that have to be banged out with the Planning Commission, but this is all fairly standard stuff. In the end those things would be worked out. There is a community consensus that the project needs to go forward, and a developer who seems more than willing to do what it takes to make it happen.

Plainly the process should be an easy one. Community support, obvious need, along with a cooperative developer with extremely deep pockets who is willing to do what it takes to meet the needs of all involved, both monetarily and politically, all the ingredients are present for a successful approval process.

And yet there is one party in the mix that doesn't seem to want to go along with this otherwise happy picture. That being City Hall. Through the law firm that supplies its City Attorneys, along with a Development Services department through which much of the planning must go, a seemingly endless series of obfuscatory and at times bizarre diversions are being steadily fed into the conversation. Time consuming and mostly besides-the-point, these apparent attempts to take the conversation into unnecessary tangents have slowed what should have been a rather simple process to where the project itself could be in some jeopardy.

So the question that must be asked now is why this is. On the surface of things the process should have been an easy one. Economic need, the solution to a community blight problem, and political consensus, all are clearly in place. Plus the creation of a business that would supply considerable tax money to a City that is strapped for cash, all of these considerations would make this project appear to be a slam dunk. And yet it isn't. With nearly all of the obstructions coming from agencies controlled by or aligned with City Hall.

I have come to believe that the problem here is a political one. When you strip away all of the other possibilities, what else could it be? And there are two reasons why this could be so. The first is the support of the developer for a Measure V vote. Now known as the Voter's Empowerment Ordinance, this voter approved law has long been vehemently opposed by a small but economically influential constituency here, one whose political influence in town far exceeds its numerical size. By siding with the supporters of this oftentimes embattled ordinance, the developer lost their support. The Kensington in their minds becoming more of a threat than a solution.

The second has to do with city politics. Should the Kensington project be lost, an elaborate blame game would be put into place, with the spin being that it was the fault of that portion of town supporting community control over downtown development. Despite the fact that many of those to be blamed actually support the Kensington project, the story line will be something quite different. With those advocating for slow growth and community control being cast as the party responsible for the loss of the project.

This would serve a couple of purposes. The first being to cast Measure V in a clearly unfavorable light, and would serve as the basis of an attempt to get rid of it. The second would be the creation of an issue that the embattled and widely disrespected current Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem could run for re-election on in 2014. Had their hands not been tied by Measure V and those who support it, the Kensington would not have been lost. Or so the story will go. The hypocrisy in this being that those actually responsible would claim to be among the victims.

This is not a strategy without some risk to this town, however. The company hoping to build the Kensington did not become as successful as it is by being blind. And if there was an underlying theme to the message delivered by the developer's attorney at the Planning Commission meeting Thursday night, it is that the City's bad faith obstructions to the Kensington project have been noted. Which theoretically could lead to a lawsuit against the responsible party, which would be City Hall.

The developer having little doubt about who the real guilty party might be.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

62 comments:

  1. Approve the Project Mr. Billy Bob SpearsMay 12, 2012 at 7:29 AM

    No real mystery here.

    As the Patch notes, Mr. Billy Bob Spears and the Central Planning Committee want true "mixed use" - not an old folks home with a flower shop and pharmacy tucked into the ground floor. They are playing a development conditions shell game to kill the project with delay.

    The Planning Commission and the city managers will take the blame - or credit - when the project dies. Oh, and they will push for a 200 unit condo with empty shops and a "transit hub" bus stop in front when it does.

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  2. So here's my question. Does this project have to be fully approved in its final incarnation before it goes to the voters, or can it go to the voters who can approve removing the two lots from the Measure V restrictions and then the project goes back to planning commission and city council for final design approval? If it happens this way and the developer decides to abandon the project, do the two parcels go back to original status in the central core? Must we approve an amendment to Measure V only if the project is finalzed? Can someone please clarify?

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    1. It goes to a vote after the City Council puts it on the ballot. Done properly it will only apply to this project.

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    2. ok got that. but does this project have to be in "ready to break ground" status before it goes to the vote?

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  3. The dirts who invested in the DSP will do anything to get their money back! Including destroy Sierra Madre!

    They GAMBLED, when you GAMBLE you often times lose! No matter how smart and or "have an advantage", you often lose.
    These people gambled their money and they lost.
    They need to turn the page, like the rest of us who gamble do.....you don't hurt others, or it will come back on you all in spades.

    Keep fighting activists for honest government.
    Keep fighting, we do have power as proved in Measure V and the TAX SCAM they just tried to pull off.
    We would have won the water rate hike scam, but Joe Mosca made sure our 2000 signatures did not count. With a 4/1 council majority they pulled this outrage off.

    Keep fighting these horrible greedy dirts who would ruin our town.

    On your June primary ballot, there is a Measure A, it is supported by the very dishonest and infamous Bart Doyle. It's a no brainer here.
    VOTE NO on MEASURE A. No matter what bs you here, it will be bs, anything Doyle supports is very, very bad news for Sierra Madre. Bart is probably the number one enemy on the people of this town.
    NO on MEASURE A.

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    1. tony brandenburgMay 12, 2012 at 8:17 AM

      Measure A will strip parents of PUSD of a voice. NO MEASURE A.

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    2. Yes, Tony B. yes it will, and even worse things than that.
      That is why our town scoundrel, Bart Doyle is urging all of us to vote YES. VOTE NO. Absolutely, defeat this. It's no good for anyone, but a few greedy, crooked politicians.

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    3. tony brandenburgMay 12, 2012 at 9:16 AM

      i am wondering what this measure will do for his (doyle) interests, and forgive my ignorance there, but for our voice on school issues it will take away our ability to hold ALL school board members accountable to us, and make us patsies to ONE of them. if you have raised the ire of your ONE board representative, too bad, good luck getting anywhere. if you send your child to another school, or are forced to- again. no voice. that board member does not represent YOUR region/district anyway. that gets into a whole range of issues, and some of them have to do with equity and access to representation. ed honowitz has already publicly shown that he does not represent the families of children with disabilities.

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    4. $350 million in Measure TT bond swag is what gets the Bartster's interest, Tony. That is why they're all there. Honowitz, Selinske, the whole rotten apple crate. Kids are just the hostages.

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    5. Yes, we have a school that needs to be built in Sierra Madre. We need ALL of the school board members to hear us, not just one representative. Vote NO on Measure A

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    6. tony brandenburgMay 12, 2012 at 7:16 PM

      thanks 10:59. that's a lot of money. it certainly starts to put things into perspective.

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  4. When the war against Maranatha was being waged by residents against an educational fortress at the top of Baldwin it was discovered that a clandestine group of supporters were fighting to keep the school from being built because their organization was making plans to build their own school on Sierra Madre Boulevard. After Maranatha left Sierra Madre, Sierra Madre Congregational Church came to the Planning Commission with plans to build a megachurch including a coffee shop, classrooms, a gymnasium, and a dormitory for visiting missionaries. The economy of the times left those plans unfulfilled, the coffee shop boarded up, and the classrooms built but to this day the SMCC maintains they are not classrooms and there is no school and no Specific Plan was ever given to the City by SMCC. Some residents have suspeced that the SMCC has been watching the SNF for some time with the intent of acquiring and developing what would arguably be a plum acquisition for their religious aspirations.

    This line of reasoning does bring up the suspicion of a group aligned to force the ALF project out of existence and acquire the property at a bargain basement price. It is a known fact that SMCC counts among it directors powerful and respected city mothers and fathers. Are they bringing pressure on the City Council and Colantuono & Levin (who gets paid handsomely for their legal direction whether or nay) to put the damper on the ALF?

    Tattlers, continue to think of who gains by Billy Shields and the Fountain Square folks taking their vast pot of $$$ and going to another community. It could lead to surprising conclusions.

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    1. Great post, and very thought provoking. Thank you.

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    2. The SMCC attacks continue. Show us your proof, 8:34. Otherwise, stop attacking the fine people of that congregation.

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    3. At one time, the leadership of SMCC (not necessarily the church members) was aggressively expanding and planning more expansion, just as 8:34 laid it out. The leadership has now changed. I don't know where it stands.

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    4. The SMCC has been a steady opponent of community control over downtown development. Stop with the guilt trips, Steve.

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  5. I can't tell if it's a genuine conspiracy theory, or incompetence.

    Either way, I hope the pro-Billy Shields attitude includes holding the developer responsible for a project that is good for the town, and not just giving him a pass because he supports Measure V's requirement of a public vote. Remember, he's here to make as much money as he can as fast as he can. That's all. And he's doing the same dance in Redondo.

    One of the commissioners said that the developers sell the Alf as being good for Sierra Madre businesses - so if it would be good for businesses, why couldn't some of those businesses be in the commercial space of the project.

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  6. Billy Shields. What would you say if [we] sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on [we]?

    Developers should try to adhere to community values, needs, and esthetics, and shouldn't simply be allowed to get by with a little help from their friends.

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    1. The community's values. Do those include a City Hall that lies?

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    2. They're not mutually exclusive - we have both a developer spokesmodel who's hustling as hard as he can for an enormous pay-off, and a city hall that lies.

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    3. Which of the two in your mind is worse. A very profitable business or a city hall that lies?

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    4. False dichotomy, 10:03.

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    5. Is everything you don't like false?

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    6. No. It is true that I don't like false dichotomies.

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    7. That is a big word. Can you explain further? I don't like baloney sandwiches.

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    8. Is it really necessary to explain that choosing between the 2 alternatives posed by 10:03, namely between a city hall that lies and a very profitable business, constitutes a false choice? (See also fallacy of the excluded middle, either-or fallacy, black and white thinking, etc.)

      Here's an apt illustration: You don't like baloney sandwiches, but Is your only choice a choice between baloney and ham sandwiches? Of course, not. You may not like ham. You are actually able to choose among a plethora of baloney and non-baloney sandwiches.

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    9. Oh. So which is worse in your mind? A false dichotomy or a baloney sandwich?

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    10. There was a time in my life when I would eat no sandwich other than an Oscar Mayer bologna sandwich with Miracle Whip, iceberg lettuce, and Langendorf white bread. None. At a much later time I learned what went into bologna. Shame on you Oscar! And Langendorf white bread and Miracle Whip were no longer my choices. I believe I am able to now discern the difference between bologna and bull s*** slathered with babble from City Hall and its prodevelopment Council. And yes, including some members of the Planning Commission. I bet that most Tattlers are also aware of the differences. And a couple of Councilmembers, too.

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  7. Where is the Mayor in all this? There has been surprisingly little leadership from that quarter.

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    1. You're teasing with the "surprisingly", right?

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    2. Josh is saying nothing because he doesn't want to appear responsible when the Kensington goes down. As soon as Billy Shields came out for the vote he lost Josh's support.

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    3. Everytime I see the insurance commercial featuring "Mahem" I am reminded of Josh Moran. They bear an uncanny resemblance to each other as well as sharing a malicious intent.

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    4. Josh Moran has one agenda only. Helping mommy's real estate career.

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  8. The old Skilled Nursing facility looks pretty much like it always has. It is not blighted. Perhaps there are a few dead plants, but it looks a lot better than some of the other properties next to City Hall and in my neighborhood. The proposed ALF is too large and has many issues that need to be solved before I would vote YES on it.
    As far as the church is concerned...they own way too much property and must be watched constantly. When they told the GP committee they had no plans to expand, the committee and the audience had a hard time keeping their composure.

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  9. I'm not sure I understand the opposition to the ALF. What we have on the old, skilled nursing home property now is textbook blight. I'd rather see an assisted living facility, which provides services to our disabled elders, than boarded up buildings.

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  10. Poster 10:04. A boarded up building that is frequently vandalized in the downtown area of a bedroom, suburban community is not blight? What exactly do you consider to be blight?

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  11. 10:04 is a troll. He claims that the boarded up skilled nursing home looks better than the properties next to City Hall. Oh really? There is a park to the west of City Hall and police and fire stations to the east. What properties is 10:04 referring to the look worse than the skilled nursing home?

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    1. How about Bart Doyle's House? Rob Stockly's house? Enid Joffe's house? All blighted!

      Let's not forget that the Assisted Living Facility was making a profit and had several years left on its lease, but was forced out of business by City Hall in order to create the "Blighted" conditions necessary to exploit CRA funds for the benefit of their "special interests."

      You sock puppets rely too heavily on people having short term memories. Perhaps you should ply your wares someplace else.

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  12. 11:05, just ignore 10:04. He claims he's worried about Cong Church expansion when he or she must know that the Cong Church would probably buy the skilled nursing home property if the ALF project falls through.

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  13. Maybe we should sell City Hall to the SMCC and just move them back into the old city hall. The one with a jail. Pay off a lot of bonds with the proceeds, then lower the water rates.

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  14. It's not that complicted. I've spoken to several realtors in town who retain the hope that the ALF project will die and Measure V will be repealed. Thay way, the skilled nursing home can be redeveloped with condos.

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    1. The Downtown Investors Club would sell their mothers if there was enough money in it. They lost a fortune when we killed off the DSP, and they'd sacrifice the ALF in a heartbeat if it will get their retirement money back.

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    2. 11:21, I'm trying to believe this - who are the realtors who are saying that?

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    3. It's no secret 12:25 pm that all the realtors in this pristine little village are pro-development at any cost. Why even our august Mayor Moran was flogging real estate from one end of town to the other. And has come out in quasi-inebriated opposition to anything like self control where land issues are concerned. He has fought progressive control over real estate such as the specific Canyon oridnances and has supported the redevelopment of the Howie's market property including the annexation of the City-owned parking lot to the south and I don't doubt for a minute that he would support the expansion of the Cong church holdings. One of the good things about this City Council is that it's unlikely that a 4 out of 5 majority could be assembled to sell off City owned property.

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    4. I hope you don't mind if I borrow the term "quasi-inebriated," 1:25. I can't wait to use it!

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    5. Demi-drunk.

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  15. that's always been Josh Moran's dream

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  16. Crawford, you hit the nail on the head today. 1) the DSP club wants to get rid of Measure V, and 2) They want to blame the demise of the Kensington Project on Measure V mandates. Shields got caught in the middle of a very important political fight. Which would you rather have, a large, assisted living complex or a large, condo development with, lets face it, more traffic than our city can bear - either across from city hall and/or at Howies.

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  17. There are many well-meaning, but foolish people in town opposing the ALF project. What they don't realize is that if the developer walks, Measure V is dead.

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    1. So the realty/downtown investment club members are well meaning?

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  18. I support Measure V, but in no way do I support the city's lynching of the Kensington.

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  19. This is nothing new to Mr. Shields or Kesington...a vote of the electorate is required in Redondo Beach for the project proposed there.

    Also, you can get to that city web site and the project and see the same style that our ALF has changed to (minus the rotunda) and see that they are not doing any thing special here for our street scape.

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  20. Will someone tell me; what if removing the two lots in fact then would unravel all of Measure V leaving the entire downtown area open for development of three and four stories...would you still be willing to vote for this project? If Anonymous 7:29 am has an available lot of 1.8 acres next to their home the Kesington could be built tommrow including all 93 residents not including the staff and administration. Mr. Sheilds must have read the ZONING LAWS for this town, knowing full well that this was not the legal lot to build on; unless it is a commercial business. Is it? a commercial business? or is it a non-profit like the church?

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    1. I guess it really is true. The dirts really are out to do in the Kensington. Who would have thought it. Thanks Tattler for another revelation.

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  21. WOW! Some Public Relations firm must be making a lot of money today. They're really hitting the Tattler hard with multiple posts in order to make it appear that their agenda is popular.

    We haven't forgotten what the Congregational Church and it's members did to this City and many of its residents. They are truly evil and corrupt. No amount of spin doctoring will change that.

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  22. Follow the MoneyMay 12, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    They don't like the ALF because it will consume the largest "downtown" parcel without generating (i) any sales tax income, and (ii) any condos to flip for commissions. In fact, there will be zero commissions. Ergo Billy Bob Spears, "Is this an open bar" Josh, and the like are out to kill it.

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    1. The Kensington folks are up against a bunch of grubby small town real estate hustlers. Who just happen to call the shots at city hall. A real bunch of charmers.

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    2. Isn't there a pretty penny to be made in coaxing seniors out of their houses and into the Kensington? Then selling the houses?

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  23. There will be property tax and utility users tax. It is a commercial/residential use and money is to be made and taxes to be collected.

    I do wonder what size water main they will have and the amount assessed via the sewage collected?

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  24. Thanks for the info, 3:54. The Redondo Beach project looks almost identical - have template, will cut and paste.
    I wonder if that's a cost savings on architect fees. That said, I think the project will work here, and once a few more design modifications are made, it'll work well. The agreement about the need to vote is crystal clear, the commissioners are doing their job, the developers will hang in here because of the ridiculous amount of money they'll make. And if there really is a small group of fervid freaks who would hurt the town for money and political revenge, the Tattler's warning has forced a game change.
    Pretty good, really.
    One of the sites where you can see the Redondo Beach project:
    http://www.easyreadernews.com/50513/knob-hill-bid-redondo/

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