Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tonight @ the Planning Commission Special Meeting: The Kensington Specific Plan

The latest efforts of City Hall, various attorneys and consultants, along with developers and those who profit by their association with them, to avoid a Measure V vote on the Kensington could very well get its perp walk at tonight's Planning Commission Special Meeting. What should have been a very simple matter of putting an oversized development on the ballot per the wishes of the voters of Sierra Madre has, thanks to the people we are basically paying to not represent us, become a tortured series of legal obfuscations and out and out deceptive contrivances. Most have been shot down in the last few months. But that has hardly stopped these busy people from inventing even more of them. After all, they are being rewarded, some of them handsomely, for creating this nonsense. With us picking up the tab.

Basically what the City and those it has hired are attempting to do here is get a plausible sounding work-around that will permit the City Council to approve the plans for the Kensington without having it go to a Measure V vote. This is an attempt to amend the General Plan in order to accomplish just that. Additionally this would create a new order of things that they believe would also give them the authority to approve other such projects in the future. The following details just how they are attempting to do this per pages 30 and 31 of the Kensington Specific Plan Staff Report under Land Use Elements.

Objective L2: Provide for the continuation of existing and development of new commercial structures and uses.

Policy L2.1: Designate an area in the City for commercial development and determine appropriate standards and regulations for new construction.

This is something that Measure V already does. What is being proposed here is the creation of authority that would supersede what the voters enacted in 2007.

Policy L3.1: Allow for new developments or the expansion of existing developments or uses including integrated or reciprocal projects or projects with a common scheme of development which cumulatively comprise over one acre of land or one or more parcels only when a comprehensive plan (master plan, specific plan, planned unit development or other such contrivance) is reviewed by the Planning Commission and approved by the City Council of the City of Sierra Madre.

This then allows for the City Council to approve such a project outside of a Measure V vote. The Planning Commission cannot approve a master plan to redevelop downtown. Each project has to be reviewed individually and voted in by the citizens. The City Council cannot approve a blanket plan for downtown development that undermines Measure V. This can be plainly seen by referring to 17.35.100 of the Voters Empowerment Ordinance.

Policy L3.2: Allow for flexibility in development standards for master plans, specific plans, planned unit developments (Mod: read "mixed use") which provide uses which are considered to be of significant importance to the City such as municipal revenue, historical use, socially valued use, etc when they a) provide an extraordinary benefit to the City such as improved public facilities, community centers, streetscape improvements, park facilities, social services, affordable housing, preservation of historic structures, etc.; and, b) they feature an architectural design which compensates for the flexibility and mitigates negative aesthetic impacts of the project along the sidewalk, street, and adjacent properties.

From the City document:

The proposed Specific Plan that is associated with the CUP application will provide zoning that allows development of an assisted living facility on the subject property and will include appropriate standards and regulations designed specifically for such a facility. The General Plan Amendment will allow institutional facilities such as convalescent and assisted living facilities in commercial districts with the approval of a conditional use permit, consistent with the zoning ordinance and the municipal code text amendment, which will incorporate the Specific Plan into Title 17 (Zoning) of the SMMC in order to give the Specific Plan zoning authority over the property for the purposes of the development of an assisted living or convalescent facility or similar facility only.

The key language here being "institutional facilities such as convalescent and assisted living facilities," along with "similar facility." Just get your project designated as institutional and you would be off to the races. You might recall from last month that the UUT ballot language contained the term "such as the paramedic program." Which basically meant that the money could have been used for anything. You really do need to watch out for anything the City puts out containing those two magic words.

To cut to the chase, what the Kensington Specific Plan would appear to do is restore the power to make development calls to the City Council. Something that the voters of Sierra Madre removed in 2007 due to the abuses associated with the attempt to coerce residents here to accept the highly unpopular Downtown Specific Plan.

To be clear, the 1996 General Plan does call for a Specific Plan on so large a project, but nowhere does it say that an amendment is also required. Plus the independent analysis of Measure V conducted in 2007 in no way says that it is incompatible with the 1996 General Plan.

So why is City Hall rushing to get the Kensington Specific Plan up and running? Because it will clear the way for them to make the call on this project and others to come. Once it is attached to Measure V it changes the dynamic in significant ways. Through the above contrivances it would allow the City Council and Planning Commission to dictate land use policy in the downtown core. Something not allowed by Measure V. This so-called specific plan will open up downtown for high density mixed use development that until now could only have come into existence through the vote of the citizens of Sierra Madre. All you'd have to do is call it "institutional."

As we've said here before, apparently we are paying certain people a lot of money out of our taxes to basically take away our hard-earned right to vote on what we want for our downtown. And for the benefit of interests that have nothing to do with Sierra Madre. This is as bad as government gets.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

35 comments:

  1. OH, maybe Sacramento can help us.

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    1. Sure. Kind of like trying to get the rope manufacturer to do something about your hanging.

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  2. Check the current city zoning maps for institutional use and see that all properties in that zone are non-taxable properties such as churches and schools.

    How will this for profit and taxable property fit within the current institutional use?

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    1. According to the staff report, this property is commercial/residential. So be it. Leave it like that and get on with it.
      And it's not just a profitable business - it's a highly profitable business.

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    2. I know of a similar business, size and price, and it grosses about half a million a month.

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  3. 6:55, I resent your attack on the churches (SMCC, obviously). Just because you want to collect more taxes doesn't negate the First Amendment.

    Remember, even Institutions pay UUT and the outrageous Sierra Madre water rates.

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    1. I'm not seeing any attack against the SMCC in 6:55's post but rather a simple statement of fact: churches and schools are zoned institutional. The question is, "How does a private for profit ALF fit with Sierra Madre's definition of 'institutional use'?"

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    2. They're up early today.

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    3. 6:55, maybe SMCC has changed, but it wasn't all that long ago that it was going to be a mega church and eat up a whole lot of commercial properties in its institutional reach.

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  4. A bit off topic, but as long as we're talking institutions, I attended a debate on Measure A, which, if passed, will create specific districts of representation for Pasadena school board members. At first blush, this may seem like a good idea, but a second look reveals it to be a way to dilute the voters' power. Instead of having all 7 board members accountable to a voter (because they all want your vote)voters will have only one, the one in their particular district. The rest of the board will not have to listen to you. Since school board members are charged with making decisions for an entire school district, it is better that we have the ability to give input to all the board members. Also, with the open enrollment that is available- who will be your representative if you live in one district but your child attends school in another district? Don't be fooled. Measure A is not a good idea.

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  5. Do I understand this, that by creating a specific plan they are dodging the need for a Measure V vote, because of that language about a specific plan being approved by the PC and then the CC?
    But we all remember the PC can be, and has been, ignored by a council. So really, design a specific plan, and if the council says it's good, it's good.

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  6. "The General Plan Amendment will allow institutional facilities such as convalescent and assisted living facilities in commercial districts with the approval of a conditional use permit"
    A Conditional Use Permit - more to the liking of developers than a public vote.

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  7. Measure A - another bad idea concocted by self-serving politicians and lawyers.

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  8. Just put it on the ballot. What is the problem?

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  9. C&L are going to great lengths to avoid a Measure V vote because a vote will validate the conditions of Measure V. If the Municipal Code is changed, and the General Plan is changed, then Measure V becomes moot and the developers can do whatever they want to do in the downtown area. Suppose the owners of Howies brings a plan to the city for a small market on the first floor, and dozens of apts on the 2nd floor, (hotel suite-like)say for Sr. Citizens, or even for a half-way house. It could be called institutional and we would have a massive building with massive traffic problems.

    We cannot let C&L get their way. Tonight, demand that the codes, ordinances and the general plan not be changed for this project or any other project, but the project must be changed to conform to code. Instead, a measure V vote must be taken.

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    1. How can they change a voter approved law? By fiat? Doesn't the state of California have a Constitution? These people would be opening Sierra Madre up tp a colossal lawsuit. Which I guess would suit C&L just fine.

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    2. Also, go to the City web site at cityofsierramadre.com and pull down the documents for tonight's 5/10/2012 Planning Commission meeting. Documents include a newer, prettier "decision tree."

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    3. 10:30, it sure seems like it's redefining the downtown area, and one consequence is the irrelevance of Measure V. Looks like a council can do that through changing the General Plan. So much for the "people's document'

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  10. The solution to all this? Public pressure. Remember the night that the Planning Commission had to make a decision on 'suites vs. units?' The chamber was PACKED with residents. With all those citizens present, they voted the correct way. They had to. Everyone, come tonight and hold the PC accountable. Public pressure WORKS!

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    1. You are right, and the suites vs. units discussion is NOT over by a long shot. Be prepared to argue that point when the Planning Commission gets to that point. Beware of the City Attorney and his desire to influence the Planning Commission.

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    2. You all HAVE to attend tonights meeting. On the agenda are the proposed changes to the general plan and municipal code. If you read the staff report the changes to the general plan would allow buildings over 30 feet and greater density. Therefore, amending Measure V. This is what its all about, folks.

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    3. It's like there's two choices: show up and speak up, or get ready to dig into your pocket to hire an attorny. Again.

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  11. aren't we collectively tired of appointed officials and those elected to Council just ignore the people and actually believe that they are appointed or elected to do whatever they see fit regardless of voter mandates

    and then they hide behind "we were appointed" or "we got elected so nah nah nah" (nancy walsh and josh boi) to justify murky interpertations of the law or to orchestrate outright lies to rationalize their actions

    I'm sort of sick of this City Manager's actions, the blatant attacks upon the people by our own so-called city lawyers and marketing reps that become political to protect their employers or to be "noticed"...aka John Buchanan, Josh Moran and Joe Mosca

    Fire this law firm and fire the City Manager - we can do better in this economy

    Contract out with the Sheriff's - we'll save over a million dollars a year and I won't miss the special interaction that we all savor with our PD.

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  12. the City Manager decides what can and cannot be done in the city and Measure V is just a pesky voter mandate

    when we have a City Manager that is grossly overpaid for our city size, duties and actual responsibilites AND openly prints known misleading information about public issues AND states that the UUT was about "rusty pipes" - well its sort of time for that person to hit the road and be sure to let the door hit her on the rear as she leaves for good measure

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  13. We pay a lot of money for this confusion.

    How were these lawyers hired? The less intelligible you are, the more the job is yours?

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    1. Hey, attorneys get paid to obfuscate!

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  14. I just don't get why this project can't be approached like any other project, plus a public vote.

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  15. Shouldn't this project suit the Genreal Plan rather than the other way around?

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    1. General Plans in cities like ours transform at the whims of developers. Our government functions like a doormat.

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    2. I have every confidence that Measure V was written to be stone-clad to any modifications or any kind of obsolescence by greedy meanies. The brilliant lawyers that composed it made sure of that. Maybe they should sue C&L if they try to mess with Measure V. There's plenty of unhappy SM residents to oust C&L & replace them with an honest lawyer He is a Sierra Madre son & it would be a great Mother's day present for Nola.. Let justice finally rule with her eyes wide open and with honesty, integrity and fairness. He would be priceless for Sierra Madre.

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    3. Attorney Jenkins sure schooled the Planning Commissioners about Measure V tonight.

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    4. I think it was the city staff that was schooled, 9:15.

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    5. I think I know a certain C&L atty who is going to have a bad day at the office tomorrow.

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