You may recall from last Thursday that each member of the Planning Commission was handed one of those signature white loose leaf binders filled with all sorts of new information regarding the Kensington (or "Alfington" if you are "one of them") a mere two hours before the meeting began. And then towards the end of that evening's get together there was considerable pressure placed upon our Planning Commission to sign off on all of these fine new documents, despite the fact that none of the commissioners had been given much of a chance to read any of what had been written there.
Quite rightly, the Planning Commission then refused to sign off on anything they hadn't actually read, despite assurances from Lawyer Jenkins that we happen to have something called a "City Manager form of government." A line that has caused me to burst out in laughter at several completely inappropriate moments over the last couple of days. Given some of the bizarre shenanigans of these last few years, the water rate increase being a fine example, can you imagine granting Queen of England kinds of influence to Elaine Aguilar? To the point where commissioners are expected to automatically sign off on any documents that emerge from her office? Simply because they have her autograph on them?
Lawyer Jenkins and his arguments didn't get very far with the Planning Commission, something that appeared to cause the developer, Billy Shields, considerable anxiety. His concern being that if the Alfington question is to get on the ballot this November, then time may be running out. After all, once the Planning Commission gets done with their deliberations, the matter then passes over to the City Council, which for all intents and purposes is the main bout. So in order to bring some peace to Billy's troubled heart, a special meeting was called, and it takes place this evening.
Now I have received several e-mails reporting that possible skulduggery is afoot this evening. And I have little doubt that there is more than some truth to what is written there. These were sent by people who are genuinely concerned about the Kensington project and the ways it could be used to change how development downtown is to be done in Sierra Madre. That cynically conceived contrivances could be at work here to undercut Measure V is a given. Why else would all of those absurd canards have been trotted out by the City Attorney's office at previous Planning Commission meetings? It was always quite obvious what was going on.
The CUP process for the Kensington has been under way for a while now, and frankly it should have been wrapped up weeks ago. But there has always been an underlying narrative to all we've seen here. This would be first time a Measure V vote will take place, and there are those who literally hate the fact that this could happen. These folks have tried a lot of different ways to stop a vote from going forward, with the Kensington playing more of a hostage role in the drama than anything else.
Billy Shields, the Kensington developer, figured this dynamic out months ago, which is why he came down on the side of a vote. He did so because he understands that this has always been about Sierra Madre politics. Billy and his partners stand to make a lot of money here should their project actually get built, and he figured this was the best way of getting around a very difficult political situation here in town. It was a gamble, and one that he could still lose.
The Planning Commission has rejected all of the nonsense that's been thrown at them so far, and they will continue to do so tonight. These are smart and pragmatic people clearly attuned to what has actually been going on all throughout this process. In the end they will deliver to the City Council a product that will both reflect what is right for Sierra Madre planning-wise, and in accordance with all of the laws, including Measure V. All despite the mountains of malarkey they have been forced to endure.
In the end, what will this all mean? Not very much, I'm afraid. This all falls upon the City Council to decide. In Sierra Madre they are the ones that hold all of the power. And should noted Measure V haters Josh Moran and Nancy Walsh convince John Harabedian that they should not allow a fully legitimate vote of the people to take place on this project, then there would not be one.
In which case we will have to raise a lot of money and hire the kinds of lawyers needed to defend our Constitutional rights. Because that is what this issue will then be about. Measure V is a law that was enacted through a vote of the people, and therefore under the Constitution of the State of California it falls into a very special category. One that comes with considerable protections.
However, it would take a lawsuit to trigger these protections. A step that I would certainly fully support. The thought of such people taking away my rights, and in this way, is intolerable. We have the right to decide how our town is to be planned, how it is to look and who gets to build what in it. It is our law, one that came about as the result of a direct vote of the people.
If we don't take that step, and we don't defend our rights, then we would stand to lose everything.