It was a bit of a slow moving drama last night, but there was an interesting tension in the air nonetheless. The meeting featured a developer who was practically crawling out of his skin with desire to get the Planning Commission to give its blessing to his project tout suite. After all, there was still a lot of stuff coming up with the City Council that needed to be done before ballot language could be crafted to put the ALF up for a vote this November. Time, in his anxious mind, was rapidly running out. Just like it is for everyone in life.
The Planning Commission, however, felt that there was actually something more important than meeting developer Billy Shields's tight approval schedule. That being they should be allowed to actually read what were newly amended documents first before signing off on them. After all, and for whatever the reasons, they had only been given these documents 2 hours before the meeting had begun. Which means they would be signing off on something they hadn't even read yet. And while that might work in Washington DC or Sacramento, it wasn't going to happen with our Planning Commission. They were going to do their due diligence no matter what anyone might think about it.
Billy's attorney, Scott Jenkins, who had been so impressive in previous meetings, made the mistake here of ruffling feathers by pushing the Planning Commission just a little too hard on the issue. "You have staff that you rely on, this is a City Manager form of government," quoth the learned barrister. The notion here being this is all that they should need. Trusting City Hall being, at least for some portion of this community, a bit of a novel concept. And something that indicates that Mr. Jenkins had not followed the events of the water rate increase process here a while back.
Bob Spears replied by saying that the decision of the Planning Commission would be based on due diligence. Gina Frierman-Hunt concurred, and said that it would be unethical to sign off on anything that she hadn't read first. So why hadn't they received these documents before 4:30 that very day? The mystery was never clarified, though it did appear that staff and the developer had spent a lot of time putting it all together. Perhaps they had been having too much fun and lost track of the time.
Kevin Paschall wanted to know if the developer's attorney was suggesting that City Staff had screwed up, and it therefore fell upon the Planning Commission to make up for their shortcomings by just looking the other way and signing off. Kevin indicated that he wouldn't do that either, and shouldn't the public get a chance to look things over as well? Nice to see transparency at the top of somebody's agenda in that room.
The good news of the evening was that the Planning Commission had classified the entire project as "residential with ancillary commercial." Good news because that meant there was no need to amend the General Plan in any way to accommodate the Kensington. Something that would have created a dangerous precedent, one certain to be exploited by that surly bunch from the Downtown Investors Club. None of whom are getting any younger, I'll have you know.
John Hutt, a man noted for both pithy observations and exactitude in his use of language, offered that there is not one person on the City Council who is a land use expert. And because of this professional lapse they will be deeply reliant upon the Planning Commission's expertise. Their input thereby being vital. No word yet if Nancy Walsh took offense, or later attempted to take him out.
Caroline Brown brought up the issue of safety concerns. Something that could be an issue should a rush to judgement take place here. As an example she cited two parking spaces in the current ALF lot that are "accidents waiting to happen," and therefore needed to go. Something that would then further exacerbate the pressing need for parking at the ALF. A gentleman by the name of Collins had noticed gasoline tank storage on the site. He asked if anyone had been paying attention to that, and wondered if that meant more such tanks could be found under the ground there.
The highlight of the evening for this dogged observer was the big catch on the kitchen issue. Kevin Paschall noticed, despite the brief time this newly crafted meeting book was in his possession, that many of the cooking machines that the Planning Commission had been told were not going to be used at the Kensington were there in the attached Specific Plan.
Then Gina nailed it when she said that the only reason they had decided that these Alfington wickiups were not true dwelling units because they had no kitchens, and that included kitchenettes. Were they cynically trying to change everything right under their noses?
Of course, another issue might be whether what was trotted out last night actually conforms to Measure V. Or if it was yet another cynical manipulation of certain aspects of this project to give the appearance of being in compliance in order to avoid a true Measure V vote. In other words, yet another ploy designed to placate those certain individuals whose hatred of Measure V has become something of a mentally unhealthy obsession.
So here is today's Conspiracy Alert. And we do love our conspiracies here at The Tattler. Was this the reason why the amended Kensington paperwork was only given to the Planning Commission two hours before the meeting began? And why they were being asked to hurry through everything and sign off on the project without even reading the paperwork?
Billy then went into a soliloquy about how he would agree any changes that Danny Castro had wanted (there were some issues earlier), and if he did would the Planning Commission please then approve the plans? Time, as he had noted earlier, was running out. The Planning Commission did like the changes he had made, so why not just show a little trust in your fine City Staff and get it done?
Obviously there must be some large money to be made in the ALF business if a developer is willing to give up a big bunch of his planning desires just to stay on schedule.
In the end the only decision that was made last evening was to move up the next Planning Commission meeting to this Monday, June 11. This to accommodate an anxious Billy the Builder's fervent wish that everything will then be approved by the PC and could then be placed into the hands of the City Council at the 2nd meeting of this month.
A schedule that probably depends on what our very thorough planning commissioners find in that stack of paper once they finally get the chance to actually read it.
Yesterday's Scandal Du Jour
As one wag put it in a post late last night, Sierra Madre has become the "Felony of the Month Club." And yesterday this month's latest candidate for Felony Poster Boy stood up and watched as the District Attorney rummaged through his house, his office and apparently what little is left of his life as a highly remunerated government employee.
There is a big article about this today in the Pasadena Star News, our daily chronicler of the goings on in the San Gabriel Crime Valley. Here is how they break down the denouement of one Richard Van Pelt (click here).
Homes, offices of Pasadena City College administrators searched in bribery probe - Investigators from the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office searched the homes and offices Thursday of two high-ranking administrators at Pasadena City College.
Allegations of bribery were leveled against Richard Van Pelt, vice president of administrative services, and Al Hutchings, the college's facilities services supervisor. The two men are accused of taking bribes from contractors in exchange for construction contracts at PCC.
So why does this matter to us living here in Sierra Madre?
Van Pelt was recently appointed by the college to a membership on the successor agency to Sierra Madre's Redevelopment Agency.
Nice to see that a gentleman with such valuable experience in the handling of money was entrusted with looking after so much of ours. I'm sure that his expertise will be missed by his illustrious colleagues on our CRA Successor Board. Maybe they can give Richard some tips on where to find a good lawyer. Looks like he is going to need one.
There is also an article up on the Pasadena Sun site and, cold-hearted cynic that I am, the next-to-last lines had me howling with laughter.
PCC Student Trustee-elect Hanna Israel said she was shocked by the allegations. "It comes as a blow to me because I was working closely with both of them on sustainability issues," she said.
I'd despair for this old world if it just wasn't so darn funny at times.