Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Planning Commission Wants To Give Us An ALF Beauty Contest

So what it all boils down to is this. When the Kensington goes to a vote, will it be a Measure V vote, or will it be just some kind of beauty contest? Apparently the way it stands now it is going to be a beauty contest. It could end up being a lot like a typical article in our local version of The Patch. "Do you like the Kensington, or don't you like the Kensington? We want to know. Please, tell us in the comments!"

But what it won't be is anything very much to do with what was written into the law here by the voters when they passed Measure V. Or at least that is the way the Planning Commission finally left it. We'll see what happens when it all goes to the City Council, of course

The evening's highlight, or maybe lowlight, was the Planning Commission having yet another besides the point conversation about what exactly constitutes a dwelling unit. And what they somehow settled upon is that if it has a place to prepare food, then it is a dwelling unit. Garbage disposals, a small sink, or even a wee refrigerator, none of that was really a problem for them. But if you put in, say, a microwave, then it does have something to do with food preparation, and therefore it is a kitchen. And that is what would make it a dwelling unit.

This, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with the definition of a dwelling unit as defined by Measure V. Which is supposed to be the law in this town. I guess by the Planning Commission's reckoning what the residents of Sierra Madre voted into law in 2007 was a kitchen ordinance. You can build the Tower of Babel in Sierra Madre, just as long as there aren't too many kitchens in it.

It didn't help that the Junior City Attorney, who was supposed to be there to explain to the Planning Commission what the law actually is, kept repeatedly feeding them a lot of absurd nonsense very similar to what it is that they finally adopted. Whether this was done by design, or the guy really is as clueless as he appears to be, is a point for debate.

And then there is this. If it doesn't have a kitchen, then it is something that goes by the name of a "conjugal care unit." Which strikes me as a very odd phrase to describe a place where the inhabitants of a facility designed for octogenarians go to live out what is left of their earthly days. Maybe they meant "congregate care." But that is what the Planning Commission calls a unit without a kitchen. Which therefore isn't a unit at all. And because of all that the Kensington must now be regarded as compliant with Measure V.

So why should we even be voting? Based on what the Planning Commission decided last night, a kitchen defines a dwelling unit. Therefore there just isn't all that many of them at the ALF. That isn't what Measure V says, which is the law. This law defining a dwelling unit in Sierra Madre doesn't say anything about kitchens, kitchenettes, microwave ovens, or anything like that.

It would appear the Planning Commission believes that the vote Billy Shields is pushing for here is to approve the specific plan. Which it is not. The vote is about whether we pull a couple lots out of the Measure V zone so that something going beyond 2-30-13 can be built downtown with the voters' approval.

The final tallies were 5-0 for the CUP approval, Specific Plan approval passed 4-1, and Municipal Code Text Approval was 5-0.

Now it goes to the City Council. Which is where I suspect most everything detailed above will become quickly irrelevant. What will take its place is anyone's guess at this point.

This Evening's City Council Meeting

There are a few contentious issues, and then there are those that just aren't all that important or interesting. But perhaps the most bizarre of the bunch has been saved for dead last. Entitled "Strategic Plan From September 20, 2011, Retreat" (that is how it is written in the Agenda Report), it shares with us something called the "Highlights of the New Matrix." Which does indeed sound grand. And included deep inside this matrix of lofty goals is the following:

Submission to the City Council for consideration of a proposal to elevate the Green Advisory Committee to commission status is targeted for the August 14, 2012 City Council meeting.

The rationale for why the Green Committee needs an upgrade, at least in the opinion of a few special individuals, is based on something called the Environmental Accords of the United Nations. Which is pretty much the cut and pasted source of the Green Committee's own Environmental Accords. Apparently the hope is that by elevating this committee to commission status it will enhance the importance of all those lofty goals it purloined as well. Which is important to the pro-development community here in Sierra Madre because contained within the Accords of both the United Nations and Green Committee is something called "Action Item 8." It reads as follows:

Adopt urban planning principles and practices that advance higher density, mixed use, walkable bikeable and disabled-accessible neighborhoods which coordinate land use and transportation with open space systems for recreation and ecological restoration.

In other words, even the United Nations wants to turn downtown Sierra Madre into a DSP-style transit village. Which somehow is supposed to save the world from global warming. Hopefully they won't be sending in a blue helmeted peacekeeping force to make this happen.

Of course, the way things have been going since Josh became Mayor, the City Council won't be getting to this one tonight, either. Which means that for about the third (or fourth) time since it first started showing up on City Council agendas this one will end up being pushed to another meeting.

Sierra Madre Voted "No" On Measure A

Altadena and Pasadena (aka "the 'denas") both gave a majority of their votes for Measure A, but not Sierra Madre. Despite the support of some of this community's most august and forward thinking leaders, the vote here was 55% 'No,' 45% 'Yes.' Which is interesting if you think about it. 45% of the people in Sierra Madre who voted cast ballots against their own interests.

You have to wonder why they even bothered.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

85 comments:

  1. We should just cut to the chase. This is a City Manager type of Government!!! The people of Sierra Madre should just ask our corrupt City Manager what she wants, conform to it and every thing is rosy in Sierra Madre. What change in Sierra Madre? Fire Elaine Augilar. She is the root of the cancer. Until she is gone, Sierra Madre is Domed.

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    1. The City Manager does what the council tells her to do. It's not the other way around.

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    2. Sure. I believe you.

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    3. Why lobby against the person who is not the source of the problem. The new city manger is exactly like the old city manager. There's been a bunch of them through the years, and since they all serve at the will of the council, they have all been reflections of the councils' wills.

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    4. Aguilar is not the root of anything. She's a recent hire carrying on the way municipal administrators always do.

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    5. Elaine is a big part of the problem. So is the city attorney. Get over yourself.

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    6. I think you're wasting your time, but hey, it's your time.

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    7. Aguilar has been here since August of 2007, 8:32. She is no recent hire. Do you even live here?

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    8. Aguilar is actually Satan, the city attorneys her attendant devils, and the Sierra Madre city councils have been the victims of demon possession. 8:42 is needed to perform the exorcism.

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    9. At last! An adequate solution to our situation!

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    10. 8:42, I've been around to deal with 5 city managers, so to me, Aguilar is recent.

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  2. Maybe the vote could be conducted with two different colored smiley faces. Red for no, Green for go!

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  3. I voted yes on Measure A so I won't have to vote again for a while.

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  4. I voted yes on A before I voted No....

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  5. I didn't really understand what Measure A was all about, so I voted Yes. I didn't want to upset anyone, or be unduly negative.

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  6. The Planning Commission listened to the city attorney because that is what they thought they were supposed to do. I don't think it occurred to them that he might be deliberately lying to them.

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    1. And the deliberate lie was....?

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    2. The Planning Commission's incarnation of the City Attorney is an officer of the court. I can't imagine he'd deliberately lie and risk his bar status as well as his ability to practice law in order to build a project in a backwater "village" where he doesn't live. There are many reasons to be disappointed in last night's proceedings but accusing the city attorney of lying is adolescent at best.

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    3. That Measure V and the legal definition of a dwelling unit doesn't apply to the Kensington, of course. That it really is about who has a kitchen, and who doesn't. Let me guess, you voted yes on Measure A.

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    4. That's not a lie 8:12. It's an interpretation.

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    5. Yes. A false and dishonest one. The law isn't a mood swing.

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    6. So if there are 96 beds, there are 96 units? Or how does that break down? By bed? Do bunk beds count as 2?

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    7. Read the law, sparky. Let's see what you can come up with.

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    8. It's not clear.

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    9. Use a dictionary. Get your mom to help you with the big words.

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    10. Even to Mom, it's not clear in this instance. This was an unanticipated application.

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    11. 75 Units, 96 Residents. 20 Or so units are designed for 2 persons. Or at least that's what I found out by paying attention.

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    12. I think "unanticipated application" is how your father later came to describe your birth, 8:41.

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  7. I get it that a place like an assisted living facility that is built for many residents is different from an apartment house, or a single family home, and that maybe the 13 units per acre measure doesn't apply in the same way - but I wonder why it wasn't just put before the public as a big old outsized non-Measure V project. Why all the unit/not a unit, when the vote will be the deciding factor.

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  8. 8:11 - so you are opting for the "he is just not all that bright" defense?

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    1. I read 8:11 as saying that he's a lawyer who takes his job seriously. I agree.

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    2. Yes, and lawyers never ever lie. In their own way they are almost Christ-like.

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    3. If you believe that city attorney Porter intentionally misled the commission and the public with a lie, report him to the bar. Of course, that would require evidence.

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    4. Cool. Maybe we should!

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  9. You hit the nail on the head Crawford. Once it hits the City Council it will be deemed irrelevant. We go through a process for nothing because the majority of the members already have their minds made up by their puppet master. Nothing inspires our CC to think about the future of our town. They just think about their own egos and pockets.

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  10. I remember years ago asking city attorney Charlie Martin why he held back some information that we knew was different on the hillside ordinance discussion: "because they didn't ask me" was his answer. So, it happens this way, too!

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  11. Will there be microwaves? Missed that part of the meeting>

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  12. I love the poster who's using the Chinese fortune cookie responses! Doesn't matter what the subject is, the answers provoke thought. Way to go! Probably Steve.

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    1. Provoke thought? Calamitous!

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  13. What a confusion this all has turned into. As someone posted last night:
    "I don't get it. Why is it they can't be units, but Billy still wants you to vote on it?"

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  14. We're talking about a Matrix... and a dome... will Keanu Reeves be at city hall tonight?

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  15. It's about time we had some action on this blogJune 12, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    Dear Billy Shields:

    I am for the ALF. It is a great project, that is thankfully not a full on mixed use/vacant store front eye sore. Thanks for the care you put into planning it.

    However, if this is anything other than a Measure V vote, I will be voting "no." I will be urging my fellow citizens to do the same. We can then have it out in court or at the ballot box over what whether or not the plain meaning of the term "dwelling" is dependent on the inclusion of a kitchen. Plan accordingly.

    PS: We have sadly lost the best restaurant in town - Sierra Bistro. Another great food source taken down by the evil empire of bland food at the Oldest Place in Town.

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    1. 9:42, I and my neighbors are with you.

      Except about the Bistro. Two visits of old, wilted salads and hassled wait staff was enough.

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    2. Amen. I support the Kensington, but will not vote yes unless it is a legitimate Measure V vote. I cannot lend my support to what has been a very poorly conducted process..

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  16. Wow, the Tattler now includes culinary reviews. Who will be "Chopped" next?

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    1. Maybe Mr. Finewine should do restaurant reviews.

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    2. Chop me, Goose!

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  17. Poor Bistro, poor Charcuterie, poor hamburger joint, whatever it was named. Before that, what?

    But hope springs eternal. Cafe 322 is emerging as something sounding like a sports bar (read the application for liquor license). Karate studio had kids class yesterday afternoon and I recognized my neighbor there with her son across the street. Old Java for Jesus is moooooving along very slowly to something else, finally.

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  18. It occurred too late for me to comment on it, but one of the ALF's I used to see on my way to visit my mom had the dining hall on the second floor with windows out to the street and the diners had a wonderful of the street and valley lights below. This design is nothing but a rehash of the one for Redondo Beach so weep not for Billey and his designing legal team, they are all hacks! Not a bit if it was "specially" debit Ed for Siera Madre or it's citizen's needs. At the price point who can really afford it? Really?

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  19. The problem with the ALF is also related to parking spaces per "unit".
    If you have 13 units, you must have 2 parking spaces per unit(26) plus ancillary parking for employees, handicapped spaces guest parking, etc., If it is considered having 96 beds, as units you would probably be needing 96 parking spaces.
    The site will not support that many spaces without going to underground parking.
    It will be the parking problem from hell regardless if its 26 cars or 96 cars.

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    1. As 8:42 so graciously explained:
      "75 Units, 96 Residents. 20 Or so units are designed for 2 persons. Or at least that's what I found out by paying attention."

      So 75 units, 2 parking spaces each = 150. But then the devs come back with how many of their residents in a congregate care facility do not have cars.

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  20. If the council decides to put this project to the vote because it'll be fun, as opposed to its being necessary because the thing for good or bad is not measure V compliant, we will have to sue them.
    Anybody know some lawyers who will take this on pro-bono?

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    1. South Pas has 40 years of activism against the freeway that would ruin their town, helped often along the way by activist lawyers. We need to get some of that kind.

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    2. I agree that we will have to sue if it comes to that, but I sure hope it doesn't. I hope the council is inclined to follow the law.

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    3. Measure V ---------- Yes!

      Ersatz V ------------ No!

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  21. John, You should win an award for the best accompanying photos.

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  22. Sheilds got what he wanted and then some. He got the full ALF plus some tiny shops in front. The project which started out at 5800 sq ft ended up at 6100 sq ft. He captiulated the fact that they would not provide microwaves which means the tenant will have to buy their own. Or maybe they will get a discount from the first month's rent to buy one. No kitchens, no Measure V vote. This will not go to the people for a Measure V vote, but for, as Mod says, a beauty contest. Unless --- you can get people at the Council meetings. Last night was a great disappointment at the turnout when we all knew that the project would be voted on before the night was over. It takes more than 5 of us to fight City Hall. Come on guys, I don't have any sympathy for you who stayed home (presumably to watch the Kings game) You let this slip through without a peep.

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    1. I've been peeping til my beak is sore.

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    2. Billy is even saving money because there is less grading required. Anyone who has had basic geometry understands that since the building will be at a righter elevation the view of the mountain will be much less because of the angle.

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  23. Sometimes life interferes with volunteer city service. I did not see the meeting. Can somebody tell me, did the Planning Commission vote and say, exactly, that this project was Measure V compliant?

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  24. Yes, 12:32, we all have a life. But can you account for all the others who packed the council chamber when the ALF was first proposed to the Planning Commission, and then disappeared for the rest of the year and a half?

    The Planning Commission voted 4-1 to accept the specific plan with very few changes, none significant. In the specific plan, it is stated several times that this project is Measure V compliant. They voted 5-0 to accept the CUP, again without many changes. It will now go to the City Council. Without a majority on the City Council, this project will surely go through as planned.

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  25. Regarding whether people show up or not, we always come back to the same place.
    Civic fatigue = lack of participation = developers' dreams come true. They count on it. I sure don't know how to get people who are cavalier about their own city to become engaged. And like you, probably, have my own share of fatigue.

    At the risk of driving you mad, just after the specifics here, you wouldn't know where it says "This is Measure V compliant" in the SP?

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    1. On the redlined version dated 6/11/12, current city documents, it states that the height & two stories are Measure V compliant, page 42. Can't find the density as 'compliant'....

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    2. In two closed meetings, Scott (the attorney) convinced most of the Planning Commission members that a "dwelling unit" had to include a kitchen. Subsequently, the commission members spent a considerable amount of time discussing what a kitchen was (microwave or not microwave.) Last night, Bob Spears reiterated that if the "suites" were not dwelling units, then there should be no microwave or cooking elements in the rooms. Therefore, no dwelling units, which means Measure V compliant. "The care units will range from 325 square foot one-room to 625 square foot two-room suites. Each care unit will consist o bedroom area, sitting area (some in a separate room) and bathroom ( with sink, shower and toilet.)" The next sentenance was amended to say, Some suites will have a small sink (without a garbage disposal), and a small refrigerator. p. 17 of the revised Specific Plan.

      Page 39 says "Adoption of the Specific Plan will demonstrate that the proposed project is consistent with the General Plan."

      As discussed in Section 2.3 of this document the General Plan was amended in 2007 to incorporate the provisions of Measure V. The Kensington Specific Plan demonstrates compliance with Measure V in the following manner:
      Maximum of two stories and thirty feet in height in any new construction." ". . . the Specific Plan describes the proposed development plans, which demonstrate that the proposed assisted living facility is limited in height to two stories and thirty feet."

      They do not address the density because it was determined by the Attorney and Danny, with reluctant agreement of the Planning Commission that the rooms are not Dwelling Units, but suites.

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    3. Thanks for all that clarity 3:11.
      What happened to the talk about 'the spirit' of Measure V?
      I distinctly heard it referenced and explained in the last regular meeting - the spirit of the law being clearly against the proposed density of the Alf.

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    4. During the discussion of microwave or no microwave, Kevin P suggested that they allow the microwaves, call the project NON-COMPLIANT with Measure V and put the project to a vote based on density because that's what the people want -- a Measure V vote. Bob Spears discoursed on why it was not a good idea to go back on their decision to make the definition of a dwelling unit dependent on a kitchen or the "preparation of food". He probably did not want to reopen the discussion because MacGillivray was in the audience and she has reminded the commissioners on more than one occasion that the definition of a dwelling unit is expressly defined in the Measure V document and cannot be changed without a vote of the people. He would never admit that she is right.

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  26. It seems clear to me now that this is the City's strategy. Get a vote that has nothing to do with Measure V in the legal sense, but which people will believe is the fulfillment of Measure V. Also, if the fake Measure V vote fails, will it mean anything? Will the people be able to stop this project should they decide that is the way to go? This whole thing is starting to look more and more like a charade.

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    1. Hello ...the entire process is a joke.

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  27. Tired or not, we're ready.

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  28. Let's assume the council that hatched the "it's not a dwelling unit" argument (one without the three new and 2/3 vastly improved members) was not stupid. I know, its tough, but let's try.

    they knew if they put the ALF up for a real measure V vote it might actually pass. that would have been bad. why? because the ALF would take out the only large plot of land on the outskirts of downtown without creating (i) a single condo for flipping or (ii) a single empty store front to generate mythical sales tax revenue.

    so, Bart, John and Josh had to kill the ALF. what better way than to set up a phony measure V vote. measure V overs will kill it to preserve core the principles even though the ALF is a great project that will supply the Oldest Place in Town with customers for years to come.

    under this scenario poor billy shields has been played for a sap.

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    1. I can no longer tell who's zooming whom.

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    2. That is because we have city attorneys who only tell us fairy tales.

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  29. They count on you giving up.
    No one cares until their ox is gored.

    Just wait until the demolition, grading, and construction begins. Just wait until the daily noise drives you to distraction. Who is going to be most affected? The folks to the rear on West Montecito or the park users, or the Cong church Sunday expansionist,

    but who was there meeting after meeting after meeting? Folks who live way across town, who care about the town, who may by vitue of their know how may never get caught in downtown traffic again.

    I already skit the downtown area most times of the day and night to avoid the speed traps and know where to look for the perimeter traps. I am in no hurry anymore: I drive the speed limit, stop good at the stop signs, have never made a downtown U turn and keep my cell phone put away. I prefer to learn from the mistakes of others.

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  30. Ahem, I'll tell you where I was last night after you tell me where you were first. No, never mind. It is more than that. And it wasn't the Kings hockey final though that was good. What wasn't good was the fix on this from the beginning. I do admire the strong of constitution who can go to many monthly meetings and persist to the bitter end. I have been there in the past, at the podium, making points to the tops of the several heads (I thank those who courteously looked up) but not this time.

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  31. Five to zero will be the vote by the city council. The developers of the Kensington will get what they want(they smile pretty and speak softly), the city will get development and property tax, along with a brand new building. The downtown commercial district is dying, this town has always been known as a bedroom community; so replace all of the downtown area, beginning with city hall. The return of the POD PEOPLE (Invasion of the Body Snathers / filmed in Sierra Madre)has begun; they are among us already.

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  32. We have two stanch supporters of Measure V on the City Council. So I'm betting the vote will be 3 - 2 if the decision is to do anything other than a measure V vote.

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  33. Enid is being very boring.

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  34. Ultimately, what matters is the intent of the voters when they passed Measure V. So, did the voters really think that there was a distinction between kitchen-less suites and dwelling units when they voted for or against Measure V? Of course not! The dwelling unit and suite distinction didn't exist until it was ginned up in Colantuono & Levin memo in 2012. Also, to paraphrase our former Mayor Kurt Zimmerman, C&L has cast much darkness on the subject of dwelling units. According to Kurt, a major impetus for Measure V was the purchase of the skilled nursing home facility by a company that was in the business of building/operating skilled nursing homes. In other words, it was always understood by the Measure V drafters that the initiative would apply to nursing homes. It's trollish, or just plain misinformed, to suggest that Measure V was never intended to limit development of nursing-home type properties.

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  35. Way to go Patch!June 12, 2012 at 9:18 PM

    The Patch has a great ALF article up.

    It notes that Billy Bob Spears and the Commissioner refused the developer's request to install microwaves, because hot food prep would render a unit "residential" for Measure V purposes. So, Billy Shields will have to let the residents bring their own microwaves in, which he views as their "right" and "liberty."

    The Patch correctly notes that under the farcical "it's not a residential unit" theory whether or not the microwaves units are provided by the developer is irrelevant. What matters is the"intent" to microwave dog food and whatever else they feed old folks these days.

    To quote Measure V, a residence is “one or more rooms in a building designed and intended to be used as living quarters by one person or a family.”

    The intent is to cook. It is therefore intended to be residential even under the city's theory.

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    1. Better late than never, I guess. And it is never too late to be right as well.

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    2. Go Starboard!

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  36. Don't listen to Kurt, he's only a brilliant lawyer who helped draft Measure V and successfully campaigned for its passage.

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