The rich irony here is that Shields, both partner and spokesperson for a business group that comes from somewhere down around San Diego, felt compelled to request that the City Council of Sierra Madre follow its own law. Something that you'd have thought would be automatic, but the recently completed and highly contentious review of the project by the Planning Commission clearly indicated otherwise. It seemed obvious to many here that the City Attorney's Office was determined to raise doubts about the applicability of Measure V to the Kensington project, and in an exceedingly painful process lasting months pounded the Planning Commission with an entire series of baseless and at times absurd canards designed to achieve just that purpose.
All of which came to nothing when Billy Shields sent his letter into the City Council. The inference contained there being that while they might consider not following their own law on this matter, he was not willing to be anybody's crash test dummy in this case. And in one of the more remarkable evenings ever seen in Council Chambers, the City Council abandoned the months long efforts of its own City Attorney and gave Billy, along with Measure V's many passionate supporters, the victory they wanted. And they did it by merely following the law.
For whatever the reasons, acceding to the law that evening was seen by many as being quite a surprise. Including the many people attending that meeting. That the Mayor of Sierra Madre actually had to explain that he was going to follow the law in this matter being a good indication of just how poorly the process had been conducted up until that point.
In his letter Billy Shields specifically spells out how he believes the ballot language for the Kensington/Measure V vote should read. Again, why he felt the need to do so does invite speculation. I have discussed the language Shields provided in his letter with a couple of attorneys who know far more than I on the topic, and both agreed that it is the very best possible for this purpose. Certainly it is what a businessman interested in protecting his investment from any future legal challenges would insist on.
The Sierra Madre Voters Empowerment Ordinance (also known as Measure V) is hereby amended with regard to two parcels only, located at 33 North Hermosa Avenue (APN 5768-019-043) and 245 West Sierra Madre Boulevard (APN 5768-019-041), to allow the development of the assisted living facility, as described in The Kensington (Assisted Living Facility) Specific Plan, dated ______, 2012, on file with the City of Sierra Madre, not to exceed two (2) stories, not to exceed 30 feet in height, and not to exceed 75 assisted living suites, comprising 60,100 square feet of space, at the 1.84 acre site.
If you go to the Agenda Report provided by City Staff for this evening's City Council meeting, you will see that the ballot language being proposed there is somewhat less specific.
Shall an Ordinance be adopted to amend Sierra Madre Municipal Code Section 17.25.040 ("Core Density Limit") of the People's Empowerment Act (aka Measure V) to permit development of an assisted living facility consistent with the Kensington Assisted Living Facility Specific Plan and not exceeding two stories, thirty feet in height and seventy-five assisted living suites, for the parcels located at 33 North Hermosa Avenue and 245 West Sierra Madre Boulevard?
Now forgive me if I seem somewhat overly skeptical here, but why is it the City's ballot language is far less detailed than that provided by Mr. Shields and his lawyers? As an example, while Shields provides the exact APN numbers of the plots involved, the version prepared by the City only provides an address. I think it is important to be very exact about these matters because we would hardly want to inadvertently provide such an exemption to the entire downtown area.
And what is up with this rhythm? "... permit the development of an assisted living facility consistent with the Kensington Assisted Living Facility Specific Plan." Will we be voting on the Kensington Assisted Living Facility specifically, or simply the style of architecture and business plan contained within it? Are we approving the building of this one structure only, or empowering someone in the future to determine if other projects might also be "consistent" with this particular, and as yet unapproved, specific plan?
I think this all needs to be scrutinized very closely. And we then need to go with Billy's language.
The Return of Ron Brandley?
If they ever get to it this evening the matter of filling the two now empty seats on the Planning Commission will be considered. There are some very qualified candidates, some candidates who are new to the town, and one that doesn't even live here. Which I guess is OK when you consider that our current Mayor was a resident of Monrovia right up until the time he filed his papers to run for office in Sierra Madre.
But no candidate for a Planning Commission seat raises quite the questions that Ron Brandley does. A member of the Planning Commission in the past, Ron resigned his seat under some very mysterious circumstances. This from an article on the matter found on the SierraMadreNews.net site:
Brandley Resigns From Sierra Madre Plannig Commission (click here): Planning Commissioner Ron Brandley has tendered his resignation to the City Council. Brandley, who has been on the Planning Commission since 1999, stepped down after choosing not to respond to questions from the City Attorney regarding the possibility of a conflict of interest, questions raised by an anonymous phone caller in a voice mail message left for a member of City Staff. Brandley's term was to end in June, 2007.
This rather selective article took the point of view that Ron's resignation was a matter of principle for him. Brandley feeling that a conflict of interest investigation should hardly be predicated upon an anonymous message left on an answering machine. The obvious spin being ladled up here aside, the City Attorney disagreed.
When asked if it was ordinary for the City Attorney to investigate based on an anonymous call, Levin responded, "Oh absolutely, whenever there is a question about a conflict of interest, then the City is obligated to follow up and find out if there was a conflict of interest."
The accounting we have received here at The Tattler shows that these concerns were not without merit. The contention being that Brandley did not recuse himself when required to do so by the Brown Act, and on numerous occasions.
Brandley's family owns a business at 9 Kersting Court and, when matters came up at the Planning Commission that were within 500 feet of his place, he still chose to participate. Including ten meetings over 5 year period (Feb of 1999 to Nov of 2004) regarding the Montecito Specific Plan. Again, a violation of the Brown Act.
There is much more. Did you know that Ron voted on the Commercial Overlay Zone, which included where his business was set up?
A little blast from the past here. Let's hope it stays there.