Wednesday, August 22, 2012

SCAG Doesn't Even Pretend To Care

By now we are all quite familiar with the Southern California Association of Governments, or SCAG. These are the guys who bureaucratically enable the unfunded mass housing mandates demanded by a bought off legislature and their central planners in Sacramento. Basically they tell us what kind, and how much, new housing we need to plan for here in Sierra Madre. Things they claim to know a lot about even though chances are they have never even visited this place.

And whether we want it or not doesn't matter to them. They just take a big number, arbitrarily divide it up among a hundred or so cities by using some sort of rudimentary formula that is completely divorced from popular reality, and then stick us, along with everyone else in the "SCAG Region," with unfunded planning mandates that would wreck the place should they ever actually result in anything getting built.

Of course, they have all sorts of crazy rationales for this. A decade or so back SCAG claimed that California was about to experience a huge population boom, and that if we didn't build vast quantities of new housing, and quick, we'd be inundated with eager new arrivals having nowhere to live. Of course, population didn't increase, the economy tanked and headcount flat-lined instead. And if you go and visit those unfortunate towns that actually built what is now known as "SCAG Housing" (vast swaths of cookie cutter condo sprawl), you will see hundreds of these sad things, mostly sitting empty and unsold. Many now owned by the banks that were dumb enough to finance them.

Nowadays SCAG Housing is being peddled by the usual pack of professional prevaricators as, believe it or not, a solution to global warming. Sacramento's specious rationale being that if everyone lives close together, folks won't have to drive so far to see each other, thereby cutting down on the greenhouse gases produced by automobiles. Even better in their minds, people would use mass transportation, or even walk. Which is hilarious. Nobody walks in L.A. County.

SCAG's demands are contained in something called Regional Housing Needs Assessment numbers, or the acronymic RHNA. Every unfortunate City living within their Southern California suzerainty is arbitrarily assigned a RHNA number, which indicates just how much new SCAG Housing it must accommodate. All backed up by draconian state laws.

Each city is allowed to challenge their RHNA number of course, but the results are predetermined and appeals are almost always rejected by SCAG. The reasons for challenging might be good, as ours were, but the satraps at SCAG just don't care. They have orders from various central government planners, and honestly they just want to get it all over so they can go home, mix some drinks, and watch TV game shows.

If you visit SCAG's website, you'll be able to find a good indication of just how vapid and meaningless the RHNA appeals process can be. And a great example of their raging bureaucratic indifference can be found by clicking here and visiting a page called "Regional Housing Needs Assessment Subcommittee." There you can read all about their bizarre take on Sierra Madre's RHNA appeal. Check this out:

4.5 Appeal from the City of Sierra Madre: Ms. MaryAnn MacGillivray, representing Sierra Madre, stated that she was accompanied by Sierra Madre's Councilman John Cappoccia (sic), City Manager Lane Aguilar (sic), Development Services Director Danny Castro, and Public Works Director Bruce Zimmerman (sic).

Ms. MacGillivray stated that the current RHNA allocation given to Sierra Madre is partially unfair because it does not take into consideration factors that are unique to Sierra Madre. Ms. MacGillivray described three factors, water supply constraints, job-housing balance, and land use constraints that were particular to the City. Ms. Liu responded that, based on information supplied by the City, no decision was made by the water supplier board indicating that the supplier would not be able to sustain any future growth. Without evidence of such, staff cannot make a recommendation for a reduction to the City's allocation.

Ms. Liu stated that out of the three factors the City pointed out, she wanted to respond to the most crucial one, the water supply issue. Staff spent a lot of time reviewing the letter from the Sierra Madre's water supplier and did observe some statements about the potential decline in water supply. However, there is no decision made by the water supplier board indicating the supplier would not be able to sustain any future growth. If there is no evidence regarding that, staff cannot make recommendation otherwise.

Having reviewed the City's appeal and staff's recommendation, the RHNA Appeals Board completed its discussion. A motion was made (Kuenzi) to approve staff recommendation to deny the appeal request for the City of Sierra Madre.

While it was good to see that City Manager Lane Aguilar and Public Works Director Bruce Zimmerman were able to make it to this meeting, there doesn't seem to have been a lot of concern shown for Sierra Madre's appeal by SCAG staff. Sierra Madre's water problems are quite real, yet rather than asking for more information or clarifications or anything approximating real work, SCAG punted. There was no recognition that Sierra Madre is actually its own water supplier, and therefore might have additional evidence to offer regarding the claims made in this appeal. Either didn't even know, or didn't care enough to ask.

And they could have asked Public Works Director "Bruce Zimmerman" his opinions on the matter since he pretty much is the "water supplier board," but they didn't care to lift a finger quite that high. Rather they read a letter supplied by the City, decided it didn't meet its largely unstated criteria, and rejected everything.

Which means that should the SCAG Housing called for in this "RHNA process" ever actually get built, there is the very real possibility that there would not be adequate water available to meet the needs of the poor souls living there. But apparently SCAG doesn't care about that. They just went through the motions and then moved on to the appeals of any number of other cities. Almost all of which they also summarily rejected.

But maybe we shouldn't care, either. SCAG has been assigning us outlandish RHNA numbers for years now, and has a single house or condo ever been built here because of this? Not really. It would appear that this "process" is really little more than a futile bureaucratic exercise. And judging by the total indifference shown by SCAG to any appeals topics at hand, or the remarkably dismal quality of the reports available on their website, even they know it.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

70 comments:

  1. I think it's about time Sierra Madre got OUT OF THIS SCAG/SCAM.

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  2. Do we have to pay money to belong to SCAG? And if we do don't you think they owe it to us to get the names of our people right? Public Works Director Bruce Zimmerman??

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    1. Oh yes we pay. And the last time we threatened not to, we got an exquisite dog and pony show, featuring the president of the day (Edney?) and the big man himself, Ihkrata. Why the get-out-of-SCAG vote didn't pass I don't know. Could have saved ourselves thousands of dollars by now. Oh, but that's right, thousands of dollars are not noticed in municipal government circles - have to break through to the tens of thousands before anyone even sees the figure.

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    2. "Lane" is actually kind of catchy.

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  3. Not to mention the cost of the appeal in terms of time and wages. Since they had the appeal in hand, they could have at least read it to determine the Public Works Director's true name, which I'm sure would be in that letter.

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    1. They're lazy bureaucrats who just go through the motions.

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    2. I think it's pretty obvious that whoever took the minutes was English-challenged.

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    3. Not big on editing, either.

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    4. With the compassion of a firing squad commander.

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  4. I'm sure at one time it seemed like a wonderful idea for cities to band together and do things like regional planning and getting govt grants. But as we have seen with both SCAG and the SGVCOG, that idea has become a Frankenstein's monster. I think it would be better now if we just went out on our own. I doubt we'd be losing much if we just got out of these organizations.

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  5. Why let a little thing like running out of water get in the way?

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    1. It wasn't in the letter. Therefore it must not exist.

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  6. Water? We don't need no stinkin water.

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  7. If you stand back from the idiocy of it all, you really have to admire the survival instincts of the development industry. They are as wily as fleas, leaping from corpse to corpse if need be, and always landing somewhere they can get a bite.

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    1. I am sure the BIA and CAR are generous gifters to our brave legislators.

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  8. The only way to really get their attention, is to take SCAG to court. As long as we show that we are in a gang fight with a butter knife, we will loose.
    The city needs to hire a good law firm with governmental and environmental experience to fight them, and get out of these organizations.
    So far, we have had no success except when Kurt Maryann and Don stopped paying the membership fee. Suddenly the numbers fell significantly.
    It's really time to fight with a longer knife.
    Unfortunately, we have people on the council who care less about the welfare of the community, and more about wanting to make a large profit for their friends.
    If we go along with the SCAG mandates, we will be forced into the unfortunate position of extreme water rationing in the future.
    Perhaps we need to start selling water meter permits like they sell Taxi cab licenses in New York City.
    How about 100k/each for multifamily units.

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    1. How about no new permits?

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    2. The city is already embedding a +$24k developers fee per unit, I would say it is less than a third of what should be charged.
      The idea would be to take as much of the profit out of it to make developers go where they can make more money.Then, it won't matter if SCAG were to triple our numbers.
      We need to see what other cities are charging and then raise it above that.
      Let the market place do the work for us.
      Also, it would help fund much needed infrastructure improvements and repairs, which are entirely justifyable.
      Just ask ole' Bruce "Zimmerman".

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  9. SCAG knows where the water can be found. It is in a report.

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  10. Does SCAG have yummy buffets?

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    1. The SCAG buffets exceed the quality of the COG buffets. Always Wood Ranch or BETTER.

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    2. My blood pressure cannot take any more revelations about how nutritionally dependent on the public dole local government types are.
      They cannot feed themselves?

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    3. They're used to handouts.

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  11. SCAG is controlled by Marxists, big centralized government types who are a cross between inept and/or crooked politicians and thugs.
    We need to get out asp.

    To our Tattler readers in other SGV cities: lobby all your town activists to push to get out of SCAG, if you're already out.....GOOD FOR YOU.
    Please post on this board and tell us!

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    1. Hasan Ikhrata, who runs SCAG, is actually a former Soviet planner who worked in Moscow at the beginning of his career. There are a couple of Tattler articles about it. You can put his name in the Tattler Search box and read them.

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  12. So in reality, if no new SCAG housing was built, and all these new people showed up, wouldn't they just have to go somewhere else? If there is not housing, there is not housing. I just don't get this mentality of "we must make housing for people that are not here yet". And just because someone shows up does not mean they have a right to housing. I would not randomly move somewhere without a confirmed place to live. Is that what people do these days?

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    1. Yeah, but it is all BS. Just like transit village development is supposed to save the world from global warming. This has all been concocted so that desireable towns like ours that don't want crap development can be coerced into allowing it to happen. Sacramento just makes up fairy tales about population explosions and car miles traveled, and then expect everyone to buy in. Just a payoff to the development lobbies that grease the palms of so many election cash hungry legislators.It is bad government at work. And that is what SCAG is. Bad government.

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    2. You are way too sensible 10:02.
      Too often, government and common sense have parted ways.

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    3. redactalize the redactersAugust 22, 2012 at 11:28 AM

      So true, just searched rhna numbers 10 pages all CA cities, expanded search to rhna united states found this paper presented by SCAG to officials in Virginia, full of tweaked charts.

      Title: Searching the Optimal and Acceptable Urban Form for Regional Sustainable Planning
      by Simon Choi, Hsi-Hwa Hu, Sung Su Yoon
      Southern California Association of Governments
      818 West 7th Street 12th Floor
      Los Angeles, CA 90017
      choi@scag.ca.gov
      213-236-1849

      Paper presented at the 50th Anniversary Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning
      Conference, October 1-4, 2009 - Crystal City, Virginia

      http://www.scag.ca.gov/forecast/downloads/paper/SearchingRSP_102009.pdf


      Read it and weep, or read it copy it, then go to the meetings with lobster bibs, large forks, tell them to get out of CA, or they will be redacted slowly in teeny little bites.

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    4. If no SCAG overcrowding housing would be built, the cities of Lancaster and Moreno Valley could continue urban sprawl outward. This would be limited by the amount of water and jobs.

      But crowded infill housing has higher costs per square foot, which are by they way are often picked up by taxpayers in housing authorities. It is all a self feeding scam to make developers rich.

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  13. Does anyone know when the Sierra Madre Tattler is going to publish the Public Works Scandal regarding the "RFP" process?

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    1. Post what you know here, friend!

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    2. Good article on the Star News website. Portantino blasts Caltrans and Metro over the 710 tunnel.

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    3. omg, I went looking for that article on the 710 and was hit between the eyes by this one:
      PUSD Consultant to make more than $300,000

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    4. How many teachers will they have to fire to pay that guy?

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    5. How can they justify that??

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    6. What Public Works RFP scandal? A bit more info would be helpful...

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    7. $300,000.00. Isn't this the same amount of money that went "missing" from Measure Y so we had to vote in Measure TT?
      Do you think we'll need to ok another bond by the time this is all said and done?

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    8. PUSD will have school board elections coming up in spring. While Sierra Madre does not have a seat at the table this election due to the sub-geographic districting (Measure A, which prevailed) we can still help elect Scott Phelps, the incumbent, who will probably be running again. He has shown us that he is fiscally conservative and far from being beholden to the teacher's union.

      Rumor has it that another board member who has shown good sense, and usually votes with Phelps, may not be running again. That will leave us with only one board member with fiscal sense.

      Any election in a district other than our own is still important. These elected school board members decide how to use your taxpayer dollars. With 4 seats up for election, we need to think hard about supporting solid, fiscally conservative candidates, who will watch over the bond money like their lives depend on it.

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    9. Good for you for that positive and constructive attitude.
      When I read the PSN article, I just gave up.

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  14. You know what? I am starting to respect Anthony Portantino.

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    1. We no longer can relie upon voting the Dem Party, thinking they are the good guys.
      Corruption cuts heavily across party lines, it's unfortunate we have a one party government in Sodom and Gamorrah (Sacramento).
      You see nothing but self serving thugs running our government.

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    2. I'm starting to respect the Pasadena Star News!

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    3. Government corruption is a hot topic right now. I think those stories are getting the Star News a lot of readers.

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  15. It would not be impossible for regional organizations to be helpful. So far the SGVCOG and the SCAG have been big failures, but here's how they could contribute:

    1) Listen to the people who live in the cities - so, for instance, a Sierra Madre representative would actually get information from Sierra Madre residents.
    2) Take the residents' concerns to the regional gatherings.
    3) Inform the other representatives, and listen to the tasks they were given by the people they serve.
    4) Compare the local agendas with the state's agendas.
    5) Compose communication that negotiates with the state, or, if needed, flat out refuses state mandates that conflict with local goals.

    Then we'd all be proud of membership in regional organizations. As it is now, they are only a source of shame and embarrassment.

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    1. They don't work for us. They work for lobbyists, politicians looking for something to sell (namely our communities) and other assorted bums and crooks.

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  16. Painfully typical:

    "Consultant Robin Brown is being paid from the Measure TT capital improvement bond money approved by voters in 2008.

    Now some Pasadena Unified School Board members are scratching their heads over why the district is doling out a six-figure consulting fee when Chief of Facilities David Azcarraga's job was created in 2009 specifically to oversee the Measure TT capital campaign.
    ...Azcarraga, as did his predecessor Steve Brinkman, successfully lobbied the district to hire a consulant to help oversee construction."

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    1. Hundreds of millions of our dollars in the hands of idiots ..

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  17. I am thinking a voter proposed initiative - regional agencies can only be created by the voters and the voters MUST elect anyone sitting on the agency board. Time to make these agencies accountable to those that fund their operations.

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    1. Great idea, 2:20.
      And one more governmental body loses the right to act without the consent of the voting public.

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    2. Just like our City Councils have been so accountable to the citizens of Sierra Madre, right? All five are elected therefore they are accountable to the voters, right? As long as there is money to be scammed there will be charlatans like Nick Conway who will find ways to divert the public's money into his own accounts. As long as unpaid elected officials (ie City Councils and Mayors) are put into positions of power questionable practicies will follow. For every MaryAnn or Don or Kurt, maybe Chris Koerber and John Capoccia, we have a John Buchanan or a Nancy Walsh or a Joe Mosca or a Josh Moran or an Enid Joffee or a Tonya Torres and on and on and on.

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    3. The struggle continues.

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    4. How many of us voted for Joe Mosca thinking the was one of the "good guys"?

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    5. I'm sorry to say this, but I voted for Mosca first of all because he was affiliated with Zimmerman and Watts - both of whom I knew to be honest people - and here's where I'm really ashamed - I thought the PR campaign with the dog on a hiking trail meant he might care about our extraordinary mountains....

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    6. Joe's betrayal hurt a lot of people.

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  18. Over The Patch they have announced the Sierra Madre Awards Winners. Looks like Josh picked his pals. At least now nobody has to go to the dinner.

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    1. Also on Patch they have a Measure R poll. But now you have to sign on with your patch acct to vote. I guess they're on to us since we jammed their Fresh and Easy poll.

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    2. Strongly disagree 3:20. At least one of those honorees has done remarkable service and has always been generous and intelligent. Not Josh's type at all.

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    3. Never heard of the winners, but saw the Hildreths story, they are naming a receiver, who is supposed to fill up the hole. Sucks bigtime, because the cost will be hugely inflated and the city can lien and perhaps foreclose if the Hildreths cannot afford to repay them.

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    4. The Hildreths must have lost a court decision.

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    5. I know this is late so not many will read this, but the honors that they have picked are all deserving citizens. Can't see a one that Josh would have influence over. The Honors Dinner is something that the City is at least trying to recognize those who have done something good for the City. They should be applauded, not critized.

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    6. 10:56, I think you're right.

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    7. Everything is politicized in Sierra Madre right now. Even the best of intentions are suspect for some.

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  19. Saw the Hildreth's story update the other day. So disappointed for them. I hope they are able to keep their home.

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    1. Why wouldn't they be able to keep their home?
      Sounds like the hole will be filled and it will all go back to square one.

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  20. Hildreths found a loop hole and tried to explote. Could have opened up the entire town to shawdy building practices.

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  21. Off topic, but it's the Tattler and we don't care, it's going to drop to 67 degrees by 3 a.m.!

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    1. I may stay up for that.

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    2. It is in the 70s now. Better get the blankets back out.

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  22. Condos and "stack and pack mixed use development" How much possible drinking water will the Kensington use for their development? I've heard that they don't have to truck in grey water, too many deliveries on the surface street! Why not an environmental impact report on laundry, food service, toilet flushing, van/bus, washing down the parking lot and water for a few green things? And why won't these people be counted in "our" required state mandate numbers on population growth?

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