Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Special City Council Meeting: Did City Hall Screw Up?

I have got to level with you. The missus took me to see Yo-Yo Ma at the Hollywood Bowl, and I saw nothing of last night's Special City Council meeting. These were expensive concert tickets and who'd want to give them up for a meeting that might have lasted all of 10 minutes? You'll be relieved to know that it was a great (though surprisingly brief) show, with every one of the almost 18,000 seats there sold.

But it turned out that this was no 10 minute City Council "special meeting." Rather it went on for so long that the General Plan Update Steering Committee get together that was to follow had to be postponed until next Monday evening. What information I do have here comes from e-mails, late night phone calls and one particularly pungent comment posted at 10:48 PM last evening.

Here is that 10:48 PM comment:

Now, to get to the real issue instead of only carping about Nancy Walsh. The City Attorney gave the most articulate, clear overview of the document she has ever done. She gave advice and her opinion clearly, which helped move the meeting along. However, the City screwed up. The document was sent to Shields's attorney on the 25th. They returned it on July 26 with corrections. It was only August 6th (24 hours before the special meeting), that Shields got notice of the Special Council meeting. By that time Shields was in Northern California, and Scott, his attorney, was on vacation. Either the City is playing games, or they are incompetent -- or both. The Council did their very best as did the attorney representing Shields. But this didn't have to happen. Ask Elaine next time you see her why a special meeting wasn't called on the 31st, or any day last week?

Interesting stuff, and whoever wrote that one, thanks. Here is what I have pieced together from eyewitness accounts, folks who were either at the meeting or watched it on SMTV3. I've broken these down by letter.

A) The legal representation for Billy Shields and the Kensington interests throughout all of these many meetings, Scott Jenkins, was on a vacation. Apparently he is climbing Mount Kilamanjaro in Africa and couldn't easily attend this very last minute confab. Instead one of the Junior Attorneys from the Pasadena law firm Hahn & Hahn covered for him. Billy Shields was at a City Council meeting, but it was in Northern California. He seems to like attending those things. Mayor Moran called in from his vacation in Hawaii.

B) Because some of the key players in this seemingly endless process weren't aware of this last minute meeting until it was too late, and therefore had made no plans to attend, the question of why it had to happen on an emergency 24 hour notice naturally came up. Here City Attorney Teresa Highsmith and City Manager Elaine Aguilar had a public difference of opinion, something no one I spoke with can recall having ever happened before. The City Attorney said that this wasn't a rush, and didn't need to have taken place so abruptly. Elaine, most likely not enjoying being second guessed like that, said these matters were time sensitive as the City had filed the ballot measure today. And did so without getting a signed agreement from Fountain Square that they would accept certain City changes, thus assuring that they would indemnify the entire deal.

C) The Scott Jenkins-like attorney sitting in claimed that Jenkins himself has replied with their proposed changes on June 27, the day after the City Council had approved going forward with the ballot measure. The City Attorney and City Manager did not seem to want to share what the reasons for the delay were. Councilmember John Capoccia wasn't happy with the last minute nature of this meeting and clearly let Senior City Staff know why he felt that way.

D) Some time was spent on language changes. Many of these seemed obscure, but not all were. "Fullest extent of the law" was reinstated in 3.1. The term "bad faith" was dropped from 3.2 and 4. The City Council reinstated "including but not limited to" in Section #4. All of these can be seen in their natural setting as part of the City Staff report for last night's meeting linked to in yesterday's post. If you should wish to do so, please have at it.

E) The key change was in Section #3. Billy's boys don't want to defend the City from 3rd party litigation in case the Measure V vote fails. They are willing to defend the City if the Measure V vote is to approve. Their argument was if the vote is NO, they'll want to walk away from the entire mess because it is game over for them. Because the ballot measure had already been filed, the City's ability to bargain for a complete indemnification is likely out the window.

F) Councilmember Koerber stated that the City Council should accept these changes as a "last, best & final" offer to the applicant. He also mentioned that he was concerned that now the burden of getting a "yes" vote now falls on the City rather than the applicant. Koerber also reminded the Junior Attorney representing the Kensignton's interests that it was very important for the applicant to show the very best faith in these matters, or it just might rest uneasily with the voters. The final City Council vote was 5 - 0.

Trying to negotiate certain fine advantages after the horse has already left the barn (so to speak) can be a difficult job. And the complete indemnification demanded by the City from Fountain West may no longer be obtainable. The unfortunate timing of last night's meeting played a key role in this unhappy situation coming about. The level of exposure isn't exceptionally large, but it also wasn't necessary.

Here is the press release sent out by the City Clerk's office yesterday on the Measure V ballot filing:

News Release - Special Municipal Election To Be Held In Sierra Madre November 6, 2012

The City Council passed election resolutions at their Regular City Council Meeting on July 24, 2012.

City Clerk, Nancy Sue Shollenberger, announces a Special Municipal Election to be held on November 6, 2012. There will be a Measure submitted to the electorate as follows:

"Shall an Ordinance be adopted to amend Sierra Madre Municipal Code Section 17.35.040 ("Core Density Limit") of the People's Empowerment Act (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?"

The City Council will be writing an "Argument in Favor of the Measure," and there will be a City Attorney's Impartial Analysis, due by August 7, 2012. These will be published upon receipt and available in the City Clerk's Office. Just please give the City Clerk a call and she will arrange for you to receive a copy.

The deadline for filing Rebuttal Arguments in Favor or Against the Measure will be August 17, 2012.

Please contact the City Clerk (355-7135, 355-3303 or 355-1569) if you have any questions, or would like to write a rebuttal argument.

Dated: August 7, 2012, Nancy Sue Shollenberger, City Clerk

Does anybody know who, if anybody, is planning to write a rebuttal statement to the City Council argument in favor of a "Yes" vote on the Kensington? While at this point I am not necessarily against the Kensignton being built (though I do have a few misgivings, in particular the use of the word "suite"), I am more than willing to give space on The Tattler to anyone wishing to air out their arguments against it being built.

I'm not sure that such a discussion will be allowed to happen anyplace else.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

67 comments:

  1. Not going to write a rebuttal, and since I said I would support the project if it was brought to a Measure V vote I will support the project. However, the citizens will be shocked when they see how large these buildings will be.

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    1. You're right, 6:57. That building will be overwhelming. But surprise is one of the consequences of not paying attention to local politics.

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    2. It is the first time a decision like this has been placed in the hands of the residents of Sierra Madre. It is no small thing.

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  2. I will probably vote yes. But this decision is ours. We hold all the power here. A conversation must take place.

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  3. "Billy Shields was at a City Council meeting, but it was in Northern California. He seems to like attending those things." I'm gonna disagree with that one Tattler. Billy was no doubt working that council just like he works ours. Very profitable business Shields is in, and his part is the PR at council meetings.

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  4. I thought the whole voting thing was the responsibility of the developer. laid out in the measure that way.
    Also it's the developers are the people who use law suits to force cities to do what they want them to do -
    What third party is going to sue?

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    1. Um, us for one. The reason I heard for the City's reluctance to put this on the ballot is that they thought we'd take our act on the streets and defeat it. Ironically that threat also forced them to follow the law and allow the vote.

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    2. How about a land owner who all of a sudden does not have a sweet deal? He might want to sue.

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    3. Why would we sue if we have the vote?

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    4. Plenty of reasons. Ballot language might be deceptive to start.

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    5. 8:24 you mean like the UUT language was overly deceptive?

      thank goodness we've got people to review and hold the city accountable but then again the city has the local sidewalk rags to write the misinformation as fact and then belittle those that dare question the city's intentions.

      guaranteed that neither the Weekly or the Observer or Bill's Coburn nonexistent blog will have anything contrary or questioning anything proposed by the city

      nah, come on, SM city staff and Council being deceptive?

      say it ain't so.

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    6. As I understand it, the developer does not want to indemnify a loss at the polls. That strongly suggests to me that the developer intends to sue if the project is defeated at the polls.

      Either someone here isn't paying attention or they're taking too many prescription drugs. To suggest that Sierra Madre residents would sue should the project be defeated is insane.

      I smell a rat.

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    7. Thank you 2:29. That's how it seems to me - the residents' commitment to protect Measure V was effective, the ballot language was acceptable, so while we would have sued, damn fast too, before those points were reached, there's no reason to now.

      I try to give pretty good attention, and don't take any meds, but I'm still not clear why anybody can sue if the law is followed.

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  5. Kudos to Koerber and Capoccia for questioning the city atty and city mgr about the reason for such a "rush,rush" council meeting - especially when the city has had the information from atty Scott Jenkins for over a week. Someone dropped the ball on this. Intentionally? Is this a last ditch effort to get folks to turn down the ALF so that condos can be built? Or is this just another example of how great the Sierra Madre Bureaucracy works?

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    1. Based on past city hall performance, any of those are a possibility.

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    2. lies lies and more lies

      we should be thankful that we don't have the last Council because we all know that the 4 blooming idiots would have done whatever they wanted regardless of whether it was legal, right or moral for the city

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    3. In that case there would be no real vote on the Kensington. Joe Mosca would have informed the citizens of Sierra Madre that there are no units there, just open spaces with walls.

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  6. City staff must have had their private reasons for waiting until the 11th hour. Perhaps they believed the Council would pass what was preented to them. City staff anticipated the meeting would only last 30 minutes. This leads me to believe that Staff thought their poorly written document would fly through without a question.

    There were over 15 residents and commissioners in the audience because of the General Plan meeting that was scheduled to follow.

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    1. I wonder if there is a situation developing between Highsmith and Aguilar.

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    2. One can only hope!

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    3. They were definitely on different pages of the same book last night.

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    4. lest we forget, this is the same City Staff management that purposely spewed misinformation about the UUT and assumed that the citizens would be sleeping again.

      problem is that once the City Manager and a few others (john buchanan, joe mocsa, josh moran, nancy walsh) all created a false city emergency, created public concern for safety all under the pretense of hiding our bond rating and secret pet projects.

      so, they lied and now want to be trusted to be forthright with the truth about meetings and following established guidelines.

      the smokescreen or incompetence is sort of thick

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    5. Don't forget all of the lies and deception those same people used to raise our water rates. My first reaction is to not believe anything that comes out of their mouths.

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    6. Apparently, none of you are familiar with Kabuki Theater.

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  7. I will vote NO on the project unless it conforms to the intent and the spirit of Measure V.

    Since day one, the Council (at the time - Buchanan/Mosca) continued to undermine Measure V and it continued with the BS use of the term "suites" by our City Staff in order to ignore Measure V - still baffles me how and why our City Staff is so clouded in judgement and has been already documented with lies and misinformation to the public on issues that it wants to bully into the city.

    When this is all overbuilt and running inefficently, we will have representatives or residents crowding city hall complaining about noise from the fire/police station (sirens) and traffic issues.


    I am not so desperate or offended by the facility as it now stands that I will bend over backwards or blindly accept any development because it is better than nothing, which always isn't be most viable option.

    Just because some developer has bought the property it is not my problem that the developer demands a return on the investment at the expense of the city or neighborhood.

    Our city staff has lied to us before, dabbled in the gray areas of the law and spun complete fabrications on the intent of their actions and it's no surprise that last nights meeting was completely a waste of time, ill planned and extremely mismanaged.

    So, I am starting with a NO vote and will have to be completely convinced that THIS time, for a start, that we aren't being lied to or bamboozled by the very people we elected or hired to work FOR US are doing just that.

    It is not my concern that the facility needs X number of "suites" or units for sale to make a profit and that we should feel compelled or guilty that the developer made a unsound investment.

    Not my problem.

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    1. "I will vote NO on the project unless it conforms to the intent and the spirit of Measure V."

      For my money, this should be the official Tattler motto for every project.

      Thank you for the clear strong voice of reason.

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    2. I will also vote NO on this project. A business district is supposed to be just that....a place to do business. Displacing potential retail and commercial businesses for the sake of residential will only harm Sierra Madre in the long term.

      It seems as though most people here can't see past tomorrow, let alone next year or 10 years from now. Short term thinking has brought this country to its knees and Sierra Madre is not far behind, unless people wise up and start thinking long term again.

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  8. We will be voting no. They are trying to sell the ALF as a benefit to the good citizens of Sierra Madre. I doubt that many people in town will be able to afford living, or having their elders live there. The ones who will make plenty of money are the owners of the K. We are supporters of measure V and would rather see condos with store fronts built there, that adhere to the letter of measure V. People that live in condos would spend their money in our town. I doubt the elderly in assisted living would spend much time or money in our businesses. This whole Kensington thing has been a boondoggle from the start. There are plenty of good assisted living facilities in the area. Don't need this project on the boulevard.

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    1. Maybe if developers, banksters and their friends in government weren't forcing Senior citizens out of their homes, there wouldn't be a need for such a facility. It's just adding insult to injury as far as I'm concerned.

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    2. Measure V was a compromise and not necessarily a good one.

      There should be NO RESIDENTIAL IN THE BUSINESS DISTRICT!!!

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    3. Really? I kind of thought some of those perpetually empty storefronts might make a good place to live.

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    4. the two lots that comprise the Kensington are zoned commercial AND residential. The kensington will have both residential and commercial. Sounds like a match to me.

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    5. How about a waste treatment facility? It would be perfect... across the street from City Hall.

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    6. That would be the perfect place for the low income housing and homeless shelter!

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    7. That is what the Chamber of Commerce is good for. Degentrification.

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  9. Will there be a write in vote? I'd like to vote for an In & Out instead.

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    1. We already got that from Buchanan, Mosca, Moran and a few others who allegedly work for the citizens of Sierra Madre...

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    2. They're what a hamburgers all about.

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    3. Not to be indelicate, but there is already an In & Out quality to "senior" living arrangements; the time between check in and check out can be pretty short.

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    4. It's a one way ticket for all of us. So you might as well enjoy a good piece of grounded meat between a soft bun, while you're here.

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    5. God's waiting room, 1:00. Once you get sent to a place like that you know you're looking at the finish line.

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    6. Hey, Chip Ahlswede is back in town. I'm surprised none of you noticed. Say hello to Bart Doyle and Judy Webb-Martin for us.

      ;-)

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    7. Ah yes. Josh's buddy and the man who helped to pass Prop 8. I always found that to be quite a clash of philosophies.

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    8. According to what I've found on the internets, Chippy does propaganda work for the CRA. He also touts his Schubert Flint experience quite a bit.

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  10. Wow, Steve, your 10:59 disguise was pretty good. I almost didn't recognize you!

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    1. 12:41~ Sorry, but I'm not Steve.

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    2. There's more than one opinion on the Kensington. Disliking it doesn't make somebody a troll.

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    3. Ya I didnt make that comment 1241. I just got on. I didnt read the Tattler this morning with my usual bowl of Wheaties. You must know that I support the ALF and not putting it to vote. The vote is stupid and stalls to process. As long as the project meets the design standards of the city it should be a discretionary vote by the council period.

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    4. Does the "L" stand for Lovejoy?

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    5. 3:51, I get it that you must be new to town, and don't know just how many bad decisions councils have made ever since city hall got into the development business. Those bad decisions culminated in councils' losing the right to make them without the approval of the majority of the residents. It's an excellent method. It's American.

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    6. the L stands for Lucky!

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    7. Lucky is the kind of name people give to stray mutts.

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    8. The "L" obviously stands for Loser.

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  11. Sunday's Discussion and Rumors at the band shell...

    have you heard the rumors that the city council is considering turning "CITY HALL" into a new In & Out Hot Dog stand...

    just think, they could be selling and eating each other cooked hot dogs!

    what a racket...

    Maybe CRA monies could be replaced with a new stimuli-st package,

    look at the possibilities, there could be increased city revenues, state taxes and UUT - Utility User Taxes on top of each hot dog sale.

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  12. Hey 2:42, you mean the youthful peppy man who worked to defeat Measure V, who then turned out to be defeated himself? That Chip? Worked for Schubert Flint?

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  13. If the Chipster is in town, somebody's paying him.

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  14. Schubert Flint is the company that ran the campaign to pass Proposition 8. Whatever those homophones are for, I am against.

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    1. Oh sometimes I just can't help myself...

      Homophones: Each of two or more words having the same pronunciation but different meanings, origins, or spelling, e.g., new and knew.

      So what'll it be? Homophobe or homophone?

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    2. How about homographs, surely the most confusing homos of all.

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    3. My pet goldfish are homocercal.

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  15. And "Mayor Moron called in to the meeting while vacationing in Hawaii" phooy on Moron. What an idiot to call poolside from Hawaii. Im sure he had to mention that more than once that he wasnt prepared as "he was on vacation in Hawaii poolside". I can just see him with his alcoholic beverage with an umbrella while sporting his Varnets, speedos, and ascot. What a dweeb.

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    1. Employing that speedo imagery is a form of mental cruelty.

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    2. "Dweeb" is kind.

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  16. Looks like another fine city mess.... The KLN will get a NO vote from me; and along with all my neighboors and friends in town that are beginning to understand what this city is trying to do.

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  17. thank you Kevin Dunn and Kurt Zimmerman for effectively locking down our City Council and not allowing them to continuing to screw us over with really "STUPID" development

    sure the developer is acting all nicey poo now,but if and when the vote is no - expect a lawsuit

    and expect the same old same old BS from the local "media...choke choke gag gag" spinning that we need this development and that it will serve the community

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  18. thanks to Measure V we don't have the misguided thinking of someone like SteveL from above - we tried to trust our Council and until Measure V we were headed down a path of building almost 150 or more condos with multi story parking lots and that was just the start.

    No thanks, I'd rather not trust the Council and stalling any government process at our City is a good thing.

    Fact is that the former Council and two of our existing Council members were front and center in a massive deception to the public with the UUT from original push until they got lambasted for lying to us.

    I'm voting NO unless it conforms with Measure V.

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