Saturday, September 22, 2012

Measure ALF: The Quietest Sierra Madre Ballot Question Ever?

So do you know what Measure ALF is? It is going to be on Sierra Madre's ballot this November, along with some other issues and candidacies, most of which are of only marginal relevance to us living here behind the Michillinda Curtain. Ballot measures in this town are usually a burning issue, and in the past folks have gotten pretty wound up about some of them. Not so much with Measure ALF, however. It has been pretty quiet, especially over the last couple of months.

If you were to look Measure ALF up on the internet you would find the pickings especially sparse. I was unable to find a website advocating either a "Yes" or "No" vote on this question. There is some verbiage about it on the usually dependable Ballot*Pedia site, though even they admit that what is presented there is not in any way complete. Here is what they have to offer us:

A Sierra Madre Amendment of the Kensington Project, Measure ALF ballot question is on the November 6, 2012 ballot for voters in the City of Sierra Madre in Los Angeles County.

If Measure N (?) is approved, the City of Sierra Madre's municipal code will be amended to permit development of "an assisted living facility consistent with the Kensington Living Facility Specific Plan not exceeding two stories, thirty feet in height and seventy-five assisted living suites, for the parcels located at 33 North Hermosa Avenue (at) 245 West Sierra Madre Boulevard."

The development company Fountain Square Development West wants to develop the proposed assisted  living facility.

Not that long ago there was some focus on this issue, much of it stemming from anxiety felt by certain concerned residents over the fate of Measure V, aka the "People's Empowerment Act." It was felt, and not without some justification, that certain City Councilmembers were in the tank for the developer (they almost always are), and were working to undercut Measure V in what is its first true ballot test. And as you can see in the wording of the actual ballot question, they did manage to foul things up a little bit. Again, from Ballot*Pedia:

Measure ALF: "Shall an Ordinance be adopted to amend Sierra Madre Municipal Code Section 17.35.040 (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 not exceeding two stories, thirty feet in height and seventy-five assisted living suites, for the parcels located at 33 North Hermosa Avenue an (sic) 245 West Sierra Madre Boulevard?"

I bolded the term "assisted living suites" because it is what some would cite as the fly in the ointment here. There is nothing in Sierra Madre's elegantly constructed and time-tested Municipal Codes about "assisted living suites." Had this been termed "assisted living units," then we might have been able to assume that there is a complete legal validity to this statement. The "suites" verbiage was coerced by certain individuals for what is suspected of being $10s of thousands of dollars in misallocated City Attorney fees. The question here being one of intent. Was this an attempt to create a new category of development in Sierra Madre, and should this precedent be enabled by the electorate would it cripple Measure V in any future similar such development questions?

That is a big question, though one that does not seem to be setting anyone on fire. At least not lately. Of course, if you were curious to find out what the truth of the matter might be, you could likely do so if you had around $60,000 and Chris Sutton's phone number. I have the phone number, but I am a little short on the $60,000 thing. Though I can tell you that while I do avoid any involvement with Scratchers, I am playing California's Super Lotto twice a week.

Beyond the small group of folks who care about this issue, however, which is probably fully understood by about 40 of Sierra Madre's nearly 11,000 residents, there hasn't been too much activity on the Measure ALF front. There was a "Lunch and Learn" held at the Park Hart House this week. It wasn't completely a free lunch as those attending were expected to listen carefully to the presentation. Plus it was given by the Kensington's developer, Billy Shields, so I don't expect there was much in the way of "point/counterpoint," as they used to say.

There was also some kind of discussion on the matter held at the Kiwanis Club recently. These Kiwanis sessions are not often noted for being a hotbed of intellectual activity, but again there was food involved. Another indication that for some in town the preferred route to winning their votes is through the stomach.

And yesterday I received a report from a local resident who neither attends "Lunch and Learns" or Kiwanis confabs that the Kensington's Billy Shields has been spotted hanging out at the taxpayer supported Bottle Shop Wine Tasting Room, apparently quizzing the bibulous oenophiles there about how they plan to vote on Measure ALF. I am not sure those being questioned about their voting preference knew that much about the topic, and probably viewed Mr. Shields as being something of a buzz kill.

So I don't know. Pretty quiet if you ask me. However, Measure ALF is strongly supported by every City Councilmember, civic organization and business collective in town, so perhaps it is the near unanimity of support here that has made much conversation about Measure ALF seem unnecessary.

Of course, it is when this entire glittering constellation of local worthiness is so unequivocally on board with something that The Tattler becomes a little uncomfortable.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

(Note: Pictured at the the top of this article is a room from the other Kensington. The one called "Palace." I've been told that the suites there are far more exclusive.)

47 comments:

  1. Shields had a Wine Tasting at the Bottle Shop - (which by the way was one of the legitimate uses of the CRA monies because it was designed to help cities increase their tax revenue - much, much more legitimate than the playground equipment, loo in the park, and as it turned out the marketing study which is a joke amongst all jokes.)to thank the neighbors of the proposed ALF and the council members and some of the supporters. When asked if he was going to campaign, he said he was told that Sierra Madre didn't like "hard" campaigning but he would have yard signs available soon. We agitated for a Measure V vote and we got it. Let's not start with nitpicking the issue now. We all had our chance to speak up when it was being debated, and the majority said they would support the project if we could vote on it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Many did speak up, which is a good thing. But ultimately it is the vote that is the most effective way of making your opinions known. And that conversation is never over until election day arrives.

      Delete
    2. We are voting "NO." The "suites" language is clearly a ploy--a transparent end-run around Measure V. There is plently of precedent here in Sierra Madre for uniformed voters being bamboozled. It will probably happen again. If it is true the whole council supports the language of the measure, they are all idiots. The word "suites" is inappropriate and should have been changed to "units." Another swindle right in plain sight.

      Delete
    3. The Devil, as they say, is in the details.

      Delete
    4. I'm glad to see the restriction in the ballot language that this applies to those 2 parcels only. It was a fight to get that, meaning to have the developers follow the mechanism set up in Measure V for it's amendment, as parcel specific.

      Delete
    5. This Measure V gutting will set a precedent some overly trusting people will eventually not like very much. And that is was confirmed by a vote of the people? Priceless.

      Delete
    6. I disagree that Measure V has been hurt in any way.
      Measure V includes a process to exempt parcels through a public vote.
      Any time someone else wants to go beyond any Measure V requirement (2-30-13), they will be forced to go through the same thing.
      A public vote that excludes the parcels.

      Delete
    7. By the way if you like overpaying for tiny driblets of stale wine out of a machine, you should visit the "wine bar" at the Bottle Shop. A great use of taxpayer money indeed.

      Delete
    8. 10:35 - density in Sierra Madre is defined by the number of units. That is also written into Measure V. If the magic elves at Colantuono and Levin can change that word "unit" into "suite," then Measure V would not apply. And when you vote for Measure ALF, that is exactly what you will be doing.

      Delete
    9. And the section of Measure V that allows for APNs to be pulled out and made exempt?

      Delete
    10. The precedent will be set 1:24, and that will no longer be necessary. Once Measure ALF passes no downtown developer will ever use the word "unit" again. Office suites, medical suites, living suites, that is all we will hear. This November will be the one and only Measure V vote this town will ever see. After this it will be the Ordinance equivalent of the space shuttle. Awesome to look at, but unable to fly.

      Delete
    11. I would agree with that, 1:30, except that no matter what, if something is over 13 dwelling units per acre, and that term still exists in the Measure, it will have to be put to a public vote, in order to get the same permission that the alf's suites have. The alf getting suites that go way beyond Measure V's density limits on those 2 properties, and only those 2, does not equal the end of density controls. At least legally.
      I'm no expert, please correct, but Sutton wrote in a way to get properties out of the Measure V area for a reason. Exemptions to the rule were anticipated and provided for.

      Delete
  2. Sierra Madreans always say they dislike hard politics. But that never stops very many of them from joining in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A majority of residents care nothing about local politics, and a minority feels fiercely about them.
      Kind of like an erupting volcano in a calm ocean.

      Delete
  3. From Billy Shields, per your July 7 article on the Tattler:

    "While we maintain that our assisted living units are not "dwelling units" under most land use rules, we acknowledge that reasonable minds in the community may disagree and still question the "density" of our project, as envisioned by measure V."

    Living UNITS are not dwelling UNITS? Come on. Ghost of Bill Clinton parsing what "is" is. Call it a suite or whatever you want, but under the building code definition, if there is a habitable living space where people sleep and have a bathroom behind a locked door, you have "residency". It's a life safety issue as much as anything else, because you have to design the exiting and fire prevention of the building accordingly. The people in this "institution" own the space they're sleeping in, that's the kicker, it has nothing to do with kitchens.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So, these fancy newfangled megahomes that have multiple "master suites" ie bedrooms with a bathroom and a locked door are actually multifamily dwellings as in apartment houses? By your definition "sleep and have a bathroom bbehind a locked door" there is no other conclusion.

      Delete
    2. So in your opinion the folks living at the ALF should be considered as living in one big happy single family home? Interesting concept.

      Delete
    3. They used to be called "boarding houses" when rooms were rented out. And here in the San Gabriel Valley many Chinese first-generation families used them for exactly that, and installed "wok kitchens" to get around the multiple kitchen ban in a "single residence". Point is, the structure is built as R-1 with a single ownership, that's all that's LEGALLY allowed.

      In hotels, you have multiples of temporary residences, and the codes recognize that, even as the structure is under one ownership. Financially, there's bed taxes and many other legal/fiscal recognitions of the intent of multiple residency under a rent scenario. So many layers of regulation keep these things in line. Same with condos and apartments.

      Trying to change the legal status of a structure operating under specific code, zoning and building laws by parsing a word to violate the intention of law is unfortunately a common practice by developers. So forcing it on the local ballot is a good idea, because normally it's easier to get that kind of thing through the legislature with "donations". Measure V should prevail, and one way to do that would be to vote this thing down so that no developer tries to get into Sierra Madre again.

      This is how San Marino succeeded in keeping developers out. They get screwed every time they try. The mechanism is zoning and the Design Guidelines (administered by a citizen review panel) that won a State Supreme Court challenge by a developer. So again, it's local community review of every project.

      Delete
  4. Does Kensington Palace have units or suites?

    ReplyDelete
  5. It is a close call, but my vote is "No." I didn't like the whole "suite" thing and don't see why it was necessary.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Call them what you will, parse words, argue about their meaning, but know that no matter what they are called, they outnumber what is legally accepted under Measure V, and it is a Measure V we are voting on. Why do you think the DIRTS fought so hard to keep it off the ballot? They didn't want a vote. Had Shields not talked with Chris Sutton, this issue would still be dragging on.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Who got invited to the wine tasting?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As far as I know, the neighbors of the ALF, the City Council, MaryAnn, the Alcorns, and a few others who spoke up in favor of the ALF if it went to a vote.

      Delete
  8. If ALF can't get a simple concept like "dwelling unit" into print and on the ballot, why would anyone believe they can do anything right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Alfers are getting into print exactly what they want. From their perspective they couldn't get it more right.

      Delete
    2. There had to have been some quid pro quo here. Beneficial concessions from City Hall in exchange for playing happy with the "suites" gambit.

      Delete
    3. I can see that.

      Delete
  9. The Colantuono and Levin attorney that spent week after week of Planning Commission time hammering the suites vs. units issue sure seemed to have something on his mind. Anyone know what it was? Besides billable hours?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My guess would be pride in interpreting an existing ordinance into ineffectiveness through the ruse of intentional misunderstanding.

      Delete
    2. The law firm we use deliberately fudges the law for the benefit of developers and their City Hall servants. That is why they make the big bucks.

      Delete
  10. To slightly paraphrase Shakespeare:

    "Suites" are the usages of our adversaries,
    Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
    Wants yet a precious jewel in his head;

    As You Like It, II,1

    ReplyDelete
  11. Two NO votes, here!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I am sorry to see the views of the mountains go.
    Check out Dr. Sami's structure, which obliterates a portion of the view of the mountains, and then imagine it 5 times as long.
    People will walk out of city hall, look north, and not even know there are mountains there.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I vote no on everything now. I don;t trust them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trusting ALF means trusting Doyle, Buchanan, Mosca, Walsh, et al. Not a good bet, if you are looking for the truth.

      Delete
    2. Willing to bet Billy will disappear faster than Joe Mosca as soon as the real shenanigans start.

      Delete
  14. My objection to the assisted living project is that it will hasten the diminishing of our water supply.
    That's a lot of laundry those places have to do.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I am aware that the Fountain West people are proud to have helped provide us with an opportunity to cast a Measure V vote on their project. But why did they also have to also make it about language that is not only contrary to current city law, but detrimental to those of us who support slow and measured growth as well?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Fountain West people are business people who have come to town to get richer.
      Viva la capitalism, but let's remember why they are here.
      They knew full well the number they needed to get their goal before the first city council meeting.
      In Redondo beach, it's 92 suites.
      http://www.dailybreeze.com/education/ci_20543136/redondo-beach-school-board-goes-senior-facility-knob?source=rss

      Delete
    2. The difference between Redondo Beach and Sierra Madre is that the property in Redondo Beach is just a rental for about $600K per year, plus development costs. That means their senior residents are on the hook for all of that, plus annual maintenance, utilities, food and nursing care. Not exactly affordable for the locals, and they end up owning nothing, since it's a land lease. Just a means of draining their bank accounts...frail elderly aren't exactly long-term tenants, though. But the number of units in a facility sets the pricing, the more, the merrier in payback.

      As soon as the developers hit the payback benchmark, it's a cash cow that deteriorates until it's closed up and the school district finds another tenant. As local residents in this area know, residential care facilities close up, sell off, relocate and ship their residents around, such as the Kensington Episcopal Home in Alhambra.

      http://www.pasadenaweekly.com/cms/story/detail/waiting_game/8697/

      Delete
  16. Don't cut off your nose to spite your face. The ALF will bring revenue into Sierra Madre, something we sorely need. It is a "clean" industry and will add a population of people who will use the other businesses in town, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All true. Too bad the city screwed up the paperwork.

      Delete
    2. What's wrong with the scenario that there's a Skilled Nursing Facility along with a Home Support Services center that partners with the Senior Center with in-home support (pharmacy, equipment rentals, outpatient)? That way seniors keep their equity and only pay for the services they need. It could also be a health clinic and workout gym tailored to 50+ adults. This is something that could really serve the local community, not just suck in the wealthier set with extremely expensive housing and nursing services support, which is far less expensive as in-home care.

      That's the business of the future, adult retirement and nursing homes are going the way of the dinosaur. The Boomers drive all the trends.

      Delete
    3. You do realize that this place is not a skilled nursing facility, yeah?
      It's a different category.
      When the residents of the Kensington require a skilled nursing facility, they will be politely evicted.

      Delete
    4. They will be trucked out the back door and into the loving arms of the state when they run out of dollars.

      Delete
  17. Nice touch Crawford.The HALL OF MIRRORS,Versailles.Describes this shady deal perfectly.Screwed again by our gold plated lawyers and our lamentable City establishment.

    ReplyDelete