Thursday, November 8, 2012

A House Not Quite On The Hill?

~ Alfington ~
Obviously the ALF passed muster with the voters on Tuesday, and by a pretty substantial margin. However, questions about how this was done are now being raised. In particular the matter of some late arriving depictions of a so-called Santa Barbara Mission design, something that was decidedly different from anything that had been brought to the peoples' attention before.

This from today's Pasadena Star News (click here):

The Kensington assisted living facility scored an emphatic victory Tuesday, as voters approved the 75-room, two-story development across the street from City Hall. Measure ALF, as expected, passed by a wide margin. In the final total, 3,668 residents, or 77 percent, voted yes on the project.

A last-minute campaign against the project, driven by a project rendering few people had seen, stood little chance of changing the outcome. Only 23 percent voted no on the project, a total of 1,092.

Construction is expected to begin next spring, lasting just over a year. The Kensington would house up to 96 seniors and disabled residents in a key section of Sierra Madre's downtown and includes sidewalk-level retail space. It replaces a vacant building previously used as a nursing facility.

"It's very pleasing that we got the support that we did from the community," said Billy Shields of developer Fountain Square Development West.

However, Fountain Square surprised many Sierra Madre residents when it distributed updated project renderings in postcards and a newspaper ad in the weeks ahead of the election. The renderings show a Santa Barbara mission style building next to the sidewalk on Sierra Madre Boulevard at different angles, much different than earlier depictions of a Craftsman-style building set back from the sidewalk.

It is estimated that well over 1,000 mail-in votes were cast before the far larger appearing "Santa Barbara" ALF design got out to the general public. That rather late-arriving post card, along with the now infamous Mountain Views News ad, would have been far better timed had they been put in front of the residents before any of the vote had actually taken place.

I was contacted by James Figueroa of the Star News for this article. His call was made late Tuesday afternoon, so at that time I had no idea what the exact vote results would be. And, to be perfectly frank, I would never have guessed that well over 1,000 people would vote against Measure ALF.

Much of the late opposition reflected concerns that the Kensington is too big and would require too much water in a city recently warned that available water sources were dwindling. The criticism emerged on the Sierra Madre Tattler blog and in fliers distributed to homes. "I don't think they were quite as transparent as they should have been," blogger John Crawford said.

Fountain Square won over voters early in the year by supporting public calls to put the project on the ballot, in accordance with Sierra Madre's Measure V, which limits the size of developments.

So was this something that was done deliberately? A misguided move made by those pushing for the passage of Measure ALF? Were they afraid that had the actual depictions of what the ALF is going to look like gone out in a more timely manner, they would not have gotten the votes they needed?

It seems obvious to me that Measure ALF was going to carry anyway, so why exactly would the City feel the need to get shady this time? Old habits die hard?

For a last minute attempt that 1,092 number is actually a pretty good one. This represents the core vote of the slow growth community here in Sierra Madre. The entire "No on Measure ALF" effort consisting of one flyer put out by people I personally never spoke with, plus a few blog posts here. Being a presidential year, the turnout in this election was well over twice the usual amount, which to me explains much of that 3,668 "Yes" number. A lot of the more casual voting public, people who only vote once every four years and rarely if ever in our municipal elections, obviously went for Measure ALF.

In a regular city election here that 1,092 would be a pretty substantial number. Particularly when you consider that much of this particular effort developed very late in the process. The slow growth community in Sierra Madre remains alive and well. People need to keep that in mind the next time something like this comes up. I'm sure it won't be quite so much about Measure V.

Measure J: Metro gets a well-deserved comeuppance

Measure J, the ballot initiative that would have extended Measure R out until a time when few of us will still number amongst the living, failed to get the two-thirds vote it needed to pass. This from the Beverly Hills Courier (click here): 

Measure J Defeated; Voters Void Metro's"Blank Check" -“It’s a good day to be a transit rider in Los Angeles,” Damien Goodmon, of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition.

Measure J was defeated this week in Los Angeles County. The proposed 30-year extension of the Measure R half-cent sales tax needed a 2/3 majority to win and instead got 64.7 percent of the votes.

“Four years ago…voters approved Measure R,” Goodmon said. “We were fooled… they told us they were going to improve transit service, they cut one million bus hours. They told us it was going to improve communities and they provided destruction plans for our communities.”

Goodmon credits the No On Measure J coalition with getting the word out against Measure J. The coalition included members of the Bus Riders Union, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, No On 710 Action Committee and Beverly Hills Board of Education.

“This was an amazingly diverse coalition of community groups that came together from Boyle Heights to Park Mesa Heights,” Goodmon said. “From MacArthur Park to Liemert Park from Highland Park to Beverly Hills and with the leadership of the bus riders union we were able to tell the truth about this fraudulent, disrespectful, regressive sales tax that would have been taxing me until I was 87 years old.”

Metro, which is the so-called "lead agency" pushing hard for the 710 Tunnel here, took a huge blow Tuesday. It is estimated that the defeat of Measure J is going to cost them in excess of $60 billion (with a "b") dollars. Thanks to the hard work of organizations like the No On 710 Action Committee (click here), their message obviously resonated with a lot of voters in the directly affected communities.

And since Measure J lost by less than 1.8% of the vote, it seems pretty obvious to me that much of this financially crippling blow to Metro was delivered right here in the San Gabriel Valley.

What goes around comes around, as they say.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

51 comments:

  1. The irony here is that the developer is both victim and good guy in this drama. Billy Bob Spears and the planning commission demanded a stucco box built to the curb and, of course, empty retail. Nice work.

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  2. Is it possible to be for both big development and Measure V?

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    1. I guess so. What a strange development.

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  3. I agree with you 6:24. I stood up at the City Council meetings and declared I'd certainly vote Yes for the ALF if only it would be placed on the ballot, as Measure V requires. This is one project where the Planning Commission fell down on the job, being dictated to by City Hall with their stupid "suites versus living units" controversy. For the record, I voted No - because of the water issue and because it is too big.

    As for Measure J, we will have to watch Chris Holden who often spoke in favor of the 710 tunnel extension. I got a chuckle from my sister's email, "Did you have any local issues to vote on?" Obviously, she lives in a state far, far away!

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  4. Those of us who have been following this project from its inception were not surprised by the rendering of the ALF in its final form. This was presented to the planning commission after the commission demanded retail space and moving some of the "suites" off the street which would be in the "commercial area". Shields did exactly what the planning commission asked of him. It would have been better of the commission to have Shields to do more excavation, but they didn't.

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  5. At the June planning commission meeting Spears demanded a mixed use approach which he without irony termed "outside the box.". Spears is responsible for this "santa barbara mission" dog of a box. It would have been better to have built the developer's proposal without any changes.

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    1. I guess the pc felt they had to do something. This issue was putting a lot of attention on them. So they did. Too bad more people didn't know what it was going to end up being. A much neater eyesore.

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  6. Who came up with the storefront idea?

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    1. Wal*Alf or Alf*Mart?

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    2. More to the point, who approved it? Besides the voters.

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    3. Maybe they should put a giant inflatable Panda on the roof.

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    4. The round pail looking section over the front doors is the water tower. In case of emergencies.

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  7. From that picture, it's clear that the facility will be built on flat ground.

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    1. But will it ...

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    2. 8:19 am, it's clear you're not looking closely. Do you not see the slope on the east? Or the stairs from the sidewalk to the main structure to the west of the retail The sidewalk and the retail entrance are at ground level; the balance of the main building is elevated from ground level.

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    3. Nicely disguised, I see.

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    4. What I see is a structure built on sloping land. The front portion is two stories high and the back portion looks as though it merges somehow into one story, accommodating the slope. At all points, the hill that is there now, that the current structure is built on, appears to have been removed.

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  8. I voted against the ALF. Main reasons: to big, water usage, inbalance of cost to provide city services vs income from propety taxes.

    However, I do think it should have retail frontage. There should be no living quarters facing the sidewalk at "street level" and these are rooms with people inside them, don't forget.

    Those who voted yes will walk by (naw, they'll drive by) and wonder, why the hell did I vote for that monstrosity?

    It really boils down to civic fatigue. I hear there was a flyer of sorts out against the proposal but I didn't participate in the effort. Wasn't asked! Didn't volunteer. You all understand how that goes.

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  9. Has the buildings height shown a weakness in Measure V, as in 30 feet measured from what point?
    I assumed the height would be measured from the street as the base.

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    1. While that assumption will work on the south side of Sierra Madre Boulevard, look at the structures currently bulit on the north side: Dr. Sami's, CLIMB, Sierra Madre Congregational Church, as well as others. It is actually dealt with within the building code. It's the old joke about making assumptions. We got so caught up in suites vs whatever, we were distracted from other important issues.

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    2. But why isn't it spelled out in Measure V? The idea is to keep "human sized" structures.

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    3. In the brave new world people shrink. That way you can fit more of them in.

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  10. The photo does not show other things: bus stop, cross walk and the parallel parking. I take it back, the bus stop is represented as a ghost structure. Blimey!

    Samy's is not a big block structure blocking the view of the mountains. The other sturctures mentioned on the northside are interspersed with single story structures so the massing is not so grevious.

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  11. There is always a vibe here that teachers are underpaid. I went to Pasadena Unified School District Certificated Salary Schedule to see for myself. I have a son who is looking for a teaching job. Looks, hmmmnn . . . about 33 hours a week at the middle school, two months off, and the the salary is . . . plus benefits . . . plus a defined benefit pension . . . hmmnn . . .

    http://human-resources.pusd.schoolfusion.us/modules/locker/files/get_group_file.phtml?gid=938658&fid=14595437&sessionid=5bb65fb7570a367e540a9e6270bae8fd

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    1. 'Teachers are underpaid' used to be true, some decades ago. Now they have good incomes with healthcare and retirement. Like all government employees, they are now doing better than their counterparts in the private sector.

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    2. So, know-it-all @10:30, what is the average pusd teacher salary?

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    3. I think there is a link there, obviously- cannot- read @ 11:36.

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  12. I have a friend who works for Ontario school district. She teaches science to junior high school. Her base salary 5 years ago was $68K. Then she worked summer school and made another $8k. She holds a masters degree from Cal LA in education. I think $76K plus Cal Pers and other benefits is pretty fair salary.

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    1. If your friend was 61.5 years old at the end of this semester, and retiring with 30 years service, she would receive about $54,000.00 per year for life. (Not including a "supplemental plan" which has been in place for the past 10 years or so.)

      The basic equation is years (30) x career factor (2.4% at age 61.5) x highest annual salary ($76,000).

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    2. So you're saying 2:39 pm that retired teachers will not be making up a large part of the ALFington population? That a couple would be shut out at a time of greatest need? But what if they sold their family home and the RAV3 they've carefully maintained? I'm confused about just who will be able to afford this pricey old folks' warehouse. If I were in control of my faculties (no pun intended) I sure wouldn't my children chipping in to rent me a suite on the boulevard.

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    3. 2:39 says: In all seriousness, having seen the long, painful deaths of my father, my father-in-law, and my mother-in-law, who all died in nursing homes, I am in favor of assisted suicide. The fact that the ALF is not a nursing home, of course, makes this discussion moot. The ALF is just an expensive apartment complex with some supervision. I was a teacher, and I could afford it, but thank god I don't need or want it.

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    4. A Roman ending is best. When your powers are gone and you have become a burden to those about you, call together your loved ones and offer them the gift of your death. Your memory will always be honored.

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  13. It is not that teachers are under paid ! It is that they are under preforming.
    The unions and district could careless why.

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    1. Ahhh, leave the teachers alone. Who else is going to try and get something through the thick heads of your kids?

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    2. That's what tv is for.

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    3. An electronic lobotomy will prepare them well for life.

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  14. Doesn't everyone have the summer off, and every conceivable holiday?

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  15. Looks like the 4th of July elephant fiasco came back as the new monumental elephant Alf. Maybe all the retired teachers should be allowed to live there. They'll be the only ones able to afford the hidden costs of an alf. But, wait....they go on a lot of vacations, so the water usage won't be that much. Big government and high taxes and developers....sounds like the hemlock tea for business and the middle class to me folks. Bye, bye the American Pie.

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    1. What will happen to the neighborhood businesses during the year this thing is being built?

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    2. As long as they don't need any street parking, or any clean air to breathe, or any normal noise levels, they'll be fine. Hey, it's only a year or a bit more....

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    3. There will be more big trucks on Sierra Madre Boulevard than have ever been seen here before. But that's OK. As long as City Hall gets more tax money no sacrifice is too great.

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  16. Summers off were not designed by teachers, it was an agricultural society then. There are some year round schools and many attempts to make smart changes over time.

    What if the schools to follow the latest well-founded study that says schools should start at 9 a.m. when teens are more ready to function after their "night-owl" tendencies keep them up "too late." Some cities, where there is good public transportation, are implimentaing schedule changes so kids are at school later, when their parents are already off to work. Have to trust that your kids get up and go and need a feed-back system from the school attendance takers to let parents know if the child misses class(es). Then there are those who would say don't want those kids out and about when the community is off to work. Too much trouble to get into.

    And anyone want to discuss mandatory education? Important to keep children out of the factories but today many are in the fields.

    A school district nearby not too long ago, had a group of old buildings where the migrant children were given instruction because it was "so disruptive to have them coming and going during planting and harvest seasons." The principal of that school said 'no more' and the practice was put to an end. When a new school was built in the 1970's it was named for that courageous principal.

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    1. The "school year" is going to come out to about 175 days a year because that is what the teachers unions want: to work less than half the year for a full year's salary. Thanks to the uninformed taxpayers.

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  17. Every conceivable holiday? Let's have a list. Pretty sure the public is off when the schools are in session on occassion.

    Would also like to ask: Who at the end of the work day has to keep track of 180-240 students grades/assignments/phone calls to parents/lesson plans/reports/research/workshops, etc.? (The student number is what I experienced as a high school teacher over the course of 31 years--elementary/middle school teachers have fewer students per day but you could multiply that by the number of hours and it would be roughly the same.)

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  18. Every seventh year, I want to come back to the ALF for my sabbatical. Should be a quiet place to work on my magnum opus that I just can't seem to finish in the summers off.

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    1. You can do that? I thought you could check in, but you don't check out.

      Unless your checks run out.

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    2. You can take the ALf out of the boy, but you can't take the boy out of the ALF? Sounds like kidnapping.

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    3. I think it was a reference to the old Roach Motel ad on TV.

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  19. 2/30/13. Two stories/30 feet high (measured by natural grade or street level) and 13 units,suites,rooms, what ever wording fits the developers greed game for profit. Word smith any way you want, the city council knew what they were doing, they make the final decision and can tweak codes and zoning. Becareful who you vote into city council. The planning commission tried, but city mng. wanted the property taxes regardless; job security you know.
    The next property up for grabs is where Taylors Market is located; again privately owned, then private property owners on the blvd. could buldoz if they want to up grade the town to look similar to the ALF.

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  20. 175 days of teaching equals 35 weeks. A full year at work for if you got no holidays (what slave state is that?) would be 52 weeks. Now lets substract the week-ends, as most areas of employement includes a 5 day work week even though those days may not be Saturday and Sunday. (If you work where you get "week-ends" off you can thank the union movement). The long summer vacations were designed for the agricultural work calendar and schools follow that still for the most part (there have been some reforms for year round schooling--it is parents who often still prefer the summers-off calendar--family vacation planning and all that. Maybe summer weeks off are repayment for all the week-ends and late nights spent in preparing for classes, grading papers and posting grades, after school meetings with parents, preparing etc. School years have lengthened and shortened over the years with the budget and the efforts of schools to give students a better education as if seat time was the pure measure of that. Then there used to be summer school for students who had trouble during the school year (believe it or not students with a whole lot of students come to the public schools that do have difficulties and are not screened out the way they might be elsewhere).

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