|Read me a story pole, Adele|
But seriously, when did John Buchanan ever say anything that turned out to be true?
You know what is funny, though? None of John's development and Bob the Builder pals are going to be all that happy about any of this, either. Why? Because it doesn't look any of them are going to get even a small slice of this particular pie. Which must be sad for them because they really have been waiting so long for this ship to come in.
The first house proposed for the Carter/Stonegate development had a brief though memorable hearing at the Planning Commission last night. The opening round of what could end up being quite a contentious affair. Assistant Planner Dereck Purificacion announced that, upon viewing the story poles for this spacious structure (pictured above), staff discovered that part of the design encroached into a legally unbuildable Slope 4 area. And because of this the matter had to be continued until a meeting in April, and a redesign to avoid the Slope 4 area is under way.
Slope 4, in case you don't have your guide book handy, is the classification for something so steep and dangerous that it cannot be built upon without risking calamity. Something of a bother for the folks behind this structure because it could possibly curtail the desired enormity. They do need a lot of space.
The chief architect, Adele Chang, spoke before the Planning Commission and explained that there was a difference in the final grading plans that the last owner, Capital Source Bank, had given her, and the actual as-is conditions. Which does make you wonder if the buyer here had actually looked at this metaphorical pig, or just bought it straight from the poke. Some confused discussion then followed, mostly about raising the building pad two feet so that the house will be shorter. Raising a pad two feet will require how many truck loads of dirt to be brought in through town?
Planner Purificacion then explained that the set backs are also at odds with our legal requirements. Something that did seem a little late in the game for him to be figuring out now. In fact, how is it that the assistant planner working on the project did not know about that slope, or the setbacks?
In what can only be called comic relief, chief architect Adele Chang proclaimed that this 5 bedroom, 5 and 1/4 bathroom house was typical and "normal for a modern family." I'm telling you, Adele could really rake it in if she did stand up at The Ice House.
Residents in attendance spoke about the house not complying with the intent of the Hillside Management Zone Ordinance, especially the part about this being way too much house for too little a lot. One astute resident asked that if there were five bedrooms, how could a two car garage possibly be sufficient for the eventual number of cars? The same resident referred the architect to an award winning architectural firm's website in hopes that she might discover more creative ideas. You know, perhaps as a jog to her creative inspiration, hopefully leading to something beyond mere bulk?
The six foot slumpblock walls that will go around most of the property lines were also called out as violating our design guidelines against "fortress" like appearances.
Those of you who recall the loss of close to one hundred trees at One Carter will be saddened to learn that some of the remaining trees on the lot were drastically hacked back without City permission. Ms. Chang was as surprised as everyone else, or so she said. The story pole installers had taken it on themselves to do it being the story. Chang then informed all attending that she is asking for permission from the Tree Commission right now. After they trees have already been cut, of course. I hope the TC will say no, and demand that they put all of those branches back.
The same developer will be bringing plans for two other houses on nearby lots to the next Planning Commission meeting. So despite the efforts of many concerned residents, the Carter Development is about to become a site for oversized spec houses, ones apparently being built for flipping. As the architect put it, "Everyone wants to maximize the land." At somebody else's expense, of course.
Get ready for this one. The One Carter Disaster is now nearly 10 years old, and it is just getting started.
It's kind of like those Water Walks, only sitting down
City Hall usually doesn't send me anything but bills, but that's OK. Not that I like bills, mind you. But when the City sends out something like this invitation to their "Water Subcommittee Meeting," I get about 20 e-mails from people asking me if I have seen it. I do appreciate that. It shows the kind of community concern that a thing such as this deserves.
Here is the message that the City sent out:
The first community study session on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 10:00 am in the Sierra Madre Room at the Community Recreation Center, 611 E. Sierra Madre, will be a discussion of our water rates, and the upcoming water rate study that the City Council will be commissioning.
For this meeting, we will focus on the following question:
How do we structure water rates so that we:
- Keep our water utility financially viable,
- Promote conservation so that we minimize or delay our need for an alternate water supply,
- Give a higher priority to health and hygiene needs of our citizens vs. discretionary uses (long hot showers, lush landscaping),
- Be sensitive to those that are least able to pay, and
- Build reserves to replace and repair aging infrastructure.
Here are a couple of observations from me, someone who hates the fact that our water rates are being raised again, and about 12 billing cycles after the last time they did it.
First, this is hardly a study session. Josh Moran already knows exactly what he wants, and is willing to endure your presence for a few hours in order to get it. The public by law must be brought into this so-called process, but trust me, the fix is way in on this one. The City wants more of your money for their water, they know exactly how much that is, and you will be allowed to talk until you are blue in the face, but their opinions are not going to change.
Secondly, the real elephant in the room is old and festering water bond debt. Really large water bond debt. Our Standard & Poore's bond rating collapsed after the last water rate hike was pounded into place because then Mayor Joe Mosca wanted to be loved and didn't raise water rates quite enough to satisfy the brokers. Our bond covenants remained so out of whack that our rating got chopped. Which has got to be one of the first times ever that a water rate increase resulted in a bond rating cut.
The City now wants to take care of this woeful situation, and requires more of your money to do so. All of the happy talk cited above, while perhaps somewhat germane, is secondary to this one unavoidable fact. Our biggest water problem is debt. Everything else is a consequence.
Here is another way to look at things. The City is now working very hard to raise everything from water rates to utility taxes. And in order to do this they need to get a majority of folks in town on board with the idea that they have to pay more. We can vote down a utility tax increase should Mayor Moran be graceless enough to attempt a UUT do-over measure in 2014, but I am not certain how this second water rate increase within a very short period of time can be stopped.