Friday, March 8, 2013

Stonegate Architect Claims 5 Bedroom, 5.25 Bathroom House 'Normal for a Modern Family'

Read me a story pole, Adele
It isn't funny, so it isn't comedy. At least it's not when it is as literally close to home as this mess. But I suspect from 50 miles away you'd probably find it hilarious, in a laughing at the misery of others kind of way. From what had been one of our most beloved wilderness areas, we now see rising from the dust everything that Sierra Madre is not supposed to be. And what John Buchanan had once so famously proclaimed would be an area filled with "custom built homes" is now about to become some of the worse examples of gauche cookie cutter McMansion abuse in the San Gabriel Valley. Rivaling even that of Arcadia.

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.

I'm not going to tell you what to do, but I will tell you how I am going to spend Saturday. At home with my family. There is little going down at this Water Subcommittee Meeting that nobody hasn't already heard before.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

78 comments:

  1. Come now John, you know and I know that trees suck up water. When you have 5 1/2 bathrooms, you need lots of water. Maybe the ALF can use the city's radio flyer to run old folks back and forth up to use those bathroom iover there at the Stonegate Fortress.

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  2. Houses that large are not green. Surely we'll be hearing from the Green Committee about this!

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    1. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

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    2. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. I just spit my coffee onto my clean shirt.

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    3. That is rich.

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  3. So we're going to have our very own Arcadia suburb. Big houses, cheek to jowl, marching up the hillsides. Wish we could have named the streets after the council members who gifted this to the city:
    Stockly Way, Buchanan Avenue, Joffee Street, and Torres Circle.

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    1. At least the projected Mandarin Immersion Program at the middle school will be guaranteed success.

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    2. Slough of Levin. Colantuono Cistern. Doyle Diversion.

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    3. No way will the Chinese people use the PSUD.
      They will find a way to have those areas added to the Arcadia schools or more likely build their own private schools nearby.

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    4. They will simply use extended family members addresses in Arcadia and continue to attend Arcadia schools.No biggy.it's standard proceedure.

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    5. Right 12:41. Or I know of some instances when apartments are rented, then sublet, in order to have the address.

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  4. The new name after One Carter, after Stonegate, is now
    斯通在馬德雷

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    1. according to Google Translate:
      Stone Madre

      I'm thinking:
      扔石头马德雷
      Stoned Madre

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    2. Maybe
      马德雷在石头
      Madre under stones

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  5. I just hope the McCastles can be contained in that area, and not used as precendents for overbuilding everywhere else in town.

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    1. Good thing we have that emergency water hook up. Five bathrooms takes a lot of water.

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    2. How many lots up there, 27, 28? So times 5, because that's what the typical modern family wants bathroom-wise, and hey presto, the hills of 140 bathrooms. More toilets than trees.

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    3. News break:
      The City has just named the Stonegate (1 Carter) and Stonehouse both as official MCAs.

      MCA = McMansion Containment Area

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    4. I think it should be more like MBZ - McMansion Breakthrough Zone.

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  6. What do you people think is the real purpose behind the ALF project?

    Elderly parents of wealthy Chinese people can afford to pay $6500 per month to live there. Of course they won't be using their own medical staff....they will use our services.
    They set that place up so they would have just under the number of residents that avoids them having to hire licensed medical staff there. Excellent, yes, they successfully pulled off this scam on the residents of Sierra Madre.

    Again, all you low information voters have really screwed the rest of us.

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    1. Are you saying 8:28 am that the Fountain Square folks have deliberately undersized the ALF to lure in elderly Chinese who will rely on Elaine for CPR and the City's EMTs in lieu of on site medical staff? Shades of last week's medical emergency in Bakersfield... Or are you saying the City has a medical staff of which I'm unaware and that it will be overwhelmed by tiny little Chinese ALF residents who can afford $6,500 but not medical treatment? Maybe you want to say that our empty storefronts on Sierra Madre Blvd will be filled with Chinese herbal establishments practicing non-traditional medicine... or maybe you want to say, "Chinese blah blah blah".

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    2. I agree 8:57 that it is important not to be a bigot against Asians.
      It's the Asian style of building gigantic houses in small spaces that is the problem. Or was the problem. It has become something that is happening in this community, and we need to adapt - or move.
      They're here.

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    3. The ALF deliberately undersized itself to avoid having to hire more qualified care workers.

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    4. New money is often tasteless.

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    5. It is my understanding that the Asian culture advocates at-home care for their elders, and that they find it disgraceful the way the 'Americans' put their old people in care facilities. That's one of the reasons they need such big houses, because they can have 3 generations under one roof.

      The Alfington is fishing for other whales.

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    6. 9:16, you're correct.

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    7. A Chinese herbal shop would be nice. It would certainly be better than a Wal-Mart.

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  7. I am not happy about the way things are going in this City. The cost of losing MaryAnn MacGillivray becomes more apparent all the time.

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  8. Ya gotta hand it to the pro-over-development side. Their dreams are coming true.

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    1. Mmm, I don't think so. They won't get anything out of the Carter deal now. Until the DIC builds their Taj Madunce on the Howie's site I think they're still on the sidelines wishing they had their money back.

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    2. Maybe they haven't recouped all their financial investments, but the town has being dramatically changed. Put it all together: British Home expansion, new condos on the Boulevard, MacMansions in the hillsides, a huge assisted living facility, medical office expansion, restaurant/offices going in. The old image of Sierra Madre as resistant is gone.
      Just like Doyle always promised, Sierra Madre is wide open to development.

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    3. Smoke much crack?

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    4. 11:11, you don't think that's a lot of construction activity for this little town?

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    5. I'll tell you who's smoking crack... the designers of Dr. Sami's new "venetian blinds" building on the blvd. So much nicer to look at than the beautiful mountains... wtf?!

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    6. Wait'll that gargantuan God's Waiting Room known as the ALF gets built. Nobody is going to remember voting fo it.

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  9. These large houses can also just be inhabited by one teen, called a parachute kid. Establishing residency, going to school, having a chauffeur and maid, while the parents continue their business practices in Hong Kong or elsewhere. I know of a house in town where that is the situation, and it's been going on in San marino for years.

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  10. way back when I first met John Buchanan he sort of gave me the creeps but I figured he was just a little overblown and had that "lawyer" way but turns out he's not even a practicing attorney, he's actually in real a public relations rep for SoCal Edison

    now that I know all I need to know about him I know he's a liar, an opportunist and a complete fraud in his interest in Sierra Madre

    once he stood in front of us and claimed an public emergency to cover up the misdoings of his supporters in previous Council's and was outright lying about the water pipes and the tax hike, I have zero use for him and standing behind him in line at Starbucks I think "what a complete lying donkey rear"



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  11. It would be hypocritical of me to complain about 5 bedroom houses for the modern family, because I live in one. We have three kids and a live-in elderly mother-in-law.

    What I would complain about is any house that is: a) too big for the parcel (this could be a 2000 sqft house on a 4000 sqft lot) b) built in environmentally sensitive areas (watersheds, undeveloped hillsides, etc) c) significantly architecturally inconsistent with surrounding neighborhood.

    So, I don't think large houses are a problem, as long as they are built in the appropriate way. This proposed house clearly does not meet that criteria.

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  12. we all know that at some point all those homes up in One Carter etc will be engulfed in fires and natural disasters and it'll serve them right but they'll drain our resources and demand special treatment

    I still chuckle at the absurdity of the original Principal of Maranatha who started all this mess because she prayed at the sight and God told her to build a school in the middle of a fire and flood zone - of course she had the Garden of Eden serpent Greg Gallanty? whispering in her ear.

    wait, I thought we had a water crisis here in Sierra Madre?

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    1. She should've prayed to the god of fire.

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  13. Having "been there and done that", I know the game very well. The first hearing was a throw out to accomplish : Seeing how on top of things the Planning commission is, negotiating from the top down to what they really get away with, and trying to make the planning commission willing to provide concessions later.
    Do you really think this Architect, who has to be quite intelligent to earn the title of "Architect" and pass the stringent state boards, cannot read the zoning requirements?
    After this last hearing, I would say the developer is trying to play the P.C. for fools.
    They will be laughing back at the office.
    They need to hang tough, and not give an inch. They know what they bought, and figure they can bend the rules.

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    1. Good points all. How many companies and individuals have tried to bend the rules at 1 Carter and failed? Maybe the name should be changed to Heartbreak Hill!

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    2. I should think that after 10 years on the block and numerous developers 1 Carter should be thought of as distressed property and that's why Chinese buyers are picking through the bones. And I say this because Chinese have shown themselves to be shrewd purchasers of undervalued property and builders of homes with a decidedly non-Southern California ethic. Although MurSol follows closely on their heels - anyone taken a close look at the San Carlos/Foothill Blvd edifice going up in Arcadia? And the lawyer on Auburn who has taken up the Planning Commission's time for the past couple of years with his Tuscan mansion?

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    3. Sure hope the PC don't fall for we improved the project even though the project is still a disaster. The project is the maximum size for the lot. Those pesky set backs.

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    4. A hill filled with massive boxes glaring down on Sierra Madre should give the Planning Commission some pause. What could be more of a monument to their failure as commissioners than something like that?

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    5. One of the points Ms. Chang made last night was that the city approved these lots, and that the architects were "stuck with them." Not sure how much the Planning Commission can do - the Asian clients demand maximum sized houses, lot line to lot line if they can get away with it. The architects do what their clients want, which includes performing in sly ways in front of decision-making bodies.

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    6. Please xplain what you mean by " the city approved these lots." does that somehow mean all of Sierra Madre's codes and ordinances no longer apply? Sounds to me like Chang's clients bought something that they would have been wiser passing on.

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    7. The developer did not have to buy the lots. They knew what the were getting. She mentioned that CAP Source was the client. If that is true, then CAP Source (who owns the property) is trying to make it look like big houses are being built there in order to entice others to buy the lots and build.

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    8. Cap Source is the owner? I thought it was CETT Investments Corporation as listed on the city documents. CETT is a guy named Hui Ru Han.

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  14. hope all of you posters are at the next planning commission meeting when the next two big box houses are up for review.

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    1. Sorry, 10:43. It's been too much time and energy over the years. Enough is enough.

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  15. To change the subject, becuase this is the Tattler and we don't care:
    A hearty laugh out goes to "Village Vine" radio (formerly Radio Fishbowl) now they say they are a non-profit. What changed?

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    1. Just like Patch they discovered that getting advertising revenue out of this town is like trying to get blood out of a rock. Retailers here are too smart to dump money into media that very few people pay attention to.

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    2. Be careful, 11:05. You just insulted Goss' 5 listeners.

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  16. The only thing that City Hall is interested in these days is getting more money. Pensions, raises and benefits are their concerns. You are expected to support them for the rest of their lives, and in a manner that is most likely better than the one you currently enjoy. Sierra Madre needs a taxpayer revolt. We are getting screwed.

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    1. We have been, are being, and will continue to be!Sierra Madre's citizens are in a coma!They love being had.It makes them feel warm and cozy!

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  17. Checked out their web site. They are the architect of the Anokia development. They specialize in houses over 4,000 sq ft.

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    1. Not one creative idea among them. Just mass and bulk, height and monolithic loomingness.

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    2. Cookie-cutter McMansions. Please attend the Planning Commission meeting in two weeks when they present houses 2 and 3. Numbers do count, even if you don't speak. We need to show the developers that we aren't afraid to fight (yes, I too am tired of fighting since 1999)! Billy Shields listened to MaryAnn MacGillivray rather than the lies from City Hall, because we kept showing up at the Council meetings.

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  18. There is a pattern here: this is the Second house proposed for Stonehouse, by the same archetect. The first one was on the lot further to the south. It was also untenable from the standpoint of the size of the house and the sob story about the odd shapped lot. One speaker at that hearing stated that the Planning Commission should not feel sorry for this developer and the archetect. They knew exactly what they were getting into. Now to project #2:

    ...This so called late discovery that the finished grade was 1 foot lower and needed to be raised to avoid the deep cut into Zone 4 of the Hillside Zone is an after thought. Opp, sorry you caught us. House is too deep into the rear area so a little bitty back yard cannot be built into, Zone 4.

    There is no way that the original developer hauled off 1 ft deep by how many feet wide and long, just for the sheer heck of it. That costs money. Now we are going to believe this archetect that the 1 ft replacement is going to fix the problem. AND Lower the look of the house as the floor is raised and the top of the story pole stays where it is but WILL LOOK SMALLER.

    Now where is the geologist report for the fill on the cut that this represents. Yes, how many dump trucks does this represent?

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  19. Don't think any amount of Fung Shui will fix the problem of the murder and body dump and wounded second victem at One Carter some years ago.

    This project has been through so many owners and sales representatives that I am sure this story has not been told to the prospective owners and the realtors.

    Question: when you sell a house you have to disclose the natural hazards--fire, earthquake, flood zones, etc.--does this apply when you are in escrow on a lot and in the process of having something built on that lot?

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  20. 5.25 bathrooms! A quarter bathroom will only be a toilet. Is that for the gardener? No they have to wash their hands. Remember the scene from the movie The Help. So a half bathroom somewhere. Toilet and wash stand. Then a 3/4 bathroom somewhere, the cook/servant/mother-in-law does not need a tub, just a shower. Maybe the new language of a 4 piece comes in here somewhere: toilet, washbasin(s) (don't think a double counts as two pieces), shower and tub seperate. Once upon a time a full bath meant that there was a shower in the bathtub. How does this add up? My oh my.

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    1. According to the house plans, posted on the city website, the quarter bathroom is a "powder room"

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  21. Ms. Chang is a very experienced design architect who has done many, many developments in Orange County as well, and has been on the Design Review Board for the City of San Marino. The developer is telling her what to do, is all. This is what spec development looks like, destructive as hell.

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    1. Have all the houses she has designed been from the same template? The two houses we've seen her present for Sierra Madre were notably uninspired and totally disconnected from the surroundings.

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    2. I don't think she has spent a whole lot of time in the hillsides, or looked around when she was there. Don't think she ever walked around Sierra Madre, though she claimed to have done so, and said she noticed many Spanish style mansions.

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    3. Most all of the residences that she designs are Spanish style mansions, which are readily saleable on spec. What kind of houses are in the immediate neighborhood?

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  22. So, how has this helped San Marino, to have a design review board. I know that a few years back San Marino hired an arborist to run classes for the garders/tree trimmers so they would not hack at and ruin the trees. Good ideas all, but how has it worked out?

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    1. They have to qualify for San Marino licenses, which are real expensive. That gets passed on to the customers, of course. City Hall raises money that way, as well as any fines that are assessed when the trees get butchered.

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  23. Water meeting also with John Capoccia, so it may be somewhat helpful as a first go-around. That is if anyone can get a word in edgewise. Everyone watching the process knows that the water rates will go up. It is only a matter of how and how much.

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    1. I am beginning to have my concerns about Mr. Capoccia. He has become comfortable with things that I am not. He ran as an anti-tax hold the line fiscal conservative. He should stick to that.

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    2. "The process?" What exactly is "the process?"

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    3. I am also concerned about the path John is taking.

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  24. 9:33 am. It was B. Doyle that gave the o.k. when he was on council and mislead the school about the zoning on Carter One. I wonder who contacted G. Gallanty and why J. Mosca had P.O. Boxes located at two of Gallanty's locations ?. What about the law firm that still represents the town? Where there not safety measures that were put into place? I thought that was why the firm was originally hired! Does City Council have the last say on decisions to be made? If B. Doyle did'nt follow the Planning Commissions decisions, what makes anyone think this council will?

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  25. I agree 11:34 am. Thank you Maryann and others for Sierra Madres Downtown Alf Mcmasion, in the future to be known as D.A.M.!

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  26. Did I just see a "political double standard" being applied here in Sierra Madrea, California?

    Be green and do as I say but not as I do?

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    Replies
    1. In Sierra Madre "green" is a marketing concept designed to promote development.

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  27. Sierra Madre used to be such a nice little town. What a sad thing to happen to it.

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