Friday, March 22, 2013

The Planning Commission Steps Up and Stops Hui Ru Han's One Carter McMansions

Welcome to the sticks
Once again the Planning Commission proved it is worth its weight in gold. But their careful efforts to protect our town from the McMansionizing of One Carter were opposed every step of the way by noted build 'em big architect Adele "Modern FamilyChang. She was relentless in defending the indefensible, and in quite absurd ways. Her claims, lacking any credibility, fell on deaf ears. Such as: It is the type of grading you approved (Adele must have been speaking to the unquiet ghosts of Buchanan, Stockley, Torres and Joffe) that generated this certain type of home. Apparently her rationale was that she had designed what we had wanted. It had been somehow written in the dirt. Sort of like a crop circle.

Of course, if Adele had actually conjured up the creativity necessary she could have designed something far better. Adele Chang referred often to what she called Sierra Madre's well-crafted set of guidelines. "Our copy of it is dog-eared!" said Adele. That was how many times she claimed to have looked at it. The project meets every single rule was her claim, and she'd followed the design guidelines closely. So how did she end up with something looking like that?

Stream of Chang-i-ness: We did not break any ordinance in any of the books. "We cannot be less obtrusive." We believe we've followed the spirit as well as the letter of the law. I beg to differ about the "boxiness." The complaints about mass and bulkiness were unreasonable. We are compatible with the community. We did our best to minimize the footprint. I have friends in Sierra Madre. The trees that will be planted there will give comfort to the community. The intent is to build custom homes.

So why did she design tract McMansions then?

These residents showed up, spoke out and made a big difference:

Tommy Ann Miller, who has been in Sierra Madre since 1942 and lives on North Baldwin, knows how special the hillsides are. She was not objecting to any kind of building - she objected to this kind of building.

Deborah Sheridan: The architect is not hearing the Commissioners. It is possible to build very large houses that do not appear that way.

Marguerite Shuster: The houses must be fitting for their setting. These particuler houses could be set down anywhere. These houses are "exotic cell blocks." Like La Vina, but worse - more crowded. Pretentious and forbidding. Expensive high-end places. Take advantage of the natural environment rather than ignoring it. Human filing cabinets.

Human filing cabinets!

Leslee Hinton: These are examples of exactly what is not wanted in Sierra Madre. Like Glendale and Arcadia these would be huge houses littering our hillside. The General Plan very specifically calls for harmony with the already existing neighborhoods. The architect paid no attention last Fall when that first house was found to be too big. These houses too massive for the pads, and they know it. You do not have to guarantee that the developer makes a profit.

Teryl Willis: This development is a testament to failure. Failure to protect the hillsides, the watershed, the wildlife; failure on the part of 4 city council members to heed the advice of a Planning Commission and reject this configuration of lots, and the failure of Sierra Madre to implement its own General Plan, which prohibited grading in the hillsides. Implement what the city documents call for and make the homes up there worth it.

The Commissioners also spoke up. They recognized that both the developer and architect have a great challenge. General consensus, you cannot build a house of this size on a lot of that size. Trying to use every square foot allowable and stacking room on top of room just doesn't fit here. Looks like a classic tract development, with Lots 21 and 22 having completely identical floor plans. The houses "reek" of "replication. Lack "freshness" and uniqueness.

Kevin Paschall with the quote of the night: "I'm not up here too help the developer make money. I'm up here to make sure the town keeps its character."

The Commissioners have also been hearing the outcry from the community, and they've been getting letters. It's a special area, it's not "just about getting the math right." Bring the mass down, give us less bulk. What drove this architect's agenda was obviously the numbers and little else. We have to live with these houses, and we don't want tract houses.

Another point that was made: Story poles can be deceiving, if they were covered with a fabric the massing would appear even greater. The entire emphasis is on money and maximum return. The community is not interested in anyone's maximum return. Architects have great talent, and One Carter is going to take some creativity.

A 4 bedroom or 3 bedroom that has space around it for kids to play, with a house that's not overpowering, would sell. There will be buyers. In fact, that's why many people come to Sierra Madre.

These houses will be back for more rounds with the Planning Commission on both April 18 and May 2. The Commissioners encouraged the architect to reflect the modifications the commission has suggested.

Adele said she will "try her best." Hopefully that will be good enough.

Item #2: This one was making the rounds yesterday, but if you haven't seen it yet we're talking about the Carol Canterbury YouTube testimonial to the wonders of the PedEcab (click here). You can also find this video in its natural setting by clicking here. Carol's enthusiasm for this less traditional form of around the town transportation is obvious throughout her talk, and certainly she is welcome to the joy she takes in her PedEcab. This is Sierra Madre after all, and we do welcome the outre' and unfamiliar.

The one question I do have, however, is that since this infomercial was shot right here on the streets of Sierra Madre, and by a very much for profit industry, were all of the proper filming permits applied for and issued by the City? I would certainly hope that is the case.

Item #3: I had lunch with two agents from the FBI yesterday. They are in the process of vetting witnesses for the upcoming trial in Portland of one Cyrus Andrew Sullivan, and now it was my turn to tell my story. My idea of a good time, actually. Fresh ears for well-worn tales. They were great listeners.

I had become another of the many victims of this one man crime wave during the last City Council election cycle when politically interested anonymous persons here using the name of Lady Elizabeth Wistar placed my esteemed person on one of Mr. Sullivan's quite nasty smear sites. With Mr. Sullivan then not so kindly offering to undo some of the Wistarian damage in exchange for a rather large sum of cash. Something folks in legal circles like to refer to as extortion. Sullivan remains in jail to this day because of his indiscretions. I didn't pay this guy of course, and the anonymous Wistar's libel remained live on the Internet until the FBI mercifully shut all of Sullivan's many websites down a few months back.

Sadly, and at the request of my FBI friends, we are now at the point where I need to stop talking about this case. They cannot force me to do so, but I certainly can see their point. So until this trial ends I will no longer be writing about this topic. But worry not, once it is over I will happily tell all.

After all, this is The Tattler, and I will have my day.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

93 comments:

  1. We are so lucky to have the planning commission!

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    1. And a big thanks to the residents who remember that it matters.

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    2. Agreed 7:27. They are hard-working, clear speaking commissioners.
      If the applicant would listen to them, the houses could proceed. But that's a big if.

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    3. I think Adele is between a rock and a One Carter. The customers HRH has in mind want the 5+ 5 box design, and will not want what the Planning Commission is demanding. Whatever gets built up there will be expensive because of the land costs, and I believe they fear they'll be stuck with a big bill if they build something less bombastic.

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    4. Was anybody sober when they bought property there?

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    5. Hui Ru Han is between a rock and a Crater.

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    6. Was anyone sober when they bought downtown property for the DSP? Never underestimate the stupidity of certain Sierra Madre real estate investors.

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    7. It is a sacred burial ground for ancient indigenous peoples. Those who attempt to live there will meet a bitter fate.

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    8. Who agreed to the lawsuit settlement to allow larger homes on Carter?

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    9. Nobody agreed to Tract McCastles.

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    10. 8:34, the people responsible for all of this are:
      Rob Stockly, Tonya Torres, John Buchanan and Enid Joffe.
      The council of 2004.

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  2. The commissioners were right that there could be great houses up there, if the 5 bedroom 5 plus bathrooms obsession would be jettisoned. Custom homes, reasonable sizes for the weird lots. That would work.

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  3. Tattler, Chang is just the hired gun. It's the developer, Hui Ru Han, who's calling the shots.

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    1. So dear Adele was just trying to save her bacon? Not certain HRH will be pleased with this outcome.

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  4. A modern family requires 5 bathrooms. More bathrooms mean greater personal worth in society. To deny anyone their right to many bathrooms is an attempt to humiliate.

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    1. So my house that has one bathroom is....?

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    2. Interesting to tie personal worth to toilets.

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    3. that's bad feng shui.

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  5. Joking about the bathrooms aside, won't it be worse for our water shortage to have this incredible number of bathrooms in that development?

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    1. What if they were all flushed at once? Given the delicate state of our waterworks, downtown could be flooded in a tidal wave of modernity.

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  6. It's from the Planning Commssion that you hear great expressions like: "The community is not interested in anyone's maximum return."

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    1. This was the attitude of MaryAnn MacGillivray.
      It should be the attitude of any and all COUNCIL MEMBERS.

      THE COMMUNITY IS NOT INTERESTED IN ANYONE'S MAXIMUM RETURN!!!!!

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    2. MaryAnn was the great defender of this town. In her place we got a shallow and ambitious phony.

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  7. What did the architect mean, she has friends in Sierra Madre? Do they live in McMansions, so she thinks they are a good idea?

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    Replies
    1. Josh, Nancy and a couple of real estate geniuses..

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    2. Is there anything that Bart has done in Sierra Madre that has had a happy outcome?

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    3. Bart's landscaping. Oh, wait!

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    4. Bart's landscaping is an order too complex for the common mind to perceive.

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  8. This is a big deal. This is one of those show-downs about keeping Sierra Madre unique.

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    1. It is also about our property values. Start building crap like that and watch the worth of our most important investment collapse.

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  9. I don't get why anyone wants to build things like that here. They are obviously not into nature, and don't care about being in the hillsides. Such a pain to deal with all the rules - why not stick to Arcadia where you can build a monster house on a postage stamp with the city's blessing?

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    1. Maybe Mr. Han got a deal.
      Last I heard Capital Source was trying to get rid of this 'troubled real estate asset'
      Some investors specialize in picking up distressed properties.

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    2. 'Cuz Sierra Madre's WAY cheaper than Arcadia. Something about the quality of the school district.

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    3. Maybe Han got such a good deal that he passed it on to the potential home-owners, so it really is cheap, and the lots are not the prices we heard they were.

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    4. It makes no sense to buy those. PUSD, anti MacMansion sentiment strong in town - it just doesn't make sense.

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  10. I didn't see the whole meeting, but did catch it when one of the commissioners was talking about showing protected trees accurately, considering the canopy. Given all the trees that were ripped out, it was good to hear a survivor being defended.

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  11. I worry about the precedent. If inappropriately large houses are built there, won't it spread like a contagious disease?

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    1. Developers and architects will have the right to argue that if you can squeeze a five bedroom five bathroom two story big thang on a small pad, you can sure as heck build them anywhere else. Or it will be some kind of discrimination.

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    2. Couldn't these McMansions be subdivided and turned into high density small apartments? A bedroom and a bath each?

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    3. I was thinking along those lines 2:02 - as in the owners will be renting out parts of the houses, setting up multi-family rentals, making some money with all that plumbing.

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    4. Stonegate Studio Estates.

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  12. Why can't I remember Planning Commission meetings about the Hildreth's wine grotto? It seems to me if this project had been properly noticed, the locals would have gotten fired up about this issue. I remember some discussion about parking but it seems to me it was already far into the process. I'd be a lot more sympathetic if their's wasn't a for profit business endeavour in the only industrial zone in the town. We've put many business owners through the ringer on similar issues including poor Mother Moo who only wanted to sell locally sourced hand made ice cream.

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  13. I would like to thank:
    John Crawford-thank you for being an honest man
    Teryl Willis>
    Debbie Sheridan> General Plan Committee members.....really the only ones we need!
    Leslie Hinton>
    Margarite Shuster- long time preservationist who fights for our hillsides
    Kevin Paschall- I wish you were the Mayor of Sierra Madre
    TommyAnn Miller- the nicest person I've ever known. Smart, fair and KIND

    Please support these amazing people. Pray for them, they stand up for all that is good about Sierra Madre!







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  14. Where was the community last night? I sure hope more people show up at the next meeting.
    Watching it on TV is a great way to be informed, but the Commissioners can hear what you yell at the TV.

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    1. There will unfortunately be plenty of opportunities

      Letters to the planning commission are effective too.

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    2. Sierra Madre is a hot real estate market right now. The lack of that kind of development makes it a very desireable place to live.

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    3. Yes 1:53! We are desirable because we are NOT that.
      At least not yet.

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    4. The biggest losers in a development spree here would be homeowners. Development would kill our home equity.

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  15. I see visions of Hong Kong on those hills.Every inch covered from peak to peak!

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    1. Let's square the hillsides,by all means!

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    2. I don't really care what is built there. But I don't want this kind of building in my part of town.

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    3. 1:56, what makes you think it won't be?

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    4. 1:56 the question is not whether they'll build McMansions in your neighborhood. The question is when?

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    5. I remember when Arcadia started changing, and I was shocked that set-backs didn't seem to be a part of anyone's calculations anymore. Those make a big difference. Aren't our neighborhoods protected from the elimination of set-backs?

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  16. Don't forget what happened down in Michellinda park when they decided to build one of those overgorged and uninspired works of boredom...

    http://www.pasadenaweekly.com/cms/story/detail/movin_out/9847/

    Blight our hillside you will not!

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  17. There is a traditional alliance between Development/Building establishment and Cities.One to make profit and the other to raise taxes.

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    1. Giving credit where it is due, the staff did not find that the proposed houses met the criteria they were supposed to. I gather the real issue for all sides is the size.

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    2. Yeah but Staff recommended that the Planning Commission grant the CUP on the house two lots down.
      Maybe just maybe Staff has caught on.

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  18. Why does the developers' bottom line come into any of the discussions at all. The bottom line is the developers responsibility.

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    1. Haven't you heard? We're a charity.

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    2. That's very true 2:00.Nobodys worried about my family's finances, except us - well maybe the bank that holds the mortgage.

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  19. Love the InternetMarch 22, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    Gotta love the internet. Now when you Google "Adele Chang architect", the Sierra Madre Tattle shows up.
    She must love that. Maybe that might encourage her to listen to the people of Sierra Madre and the Planning Commission.

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    1. That's wishful thinking. The gal has her eye on one thing and one thing only - the paycheck from Mr. Boss

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  20. 9:12 is right. There is clear accountability here, and it leads to a very small number of people who failed in their positions as stewards of the city. They never should have been allowed to make a decision with such far-reaching impacts. It should have gone to a vote of the residents. In fact, in the overall history of politics in Sierra Madre, it was the 2004 Council's betrayal that paved the way for Measure V. People figured out that we couldn't leave such important development decisions in the hands of the council.

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  21. Has anyone ever heard the owner speak?

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    1. Nah, 2:34. I think he rolls Galletly style. Hire a nice articulate woman and put her up front.

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    2. Ah I remember Galletly's All Girl Band! And now we have Han's Honeys.

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  22. I love how clearly Lesley Hinton put it: the house is too big and they know it.

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    1. The beautiful thing about the truth is it only requires a few words.

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  23. This is the same architectural firm that built the Big Box Gated Community at Anokia, on Baldwin close to Foothill. Take a look over the massive walls where you can, and see what the standard of beauty is for this firm.

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    1. I know it well. The exciting combination of new money and no taste.

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  24. The Carol Canterbury ad makes me wonder about a company that would choose her for a testimonial.
    There's a youtube comment entered that might explain it:

    "This company is rip off. I order some parts from them but have never received. Try many times within 5 months to contact and got nothing.
    1 time, I got answer from the person name Gina, when she hear I ask for my order, she hang up on me. Now I bring them to small claim.
    Unhonest people. Unprofessional. They have many name as whywalk....and pedicab ....
    I will update my small claim later."

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  25. I've never seen Carol Canterbury on one of those things.

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    1. I've seen her. Was sitting in a shop on SM Blvd when she pedaled by. I think she only goes in the east-west directions - it's a hard push north-south.

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    2. It's got a motor. Note the part of the ad where she says you don't have to get all sweaty.

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    3. It's a putt putt.

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    4. I heard it broke and Carol hasn't been able to get it repaired.

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    5. Maybe she's the one who wrote the comment on youtube.

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    6. From delerium to despair. The vagaries of life, at 10 MPH.

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  26. Did I hear correctly last night that the backyard of the second property is only 18 feet deep?

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    1. I'm not sure about that 6:04, but nothing would surprise me. I heard that the front yard set backs don't have to be per usual, so that's why the story poles/houses look so close to the street.

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    2. $1 million doesn't buy as much as it used to...

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    3. I bet that these lots are going for a lot less than that. But how can a person find out? There's nothing on the realtor websites....you would think those transactions would be announced.

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  27. Problem is Sierra Madrean believe there town is a private town. They believe they can discriminate against the Chinese people who have the right to purchase land and build their dream home. Jealousy of people who have more money than them. If the home meets the set back requirements, building height requirements, and FAR floor area ratio there is really nothing the opposed can say. Once the lots are developed it will look very nice with trees and people can walk up the street and enjoy the views. The land looks terrible the way it is due to the fault of those citizens who opposed the project in the first place. You got what you deserve.

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    1. Is it your dream to own a home with 5 toilets, Steve? How fast would you need to run to get all of them to flush at the same time?

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    2. Steve likes to operate without the constraints of those pesky little things like General Plans, or Design Guidelines, or Ordinances.

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    3. I think Steve needs to realize that In Sierra Madre when it comes to tasteless gaucherie it is a level playing field. No matter what your ethnic background you are invited to take your ouveau riche pretentiousness elsewhere.

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    4. Wonder if Steve would feel bad if he found out that the buyers were Korean.

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    5. Korean, Chinese - it's all the same to Steve.

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  28. We are still, amazingly, a little town. These kinds of houses, no matter who wants to build them, are not good for us or the continued existence of Sierra Madre.

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