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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.