Monday, January 13, 2014

Heroic Modern Families Will Fight For Their Stonegate McMansion Rights @ Tuesday's City Council Meeting

Stonegate: Where the sun sets in the north
There is just so much history for what has happened at Sierra Madre's longest running development disaster, One Carter. The work of mostly the same irresponsible City Councilmembers that blessed us with the 2003 Water Bond debacle currently driving the proposed 61% water rate increases (they also helped to give us the defunct Downtown Specific Plan as well), much of this has been written about here before. And not always in the most complimentary of ways.

As I am certain you are aware, the sheer foolishness that drove much of that City Council's work continues to have a disastrous effect on the finances and affairs of this community today. We continue to pay heavily for their mistakes. The results of Tuesday evening's meeting could end up being more of the same.

As an example of what we are talking about today, here is a little look into the origins of the goings on up at One Carter. This is something we originally posted about on May 18 of 2011 (link).

In this the eighth year of John Buchanan's time of service on the Sierra Madre City Council, the first of his many blunders is finally about to bear fruit. But just like many of the efforts that Mr. Buchanan gets involved in, what things seem to be, and what they actually are, bear precious little resemblance to one another.

As you might or might not recall, the City Council that gave their blessing to the disastrous One Carter project (or, as it is known this month, Stonegate at Sierra Madre) was seated in 2004. This approval, given by the likes of Enid Joffe, Rob Stockly, Tonya Torres and, of course, a freshly elected John Buchanan, never went anywhere. One Carter was a mistake from its inception, and remains a stark reminder of just how bad a City Council we had that unfortunate year.

The developer these misguided souls turned One Carter over to, Dorn Platz, couldn't manage to do much more with the place than cut down the trees. Leaving the scene later under a cloud of financial woe and recrimination. And for years the place just sat there, with nothing ever being built.

The most hated project of its time, the one that hundreds spoke out against at City Council meetings, had turned out to be a colossal failure. The only tangible results of the 2004 City Council's bad faith being a destroyed wilderness area, a series of rancorous lawsuits and a community of neighbors embittered by the betrayal of their local government. A government that continued to act like none of this was ever their fault.

Now it is almost a full decade later and once again One Carter (known today in pretentious real estate marketing jargon as "Stonegate at Sierra Madre"), is once again before our City Council. The sad irony here being that there is an eerie resemblance between 2004 and 2014. In both instances the proposed One Carter developments were opposed by the Planning Commission. And both times they were appealed to the City Council by the developer.

The 2004 Planning Commission said that the then City Council would be irresponsible and daft to enable what later became the One Carter disaster. And being irresponsible and daft, they did exactly that. The result of their faithless decision making being a decade old environmental eyesore at the top of Baldwin Avenue.

Our current Planning Commission, along with the Development Services department, opposes what the out of town CETT/McMansion crowd wants to build there today. To put this into vastly overused terminology, what we will be witnessing Tuesday evening could end up being deja vu all over again. After all, the development impact fees would be enormous. We do have pensions to fund, you know.

So maybe we should now bring this all up to the present day.

On June 6, 2013, the Planning Commission denied approval for the first three houses at Carter/Stonegate. The applicant, CETT Investments, is appealing the Commission's adverse decision to the City Council tomorrow night.

The Planning Commission did a great job upholding the goals of the General Plan, the Hillside Management Zone, and the Stonegate Design Guidelines.

Led by the principles contained in these documents, some of the Commission’s concerns were:

- Mass, form and profile
- Building footprint and limited available pad area
- Design and size of the house relative to the buildable area
- Bulk and setbacks
- Water consumption
- Parking
- Environmental impact on existing protected trees
- Development density

During last year's Planning Commission hearings, the commissioners repeatedly offered suggestions that would correct these problems, but these ideas were not acceptable to this McMansion developer. CETT Investments owns 23 lots, and they plan to develop all of them. The kinds of houses they want to build at Stonegate would set a destructive character changing precedent for our community.

Just so you are aware, CETT Investments and their kind of annoying hired architect Adele Chang (who will likely be there with half of her company), designed and hatched Anoakia down on Baldwin and Foothill. Pretentious packed/stacked and gated living apparently being their trademark. Meaning we could now end up having that sort of thing both above and below us.

I'll wrap this one up by reposting a portion of something that showed up here last year on June 6. It still works. The post is called "It's Five-Flusher Modern Family McMansion Night @ The Planning Commission," and you can link to the whole thing by clicking here.

Here in the water shortage capital of the San Gabriel Valley we are now faced with an onerous demand from the CETT Investments Corporation that we allow for the building of three new 5.5 bathroom behemoths up on whatever it is the local real estate marketing geniuses are calling One Carter these days. Which I guess would make them "five flushers." Give or take a half.

The rather starchy architect of these monuments to nouveau riche arriviste' excess once famously described the 5.5 bathroom thing as being what every "modern family" requires these days for their starter castles. Something that mental health professionals versed in the Freudian concept of anal retentiveness would likely have a field day with should they chose to do so.

The 5 bedroom, 5 and 1/2 bathroom tract McMansions are precisely what this community was trying to prevent with the Hillside Management Zone Ordinance, the Stonegate Design Guidelines, and the General Plan. Tonight's resubmitted improvements in design are cynically insufficient and deceptive, with the guiding principle obviously being greed.

For me the big issue that makes these Five Flusher McMansions truly offensive is that should they be built they would be classic water hogs. The notion that anyone would want to build 5.5 bathroom monster houses at a time when the City of Sierra Madre is undergoing the worst water crisis in its storied history is bad enough. That the City's planning staff would even consider trying to push these things through the approval process (so-called) at a time when City Hall is also about to levy fines on already existing residents if they do not cut their water usage by 20% is a disconnect that truly boggles the mind.

But there are plenty of other troubling problems here as well. One important consideration is that we do not want houses that are so big for the buildable area of the lots they are on - they would indeed be squeezed onto tiny building pads and right into each other. If these pass the floodgates will open and there will be a bunches of them in no time.

Later, after the hillsides are packed full of the things, it will lead to little old houses all over town being bought up and McMansions taking their place. So much for Sierra Madre's "unique culture."

There is also the canard being pushed by certain financially freaked out City employees that such hillside development would somehow help them rake in more tax money. As former Sierra Madre City Manager John Gillison so famously put it, any tax revenue from the Carter development would be so small it would be "a drop in the bucket." Verbatim quote, and kind of appropriate on a couple of levels.

For the town, these kinds of houses are all loss - loss of water, marginal revenue, huge demand on firefighters when they are needed. A kind of welfare for wealthy homeowners, with we the taxpayers picking up the cost of protecting their investments in a severe fire risk area.

If approved, these "five flusher" houses would quickly become an available template for every house that follows - and likely anywhere in town, too. The "you allowed a 5 bedroom 5 1/2 bath mansion on a small building pad once, so you are guilty of 'taking' unless you let me do it, too" argument will make controlling the construction of many more of these water hogs nearly impossible.

It is now a decade down the road from when the One Carter Disaster first began. And like so many things handed down to us from that time, it seems that the pain, both financial and aesthetic, is nowheres near over.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

97 comments:

  1. One Carter (can't think of it as Stone Gate) is both an eyesore and a hazard. I've always worried some nut would head up there and light a campfire. It's supposedly private property but if you walk up you see beer cans and cigarette butts on some of the lookouts. The whole thing is a disaster.

    What about Stone House? What's happening with that development?

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    1. Stonehouse is up next.

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    2. Why not call One Carter "Rattlesnake Ridge"? Or "Coyote Corridor"? Perhaps "Mountain Lion Mesa"?

      That will surely scare the 5 bath mega-mansion crowd away.

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    3. Forest Fire Land.

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    4. I don't think that will work, 8:44. I expect that the starter castle crowd will come with weapons.

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    5. Great question 7:08.
      Whatever the investment corporation gets away with on the Carter place will for sure end up on Stone House.

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    6. 8:47 not weapons, attornys

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    7. Weapons for the pesky wildlife, attorneys for the city.

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    8. this Council should defer the decision to the next Council

      if not, somebody who knows a real lawyer should sue the city to stop any Council overide because we have a lame duck Council and one sells mortgages on homes.

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  2. One Crater: 2004 - 2014

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    1. yeah but the former principal of Marantha said she prayed at the site and God told her that the spot was where the high school was meant to be....in a fire and flood zone

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  3. Anyone who is ok with this really doesn't care about preserving the nature of Sierra Madre. This type of design is totally against the community and is a slap in the face. From the beginning the developers and investment groups have been trying to profit from our town by stealing our way of life. I'm tired of being made to pay for there profits while dividing up the community. This will be a good by kiss from the many council members who over the years have shown that they want to change Sierra Madre. Anyone for a glass of wine, can't drink the water.

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  4. The 2002 to 2006 City Councils were some of the worst this town has ever seen. Their mistakes continue to kill this town.

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    1. I'd add the next Councils until current with the exception of the Council where the majority was Zimmerman, Watts and Mary

      It's hard to top the public perception of bias and incompetence with the current council - it was also awful when we had two utility company lawyers on the Council - they took advantage of a sink hole to snooker us with water infrastructure that allowed for long term development

      the only real practicing attorney of any importance or depth of knowlege that challenged the SMPD union or the City Attorney was Kurt Zimmerman - Buchanan, Mosca, Harabedian and the new lawyer running for Council are all legal light weights compared to Kurt.

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  5. The socialites in town just don't have a clue or care about Sierra Madre. They just want to hobnob with the smiling faces that have an agenda and the rest of us are paying for it.

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    1. In Sierra Madre "civil" and "subservient" are synonyms.

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    2. but the socialites in SM are really South Pas wannabees - or couldn't afford Santa Monica

      when someone's social life is all the "in" organizations, I assume they've got an agenda with politics or they are business networking

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  6. The way the sticks up there are arranged, it really does look like Anoakia.

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  7. I could be wrong about this, but I don't think that water is one of the topics that a builder can be turned down over. At least not here in Sierra Madre.

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    1. True. Maddening and stupid, but true.

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  8. CETT Investments Corp says that the planning commissioners did not give 'substantial evidence' for their decisions. phooey.
    Looking at the staff reports, the commissioners hung tough on a General Plan policy, L12.1, and good for them for doing it.

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  9. That picture is terrible! Not only is the sun setting in the north, but the sky looks forest fire red.

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  10. I am really concerned tonight because John C said is it really worth the expense of more litigation?
    My guess is the council will not have the guts to turn it down and send the entire mess back to the Planning Commission. The majority of the new commission is very pro big buildings.

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    1. Why be scared of litigation if you're in the right? Wouldn't that mean that the other party is filing a frivolous lawsuit, and they have to pay all costs?

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  11. I say the city will approve the houses because they meet all the devolopment standards , to not do so will be a lawsuite
    and we will lose !

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    1. Specifically 9:48, what "development standards" are met, and which are not?
      How about reading the reports on why the PC denied the applications.

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    2. Name one they did not meet that is not subjective

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    3. So 10:32, you are arguing that the city will be sued because of the General Plan.

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    4. Cities are not allowed to have General Plans anymore. Gives them too much power.

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    5. No I am not If you went to the previous meeting on those houses they meet all the hard rules and conditions what the planing said is they did not like the way the looked , a subjective (right) opinion

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    6. Gotta disagree with you 12:01. A building footprint being too large means that the footprint is too large. Not that it looks too large. It is.

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    7. Let's get a little spne here and stand behind our ordinances. If we're not prepared to properly draft them and defend them from attack, then why even bother? The main time the City was really hammered by a lawsuit in recent memory was the Friends of Sierra Madre case for historic preservation. That one cost the city at least $1/2 million fees--they ended up paying the citizens' lawyer. The development cases have been "settled" meaning the City rolled over rather than fight the developers.

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  12. This is pretty comical, in a sad way. Lawsuits were the excuse given by the likes of John Buchanan for caving into Galletly in the mid 2000s. He got what he asked for and we still were sued. We also ended up with a wasteland on the hillside. If City Hall is not willing to defend it's codes and ordinances against rogue developers, then what is it possibly good for?

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    1. We were sued anyway, you're right.
      So what good did giving up on following our rules do for us?

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    2. None whatsoever. The reason why the 2004 City Council caved in is they thought Greg Galletley was a regular prince and he knew what he was doing. Probably the case here. When a City Councilmember like Capoccia starts talking about fearing lawsuits over a development project, it means he is on the side of the developer.

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    3. I agree, 10:39. Nothing new here.

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    4. Speaking of Greg Galletley, I was driving south on Orange Grove in Pasadena last week and in front of the Ambassador College/Maranatha property there was a huge banner that read: Shame on You, Greg Galletley!. I guess tigers never really change their stripes.

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    5. Compliance with City Codes by Developers is voluntary.

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    6. Our heroic defenders at city hall can be found cringing in corners wailing, "Don't sue me! Don't sue me!"

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    7. Buchanan, the SoCal Edison lawyer only made development projects a priority because they benefited ????

      his employer

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    8. Greg Galletley was influential when Maranatha bought the One Carter place and he most likely knew the deal wasn't going to go though because his company bought out Marantha

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    9. 2:15, that's very sad but also very funny.
      Greg Galletly was famous for bankruptcies and lawsuits before he rolled into town.
      The council of 2004 knew that.

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  13. The thing that worries me is that if the council caves on this, what development standards can ever be enforced? None.

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    1. The codes will only be imposed on residents.

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  14. They are following all the codes which is why the city can not stop them

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    1. 10:30 hasn't looked at the plans or walked the property.
      What is being proposed is nothing more than tract of mega houses that will create a boxed in canyon with cars parked everywhere because the pads are too small to accommodate the number of cars huge houses naturally generate.
      There is nothing in the Settlement Agreement, the general plan, the design guidelines that supports a tract of giant houses that blot out the mountains.

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    2. The findings can not be met which are required to grant approval.

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  15. People need to understand why all the development is going on, this project was set a while ago. But the city did not have enough water to allow for so many new customers. They fabricated the water emergency so we could get the free hookup to the water supply connected. Remember this hookup on Grandview was supposed to be only for an emergency and was going to be paid for by the MWD. Right after this was hooked up, we paid a lot of money to connect it to our system, and it was turned on. Coincidence, no way. Those liars that call themselves our city counsel had this in mind the whole time. It was a fact that we could not support development and they fabricated a story to get us hooked up. Now more homes at the monastery too...be ready SM, they have their water and they are not going to stop now.

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    1. 11:25 sounds like a conspiracy theorist.

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    2. Or an accurate historian.

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    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    5. Lucky for the pro-over development folks, the drought qualifies as an emergency. Agreed, 11:25, that now water is bought, that part of the game is over and the bad guys won.

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    6. 11:25, I heard about this necessity to hook up to the water supply a number of years ago by someone who worked at city hall. He said that this was the goal of the development centric city council. They knew that water was always the issue, once the wells were found to be dry, they saw the opportunity and ceased it. Funny how that sign has been taken down with the level of the wells. I think that the entire water department should have been fired over this. They all of the sudden realized that the water levels were low??? And how convenient to have the hookup to the "unlimited" source of stinky water. They are a bunch of liars and crooks there and will do anything to fill their pockets. Just try and find out who owns so much of the property downtown, you would see that it is owned by some of our citizens that served on the council over the years.

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    7. Fairy Tales do not help the discussion on the issue. The issue is that there has been a Country wide draught and especially in California. City Hall has nothing to do with the water shortage. Perhaps if 11:25 did his rain dance we might have better luck with the weather.

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    8. The Planning Commission shot them down, 12:22. For very legitimate reasons. Come up for air why don't you.

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    9. An Public Records Act request to City Hall may just reveal that they knew about low water levels in the wells long ago and just kept it hush-hush.

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    10. original poster makes a vaiid point, not long ago, our city manager and key Coucilmembers (still active in city today) actively created a false emergency and claimed our water infrastructure needed immediate $$$$ but it was just a falsehood because the entire objective was to dupe the public and hide actual acts of potential fraud within the city

      we keep electing the same old same old

      and the last thing we need is another "lawyer" on the Council - especially one that just recently moved into town - ala Joe Mosca

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  16. "If approved, these "five flusher" houses would quickly become an available template for every house that follows - and likely anywhere in town, too. The "you allowed a 5 bedroom 5 1/2 bath mansion on a small building pad once, so you are guilty of 'taking' unless you let me do it, too" argument will make controlling the construction of many more of these water hogs nearly impossible."
    That's it Tattler. That's exactly what I'm most concerned about.

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  17. On another topic, Nancy Walsh has not drawn papers as of noon today. The deadline is 5PM. Seems very clear that she is not running. Odd though that she wouldn't have shown the town the courtesy of an announcement. Both Chris Koerber and Josh Moran gave us that.

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    1. Aren't she and "Henderson" planning a big reveal at the Kiwanwis meeting tomorrow?

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    2. Throw in a cheap lunch and people will turn up for anything.

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    3. I hope Nancy's big announcement doesn't wake anyone up.

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    4. she certainly wouldn't get any volunteers for her campaign would she?

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    5. When was the last time Moran and Koerber were in the same sentence?

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    6. Retirement has robbed them of their dignity.

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  18. All City Hall cares about is development impact fees. Money money money. Got big pensions and benefit packages to fund. Just like with the UUT, just like with the water rate hike. The people who supposedly work for us are sucking us bone dry, and for their own damn benefit.

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    1. city is looking at $1.3 M in development fees. they can't wait to spend the money.

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    2. They have sold us out. It is all about pension and benefit packages. We're losing our town to a bunch of paper pushers.

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    3. all we got to do is stop electing those who are beholden to the real estate business - imagine we stooped so low to elect a reverse mortgage salesman and expect him to not push development agendas

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  19. It's not heroic modern families that are fighting for this. It's an investment corporation that specializes in buying distressed real estate from asset mangers.

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  20. The title is a joke. Adele Chang once said 5.5 bathrooms is what modern families want. Anal retentive is more like it.

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    1. I don't think you mean retentive.

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  21. The corporate owners are willing to compromise. They'll knock of 50 square feet on one house, 75 on the tier. Big of them.

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    1. Darn spell check! They'll knock off 50 sq. ft. on one house and 75 on the other. Such tiny adjustments will make no real difference.

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    2. It is just a fig leaf so the city can claim CETT made concessions. Disgusting.

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    3. That's a broom closet and half a bedroom closet

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    4. Which will be put back once the city council gives its approval.

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  22. Brilliant comments today from a few people who have legal skills. When Crawford has to delete Doyle dirts comments, you know the big anti-development lawyers are online.
    LOL.

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  24. Less than an hour and a half until Nancy Walsh is not a candidate. 5 pm deadline, no papers drawn.

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    1. Nancy is officially out.

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    2. I volunteer to pay her filing fee - just for the laughs

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    3. It must have been a Downtown Investment Club members strategy. They got some benefit from Walsh's silence. It'll be interesting to see who they trot out.

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    4. It did make Nancy look like an ass, though.

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    5. Oh they are way through with Walsh. She's served their purposes and can be tossed.

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  25. Here's the deal: we're moving into a record drought
    http://waxman.house.gov/video/rep-peters-warns-record-drought-across-country

    and the reason is a change in the upper atmospheric structure that's been building for over decades now
    http://www.southerncaliforniaweatherauthority.com/2014/01/12/the-california-drought-finally-explained-with-both-upper-and-lower-levels-of-atmosphere-to-blame/

    It's called a Hadley cell, and these things set up and park over a region, driven by the energy from increasing carbon in the atmosphere. Imagine that atmospheric "mountains" have been growing and getting steeper and bigger.
    http://lumpsofcoal.org/global_patterns.php

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    1. Blah Blah Blah. Keep your quack science to yourself.

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    2. OMG. Quoting something from Henry Waxman? Are you serious?

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    3. That's what's hard about this. All of this is straight science (referenced links) and supports the IPCC report out in September that was clear to the UN that we've dumped way too much carbon into the atmosphere. Verified by diligent science research all over the globe with respect to its impacts, and a global agreement coming in Paris in January of 2015 that will result in massive carbon reductions. Might be too late anyway.

      It's kind of like the law of physics, you really can't debate it unless you want to kill yourself. Yet the corporate propaganda machine has got people calling it "quackery" in order to protect their profits and escape damages. Just like this rape pillage and burn scenario at One Carter is tough to fight, with its obvious destructiveness, all because of the money thrown at it.

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  26. 11:25 is right. Anyone who says other wise is working against preserving our little community. If you don't understand what 11:25 said then look into it and read about the difficulties we have had over the years trying to preserve Sierra Madre. The uninformed people, lawyers and builders with city halls help have ruined our little spot of paradise in the big city. After working 12 hour days with only a weeks vacation those of you trying to profit off of our little town should spend your vacations next to the Gold Lines new apartments in Pasadena. Shame on you bad bad people, you deserve all the restless sleep you get.

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  27. 4:25, and the next volcano eruption will change all that.

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  28. The grunts of rage had fun writing it. :-)

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  29. The pen is mightier than the sword but you can't defend your home with it.

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