Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Last Night's City Council Meeting Was The Mind Bomb

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The TV audio was KGEM'd off when John Harabedian discussed his trip to Washington DC. So I don't have too much to tell you about it. They went, they saw at least some of the important people they wanted to see, they heard them say important things about water, and then our peeps flew back home with no additional money in their pockets. But we are talking about Uncle Sugar here. Sierra Madre may still be somebody's old earmark. You never really know.

I just hope Sierra Madre's fab four didn't commit to selling any more water bonds to obtain some kind of Federal matching funds like the last time. That is how we got into trouble back in 2003. I am not sure this town could take another nearly $15 million in debt.

There was also supposed to be a report about the yearly audit last night, but the guy responsible for it couldn't make the meeting. So that item was shelved until next time. Had it happened this would have been the lion's share of the meeting, complete with all of the expected bathos about Measure UUT. So maybe it was for the best. We'll get to experience all of that next time I'm sure.

The General Plan Update Committee finally got out from under its Brown Act cone of silence. The prisoners are finally free. This happened when KGEM's audio was off. I guess there could have been some irony in that. You'd have to really look for it, though.

Something that I found difficult to decipher was the ordinance on "legacy trees." Apparently if you have a protected (or legacy) tree on your property, and you've decided you want to put a swimming pool in its place, all you have to do is go to City Hall, get some kind of a free permit, and then chop that sucker down.

If this is how Sierra Madre's "urban forest" is supposed to be saved, then I have to say I am underwhelmed. Sounds like an invitation for clear cutting the place to me. From "tree city" to "stump city" in no time. Or, if you prefer acronyms, we'll go from Legacy Trees (LT) to Plain Old Trees (POT). With saplings.

Watching Josh Moran get punked by the Chief Giannone over his flippant remark about illegal fireworks was kind of fun. You just don't go saying those sorts of things in the midst of the worst drought in modern times. Sierra Madre is a tinderbox. Plus the Chief led the anti-illegal fireworks detail for 10 years at his previous gig in Monterey Park. Josh can't seem to help but play the jerk sometimes. He needs to learn to keep that in check when there are practicing adults in the room.

The Mayor's strange Hart Park bathroom obsession went on for a while. I cannot quite muster the interest to write about it except to say public restrooms in city parks generally are not the most pleasant places. If you don't like the ones at Memorial Park, go to Starbucks. They have the most modern in conveniences there, and we don't have to pay to maintain them. Plus they serve coffee.

I do remember the City Council voting to allow the building of some kind of a Hart Park House storage facility. I think it was called Option 4. Everyone was for it. Finally the legendary ping pong table will have a home. We can only pray that this matter has finally been laid to rest.

The Library was discussed for a long time. In between bouts of intermittent slumber I recall John Harabedian and Josh Moran talking nostalgically about their Sierra Madre upbringings and the smell of that library when they were kids. I hear it was a lot like Old Spice.

There was also the obligatory bleating about Measure UUT. Here I thought the utility tax increases that many people voted for a number of years back were supposed to be for public safety alone. Now it turns out these moneys were for the Library as well? Did we vote on this, or did somebody just up and do it without asking us for permission?

At that point I turned off the TV and helped one of my kids study for a vocabulary test. If anything else happened, I'm all ears. But that is about all I got out of this one.

Another item of note. The Gene Goss campaign postcard is out, and it appears that he has been endorsed by almost all of the 2004 City Council. You know, the City Council that voted to destroy One Carter? To the point where 10 years later there still hasn't been a single house built there?

Not a lot to brag about in that, Gene. Maybe you can get the 2002 City Council to endorse you as well? Most of them were still on the City Council in 2004. The interest only payments they initiated on their 2003 water bonds, a scheme which created the millions of dollars in unnecessary debt that helped drive this year's rate increases, are almost as popular as the moonscape at the top of Baldwin.

If you could do worse than that, I really don't know how.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

29 comments:

  1. So there are no more protected trees?

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    1. The developers are very grateful.

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    2. Maybe that is the reason why they changed the name from Green to EENER.

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    3. How's that former Tree Commission working out for ya?

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  2. and the Green Tree people were for this???

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    1. I am sure a City Atty or two had a hand in this.

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  3. "First they came for the trees..." City Hall's war on trees is very troubling. As the Mod observed, it's a code signal to the development world that it's open season on clear-cutting and condo-mania. Is there any way to stop this 'ordinance'? The free permit is just the equivalent of flipping the bird to the people of Sierra Madre. And if developers get their way, that's gonna be the only bird left.

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  4. I am a little stunned. I really am. What happened?

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  5. City Hall is on a pension funding offensive. They want development impact fees. You think they are going to let trees stand in heir way?

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  6. Of course they won't let trees stand in their way. They've already destroyed an ancient forest and that crime can never be made right. The only thing standing in their way is the will of the people who want to preserve what's left.

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  7. Sierra Madre has a problem with "nice." Too many residents either want to be nice, or are genuinely nice, and don't recognize the duplicity of some of the people they deal with. I think the protection for trees has been niced away.

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  8. Is the ordinance really that permissive?!
    If so, I sure hope the council hasn't passed it yet.

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    1. The second reading will be next council meeting. Still a chance to read it and give your comments at the meeting.

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    2. Better turn out people.

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  9. Wait a minute - if all you have to do is go to city hall, get a free permit, and chop away, why on Earth would you go to city hall at all?

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    1. I am sure that is the point. The whole purpose of the EENER set up was to get rid of the Tree Commission. EENER is a development tool. The real Green Commission were the Trees. They had to be taken out.

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  10. today I went out into my yard and dedicated each of my trees to a dead relative. do I need a permit for this?

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    1. The permits are to undedicate your trees. Something the person who buys your house might wish to do.

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  11. The staff report on the Tree Ordinance was a follow-up to the full report from two weeks ago and as such did not help those who were not watching then understand the questions asked last night and the clarifications given.

    The update to the Tree Ordinance now includes a provision for members of the community to designate trees as Legacy Trees on their property, either ones that have been there for years, let's say long before they bought the property, or ones that they would like to plant to commemorate a family member.

    With this designation comes a requirement that they provide an application to the EENR Commission, which has a subcommittee comprised of Caroline Brown, the chair of this subcommittee and EENR Commission Chair Kathleen Blanchard and Illona Volkmann, to assist in the decision making process of the entire commission, in determining the suitability of the tree in the application. For example, the Italian Stone Pines on Lima and Grove would be considered suitable candidates for the ones planted there some 100 years ago, but not as newly selected as we know more about what trees are suitable for the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones.

    And yes, if for some future reason a legacy tree needs to come out (as with any of the four species of native trees protected by the ordinance for many years) there is a provision for that and a mitigation matrix for replacement value of the trees removed.

    Now, there is no way to protect against the stealth removal of protected trees and the later application for a building permit, but there will be in the revised ordinance. It is the permit process. The permit is free but it is not as the posters have alluded to a free for all on the removal of trees in Sierra Madre. You will want to know if an important tree specimen is being chopped down, or trimmed to the point of ultimate demise, without a permit. The current ordinance does not give you any recourse, the revised ordinance will.

    Hope this helps to clarify some of the misgivings and misinformation.

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    1. So the city council was engaging in misinformation when it discussed the free permit any property owner could get from the city that would allow them to cut down a so-called legacy tree? Why would they do that?

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    2. So what happens to trees that are not designated legacy trees?

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    3. Read again, the 4th paragraph that 5:03 posted.

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    4. Right. Cut down a mature tree. Plant a sapling. Stupid.

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    5. Four California native trees in Sierra Madre are protected (two oak species, the Western Sycamore and California Black Walnut) with the Tree Ordinance. The city street and park trees are selected for suitablitity under power lines or in varying sized parkway spaces are on a tree list which is updated as new information is acquired. With the added Legacy Tree Program, a homeowner can apply to have a tree (or trees) designated in commemoration in a person's memory and the tree selection can be broader than the city's tree list given the fact that overhead electric lines or parkway constraints would most likely not be an issue.

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    6. All the next owner has to do is go to city hall, fill out a form, get a free permit and cut the ex-legacy tree down. Outside of vanity, I don't see how this accomplishes anything. Beyond establishing that permits to cut down trees in Sierra Madre are free.

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  12. Don't think Chris Holden is going anywhere soon. Practicing keeping his Pals close and his obligation$ closer.

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  13. There aren't enough kinds of protected trees. Why don't the EENRs focus on getting more trees classified as protected?

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  14. I tried to read the staff report and the ordinance, but the absurdly long name of the commission is a distinct impediment.

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    1. The Urban Dictionary definition of an eener: "A nickname for a girl that goes to a stupid school." As in: "OMG, that girl is a total eener."
      http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?item=eener.

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