Friday, February 7, 2014

One Carter: The Planning Commission Stands Tall

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CETT's Attorney and two of its ruling dignitaries were in the house last night, and they tried very hard to get the Planning Commission to agree with Mayor Pro Tem* Harabedian's idea of a three member subcommittee. The idea being, I guess, is that somehow fewer people would be able to say things more clearly than seven. Or come up with a different solution. And that everything the Planning Commission said previously about McMansionizing One Carter would then magically change.

I suppose we could assume that the intentions were the very best (thought they probably weren't), and somehow this was going to lead to a better result than what had happened before. Even though the previous results were just fine by most accounts. But whatever the motives of the players involved might be, it didn't happen.

It turns out the Planning Commission meant exactly what they had said on all of those previous occasions, still thought that their ideas on the matter were very good, and that if the developer (CETT) wished to have any further conversations on the matter they'd would have to talk with all of them. They weren't at all interested in dividing and conquering themselves.

From the meeting's beginning CETT's Attorney attempted to convince the Planning Commission to adopt the idea of a 3 member subcommittee as outlined by MPT* Harabedian at a recent City Council meeting. The Attorney even went so far as to claim that the idea was actually his, and that it was a good one. At least in his opinion. Whatever the intentions, the Planning Commission would have none of it.

The upshot to all of this is the Planning Commission decided that they would be available to the developer as a 7 member subcommittee. That is, all of them. They would be there to tell the developer what needs to be done, again, just like they did all of those other times.

They would not be doing any design work for the developer, either. Not as a subcommittee, a circus, a gymnastics club, or anything else. That is not what their job is. They aren't there to do volunteer architect work. Nor are they there to critique decisions that they themselves had come up with previously. No matter who decided that they didn't like them.

As one resident was heard to remark, CETT had deliberately ignored the Planning Commission before, and what they were looking for now was just another way to do that same thing. But this time with help from the people they had been ignoring.

Another resident had asked what many there had been thinking. Wouldn't a subcommittee be a non-Brown Act body, and therefore it could meet in private without anyone else but the concerned party? That being the developer?

Nobody dared to answer that one. Especially the salaried employees. Office politics, perhaps, got in the way. Though the City Attorney did take both sides of that question. The public could go, but maybe they could not. Obviously transparency issues were a definite concern for many of those attending last night.

CETT did not get what they wanted. And an effort that first begun way back in 2011, one that has always been about building immense structures here in town that are contrary to law and custom, once again failed to proceed.

You can only wonder what they will try next. Someday this does have to come to an end.

The PUSD continues to embarrass itself

An article in today's Pasadena Star News makes you wonder if anyone is in charge at the Pasadena Unified School District.

Pasadena Unified school board president halts consulting contract with former school board member (link): A former Pasadena Unified school board member stopped doing consulting work for the school district after the board’s president stepped in and determined the contract was invalid.

Former school board member Ramon Miramontes, who was a controversial figure on the board, worked for the district for two months and earned $8,500 for his work in establishing an English Learner Academy and a Chinese Student Exchange Program without Superintendent Jon R. Gundry’s authorization.

The majority of the school board approved the payment, but in a Feb. 3 letter from board President Renatta Cooper addressed to Miramontes, Cooper said the relationship between the district and Miramontes has ended.

Cooper said she felt the contract was invalid. The board does not have a policy regarding former board members doing work for the district. The state Fair Political Practices Commission does not prevent a former school board member from seeking a contract with the agency he or she represented, according to a statement from spokesman Jay Wierenga.

Cooper said the school board would develop a policy to deal with similar situations in the future.

“Things that are precedent setting are serious enough that they require real study and what would be established if this is to go forward,” Cooper said.

Miramontes blamed the controversy on board politics and a clash of personalities.

“I stopped the work because I know this board, all five of them are people I know and talk to,” he said. “The board president has a personal vendetta against me.”

“It’s not about offering 21st Century programs or finally offering international programs in this world-class environment,” he added.

Cooper argued invalidating the contract wasn’t personal.

“I don’t have a personal agenda in a relationship to him,” Cooper said. “I thought as someone as a former board member, I was kind of finished dealing with Mr. Miramontes and his issues, I was not looking forward to going back there, but no, this is about the kids. This is about the work.”

Yeah, issues. Like maybe who authorized this contract in the first place? Nobody there seemed to know. Or at least wanted to admit to it.

With a few notable exceptions, they are kinda cray-cray in that place, you know. It goes all the way to the top.

Tony Brandenburg covered a lot of the issues involved here in depth on Tuesday. You can read his insightful (and now apparently prescient) report by clicking here.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

65 comments:

  1. That's good news that the Planning Commission did not succumb to the obvious "divide and conquer" strategy. Residents in Sierra Madre have to realize that the issue of McMansions is not just confined to the houses at One Carter. If it is allowed to happen there, then it means McMansions at Mater Dolorosa and elsewhere. The floodgates will open. I'm glad the Planning Commission stood up to them because as One Carter goes so goes Sierra Madre.
    Everybody should also be getting angry that this developer, architect and lawyer, who don't live in this town, come in here and don't want to follow our rules. The residents and the members of the Planning Commission and others then have to waste their valuable time in telling these people to follow our rules. Lawsuits have been threatened in an effort to intimidate us into breaking our rules. As far as I'm concerned this crew should be banned from our town! Go build the McMansions in Arcadia or some other city that's been ruined. We don't want that here.

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    1. I think that's too harsh, 6:03, to say Arcadia has been ruined. It's just undergoing a metamorphosis. One day, and probably pretty soon, it'll be nothing but Castles cheek to jowl, with a superb educational system. That's a choice those residents are making. If we're lucky, the Sierra Madre residents will be making other choices, at least regarding what is built.

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    2. Harabedian is a Buchanan clone - we don't need any more lawyers on the Council - cept if Kurt Zimmerman ever returned

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    3. The PUSD is a far cry from the AUSD - but they're trying, and our local schools are the shiniest ones the PUSD has. Isn't a Mandarin Immersion program part of the new Jr. high?

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  2. The trouble is they are following the rules . The rules where done very badly.

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    1. Sure. It's a conspiracy.

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    2. 6:47, you obviously have not read the Stonegate Design Guidelines. Surprisingly, councilmember Harabedian was the one to bring up a doozy:
      "Avoid building two story structures that directly overlook into neighboring properties." CETT Investments dropped the "Avoid."

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    3. Modern families like to look through other peoples windows.

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    4. It's not the rules that were done badly - it's the lots. The Buchanan, Stockly, Torres, Joffe decision to ignore the recommendation of the planning commission of that time and approve this terrible design are the source of the problem. A council should always listen to its planning commissioners.

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    5. We are still reeling from the effects of bad decisions made by the city councils of that time.

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    6. Is the Mayor Pro Tem* back yet?

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    7. I hope the contingent of four that went to D.C. took extras bags to haul back all that money they're getting. I wonder how long and various the attached strings will be.

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

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  3. I like the fact that the Planning Commission basically ignored Harabedian's "respectful" request. It shows just how little weight a lot of people put in Johnny's wisdom.

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    1. I think you give Harabedian too much credit. It was the council's decision, and except for Walsh (predictably), all council members pushed back at the applicant's attorney. The attorney claims it was his decision to suggest the sub committee, and that's what I remember too from the meeting, but it doesn't matter now because the commissioners said no. woo-hoo.

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    2. he's a lightweight

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    3. Most of the planning commissioners understood what was being asked of them; free architectural advice up close and personal.

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  4. 6:47 - No, the rules were NOT done badly! Adele, et al, just like to pretend they were (including City Hall). The General Plan makes it clear houses must fit into the neighborhood, City Council passed the Hillside Ordinance years ago (yeah, yeah, I know about the lawsuit and concessions that were made). 6:03 - Well said! I was with an out of town friend, driving through Arcadia from the 210 to my house, and her comment as we passed several tear-downs being rebuilt was, "Wow! I see what you are fighting!" Well done, Planning Commission! You make us proud.

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    1. Just because a person or group of people buy distressed real estate from an asset manager does not mean the city owes them anything.
      Who unloaded this property on CETT anyway? They must have done full disclosure, which would include the settlement agreement, the stonegate guidelines, the general plan, the hillside zone. Ya think?

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    2. They knew exactly what they bought. They want what they want because they want it. I will sue you if I don't get my way.

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    3. A lot and of this talk is crazy. Please tell me of a single city that was ruined by expensive mansion style homes being built throughout? Arcadia has a lot more revenue coming in now than it ever did.

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    4. Well, Arcadia for one.

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    5. Ah, Adele has found her way to The Tattler.

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  5. thanks to Harabedian, sleaze continues on the Council in the time honored tradtion of Buchanan

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  6. Save the date - all this comes back before the Planning Commissioners on March 6th. Let them know what you think.

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  7. Last night local government worked. It was just so refreshing to see.

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    1. Yes it is. Gives a dangerous amount of hope.

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    2. A brief glimpse of what can be, and then back to Nancy Walsh and Johnny Process.

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  8. I loved their attorney's remark when Gina said all the plans were discussed before she was on the commission and she wanted to see the plans before she voted on them. His response was to go back and watch the videos like he did. He got paid $300+ an hour to watch Adele talk about the needs of a" modern family".

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    1. That attorney got a little taste of the serious and committed thinkers we have on the PC. He's not going to be able to talk circles around the majority of the commissioners.

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    2. "Danny, help me out here. Monterey or French Provincial?"

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  9. As a speaker said, "They understand the rules...they are ignoring them".

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    1. They will keep asking and asking until they get what they want. Somewhere along the line somebody is going to have to tell them no.

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    2. The process means never having to say no. Or yes.

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    3. It does involve a lot of talk, however.

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  10. Johnny only did what Elaine told him - do whatever you can to keep from voting no on this project. The settlement was a bad one, but everyone must abide with it, and CETT is trying to get around some of the agreement to make as much money as they can. Fortunately, the Planning Commission members are too smart for them Why should they design the houses for a developer? Hooray for the sub-committee of seven.

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    1. In Sierra Madre the city manager wears the pants.

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    3. It's not that I disagree that Elaine does in fact wield much power, it's just that "wears the pants" is such a misoginystic outdated phrase. Words actually do mean something and their usage tells a great deal about the person who is telling the tale. Can we just say Elaine is the "decider"?

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    4. That is a George W Bush reference. I am very uncomfortable.

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  11. The Magnificent Seven or the Shoot Out a the OK Corral.

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  12. I'll say it again: the night the CC met to approve the tract map at 1 Carter, the Sierra Madre Mt Conservancy president told Mayor Buchanan that they had an agenda item on for the next week at the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for a $20,000.00 grant to study the best practices for interpretating the Hillside Ordinance slope density calculations and the map so as to give the city some back bone in "interpreting" the HMZ to protect the city and not cave in to the "interpretations" of the developer threatening a law suit. The rest is history: instead of postponing the vote for the tract map, which the CC could have/should have done, they voted for the developement and these lousy shaped, goofy sized lots are the result of the developers greed and Mayor Buchanan's lack of leadership.

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    1. 2014 is the 10th anniversary of the One Carter Disaster. Ten years, no houses.

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    2. I've always thought that if that disastrous council had taken the advice of their planning commissioners, the development would have been done long before now, with 11 or 12 houses built on large lots on natural land.

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    3. Greedy little bunch they are, they figured they'd cram 'em in and make the real money. Instead they've made none.

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    4. Buchanan is also responsible for the water mess. Had the Council heeded MaryAnn and voted to put part of the rate hike into paying off the bonds, we would not have had such a steep hike now. Buchanan argued that the decision had to be made that night for the rate raise.

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    5. It was real Buchanan brilliance. Water rates went up, bond ratings immediately collapsed, the pipes burst, and we ran out of water. But only after it changed color first.

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    6. 4:51, I think it's worse than not making money. Certainly Galletly went belly-up. On the other hand, that was his usual position, as everyone learned again and again at the hearings.

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    7. The 2004 Pinhead Council.

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    8. Someone mentioned a "Shame on you Greg Galletly" banner that was recently hung up outside Ambassador auditorium. Good to know some things never change.

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    9. We need to hang one over Crater gate.

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    10. Disagree with that 5:19. That honor belongs to BuchStocJofTor

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  13. I think this is going to be a very big determinate for the future of Sierra Madre.

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    1. Agreed.
      The way all kinds of properties are selling right now, you know some of the new money in town is here to maximize and mansionize.

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  14. Does anyone know what the purchase price was?
    I suspect that CETT will make plenty of money even if they don't get to build a mansion on every lot.

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    1. I know that at one point I heard Capital Source was into it for more than 50 million. Hard to believe, but the figure was over 50 million. See what they got for trusting Greg Galletly?

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    2. That they were taken in by Greg Galletly does not show a whole lot of sophistication.

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    3. If you search for CETT Investment online, you'll find they bought a motel in Dana Point for $3400000 from an assest manager.
      http://www.costar.com/News/Article/Dana-Marina-Inn-Sold-for-$34M/131475

      There's also some redevelopment hustling going on. Check out item 2:
      http://www.sangabrielcity.com/Archive/ViewFile/Item/528

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    4. So San Gabriel is where CETT is being charitable and community oriented, Sierra Madre is where they are being litigious and catering to the highest market. Huh.

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    5. Kind of community oriented, 5:19. Kind of. If you look at the San Gabriel planning commission document, you'll see that an amendment passed to "remove the condition of approval requiring that three of the two bedroom units be occupied by and available at an affordable housing cost to moderate income households."

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  15. A hearty thanks to the planning commissioners who are finding a way to give Sierra Madre a chance to continue being a small town with diverse and eclectic housing, with room for poorer people, richer people, and everybody in between.

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  16. Josh Moran stated to city property owners that Elaine "our city manager" is doing a terrific job!

    Well...

    Elaine has been over to the city of Monrovia - applying and hoping to be hired as the new Monrovia city manager!

    The city of Monrovia is apparently smarter than Sierra Madre city council, they agreed not to hire her!

    When are we going to figure it out that Elaine needs to go!

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    1. That is an interesting tidbit. For reals she applied?

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