Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tonight's Planning Commission Meeting: The Stonegate Project Appeals Begin to Smell Like Process

The Tattler prefers this Monterey Dada design
We could be slipping into the Sierra Madre Twilight Zone with this one. It happens every once in a while here in the celebrated Foothill Village. The summary thoughtfully contained in the Staff Report for tonight's Planning Commission meeting puts it like this:

At the January 14, 2014 meeting, the City Council held public hearings to consider the appeals of the Planning Commission decisions denying the Hillside Development Permits and Conditional Use Permits for the three proposed Stonegate homes at 610, 630, and 638 Baldwin Court … After extensive discussion on the proposed projects, the City Council remanded the projects and respectfully asks the Planning Commission to form a subcommittee to work with the applicant on design modifications, specifically to address compliance with D-1.1 and D1.9 of the Stonegate Design Guidelines relating to architectural massing, scale, and building massing.

There is also included some equally vague palaver about certain superficial "lipstick on a pig" stylings (Monterey versus French Country) being applied to these potential McMansions, plus considerations about incorporating graywater systems. All of which smacks of trying to dress Quasimodo in the very latest of Gucci couture. It just isn't going to have the desired affect, no matter who is catering the party.

The City Council did not get too specific on the Monterey and French Country thing either, though the Mayor did murmur some appreciation of the former. To me this discussion has a Quarter Pounder versus Big Mac feel to it. Or maybe even a "Double-Double." These are McMansions, after all. With nobody specifically calling to hold anything.

However, for the Architect Adele Chang, special orders do upset her, and considerable Planning Commission time will now be spent trying to explain to her that McMansions do not juxtapose nicely with the planning laws and customs of Sierra Madre. Something that Adele has often shown she is not capable of appreciating, and on many very unfortunate occasions. To the point where many here are beginning to find Adele's architecturally inspired speech contortions both comical and absurd.

This has been going on for quite some time now. Here is how we described the very first appearance of Adele Chang on the Sierra Madre scene. This from a post made way back on May 23rd of 2011:

Adele Chang is an interesting specimen. A partner in the architectural firm of Lim Chang Rohling & Associates, Inc., she displayed an enormous range of attitudes that we will examine in a moment. If you go to her firm's website (link) you can see that they are indeed one of those kinds of outfits. A goodly portion of the gauche, oversized homes and mixed-use flat-topped generica that has littered the California landscape these last 20 years can be traced directly back to them.

That so much of what has now fallen into disfavor with California consumers can still be seen on their website would seem to indicate that someone forgot to include LCR&A on the tacky alert e-mail list.

But what really endeared me to Adele was the two faces she brought with her into the room. The face she showed to the Planning Commission was one of solicitous concern and compassion for the great challenges they face. Yet to those residents who stood up to speak in defense of what we all think of as Sierra Madre, she was disrespectful and rude. At several points in the meeting actually rattling her papers as people she disapproved of dared to speak. 

It was as if Adele believed she was winning favor with the Planning Commission by dissing their neighbors. As if she and the PC were somehow on the same side, and shared a common enemy.

Ah, the memories. It is interesting to note that Adele has never once really altered her massed-up McMansion designs. Modern families still prefer 5.5 bathroom homes in her world. Which apparently is one where people do not enjoy seeking their comfort for long.

However, it must be recognized that she has changed the words she uses to describe these things, and done so many times. Something that leads you to believe that the most thumbed text in her library is not really her little book of Sierra Madre building ordinances and codes, but rather her thesaurus.

Tonight's problem will not be with those troubling lipstick on a pig issues, however. It will instead be the struggle with that most nebulous and oftentimes dangerously undemocratic thing, "the process." Something designed to give the appearance of serving the popular will, while in reality removing the public from any actual decision making. Making it far more a bureaucratic food blender than processor.

Here is how one commenter put it yesterday:

I hope the Planning Commission refuses to set up a separate committee of 3 people. If they do, then whatever comes out of it will have automatic approval, and then should also have automatic approval with the city council. This is a sneaky ploy suggested by none other than the developer's attorney. And, the city council did not demand that the PC set up a separate committee, they merely recommended it. I think these "remanded" developments need to be discussed by the entire planning commission during public meetings with community input. Going to the planning commission meeting tomorrow night and advocating for a non-subcommittee solution would be good public input and help the commission with their decision.

Some very good points, and obviously based on years of hard experience. The residents of this community have been processed before.

The McMansion question is an issue that many people in this community feel very strongly about. And if it should begin to appear that what we are seeing here is little more than a ploy to take the people out of the loop, and rather is merely a procedure put into place to approve hillside McMansions in Sierra Madre, then there will be some very unhappy people.

And besides, if the City Council really did not want these McMansions by Adele built, wouldn't they have just said "NO" a few weeks back? Rather than going this "subcommittee" route?

You either want them or you don't. Like I said, if this is the start of a series of planned events designed to give people the impression that something is happening, only to later arrive at a preordained result, which in this case is the approval of McMansions, then we have a serious problem.  

It is all beginning to smell like process. Everybody keep a very close eye on this one.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

39 comments:

  1. I know it is hard work to stay engaged and to show up at Planning Commission and City Council meetings, but, as some famous person once remarked, "Showing up is 95% of success.". Strong public support and interest will influence the PC and CC decisions. Don't let a small group of 3 Planning Commissioners create a solution for Adele and the developer. It is not the job of the Planning Commission to solve the problem; that's Adele's job, and it needs to all be done in the light of the full public meeting.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Does anyone know why the Planning Commission is being briefed about a lawsuit this evening? Is it the Crater Gate developer trying to put some pressure on them?

    ReplyDelete
  3. "After extensive discussion on the proposed projects, the City Council remanded the projects and respectfully asks the Planning Commission to form a subcommittee..."
    Respectfully? Very odd to find that in municipalese.
    Does the planning commission have a choice?

    ReplyDelete
  4. My favorite Architect Chang moment came when a commissioner suggested that she drive around Sierra Madre to note the diversity of housing. Ms. Chang, who says she has friends in Sierra Madre, returned with a power point presentation of every big house in town she had the time to film. Of course they were all on much bigger lots that the contorted things she's got to work with. But no diversity, only big.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I get it that people are unhappy with the architect, and she does have that two-faced thing going on, but really she's just the hired help. It's the woman who owns CETT Investments who's calling the shots.

      Delete
    2. Adele's the attack dog. She doesn't care one bit what a resident thinks of her - she's not going to be living here.

      Delete
  5. The grey water systems are an excellent idea. The problem is all this new construction will still cripple our water department further, even if their use is well managed. It's still more demand.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great picture Mod.
    If that's what was built up there, it would at least be interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  7. We in the end will lose the law suite

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why, 9:17? We have no rights?

      Delete
    2. And if we roll over and are sued anyway? That's the Buchanan/Stockly legacy on this wrecked hillside.

      Delete
    3. Law suite? How many offices?

      Delete
    4. It would be a shame to think that any developer can come to town, decide they don't like our laws, sue us, and win. What would the purpose of even having a town be? I think 9:17 doesn;t know what he's talking about.

      Delete
    5. The crooks want us to just give up. Don't.

      Delete
  8. The development community has a lot riding on this. If CETT can break the control Sierra Madre has had regarding macmansions, it won't be all that long before there's nothing built here but that kind of housing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
    2. CETT wants to flip Sierra Madre.

      Delete
  9. Every new house built anywhere in drought-prone country should be fitted with a grey water recovery system that is held in a reservoir to use to flush toilets. There should not be a single drop of drinking water used for flushing ever again. Now how hard can that be? This grey water can be further filtered for watering gardens and small areas used for lawns. Trees, even though drought tolerant Southern California species are encouraged, need a certain amount of minimal rainfall.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed, 12:50. But a new, better, less wasteful water system is still a new demand on supply.

      Delete
    2. The gray water thing was a throw in. A cheap concession designed to make these thing more palatable.

      Delete
  10. The houses that are proposed for Carter would be great elsewhere. They'd fit perfectly on Second Avenue in Arcadia.

    ReplyDelete
  11. A sub-committee will not help with this type of development. To get the planning commission to do the work of the architect is not the way to go. Remember the planned house on Auburn that came back to the committee many times before the builder finally gave in and designed a house that was suitable to the area and the terrain. That plan flew past the commission without a murmur.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it is a divide and conquer strategy. Get the 3 architects to come to some sort of understanding with CETT, then take it back to the Palnning Commission where at least one of the remaining 4 will agree to it. Deal done. The City Council never intended to defend Sierra Madre's laws on this matter. They just want the development impact fees. We are being sold out by our elected leadership. Things are very bad now.

      Delete
  12. You know what would fit really well on those misshapen lots? Tiny houses.
    http://tinyhouseswoon.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I want a caboose.

      Delete
    2. I want a tree house.

      Delete
  13. Poor Pergolas!
    http://www.noahgreenforcitycouncil.com/photos/gallery/c8143a619c714be4b28d692a65629255

    ReplyDelete
  14. the Pergolas like me will be happy to vote for Noah

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a great way to welcome a nice young lawyer to our community! Put him in charge.

      Delete
    2. That's what you get from the Chamber of Commerce. Empty stores and empty heads. And taxes.

      Delete
    3. 4:47 Photo Link: - Green on one side of them and on the other?
      Oh dear.

      Delete
  15. We have the best planning commissioners ever. Makes me have faith that Sierra Madre is not bought and sold - not yet. They did not roll over.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Vote in the two ladies, Denise and Rachelle. The two men are Doyalist plants. Sierra Madre needs to rid itself of "Doyalism"!
    It's been destructive to the town for 20 years. Enough is enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Noah Green's time in this town makes him green. It is nice that he wants to serve the community and all. But shouldn't he have lived here first?

      Delete
  17. Hooray for the Planning Commission! They voted no on a sub-committee of 3. 1 Carter will be discussed in open session at the regular meetings. I think the next time it comes up is the first meeting in March.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I only saw part of the meeting, but it looked like the planning commissioners were not in favor of a small group meeting out of the public realm. If so, that is great news.

    ReplyDelete
  19. The only way to prevent McMansions and prevent seeing Sierra Madre turn into Arcadia is to have tight general plan and zoning standards......and a good city council and a vigilant citizenry. City employees will always be in favor of more development and more revenue to fund their inflated salaries and pensions.
    Additional pressure will come from a significant demographic change that is occuring in the San Gabriel Valley and is now coming to Sierra Madre. Before anyone cries rascism, let me say that I don't mind any ethnic group coming to Sierra Madre and enjoying all that this town has to offer. However, if any one wants to come and change the character and the architecture of the town or change the business signs to something other than English, that's where I draw the line.
    For many of us, Mary's Market is a national treasure. Others see it as an old building that should be torn down. That is going to be the challenge. In some cases, its simply a culteral difference of opinion about architechure. Many of us like the old, quaint and funky. Others like brand new, big, bold and modern. That is the issue for the future. We will either win that argument and preserve Sierra Madre or Sierre Madre will be incrementally and inexorably transformed into something that will be unrecognizable to us.
    We are facing a new reality. If Sierra Madre wants to retain its character, it must say stop. It will be hard and difficult to enforce our building standards but it must be done. As One Carter goes, so goes the Mater Dolorosa Housing Project and then its over - in ten to 20 years Sierra Madre becomes like all the other San Gabriel Valley towns. Its all happened very fast and will only accelerate.

    ReplyDelete