Sierra Madre is a city with two very contradictory things going on right now. We are completely out of water and dependent upon outside sources for supplies that are vastly inferior to what we used to produce for ourselves. At the same time we are also about to embark on the biggest home building boom since the 1960s. Housing that is vastly larger than what can be found in most of this community, and as such out of character with what many feel is this community's greatest appeal.
In other words, we are in the grip of two distinctly different forces here. On the one hand we have become unsustainable as far as water goes, and dependent upon the charity of others. Charity that we are paying a lot of money for, and one of the reasons behind our most recent water rate increases.
On the other City Hall appears to be unwilling to stop the McMansionizing of much of this city's northern hillside rim, this despite the unpopularity of such development.
Our expensive boutique city government, which nowadays seems to exist largely in order to sustain itself, is in something of a financial panic after the defeat of Measure UUT. It is now frantically looking elsewhere for its funding, with development impact fees and increased property tax levies being their current survival strategy.
When a City government is offering its employees things such as $36,000 a year health plans, a cost that leads other California cities by miles, a generous supply of tax money becomes very important. What we the voters are getting in return is an entirely different matter.
Figuratively speaking, we now find ourselves in the unfortunate position of paying the hangman to hang us.
By my count 60% of the current City Council will choose to support McMansion development in this town because it is currently the only way they can continue to obtain the moneys needed to pay off the municipal employee unions they support. The price that we the people are being asked to pay is the sacrifice of much of what those living here value most about Sierra Madre.
In other words, we are being asked to surrender something very fundamental and important in order to fund a city government whose first and possibly only priority is paying itself. With a majority on the City Council apparently being fine with this arrangement.
The only way that I can see to break this destructive cycle is to put an initiative on the ballot that would halt development here until the City finds a solution to its water crisis. And paying out the nose for the noxious chemical stew supplied to us by the SGVMWD is not a solution, it is much of the problem. At minimum it would take a 10 year building moratorium to accomplish this.
City Hall only wants the money. That is all they care about. They'll give us a lot of the usual lip service and process, but the end result will still be a thick swath of hillside McMansion building stretching from Stonehouse to One Carter to Mater Dolorosa.
Did the City lie to us about a building moratorium?
Some independent research was done after the March 11 City Council meeting deliberations over instituting a building moratorium. A moratorium based on the clear fact that we have a water division with no water. Which is somewhat akin to a City Council candidate with no pants.
Both the City Attorney and City Manager claimed that a building moratorium could only be put in place for 2 years, and only one time ever. Something that made no sense at all. The following is the carefully selected section of the code cited by our faithless city employees:
"65858. (a) Without following the procedures otherwise required prior to the adoption of a zoning ordinance, the legislative body of a county, city, including a charter city, or city and county, to protect the public safety, health, and welfare, may adopt as an urgency measure an interim ordinance prohibiting any uses that may be in conflict with a contemplated general plan, specific plan, or zoning proposal that the legislative body, planning commission or the planning department is considering or studying or intends to study within a reasonable time. That urgency measure shall require a four-fifths vote of the legislative body for adoption. The interim ordinance shall be of no further force and effect 45 days from its date of adoption. After notice pursuant to Section 65090 and public hearing, the legislative body may extend the interim ordinance for 10 months and 15 days and subsequently extend the interim ordinance for one year. Any extension shall also require a four-fifths vote for adoption. Not more than two extensions may be adopted.
What was not cited is Water Code Section 350-359 (link) which states that if a water distributer such as our waterless water company determines that there is indeed a water shortage, it can then freely enforce regulations on consumption. Including any new hook-ups to the so-called water supply.
Here is how it reads in the original:
WATER CODE SECTION 350-359 (356) The regulations and restrictions may include the right to deny applications for new or additional service connections, and provision for their enforcement by discontinuing service to consumers willfully violating the regulations and restrictions.