Friday, May 9, 2014

Is It Time For A Voter Imposed Building Moratorium?

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"Here it all comes. The transformation of Sierra Madre into Arcadia is not going to come all at once although Stonehouse, Mater Dolorosa, and One Carter is a faster jump than a lot of people expected. Combine that with the more incremental and less dramatic changes like the lot split currently proposed for a property on Michillinda and we can see clearly where this is all leading. I have also started to notice more traffic as I drive through Sierra Madre. Try driving through Pasadena at certain times of the day to get a taste of where that all leads. All this development will only add to it. Oftentimes these changes happen so incrementally that you don't notice what is happening and adjust to the small change. However, if we could magically fast forward about 10 or 20 years to see the end result, we would probably say 'What happened to our town?' By the time people wake up to what City Hall in conjunction with other people are trying to do to raise revenues, it will be too late. The residents of Sierra Madre are literally paying Danny Castro whose official title is the "Director of Development Services" to ruin the town we live in." - A reader comment

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.

For what?

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.

Funny how they somehow forgot to mention that one.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

74 comments:

  1. It appears that a building moratorium is now the only way to stop what is going on unless of course the residents of Sierra Madre are ok with rationing their water and paying higher water rates so that the "temporary" connection to the MWD becomes a permanent one. For what? So that outside developers can make a big profit and so we are left with all the other bad consequences of over-development like pollution and traffic just to name a few. What a bargain!

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    1. why do we need a Director of Developmental Services" anyway?

      Council ought to do away with the position and adjust the function into something more suitable to the city and to serve the public, not the realtors and out of town developers.

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    2. I agree. Why would a town that seems to want to preserve the status quo want to pay the salary of someone whose only purpose is to assist developers who want to make a quick profit and leave the adverse consequences of over-development to those who have to live in the town.

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    3. We have an entire city department devoted towards the very thing the vast majority of residents oppose and we're paying for it to boot. That doesn't make any sense.

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    4. I would like to know if there is any countervailing force within city hall that would clash with those that promote development. In other words, have we heard a peep from whoseever in charge of water within the city. Are they expressing any concerns about the future in that regards and the impact that continued and unmitigated development will have on our water supply.

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    5. Although there are many reasons to guard against over-development within this city, certainly the water department should prepare a study or forecast of the impact of this on our water supply and our ability to disconnect from the "temporary" connenction to the MWD.

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    6. There must be a concerted city-wide effort to stop over-development in Sierra Madre. It can't be just a few neighbors that protest when each project rears its ugly head. There has to be a joint effort, with an email list of supporters with a list of speakers who can be there at important meetings for all the projects. The problem we have is that there is no coordinated and combined effort which allows the city and developers to roll over the opposition to each individual project. People are busy and get tired. It seems like you put your finger in the dike in one place and a new leak opens up somewhere else and often times before you can plug the first leak. Somehow the people spearheading the varous efforts need to plan an overall strategy to deal with all development in Sierra Madre and not just the project that affects them. For example, I would suspect that the same people who don't want to see a housing project at the Monastery also don't want to see one at Stonehouse or One Carter.....and don't want to see the lot split on Michilinda or any of the other crazy projects that are in the pipeline now or coming soon.

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    7. The connection, the actual physical connection of Sierra Madres water system to the actual feeder pipe from MWD is permanent, it won't be severed if we no longer require that water. What's in question is the city's drawing water from that connection, the connection is permanent.

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  2. Danny Castro is the "Director of Development Services". His job is to faciilitate development in this town and enable developers to build the biggest McMansions on the smallest lots. Think about that. HIs only purpose is to bring more and more development to a town that he probably doesn't even live in. And the residents are paying him to do it.

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    1. All city hall is like that. They screw us over and then expect us to support them for the rest of their lives.

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    2. They are paying him a lot to do it!

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    3. Crime pays.

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    4. Danny Castro will lie to accomplish the goals set by the City Manager, Elaine Argulair. It is all about the money. Pensions and Benefits are more important. City Hall needs a larger tax base to support its needs and in the short term, the building fees give them breathing room until the "Old People" die off and sell their home.
      But Danny Castro is a very expensive with a pension for life lair!

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    5. notice there is no "Resident Services" person

      developers go to the front of the line and residents get shafted

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    6. Trust me, developers don't have to wait until 11am to do business with City Hall. Only the townies get to cool their heels.

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    7. An entire department devoted towards turning Sierra Madre into an Arcadia clone. If that's what the residents want, then leave it alone. If it isn't let's do away with it.

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    8. Let's take the Monastery housing project for example. I 'd like to know how many times Danny Castro has met with those people. What is going on behind closed doors? How is he helping them? What comparable department in the city can the people opposing a development go to or do we have to go see the Director of Development Services and expect to find some sympathy to our position.

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    9. I'm sure Danny Castro is a nice guy. The problem is that he, like all the other unionized employees, has a vested interest in more revenue and thus more development to fund their ever-increasing wages, benefits and pensions. So that is his predilection and in the back of his mind every time he meets with a developer who wants to build some project in Sierra Madre that is not wanted by the vast majority of citizens in Sierra Madre. He has the title, Director of Development Services, and so he will promote and facilitate development at every opportunity. That is a problem.

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  3. I think the building moratorium should be instituted in response to an "emergency". One emergency is the water shortage. The other emergency is that as developers have gone on to ruin other towns, their focus now seems to be on Sierra Madre where they are afforded additional opportunities that can't be found in other cities that have already been transformed by over-development. Now that we know that is going on, we need to re-evaluate what the residents of Sierra Madre want the city to look like. If the marjority want it to look like Arcadia, so be it. I suspect that's not going to be the case. During the moratorium, we can then have a dialogue with the goal of putting in place exactly how many additional empty lots we would like to see developed and what kind of structures would be allowed on those lots that already have a pre-existing house. Let's control our own future and not let outside developers do it for us.

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    1. Couldn't agree more.

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    2. if Nancy Walsh was still around she'd take you out!

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    3. Nowadays the only thing Nancy Walsh takes out is pizza.

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  4. The city lied. Now there is a shocker.

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    1. Cities don't lie people do.

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    2. remember when our city attorney when prompted by Buchanan and Mosca how to communicate to the residents about Measure V told Buchanan and Mosca (both utility company lawyers/pr reps) that they'd be dealing in the gray areas of the law and that was perfectly fine with them

      we need a complete overhaul at city hall - there are plenty of viable candidates available that won't try to use the city for their own resume padding

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    3. The Residents are allowed to control what the city looks like. Most people moved to Sierra Madre because of the way it looks. Its kind of a mish mash of interesting houses. I think most residents want to keep it that way. If you like Arcadia, move to Arcadia.

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  5. "They lie like dogs on rugs", my grandfather used to say.

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  6. In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. —Thomas Jefferson

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  7. How much drinking water will be used for dust control at Stone House and north Sunnyside?

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    Replies
    1. Tons and tons - just like at the Kensington.

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    2. That is one mighty mountain of lumber. Good God!

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    3. And it's going to make a very big, tall building.
      I think it's funny when I hear people say, "gee I did not know it was going to be that big and that high when I voted for it."

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    4. I hear the retail section (the BIG part at the corner of Hermosa) is going to be renamed "Huttville" in honor of John Hutt.

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    5. I hear there is going to be a carrot juice bar called Jabba's.

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  8. Okay Tattlers, I AM a broken record, but keep getting ignored...SHOW UP at the Planning Commission meeting, and SPEAK. At the last Planning Commission meeting the same three people spoke who are always involved, with only two others in attendance (which includes our Moderator). We WILL become Arcadia if YOU don't do something. Don't wait until it is too late. If you cannot attend, write a letter, and get a friend/relative/neighbor to read it. We need the Planning Commission, City Hall, and City Council to knwo that we are serious about preserving our town.

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    1. 8:01 is right. It gets lonely some times. Obviously a lot of people care about this important issue, including many Planning Commission members. It isn't easy to go there, I know. But our town is being sold out. The loss will be yours. You need to stand up and be heard.

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    2. Former Planning Commissioner, another townMay 9, 2014 at 8:55 AM

      I would like to emphatically "second' the Mod on this point. Having been up on the dais for over a decade, fighting overdevelopment and mansionization (with a large degree of success), it's really difficult to that in an empty room. Not only must I make findings consistent with the code and regulations, I have to take a tough stand with lawyers and big money hammering away at me. I need all the help I can get, it really makes a difference when the pressure is on, believe me. We're all only human, and a broad base of support on the important values of a community can actually trump the legal loophole-jumping I had to deal with. Remember the job of Planning Commission is to make FINDINGS that are defensible, i.e., based on interpretation of the INTENT of the regulations by the community. Not the special interests, that's where the twist comes in...

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    3. I would like to say this former Commissioner it correct. I know Iam a current Commissioner

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    4. The public speakers can call out staff when staff twists the truth.

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  9. “Never doubt that a few committed individuals can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that has.”
    - Margaret Mead

    Especially in Sierra Madre.

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  10. But, 8:10 - those few committed individuals (with the emphasis on few) are getting tired. Some of us have been fighting for Sierra Madre since Maranatha tried to put their ill advised high school at the top of Baldwin in 1999. Some even longer. It's time for YOU to step up and speak out. When I talk to people about attending these meetings, they are "too busy." Me, too, but I still go and speak. We need you now!

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    1. remember that the then Principal of Maranatha went onto the property and prayed and she said God told her to build the high school there...in a known fire and flood zone

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  11. Maybe there is so little attending because they do not agree with your stand

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    1. How's that Measure UUT working out for you? Money rolling in?

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    2. Yes, the hundreds of McMansion supporters that have shown up at Planning Commission meetings is a problem. Earth to 8:29 - there are no McMansion supporters at Planning Commission meetings. Not even one.

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    3. Sometimes one, or two. Out of towners who have investments at stake.

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    4. Plus their lawyers.

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    5. It comes down to who wants it more. If the residents sit back and let other people do the work for them, then kiss Sierra Madre goodby.

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  12. I for one agree that we as citizens of Sierra Madre need to take our city back ! Leave our town alone Mc Mansionites..I and others will try to go to more city meetings..concerned in the canyon

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    Replies
    1. "there is no try, there is only do"
      Yoda

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  13. Can you imagine the reaction at City Hall if the residents take away the right to do their wacky deals with developers? What will they do with all their time? Sweep?

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    1. Fix sidewalks?

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    2. Find ways to spend less?

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    3. Work on Fridays?

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    4. See shrinks?

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    5. Get a real job that's not paid by the taxpayers?

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  14. Change of subject , Why do we have a Sierra Madre police car this morning on Orange Grove and Santa Anita giving out tickets for running the Arcadia stop sign , about 1/2 mile out of town , nothing to do in town then cut the police staff

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    1. I hear that Arcadia is getting rid of their PD and will be contracting out with Sierra Madre's force.

      (Just kidding)

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    2. The McMansions are not only an eyesore but the damage they do to the neighbors is incalcuable. They block views and destroy the reason you bought your home in the first place. You have a huge wall of cement right along the side of your house. No more sunlight. In Arcadia, you sometimes see an original owner holdout with a McMansion on either side. So this family that has perhaps lived in Arcadia for 50 years, now lives in a tunnel. Do the people who built those monstrosities care one iota about being a good neighbor. Not at all. Its greed and selfishness in action. Because we can't count on peope doing the right things, we have to have stringent building standards and no granting of variances. That's where the planning commission and the city council play such an important role....and the citizens who speak up.

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    3. 9:32, this has been going on for years, that's why so many citizens are tired of the SMPD - Chief Diaz responded to blog posts at a Council meeting that her department was not patrolling outside of SM, however the police blotter listed dui arrests on Live Oak Ave n Arcadia and other citations in Pasadena. Diaz lamely claimed that the officers were returning from the Pasadena jail (sort out of the way?) yet the PD conveniently stoppped posting their actions on the blotter outside of SM. You could see SMPD cars into Arcadia and Pasadena in the wee hours of the morning and at night, when they should be patrolling SM.

      if Arcadia and Pasadena residents only knew how dangerous it was for them to have SMPD offivers on their streets

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    4. 9:32 if you're so torqued off about this, have you called or emailed the City Manager to complain? She'd the boss of the PD. Then, if she doesn't respond, complain to a Council member or two.

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    5. The City Manager doesn't work today. And she will not talk to you on the other days until 11AM. Unless, of course, you are a developer. Then all bets are off.

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    6. Hate to break this news, but, the north west corner of Santa Anita and Orange Grove IS Sierra Madre...Please know of where you live.

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    7. The north west corner is 9 west Orange Grove Arcadia , the Sierra Madre Boundry is between Olvera lane and Rodeo Rd on Orange Grove

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  15. It's really kind of amazing the way the Building/Realty consortium has dominated all planning decisions, and people living in a neighborhood have been left out of the mix. How did that ever come to pass in the first place.

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    1. A lot of people who vote in Sierra Madre are easily lied to and they elect crooks.

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    2. Not really, 2:51. You just have to pay attention. We put flyers on all the houses around One Carter when the architect was trying to sell her McMansions to the Planning Commission, and I think two new people showed up that night. I was one of the people who got the postcard about Stonehouse going before the Planning Commission, and will be there...as usual. As the Moderator said, it gets rather lonely in those chambers. Also infuriating when I read on the Tattler the next day what "we" must do.

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    3. Now's the chance to take a stand. As One Carter goes, so goes Stonehouse and so goes Mater Dolorosa and then so goes the whole town with lot splits and the tearing down of smaller homes to build McMansions. At least we can see the future right next door in the neighboring city. If don't want that, we have to do something about it.

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    4. There has to be a citizens watchdog group formed with a website, email list of supporters and an ability to raise funds to beat back unreasonable developments as they arise. Wouldn't it be nice if a resident, could turn to this group when they are getting pushed around by the City or some developer and his stuffed shirt lawyer.

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    5. Now that other areas are saturated with over-development because they let their cities get away from them, Sierra Madre is in the cross-hairs of the developers. Make no mistake about it, the pressures of urban sprawl and McMansions are coming to every part of Sierra Madre.

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    6. Its all very sad.

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    7. You know what the problem is? Nobody is brave enough to say, for fear of sounding racist, but the people they are building McMansions for are Chinese who spend maybe half the year actually living here. They don't care about the town, or the old house they have to tear down, or neighbors. All they want is the brand new McMansion. Becoming identical to Arcadia is inevitable against this tidal wave...

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  16. What does Denise say? When she was on the General Plan was she willing to stop building? I think I remember she stood up to Danny and Elaine, I pray she will again. Both Danny and Elaine are in the pockets of developers.

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