Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Great Sierra Madre McMansion Assault Opens A Third Front: Stonehouse


If you are unfortunate enough live in the area directly affected by the impending Stonehouse development, you would have received the above postcard in the mail this week. The above scan was sent to me yesterday with this accompanying note:

We got a notice from the city about the proposed Stonehouse development. The original settlement agreement was for 19 houses on a certain tract of land.  The houses all had a maximum size etc.  The new plan will be for fewer houses - that is 13 bigger houses … It's at the regular planning commission meeting on May 15th.  Public input will be taken as well as a presentation from the developer.

So now in addition to One Carter (Stonegate), and whatever the as yet unrevealed blitzkrieg of building being planned for Mater Dolorosa might be (which could be upwards of 60 tightly packed jumbo, though blessed, units), we can now add Stonehouse to the mix. Meaning we now have a three part swath of proposed McMansion development here, stretching all the way from Santa Anita Boulevard to Michillinda.

The malarkey being baked into this Stonehouse effort is the developer will no longer insist on packing 19 houses into that area, and instead is willing to compromise and bring that number down to 13. All that is being asked is that the fellow be permitted to make these remaining barns a little larger.

The language used on this card is kind of amusing in a gallows humor sort of way. "A revision to the maximum allowable floor areas." Why the City couldn't say "the developer wants to make them a lot bigger," or something similarly understandable, is kind of problematic. Especially if you are annoyed by the linguistic waterboarding of that perfectly innocent language we call English.

Below is a cell phone picture of the then site plan for the Stonehouse project, taken at a neighborhood meeting last December.


For a town that ran out of water not too long ago this all seems a bit zealous. But since we also know that in our town the mad rush for development money has today trumped anything to do with a concern for sustainability (a word that is now apparently so 2011 in Sierra Madre), anything goes. Obviously government here doesn't do sanity all that well anymore.

And I guess it also means that the whole EENER thing really was just a big joke all along, right? 

This matter will all be revealed for the world to see at the Planning Commission meeting on May 15. I am pretty certain this will be presented as being some sort of noble compromise on the developer's part, and in return the community would have to be seen as big ingrates if it did not permit the fellow to make the remaining houses as big as he can in the available space.

Which makes this a variation on the shady tactics employed for the similarly immense Kensington project. Something that, at this moment, is the immense pile of wood on Sierra Madre Boulevard now casting its first shadows over City Hall.

Once again, we're talking "maximum permissible gross floor areas." With the mystery word here being "permissible." I guess we'll soon find out what Development Dan and R. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, along with the always helpful and generously coiffed City Attorney Holly "Go" Whatley, believe that might be.

Remember, size really does matter at Development Services. It makes the fee haul that much larger. They do have $36,000 a year health plans to fund, you know.

My guess is it always was going to be that lucky 13 figure. 19 houses being a kind of straw man number, originally thrown out there to give the DevServe apparatus an eventual public relations paper victory to wave in front of those opposed to the McMansionization of Sierra Madre

Managing the expectations of residents being just one of the many services offered by a City Hall sustained by the tax money of those needing to be managed.

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42 comments:

  1. First question, over the last 5 years how many building permits were granted variances and how many permits were granted more than one variances? We have building laws but how many are enforced?

    ALSO, that property has an underground spring, who does that water belong to? The state of California is in a drought emergency, shouldn't this water belong to the City of Sierra Madre?

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    1. I think that according to the settlemet agreements, all the water on Stonehouse and Carter are deeded to the city.

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    2. So sad to see the new big houses being built in Sierra Madre. I have lived here since the eighties and never have I seen such fast and furios tear down of homes.. Let's take our city back! Let's show developers there messing with the wrong city..

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  2. variance |ˈve(ə)rēəns|

    noun

    the fact or quality of being different, divergent, or inconsistent: her light tone was at variance with her sudden trembling.
    • the state or fact of disagreeing or quarreling: they were at variance with all their previous allies.
    • chiefly Law a discrepancy between two statements or documents.
    • Law an official dispensation from a rule or regulation, typically a building regulation.
    • Statistics a quantity equal to the square of the standard deviation.
    ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from Latin variantia ‘difference,’ from the verb variare (see vary) .

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  3. Once you go big you can't go back. Giant houses, lots of toilets, tiny lots. Hold The line.

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  4. Do we need to put a building restriction initiative on the ballot? None of the three building boys on the City Council will vote to stop this. It could be time we did this ourselves.

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    1. I agree. Our city govt does not work for us. We need to do it ourselves.

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  5. Here is 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 alot 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. Often times 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 offical title is the "Director of Development Services" to ruin the town we live in.

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  6. There needs to be some coordination among the people who oppose One Carter, Stonehouse and Mater Dolorosa. The developers and the city try to divide and conquer. Only if the opposition is united, can they succeed in their efforts.

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    1. Most people only react when the situation affect them or their wallet. This is a city wide issue and it affects everyone in the city, not just the neighbors of the adjoining properties. It will take a village to save a village.

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  7. I thought we had a water shortage. Yet we have the Kennsington, Mater Dolorosa, One Carter, Stonehouse, let splits, tearing down of smaller homes to build water guzzling McMansions. We need a time-out. How about a building moratorium to catch our breath and figure out what we want this town to look like.

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  8. All these out of town developers care about is their bottom line i.e. maximizing their profit. They make their profit and then they're gone. Residents of Sierra Madre are left to deal with the consequences.

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  9. This trend is going to happen all over Sierra Madre. The Canyon is going to see more and more tear downs. However, no area of Sierra Madre is immune to "progress". This can only be stopped if people don't wait until it comes to their neighborhood and be assured, it will come. We need to help our neighobrs who are immediately affected by a nearby housing project and realize that the tenticles of over-development are coming soon to our neighborhood too. We also need to realize that water shortages, traffic and other pernicious effects of over-development affect all of us in the end.

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    1. 95% of the canyon should be torn down, whole damn place is gonna go up in flames given the right conditions.

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  10. Anyone here think Mayor John Harabedian will stand up for the residents against the McMansion developers?

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    1. Oddly enough, he did do just that regarding the McMansions at Carter. Go figure.

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    2. Are you sure? Would you bet money on it?

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    3. Watch the replay.

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    4. Which meeting?

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    5. The council meeting when the Stonegate developer appealed the planning commission's rejection of the first 3 MacMansions. Tuesday Jan. 14.

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    6. Um, that was no decision, it was process and avoidance. Besides, the PC refused his request.

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    7. Harabedian should have simply said no. He didn't.

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  11. Not a chance 7:22 and 6:48 you are right. The city is under threat of some serious changes. If we want to preserve our city and way of life we need a moratorium now so we can vote on what we want for our city. WE ARE IN A DROUGHT and need an evaluation of what our immediate / future water needs and expectations are.

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    1. Until the city fixes the water company, no building. Period. 10 year moratorium. And bringing bad water SGVMWD water through the Joe Mosca Pipeline is no fix.

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  12. The Stonehouse property is owned by two different developers. The top one on the photo showing three houses will be a family compound - one for the owner, and the other two for his children. The bottom half of 10 houses will be a regular housing tract. The developers promise no grading, minimal tree removal (where have we heard that before) and assured us that once the plans are finalized on both pieces of land, that no other lot splits would be allowed. (where have we heard that before). Most of the neighbors, especially the Lilliano people liked what they saw. The Grandview people, not so much for reasons you will probably hear about at the Planning Commission meeting.

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  13. I don't believe the referencing to the 19 lot approved track map for Stone House has any bearing any longer. The time line for that developer's development ran out. So this is an entirely new project. Start from scratch and given the city-wide, state-wide, region-wide water shortage and drought , nothing gets approved but the bare minimum (which will not meet their double bottom line) to keep the city from getting sued for a "taking." Done for the time being and then get the entire city orgnized (again!) to keep Sierra Madre the town we all moved her for. Small, homey and even homely, if you don't like my cosy, paid for "tear down" don't move next door.

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    1. Right now, you have the One Carter opponents, Stonehouse opponents and the Mater Dolorosa folks. All these groups should join together in opposition not just to a specific project but to all development like this in Sierra Madre. They need to pool their resources and their manpower otherwise they will be picked off one by one by a City Hall anxious for additional revenues and deep pocket developers. Mater Doloros seems to have a pretty good website and probably has accumulated a good email database. That should be combined with everyone's else's efforts.

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    2. I completely agree.

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  14. Put this on the ballot so we can't be ignored. Otherwise all we'll hear from city hall is bullshoot.

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  15. EENR has not be directed to address buldiing projects or water shortage/conservation issues beyond what the City Council and Planning Commission and General Plan Revision Committee has been focused on these past several months. You can see that from their agenda and minutes.

    Now with a new City Council maybe the nonsense that Nancy Walsh brought over from the SGVCOG where she looted the term for the now combined Tree Commission/Green Committee) EENR, can go away and some useful things can be done by the remaining members, mostly Tree Commissioners and a couple of very smart Green Committee folks.

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    1. If the EENERS are serious about sustainability they will get working on the water/development issue right away. It is the biggest sustainability issue this city faces.

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  16. It had something to do with one of the members, who was supposed to head the water subcommittee, who missed several meetings and finally resigned...Paul Silva or Alva I think his name was.

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    1. Alva. A Buchanan ally. Not likely to do anything that would interfere with development.

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  17. If you compare the proposed layout with the Settlement Agreement pg 42, you will see that the developer is adding houses on the west side of the property. It appears that some of these building will be in an area that is labeled "NON-BUILDABLE AREA. Nine lots were approved and 10 are being sought. The reduction is in the center/east part of the property where three super mansions are planned. There is also nothing to stop the developer to later split the large lots into more for a mini kingdom.

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  18. Next on the hopping block: 257 E. Orange Grove Ave. northeast corner of Oak Meadow. Construction fence around it. Sold(recorded) Arpil 2013 for $1.1 million. Whatcha bet it is a lot split. All the lots along Oak Meadow are about the same size.

    Wonder if the buyer was "sight unseen" thinking this is Arcadia, but maybe not, there are other large projects going in along Orange Grove on the Sierra Madre side so developers know where they are, but buyers may not.

    Somebody bought a property along the Chantry Flat road in Arcadia without any access. Too good to be true--$6,000 and a view but you would need the neighboring parcel for a helicopter pad.

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    1. According to Zillow, 257 E Orange Grove Ave is less than a 1/2 acre:

      Sold: $1.10MSold on 4/22/13
      Zestimate®: $1.13M
      Price/sqft: $409257 E Orange Grove Ave, Sierra Madre, CA2 beds, 2.0 baths, 2,685 sqft0.44 ac lot Built in 1952

      How do you get a lot split out of a lot this size?

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    2. Now that other areas cities are close to being built out., the focus is on Sierra Madre. We must not let this get away from us. Building codes and a good planning commission are the keys to stopping this.

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  19. What is the current lot size zoning for that area? .44 of an acre is a very big lot. In Sierra Madre the largest R-1 zone is R1-15,000 sq ft.. An acre is 43,540 square feet. So good, this lot is not big enough for a lot split IF in fact it is in the
    R1-15,000 zone.

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  20. Your little blog has turned into a futile effort of mental masturbation for you and your minions, it accomplishes nothing except for those that put blind faith into your digital ego trip, ataboy JC!!

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    1. How's that Measure UUT working out for ya, Sparky?

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  21. Back to an earlier comment on the "compound" for the family. Mr. Eng says he is building a home for himself and his two grown children and their families. Don't they live in San Marino now? or other such desirable Southern California cities with excellent school districts. Why move here and build a mansion and send your kids to private schools? Then there is the couple from Temple City, another California high achieving school district, who say they want to move to the home (mansion) they want to build on their lot at One Carter. We have been watching these kind of lies for years now...people who just love it here, tear down a house/level a lot of its trees, build a house just "for themselves," and bam! move on down the road to lie again. Spectacular spec houses!

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