Saturday, May 3, 2014

Thursday's Planning Commission Meeting ... & Then Some

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The next to arrive great controversy in town is the vast amounts of new development now seen as possible at the Mater Dolorosa site. Obviously our cash obsessed City Hall is salivating at the prospect of the glittering amounts of development impact fees that would be generated by an entirely new neighborhood being built on that last remaining open space in town. The potential haul is immense.

After the defeat of Measure UUT there is a certain amount of cash anxiety downtown, and a frantic search for the new revenue sources necessary to compensate for that approaching loss of millions of dollars in utility tax money over the next decade or so is now very much on.

For them April 8 was a paradigm shift, and a disastrous one at that. It changes the way they need to get business done, and potentially their lives as well.

Local city government in this the era of all-encompassing employee pension and benefit entitlements must now be looked upon as having taken on something of a parasitic nature. In order to take care of city workers both today and for the rest of their lives, and at levels acceptable to the municipal employee unions and compliant politicians driving that "process," large amounts of revenue must be produced.

Which, despite all that deceptive nonsense during the election about Library closings and safety services going away, was the real driving force behind Measure UUT.

Here in Sierra Madre the abuses possible were exposed during the election run-up in March when it was revealed that a number of employees here were the beneficiaries of health care plans costing in excess of $30,000 a year. Plans that employees in other California cities (or you and I for that matter), can only dream of ever obtaining.

Our double digit utility taxes, the highest in the state, being seen by the City's financial boffins as vital for funding such bizarrely large benefit packages.

We live in an era when the purpose of local government has become less about serving the people of the city itself, and more about taking care of the personal needs of those who work for it. A tipping point was reached, and then surpassed. And in order to keep it all going, revenue must be generated, and in increasingly large amounts. Which means that everything in town is up for grabs, with new development impact fees now replacing our declining utility taxes.

In other words, anything not nailed down in Sierra Madre is now for sale. Your birthright is being peddled on the open market to pay for City Hall and its needs.

Not that wonderful a deal, right?

Let's discuss the Retreat House property first. According to staff and the Planning Commission Thursday evening, the potential 60 lots at Mater Dolorosa that are being included in Sierra Madre's build out numbers might affect the total number of lots permitted, but if and only if a zoning change is enabled there by the City Council. The monastery property is currently zoned institutional, something that would need to change in order for City Hall to cash in.

My take is the messaging that was created Thursday evening is that 60 McMansion style homes are possible there. The first step in that process (so-called) being to introduce this idea into the conversation. And while it was pointed out by Development Services Dan that this is all an academic and theoretical exercise at this point, that number is now out there. Heck, we're talking about it right now.

Which, of course, is the real purpose. Nothing is ever brought up by the City at such meetings unless there is a purpose behind it. These are hardly poetic or philosophical people.

The Mater Dolorosa Development (let's now call it that, right?) is a multiple year process that could roll out this way:

1. Contract with a developer
2. Zone change
3. Subdivision map with streets and additional exit from property
4  An EIR that will take about 9 months
5. Then, if houses are greater than 4000 Square feet, back to the Planning Commission.

This all began on Thursday. The "process" has started.

Why fool around?

It is my contention that should a majority faction on our City Council show any signs of voting for the zone change from Institutional to Residential necessary to make development at Mater Dolorosa happen, one Councilmember supporting that move must be identified as being a candidate for recall. Any of them will do. They're interchangeable.

Maybe we could draw that name from a hat, just to be fair.

It must be established that such a level of betrayal will have consequences. It might be that this is the only way of stopping what would certainly be a community disaster.

More from the PC Meeting

The truly scary thing about potential building sites in our town is the amount of lot splitting that is going on in the city. The city will be getting a lot of smaller lots with large houses. Many builders have figured out that they need to keep the square footage under 4000 sq ft and then the avoid review. A past commissioner John Vanderveld (architect) is really playing the odds with his big houses.

The Planning Commission tweaked the General Plan a little but nothing of any consequence.

Another thing that Development Services Dan announced is that the Stone House tract is scheduled to be on the next agenda in May.

The development impact fees train is now rolling down the tracks, with One Carter and Mater Dolorosa being the two stations it plans to visit. City Hall has mouths to feed and benefits to fund. In their minds there really isn't any choice.

Colantuono & Levin has an exciting new name

Not that anything of substance will change, mind you. We will still be paying the bills for legal services that defend the City against, well, us.

As you are aware, Sandi Levin left the firm in December 2012 to take a full-time job as Executive Director of the LA Law Library (link here). However, Colantuono & Levin did not change its name for another 16 months.

That has changed, and April 2014 was the golden moment. The firm is now to be known as Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley from here on out (see link here).

Big hair and all. Ain't that something?

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

88 comments:

  1. I was at a "community" gathering last week and the whisper campaign about a hiring freeze has already begun. The claim is that because the UUT tax increase did not pass the city now has no money and thus cannot hire any more people. the fact they neglect is that the UUT rate will stay at 10% until July of 2015, more than a year away. gotta love the fearmongers, they don't care about facts and they never quit.

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    1. Hiring freeze? That's it?

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    2. Weren't we told there would be massive layoffs, outsourcing and a library closing? This is very disappointing.

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    3. Another broken promise.

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    4. oooooooo, a hiring freeze....I'm so scared

      has the library closed yet? that was a Rob Stockly and John Buchanan prophecy

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    5. I'm still hoping for the "massive layoffs". That's why I voted against the UUT.

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    6. City Hall should not link a possible Mater Dolorosa housing project to the results of the UUT election. Let them find revenue sources elsewhere or live within their means like the rest of us have to do. Another big housing project up there should stand or fall on its own merits. Let the community decide and let their elected and unelected representatives on the planning commission and city council implement the wishes of the people they were called up to represent.

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    7. Can't somebody come up with a better idea for that property than another fiasco like One Carter?

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    8. The city council sure let us down on One Carter. Now the floodgates of development are starting to open. I see more and more homes being torn down as I drive around town.

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  2. Is it really possible that a city council person would vote for a zone change knowing they would be wiped out in the next election and become a pariah in town? In the uut election pro tax and spend candidate signs sat peacefully next to stop the rape of mater delarosa signs. Even gene goss would oppose. Harabedians career as an assembly hack would go "poof.". It makes no sense. Except, perhaps, for Stockholm syndrome cappocia.

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    1. Money speaks loudest. Both Harabedian and Goss are big government employee union guys, and they both have political ambitions. To advance in the corrupt LA County political machine you have to earn for the clients. They really have no choice.

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    2. We know that City Hall will be pushing development and lot splits. As Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Tax Organziation said, the same way General Motors stopped being a car company and became an employee benefits company that built cars on the side, so goes the motivation of our city employees. That will not change. We just have to hope the people on the planning commission and city council who live in this town, will be motivated by something else than ruining this town.

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    3. I would be in favor of the recall of any city council members who votes in favor of a zoning change.

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    4. How does the Mater Dolorosa property get included in the 'build-out" when they haven't even secured the zoning change. Why not have my property with a large lot be on that too. As the Tattler says, they are planting a little seed that they hope flowers into a huge housing project.

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    5. I would as well. We need to take back our city.

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    6. Goss used to live on Sierra Keys and put that fact on his website during the campaign. He doesn't want to see a housing project up there. He'll be a staunch defender of preserving the open space.

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    7. I for one will be very surprised if that happens. Goss lacks integrity.

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    8. In every city across the land, the public employee unions have become the biggest problem. Does anyone realize that the prison guard union of all things is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Sacremento right up there with the Teachers Union and the Indian Casinos. They help elect the politicians who then are expected to do their bidding. That's how it works at the state level and at the local level.

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    9. Residents must wake up to that fact that the public employees who are supposed to serve the taxypayers who pay their salaries, are primarily motivated by protecting an enhancing their own salaries, benefits and pensions. Where else can you retire at 50 with almost your entire salary paid for life, cost of living increases and full medical benefits? The funny thing is that many of them realize they are too young to "retire" so they continue working somewhere else and take a job away from some poor schmuck who doesn't have a guaranteed income to fall back on and only wants to feed his family.

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    10. The city is pushing for bad development in Sierra Madre because it needs money for employee pensions and benefits. We are squandering our very best things for people who don't even live here.

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    11. Everyone should read the book: "Plunder: How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nations" by Stephen Greenhut. Its the "bible" about the tactics used by the public employee unions that have been so successful in getting them a level of compensation unheard of in the private sector.

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    12. Mater Dolorosa and the Developer will exploit both the greed of the city employees and those in the community who don't realize why the additional revenues are needed. I can tell you it ain't for city services for the residents.

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    13. Any real estate company or agent that cooperates in the destruction of our beautiful land should also be a pariah in the community. Don't use 'em and hit them in the only place they understand....the pocketbook.

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    14. I am sorry but the one you need to watch out for is John Capoccia.

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    15. The Great Taxfighter helped Goss in his run for City Council.

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    16. I, for one, want to work longer, harder and retire later to make sure our "civil servants"can retire at 50 with lifetime pensions and health benefits.

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    17. Volunteers are needed at the Coalition to Preserve Mater Dolorsa and Stop the Housing Project. Go to their web site at www.stopmonasteryhousingproject.com and send them an email.

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    18. Can you imagine what the people along Sunnyside will have to endure just during the construction phase of such a project let alone the consequences for them afterwards with a mini-city being built up there. And let's not forget about the other ingress/egress point that will have to be punched through at either Grove/Carter or Crestvale.

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    19. I'm sure that Mater Dolorosa has been in continuous contact with the city on this project. Danny Castro has turned into their project manager.

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    20. Development Danny.

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    21. I think Goss will vote in favor of the zone change. If you read his campaign promise carefully, the devil is in the details. He promised to "Fight to protect the field at the Monastery from irresponsible development." The key word there is "irresponsible". He can vote in favor of SOME development and still keep his promise.

      Read everything with a critical eye.

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    22. Goss may surprise surprise people on this. Capoccia and Harabedian are the guys you have to watch out for.

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    23. I would gladly work to recall any candidate that supports a housing project at the Monastery and supports the zoning change.

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    24. The public employee unions are on a collision course with the taxpayers who pay their salaries which ultimately funds the unions which work against the taxpayers. Get it.

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    25. It seems like opposition to a housing project at the Monastery is cutting across party lines and traditional interest groups. Its not the usual divide between anti-tax and pro-tax people, liberals and conservatives and republicans and democrats. Here, you have environmentalists and animal lovers and other traditionally more liberal groups joining forces with more conservative people. That's why the developer is going to have a tough time.

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    26. People are defending their homes and way of life. The stuff that divides us otherwise is unimportant in the face of what we are up against here.

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    27. Goss loves the land as much as anybody. He'll fight to protect it.

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    28. There are always going to be one or two city council candidates that will be in bed with the developers and the forces at city hall seeking more revenue. But right now we have a clear majority who will stop this thing: Delmar, Arizmendi and Goss. Harabedian and Capoccia have their own agenda.

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    29. I'm sorry, but Goss will fold up like a cheap suitcase. He's a union guy all the way. And an above poster is right, Goss said he is against "irresponsible" development. About as subjective a determination as you can get.

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  3. 2.3 million hits very soon. Nobody reads The Tattler.

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  4. Everyone should be afraid of what the Planning Commission will do. It is stacked with predevelopment commissioners.
    One already has stated the he would not take on the Catholic Church.

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    1. We need to start filling the seats at their meetings. Then maybe they will learn whose side God is really on.

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    2. One problem with all these things as that you put your finger in the dike in one place and a new hole breaks out somewhere else. People are busy with their own lives. The additional problem with big government is that you have to keep your head down and work hard just to pay the bills and keep up with all the regulations. Its hard to find the time to deal with all these assaults on our way of life.

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    3. If we don't want Sierra Madre to go the way of Arcadia, we have to do something. One Carter is lost to some kind of development. The next line in the sand is at Mater Dolorosa. As Mater Dolorosa goes, so goes Sierra Madre. It will be interesting if the people care enough to stop it or will it come down to "its not in my neighborhood."

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    4. If we vote to get rid of the rest of the UUT then we can starve them out.

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    5. All this to fund the retirements for aging priests. The Passionist Order is folding up their tent and selling off most of their property. Its just a matter of time before the rest of the retreat center is sold off.

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    6. A few people on the City Council should step up and use their platform to find a better solution to that open space than another divisive housing project.

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    7. The "process" for a housing project has indeed started. It will move slowly and incrementally foward in ways that often will not arouse alot of furor amongst the community. By the time the community wakes up to what is going to happen, it will be a foregone conclusion.

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    8. All I can say is, here we go again. How sad that after 90 years, the Board at Directors at Mater Dolorosa failed to come up with a better solution for the property. It really comes down to a failure of leadership. I don't think that Father Pat or previous Boards would have allowed this to happen.

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    9. The planning commission has done the best we could hope for in regards to One Carter. That mess was due to a previous city council I think the planning commission is going to rise to the challenge on this one.

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    10. I think it's possible the Planning Commission will rise to the challenge, too....if the residents pack the seats on the night of the hearings. No doubt the developer will appeal to the City Council if the Planning Commission denies the zone change.

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    11. This planning commission has stood tall in the saddle on One Carter.

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    12. I say this Planning Commission will turn down the re-zoning and it goes to the city council.

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  5. If I were in charge, I'd change the title and job funciton of Development Services to Resident Services

    as long as we dedicate a position to development, that will be the primary focus

    it has been a long standing tradiition in our small quaint little town that developers go to the front of the line at city hall and receive first priority

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    1. City Hall should also hire residents.

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    2. I agree. If we are supposedly a preservationist-oriented city, why do we have an entire department devoted to the very opposite. It makes no sense. The residents are literally paying him to turn our city into another Arcadia.

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    3. I think 8:55 makes a really important point. Why do we want to have a Development Services department to help developers ruin our town. We taxpayers are funding it. How about having an off-setting Preservation Department. I will pay for that. Their purpose would be to preserve this unique little oasis of paradise we have here in Sierra Madre. That's one expansion of city government that I would support.

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    4. The name once was Planning Departent. Bart Doyle was instrumental in changing it.

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    5. For symbolism's sake if for nothing else, "Planning Department" sounds a whole lot more in keeping with what Sierra Madre is all about than "Development Services". It almost sounds like we want to roll out the red carpet and supply the caviar to any developer who wants to destroy this town. Is that really true about Bart Doyle wanting to change the name? Evidently, he understood the importance of symbolism.

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    6. It should be called a Planning Department. Developer Services sure sounds inviting.

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  6. like Maranatha, did God tell them to build there?

    it's about money not about the Holy Spirit

    I wish churches would be taxed

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    1. Churches are going out of business eventually. They've lost their way. Contrary to the gospel, they want to sell land for their own selfish retirements. Talk about the opposite of what their mission should be. I won't mention the other reason for their demise and financial problems.

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    2. Everything comes down to the money. You just don't expect that from the Fathers.

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  7. I will say this, if they end up developing the lot and did it in such a way that it closely resembled Jameson Court, between Highland and Grand View, at least it would be a nice asset to the community. That's my favorite street in S.M. Very tastefully done.

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    1. You should post that on a predevelopment blog. Try sierramadrenews.net. They're kind of lonely there.

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    2. Yes it's lovely just like driving through Arcadia.

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    3. I think 9:34 is correct that another housing project at Mater Dolorsa like Jameson Court would be an asset. I don't mind rationing my water use or putting up with the nicely colored water from the MWD. I don't mind going to the Garden of Seven Sorrows up at the Monastery for reflection and solitude and hear a blaring stereo from the new neighbors. I don't mind if they stop the annual pilgrimage on Good Friday for the Stations of the Cross - who needs all those throngs of believers. I don't mind not seeing the hawks, coyotes and deer anymore - its just a bunch of wildlife. I don't mind seeing my neighbors on Sunnyside and Gove/Carter or Crestvale have their cul-de-sacs turned into a highway. I don't mind if my neighbors adjacent to the Monastery see their views obliterated and property values decline. I don't mind having my neighbors endure a lengthy construction project with noise, big trucks and dust lasting for years. I don't mind having the first stop sign appear in Sierra Madre to handle all the congestion. I don't mind Sierra Madre taking on the look and feel of Arcadia. I don't mind all the acrimony and divisiveness in our community for the next five years. I don't mind never being able to take those early morning or early evening walks on the Monastery grounds anymore. Yes 9:34, I think its a helluva good idea....so long as it looks like Jameson Court.

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    4. Cookie cutter, too close together, overwhelming the natural environment.

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    5. As 10:40 seems to sarcastically point out, is this what the Passionists really want for the community.

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    6. I think 10:40 has said it all. Even if you don't live in that corner of town, let's not sell out our neighbors. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere. There is a principle at stake here. We can decide right now whether we want Sierra Madre to look like Arcadia. If more people do, that's fine. I just won't be living here.

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    7. Don't forget about the wildlife corridor. Doesn't the general plan mention wildlife and open space?

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    8. 10:40, I'd be REAL curious to know what you and the other protestors on here are paying in property taxes, because I have a strong feeling it's quite a bit shy of the $6,000 a year I'm paying. The city gets roughly a third of this. Meaning, if you don't have skin in the game, please keep your sarcasm to yourself. In the two block stretch of Montecito from Auburn to Lima, there are less than half a dozen homes paying more than $1,000 a year in property taxes. The best thing that can happen to Sierra Madre is having those homes turn over either as a standard SFR sale or a sale and tear down, so there's finally a mentionable contribution to the city. Period.

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    9. I actually paid closer to $7,000. Guess you'd better sell your shack and get your cheap butt out of town.

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    10. 12:57, my name is Linda McManus. My husband and I pay $21,000 for our annual property taxes. If a neighbor is paying less than $6000 because of Prop 13, then I'm happy for them. If you resent them paying a small amount, then perhaps you should offer the city a large portion of your salary.

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  8. This is greed pure and simple. The fact that it comes from a purportedly religious organization makes it all the more disheartening.

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  9. Enjoying your R. Crumb artwork

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  10. I wish they (Retreat Center) would stop broadcasting those fake bells at 12:03 and 6:03 everyday.Just a loud irritating nuisance..........

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    1. Really? I like them actually. And I had no idea they weren't real bells. Are you certain?

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    2. Yup they're digital.......

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    3. Maybe that's the road we're all on. If Mater Dolorosa doesn't want to be good neighbors and only cares about themselves and their own "retirements" maybe the neighbors should complain about the bells. To hell with everything.

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    4. If Mater Dolorosa tries to muscle this project forward against the wishes of the community, I predict they will destroy whatever is left of any good will that they have accumulated over the years from the community where they reside.

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    5. If anybody hasn't been up to the Monastery, try to get in their and talk a walk. Granted its harder to get in there now. But if you can, look out over that land and tell me you'd rather see a housing project.

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    6. Where's Father Pat when we need him?

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    7. Putting their retirements first over maintaining that property that has been a magnet for people and animals. Seems a bit un-Christian to me.

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    8. Does anybody know Mark Zuckerberg. Maybe he has 20 million or so to donate. I'd be willing to call it Zuckerberg Park.

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    9. It doesn't work that way in Sierra Madre. At least it didn't at Goldberg Park. There the taxpayers paid for the land and then the park got named after the people we bought it from.

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  11. Lets get real. "Goldberg Park" is not a park! It is a building lot that was made to be a park or a bench in hopes that someone will sit down, if only for a moment. For the Greater good and in this case the "The Greater Sierra Madre Park" Sell the Goldberg lot put the sale proceeds towards the potential of a real park.
    Case in point. It is all about the Development Fees. The City does Not want open land or for that matter a another park. The City only wants / needs our money for their pensions and benefits.

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  12. Interesting about the new name for Colantuono & Levin -- Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley. Thanks for the update.

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