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?