Friday, August 22, 2014

Are CETT's One Carter McMansions Down For The Count?

Moat with crocodiles optional
"The Planning Commission was smart - make Chang & company return on September 18 for another turndown. That's another few weeks before they can appeal to City Council. If CC does the right thing by denying this massive structure, then they'll sue. If you weren't there tonight, be sure to watch - it's the best entertainment there is! So many great moments - Bob Spears telling Chang that we have to live in this town, you get your money and move on. Attorney MacDonald saying, "That's not true. The owner has purchased lot 17 (18?) and plans to raise her family here." Gina Freyer-Hunt, retorting, "Yeah, we hear that from every developer that comes before us. Then they disappear." Thank you Planning Commission!" - Reader comment last evening

It just goes to show, you should never ever count the Planning Commission out. Just when you thought that the end was finally here and nearly 10 years of One Carter development futility had come to an end, truth and justice prevailed as yet another poorly conceived project went down in flames.

Hear them roar.

The evening's festivities began on a bizarre note with Commissioner Paschall reading a statement declaring that he was not prejudiced against the project the CETT Set (aka "the developer") wants to build at One Carter. This apparently due to Attorney Richard "Lawsuit Richie" MacDonald's charge that Kevin, who he apparently suspects of McMansionphobia, was somehow opposed to their project for reasons other than it violates a raft of Sierra Madre building ordinances and codes, looks kinda stupid, and has generally been a lousy and poorly organized effort.

I guess Lawsuit Richie figured that he could win the love and respect of the Planning Commission by leveling a few rather bizarre accusations against one of its members. If so, it was a strategy that didn't quite work out as planned last night. Either that or the entire Commission is made up of McMansionphobes.

Maybe at the next meeting all of them will need to read similar statements? You know, perhaps stating that some of their best friends are McMansions?

The Architect, that remarkable and world celebrated Adele Chang, was either stuck in traffic or just late, so Lawsuit Richie ran the CETT show for a while. He continued to make wonderful use of his time by talking about how he had spoken to neighbors of this project, and surprisingly found that they were not necessarily unsettled by it. Rather opinions were instead "all over the map."

Who these neighbors are is anybody's guess, and apparently none of them had arranged to stop by and read any statements avowing their lack of prejudice against jumbo wickiups. Even ones designed by so great an architect as Adele Chang. But Richie did drop Marguerite Schuster's name a few times, and she did get up later to speak. Oddly enough, she expressed serious reservations about the project.

This apparently was some sort of fabricated "divide and conquer" strategy designed to make it appear that there is not just one set opinion in the community about this project. It must be noted here that the Harmen family, who are the only actual neighbors to what at this point is only a story pole castle, were not visited by Lawsuit Richie or anyone else from CETT. Something that only deepens the mystery here.

Perhaps the Attorney had instead been conversing with the spirits of the indigenous peoples buried at One Carter thousands of years ago? Last evening that could have seemed possible.

The highly honored Adele Chang did eventually show up, which gave Kevin Paschall the opportunity to quiz her about the promised "gray water plan" that was supposed to be a part of the overall presentation for this project. It was only logical to ask about this plan as gray water had previously been spoken of by CETT as being one of the many wonderful things they promised to do. Adele replied that she did not have one, and was no specialist in gray water, either. But when the time came she would hire someone to take care of it.

This pretty much set the theme for the evening, that being CETT just didn't have its act together. This despite all of the meetings they'd spent pushing for this thing. The result being the Planning Commission could not be convinced to vote positively on a project that still wasn't near ready for prime time.

This was later reinforced when the gifted Adele Chang began quoting square footage figures that just were not in line with what had been written into the project's plans. Plans that all the Commissioners were looking at as she spoke. Something that struck many as strange since even world famous architects are expected to have their math in order.

Other discrepancies became apparent as the evening wore on. One resident asked if a soil test had been done yet. This is important when you consider that CETT and the justifiably celebrated Adele Chang were now talking about digging a basement as big as many existing Sierra Madre homes.

The CETT Squad was forced to admit that they had done no such testing yet, which meant they also had no idea whether or not so big a basement could be dug there in the first place. If the soil isn't right any number of unfortunate things may happen. Like perhaps a portion of the mountain could collapse, and slide right into that famous wine room. Crushing what would otherwise have been some rather remarkable vintages.

The arborist report was questioned by another resident. With so many trees there having met unfortunate, and sometimes mysterious ends, what few remained needed to be properly filed in this report. That is, if only to acknowledge their current existence so they might somehow survive. At One Carter a tree needs a witness. However, it was shown that this tree report was sadly inaccurate and therefore of little use. Yet another blow to the CETT cause.

The proposed McBunker continued to be part of the conversation. It became the contention of the Planning Commission that CETT, along with the immensely gifted Adele Change, were taking unfair advantage of former Commission Chair Pendlebury's generous offer regarding subterranean building.

If the available math was correct, something that could not be assumed last evening, it appeared that while CETT had removed 268 square feet from on top of the structure, they added a full 1,350 square feet beneath. Making this a now three story building of around 4,600 square feet.

This did not exactly fit in with the Planning Commission's previous request that the developer and their fabulous architect reduce the overall mass and bulk of the structure. The impression left instead was this is yet one more CETT attempt at evading Sierra Madre's development ordinances.

Adele Chang, who as everyone knows is a fabulous architect, decided that another strategy was required, and pronto. She began to complain about how easy it is to paint architects and developers as bad people. Apparently a reprise of the McMansionphobe strategy Lawsuit Richie had employed earlier in the evening. The attorney then also joined in on the fun, albeit somewhat more aggressively. Which I guess is what you need to do when things have gone quite this badly.

Commissioner Spears countered by saying, "It is not our job to decide how large your house should be. That is something that you have to do." He went on to say that the Commission has to be faithful to the wishes of the community as they will still be here long after the developer has pocketed their money and left. The inference here being that CETT had not been living up to their responsibilities as an applicant.

Lawsuit Richie stated at last evening's proceedings that his client would in no way accept any further continuances on this project. They wanted a decision, and they wanted it now. So when the Planning Commission offered the CETT Set a continuance, they naturally had to take a sidebar to decide what to do. After around 10 minutes of high level consultation Richie came back and accepted the continuance.

Next month CETT, along with the preternaturally talented Adele Chang, will get one more opportunity to reduce the mass and bulk of this project. That plus fix the mathematical and other lapses that clearly embarrassed them last night. Given these folks have done everything they can to ignore and evade the Planning Commission's requests thus far, the odds are quite good that the results will be just more of the same. At which time CETT will appeal to the City Council and, should that fail, take us all to Court.

Which is standard practice for a One Carter development project. After all, that is pretty much how things have been going up there on the hill for nearly a decade.

Why would anything change now?

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

98 comments:

  1. As someone who was not able to attend the meeting, it appears from the Tattler report that our Planning Commission refused to be bullied by the lawyer and developer. That's something we can all be proud of.

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    1. The commissioners are required to stick to the facts, and that is what they do. There are no grounds for a law suit.

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    2. If Lawsuit Richie's case is put together anything like last night's CETT presentation, he'll be laughed right out of court.

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    3. I'm so glad that our Planning Commission did the right thing last night, but I am also sure it was a bit easier for them because of all of us who were there (and thank you for showing up). Please put September 18 on your calendar. I trust this Commission, but it wouldn't be the first time something untoward happened while we weren't paying attention if they concede too much for some reason. If nothing else, it is reality TV (or should I say drama) at its finest!

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    4. Please ,anyone who knows a Planning Commission member ,thank them for being a bulwark against these carpetbagging over-developing speculators..

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    5. I think you can send an email to the commission by sending it to the Director of Developer Servicing. He'll forward it.
      dcastro@cityofsierramadre.com

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    6. Every Sierra Madre resident owes a debt of gratitude to this planning commission. They did their job as gatekeepers for bad projects.

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  2. Somebody commented in yesterday's Tattler that the Planning Commission will rise to the occasion. It appears they did so. Thank you Planning Commission!!!

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  3. It would have been more effective advocacy if Super Chang threatened to move here unless the giant houses were approved pronto.

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    1. Why would that be bad? I could stop by and borrow a cornice.

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  4. Maybe CETT Investments realizes now one of the reasons they got that 'distressed real estate' for a bargain price.

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  5. This is really a big deal. As things stand right now, the planning commission is our only defense against the McMansionization of Sierra Madre. Maybe when the new General Plan is in place we'll have more defense; but right now, it's these knowledgable residents. We are lucky they are there.

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    1. I take back everything I said about the Planning Commission. They did a great job of exposing this
      project for what it is. This developer continues to try to skirt the rules. They should be penalized for wasting everyone's time.

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  6. Planning Commission is better than most our City Council.

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  7. MacDonald is his own worst enemy. He made it easy for the PC to shoot him down. What an annoying twit.

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  8. I don't know much about this, and work in a field where honesty is a virtue, but it seems to me that many people in the development industry work in a kind of choreographed assault. Say whatever, then go back on it, then bully, maybe sue....they don't seem to do much in good faith. So when the architect said it was easy to paint developers and architects as the bad guys, she may have been right. Because so many of them are bad.

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    1. My favorite moment was right about then 7:17. Ms. Chang was getting visibly upset and losing it a bit. Chair Desai reassured her that the commissioners all respected her as an architect, and she responded by complaining that the commissioners were saying what a good architect she was, followed by negative remarks. Chair Desai said "You can hear what you want to hear."

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    2. Some of Adele's remarks drew laughter from the crowd. She herself was not amused.

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    3. We laugh more these days. We used to be so serious. The more we laugh the more we win.

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  9. Thank you council of 2004 - your gift to the city just keeps on reminding us of what you did.

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    1. They did so much damage.

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    2. We need to make a list of all the harm they did. It would be a long one.

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    3. Not to mention who they were - Tanya Torres, John Buchanan, Enid Joffe, as I recall.

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    4. That is why we have to pay attention to who we elect. Elections have consequences.

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    5. 9:09 makes the best point. They made a bad investment decision by buying those crummy lots. It's not our job to bail them out and make it work.

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  10. Drive down Santa Anita to the freeway to see all the new McMansions going up, if you cannot visualize what Sierra Madre will look like if our Planning Commission and City Council does not continue to have a backbone, and collapses under "do it my way or I'll sue."

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    1. The 2004 City Council caved in under a One Carter lawsuit threat. Or at least appeared to do that. Which is why they have gone down in history as one of the worst Sierra Madre city council's ever. A city govt that does not defend its laws and the will of its people is useless.

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    2. Yep 7:26, that's exactly what happened. Even though our city attorney had "every confidence that we would prevail" if it came to court.
      I always wondered how deep Stockly was into that. He was working for a bank that had a financial relationship with the developer.

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    3. I have always believed that Buchanan voted for things like that because he wanted to create business for his employer, Edison.

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    4. The stuff you see in Arcadia being built is hideous. Give me the older homes anytime. The craftsmanship is so much better than in the new stuff.

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  11. What were the names on that 2004 City Council?

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    1. Buchanan and Stockley are the two I recall. And George Mauer, the only one of that bunch to vote against destroying One Carter. Was Joffe on it? Torres?

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    2. Torres, Joffe, Stockly and Buchanan.
      There should be a commemorative plaque up there.

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    3. How about a statue of a four headed jackass?

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    4. I think carving their four faces in rock (ala Mt. Rushmore) would be appropriate. Include a plaque that reminds everyone of who is responsible for this travesty.

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    5. Only if the faces are upside down.

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    6. The problem with a bad City Council is that the effects of some of their decisions don't manifest themselves until sometimes years after they leave office. In the case of One Carter it dogs us every year.

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  12. I feel sorry for the lawyer. One day he'll have to reckon that he tried to beat a town into becoming generic big ugly like all the other towns around it. Not exactly something to be proud of.

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  13. I hope that many, many residents know what is at stake here.
    This is not just about that property.
    This is about everywhere in town.

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  14. Adele raising her family there??? What a crock of $H**. Her daugher is in her twenties. Adele Chang, a Hong Kong-born, California-trained architectural designer, watched Jessica Chang follow in her footsteps on May 17 when she graduated from the USC School of Architecture with a bachelor’s degree.

    Adele probably took the lot in exchange for services. Currently she lives in a beautiful home in Pasadena. Here is a link to her house.

    http://www.bonomodev.com/projects/11. Make sure you take a look.

    Do you really think that she is going to trade that house for one on a tiny lot at 1 Carter. When pigs fly.

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    1. If her personal residence is an accurate example of her own design ability, that you have to wonder what flunky intern in her office was assigned the task of coming up with the Orange County, Irvine Company style replicate crap that is being proposed for the One Carter sites.

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    2. Even Adele has better taste than to live in one of her McMansions.

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    3. There was no claim that the architect (Adele Chang) was going to live there. That is a misunderstanding.
      The lawyer and the architect were claiming that the owner was going to live there and raise her family there. As far as the records show, that would be Ms. Hui Ru Han, DBA CETT Investments.
      The architect and the lawyer are just her hirelings.

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    4. Was that the family sitting in the middle, husband wife, two kids, who left after we started laughing about about all the preposterous claims of Chang and MacDonald?

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    5. No 1:25. I think those were neighbors around the site - they were applauding the resident speakers and the commissioners when the majority of attendees were.
      I think Frank Chen, another of Hui Ru Hans hirelings, was sitting in one of the single chairs in the back.
      But of course it's Chang and MacDonald who do all the public speaking stuff.

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  15. last night CETT and Company complained aabout the lots. No one forced them to buy the lots.
    Stupid is as stupid does.

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    1. As Kevin Paschall pointed out, everybody hates those lots. Along with the City Council that helped create them. I am starting to think nothing will ever be built there. A desolate and apparently eternal monument to what a bad city government can do to its community.

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    2. Thank you 9:09! Yes, the decision to buy that, has nothing to do with the town. You do have to wonder how forthcoming any realtors involved were....

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    3. I remember reading somewhere that CETT got a distressed price on these lots. With minimal exposure. Anybody know something about that? Looks like bottom feeding to me.

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    4. Exactly, bottom feeding. That's what CETT does.

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    5. Remember in 2004 when most of us were speaking against giving in to the threat of a lawsuit, and one of the realtors in town called us all racists, because the people who would be moving in would "probably" be Asian? I forget what her rationale was at the time.

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    6. Realtors will say anything. None of it means much.

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    7. Wow, I don't think I'm a racist, but a conclave of only Asian dwellings might be.

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    8. I don't care what nationality intends to move in, a bad project is a bad project. Developers need to build things that conform to the neighborhood. It's not bring very neighborly if you don't respect that. If people want to build McMansions, there are plenty of communities around that don't seem to care. That's not Sierra Madre.

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  16. Don Watts thinks there is a code limit on how much dirt can be removed or exported from a building site. I wonder if this was considered?

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    1. It was. The limit is 2,000 cubic yards. CETT calculates they'll remove 600 cubic yards.
      But I for one am suspicious about the accuracy of CETT's number.

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    2. Last night there were a lot of CETT numbers that had people suspicious.

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    3. Even Chang and MacDonald said the numbers weren't accurate. Then MacDonald said that he was on his Planning Commission for nine years, and they often got projects with inaccurate figures. This from a lawyer! We can't even trust him to get the sqare footage correct. Unbelievable!

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    4. Right, 1:31, and he claimed that his planning commission gave "approvals with conditions" on lots of projects that did not have complete and/or correct information. And then his nose grew so long that it bumped into the screen at the back of the dais.

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    5. I think MacDonald may have been on the Planning Commission in Pasadena. It would be interesting to know what projects were approved during his tenure. Pasadena is rapidly becoming a nightmare to drive through. Who wants Sierra Madre to emulate that. I sure as heck don't want the parking meters, traffic lights and all the other consequences that go along with over-development.

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  17. See you tube. Public comment

    https://mail.google.com/mail/?tab=wm#inbox/147fe877ffa4f7c4?projector=1

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    1. Is that a good link? Sent me someplace weird - not youtube.

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    2. Didn't work for me either.

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    3. Never open anonymous links!! Every child knows that...........

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    4. Yeah, oops. The fact that it said "public comment" and that it was here fooled me. Took me to a gmail account I never use. But does that mean the account is compromised? Tattler, would you delete that link?

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  18. Adele Chang - Super NIMBY!August 22, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    that is one awsome house on a perfectly sized lot that ms. chang has built for herself. if one carter looked like this i would be all for it. and i am confident that ms. chang would be the first to protest if someone tried to in her neighborhood the oversized crap boxes on tiny lots that she designed for the alleged indian burial ground.

    that said, change seems to be coming to sierra madre whether we like it or not. and the wife and i will not be sticking around when the kids leave and we retire in 10 years or so. instead, i will forgo the opporntunity to grow the obligatory Sierra Madre pony tail and be taking the nest egg to colorado or some other fine locale with lower taxes. so, it might be financially best if we said to hell with it and allow the folks that are driving the market to build whatever they want to bring about a last, great money grab.

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    1. Great post, but I disagree with the last part. I don't know how others feel, but I get a real kick out of beating these jamokes. Democracy in action. If people only more people understood just how much fun it is to practice it.

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    2. I ain't leaving without a fight. We can set the community standards. With the moratoriums in place we have the time to tighten up the codes and the General Plan so that we don't have to keep fighting each one of these development eruptions and each attempt at a McMansion or McBunker.

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    3. The Stonegate lots (might be too generous to call them lots) are under special circumstances, because the laws in place at the time Greg Galletly duped the city are the laws that will apply.
      But that is not such bad news - those are the laws the planning commission has been using thus far to prevent the gross resource hogs we see around us.
      The city is not defenseless until new regulations are put in place. Yes, we want them stronger, but if there had been the will to fight that development when it first started, the policies were there to win.

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    4. I hope I am mis-reading this but it sounds like you are with the developers -Make some cash and then bail out and leave us with the mess that created your extra wealth?
      The ugly 1960's and 1970's era apartment blocks in Sierra Madre are a monument to that approach. Lovely old bungalows engulfed by up-to-the-property-line ugly apartments. That will destroy your property wealth faster than Ms.Chang can mutter 'no fair" !
      What will enhance Sierra Madre property values is harmonious development, not overdevelopment.Perhaps that is what you mean?

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    5. 12:28, sorry I was unclear. I was really talking about the hillsides having the protections they need if they are enforced. The Hillside Management folks worked long and hard on that ordinance. I agree with you absolutely that there are lots of those ugly things, and that they should not be allowed. I was talking about the one "zone" only. I think the whole town needs to be under Measure V.

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    6. That should be the goal to protect the entire town from what we see in Arcadia. That is also how our property values go up. If we allow what Arcadia is doing we become just another city and buyers then have lots of options. Keeping Sierra Madre special and unique is what makes it not only a great place to live but also raises our property values as a by-product.

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    7. Excellent point 5:39.
      It drives me crazy when realtors/developers try to sell us on the idea that things like Stonegate will increase our property values. Nonsense. Our strength is our smallness and our individuality. Our uniqueness is the most valuable thing we have.

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  19. Even if you got top dollar for your home the problem will follow you. It's not just happening here. The greed and corruption is everywhere. Better to take a stand for ten years, make whatever headway you can to benefit those who chose to stay and take your ponytail to wherever with pride.

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    1. I know of an ex-Sierra Madrean who bought a house and some acreage that bordered a national forest. You would think that would work out. It didn't. The government sold some land close by and it is being developed.

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    2. I'm wearing my pony tail with pride. They will have to take me out feet first. We have the power to determine what our town looks like.

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    3. I'm afraid that may happen with Cong. Judy chums plan to make the San Gabriel mountains a national park. It might well affect our water rights as well as what we now hike and love. Anyone have more info about that bill? Like who's gonna pay for it, more govt employees, etc.?

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    4. Judy Chu isn't going to bother trying to get her "park" passed. Word has it Obama will do it by executive order. Buh-bye, water rights!!

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    5. Judy works for Beijing.

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  20. 11:14 Right on! Sierra Madre is in a good place. It is not yet comprimized It has an excellent Planning Commision with a new Council to back it up. There is a suspicious feeling that the Administration (Elaine Agiular- Bruce Inman- and a "duped" staff) follow a money trail for salary and pension gains thinking of little else. But that is now recogni- zed and steps are being considered to minimize this self cemtered effort. The town has a mixture of homes with a wide variety of style and taste (no cookie cutters here). There should be room for a resident to improve an existing home or put up a new one, just as long as it fits the HMZ or it is consistent with the standards and codes in place. In short were an interesting and special town within a half an hour of DT LA or the Entertainment Complexes in the San Franandio Valley. As of now we have a City not yet compromized. Lets keep it that way!

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    1. That's right 12:08. We are in a good place right now with an excellent city council and planning commission. We also have some great efforts being made by the citizens and that new group trying to preserve Mater Dolorosa.

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  21. Practice Democracy. Your local government hates it.

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    1. They hate it when you cut off the $$, too. How are those 2012 and 2014 UUT tax hikes working out for ya?

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    2. Less is more, but none is better.

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  22. I forgot it's Friday! No nasty postings from Elaine!

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    1. How was your date?

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    2. Sorry, I put my remark in the wrong place. Did you mean Elaine's date with you?

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    3. Aww, you crazy kids! Have you been to the Bottle Shop wine tasting room yet? That would be a date even you could afford.

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  23. I'm sorry I had to miss the first hour of the meeting. While watching the rest of the meeting, I remarked to my wife that our attorney must have gotten to Kevin because he was really careful with his words. Now I see why. I think the continuance will not resolve anything and CETT is hoping for an appeal to the City Council. Rachelle lives across the street from the project so she'll have to recuse herself. Any ideas on the others?

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    1. The city attorney was excellnt last night. I figure Commissioner Paschall had to make that speech because MacDonald has already sent a letter acusing him of bias, laying the footwork. However, they have no grounds for a suit - none. I wondered if Attorney Highsmith was there,rather than the assoociate attorney who usually handles the planning commission, because it was the Stonegate project,

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  24. Listing the lies that have been told for 10 years about this disastrous "development" would take too long. Maybe instead someone could find something true that was said.

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  25. I don't get why there's another date for this. Lawyer MacDonald made it perfectly clear that the second story was non-negotiable, and the commission made it perfectly clear that the bulk and mass had to be reduced. The lawyer said the only thing they'd reduce would be the basement. The commission did not seem to be impressed. On the other hand, MacDonald has more than once said things he doesn't stick to, so maybe this is another one of those.

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  26. I think people are finally waking up to the realization that if we want to preserve this little oasis we have here, we'll need to be vigilant and involved. If enough people help just a little bit, it won't be too much and battle fatigue won't set in. There is a lot of energy in the community right now to preserve this town. In some ways, Arcadia is doing us a service by allowing these McMansions to be built for all to see. They serve as monuments to what we don't want our town to look like. Now if they just wouldn't steal our water....

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    1. Looking at Arcadia is sad as hell. It used to be a nice town.

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