Tuesday, August 19, 2014

One Carter Underground: The Rise Of The McBunker

Psst! The secret is what lies below, yo.
How do you build a McMansion in Sierra Madre, a place that famously does not happily suffer such a thing within its 3 square mile borders? And then place it on a hillside, where the challenge of doing so takes on an entirely new level of difficulty?

Apparently the answer to this question is that you build a good portion of it underground, and in the process turning your lovely McMansion into what we are now calling a McBunker. Something that, due to the societal pressures, politics and longstanding community vision of the residents of Sierra Madre, could very well become the new wave in development for The Foothill Village.

In other words, we're driving McMansions underground.

And wouldn't you know it, the creator of this entirely new classification of Sierra Madre "wonderground wickiup" comes from the very famous architect who has been working so hard on behalf of the CETT Set, Adele Chang. AKA "The Queen of Cornices." Could such a historic moment ever be made in any other way?

So how is it that Sierra Madre has become the inspiration for the McBunker? And what is a McBunker, anyway? For the insight we need let's go to the Staff Report for Thursday evening's Planning Commission meeting.

Like with any series of events that leads to something groundbreaking (literally), and perhaps even unique, the history is quite complex. The author of the following is Dereck Purificacion, Assistant Planner for Development Services. Here is his tale:


All of that is well and good, and who would not be eager to relive what has become quite a signature chapter in the planning history of Sierra Madre? But what of the McBunker elements? For that we must include the following paragraph.


And that is what CETT and Adele Chang have set out to do. For whatever reason (and honestly I don't quite know how this part works), the portion of any McMansion that you build underground in Sierra Madre does not count towards the total square footage of the house. Only that part above the ground gets calculated into the overall figure. What lies below is, well, a secret I suppose.

Here is what the plan for a McBunker looks like. You might wish to spend a few moments with this because it could very well be the first of its kind anywhere. That plus the beginning of a whole new underground megalopolis here, designed for city that just does not care to see it.


So how do these numbers pencil out? Again we go to the Staff Report for important insight.


So there you go. The part of the house that counts in the HMZ calculation is a relatively modest 3,264 square feet. That is, modest when compared to some of the numbers we had seen previously. Yet, when you add in that off the grid 1,349 square foot portion sunk secretively below, what we are actually talking about here is a rather jumbo 4,613 square foot McWhopper. It's just that you won't be able to see all of it.

Oh, it will still come with 5 bathrooms. That part stays. Always our little five flusher.

Can it be that McBunkers are the future of Sierra Madre? Are we about to become the inspiration for a world first "out of sight, out of mind" underground city? Done so that the illusion of a community standard built upon relatively modest sized housing can continue? Despite current market pressures?

Are we about to become the home of the mansions of the mud? Tombs of excess that only the worms and moles will ever be able to get annoyed over? Or, as one wag put it yesterday, McDungeons?

I guess you'll have to tune into Thursday's Planning Commission meeting to find out.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

46 comments:

  1. When the next hill side fire hits those houses, the ashes will fall into the basement, no clean up! those basements could also be mini catch basins for the mud flow after the fire.

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    1. Large basements are not a new issue or problem. Someone please post the link to the Star News article from a few months ago which showed how large basements have become a problem with new homes being built in San Marino. We will see two families in these homes with one family living in the basement. Don't be fooled by what they are trying to do here. Our Planning Commission needs to wake up.

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  2. Who was the overly bright planning commission member or staff member who worked sooooo hard at the workshop, that came up with this brilliant idea? Maybe while there digging, they'll find water! Don't watch the meeting on TV. Be there. The whole idea was to put a smaller house on a small lot. The report keeps referring to the settlement. What was the settlement? Way to put the thumbscrews to the citizens of this city. Don't let it happen!

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    1. There really were water sources on that property, just like there were sources on the Heflin place/Stonehouse. During the Carter hearings, the water was deeded to the city (?)

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    2. Great. So we get to drink their pesticides and fertilizer.

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  3. What would a starter castle be without its dungeon?

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    1. Under current Sierra Madre water restrictions, are moats permissible?

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    2. Only sustainable ones.

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    3. Algae is green.

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  4. Hildreths anyone....Bueller...Bueller...Bueller...

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  5. Like Egyptian pyramids, these will be TOMBS!!!!
    That land is the TRIANGLE OF DEATH
    Fire, flood and earthquake.

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    1. Desperation will make them do anything! Who cares if it is in an earthquake zone!

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    2. As a child in the early 60's, I lived near 400 North Baldwin. I watched a wildfire race across the mountain. Later, I saw volumes of water, mud, and debris flow down Baldwin Avenue. It was so fierce that one could not walk across the street. Having witnessed these events, I find it incredulous that anyone would want to build on that mountain. Why would anyone place themselves or those they love in harms way?

      I have lived in Sierra Madre most of my life and I wouldn't live at one Carter if you gave me a home there. I wish people would be more prudent in their thinking. Seems so many decisions are based on money, not common sense. Buyer Beware!

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  6. If bunkers are not counted in the square footage, do you need a permit to build one?

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  7. Maybe Adele Chang is believes there will be massive civil unrest? Her rich clients will be safe in their underground bunkers while the rest of us are out fighting in the streets?
    I'm sure they will be hoping we'll win, though.

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    1. With Obama's out of control spending and debt accumulation, I'd say there's a very good chance of civil unrest or even all out anarchy at some point down the road.

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    2. As a Libertarian I enjoy callIng the last 15 or so years the Obushma administration. Not a dime's worth of difference between the two. The real anarchy is in Washington, friend.

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    3. Take another toke, my Libertarian friend. Any solutions instead of criticism?

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    4. It's true. I inhaled. So did Obushma. Solutions? How about abandoning empty headed partisanship and seeing to what real people want?

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  8. How many tons of boulders will need to be removed or dynamited?

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  9. Looking at the floor plan, on the first floor it would be a very simple thing to close off the access by the stair well, open a passage way through the closet and then you have a lovely little apartment for the relatives (or to rent out) comprised of the living room and the den area complete with its own front entrance. The rest of the family can enter from the driveway. Will this (possible) multiple housing count toward our RHNA number?

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    1. Or run a business from your residence. That same area would be a great office to meet client. They can park on the narrow street since the driveway is so short.

      No fire hazard there.

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  10. Actually, this has been happening for awhile in San Marino as an approach to "hiding" the mass of a house that exceeds the allowed building envelope, and Adele does a lot of work in that community, having been on the DRC for a few years. What triggered the issue in that community was the abuse of the basement area (as well as attics) that were undefined empty spaces that didn't conform to code because they were theoretically just storage areas or underground car parking. These spaces got illegally built out later, of course. When a basement is designed as habitable space, it requires two stair exits, just like the plan shows, as well as artificial lighting and HVAC systems to replace the normal light and ventilation provided by windows. More importantly, it's legal habitable space and is therefore counted as such and is counted towards the property tax on that parcel, unlike the "unfinished" attics and basements, and is subject to inspection for code violations. San Marino has just adopted a code ordinance to deal with this situation.

    As you know, basements are dungeon-like even when built out as habitable space, and inevitably develop leaks over time when it rains; it's not the panacea for living areas that this would appear to offer. Smart improvements would include shelving to keep everything 6 inches off the floor and easily replaced floor finishes. Any bedroom that has no windows is unavoidably a "bunker", although a large-screen TV can help distract from that.

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    1. So when then Chair Pendlebury suggested this bunker solution to CETT and their architect, it wasn't exactly a surprise I suspect. Perhaps their had been some back alley discussion?

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    2. Wouldn't that be a Brown Act problem?

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    3. I would hate to think an applicant would have that kind of access to the Planning Commission.

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    4. I think we're being hustled.

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  11. If the Planning Commission approves this plan its done and goes forward unless a City Council member call it up before the City Council.

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  12. Regardless of this latest development, I'm still of the attitude that if these buyers can afford the cost of the land and tear down costs, they should be given the opportunity to build more or less what they want.

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    1. Hmmm, regardless of the style, consequences, use, choice of towers, search lights & loudspeakers, orange & and red stripe paint, every night poker game for "friends", 60' high and to all property edges, garage for tuning up race car, "they should be given the opportunity to build more or less what they want", is your call on zoning restrictions? Kingman AZ beckons you...enjoy!

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    2. Existing homeowners have rights, too. Go build your sewage processing plant elsewhere.

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    3. Is that you, Elaine?

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  13. Wow With a few hanging florescence lights and a green thumb the sub terranian floor is perfect for a productive "pot farm". The label might read "grown in Sierra Madre in the high mountain air with Mt Wilson spring water". Their on to something here!!

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  14. This basement over-development has reached it's zenith in London ,England. It is very unpopular for the many reasons cited above.
    You could argue that it would be a fire-safe basement -or more like a tandoori oven?
    Whatever ,this is not in keeping with Sierra Madre.
    And let them try this on hillsides elsewhere to prove the concept. It is very different than building huge. deep basements on the flatlands of San Marino.

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  15. As with the Kensington project, the developers went back to the drawing board and did what the planning commission asked of them. The Kensington would not be as huge as it is if they were not required to put retail shops along the boulevard. The McDungeons would not have been designed had the planning commission not suggested them. Now the Commission could hardly deny the plans.

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    1. With the CETT lawyer threatening to sue on a regular basis, I don't know how many options there are.

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    2. A city government that does not defend the interests of residents is useless. Let them sue. We have rights, and we need to defend them.

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  16. The developer needs to do several lot consolidations. larger lots mean he can build a nice single story home and the people can have a bit of a yard.

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    1. Agreed. The lot designs are crazy. That's what happens when the only motivation is greed.

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  17. San Marino does not count sq. ft. If the basement is not ventilated in any way. So, if the carter properties have a bed room, laundry, etc. they must be ventilated. Means additional sq. ft., right? People need to be there at the meeting, Thursday. The settlement agreement states that the settlement doesn't guarantee approval. Mary Ann signed the agreement. Why did she do that?

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  18. The Star News article stated that Mr. Sun, a realtor and council member said that Chinese like new things. No one can expect them to live in an old house. Really? This isn't China, at least not yet.

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    1. My hundred year old house takes exception to Mr. Sun's remarks.

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  19. My 103 year old house is still working fine, 2500 square feet on a 15,000 square foot lot. I guess when I'm dead, Adele will try to put a 14,000 square foot house here.

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  20. 1:23, I measure electoral success by results. When was the last time a Libertarian Party candidate had 5% of the vote in a national race.

    Let me think, that was, like, never?

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  21. 10:32, pot farms take a lot of electricity. Think of all the UUT revenue for the city! We just balanced the budget.
    #Winning

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  22. Didn't get a chance to comment on this a blog or so back, but some one asked about the abomination on Camillo just one house up from Grand View. There are two abominations there, two monster modern boxes side by side on two lots of record. Damn ugly and not fitting the surrounding neighborhood. What was there before was one small 1920's house on one lot and the garage/workshop on the other. This is the kind of stuff that will be stopped with the moratoriam on water hook ups as there was only one existing water hook up. The other mistake made here should be avoided, too. The Planning Commission did not get on it soon enough and follow the Canyon Zone Committee when they included in the building standards the bulding envelope. These straight up sidewalls cannot happen any more. From the property line you draw up an 8 ft line and then a 45 degree line over and the house's second story has to fit into the set-back envelope. You can see how that would have been so much better for these Camillo monsters!!!

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