Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This Building Moratorium Will Be With Us For Two Years

Is there such a thing as too much joy?
By a unanimous vote the City Council agreed that Ordinance No. 1358-U should be passed, effectively shutting down any new water connections for the purpose of building something house-like. How you could have a new water connection for the purpose of not building something in Sierra Madre being something I am struggling with right now. If you have any ideas about this let me know. I'd hate to think there might be a loophole. I'm kidding.

Mayor Harabedian brought up a Pasadena Star News article (he characterized it as infamous for some reason) that highlighted Arcadia's gross indifference to the water woes of this part of the world (link). His otherwise happy contention being that in a relatively short period of time cities such as our graceless nouveau riche downhill neighbor will be forced by the county (or even the state) to do the kinds of things Sierra Madre is doing now, and on a voluntary and courageous basis. I personally can't wait for that to happen. Stupid peacocks and all.

Speaking of Arcadia, the topic of why they still have plenty of that fine mountain water in their wells while we, who used to get our stuff from the very same source, have very little, did arise. Bruce Inman, called upon to reply, brought up his bedrock theory again, something that has been met with skepticism in certain quarters of this community. Barbara Leigh, in one of those classic asides she is so famous for, quipped: "I am surprised to hear that Sierra Madre and Arcadia have different water tables."

Why two cities who draw their water from the same sources can have such decidedly different results has never been adequately explained in my opinion. Has Arcadia ever drilled through bedrock to discover more water for their wells? Do we know this?

And here's a question. If you haven't drilled all that deeply, how can you know what is there? Arcadia, by all accounts, has very deep wells. We do not.

I was poking around on-line and came up with the following information from the United States Geological Survey (link):

The rock below the Earth's surface is the bedrock. If all bedrock consisted of a dense material like solid granite, then even gravity would have a hard time pulling water downward. But Earth's bedrock consists of many types of rock, such as sandstone, granite, and limestone. Bedrocks have varying amounts of void spaces in them where groundwater accumulates. Bedrock can also become broken and fractured, creating spaces that can fill with water. And some bedrock, such as limestone, are dissolved by water -- which results in large cavities that fill with water.

In many places, if you looked at a vertical cross-section of the earth you would see that rock is laid down in layers, especially in areas of sedimentary rocks. Some layers have rocks that are more porous than others, and here water moves more freely (in a horizontal manner) through the earth. Sometimes when building a road, the layers are revealed by road cuts, and water can be seen seeping out through the exposed layers.

Not to belabor this issue (I would never do that), but I think that if we could find out just how deeply Arcadia has dug their wells, and if they did manage to penetrate that troublesome bedrock we've all heard so much about, we'd be a long ways towards answering these kinds of questions.

Besides, how could you ever know if there is any water down there if you don't drill far enough to check? Given that ours is a city that has done very little to maintain water infrastructure over the years, and still does not have the financial wherewithal to get much badly needed repair work done, it is possible to ask these kinds of questions.

Maybe we should hire a dowser or something. A bedrock one.

The comedic highlight of the evening came courtesy of a developer by the name of Todd Boden. Like many who are attempting to make some major bank in real estate insane Sierra Madre, he wishes to take a single lot and magically double his pleasure by splitting it into two. Kind of like an amoeba. Much to his chagrin, Mr. Boden has lately discovered that he will not be able to get a water hook up for one of his reproductive plots. Or maybe both. I can't exactly remember those details at this moment.

But where Todd really rocked the planet was with his claim that by pulling down old homes and replacing each with a couple of new ones, it would actually save water. Kind of a version of the old "development is green" canard that John Buchanan and Joe Mosca used to try and endlessly shove down our throats a few years ago.

Naturally his proposal that we should tear down the 20+ (20?!) year old houses to put up new ones in order to save us all was greeted with a bemused silence. I guess we'll need to pull a video for this one.

Earl Richey rose to speak about his Public Records Requests and the belief that they have not been honored to the full spirit of the law by City Hall. While I have to admit that Earl has an unfortunate tendency for going off half-cocked at times, I too have had a similar experience with these kinds of City Hall records requests.

Elaine Aguilar replied to Mayor Harabedian's questions about Earl's accusations by stating he was given the option of coming down to City Hall and picking up copies (at .06 cents a pop) of the applicable documents. Sounds reasonable, right? However, what this actually means is that when you get down there you will be shown into a room largely filled with boxes of documents, the vast majority of which having nothing to do with your request. Or perhaps even all of them. Who can tell?

Faced with the burden of spending 8 hours at City Hall searching through a lot of inconsequential stuff for something that might not have even been made available to you, most would just pack it in and give up. Earl should just bite the bullet and hire a lawyer. Nobody deserves to be treated like this.

John Hutt had a lot of great common sense solutions for some of this city's more vexing water related problems. Somebody needs to put this guy back on the Planning Commission. My fear is without that outlet John could hurt himself by thinking too hard about things he cannot otherwise influence.

We really must protect so valuable a human resource.

John's most excellent suggestion of all was about having development fees calculated by the square foot, and not per building units. Otherwise we are encouraging the McMansion contagion. Also known as the "ebola of housing development."

The idea being that building sanely sized housing could end up being far more affordable to the developer than those 6,000 square foot water hogs that Adele Chang and the CETT Set want to visit upon an already ravaged One Carter.

A lot of other good things happened as well. Some very fine speeches were made, and sound suggestions poured forth from those in attendance. Who knew that Susan Henderson's moment of public notice dottiness would lead to so much goodness? Given all of that extra time to think of new ways to restrict the availability of water to Susan's developer cronies, both the City Council and attending residents got really creative and came up with some remarkable ideas.

And then there is this moment of double happiness. Who'd have thought that something as simple as talking about a water moratorium, initially a product of the inquisitive minds of Sierra Madre's small but persistently thoughtful group of slow growth advocates, could have led to all of this?

Even, hear me now, to the possibility of finishing the General Plan.

It sure is funny how things can turn out.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

49 comments:

  1. My favorite exchange was between Council member Delmar and Danny Castro. She held up a copy of the State Guildelines for the General Plan and he said they were wrong. Poor Danny. He should know better after five yers than to tussel with her.

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    1. Staff misses Nancy.

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    2. Danny does what he is ordered to do, by his superior, I've seen this man actually look embarrassed at what he has to say in front of the council. He knows they are wrong.

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    3. A bad boss can make work hell.

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    4. Sierra Madre does not need a Director of Development Services

      What's he gonna do now?

      How about changing his title to Director of Existing Resident Services?

      His position can be eliminated and what's worse is we will be paying him for years to come with his pension.

      However if he's just following orders the problem lies with the city manager but we keep electing pro development councils so that's gotta stop.

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    5. What he's gonna do now, 11:39, is get that General Plan where it was supposed to be a year ago. Hopefully.

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  2. Where Karin is going.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benicia,_California

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    1. Karen, take Elaine with you!!!

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  3. I hope I'm not being foolish, but this council gives me hope that our town really will survive, rather than being turned into a generic slab of big.

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  4. I too have double happiness this morning.

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  5. Just think - we'd have a working, intelligent Council if it weren't for Goss, who had a Nancy look on his face when Denise was talking - "Huh?" Now we all need to keep the pressure on City Hall to move along and pass the General Plan. I agree, 7:42 - Denise has proven Danny to be inept over and over, with facts and good humor. I also agree that we must get John Hutt back on the Planning Commission. I've already asked him to run for City Council. Can't imagine why he refused!

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    1. As great as John is....he's not nuts.
      Bob Spears will be great right now.

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    2. Because he'd be a crappy Council Member who hates Measure V? That's reason enough.

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    3. wasn't Hutt anti measure V?

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    4. Yes, I believe he was.

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    5. He thinks things through, and is willing to change his mind and admit that he was wrong. Compare him to Goss, "I'm voting for this guy for Commissioner because he played Little League here and has a newborn."

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    6. I agree with 3:13. Hutt is respectable because he is smart and knowledgable - doesn't mean I'm going to agree with or like everything he thinks or does. But it's clear he says what he thinks is best. That's not like the majority of builders, architects, developer types, who are only out for personal enrichment and to hell with the town.

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  6. Now the pressure is on for that Growth Management thing - 2 years means the developers are making their plans to begin in 2 years, in the meantime buying properties.

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    1. We are coming up on the 10th anniversary of nothing being built at One Carter. There is always a way.

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    2. Actually, One Carter was first sold in 1999, as I recall. Even though "God wanted" Maranatha to build a high school on the property, we successfully fought that, too. Problem is, it takes vigilence, and people filling City Hall, not to mention getting the right people elected.

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    3. The destruction of the hillsides on Carter happened because of Rob Stockly, Enid Joffe, John Buchanan and Tonya Torres. They were foolishly entrusted to be community leaders at a disastrous time.

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    4. Which City Council was worse? 2004 or 2010? Both had John Buchanan.

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    5. I miss Josh.

      Come to think of it, not really.

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    6. 4:19, pretty sure you could find him easily enough. Try the Buc.

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  7. The comments about Danny Castro knowing he is being forced say nonsense makes an interesting point .The problem is not the spineless behavior of Castro. It s those who coerce him into mouthing the nonsense. Pushing for approval of the General Plan is fine but we won't get any sense from the City until we get a competent City Manager who runs the town for the benefit of it's citizens.
    Yes, we are winning on wonderful issues like the Building Moratorium(long may she live!)and responsible conservation of water .But we are in this mess because of bad Management, not bad City Staff. So let's get the senior Management flushed !

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    1. I agree. Sierra Madre is turning a corner. It is time to replace the holdovers from the old regime.

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    2. Like the City Attorney?

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    3. well, city manager serves at the whim of the Council and look at who we've elected over the past 15 years - only one good Council majority who put the people first

      those Council's directed staff and hired the city manager that fit their agendas, time for a new direction and if Elaine can't take the new direction, she's free to quit

      imagine having to take direction from the likes of Harabedian, Goss, Moran, Walsh, Buchanan, Mosca etc?

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    4. Tattler has proved it has significant and growing influence. That is the only development I want in this my hometown of almost 40 years.
      IMHO we need to also build credibility and focus. The comment about Castro & the City Manager above help make that point. If we squander our efforts targeting mere employees instead of Management we look like strident bullies who just throw nasty comments at people who are following the lead and direction of their boss.
      If we succeed at getting the Council to fire the City Manager it will show who is in charge - my fellow citizens .If you examine the litany of failures(& worse) by the City Manager and Director of Public Works chronicled in the Tattler, there are ample grounds for dismissal. Begin with a warning, follow up immediately with a second if necessary and 3rd time, they are out! To quote one of my other targets "there is a process here...." We should use it ! Then profiteering developers like Todd Bowden would tip-toe away and Sierra Madre would remain the epitome of Mayberry.

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    5. Does the council control the city manager? I think the manager runs the show, the council is just a small bother to her

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    6. I think what we are seeing is a City Council that is taking back control of City Hall. Watch closely at upcoming meetings. Denise and Rachelle call City Staff out on everything.

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    7. Great news if a responsible Council is taking the control of the City back from the carpetbaggers.
      .When City staff observe power & influence shifting from a conniving City Manager to the Council ,I think we can expect some 'help' from City staff on gathering evidence to dispose of the Manager and her co-conspirators. That is why I suggest we don't needlessly target dupes like Castro. He is not the problem -he is just doing what all the others do -exactly what Elaine tells them to do/say.
      To get rid of Elaine is not a personal vendetta .She just ramrods an agenda that has little to do with the good of our town or it's citizens. And we've been complacent about it. Perhaps that is changing. But it will only work if we gather evidence. Ditto the Mayor.

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  8. who is this Todd Boden character?

    where's he from?

    sounded pretty dumb - glad the Council just gave him the blank look like he was a insolent child

    please don't tell me he's another lawyer?

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  9. God has a sense of humor, in a vision, told the then Principal of Maranatha to build a high school in a flood and fire zone.

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  10. is Bowden Development the company Todd owns?

    http://bowdendevelopment.com/

    if so, he wants to take one lot and overbuild on it - glad he's got to sit on the lot for two years and hopefully for longer

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    1. Looks like they specialize in exactly the kinds of houses that are not good for Sierra Madre.

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    2. According to that website, Todd is the construction manager. Family business.

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    3. Yes - Todd Bowden and his dad have been slapping up crappy PUC's and lot-busting houses for decades, mostly in Monrovia....if the water ordinance is upsetting them - Sierra Madre is doing a good job! Fred Bowden - best friends with Monrovia City Councilman Tom Adams and alike - always seemed to get every RFP for building Redevelopment funded housing for decades -- they were so sad when that gravy train ended...

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    4. You mean to suggest that we don't owe them a living?

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    5. No. They don't work for the city. Otherwise, we would owe them a living and pension and Gold group medical.

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    6. Plan checks are the lifeblood of modern civilization.

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    7. Bowden slipped under the wire before Monrovia's moratorium in fall 2014. Someone must have said something to someone, because on September 31 and October 1, four builders of pig stys submitted demolition requests to historic preservation commission. Then on November 18 a moratorium on demolitions was voted in. It exempted projects with plans already submitted to Building or Development Review Committee. It did not exempt projects that had only put in demolition requests with historic pres. commish. Ouch!

      Except in classic Monrovia shameless corruption style, the city council voted a replacement ordinance a month later. Find the video for Dec 16 2014 on youtube and watch Tom Adams feign nonchalance as he makes extra double super sure that the replacement ordinance will allow Bowden to go ahead with what turns out to be the single most atrocious pig sty ever built. See it here:
      https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurMonrovia/photos/a.294116844066536.1073741826.294049217406632/792059520938930/

      He voted on it too. He swears he never votes on Bowden's projects but that was a vote for Bowden all right. Since when does a law get changed and it only affects things that already happened? You can't even tell if the other council members knew what they were voting for. It was bundle with a necessary change to another ordinance, which was incomprehensible as written.

      Oh boy was it corrupt. The realtor who had the listing for the estate of an elderly lady also acted as Bowden's agent. She listed it and set it to pending the same day. Despite being on a double lot, the property sold for #350/sf. Across the street on a single lot, another old house sold for $463/sf.

      Oh and the realtor was head of the historic preservation that could recommend for or against letting Bowden demo the house he'd just bought.

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  11. notice how John Buchanan no longer has anything to say? he can't make a point in less than 3 minutes

    thought he loved the city so so so much?

    loves SoCal Edision more

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  12. Okay john, we need a list of all Elaine's foibles.

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  13. Letter emailed to city hall & staff 8/13/2014

    Elaine,

    1) I think you must be mixed up!
    2) July 22 & 24, 2014 - I did not request to look in your boxes as you have stated,
    3) I requested "you" to provide me with copies of city documents under the Public Records Act, which I agreed to pay for!
    ……… as of August 13, 2014 you failed to provide me with any water or sewer documents as requested - July 22 & 24, 2014,
    4) In the event you are to busy or think that I am not deserving those documents as a resident - and water & sewer paying customer of Sierra Madre since 1977,

    I am requesting that you please prove me with the name, address, telephone number of the state governmental agency who over sees failure to provide such Public Records Requests!

    Best Regards,

    Earl Richey

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  14. Elaine's title could be changed to City Administrator instead of City Manager. Wouldn't that save in monies and retirement investments; wouldn't that provide the sitting City Council with more decision making strength and free up Danny C. to be an independent thinker?

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