Saturday, September 13, 2014

City Hall Confidential: Danny Castro Is Hanging It Up

Our Danny
All good things must come to an end someday. But that doesn't mean just the good things come to an end, others do as well. As a matter of fact, everything comes to an end. Except The Tattler, of course. We'll just keep doing this forever. Or at least for as long as there is a Sierra Madre, which is known to many the world over as the 2nd Eternal City. Rome being the first. Not that anyone should take offense at that, because the good news is we are catching up.

There are those of us who look forward to Fridays not just because it is the beginning of the weekend, but also because it is the day a new Sierra Madre City Manager's Report comes out. While it might be true that the City Council is clipping her wings a bit these days, Elaine Aguilar's weekly report remains tops in town for exciting new revelations regarding the goings-on at our happening local governmental agency. Something that we the people often refer to as City Hall.

And this week's edition of the City Manager Report does not disappoint. Here is news that has stunned the dozens of people who care enough to follow this stuff:


Well there you go. Another one bites the dust. How much more can we stand? Will we make it through the night? Yeah, probably. We usually do. And there is always plenty of coffee in the morning to help us make our way.

The SierraMadreNews.net website (whatever you do, don't call it a blog), posted a publicity fluffer in 2008 that welcomed Danny Castro into our little world. And greeting him in this piece (link) was the same person who is today escorting him out, City Manager Elaine Aguilar. The veritable Alpha and Omega of one's municipal career in the Foothill Village. Here is that account:

City Hires New Development Services Director
After an extensive recruitment process, the City of Sierra Madre is excited to announce that Danny Castro of West Hollywood will be joining the All-America City team as the new Development Services Director.

Danny Castro brings to Sierra Madre over 15 years’ experience in the local government planning process, with expertise in both the public and private sectors. Mr. Castro was with the City of Beverly Hills Community Development Department for over 10 years in a number of positions, each with increased responsibilities. His work included a wide variety of residential and commercial developments, zoning and land use studies, and staff liaison for the Planning and Architectural Commissions.

Mr. Castro’s private sector background extended his expertise in project management as well as interests in historic preservation. At The Kor Group, a Los Angeles-based real estate company, Mr. Castro specialized in the conversion and rehabilitation of historic structures into residential uses. As a private planning consultant, his clients have included the cities of Claremont and Santa Monica, reviewing projects subject to design review, compliance with historic preservation policies, and environmental review requirements. 

Mr. Castro resides in West Hollywood where he is currently the Chair of the City’s Historic Preservation Commission, which, through various means, helps to preserve the community’s character through the protection, enhancement and preservation of cultural resources. 

Danny Castro is a native Californian, and grew up in Chula Vista, a suburb of San Diego. He graduated from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Urban and Regional Planning. 

City Manager Elaine Aguilar stated, “I welcome Danny to the City of Sierra Madre. I think he brings the perfect balance of experience, technical expertise, and approachability that’s important in his new role as Development Services Director.” Mr. Castro will begin his tenure with the City of Sierra Madre on Monday, February 4, 2008.

Danny, we hardly knew ye. Though I should probably point out that the press release is always longer when you are coming in than it is when you are going out.

Unhappy Canyonite
So what will Danny's legacy be here in town? Some good, but some not so good I am afraid. Perhaps the apex of his reign as what had until recently been known as Development Director was his work with the Canyon Zone Committee.

Despite the howls of dismay from the usual smattering of unshaven and halitosis challenged troglodytes living up the wash (or "The Canyon" as it is known, mostly because there can be no other), Danny's work with some of the more enlightened preservationist residents there helped to transform that chaotic and funky lowdown into one of the hottest real estate markets in Southern California.

Proving once and for all that given their druthers home buyers will go for the quaint and time proven over the new, clunky and generic every time. And, most ironically, today those who did all the bitching are now happily enriching.

However, there's also a dark side to Our Danny, and that was revealed by his apparent unwillingness to enforce some of the design restrictions on the creation of new structures in town as spelled out by the General Plan. The Double LULUs on Camillo Road could very well end up being monuments to this Development Director's inability to work with the people in town on what truly is the preeminent concern here. That is keeping Sierra Madre as it is, and not succumbing to Arcadia Syndrome.

We have written about this before, and you can access our most recent article on that topic ("A Return to the Twin LULUs of Camillo Road") by clicking on this word.

Here is the part of that post where we attempted to explain the limitless depth of our disappointment:

Here are the passages from the 1996 General Plan that could have been applied to the Twin LULUs of Camillo Road. The new GP will have better protections, but as we've noted it isn't in effect yet. However, if the relevant portions from the "Old '96" GP had been enforced, the necessary protections were there.

From the 1996 GP Introduction:

Page 17 - Overview of Land Use Policy: The fundamental principle behind the land use policy of the General Plan is to maintain the existing low-density, village character of Sierra Madre in the same urban development pattern that exists today.

Page 17 - Residents are able to identify structures which “fit” in Sierra Madre versus those which do not.

Page 18 - Ensuring that new development is compatible in its design with older established development in stable neighborhoods …

I am not sure any residents were consulted when the Camillo LULUs were in their planning stages, which is unfortunate. There is also this from the portion of the 1996 General Plan titled RESIDENTIAL LOW DENSITY:

Page 21 - Require that new development mitigates impacts on the City’s open space, infrastructure, transit services, and other public needs.

Page 21  - Objective L6:  Ensure that the massing and scale of new infill construction, additions and alterations to new structures be consistent with that of the existing block.

Page 21 - Policy L6.3: Limit new buildings in height to reflect the prevailing height patterns on the street and within the Sierra Madre community.

To paraphrase a comment left on this site just the other day, apparently Danny's front counter at City Hall was also functioning as a back door.

Hopefully the next person occupying that position will understand that in Sierra Madre the General Plan represents what the people living here want for their community, and for that reason alone carries as much weight as any ordinance or zoning code.

And please, whoever you turn out to be, no more LULUs.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

57 comments:

  1. Let's not forget Danny's giving the okay to the glass house on east Laurel. Drive by and see how well that fits into the neighborhood. Let's hire someone at a lower wage and less of a medical benefits package. 2 out of three bad form the town city hollers gone...time for the head to leave....

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    1. and lets not forget that while working 40 hours a week at city hall and driving throughout the city daily, he never once noticed the ongoing construction and remodel at the Cong Church or certainly he'd stepped in as such a civic minded employee wouldn't he?

      once he had nothing to do it was just a matter of time, the handwriting was on the wall, the city did not and does not to replace his position and duties

      how long are we going to be saddled with his pension and what's it going to cost us?

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  2. I wonder why he's leaving. Something we don't know yet is about to unfold. Elaine did not sound too happy.

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    1. Perhaps he's leaving simply because a great opportunity is a very desirable location at more money became available. Why would he NOT want to leave Sierra Madre for an exciting job on the edge of a world class city with a great climate, sophistication, and a chance to work around true professionals? Besides, Sierra Madre taxpayers can stop grousing about paying his pension - not one more cent after he leaves our little bit of bitterness and disent.

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    2. While Sierra Madre is on edge a lot, you're saying Los Angeles isn't a world class city?

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    3. Well, LA does have its own spin off of NCIS doesn't it? I guess that proves something. And various nattering nabobs of negativity rant about the corruption existant in same. But what a curious fixation 10:27 am has when the point is why Danny Castro would want to leave the Development Services department of the City of Sierra Madre.

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    4. I bet a big motivation was to finally get away from the General Plan. He's been dragging his feet on that like a teenager who doesn't want to do his homework. For years.

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    5. Danny didn't breathe before getting Elaine's permission first.

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    6. since Measure V was passed, his position had zero value to the city - his job title alone told us he was here to serve the needs of developers and then the real estate industry - not the residents

      nothing about him or his job, we don't need the position in the city

      listen closely to what and who says otherwise, it'll be somebody that profits from the position

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  3. My guess is Elaine had some influence on Danny's bad decisions on LULU plan checks. She wants the money and couldn't care less about what the residents might think.

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    1. come on, Elaine through the Community Services umbrella billed the Mt Wilson Trail Race event over $ 18,000 for 200 staff hours for "pre event meeting/planning" - and the race director paid it

      so something isn't right at city hall with bilking local charities or why did the event pay the city an obvious overcharge?

      that $ 18 grand was supposed to go to maintain the trail for residents so if Community Services didn't use the funds for that purpose we got shafted by the city

      absurd that the public sector runs a ponzi scheme pension plan at taxpayer expense, with people retiring at age 50 with full salary paid for the next 25 years of not working?

      only in America and available at your local city hall

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  4. Elaine is the real LULU Belle.

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  5. Maybe Danny and Karen know Elaine may go down.....and are getting out before that happens? Maybe?

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    1. Are you sure they'd want to leave if Elaine was being pushed out the door? Maybe they'd want to stay!

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    2. They've both landed in great places.

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    3. Oh wringing of hands. Must be some sort of conspiracy around here somewhere. Only the
      Shadow knows.

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    4. Actually there is no conspiracy. The Camillo Road houses are a form of fungus not unlike mushrooms. They sprung up all by themselves despite the dry weather. They thank you for the free fertilizer.

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    5. Danny's position to service developers was virtually eliminated with the passage of Measure V.

      Thank you Kevin Dunn and Kurt Zimmerman.

      still hated by the real estate crowd and those utility company lawyers that we somehow elected to Council

      we turned the henhouse over the the foxes

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  6. The N. Grove Street turreted McMansion was also a plan check ole'.

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  7. I still wonder about those Camillo houses. As I understand it, they have to 5 feet from the neighbor. Looks are deceiving I know, but, I'm 5' and I'm not sure I could lie down between those properties. I understand we outsource the inspectors. How reliable are they and who checks on them?

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  8. It's interesting if you Google Danny there were some problems for him in Beverly Hills and weho. Who gets to vet the new guy? Do citizens get to know who they're hiring? Before they're hired? This is our chance to get someone who cares.

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    1. we don't need "a new guy or gal" - we don't need the posiion

      if we just have to spend the payroll dollars, put in a position whose title is Director of Resident Services

      paaaatooooyeeee on servicing developers as a job in our city - don't need it - don't want it

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  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. What short memories the tattlers have. Karen left because she thought it would be a good idea to follow her husband to San Francisco after he got a great promotion.

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    2. Yeah, but it's interesting that 2 of the more competent staff have left. Aguilar and Inman? Barnacles.

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    3. what did Chris do?

      he didn't purchase his benefit plan - but can't blame him for taking

      If Danny had anything to do with the Nursing boondoggle, then glad he's gone and please don't come back unless to service residents first

      he was just doing his job and so Elaine isn't a prize winner

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  10. There are plenty of qualified and good people who would be glad to work at a place like Sierra Madre's city hall. The usually demagogues and tax monkeys will try and make a big deal out of this, but you know what? They're full of it.

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  11. Too bad Danny chose NOT to apply his experience with design and historical structures to our city.

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  12. He's been looking for quite awhile. It shows that our staff is really unable to secure employment in other cities quickly. They should be thankful they have jobs here instead on whinning.

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    1. positions like Danny's the employee is always looking - always

      we've had way too many city employees in these type of positions (management) that need to do projects in the city cause it pads the resume

      Danny can claim horray for the Nursing Facility and we can claim "gee thanks why?"

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  13. We don't need to pay an arm and a leg for this position. We also need someone who understands what we want the town to look like.....and its not Arcadia.
    This person should be thoroughly vetted. We should not hire anyone whose goal is to build monuments to themselves that we are stuck with after they use those projects to enhance their resume and jump ship a few years down the road. That is the modis operendi for alot of these people.

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  14. I think Danny may have seen the writing on the wall when his job title got changed. For alot of people in these positions, they want to build and build some more. That way they can point to those projects to get a better job from another city.

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    1. I think Sausalito has probably much stricter preservation requirements than we do.

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    2. Maybe certain elements there needed someone on board who is skilled at work-arounds.

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  16. City Staff's priorities are salaries and pensions. They don't live here, so why should they give a hot damn? LULUs mean more development impact fees, bigger tax takes, and therefore more pension funding. That they use the general plan for toilet paper shouldn't surprise anyone. They see it as an impediment to funding their priorities. Priorities that will put more money in their pockets.

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    1. The General Plan currently in force was completed in the mid-90's and has diminishing relevance in protecting Sierra Madre. Urge the City Council to approve the revised General Plan which would put a stop to much of the ugly development currently proposed.

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    2. This does beg the question, why has the City Manager been dragging her feet on getting the new General Plan finished? So that all her favorite LULUs can get built?

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    3. The 1996 General Plan is still very much in effect, and contains language that, had it not been ignored, would have stopped the Camillo Road atrocities. End of story.

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  17. Hello everyone, it’s my first go to see at this web page, and paragraph is actually fruitful in support of me, keep up posting such content.

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    1. English lessons for sale!

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  18. No one who works for the City is immune from the slings and arrows of some of the Tattlers. To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, you can't please all the people all the time and sometimes you can't please anyone.

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    1. It is an odd relationship that many have here with their city government. The residents pay taxes that sustain city hall, which then in turn often works against the interests of those who are paying their way.

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    2. Can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

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  19. Does anyone know if the 6-state division of California got its last 200K signature yesterday so it could make the cutoff to be on the November ballot?

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    1. Did not make the ballot, not enough signatures.

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    2. I cry for Jefferson.

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  20. Danny's only problem was his weak backbone.

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  21. Saucilito has a population of under 8000 people. No notice on their website about a change in staff.

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    1. It's the kind of beautiful Northern Californian place that's 100% slow growth.

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    2. Sausalito has to defend itself against developers, but no where near as much as Sierra Madre does.

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  22. I'm shocked to read about his previous experience. It always seemed to me that he never really understood what he was talking about, without consulting other staff, or reading up on it. He didn't have a whole lot of information without looking for it.

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  23. If I'm not mistaken, the salary range is already up on city site.

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  24. The People Designing Your Cities Don't Care What You Want
    http://www.newgeography.com/content/004480-the-people-designing-your-cities-dont-care-what-you-want

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  25. I think Elaine controlled Danny's every move, She is the "Micromanager"!

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    1. That is why they hired him. That bunch doesn't like independent thinking in a money department like development services.

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