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.
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.