Friday, September 19, 2014

Planning Commission: The Stonegate At Sierra Madre House Of Many Shapes And Sizes … Changes Again?

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(Mod: It is about 2AM, just got home from a very productive work trip to Portland, Oregon. Where, by the way, it was 62 degrees and rainy. It was a very good day. What made it even better is four people sent in reports from the Planning Commission meeting last night, for which I am truly grateful. If you ever decide you want my friendship, then write something for my blog. Especially when there was a meeting as important as this one, and I had to miss it. Here are those reports, plus one very cool picture, reiterated.)

Reporter #1:
Meeting began approx 7:25 pm.

Applicant offered a revised proposal.

Members of the PC offered input:
-Lower the ceiling heights
-Reduce bedrooms by 10%.
-Shift the staircase

Frequently, members of the PC said, "You are close" (to approval).

While the commissioners were speaking, however, private discussions were being whispered between McDonald, Chang, and a third man sitting in the audience. (I do not know him … he might have been the project manager.)

After the PC members spoke, Chang approached the podium. "We've been to so many hearings … I'm getting kind of tired of it."

McDonald requested that the PC approve the project with conditions or vote on it. He asked that they articulate the points so they have those to consider.

The city attorney suggested fleshing out the concepts here, and getting a thumbs up or down. McDonald and the Asian man walked out to the foyer. McDonald came back alone. Later, the manager?) came back into the chambers. More whispering took place between him, McDonald, and Chang in the audience. McDonald requested a continuance, as well as a list (of specific concerns/suggestions).

The Planning Commission voted in favor of continuing the project at the October 2 mtg. Applicant will bring new drawings.

Reporter #2:
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The meeting began 25 minutes late. City Attorney reported that there was a matter of anticipated litigation, direction was provided, and no action was taken.

Ex-commissioner John Vandevelde took up to 10 minutes of public comment time to discuss, in detail, inconsistencies in zoning codes and definitions. Maybe legitimate areas that need to be addressed, but not really swift to bring them up there and then. In fact, Adele Chang referenced it to her advantage.

Barry Gold - great. The general plan needs to reinforce goals and guidelines to save our city from the developers who want to build "the largest houses they can on the smallest lots they can to make the most money they can." The PC being on top of the GP will save a cherished way of life for all of those who will live here for time to come.

Adele Chang: We’re hardly asking for anything compared to what “we are allowed under the settlement agreement” Repeated and emphasized"we are allowed" She did not bring up the fact that there is, under the settlement agreement, no guarantee.

The architect talked about her slide show of big houses in Sierra Madre, the one she made when the commissioners suggested that she drive around to look at the diversity of homes in town. She wished that she’d brought it with her so that the commissioners who hadn’t seen it could see it. Each of those big houses were on equally big lots. False comparison doesn’t even begin to say what a hustle that was. Deliberate misrepresentation is more like it.

Used Vandevelde's comments about inconsistencies to her advantage. Who didn’t see that coming?

Commissioner Pevsner asked her if she had lowered the ceiling heights (as had been suggested previously) “No, I didn’t. My client is still concerned with marketability” She then went on to suggest that she could probably convince the client to lower ceiling heights, if the PC would approve the project with conditions of approval. That was the theme for the next hour. Or two.

Marguerite Shuster was once again the best representative Sierra Madre could hope for.

Commissioner Pevsner asked to talk to the resident who had discussed things with the applicant’s lawyer. The resident said that “There were more promising elements in play than were presented at the following meeting.” In other words, the developers went back on their words.

Each commissioner said there was still too much bulk and mass, and that the ceiling heights need to be lowered. Frierman-Hunt suggested taking a foot off the 2nd story height and 6 inches of the first story height, for an overall lowering of 1 and 1/2 feet. 

Chair Desai had numerous suggestions for reconfiguring the second story that would “keep in the program" the applicant wants but reduce bulk (reduce the Master suite by 10%, one bedroom by 10%, 1 bath by 10% - and adjust some placement downstairs to do that.)

Later Chang asked if she could add square footage downstairs if she reduced upstairs, and Desai said you don’t have to - in his reworking he reduced upstairs and added nothing downstairs.

Chang flipped and said “I’m getting tired, maybe you guys like doing this, but vote up with conditions, or down." Later she said, “I am asking for an up or down vote” But that was the biggest fib of all. She and MacDonald huffed and puffed and then rolled over.

The commissioners would not vote to approve with conditions because they all said they had to see the plans before they could do that. The city attorney said the commission needed to see what it would look like.

The commissioners went into great detail on their suggestions.

Somebody put it brilliantly: people were coming here and destroying our town, one lot at a time, maybe not intending to, but destroying it anyway.

Continued to next PC meeting, October 2.

Reporter #3:
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Some of the best quotes of the evening:

Adele Chang when she first went to the podium - "I'm getting kinda tired of it." Referring to the PC meetings.

Adele Chang: Our plans are now correct.  Gina noted except for one thing.The plan still says there is a 6 ft retaining wall on one page and not on the other.

A One Carter neighbor, referring to the tour that Adele said she made. Adele said she found a lot of big home in Sierra Madre. The speaker disagreed with the assumption, and said those were big homes on big lots. What you want to do is build a very big house on a small lot.

Deb Sheridan: Allowed doesn't mean guaranteed.

Kevin  Paschall: Adele you said these are hard lots to build on. We did not force you to buy them.

Adele is now calling it a Spanish Colonial, no longer Santa Barbara … she must have read The Tattler.

Livable sellable space is 3,886.

Reporter #4:

McDonald wants approval with the comments from commission. Desai says no. Needs to see changes. Fees we've come a long way. More comfortable seeing changes. McDonald says he does understand still request approval, vote on it and articulate what it is the commission wants.

- City Attorney: needs design changes, even if they agree to changes commission wants to see it. 

Gina - we're not too far away from agreement. We need to see a concrete plan. Can't say yes without plan. We can discuss what needs to be changed and willing to come back. Take off foot an half of ceiling. 

Adele - shaking her head no. This is controversial in Sierra Madre. Adele says we have been told we are close before. A commissioner stated previous plans have been wrong. Adele said everything was checked 3 times. Plans are correct. 

Gina - told her there were still mistakes. 

Adele - said her client still wants up or down vote. 

Mc Donald - approve it with conditions if not chair articulate changes. 

Desai - said he will articulate them now. On ground floor shifting of stairwell and powder room to the east, allow second floor to shift mass. Bedroom 3 truncated entrance, work on bathroom, pushes back front, bedroom 2 10 percent reduction. Master bedroom lessened 9 percent, a little reworking of master bath. Desai went thru the motions and knows it can be done.

(Mod: Thanks again to all who wrote in!)

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

106 comments:

  1. Has anyone ever met the applicant?

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    Replies
    1. why should we care about the builder's "marketability"?

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    2. That's right, marketability is not our problem. They bought land in an extremely unmarketable location. That's their problem. They are trying to make it our problem. They must adhere to our rules and our standards....and this Planning Commission can't be bought off.

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    3. Over 100 houses have been sold in Sierra Madre in the last several months. If you can't market a shanty here then you are in the wrong business.

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    4. The most important three words in real estate are Location, Location, Location. That's their problem. Only a fool will buy one of those properties within all those Natural Hazard zones: flood, earthquake, fire. I wouldn't want to live there. I don't care how they try to market them, they will always be stuck in a bad location.

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    5. Oh, they mean to sell the house? I heard them say at the last planning commission meeting that this house was being built for the owner and his family, and scoffed at the idea that this was a spec house.

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    6. This one has always been a spec house. They are probably all spec houses really. The claim about the owner wanting to build there in the future was for a different lot.

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  2. Yes, in a nightmare.

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  3. These developers just don't listen. We can be proud of our Planning Commission for sticking up for the residents of Sierra Madre. Its not our job to accommodate their bad project. They can keep coming back until hell freezes over but Adele and company should get the same answer until they make the requested modifications. Its only because the refuse to listen and are trying to improve the marketability of homes that don't belong on those lots that we find ourselves in this stand-still.

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    Replies
    1. Agree, 6:51. If they had listened a year ago, they could have
      1) Sold that unlucky piece of real estate, or
      2) built a nice, smaller house that would already be built and lived in by now.

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  4. Thanks to all the people who came to the meeting. It really helps when the Planning Commission sees they have the support of the community.

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  5. Don't let them wear us down, we need to be back on October 2nd.

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  6. Adele turns in some pretty sloppy work for so fabulous an architect.

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  7. Adele blamed the mistake on the landscape architect. Mr. McDonald was very subdued. He even tried to contain adele. When adele's picture was taken, she stopped talking and glared at the photographer. Also, there have always been 2 Asian men at the meeting. They usually sit in the back together. Last night the younger Asian man left at the break the older one stayed and moved to sit next to McDonald. They are more than project managers. If Adele does what she's told, it will probably pass. The side views of the house are huge. Never noticed it before. Kudos to the PC.

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    1. McDonald is a sub dude.

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    2. the Asians who sit in the back are the owners.

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    3. 8:16, not unless they are girls. The president of CETT is a woman, Huiru Han, or Hui Ru Han.
      http://www.corporationwiki.com/California/South-Pasadena/hui-ru-han/44818235.aspx

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    4. There seems to be a common denomoninator that is the proverbial pink elephant in the room. One Carter, Stonehouse and Camillo are all Chinese owners and developers. The people building all the McMansions in Arcadia and San Marino that everyone is concerned about are Chinese owners. I welcome everyone with open arms who wants to move into our City but please respect the architecture, the heritage, the neighborhoods and respect your neighbors who don't want this kind of development.

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    5. the owners don't care about heritage, the neighborhood, our city, you, me, our kids

      it's profit only

      so I hope they lose it all

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    6. The problem is that these developers and owners don't live in this town. They are building spec homes to sell to others. They don't care one bit about the "village feel" of Sierra Madre. They are looking to build over-sized McMansions and make the maximum profit they can pure and simple. We, the residents must care about our town more than they care about their profit. If we don't, then we get what we deserve.

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    7. Its very sad that that their is no respect for the existing architecture and heritage. I can tell you that if I moved to another country, I would sure as heck respect their traditions and architecture. I wouldn't just bulldoze homes right and left and build things that are totally out of keeping for the neighborhood. I would want to be a good neighbor.

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    8. The developers are allowed to exploit every provision and every loophole for their own benefit. I don't begrudge them for that. Knowing this, we must be one step ahead of them. We see the over-development occuring in every other town around us. Arcadia, San Marino, South Pasadena are all facing the same pressures. Because they have been slow to respond, those towns are getting ruined. Sierra Madre is the last town standing. We need to act now and make sure the General Plan and Municipal Codes don't allow what we don't want. Its that simple.

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    9. Just drove through San Marino. They obviously have no water shortage of any kind, and you're right, 9:45, I'm afraid the MacMansion plague has overwhelmed them.
      We're the last town standing indeed.

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    10. It is not that simple, but it is what we all need to do. Everyone who wants to preserve Sierra Madre needs to be at the Oct. 7th City Council meeting which is devoted to the General Plan Update.

      Barry Gold

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    11. Oct. 7th is very important. But even prior to that, we need to put forth specific provisions that will tighten things up and close loopholes so that McMansions will not be allowed. In addition, people should not be allowed to build homes or make modifications if they adversely impact on the value of their neighbor's home. That is simply not fair and not neighborly.

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    12. If we want to prevent McMansions we can do so in the General Plan and the Muncipal Code. If we do it right, we don't have to keep fighting these battles.

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    13. Yes. But we also need a city hall that will enforce it. We do not have that now.

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  8. The project should be turned down due to the applicant's civility problems.

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    1. just vote "no" or "down"

      no discussion, long meetings, etc

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    2. I agree. We need to move on to other things. The Planning Commission has spelled out what they need to do. If they don't do it, the answer is no and move on to the next agenda item. Compounding their trying to shoe-horn their monstrosities into small lots is their taking up the valuable time of people in this community whether its the Planning Commissioners, City Attorney or residents. We need to give them a list of the universe of our requirements to get this project approved. No more debate. If they don't meet the requirements, show them the door.

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    3. They've been playing a dirtier game than that 9:32 - they have the lists. They have all of the documents the commissioners use, the city staff uses, they can all read.
      They have followed the regulations that suit their purposes and have willfully ignored the ones that don't.

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    4. We should not tolerate it any more. We should tell them in no uncertain terms that its our way (meaning follow our rules and regulations) or its the highway.

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    5. See them out the door. They don't want to listen and they want us to save their project. Sorry, but they made the bad investment.

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  9. Great picture. Bet it won't be the one used in Architectural Digest.

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    Replies
    1. I think it's spooky. Good Halloween card.

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  10. Since the applicant has never spoken to the community, we don't know who CETT really is, or who owns One Carter.

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    Replies
    1. morons own One Carter

      building in a known fire and flood zone

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    2. The place is a spiritual vortex. Has been for thousands of years.

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  11. Four different reporters and they concured on what transpired.
    Just the facts. Great reporting people..

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    1. that eliminates them for ever working for the Mtn View News

      Susan was scream about using actual facts and quotes

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    2. My favorite is her use of the phrase "according to a well known expert" to back up some nonsense she herself probably made up. The well known expert never being named, of course.

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  12. What is this stuff about the ceiling heights? Is there a limit on how many times the commission will ask for that?

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  13. Are we going to have to go through this for every______house?
    You bet your sweet bippy we will.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks again to all those on the, what was it, 2004 City Council for the gift and keeps on giving. If anyone of them still live in the town, they should be taken to the town square and flogged at noon time.

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    2. still around, Buchanan and Stockley can't help themselves from getting involved in city politics

      why?

      it benefits their respective employers

      just never vote for anybody endorsed or supported by those who created this and lied to us about the UUT or try to undermine Measure V

      Harabedian and Goss were endorsed and supported by Buchanan

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    3. Buchanan and Stockley should be run out of town on a rail.

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    4. Buchanan and Stockley created this whole mess for us to clean up. Shame on them!

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    5. Buchanan has no shame - one of those "lawyers" who moved into town, professed profound love for the city and had to get involved with politics because SM needed his vision and ideas for change

      which happened to benefit his employer

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  14. The nerve of Adele to say she's "...getting tired of this.". Respect the Planning Commission and the community and follow their instructions. I'm getting tired of them not listening to instructions and using up the time of our Planning Commission and the time of the good residents of Sierra Madre who have to come to these meetings to protect this town. They are not very neighborly, but then again, I don't expect them to be. None of them live in Sierra Madre. They simply want to exploit Sierra Madre for their own personal gain. Regardless of what happens at One Carter, we need to make sure the updated General Plan that gets approved stops these kinds of projects in their tracks and closes all the loopholes. That is the only way we will protect Sierra Madre in the future.

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    1. There's no way they are going to respect the community. We are just an irritating bump in the road they have to get around.

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    2. All they care about is maximizing their profit at our expense. Let'em sue the City. They will lose. I'd spend a few bucks to stop the raping of our hillsides and canyons.

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  15. The owner is either CETT Investments Corporation or CETT Madre, a small firm located in an apartment in South Pasadena (no web site), its president is Huiru Han, the previous agent was Sophia Huang. Huiru Han’s older sister Fangru Han is one of the richest Chinese under 40. http://www.china.org.cn/top10/2012-06/12/content_25626348_12.htm. So the Arcadization of Sierra Madre has been here for years.

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    1. Are you sure about the relative connection? I don't think Hiuru Han is an unusual name in China.

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    2. Now that you said that, no, I'm not actually sure; I'll try to dig further

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  16. We are now in the process of updating and finalzing our General Plan. That document along with the Municipal Code are the blueprint for development in the City. If we don't like these kinds of projects we need to tighten up the General Plan and Muncipal Codes so that there is no ambiguity and no discretion - they simply won't be allowed in the first place. That will save all of us alot of time in the future and also save the City money by avoiding loopholes that lead to lawsuits. If we don't do this properly, these fights will continue. We will win some and we will lose some but inexorably, one project at a time, Sierra Madre will transform into Arcadia. Wake up people. The writing is on the wall. Now is the time to preserve Sierra Madre for future generations. If we don't, the Sierra Madre we all know and love will be unrecognizable to us in about 20 years, Imagine a Sierra Madre with blocks of McMansions, parking meters when you visit Beantown, stoplights, traffic, congestion, high density and all the other consequences of over-development. That's our future unless we want to change it.

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  17. Those people are too embarassed to try to sell the project themselves. They hide behind their lawyer. Show your face and tell us yourselves why we should accomodate your lousy project.

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    Replies
    1. Maybe they can;t speak english with any confidence, and hired people to talk for them.

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    2. I'm sure they speak English. They know they are doing something wrong and antagonizing the good residents of Sierra Madre. That's why they are hiding. But we can't blame them entirely. We can blame a certain previous City Council that got us into this mess. We also can make sure our new General Plan and Muncipal Code prevent this from ever happening in the future. We can also understand that elections have consequences. We need to get the right people on the City Council and Planning Commission. We have that now thank God. But One Carter just goes to show how bad decisions made even ten years ago can continue to come back to haunt us.

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  18. Cannot wait till they start excavating the site. when they run across the bones of some old Gabrielono buried there. should be interesting to watch the fight between Asian developers in Native Americans.

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    1. The chief of the Gabrielino tribe was here for the hearings when this all started. You can figure out how seriously he was taken by Stockly, Buchanan, Torres and Joffe.

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    2. Those three were very serious about diversity. They'd take money from anybody. Gotta fund those POA pensions they stuck us with, you know.

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    3. Can we get the Chief back again?

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    4. Let's get the Chief back to make sure they monitor the project if it does ever get off the ground. I heard that area was an old burial ground.

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  19. hard to believe that these brilliant developers could think that they were the only ones that ever thought to develop this property. what you look to see what the complications of this site are. wouldn't should look to see if the city residents wanted this to happen. seems to me the people involved with this meeting the bag should be on the hook for a lot more because I sold this developer goods a bill of goods thehatch they won't be able to collect on.

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    1. Their strategy apparently was browbeating and lawsuit threats. Which has not served them well. The unintended consequence is they've become a community laughingstock.

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    2. Begging and squealing all the way, the prestigious architect and lawyer duo have pruned this behomoth down little by little every meeting. Does it fit on that small lot yet, does it fit at all in the hillsides? Not so much. But it's better than it was. But I don't think they should get an approval based of this blow by blow improvement. Hope the commission will look at the next plans with fresh eyes, as thought they are seeing it for the first time.

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    3. The Planning Commission should just deny it at this point. No more back and forth.

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    4. The Planning Commission has spent enough time already. Deny the project and let them do what they need to do. I hope they go bellyup.

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  20. At the last meeting it was mentioned that no soil survey was done. It was not mentioned last night. Also, for the first time for me, adele mentioned an attic. Perhaps we should write the PC and ask for the owners to speak on their own behalf, mention the attic space, the lack of soil testing that we no of, and several of the other concerns addressed on this forum. I can't find e-mails for the PC. If anyone has them, could you please post the here or tell us where to find them? Otherwise, I will proceed with snail mail. We also need to have more people at the next meeting. Adele, who very ungraciously said she would answer any questions from the audence last night, needs to hear us roar.

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    Replies
    1. Excellent points. You can send an email to the Planning Commssion, care of the Director of Development Services (now Planning and Preservation I guess).
      dcastro@cityofsierramadre.com
      Director Castro will be there for another few weeks. Or maybe just send it in care of the staff member who has been in charge of this project:
      dpurificacion@cityofsierramadre.com

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    2. With all that they have put us through, they should not be cut any slack whatsover. IF anything, I would be tougher on people who don't know know to follow directions.

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  21. Is Richard McDonald with a particular firm? Does anyone know that firm's name?

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    1. Carlson & Nicholas, LLP
      http://www.linkedin.com/pub/richard-mcdonald/9/702/340

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    2. Looks like he's a developer's best friend.

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    3. When I googled him, the Tattler came up the third entry from the top.

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    4. "Nobody reads the Tattler." - Josh Moran

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    5. I wish nobody read The Tattler. You'd be calling me Councilman

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    6. No reading required. All you had to do was look at the pictures.

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  22. Is it true Stonegate has plans to build a moat?

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    1. Not a moat a boat for when the flood comes

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    2. McMansions will move with a stately pace as they are mud flowing down Baldwin towards Arcadia where they belong.

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    3. Gross resource hogs seeking their own.

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  23. I just noticed in the first picture, there's the staff member who has had to shepherd this turkey through the process. The guy to the front of the podium with his head hanging down.

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    1. Hopefully that head is hanging with shame.

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    2. Probably texting.

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    3. Thank you for the e-mail addresses. Did anyone notice or know why elaine was sitting in the back with a hover round scooter?

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    4. The city manager is recovering from a broken ankle.

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    5. She needs a scooter? My insurance would hand me crutches and I'd be left to hop around when needed.

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    6. Aha! We find out what those high priced health plans the City hands out to its executives provide! Scooters for a broken ankle indeed! What is the threshold for a driver and vehicle?

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    7. Too much tap dancing would be my guess.

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    8. Scooter? Bosh. The City Manager has a $33,000 a year health care plan. She gets carried about in a sedan chair manned by 4 bow tied Chippendales.

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    9. Not a very pretty picture there

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    10. Besides the bow tie, what else are the Chippendales wearing?

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  24. The grandson of the Chief of the Gabrielino would be most interested to attend both dig sites on the Stone House/Gate as it is repeated in conversation from old timers in town as to the remains being moved in location on the properties.

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    1. How do we go about that? I am clueless, being fairly new here, if it is a burial site. Is there some place I can get info? Anything to drive adele crazy.

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    2. 5:10 pm I think you are exactly right. But the PC did not bite.

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    3. Did anyone listen to the city attorney last night? Seems like she have been advising the PC to vote yes for the project.

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    4. I thought she was markedly neutral 6:29. Had very little to say, except to smooth things over about the commission needing to see revised plans rather than agreeing to vote on a pig in a poke.

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  25. It'll take a cleverer person than I am to figure this out - but did the architect and the lawyer want the commission to deny them last night, so they could start the law suit today? Were they trying to provoke that result?
    I don't get why there were all those pretend "either or"s?

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    Replies
    1. Winner winner chicken dinner! Moderator, tell 5:10 what they've won...

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    2. Lawsuit Richie McDonald is a genius.

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  26. From today's Pasadena Star News (on-line):

    "San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments agrees to $250,000 settlement with Nicholas Conway"

    Seems Nick was bullied by the SGVCOG into shenanigans that the District Attorney mistook for fradulent behavior. Total compensation Nick and the Arroyo Associates exceeded $700K and a letter was directed saying Nick was a good boy and none of the bad press was his fault. @#$%^&.

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    Replies
    1. Maddening.
      Who was slick Nick's lawyer?

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  27. I think the PC is being played by the developer's lawyer, and Adele is using the incomplete submittal to get automatic approval because PC won't deny.

    This law sets time limits for governmental action on some types of projects (see Government Code sections 65920-65963.1). Failure to act within those time limits can mean automatic approval of a project. The act applies to discretionary projects (those which the local government has the power to deny or conditionally approve) which are "adjudicative" in nature. An adjudicative decision applies existing policies and regulations to a particular situation. Use permits, subdivisions, and variances are all actions subject to the Permit Streamlining Act. The Act does not apply to the adoption or amendment of a general plan or of a zoning ordinance.

    Generally speaking, local government must take action on administrative projects within 180 days of the date upon which the project's final EIR is certified. This period is 60 days when a negative declaration is adopted or the project is exempt from CEQA. A project may be automatically approved under the Act if the jurisdiction fails to make a decision within the time limit and the developer takes certain actions to provide public notice.

    http://ceres.ca.gov/planning/plan_comm/part3.html#permit_anchor

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