|Is Democracy for sale in Sierra Madre?|
The suspicion some residents hold is that the Planning Commission settled this matter in order to avoid a developer initiated lawsuit against the city. An unfortunate concession that many believe happened because the P.C. was unduly pressured to do so. A city that gives in merely to avoid lawsuits is basically surrendering its rights without a fight. The entire One Carter debacle, which began nearly a decade ago, began with just such an embarrassing surrender. And what problems did that ever solve?
A comedic sidelight to all of this tonight is the City Manager's rather dubious claim that residents issuing this call to the City Council for a One Carter review must be charged the developer appeal rate of $7,500 for their pains. An obvious question here being why should City Hall be allowed to double-dip those already paying taxes in this community for the democratic use of their government? Don't residents already pay for such rights when they kindly send in their tax checks?
Most cities require residents to pay a small filing fee for an appeal. Several hundred dollars at most. Sierra Madre has a City Manager who either does not want to follow due process, or merely sees residents as something to exploit for profit.
The City Council should put this matter on the agenda without cost. To do otherwise is to give the impression that democracy in Sierra Madre is only available to the privileged few that can afford to pay for it.
There is nothing in the City of Sierra Madre's fee schedule about residents asking for an appeal in their own city. What the City Manager is erroneously (or cynically) citing are development applicant appeal costs. The kind of thing CETT needed to do when the Planning Commission rejected Adele Chang's McMansion designs.
Wouldn't you have to actually apply for something before you can appeal its rejection? I don't recall any slow growth residents applying for One Carter Conditional Use Permits lately. Do you?
Another point that must be made is this fee is not actually a fee at all. As the City Manager herself puts this, it is a "deposit against costs." Can you find anything about a "deposit against costs" in that fee schedule? What this means is that an initial $7,500 cost could rapidly spin out of control depending on whatever happens later. I mean, what if they hire a consultant?
In other words, should you decide to stand up for what most Sierra Madreans want for this town by appealing CETT's primitive assault on architectural decorum here to the City Council, you really would have no idea what this will cost you going in. That would be in the hands of City Hall. And given their seemingly endless obsession with obtaining more money, and at every possible turn, who knows how much you would end up having to pay?
No city government that really that gives a damn about its residents would charge them $7,500 plus costs to appeal a planning decision. This is an attempt at intimidation, pure and simple. It is sad to think that city employees, people whose salaries are taken out of resident tax money, have such an undemocratic and greedy attitude about the rights of their perhaps overly generous benefactors.
Another matter of interest, which also fits into today's theme that City Hall views residents merely as a profit center, is this unhappy item:
Here is what one commenter had to say about this yesterday:
The city now has a new way to get more money from us. Check out item 5, Property Sale Inspection Program, on tomorrow night’s city council agenda. They want to start inspecting every house when it is sold, FOR A FEE OF COURSE, to make sure, among other things; our smoke detectors are working, under the guise of protecting our health.
Big Brother‘s appetite has no limit. There will never be enough money for them. The things they want to charge us to inspect are already being done under State law. Every homeowner must check the smoke detectors, hot water heater bracing, earthquake shutoff on the gas meter, etc. Every homeowner must disclose all defects and unpermitted conditions to the buyer. Escrow cannot close until this is done.
So, three guesses why the city wants to start inspecting every house that is sold and the first two don’t count. Someone please speak against this tomorrow night. It is conveniently the last item on the agenda.
That pretty much nails it.
Item #4 will hopefully put an end to a conversation that has been going on for too long. The City Manager's often repeated contention that city employees should somehow be paid more while also providing fewer hours of service is a contradiction that never quite got its wings. Hopefully the City Council puts a fork in it tonight.
And so it goes. It all begins at 6:30. Set your clocks.