Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Barry Gold's Solution to the Delayed Completion of the General Plan

(Mod: Barry's e-mail went out to the Mayor and City Council yesterday. It presents a common sense and urgently needed solution to some of the problems presented by the chronically delayed completion of Sierra Madre's long hoped for General Plan update. We are reproducing it here in hopes of building support for what we believe to be a very good and timely idea.)



November 11, 2014

Mayor John Harabedian
Mayor pro-Tem John Capoccia
Council Member Rachelle Arizmendi
Council Member Denise Delmar
Council Member Gene Goss
City of Sierra Madre
232 W. Sierra Madre Blvd.
Sierra Madre, CA 91024

Dear Mayor and Council Members,

My wife Judy and I moved from Arcadia to Sierra Madre three years ago.  We chose Sierra Madre because this city prided itself on preserving its unique character as stated on the city's website which I have highlighted below.

"The City of Sierra Madre is a small, quaint, safe, and friendly town in the San Gabriel Valley region of Los Angeles County, California. The population is about 11,000. The city encompasses approximately 3.01 square miles. It is in the Foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains below the southern edge of the Angeles National Forest with the cities of Pasadena and Altadena to its west, and Arcadia to its south and east. Sierra Madre is one of the few cities in the region which has fully been able to retain its village quality despite pressures for growth, modernization and diversification."

Indeed this city has resisted inappropriate growth for decades, however, the pressures from developers who want to build outrageously large and offensively designed mansions is becoming intolerable.

To protect and preserve this city's unique character a Steering Committee was formed to update our General Plan.  After several years that plan is now in your hands and you have already reviewed the Land Use portion. Allowing the public to freely participate in the review process resulted in making changes to the Plan that will significantly reinforce the goal of preserving Sierra Madre.

By early next year you will have finished your review of the General Plan and the Implementation Program.  At that time the EIR will begin.  This can take six months or more.  It is possible that the EIR report will require a few changes to the General Plan.  This could take a couple of more months.  Finally the Municipal Code will have to be updated to comply with the new General Plan.  This will take a few more months.  So it could easily be well over a year from now before everything is in place.

 The developers are aware of this and they will make every effort to build as many oversized homes as they can before the new Plan and Codes are in effect.

This brings me to the reason that I am writing to you.  I suggest that the City Council pass a Temporary Stop-Gap measure to prevent oversized home building until the new General Plan and Municipal Code is in place.

The citizens of other cities are now waking up to the McMansion problem and their city councils are exploring ways to temporally halt McMansionization while they formulate permanent solutions.  Los Angeles is drafting a temporary stop-gap measure knowing that it will take a long time to complete a permanent solution and that countless McMansions could be built during that time.

I am not sure what form these stop-gap measures should take.  Maybe something as simple as reducing the total allowable square footage of all new and remolded houses that would be over 3,500 S.F. by 20 or 25%.  Maybe putting an absolute limit on the total square footage a house can be.  Or increasing the minimum lot size for lot splits to 12,500 S.F. Or a combination of a few, but simple things that do not depend on complicated formulas.

I am sure the Acting Development Director, the City Manager, the Planning Commission Members and community members could quickly come up with simple temporary changes to the Municipal Code which would protect us until the General Plan and the Municipal Codes changes are completed.

It would be so irresponsible for us to allow homes to be built that we are in the process of forbidding because we could not get our General Plan and Municipal Code changes done in time to prevent the type of development that we all know will forever destroy the charm of this “small, quaint, safe, and friendly town”.

I believe a Temporary Stop-Gap Measure to prevent oversized development would be an important item to include on the agenda of the next City Council meeting.

Respectfully,

Barry Gold

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

55 comments:

  1. Right on, Mr. Gold!

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  2. Excellent idea. Thank you, Mr. Gold.

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    1. Mr. Gold, your ideas couldn't be better. Thanks very much for helping our council find the right course here!

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  3. Good idea. I believe this is the same thing Clem Bartoli encouraged the Council to do several months ago. maybe this time they'll hear it.

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    1. Clem is a thoughtful man with good ideas. As a former Mayor his word carries a lot of weight.

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    2. I think Bartoli is great, but "former mayors" are a very mixed bunch....

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    3. The only two former Mayors who have spoken out on this issue are Clem and MaryAnn. All of the others have been very quiet.

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    4. The things those other Mayors want can't be said in public.

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    5. of course John Buchanan is staying silent - McMansions use more electricity which in turn benefit his employer SoCal Edision

      he's always been about what's best for SoCal Edision, not SM

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    6. The former mayors who joined together to defeat Measure V should be ashamed of themselves. I remember that postcard very well. A group of jerks who would be happy to see Sierra Madre turn into Pasadena, or Arcadia.

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    7. Former mayors like Joe Mosca or Nancy Walsh?
      Maybe we can specify the good formers and the bad formers.

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    8. Mayor Moran has been keeping his powder dry. Maybe he hopes his mom and her friends might be able to sell some of these.

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    9. Mosca and Walsh were employee union functionaries. Neither one gave a damn about the taxpayers.

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    10. So many of the people we've elected to the city council turned out to be in somebody's pocket.

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    11. Every day that goes by without Nancy Walsh speaking in support of issues that most concern the residents of Sierra Madre, just reinforces why she was such a bad Mayor. Its rather remarkable.

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  4. This needs to be agendized. We are going to know where the City Council really stands of McMansionizing Sierra Madre very soon. This is one of the issues that will rip their veil away.

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    1. I know that some of them would come through as concerned and thoughtful residents who truly care about the town. My question is would they all?

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  5. Elaine is rolling her eyes and wishing the meddling public would stay out of city business

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    1. Sierra Madre needs a City Manager that understands the need to make do with what is there. Elaine appears to believe she never has enough, and has turned her job into that of government fund raiser. And that includes making big chunks of the town available to McMansion developers. Time for the City Council to show some backbone and defend the town.

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    2. San Marino has got one of those now, too. Residents are battling at almost every public hearing these days...the city wants to tear down a perfectly good structure, Stoneman School, so that they can squeeze bond money out of the residents. The city programs run at about a 30% loss. This kind of insanity is driven by the borrow and spend mentality that is shocking when it erupts in that town.

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    3. Aguilar sees herself and the rest of staff as victims, self-sacrificing victims.

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    4. 7:32, I couldn't agree more.
      A good manager knows how to make things work well even when resources are scarce.

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    5. A city mngr that knows how to stretch a buck would be much more valuable to us now.

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    6. Elaine is probably more preservationist-minded than most people give her credit for. I don't think she would be hostile to an ordiance like this.

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  6. can anybody actually explain why this city needs a "development director"?

    the sole purpose of that position is to promote and accelerate development and that is an organizational flaw with city management, vision and intent to circumvent Measure V

    we need a "resident services director"

    that position has caused us so many problems in the past - it contradicts our General Plan and what we the residents want for the city

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    1. That's exactly right. Although we were on the right track when the name was switched from the Director of Development Services to Director of......I can't remember what they called it but it was a significant improvement in what we had before. Hopeful, the new person will have a preservationist mentatlity.

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  7. Barry Gold's idea is of vital importance. Alot of damage can be done until the General Plan is approved and the Municipal Code is updated to reflect that General Plan. Time is of the essence here. The City Council must take some action immediately along the lines of what Mr. Gold recommends. To do anything less, is irresponsible and goes against everything the City Council is on record as being concerned about.

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    1. I agree. It is time for the City Council to step up and back their fine words with real deeds.

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    2. Since all of our Councilmembers ran as slow growth candidates, any of them that comes down on the side of McMansions will have broken their word to the voters.

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    3. This is the time to take action. It could be years before the General Plan is approved and the Municipal Code is changed to reflect the new General Plan. Meanwhile, development is actually accelerated in the interim. Mr. Gold's recommendation is a sound one.

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  8. What a fine addition to Sierra Madre Mr. & Mrs. Gold are. We need all the new residents coming here to have that attitude. Instead of a CONSIDERATION OF A PROPERTY SALE INSPECTION PROGRAM the city proposes next council meeting I would endorse a NEW RESIDENT ATTITUDE INSPECTION PROGRAM and I would put the Golds in charge of it. Think about it, there is more money to be made off of potential new residents than homes being sold, what 10 interests for each house. By the way, just how much is this proposed property inspections anyway? I just see another unnecessary cost to the home owner.

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    1. Just more city hall fund raising. Do you think they'd stop at looting things like a kids fishing contest?

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    2. If they don't get the fees from an additional property inspection they'll have to close the Library!

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    3. Thank you Mr. Goss.

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    4. The love the library campaign is not really a local effort. It's national. The librarians know their time is limited.

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    5. Library people are also preservationist. The real ones I mean. They see a library as an important part of the village life we all love. We need to make that connection for people.

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  9. The Golds are Arcadia's loss and Sierra Madre's gain. Thanks for being concerned residents. We need more like you.

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    1. The Gold's are so passionate because they have lived it. As former residents of Arcadia, they saw that City get ruined. Now the same forces are at the gates of Sierra Madre. There are no many homes for sale advertising lot splits and other ways for developers and speculators to make a buck off of ruining Sierra Madre the same way. I guess I can also be angry with the residents of Sierra Madre who are trying to cash-out while they can. I guess they are moving and who cares what happens to Sierra Madre after they are gone. Thanks a lot.

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

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    3. Did you have business of your own to mind?

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  10. The solution is pretty simple for preventing mansionization in a Zoning Code: limit lot coverage to 35%, generous side setbacks of 10 feet or more, front and rear set backs of 25 feet or more, height limit of 27 feet, with a sloping setback line for roofs. The area of the allowed structure itself can be limited by statutory lot size using Floor Area Ratio (FAR). These are standard zoning formulas.

    On top of that, the city develops design guidelines that emphasize compatibility of neighborhood scale, even trumping the zoning regulations. All residential plans have to go through a design committee review to comply with these issues.

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    1. 9:49, will you consider running for council, on that platform?

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    2. Those are commonsense suggestions. Either we want to stop McMansions or we don't. Its actually pretty easy to do if the residents demand it. Just place the restrictions we want in the Municipal Code.

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  11. We are at a moment with truth in this issue. I hope everyone realizes that.

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    1. Most of the residents don't - but they sure will if the forces for over-development aren't stopped. No more "little village we love so much."

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  12. The truth shall set you free.

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    1. The truth takes a lot of work. There are so many falsehoods out there.

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    2. “Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”
      ~ George Orwell
      (from the novel, 1984)

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    3. “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”
      ― Winston S. Churchill

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    4. The best truth is the kind that pisses people off.

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  13. I wonder if Mr. Gold would consider running for council.

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    1. I'd work for him, and for Matt Bryant.
      Give the town a chance.

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    2. We need a city council majority that knows big changes are needed.

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    3. If we can get a good solid consistent majority on the City Council, Sierra Madre is saved. Denise and Rachelle are reliable preservationists. Capoccia is too but a little bit of a wild card. Goss ran on that platform and his views will be flushed out pretty soon. God only knows where Harabedian stands.

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