Saturday, December 20, 2014

Arcadia Weekly: Arcadia Council Deals a Blow to Builders

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(Mod: The Arcadia Weekly is a sister paper of the Sierra Madre Weekly, both of which are products of Beacon Media out of Monrovia. This article also appeared on Thursday in our local version, so perhaps you have already had a look at this reasonably good news. If not, then I suggest you head downtown and grab yourself a copy. The Weekly is always an informative read. And let's face it, if Arcadia's city government can respond positively to public anger over McMansions, then maybe the world really can turn upside down. Even here in Sierra Madre. Written by Lynne Curry, in my mind there are questions that still remain. Was this decision too little too late, and is the overall damage to Highland Oaks - and Arcadia in general - already too far gone?)

Arcadia Council Deals a Blow to Builders (link): In a unanimous vote, the Arcadia City Council backed irate homeowners and dealt a blow to builders in the city seeking to tear down existing houses and replace them with enormous mansions. At a public hearing in its moderately filled chamber, the City Council agreed with the Planning Commission’s decision to uphold the ruling of the Highlands Homeowners’ Association (HOA) and rejected the developer’s appeal. The Highlands HOA’s Architectural Review Board (ARB) had denied design plans for a new nearly 7,000 square-foot two-story single-family residence at 211 Monte Place, a cul-de-sac off of Canyon Road. ARB had turned down the builder’s plans on grounds that the proposed home was “incompatible in mass and scale to the surrounding buildings in the neighborhood.”

According to Highlands HOA statistics, the majority of the homes in the Highlands area are less than 5,000 square feet.
Hog Heaven: A 16,538 square foot KVH special

In front of a group of unhappy Highland homeowners and City Council members, Kurt Von Hatten, the project designer of KVH Design Group, argued that he and his staff had made significant adjustments to their plan to take into consideration resident concerns about the massive scale of the proposed home. Some of Mr. Von Hatten’s suggested modifications included increasing the home’s setback from the nearby hillside, moving the entire house further away from the curb than the existing house, placing the three-car garage as far back on the lot as possible, and putting the driveway on the side of the home.

However, City Council members didn’t buy Mr. Von Hatten’s arguments. They expressed concern that Mr. Von Hatten had not adequately consulted the neighbors about the house’s proposed square footage nor had the developer adhered to safety issues by proposing building within such close proximity of a hillside, given the possibility of the danger of mud slides.

“It bothered me that the developer did not want to meet the neighbors, appease the neighbors, or compromise, because the neighbors will still be there when the developer sells the house,” said Tom Beck, Council member. “It makes no sense to build so close to a hillside . . .”

Added John Wuo, Arcadia’s mayor, “I used to live on a hillside. Sometimes things happen you can’t anticipate. If this were 30,000 [square feet] and you build 7,000 square feet, that’s not unreasonable. But this is not flat-it’s a hillside. You need more of a setback.”

The first Highlands resident to speak at the hearing, April Verlato, an attorney and member of the Highlands HOA ARB, discussed Resolution 6770, a contract between the city and HOAs that grants HOAs design review authority. The scope includes the elements of size-mass, scale, height, length, and width. She raised the concept of size with the developer, but there is no maximum limit on square footage. Without knowing the actual square footage, which is used as a reference point, she said “we are unable to visualize how big in proportion to the other surrounding homes this one is going to be.”

Ms. Verlato also said that the HOA had offered to meet with the developer to discuss design reviews, but he had refused to do so, saying there could be no changes.

This issue has galvanized many other Highlands residents. “We did get caught off-guard . . . but there is a movement within the Highland Oaks HOA and within neighborhoods by people who want to see more control of what is going on and what’s being put up in the neighborhood,” said David Arvizu, a Highlands HOA ARB member.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

30 comments:

  1. I wonder if Arcadia's City Council was getting tired of people saying they're a bunch of sellouts.

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    1. I wish I thought that the were finally, finally trying to save themselves.
      But I've been involved in local politics a long time - long enough to know the truth is probably something happened behind the scenes that we don't know about.

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    2. The Highlands HOA has the good luck to have a lawyer living there who is interested in maintaining that beautiful neighborhood.
      Developers are not the only ones who can sue cities.

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    3. We need to get Kurt Zimmerman to move back to Sierra Madre.

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    4. Don't be fooled. This is a one-off decision just for this one applicant. The builder is not one of the regulars who has oiled the city council members. The city has approved over 16 McMansions in the Highlands. This is just a crumb they are throwing at the public to lull them into in-action. There are more hearings coming and it's generally understood that the developers will win those rounds, as the developers are well known supporters of four out of five city councilmen.

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    5. I heard that this decision was blessed by the main two developers to keep new builder Mr. Von Hatten out of Arcadia. The City Council gleefully rejected this one plan knowing well that they won't offend any of their doners and at the same time help them by keeping this new builder out of this market.

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  2. If I didn't read it, I wouldn't believe it. I would have thought Arcadia was too far gone for those folks in the Highlands to change the tsunami of development that's now reaching their area. But I guess no one should underestimate the power of the people and as Abrahmam Lincoln once said, "Right makes might". Maybe cut Arcadia in half and let the developers and those who want the 6,000 foot Mansions have lower Arcadia and let the people who believe in leaving existing neighborhhoods alone and who believe in a more sustainable way of life and who don't believe in excess, have the Highlands.

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    1. I don't think the City of Arcadia is too happy about all the publicity they have been getting lately. It makes them look like fools. Or worse.

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    2. You mean to say being known as "The Mistress City" wasn't work out for them? But why?

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    3. The real mistresses serve on Arcadia's City Council.

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  3. It appears that all this tearing down of homes is even too much for the City Council of Arcadia. I'd like to hope that they have come around a bit and are listening to the resident's concerns. However, the cynical side of me says that maybe these McMansions are now coming too close to home for them. In other words, now its in their backyard because they live in the Highlands and so now want to stop it.

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    1. The city council members live all over the town.
      And a huge number of tear-downs have already gotten permits.
      Things are not going to get any better for a while.

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  4. If the City Council of Arcadia can do it. surely the City Council of Sierra Madre can do it. Do the words from the Highlands Architectural Review Board sound familiar when they say the house was "incompatible in mass and scale with surounding buildings in the neighborhood." Let's see now. Where have I heard that before? Oh, yes, the first house proposed for One Carter/Stonegate. These City Councils are on sound legal footage not to allow a developer to ruin a neighborhood for the existing neighbors. Can you imagine being in a smaller house and being next to door to one of those monstrosities that blocks your views, light and privacy. Well, the neighbors have property right too. Glad to see they are being upheld in the Highlands over outside developers like this one and the likes of Mur-Sol that has been doing a lot of the tearing down and McManionization around town.

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  5. "Just say No to developers." Maybe that should be a new slogan.

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  6. "there is no maximum limit on square footage"
    No wonder this all happened to Arcadia.

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    1. It's certainly where I would go to hire Vonhatten to build a 20,000 square foot mansion.
      http://www.kvhdesigngroup.com

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  7. Sierra Madre can be saved. But we need aggressive measure put in place now. Surprisingly, maybe even Arcadia has a limit to this madness of tearing down every home in sight. Sierra Madre needs to get out ahead of all this. The City Council needs to direct staff to look at all the various odinances, rules and regulations in the various towns that are trying to stop these kind of developments and take the best and tightest ones. There's no reason to reinvent the wheel here. Get it in place and then we don't all have to spend our time fighting these battles.

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  8. So who's 'the applicant'? Who's behind the curtain. Von Hatten is the Adele Chang or Richard MacDonald, and the real owner is....
    It could be that 'the applicant' has made some serious errors in the PR department, or has a doozy of a history.

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    1. Highland Oaks might be a fig leaf. Now the City Council in Arcadia can say they took a stand against McMansions, while at the same time allowing massive amounts of tear downs everywhere else in town. I think they've been bought. This is just PR.

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    2. For sure. Can anyone imagine how much $$$ Arcadia is collecting in Development Impact Fees? It gotta be a bunch.

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    3. Fully funded pensions for everyone! Well, OK. Maybe not you.

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    4. The City of Arcadia sold out for the money. The residents were complicit. Certainly, the ones who were going to move away didn't mind selling out ot the highest bidder and leaving the remaining residents to fend for themselves. I have a novel idea for Sierra Madre. Let's all agree not to sell our homes.

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  9. Two different houses at addresses in the Highlands, and two different organizations fighting them? Or is the HOA the same thing as the Save the Highlands group? If not, they better combine their efforts.

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  10. The issues are only to do with the closeness to the hillside. Hardly a blow to developers. This is not some moratorium on building. It's not a change in direction for Arcadia government. Getting blown out of proportion as some victory for anti development crowds. It's a "blow to builder" not "builders" and it will be corrected with a new design with a slightly larger set back

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    1. In Arcadia they belive in property owner rights. Unless, of course, you are the property owner next door. Then you're dog meat.

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    2. Yes, that Asst. City Manager in Arcadia threw out the red herring that "we believe in private property rights here in Arcadia". As 10:07 points out. What about the private property rights of the neighbors next door who bought their homes and paid a certain price based on its location, views, light, privacy etc....Some jerk builds a big McMansion next door and only selfishly cares about themselves. If you impact on a neighbors views, privacy, light etc..., you have reduced the value of their home not to mention their enjoyment of their property. While we can't force people to be considerate of their neighbors, we can put rules in place to prevent these people from hurting their neighbors. The neighbors have private property rights too.

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    3. When Arcadia City Hall talks about private property rights, they're really talking about giving carte blanche to developers to build as big as they want. Why? Because of the money it will bring to City Hall. Can we please start calling this what it really is, which is corruption? In the hands of crooks like these development impact fees are nothing more than developer bribes.

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  11. There is always a tipping point. Highland Oaks has finally hit theirs. If they had been driving around other areas of Arcadia, 10th St. Singing Woods (drive over there for an eye-opener: Bordered between Foothill, Orange Grove, Baldwin and Michilinda), they would have seen this coming.

    Sierra Madre's first one was Lawson Martin's effort to subdivide the first of his acreage above the Chantry gate, 4 acres into 1 homesite for my family, and maybe a second one for a "friend" and whoops, then 2 more. A group of 25+ people signed the open space agreement with his attorney for 2 lots and the rest as "not a part." Then he went to his second Sierra Madre/Chantry Gate project, penciled out on a flat piece of paper = 30 odd houses, as a hillside canyon only 13! Sierra Madre Mountain Conservancy eventually bought these two parcels but he still had nearly 75 acres left in Arcadia and Monrovia. The Arcadia lots have been up for sale and back and forth for 25 years. Most recently there was a sale of the small hairpin turn lot in Arcadia but there is no access off of Santa Anita unless you used a helicopter. Someone bought this for $6,000.00 and came to Sierra Madre public works department to see if they could punch in a driveway across SMMountain Conservancy open space easement. Not only "NO" but NO!

    One of the biggest pluses in this early effort was the fact that an Arcadia homeowner, whose lot backed up to the second project, ex husband was a lawyer for developers in Orange County and he knew how this worked on the opposite side. The Sierra Madre Hillside Coalition (headed by Verna Chilton and Caroline Brown) hired him and got Lawson Martin project stimied by the first Hillside Ordinance long enough for the Sierra Madre Mountain Conservancy to buy it at fair market value, willing buyer/willing seller.

    Now are at tipping point #3 in Sierra Madre (having a rotten City Council for #2 got us One Carter/Stonegate). The work of the Preserve Sierra Madre (www.PreserveSierraMadre.com) will carry on to preserve Sierra Madre!

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  12. Right now, we see what' happened in Sierra Madre. We are too late for Camillo, Lima and Mariposa. We are fighting back at One Carter/Stonegate. Soon we will be dealing with Stonehouse, Mater Dolorosa and 576 Elm. We need to monitor what's going on at City Hall. What's the best way to know when and who has submitted application for doing some ot these horrible projects so that we don't arrive too late in the process to do any good?

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  13. If you support PReserve Sierra Madre, send them a check!

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