Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Los Angeles City Hall Corruption Leads To The Destruction Of The 100-Year-Old Oswald Bartlett House In Los Feliz

Ain't I special?
(Mod: The following article is up on the City Watch site, and it details a classic example of how big money and political influence peddling can lead to the destruction of historic landmarks, or even entire neighborhoods. Money, be it in the form of campaign donations or even the corrupting influence of development impact fees, are tools that can be used anywhere a developer wants to get it done. Something to keep in mind when the City Council considers a now very timely Moratorium on the Demolition of Older Structures on January 6.)

City Hall ‘Culture’ Aids the Death of Cultural Landmark (John SchwadaCityWatchLA.com link): LA DEATH WATCH - City Hall’s culture of tolerating rule-breaking, secrecy and special interest influence-peddling was on vivid display Saturday when a developer’s giant, house-killing backhoe demolished the 100-year-old, Oswald Bartlett House, a cultural landmark in Los Feliz.

It did not have to turn out this way.

In fact, an anonymous “philanthropist” was trying to buy the Bartlett and save it from destruction only hours before the backhoe began clawing the house into a pile of rubble. According to Doug Haines of the Hollywood Neighborhood Council, the potential buyer offered to purchase the Bartlett from developer Elan Mordoch for $1.5 million - twice what Mordoch originally paid for the property.

“The developer chose to be greedy and spiteful instead of a good neighbor,” said Haines. “Mordoch’s attorney (Ben Reznik) said he would sell only if the offer was in the $3 million range. In effect, Mordoch was ready to flip the property if he could quadruple his initial investment.”

The Bartlett House was - according to many independent experts - a cultural-historic treasure, a rare example of the early work of A.C. Martin, a leading architect who significantly contributed to the built-environment of this city during the first half of the 20th century. A half-dozen of Martin's works, including LA City Hall itself, are listed as official city landmarks.

Much of the responsibility for this unfortunate ending rests with the LA City Council.

Last Wednesday (Dec. 15) the City Council had the opportunity to declare the Bartlett an official “historic-cultural monument,” a designation that would have protected the house from immediately being razed. Designation would have introduced a major – but not insurmountable - impediment to Mordoch’s plan to build a six-unit townhouse project on the Bartlett site and possibly induced the developer to cut a deal with the anonymous buyer.

But the council voted to sign the Bartlett’s death warrant by denying it monument status.

But there’s more to this unfortunate saga.

If the council had declared the Bartlett a “monument” it would have sent a welcome and healthy message to Mordoch - and all developers - that there is a penalty to be paid for misleading the public and city officials about the impact of their projects.

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The fact is that Mordoch failed to disclose in his early environmental documents - submitted to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) - that the Bartlett house was a "cultural resource.” Instead those documents dismissed the Bartlett as a non-descript “older single-family residence.”

For months, the truth about the Bartlett’s significance was a well-kept secret.

As a result, city planning officials operated in the dark. When they considered Mordoch's application for land-use entitlements (including zoning variances) for his project, these misinformed officials did not – as they should have - consider possible mitigations to protect even a shred of the cultural history threatened by the developer's project.

Similarly, Mordoch’s misleading environmental documents kept the public in the dark. If members of the community had known the truth about the Bartlett, they could have made their voices heard during the planning review process and demanded steps to mitigate the impact of Mordoch’s project on an important cultural resource.

More importantly, the developer's misleading environmental assessment prevented the community from making a timely request of the Cultural Heritage Commission to protect the house by designating it as a monument. Inarguably, the commission – which rejected designation - was strongly influenced by Mordoch’s argument that designation would unfairly interfere with his project after he had invested so much time, money and effort in securing his land-use entitlements.

But that argument rings hollow. It ignores the fact Mordoch obtained his entitlements – with all his time, money and effort – with a misleading environmental assessment.

The Bartlett’s death was also a victory for backroom influence-peddling.

Bartlett supporters – after belatedly learning of the Bartlett's significance –found themselves playing against a stacked deck.

When supporters urged the Cultural Heritage Commission to declare the house a monument, the developer's ally, Gabriel Eshaghian, reportedly threatened to use his political influence with Mayor Garcetti's office to block such a designation.

Make no mistake, Eshaghian has clout. He contributed to Garcetti’s campaign for mayor and co-hosted two fund-raisers for Garcetti, one at Jimmy Kimmel’s house, the other at his own home (rich irony: Eshaghian’s saves about $15,000 a year in property taxes on his own home because it is a city-designated monument).  Eshaghian is now, unsurprisingly, a Garcetti-appointee on the city's powerful Airport Commission.

The mayor's aides, according to multiple witnesses, also made their objections to landmark status for the house loudly known to Councilman Tom LaBonge when LaBonge - in whose district the Bartlett is located – initially offered to help save the house. Perhaps that push-back from the mayor explains LaBonge's subsequent lackluster efforts to protect the Bartlett and finally his support for its demolition.

It was also revealed that Garcetti's office – at the very least - signaled the Cultural Heritage Commission staff that it was interested in how the commission (all Garcetti appointees) was handling the Bartlett monument application. Did that have any effect? The commission’s chief says no. But Bartlett supporters are unconvinced.

The death of the Bartlett signifies more than the loss of an irreplaceable cultural asset. It also represents another triumph for City Hall’s own troubling ‘culture’ that tolerates rule-breaking, secrecy and influence-peddling.

Eric's got pensions to pay. ABC News video and story linked here.
http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com  

51 comments:

  1. Another One Bites The Dust, and another one, and another one,

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    1. We should always remember not to expect the developer to care about historical structures or traffic or what a project will do to the neighbors. They do not care. They care only about maximizing their profit. It is up to the neighbors and community to care and fight these kinds of outrages and put in place limitations so that they are not allowed to happen in the first place. We should also punish our political representatives who allow these projects to go forward despite the opposition of the residents who elected these representatives.

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    2. A lot of it is the fault of the citizens themselves. When Garcetti was elected just 19% of the voters turned out to vote. It was even lower in the primary. Democracy only works when there is an informed citizenry that actively participates in elections. Otherwise you end up with bums who work for special interests and cronies. Like Garcetti.

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  2. No politician is in favor of tearing down beautiful old homes so developers like this ass can build condos. But somehow it just keeps happening.

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    1. I'm sure it is just a coincidence.

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    2. Isn't Garcetti buds with our Mayor, Johnny Harabedian?

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    3. Mayor Harabedian endorsed Garcetti for LA Mayor, even though we don't vote there. But then, Johnny endorses everyone. Here he endorsed McDonnell for Sheriff:
      http://www.mcdonnellforlacountysheriff.com/#!endorsements/cee5
      Here he endorsed Tanaka for Sheriff:
      http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-FnRZ8krWi0E/VAAHBwSyvjI/AAAAAAAAOAM/oYM6kIVX5ho/s1600/Screen%2BShot%2B2014-08-28%2Bat%2B9.50.14%2BPM.png

      I guess it pays to cover all of the bases.

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    4. He was against McDonnell (and endorsed Tanaka) before he was for McDonnell.

      I didn't get the press release that Johnny had retracted his Paul Tanaka endorsement. Must have missed it.

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    5. Does he know Jimmy Kimmel?

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    6. 8:15 - the Tanaka retraction went out by email, but the North Koreans blocked it.

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  3. A sad loss.
    Not replaceable.

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  4. It is nice to see that Eric inherited Gil's teeth.

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    1. He needs them to bite the heads off of small helpless things.

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  5. It's just money.
    That's all developers care about, or find meaning in - profits are their gods.
    The Modern Barbarians.

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    1. It is a marriage made in hell. Politicians need the money to pay off the local govt unions, developers need the space to spread their ruin. We are being sold out big time. Welcome to one party corruption. LA County style.

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    2. Yes, Garcetti really, really likes developers. Ignore the greenwashing he does around the LA River projects. It's just more development.

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    3. Eric's Muckety diagram is here. He's riding on daddy's old network and building his own on top of that. You'll never find a direct line of influence, it's just lethal.

      http://www.muckety.com/Eric-Garcetti/216120.muckety

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    4. What did Don Corleone's Muckety profile look like?

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  6. Why was there no early action taken to prevent this? People trusted the development community or city hall?

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  7. "The current owner and developer Elan Mordoch plans to build a six-unit townhome complex on the property."

    You think he might be in on the Mater Dolorosa deal?

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  8. This is just another reason why you have to have a strong preservationist movement in your community if you don't want to see developers come in and destroy things. Developers literally scour the country for places that have not been built upon for the simple reason that nobody wants certain areas built upon. That's why for so many years they weren't built upon. In Sierra Madre, One Carter/Stonegate, The Monastery, Stonehouse, 576 Elm come to mind. Just like the developer who razed this property in Los Feliz, they don't care about our neighborhoods, additional traffic, stop lights, polllution, displacement of wildlife, and cultural and historical landmarks..... All the developer cares about is their profit i.e. the "money" as the Tattler rightly points out. If the community cares less about preserving their neighborhoods then the developer cares about their profit, then the developers will win every time. They count on a community being apathetic, complacent and timid.
    After having ruined Arcadia, developers like Mur-Sol are now exploiting loopholes in Sierra Madre. Just take a look at the big townhouse project at the 400 block on Mariposa that used to be the site of a single family home. If Mur-Sol has its way, every house in Sierra Madre would be razed to the ground in favor of those garish McMansions we see in Arcadia. Talk to Leticia and Elaine about what plans on in the works for future projects like 576 Elm. We have to put limitations in place to prevent this from happening in our General Plan as well as our Municipal Code and we have to do it NOW! Each project in and of itself will not break the camel's back just like when things got started in Arcadia. But pretty soon you wake up and your town is unrecognizable and, like Arcadia, you reach that tipping point where now it can't be stopped.

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    1. Sorry 8:48 Maraiposa was not a single family home but about 5 small old houses , Mursol is local and have been building in Sierra Madre for over 20 years . I do not like thier big houses but no loop hole was used in any of them they just used the rules that anybody can and anybody will till the rules are changed

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    2. Hopefully the City Council does the right thing on January 6 and "Loophole Houses" won't happen anymore.

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    3. My mistake about the five small houses but what Mur- Sol built certainly changed the complexion of the neighborhood over there. If Mur-Sol had their way, they would do those projects on every single piece of land in Sierra Madre. I'm not saying they are doing anything illegal and you are right that they are exploiting to the maximum the existing rules. My only point is that they don't care about preserving Sierra Madre. It takes certain kind of people who are willing to ruin a community to line their pockets. Because I have a conscience, its not something I would be willing to do.

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    4. Mur-Sol must be very hardwired into City Hall. Maybe Preserve Sierra Madre might want to submit their first Public Records Act request regarding any dealings between Mur-Sol and city employees?

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    5. That's the problem 10:50. Most residents don't have a constant and on-going relationship with city employees. Developers, on the other hand, are constantly working with the city employees and that relationship often becomes too cozy to the detriment of the community. Look at how obseqious Derek was with Adele Chang and that lawyer McDonald. He was like a secretary and at their every beck and call. Developers know that developing good relationships with the various city employees is crucial to their goals.

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    6. Mur-Sol has its tentacles into City Hall big-time. If you don't think that city employees are doing them special favors, you've got your head in the sand. I have no evidence that Mur-Sol is corrupt but I've read too many newspaper articles about the graft that goes on to get big projects approved. It would be naive to think that City Madre is immune from this. It doesn't have to manifest itself by a suitcase full of cash but it can be in the form of giving someone Laker tickets or taking them to lunch. Its all the same thing - just on a different scale. The pupose is to gain influence.

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    7. Does any one know who the owners of Mur-Sol are since we will be encountering them often in the years ahead?

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    8. Zoning is the problem. That Mariposa thing is in a high density zone.

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    9. 12;29 I do , alot of people in town do , some live in town , you can look them up the are not hidding , they go to city meetings when they have a project go to some and see them

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    10. 12:29 you have a computer look them up

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    11. I'd like to know who they are too 1:36. You can't have it both ways. They may be friends of yours but the fact is that they have built some of the biggest homes in Arcadia that we are all against. How come there seems to be a reticence to say who they are? Let's hear about what their goals are for development in Sierra Madre? I'd like to know if they plan on doing to Sierra Madre what they have been doing to Arcadia?

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    12. Thank you, 6:12.

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    13. Kickstart your Mur-Sol searchDecember 30, 2014 at 6:22 PM

      Paste this into your browser:

      http://mur-sol.com/construction/about.html

      According to an old voter list, Jasen Grohs lived on Montecito but may have moved on due to the Grohs boys absurdly upward mobility.

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    14. I'd like to know who they are so I can see which City Council members in Sierra Madre are receiving campaign contributions from them. You see 1:36, I know that since they are very active developers who you say live in Sierra Madre and are doing development projects in Sierra Madre, they will be supporting candidates who will further their development interests. Once those candidates are elected you can expect them to do favors for those that supported their campaigns. Its done all the time. I would also expect developers who have multi-million dollar projects at stake to donate much more money than the average Joe in Sierra Madre which gives the developers greater influence and control over the electoral process. Its all about transparency my friend. I'm sure Mur-Sol knows where to put their money and which are the right parties to go to to gain influence in the community. Their gain will usually be the community's loss.

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    15. 1:36 says "some live in this town". Gee whiz, how many are there? Is Mur-Sol composed of ten people who live in Sierra Madre and hope to do to Sierra Madre what they continue to do to Arcadia and evidently have already started doing to Sierra Madre already? How connected are they to City Hall? How did the Mariposa project go down? What other projects do they have in mind in Sierra Madre? Who finds them the projects? Is it realtors here in town and do they get help from employees at City Hall? Just curious.....

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    16. Maybe we should re-visit the Zoning map that the City Council is about to approve for the General Plan. You have all sorts of areas in Sierra Madre that right now have single family homes located in high density zoned areas. Remember that the City will become what the zoning map says it is. It may not happen overnight but a high density zone eventually becomes high density over time. If you like the Mariposa project then expect Mur-Sol to be scavaging for other opportunities just like it.

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    17. Thanks 6:22. I did paste that into my browser. You can see right on the first page what their houses look like. Its the classic McMansion that so many people are opposed to. I could not have designed one better myself. If you dig further into the pictures from their portfolio of projects and current projects you will see the kinds of homes that they have built in Sierra Madre and Arcadia. Let's just say that if you want to preserve our little village here in Sierra Madre, Mur-Sol is probably going to be on the other team. 1:36 doesn't seem to want to use their names but they are Jasen Grohs and Josh Grohs. Based on what they are building and want to build, they probably will not be joining Preserve Sierra Madre any time soon. They will be using thier influence at City Hall and with any candidates they have supported in the last City Council elections to keep the loopholes for development in place in Sierra Madre. Once we understand the game, we can be more successful at stopping it.

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    18. It is not that i did not want to use their names but people use your head look things up knowledge is easy to find. The Co goes back the their father Dan in the early 70s or 80s they have been building in the area since then

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    19. The Grohs boys would love to turn every house in Sierra Madre into one of their McMansions so that its picture can be plastered n full color on their website. They will also be making alot of money when one of their McMansions is sold to.....well you know who. After all, you have to cater to the current buyers in Arcadia and Sierra Madre who have the cash and where big and gaudy is what is wanted. You also have to figure out what areas are prime for development which will be the smaller homes on the bigger lots and those properties located in high density zones. If the Grohs had their way, they would transform Sierra Madre into Arcadia one project at a time or all at once if they had their druthers. I'm sorry to sound a little harsh with the Grohs but most developers have the mentality of the owner of One Carter and his surrogates Adele Chang and lawyer McDonald. As long as they can make a big profit, who cares about tearing down a historical structure, who cares about the traffic and congestion and pollution. The neighbors..... Forget about what the over-sized home does to the light, privacy and views of the neighbors or the value of the neighbors properties are adversely impacted by a home the size of an aircraft carrier. Forget about the willdlife that gets displaced. Water shortage....not their problem. Let the community be stuck with that problem. The list can go on so please excuse me for being a little harsh on the Grohs of the world.

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  9. The City of Sierra Madre needs to avoid these kinds of fights by having air-tight limitations on development that can't be exploited by lawyers. It will save the residents and the city alot of time and money in the long run.

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  10. No politician should ever get our trust ahead of their taking the appropriate actions. The Sierra Madre City Council has not taken the appropriate actions yet.

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  11. Just because it's old doesn't mean it's historic. But that said, think of all the old-growth lumber and antique architectural elements that could have been easily salvaged instead of being demolished so wastefully.

    Did you hear how Monrovia organized to save, by relocating, a 19th century barn, the oldest one left standing?

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    1. The historic bona fides were established to my satisfaction in the City Watch article. Did you miss that part?

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    2. Can the Pinney House be moved?

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    3. just barely because it was on the market forever...

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    4. I meant relocated. Like the Monrovia barn Bobby Gomez moved.

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  12. Pasadena employee arrested on suspicion of embezzling $6.4M in city funds
    http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/general-news/20141230/pasadena-ex-employee-arrested-on-suspicion-of-embezzling-64m-in-city-funds?fb_action_ids=10152696923269440&fb_action_types=og.likes

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    1. It wasn't enough to have a secure easy job with an outrageous pension and early retirement.

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    2. What is it about Pasadena, anyway? Between all the PUSD bond money theft and now this? The Brooklyn of the west.

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    3. That situation in Pasadena is exactly why you need the independent audits. City employees hats those kinds of audits because it turns up all sorts of stuff.

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