Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Tremendous Victory For All The People Of Sierra Madre

Ten very long years ago.

This isn't going to be too long of a post. A lot of people spoke at last evening's City Council meeting, and it should be obvious to everyone that nobody needs any lessons from me about how to save a town. Last night Sierra Madre knew how to save itself.

Somebody should make a movie about how all of this happened. There wouldn't be a dry eye at the bijou, with standing ovations every time it was shown. Just like there was last night when the City Council cast its remarkable unanimous vote to save this town from becoming an Arcadia North.

But, being a sentimental guy and all, and someone who has been mixing it up for a while, I thought I would take a minute and tell you about a guy named Salvatore Tesoro. He would need to be included in that movie somewhere. Maybe at the beginning, ten years ago when the One Carter debacle began and things were very different from what they are today.

I'm not sure how many people remember Salvatore. He was the guy who at that time put out a newspaper called The Sierra Madre News. It hasn't been published in years of course, but no matter. The screenshot above is a headline from one of its most celebrated editions. It is from almost a full ten years ago. The time when all of the really bad stuff first began to happen, then kept on going and, until last night, never seemed like it was going to end.

2005 was the year that a City Council, remarkably different from today's iteration, sold our town out to a developer, one that was supposedly going to build houses at One Carter. This despite the fact that hundreds of Sierra Madre residents had showed up at those City Council meetings back then and literally pleaded with them not to do it. And were ignored for their pains, at times vilified in the most incredible ways, and worse.

Some of those people were at last night's meeting. Some even spoke. They've been fighting for years, and never quit. Not even once.

As you might have guessed, those houses never happened. Being ridiculously inept, the developer our 2004 City Council so blessed us with quickly ran out of money. But not before he had stripped that little woodland hillside retreat of its ancient trees and orange groves. He was more of an unwelcome tree removal service than house builder.

Then this same fellow spent the next few years suing the City of Sierra Madre for the temerity of having given him carte blanche to destroy a priceless natural resource.

As the 2004 City Council proved, no bad deed goes unpunished, either.

This terrible blunder cost the taxpayers of this city hundreds of thousands of dollars in court and legal fees. Some even say millions. All to defend us from the developer the 2004 City Council had handed One Carter to rape and plunder. It was probably the single worst decision ever made by an elective body in this town's history. And, as you saw last night, the potential consequences are still very much with us today.

Salvatore was, and still is I assume, the kind of guy who believes in telling the truth no matter who it offends. He was not perfect at it, few truth tellers are, and he made many enemies along the way. Sometimes unnecessarily. But he was a fighter, and put everything he had into what he believed in.

Nor was he all that easy to get along with. I think the last thing Salvatore ever said to me was, "How did you get my phone number?" He changed phone numbers often. Considering the amount of heat he was taking from certain unhinged parties at that time, Salvatore had some good reasons for doing that.

This would have been after he had run for City Treasurer and lost. He got around 10% of the vote in a two man contest. After that most of us never heard from him again, though he still lives here.

Salvatore Tesoro was spot on about a number of things, and one of them was the betrayal of the people of Sierra Madre by their elected officials over One Carter. On this, and later the DSP (where we actually won), he was gloriously relentless.

It was an unhappy moment in this city's history, and Salvatore captured it all on the pages of his Sierra Madre News. He called the bad guys out, and trust me, they hated him for it. Literally. The above screenshot to me is the perfect encapsulation of what truly was a dark and ugly hour.

Unfortunately, it also wasn't enough.

Who knew that it would take a full decade to finally set all of that right? And if the above Sierra Madre News banner headline marked the beginning of a very long, contentious and strange trip, last night might very well be the long awaited happy ending. I personally think it is. I hope Salvatore was watching.

I'd call him and ask, but I don't have his phone number. I'd also like to say thanks. He stood up and put it all on the line when that was not the easiest thing to do. Like so many who got involved, an outsider who stood up. He did it the best he knew how.

One more thing before I call it a day

Would you believe that for the first time since the One Carter troubles began we as a city no longer just reacted to the threat of lawsuits and whatever other (to use a now famous phrase) "self-serving BS" the developer cooked up? A wall protecting us from all of that has now been built. It’s now clear what we want, and how we intend to get it. Developers must now either honor that or get lost.

After last night it is all coming into place. Throw in the soon to be completed General Plan and we will become a fortress of sorts. The town where the people just said no.

This is a tremendous victory.

Since the very beginning of the One Carter troubles we never had a city government that managed do what this City Council accomplished last night. One brief yet glorious version tried, and thankfully put into place some of the tools that finally got used to good purpose last night. But the rest couldn't have cared less, or worse. Go take a look at Camillo Road if you don't believe me.

Today we have the legal apparatus, parameters and now precedent to prevent McMansionization and other forms of bad development in this town. In a way it is a Measure V for everywhere. Minus the vote, of course.

For those of us who have been fighting to stop more One Carters from ever happening here, and curb the effects of that original one for the last 10 years (or even longer if you throw in Maranantha), it seems almost unbelievable.

You do know that we're not through, right? There is so much more that needs to be done. Don't go getting too comfortable.

But we can talk about all of that later. Today, let's celebrate and remember. And thank the many remarkable people who fought this fight, both now, ten years ago, and all that long time in between.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

66 comments:

  1. I sure remember Salvatore.
    I hope he was watching last night too.
    That headline BETRAYED.......inspired a lot of us to fight.
    Thank you Salvatore Tesoro.

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    1. Salvatore was heaven sent.

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    2. The impact his newspaper had on this town was huge. It totally blew apart all the nonsense Buchanan and the rest were spooning out.

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    3. Can someone explain how Salvatore, who was born and raised in Sierra Madre is considered by the Tattler to be "an outsider?"

      Is that the new meme for people that have essentially been here all their lives?

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    4. You cannot understand how someone can live here and still be an outsider? Really?

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  2. Too bad the Sierra Madre News isn't our adjudicated newspaper.

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    1. Yes! It is such a pity that compromised superficiality is all we have in our adjudicated paper. And no one knows just how many copies are printed, to verify that the paper even deserves adjudicated status. The "publisher" keeps that information to herself.

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    2. Henderson will be full of praise for the council last night.
      She's no fool.

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    3. But she did nothing to get people to the meeting. Last week's issue covered the robbery of an Arcadia pie shop on its front page. But the City Council meeting? Where the biggest development issue in years was to be decided? Not a peep.

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  3. Somebody should make a tee shirt with that Betrayed picture on it.

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    1. do it. no one is stopping you.

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    2. Or go on the positive energy generated last night and buy one of the Preserve Sierra Madre tshirts.

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  4. The four city council members shown in the Betrayed headlined newspaper are all stlll in town. Hard to know if they ever think about how they were the author of this hillside destruction. Teryl Willis last night told the council that they had the unfair job of fixing something created by a former city council that was not of their doing.

    They did fix it.

    People new to this story might wonder who the fifth council member was, not pictured for the reason that his was a NO vote against this capitulation: George Maurer. And yes, last night someone said that this has been the best city council in total that we have had in a long, long time.

    Two former city council members that had always voted to protect hillside resources and were there last night, are active still today: Clem Bartoli and MaryAnn MacGillivray.

    Thank you to every one who continues in this effort. As we heard from new people last night (new to town, new to city council meetings) Sierra Madre is the place to live, the place to fight for, the place to save.

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  5. Its great to see how far we have come and to be reminded of the damage that a bad City Council can do. Last night was an incredible display of what a great City Council can accomplish with the support and encouragement of the citizens. We actually didn't knuckle under to the threats of a developer and their legal team. Nothing short of remarkable and Sierra Madre ought to be very proud of itself today.

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    1. Please email each of our Council members and thank them for having the courage to do this. It was such a victory, and was so energizing to see so many people show up.

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    2. While Denise Delmar was the catalyst in all this, we have to give tremendous credit to Gene Goss for also standing firm with the lawyer. And then you had Capoccia at his best calling out the lawyer on what the lawyer told the Star News. Mayor Harabedian softened everything up when he went toe to toe with lawyer McDonald at the previous meeting. All in all, our City Council was amazing last night.

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    3. When it comes to preserving Sierra Madre, this is one of the most talented and committed City Councils, we have ever had. Sometimes when things are at their worst with developers literally at our gates, good people rise against it. Let it be said of this City Council, "It was their finest hour". Thank you.

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    4. The group Preserve Sierra Madre needs some help. There were several people who spoke at the meeting who are not in our database. We need to be able to contact them as further challenges come up. Tell everyone you can to go to the Preserve Sierra Madre website at www.PreserveSierraMadre.com and email us at PreserveSierraMadreNow@gmail.com We are growing that database one person at a time. Every day, every week and every month, the preservation movement in Sierra Madre is growing stronger but we need your help. Thank you from Preserve Sierra Madre

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    5. I doubt if the outcome would have been the same last night, if Denise had not been elected.

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    6. Yes, thanks to all the new people who got up and spoke, or attended the meeting. Very refreshing to see a new, enthusiastic group stepping up and voicing their opinion. It shows the Council that it isn't just a handful of the old folks that are hanging on to the past, but a whole room full of Citizens who love this town, new resident or long-timers. As the Mod says though, we still have to be on our toes not let this success be the end. There are 8 more applications coming up, and each one needs to be carefully assessed. And, don't forget, there will be an election in April of 2016.

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  6. If I was the developer the first thing I would do is fire by lawyer. They tried the heavy-handed approach and the City and its residents failed to be intimidated. Wouldn't be nice if the developer had it in him to say, "I'm sorry. I went about this the wrong way and got some really bad advice. I know that approach works in other towns but Sierra Madre is different. I am now ready to work with the Planning Commission, City Council and the residents. Help me to put forth a project in that sensitive area that we can all be proud of". How's that for a better approach to dealing with Sierra Madre.

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    1. 6:56, yes! A good project is possible. At one point, the woman who had been a tree commissioner spoke, and she talked about beautiful places and the possibility of houses that fit there. Sadly, there aren't the big trees anymore, too late for that, but beautiful homes could be possible - it just takes the right vision and no "architectural arrogance". And the houses can't be huge because the lots are too small.

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    2. I guess we should be grateful that Richard MacDonald and Adele Chang are so bad at what they do.

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  7. Let freedom ring!!

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  8. There is no town like Sierra Madre. To see those residents one by one going to the podium to fight to preserve our town was a sight to see. To see that mother, who I've seen before, holding her baby, coming to the meeting to show her support. And to think what led up to this. Anne Chesterman riding her bicycle all over town handing out flyers telling people to come to the meeting like some modern-day Paul Revere and all the good work from the people at Preserve Sierra Madre. And then you have our City Council and yes, our city employees too. Leticia Cardozo did a magnificent job at presenting the City's position. And yes Elaine and the City Attorney worked behind the scenes helping, I'm sure, present the legal arguments to support the decision that the City Council was about to take. And what a City Council! While there are many issues that people may disagree on, everyone came together last night for the simple reason that our little village in the foothills is worth saving.

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    1. There is nothing like a real threat to a community to bring all kinds of people together. United the people of Sierra Madre are a mighty force!

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  9. I saw some tears in people's eyes when the City Council voted unanimously to over-turn the Planning Commission's decision and every one rose in unison to give the City Council and undoubtedly all the other people resonsible, a standing ovation. It was an incredible moment.

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    1. I agree 7:08.
      I was moved to tears by some of the speakers (especially the remarkable Ms. Schuster) and by the council's courage.

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    2. Is there such a thing as a speaker laureate for a town? If there is, I nominate Marguerite Shuster.

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  10. I don't know how Rob Stockley can show his face in this town....I noticed after he gave his usual library pitch, he quickly left city hall.
    Shameful what that man did to Sierra Madre.

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    1. Have you noticed that none of those 4 ever show up for these meetings?
      In fact, no one in favor of hillside development shows up.

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    2. Stockly gets to pretend innocence. He's just a good old library supporter ya know.

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    3. Don't forget - the library will be closing because we didn't vote for the UUT extension, according to Stockley. I remember one Fourth of July parade many years ago before I was so involved in our local politics, and relatively naive, Stockley handed me, and others along the parade route a sign, "Save our library," for the TV cameras. A few years later, I had a casual conversation with someone while waiting in line at the UCLA Book Fair about local politics, and he said, "I bet they're saying that if you don't vote for this tax or this person, the library will close." Ah yes, Mr. Stockley.

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    4. The political game Stockley and his ilk are playing with the library is sick. People who love our library are preservationists at heart. They want to preserve the kind of small town that would have a community library. What Stockley et al are attempting to do is pit those kinds of preservationists against the rest. There is no threat to the Sierra Madre Library. It is here to stay, and enjoys enormous support. The schools need it. Don't fall for this divide and conquer tactic!

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  12. The interesting thing in all this is that lawyers in general and Mr. McDonald in particular, get rewarded for their failure. That's the problem with lawyers. They get paid by the hour. They have no incentive to resolve conflict but they do have a powerful incentive to stir up conflict. The longer this lasts, the more money Mr. McDonald will make.

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    1. McDonald was the biggest problem CETT had. Arrogant little banty rooster who came up short every time.

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    2. he's an attorney. he's well paid to be an arrogant banty rooster.

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    3. I don't understand why anyone would hire either Adele Chang or Richard MacDonald.

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    4. Better call Saul.

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  13. Preserve Sierra Madre Now
    Congratulations you great citizens.
    Keep fighting. If these misguided developers persist we can bankrupt their greedy butts

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  14. Don't think this battle is over. Don't settle in for a nice rest. The applicant will sue the City on this house and push forward on its other behemoths.

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    1. And behemoths they are. 6,126 square feet on one of the lots up on the top, where it could no doubt be seen from the freeway and everywhere else.

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    2. Everyone involved knows exactly how to reject those things. And the Planning Commission now knows the City Council has their back. This was a huge defeat for CETT. They will have to completely change their game.

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  15. John, does this mean you're moving back now?

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    1. We are dedicated to the La Bonita School District. Our kids are having great success. If we do decide to move back it won't be until they've both graduated. Five and a half years from now.

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    2. I like that idea. If (I should say "when") Crawford comes back, it will be to a hero's welcome. For all he and the Tattler have done and continue to do, he deserves a ticker-tape parade down Main Street.

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    3. Look at it this way. I do have a business there.

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    4. Good point. And businesses that don't make any money are so Sierra Madre.

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  16. Everyone needs to remember there is a CURSE on that ONE CARTER land and other HILLSIDE LAND that belonged to the Native Indians of that area and even more important to the wildlife.
    Someone who knows this told me:
    "It made me think it’s the spirit of all the animals who were killed or evicted by that development. , that was a totally alive place - deer, cougars, bears, hawks, owls, foxes. bobcats, rabbits, everything you can think of was thriving there. Very few people, small human interference, so the wildlife really prospered. It wasn’t like Mt Wilson Trail or Bailey canyon it was completely alive with animals.

    All gone now."

    Anyone who buys a home up there and lives in it will be cursed. That is a given.

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    1. The fact that no new house has ever been built there is proof enough for me. Something always happens b

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    2. How does building on cursed land fit with Feng shui. Hope the seller lets the Wealthy Chinese buyer know.

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    3. It's anti-feng shui.

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    4. Do you think the realtors make sure that potential buyers know about the murdered man that was found there, and the injured man that was with him?

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    5. Indian Curse ? Yup - Stonegate/One Carter as built by CETT would be worse than a leper colony. Can you imagine the reaction if you admitted you lived in the new McMansions on the hill at 1 Carter ? You would be instantly ostracized from Sierra Madre society.

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    6. Many people have walked by that property late at night and heard chants and voices.....some have apparitions.Colored lights.
      The Indians placed a curse on anyone who violated their sacred burial grounds.
      Only nature's wild creatures belong there.

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  17. Chief Black KettleJanuary 14, 2015 at 8:36 AM

    Congratulations to you, Sir Eric, on last nights masterpiece of on the spot reporting. It kept me on the edge of my ergonomic chair and a big thank you for giving credit to Salvatore Tesoro III. Not many know this but his paper was printed using his own money, not one dime came from outside sources. The only time you see that nowadays is when someone has something to gain monetarily, but Salvatore did it out of his concern for making right the sad state of Sierra Madre politics of that time. Once again, thank you.

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  18. I know he did that C B K.
    It's true.

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  19. Please don't forget about the Planning Commission meeting on Thursday at 7:00 pm. They will be dealing with the CUP threshold (currently a 3,999 square foot home does not trigger the extra scrutiny from the Planning Commission or, when we have it, a Design Review Committee as well as the scrutiny of neighbors impacted by the 3,999 square foot home. The Planning Commission must lower that to 3,000 square feet. The other issue they will be dealing with is the grand daddy of them all - "floor area limits". Those limits set the maximize size of a home you can build with any given lot size. Those must be significantly reduced to eliminate once and for all the ability to build Arcadia-like McMansions. The time for half-measures is over. We can strike a significant blow on Thursday if the Planning Commission will only listen to the community and take dramatic actions. As Maude Ann Taylor had said. "We need to be bold".

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    1. Right 8:56. It's meetings like the one with the Planning Commission tomorrow night that put into place the actual documents that are the real line of defense.

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  20. It warms the heart to see posts from afar. It says to me that even if one moves away from Sierra Madre, one carries a piece of this beloved city in one's heart.
    I especially thank all those who have fought the "good fight" for so many, many years. You may have moved on to another location but your voice counted and was finally heard last night. Thank you so very, very much.

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  21. http://www.preservesierramadre.com/
    Please visit website and get an attractive bumper sticker and/or t-shirt to promote preservation!
    Thank you residents who are supporting this effort. YOU made the difference.

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  22. Eric Church - "Give Me Back My Home Town"
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5DnNxDTjbQ

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  23. I have heard the news, and have nothing but pride in Our Town. Over the years I have seen many residents who had "drunk the Koolaid " dished out by the "development Uber Alis people" who had said the right things but once elected pushed thoughtless development the city simply does not want.
    This time no one was fooled.
    A lot of residents deserve praise, too many to mention, who had bravely stood up to this threat.
    I want to congratulate you all, but be vigilant. These people are still around, and there is a lot of money around ready to entice development. interests.

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  24. I am very proud of our town, congratulations!!! on a victory well fought. Don't let your guards down, the developers see Sierra Madre as ripe for the picking, and will keep trying. .

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