Wednesday, January 7, 2015

An Ordinance For A Moratorium On Residential Demolition Permits Moves Forward

Illustration provided by the Sierra Madre Society for the Preservation of 1950s California Homes
Interesting meeting last night. Apparently there were 14 home demolition permits issued in 2014, with 4 additional ones in the pipeline now. Not a particularly huge amount, but perhaps what could be coming soon might be much worse. With entire neighborhoods being visited by "name your price" agents from other places making mystifying Arcadia-style unsolicited offers on existing homes, some kinds of protections need to be put in place. At least until the General Plan gets sanctified. Which, with various Environmental Impact Report delays a distinct possibility, could be as long as a year or even two.

Pretty serious stuff. And as is usually the case at City Council meetings, special or otherwise, Barry Gold rose from his seat, walked over to the public comment podium, and said what needed to be said. Which is good because Barry was the only public commenter we had at that point. Here is what he shared last night:

The developers who want to build McMansions here in Sierra Madre know that after 4 years we are about one more year away from implementing the revised General Plan and updating the municipal code.

During this next year they will try to build as many oversized houses as they can.

This City Council, unlike some before it, has diligently worked on preserving Sierra Madre's uniqueness. You unanimously passed the building and water hook-up moratoriums and implemented Phase 3 of the water conservation program. 

You have held several special City Council meetings devoted to finalizing the General Plan, and you have made significant changes to the revised General Plan to improve the preservation of our Village of the Foothills.

Your efforts to preserve a cherished way of life here in Sierra Madre are truly appreciated.

Tonight you have an opportunity to further the preservation process by adopting a Demolition Moratorium. It has been suggested that this moratorium cover homes over 45 years old where 50% or more of the floor area or value is being demolished. I think 40 years and 35% would be better, but I leave it to you to make those decisions. The goal is to reduce the amount of construction until the General Plan is put into place. I urge you all to vote for this moratorium.

This will not stop the developers from finding other ways to build their monstrosities. But it will noticeably reduce the number that they can build. Consequently other interim measures may be needed. In this regard it would be helpful to know what permits are being requested.

Such a list is not available to the public. If I request permit information on a specific address Development Services will give me the information at a reasonable charge. The problem is that I have to know the address where a permit is being requested.

I am so worried about another Camillo Road happening that Development Services should have available to the public a " Projects Planning List" similar to the one in the December 5th City Manager's Report.

This will let us know what projects are being proposed. We can then, if needed, bring to your attention other interim measures for you to consider. Please have Development Services make such a list available.

Cutting to the chase, City Staff and the City Attorney were instructed by the entire City Council (with varying levels of enthusiasm) to get busy and create a home demolition ordinance for them to dig into. This newborn tear down moratorium ordinance will then be finalized at the January 27th meeting.

There will be blank spaces left for Councilmembers to fill in themselves. Length of the moratorium's existence (since the longest that it can legally exist is two years), and the percentages of how much of a residential structure can be mulched, to be determined. Also a distinction between interior and exterior demolitions, bearing walls vs. non-bearing walls, outside appearances of wickiups, stuff like that.

The devil is in the details, as they say.

It wasn't all clear sailing. Gene Goss got complicated at one point. I am not quite certain what it is he was concerned about, but I suspect in the end he will move towards the light. Something about people who might want to do home improvements and not just tear the place down to build a McMansion being hurt. Elaine Aguilar, bless her heart, gently advised against over-thinking and counseled the Council a bit on the perils of too much complication. At least in this instance.

Mayor Harabedian also got a little abstruse, especially about the provenance of the homes to be protected. He at one point favored a freshness dating of the 1940s and earlier, and several times derided this town's many happy hogans built in the 1950s. Which, in a lot of ways, are the most affordable in the community and a last refuge for Sierra Madre's at risk less than uppah middle class constituency. You know, where people whose kids go to public school rather than the Gooden live?

Before I fled screaming east I lived in just such a home and it did keep the rain out and gave the kids a place to sleep that was superior to the backseat of the family car. And even after the real estate staging sprite had the place painted an odd light green and brown combination, making the place look a little bit like an ice cream sandwich, it was something that a person of my era could love.

Perhaps it is a generational bias? Could be. Maybe somebody with otherworldly powers could arrange for the troubled spirits of Bob Keeshan, Howdy Doody and Woody Woodpecker (or maybe even Gerald McBoing Boing) to pay the Mayor a late night visit and school him on the subtle glories of the Eisenhower era? A little 1950s sensitivity training could go a long ways here.

These are not serious complaints, however. I believe this moratorium will pass unanimously on the 27th. However, and just in case, you might not want to leave all of the heavy lifting to Mr. Gold. As capable as he is I do believe others ought to be there to express their concerns as well.

I'm just saying.

The General Plan was then pored over and processed upon by the City Council. Several of the members of the General Plan Update Steering Committee came to speak on their areas of expertise, and were as eloquent and informative as always. They really are some of the smartest and best informed people in town.

The Los Angeles Times shockingly suggests that developers do not always keep their promises

This appeared in yesterday's edition and was forwarded to me by Judy Gold.

In L.A., conditions placed on developers go unheeded (link) - Worried about how new shops, bars and apartments might affect Los Angeles neighborhoods, community groups and city officials have tried to tie strings to local development.

They have demanded parking spots to ease the crunch on crowded streets, sought to limit the hours businesses can stay open, and even insisted on community perks such as a senior center. But many neighborhood activists complain that once the city gives the green light for development, those promises are overlooked.

For example, in the Fairfax area, the Grove was supposed to include a 500-square-foot employment office along with its gleaming shops and buzzing restaurants, according to planning documents. Yet last year — more than a decade after the mall opened — the city planning department found that no such job center existed.

The Grove developer, Caruso Affiliated, created a new online portal for hiring and said it was providing job postings and applications at its concierge desk, steps that satisfied the planning department. But that happened only after years of hectoring by a local consultant, who remains unconvinced that the developer and property owner Gilmore Co. fulfilled their promises.

"It bothers me that the community was taken advantage of," said land use consultant Robert Cherno. "I'm not asking them to do anything they're not supposed to do."

Another case recently landed the city in court: The developer of a 22-story apartment building in Hollywood was required by the planning department to preserve the facade of the Old Spaghetti Factory, a restaurant building on the site. Yet two years ago, the developer obtained a permit from another city agency to raze the entire structure. A similar facade was built in its place.

In an internal email, one city official called it a "demo permit fiasco." A judge invalidated construction permits for the building last year, throwing its future into question.

 And in yet another case, city planners required the 526-unit Da Vinci apartment project alongside the 110 Freeway to have a ventilation system with higher-strength air filters to capture some of the particles produced from vehicle exhaust. Developer G.H. Palmer Associates did not take steps to install the proper equipment until after The Times began asking city officials about the requirement, a Building and Safety spokesman said.

Something to keep in mind. Oftentimes these guys do whatever they like anyway. And as helpful as the planning guidance of a City government might be at times, out there on the streets the story is often very different.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

36 comments:

  1. That you Mr. Gold for standing up for all of us.

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    1. Thanks Barry
      Please SUPPORT PRESERVE SIERRA MADRE.
      Everyone who appreciates this blog and this small town of Sierra Madre....we need your help.

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    2. Thank you Barry. We are so lucky that you and Judy chose Sierra Madre!
      Just one point - it's been six years since the general plan update committee started working.

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    3. Six years? Wow! That is disgusting.

      Hopefully we will learn from the past and with all the people supporting the "Preserve Sierra Madre" group the future will be brighter.
      Barry

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  2. We need more people at these meetings, that's for sure. Once we get the protections in place to prevent what's happening in Arcadia, then we can maybe relax a bit. But the fact is, we don't have those protections in place yet. We still have loopholes and you can bet that the legal teams that these developers have access to will exploit every loophole. You can count on that.

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    1. It's how they earn their keep.

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    2. "Oftentimes these guys do whatever they like anyway"
      True indeed. And watch out for the ready apology, the seeming agreement that falls short of commitment, and the use of the words 'mitigate' or 'reasonable.'
      Light footed dissembling is a requirement for being a developer.

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    3. How many words for "lie" does the English language have?

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    4. Not enough to adequately describe the developer/realtor consortium.

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  3. This will take 4 votes to pass. Word.

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  4. 1950s California one story homes have a much smaller carbon footprint than a lot of the large homes being built now. Green building practices and all.

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  5. The water moratorium stopped a teardown and lot split on N. Michlinda. But this has been going on for a long time now. There is a house on Auburn just before Elm on the west side that is there via a tear down of a better than average house 15 or so years ago and lots of little "cottages" similar to the one on Camillo torn down, Grove St and Adams, several here and there across town but the replacements were medium sized and modest not the monster rubbish being sought after now. One thing I have noticed of several monsters in Arcadia, there is no sign of real life in these places. Have they sold?

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  6. Nice clarifications from Arizmendi in her questioning of Goss and his comments about "liquifying assets." He was speaking as though that automatically meant selling to people who wanted to tear down a house, and that was the only choice for liquifying.
    Not his best night.

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    1. I got the impression he felt obligated to talk but didn't really have anything to say. Or that someone had bent his ear before the meeting and he was hanging on to the phrase he could remember.

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    2. That was my impression. Maybe Buchanan called him.

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    3. Maybe he liquified before the meeting.

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    4. Goss did not come up with this on his own. He was probably put up to it by Bart Doyle.

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  7. Does anyone know where the 100 year old craftsman house to be demolished is?

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  8. A vote against a tear down ordinance will need to be looked at as a vote in favor of Arcadia style McMansions.

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  9. I thought it was interesting that the firstbthing that was discussed last night was how many demo permits had been issued. There was a lot of discussion here on this blog earlier in the day.

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    Replies
    1. I am really glad we can get that information. That's what genuine transparency looks like.

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    2. I think staff reads the blog so they can anticipate the questions people might bring up at the meetings.

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    3. I'm happy to think staff has that initiative.

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    4. What do people think of Ann McIntosh? She seemed knowledgeable and straight ahead in her approach.

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    5. She has a history of being hung-ho for developers - but then most of the people in that department were like that for at least a decade, maybe more.
      She seems to have figured out there's been a sea change.

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    6. The trustworthy person in the Planning Department is Planner Cardoso. She is honest, works hard and listens.

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    7. Arcadia has changed everything.

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    8. Cardoso is a remarkable exception to the usual Staff in City Hall. Let's hope she can resist the pressure to go over to the dark side. With that toad Castro gone ,I hope she gets all the promotions she deserves.

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  10. Doesn't it seem like we might actually have a pro-preservation majority on our city council?
    Or am I dreaming?

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    1. I think that what is happeneing in Arcadia is scaring the bejeezus out of people and the city council has been hearing it from the people they talk to. That and Denise and Rachelle can be very convioncing.

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    2. Delmar is almost single-handedly bringing the updated General Plan into being. What a task she has had, and every person who cares about Sierra Madre owes her their thanks.

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    3. It seems that way 11:11, but best be a little skeptical.
      There's been many a proclaimed preservationist who turned out to be a fraud.

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    4. Agreed, 11:19. The "preserve through over-development" crowd hasn't been in the council chambers lately, but I don't think they're all gone. Maybe just lining up their next city council candidates, and trying to recover from the damage to their cause by Walsh and Moran.

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  11. I am not on Twitter and cannot find on line if there is a vigil at the French Consulate to stand in solidarity for free speach in the slaughter of the editors and cartoonists at the Paris newspaper Charlie Hebdo. If you know of any please post here for me. Thanks.
    Je Suis Charlie!

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    Replies
    1. Twitter feed is on the left hand side, down about half of a page. Helps if you read French.
      http://www.consulfrance-losangeles.org/

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  12. It is all about hanging a rotting duck around the neck of the Red Chinese!!!! You jackals will never be satisfied! Nip nip nip.... They are tearing down eyesores and putting value back into the community but you jackals will not let them be!!!! If Officer Baily was still around you would all be yelling "don't tase me bro!!!!" at the top of your jackal lungs!!!!!! He knew right from wrong, and JACKALS from hard working Chinamen.

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