Sunday, January 11, 2015

Barbarians At The Gate: One Carter Developers Want McMansions Galore

Best stink eye ever.
At Tuesday evening's City Council meeting there will be a showdown between the City of Sierra Madre and a developer that goes by the acronym CETT. This over the first home slated to be built at that sorely afflicted and much abused plot of land we here in Sierra Madre know as One Carter. The developer sadly calls this area "stonegate," a name that is as historically meaningless and culturally ersatz as the architectural designs they have attempted to foist upon us these last few years. But whatever the case, that particular house is something I want to post about tomorrow. For perspective we need to deal with these issues one at a time.

Today I thought we should take a look at a couple of the One Carter revelations found in the latest edition of the always perkily written and matter-of-fact City Manager's report. Ostensibly created for the City Council, various transparency laws have turned it into something that we can take some guidance from as well. Posted most Friday's on the City of Sierra Madre website, it gives us straight ahead and unvarnished assessments of what is actually going on in town.

This isn't the goofy stuff you find on the City of Sierra Madre Facebook site, or in the strangely sanitized pages of the Mountain Views News. It is for big people, and as such the report is must see reading.

When discussing the demolition atrocity in the works for E. Mira Monte yesterday I used the ancient but eternally relevant phrase, "The barbarians are at the gate." I wasn't kidding, and it isn't just 107 year old Craftsman homes they have their bloodshot eyes on. Rather it is pretty much everything we have. But at this moment the most at risk place in town is One Carter. A direct consequence of a decision made by the 2004 City Council, perhaps the worst we've ever had.

Which, if you think about it, is saying a lot. Here is a consequence now:


Nine One Carter applications in a single week can hardly be a coincidence. Nor was this a particularly brilliant move on the part of those wanting to build there. It only serves to make the City Council's One Carter decision on Tuesday evening even more essential than it already was. I'd call it a politically strategic blunder of the first order, but perhaps I am missing a point somewhere. Maybe it was actually due to legal considerations of some sort.

I will tell you this though, I am a little unsettled by the City Manager's claim that we will need to contract out for additional staff to push these requests through with promptness, no matter who is paying the costs. So what's the rush?

It appears that once again our bought off legislature in Sacramento has fixed the process for us. There is a state law in place that forces cities such as ours to notify all those seeking new building permits whether their applications are complete or incomplete within 30 days of being submitted. The consequence for not knuckling under to this law results in the applications being considered legally complete and the process for approval begins. However, very few applications are complete and once the city notifies them of what is missing, the 30 days begin again.

It would be detrimental to this city if we don't get this done within the 30 days. This law does allow us to hire on a temporary basis experienced planners to work on these applications and charge the extra help to the applicants. So very kind of them. But life in a corrupt one party state, one run in part by real estate and development lobbyists, does have its drawbacks. Just so you know.

Who you vote for counts. Always make development issues a key part of your decision on who you vote for in state races.

But I've digressed. The big revelation in this week's City Manager's Report comes in the form of a chart that includes all of the McMansions the barbarians hope to build at One Carter. Including those 9 new projects (10 if you add the one dated 12/24/2015).

All of which, by the way, are referred to here by the anti-Sierra Madre moniker "stonegate." A name no one who cares about this town should ever want to use.

(Click on the chart to enlarge)
I think you can agree with me here that Tuesday evening's City Council meeting now becomes one of the most important in years. A wrong decision on 610 Baldwin Court (if our elected officials should somehow decide that they want to go down in history as the City Council allowing our first true McMansion development), could prove to be the breach that enabled the deluge that followed.

We will have more on that tomorrow.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

69 comments:

  1. The proposed house at 610 Baldwin Ct. Is the first of many homes. therefore, denying this specific
    Project does not deny the entire One Carter housing development. it does, however, send that warning shot over the bow that Sierra Madre means business and will not just roll over because someone threatens a lawsuit.

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    1. Approval of 1 Baldwin Court does set a psychological precedent. Despite all of the attempts nothing has ever been built at One Carter in the almost 10 years of its existence. The first one will be a game changer.

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    2. Looks to me like the developer is trying to bum rush the city. 10 applications along with the demand that city hall process them ASAP is not a good sign. Who do they think they are?

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    3. They want that specific plan. It needs to be one project at a time. This may be part of their strategy too which is for the Planning Commisson and City Council to try to save time and approve this all at once. They need to hold firm in one project at a time. The developer needs to understand that a good project gets approved sooner. A bad project will be denied and cost them alot of money by delaying the project. Believe me, they will learn to play it our way.

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    4. Tattlers, you MUST attend the City Council meeting on Tuesday, 6:30 (if you can't make it at 6:30, come when you can). Our City Council has been strong so far, but This Is It! They need to know we support them, that we are watching, and that we care. We also need to show Adele Chang, lawyer MacDonald, and CETT Investments that we are NOT Arcadia. This is OUR town. You don't need to speak - you just need to show your face. If you have kids, bring them - it's a great learning experience, democracy in action.

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    5. For those who want to continue to live in a community that doesn't resemble the McMansions in Arcadia, you need to attend this meeting. When our City Council is trying to do the right thing, let's show them some support and encourage them to continue down the same path.

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    6. The only people that don't want this city to resemble Arcadia are the impoverished that don't have a proverbial pot to piss in.

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    7. Spiteful, bitter and ignorant 1:28. What's the matter, rainy days and Sundays always get you down?

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  2. Maybe that 12/24/15 application was sent in by the Ghost of Christmas Future?

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  3. I'm sure there is some strategic reason to get all these applications submitted in the last week. As far as I'm concerned the worst thing that can happen up there is have some kind of specific plan. That may be a good idea with friendly devleopers but not hostile ones like CETT that secured a lawyer at the get-go. In fact, such a specific plan would violate the Settlement Agreement that calls for each house to be submitted one at a time. Tuesday night will be a very important meeting. We should not be concerned about a lawsuit. While that kind of bluster may sound threatening from CETT, they know its a paper tiger. Courts give City Council's alot of discretion to determine land use in their cities. They give even more discretion when it comes to sensitive hillside areas within that City. While its a good negotiating chip to hire a lawyer who threatens a lawsuit, it will bankrupt the developer who is losing money every day their project doesn't get built. Our City Council holds all the cards and should tell this developer and their obnoxious lawyer to pound salt.

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    1. Great comment 7:45.

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    2. I agree. Thank you.

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    3. Me three. Its just bluster on CETT part. If it turns into a lawsuit, they go bankrupt. The City has the leverage. Hopefully, they will understand that.

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    4. CETT has nothing to lose by taking this to the absolute brink to see if we blink. At the eleventh hour, they can and will say, ok, we'll make the changes you want.

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  4. One of the houses they propose is over 6,000 square feet. I think that may meet the definition of a "McMansion". Talk about ruining an area. Unbelievable.

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    1. All of those damn things are huge, and once perched on the hillside will loom over the rest of Sierra Madre like a case of the miseries.

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    2. Our hillsides will turn in what you see in Glendale. It will destroy the view line.

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    3. Our city documents call on us to "protect views to and from the hillsides."

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    4. Those other homes they submitted are a non-starter. Once again, it shows the bad faith of a developer who doesn't care about the community or the community's views. Quite frankly, I don't understand why they want to ignore the will of the Planning Commission, the City Council and the community at large. Unless, the only way they can turn a profit is to build over-sized homes up there.

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    5. The planning commission approved their man.

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  5. On Tuesday, we will see if all these positive trends occuring with this City Council are for real. We will also see which members have the spine to resist what is really an empty threat from the developer. The developer is engaging in "bluster". Its a common negotiating tactic. The last thing the developer wants is a prolonged litigation that they are sure to lose. If anything, the City should fear a lawsuit from people in the community if they cave to the demands of this developer.

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    1. I agree 7:52. Don't forget, though, that one of our stronger members, Arizmendi, has to recuse herself.

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    2. Arizmendi has been a stellar supporter of preservation. But even without her, Goss, Capoccia, Delmar and Harabedian have done a great job. My hats off to them.

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  6. Thanks to the Tattler for once again pointing out things that often don't get recognized. There is a lot of meaning to a project that calls itself "Stonegate". That pretty much sums up the mentality of the what will be built there and whose building it. Not very inviting to a community that does not want an Anokia type of gated community. Even if its not gated, it will still not be a very welcoming place for the hoi polloi.

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    1. CETT wants to make us second class citizens in our own town.

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    2. I concur. Don't use CETT's language. The place is called One Carter.

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    3. Here is how Linda Lane-White ("The Singing Realtor") describes the man whose memory is today honored by the name One Carter:

      "Nathaniel Carter purchased the 1,000 acres of land that was to become Sierra Madre in 1881 from "Lucky Baldwin", the Southern Pacific Railroad Co., and Levi Richardson. He quickly built up the city with the Santa Anita Railroad Station and Pacific Electric Railway Red Car passenger service bringing visitors to what was still considered a resort town. It was around this time that the wealthy would visit Sierra Madre, so several upscale inns were built to accommodate them. The two most famous inns were the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel and Lizzie's Trail Inn which still stands today at 165 E Mira Monte Ave. as a Historical Learning Center and Museum, courtesy of the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society."

      Don't let CETT steal our history!

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    4. I agree with 5:19 that we need to send that "warning shot over the bow". Its not like its undeserved. When a developer submits a lousy project, the Planning Commission and City Council need to force them to play by our rules and not there's.

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    5. Greg Galletly knew that "One Carter" is a cool name, and he kept it, and kept "Stonehouse" too. But when his business went belly up (surprised anyone?) and Capital Source bank took over, their marketing geniuses tried to get rid of all the bad juju associated with that distressed real estate.
      So now we have Stonegate and Storehouse and most people don't know which is which - and talk about Carter in addition to them, not instead of one of them.

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    6. It does get confusing. Right now our focus is on One Carter which is the same as Stonegate. Stonehouse will rear its ugly head again down the road. "Stonegate" - what an appropriate name for what we are dealing with.

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  7. This City Council has taken some remarkable steps in the direction of preservation. Let's support and enourage them by coming to the January 13th meeting. You can bet that CETT and their lawyers will be there too. We will see if the City Council and the community cares more about preserving this foothill village than the developer cares about their profit. That what it comes down to. Pleaese be there and show your support!

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    1. I am pretty confident that Council Members Delmar and Goss did not knuckle under to this developer and their lawyer. If that turns out to be the case, we should be very proud of our representatives.

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    2. Nobody should underestimate Goss's committmenet to preservation. I'm glad he was on the sub-committee along with Delmar.

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    3. I sure hope so. I am still traumatized by the abusive behavior of the previous 4 mayors. I have a hard time trusting the city.

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    4. Me too 9:15. It's like night and day with someone like Buchanan. That was terrible. This council majority (and maybe the whole council?) seems to want to preserve the town.

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    5. 9:13, reading the staff report, it's clear that Delmar and Goss did a fantastic job representing Sierra Madre!

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    6. This is why we have to strike while the iron's hot. All it takes is one bad election to erase all the hard-fought gains. Elections have consequences. We can't put bad people in office who have other motivations besides a concern to preserve our city.

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    7. If Goss and Delmar indeed held firm as some think, this would be unprecedented and would earn them my undying support. Again, if it is the case, it would be amazing. Delmar extraordinary efforts are becoming almost routine although we don't want to take her for granted. In the case of Goss, he is coming through when it counts and we have to give him credit. I just hope its true.

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  8. You can bet that the lawyer for the developer knows all the procedural tricks, timeframes and deadlines. We and our City Attorney have to be equally smart. CETT is about as hostile a developer as has ever come to this City. I don't want to do them any favors.

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  9. This develper has been able to advance this thing as far as anyone. I think that they bought the property at such a bargain basement price that they have enough cushion to spend a large amount of money on lawyer's fees. But there will be a limit to what they can spend and that's the leverage we have. They do not want to see this in court. Based on their hostile interactions with the Planning Commission, bad faith and lack of cooperation, the judge will not look to kindly on them.

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  10. Am I wrong or do I seeme to remember at Tuesday's council meeting, Mr. Harabedian was shocked that there were so many CUP requests? Last week I asked Leticia for an updated list of requests and she said there wasn't one. I saw it in her hand at the meeting and asked for it again. It showed up in Elaine's report. Hmmmm

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  11. Let's hope Leticia doesn't go the way of Danny Castro and become too cozy with the developers. That's the problem. They see the developers all the time and become friends with them. It makes it alot tougher then for the city to deny a project. Developers know this and that's a problem for those communities who don't want to see over-development. Not to mention that everyone in the City wants to enhance their resume and make themselves more marketable by being able to point to all the big projects they were able to get done in the city.. Alot of forces arrayed against the forces of preservation.

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    1. Good point. The city also makes a lot of money off of development. Something that I have always thought is a conflict of interest. Especially if some of that money is going into decision maker pension accounts.

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    2. Yes 9:02. There are alot of conflicts of interest and forces at play that favor developes. We have to be vigilant.

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    3. Cardoso is an ethical and hard working person, unlike her superiors in the staff.
      She'll enforce the city's rules - which is why we need to be so thorough in structuring them.

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  12. "The City also makes a lot of money off" it's taxpaying citizens. That should be their first loyalty. We mere citizens have been bumped by City Staff obsession with their Pensions, salaries ,benefits and job-for-life security . I do hope Cardozo has not become a co-conspirator with Elaine Aguillar ,our incompetent and destructive City Manager.
    This is no time for well mannered discussion about 1 Carter or any other 'development' .These are just money grabbing opportunities for the City's priorities I listed above. Protecting the charm of Sierra Madre is a cause and duty only the involved residents can perform honestly. So we must make a show of force & conviction at the meeting on Tuesday evening. Lets hope that inspires the waffling wimps on the Council to follow the lead of the women on the Council !

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  13. Those newly submitted McMansions' plans are undoubtedly advertised in the Real Estate section of Hong Kong and Beijing newspapers. CETT is rushing to claim their dollars before the vault doors slam shut.

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  14. The city does not need to hire any additional personnel for all these requests! they can each go through the process, one by one, and at the pace determined by the Planning Commission's thorough review of each project.

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  15. With an average size of 4500 SF, who are these developers trying to fool? Most older homes, which are very comfortable and livable, are in the neighborhood of 2000 - 2500 SF. It's all about the massive profits from the extra 2000 sf of built real estate, which is not that much more in the construction phase, given the builder standard products and cheap construction framing on these things, particularly when the crews are all scheduled to grade, frame and build out at the SAME TIME using the excavation equipment all at once. This will destroy the hillside, period, and generate huge risks for fire and flood as its legacy after the money is pocketed. Pure rape, pillage and burn.

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    1. Absolutely right 10:01

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  16. Great picture Tattler. CETT's architect does have the best stink eye ever.

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    1. Regarding the microphone shadow on the wall in the stinkeye photograph:

      Looks to me like it is taking the shape of a fire tossing dragon ......or is it a coyote lifting his head to the moon and hooooooooowling at the thought of losing his mountain to development?

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    2. 10:57, good point. So sad.
      What I noticed was the ex staff member Purificacion (sp?) checking out his iPhone. Maybe finalizing the new job application?
      Our staff gets a lot done on their devices during meetings.

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    3. 10:18 - my guess is she doesn't really like us.

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    4. Has she ever had a sucess here in Sierra Madre?
      One house?

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    5. No. But somebody keeps paying her to try.

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  17. The city manager's report says that any staff hired for the reviews will be paid for by the applicant.

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    1. That is also cited on The Tattler.

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    2. So, the reviewers will be paid for by the applicant...yeah, great idea. So they in essence will be working for the McMansionists. No way is this a good idea for our town. Let them use the staff we have. Looks to me like Elaine always gives advantage to the outside interests. City Council, please do the right thing and fire Elaine...and that flim flam man with the rusty pipes, Bruce!

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    3. As intense and lengthy as all this lawsuit garbage has been over this colossal mistake by Stockly, Buchanan, Joffe and Torres, I'm guessing that the applicant paying for it is a condition in the lawsuit settlement agreement/s

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  18. The Settlement Agreement for Carter and Stonehouse was signed on March 23, 2010, and is good for 5 years.
    I tried reading it, but it's written in that intentionally obscure legalese, so I'm not sure what it means, but we can probably conclude that it will not be a benefit for the developer - so maybe that's why all these applications are being rushed in, to make it under the Settlement Agreement deadline.

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    1. and then what rules apply after March 23, 2015? Is the agreement null and void then and Sierra Madre can use their Hillside Ordinance rules r what? his is very intriguing information.

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  19. How do we know that CETT isn't funded with money that was embezzled out of China?

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  20. We should all email Harabedian and Capoccia to support Del Mar and Goss and overturn the Planning Commission approval of this house.

    One of them needs to vote with Del Mar and Goss to stop it.

    The more letters and emails they get the better.

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  21. Can anyone tell me why our adjudicated newspaper gave no coverage to Tuesday's city council meeting?

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    1. It tells me that the realtors whose advertising the MVN depends on for its survival are none too happy about the idea of the City Council shooting down a development project. A big story like this needed to be covered. Instead we got news of a robbery at an out of town Carrows.

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    2. I hope the pies were safe.

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  22. I very much agree with the arguments above. However, I'd like to point out that while these developments are obvious, less obvious but in many ways more destructive is the development occurring in people's own backyards. For example, my block just five years ago was a wooded, private, and beautiful small street. Friends would ask to walk up my street and often used the word "magical." Just five years later, the new owners, all parents with two children, seemingly an obligatory requirement to buy here, have devastated this magical street. Trees have been hacked down and whole properties stripped of vegetation either through neglect or based on a questionable philosophy of "native planting." Beautiful old trees chopped down primarily because these new owners don't wish to take care of them. Then come outdoor kitchens, outdoor theaters, demands that city code allow over building and other choices that come from watching too many home improvement shows. So, my own "magical" block, which was moonlit, drenched in the smell of trees and vegetation, full of birds, is now barren, with many spotlights lighting up empty and stripped yards full of concrete. These young couples claim this is progress. So, while everyone is fighting to end development, look on your own street and see development take place slowly and painfully. All the houses sold on this block and the block adjacent had been advertised as located in an area described as "tranquil and serene," with mature trees, night skies and a magical interface of nature and man. Now, its a block of electric lights, security cameras, concrete patios, barbeques, walls, and not a tree or shrub in sight. So, it isn't just developers - its your own neighbors who clamor for progress and modernity all the while ridiculing the "old" people who want that serene and tranquil place of oaks and elms and nature, hoping these old people, some of whom have lived here for decades, to just go away so they can build their urban dream houses. Just a thought to add to the stories of development. Its right under our noses, not on a hill somewhere. Its right next door, and forced on neighbors with an arrogance and sense of privilege often justified as "I can do what I want on my property." I know many of you have heard that phrase.

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  23. 8:27, you're forgetting the wind storm three years ago that served, if nothing else, as a distinct reminder that Sierra Madre had become, predominantly through neglect, quite overgrown. Your neighbors might have taken things to the extreme, but to each their own, especially in their own backyards. I had five trees, two big and three small, removed from my property years ago. The neighbor next door removed a total of four, plus a city tree out front. Plenty of foliage remains, but the area opened up nicely and the views of the mountains is spectacular now. S.M. really needs a thinning out imo.

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