Saturday, January 17, 2015

CETT Attorney Richard McDonald's Secret Letter To Sierra Madre City Staff Regarding 610 Baldwin Court

Not Stephen Colbert. Click here.
Mod: After having paid for my .99c trial subscription to the Pasadena Star News website I settled down for some agreeable current events reading. Or at least I did after the two beers it took to get my racing pulse back to its normally lackadaisical pace. And it was at that happy moment I came across an article titled "Sierra Madre city council denies permits for hillside residential project," which hopefully you can access by clicking here. If not, please have your credit card ready. Your call may be monitored for quality control purposes. And 'twas right then and there that I discovered within this news item the following key insight:


"The contents of the email were unknown to this paper as of Wednesday night." Hmm.

Now I am by nature a competitive person, especially after having had to put down my AMEX card to cover the cost of a .99c one month trial subscription to a website that I had previously enjoyed for the lordly price of free. A truly exponential price increase.
Not Richard McDonald.
After that trial period the cost goes to $10 every 30 days, by the way. Which won't break me financially, but as I am sure you know it does all add up.

So, long story short, I sent an email to Sierra Madre City Manager Elaine Aguilar stating that she had just this second received a California Public Records Act request, and needed to send me the aforementioned Richard McDonald email as quickly as possible. Lo and behold, a half hour later I received a reply from Elaine stating I could pick up that very email at City Hall "at my earliest convenience." Talk about quick service! But there would be a .06c per page copying fee, or 12 cents total for the two of them. Everybody has their hand out these days.

I drove there, then dug deep and paid up. I gave the City exact change because I do know how busy they can get there sometimes. And I can happily report that the copies were of the finest quality.

So here is that big secret email. Please pay particular attention to the last paragraph. I have questions I need to ask about that part and I am hoping you might know something I don't.

From:  Richard McDonald
Sent Saturday, December 13, 2014 12:14 PM
To:  Leticia Cardoso
Cc:  Adele Chang; Elaine Aguilar
Subject:  RE: 610 Baldwin Court - Meeting with City Council Subcommittee

Leticia -

Thank you for organizing our December 10 meeting with Councilmembers Del Mar (sic) and Goss, who were appointed by the City Council on November 25 to act as its subcommittee on the design of the residence on Lot 24.  As stated on November 25, the City Council disagrees with the unanimous vote of its Planning Commission ("PC") approving the HDP application for Lot 24 because it believes that Design Guidelines 1.2 applies and the Planning Commission did not reduce the "massing" of the residence enough to comply with it.  More specifically, as the Council stated on November 25, the second floor of the residence needs to be reduced "much more" to protect the view of the hillside from Carter Avenue and to "conform" it more to the "natural slopes of the hillside."

With that in mind, we met with Councilmembers Del Mar (sic) and Goss on December 10 to hear their proposal, which they said was as follows:

1.   They want the applicant to eliminate the master bedroom above the garage rather than simply set it back as approved by the PC, which was an amount significantly greater than the setback in the HMZ.

2.   They want the applicant to eliminate 14 feet of the second story from the back of the residence, in addition to the PC's changes to the front of the residence.

After reviewing the plans, I calculated that the elimination of the master bedroom would equal approximately 357 square feet, and that the elimination of 14 feet from the back of the residence would equal approximately 252 square feet, which would be a total reduction of approximately 609 square feet and which they said was "roughly" the number they had.  Last, in response to my questions about the basis for their proposal, they stated they believe that each proposed change follows the "intent" of the Design Guidelines.

As promised, I have spoken to my client bout whether it will agree to the subcommittee's proposal and the answer is as follows:

First, please thank Councilmembers Del Mar (sic) and Goss for taking the time to serve on the subcommittee, which we acknowledged involved more of their time that the work they already do deserving on the Council.

Second, please let them, and the Council, know that the applicant will not agree to their proposal.  Simply put, there is no basis for it under the governing documents.  In fact, it is contrary to the express language of the governing documents.

Third, the applicant reiterates its request that the unanimously approved design by the PC be approved by the City Council at the continued hearing for this matter on January 13, 2015.  As you will recall, we did not agree to the continuance from November 25, 2014 to January 13, 2015, and will not agree to any further continuances.

Fourth, and lastly, since we have repeatedly denied that we threatened any litigation over this matter at any time, and in fact have not done so, please inform them that we regard the closed sessions with the PC and Council on this matter under the rubric of such a threat as a violation of the Brown Act.  we, therefore, request that such sessions cease immediately.

Thank you for your efforts.  We look forward to seeing you on January 13, 2015.  In the meantime, have a good holidays.

Richard A. McDonald, Esq.
Of Counsel, Varlson & Nicholas, LLP
140 South Lake Avenue, Suite No. 251
Pasadena, CA 91101

Mod: So that is pretty much it. As we saw on Jan. 13, the above letter and the points made therein were not discussed by Mr. McDonald at Tuesday's City Council meeting. Rather he somewhat obliquely referred to this e-mailed letter, which at that time neither you nor I, or just about any resident visitor to Council Chambers or watching at home on television that evening, had seen. Which is why I thought it was vitally important for The Tattler to get this for you and present it here.

It is critical that everyone in this community be made as aware as possible about all aspects of the One Carter debacle.

This leaves one question that I have, although you may have others of your own. What PC/CC closed sessions is Mr. McDonald referring to here? And since these sessions are held in secret per the City Attorney's recommendation, how is it that he apparently knows what was being discussed?

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

62 comments:

  1. First of all, thanks to the Tattler for noticing that little tidbit of information about the email and getting it to us right away. There is no other news source out there that would have dug deeper than what's on the surface. Secondly, the letter reconfirms that Goss and Delmar are heroes in all of this. They didn't just nibble at the edges of this project like the Planning Commission did in asking the developer to move something a foot here or a foot there. They had the courage to ask for significant changes to the project which are actually needed to bring it into conformance with the pertinent legal documents. Goss and Delmar also held firm on that position. Again, they are both heroes in all of this. Finally, people can see just how hostile this developer has been from the get-go. By buying the property so cheaply, they probably figured that they still had enough cushion to be able to spend a few hundred thousand dollars in legal fees to try to intimidate and bludgeon the City into approving the project they wanted. Based on the past history with previous City Council, they probably figured it would be more of the same with this City Council. Boy were they in for a rude awakening when they ran into Goss, Delmar and a united City Council that really does care about preservering our community and our hillsides.

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    1. Goss has been a bit of a surprise on some issues. Gotta give him credit.

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    2. It is funny, it used to be the candidates we elected that went over to the other side. I wonder how the dirts are feeling about Harabedian and Goss these days.

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    3. We may not agree with Harabedian on every issue. Heck, I don't agree with my wife on every issue. But Harabedian is a decent guy who cares about the city and respects the people he represents. What a change from Nancy Walsh?

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    4. Look, we've had a couple of good months. But those couple of good months followed the worst decade this poor old city has ever seen. Sorry, but it is going to take more than one date to get me out of my bloomers.

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    5. I like what Harabedian has done and I admire his handling of the meetings, and have even appreciated some of his jokes. However, I have not forgotten the photo shopped officers' badges during the campaign, about which he never apologized nor explained.

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  2. I know people have been on her case, but our City Attorney, Therese H. I think it is, did a magnificent job in providing the legal cover for the eventual decision of the City Council. Because of her, we are now positioned really well should this end up in court which it won't. The developer would be foolish to think they can win in court given that courts have always given tremendous deference and latitude to City Councils controlling development in their communities and particularly in a sensitive hillside area like One Carter. We called their bluff and so the developer really has no where to go. The legal option is out for the reason mentioned. It would bankrupt them. They have now exhibited so much bad faith that any thought of a negotiated compromise is also out. The only option left to them is to agree to all of the demands of the City Council and make all of the changes to the project that have been put forth. CETT should also fire their attorney. McDonald had the arrogance and smugness to think that he could prevail against our City Council. Well it turns out, all of his antics were a bunch of "BS" as he had put it about our City Council. He failed miserably and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

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    1. Things seem to be jelling right now for the preservation movement in Sierra Madre. I think people have finally woken up to the fact that things don't last forever and if you don't act quickly, Sierra Madre can turn into north Arcadia pretty fast. Arcadia all hapend in a span of only about 20 years.

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    2. The barbarians are at the gate and everyone can see it. That has focused peoples minds. People care about this town enough to not want to lose it.

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    3. OK, 7:08, can you explain Highsmith's role in the Planning Commission's decision to approve?

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    4. Not 7:08, but I would have said because she wanted it appealed to the City Council. But how could she have assumed the residents would have called for that appeal?

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    5. 8:29. I think the Planning Commission tended to want it approved and then she does her bidding. As John Hutt pointed out, these things can go either way when you have discretion involved. LIkewise, under this better City Council, she did their bidding too. That's why I think Elaine will do better when she is not having to answer to people like Nancy Walsh. Can you imagine taking order from Nancy "I can take you out" Walsh? That would make anybody look bad.

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    6. Elaine also did whatever Josh Moran, Joe Mosca, and John Buchanan told her to do. And, as I hope you are aware, we are dealing with a lot of damage that came directly out of those years.

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    7. Elaine Aguilar is a survivor, and she has done that by working hard to win the favor of anyone she sees as a political comer. But that does not mean we do not need a change. Too many bad things have happened on her watch.

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    8. 7:29, I'd love to know what part of Sierra Madre you think is more appealing than North Arcadia?

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    9. Every inch of it?

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    10. http://photos1.zillowstatic.com/p_h/IS1nq61w14xfig1000000000.jpg

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    11. Have you taken a drive through North Arcadia lately? North, not South. Extremely well kept properties, zero rental units, wide streets throughout, virtually no composition roofing, large uniform lots, no two floorplans the same, some of the best schools in California, and great neighborhood watch programs. I own and live in Sierra Madre, but I choose to recognize our inferiority in these respects, rather than demonize the "competition". Let's be fair, for God's sake.

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    12. Then pack up your versace luggage and move. Nobody wants to hear your whining anyway. Go buy yourself a McMansion and practice walking up and down the stairs.

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    13. Why would somebody who doesn't like Sierra Madre want to live here? Move already. There are plenty of people who would be very happy to take 12:05's place.

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    14. You see, I can't, they have higher property values, I'll have to stay here in SM in the low rent side of town.

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    15. Have you looked into Asuza? They have some attractive high density housing for lower income people like you.

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    16. Look friend, when I talk about Arcadia, I'm referring primarily to south Arcadia which is where most of the 150 or so homes have been torn down this past year. North Arcadia is nice but keep in mind the south Arcadia contagion is now spreading its tenticles into north Arcadia which is why the Highland HOA recently worked hard to stop some McMansions that were about to be built in their neighorhood. I could have said said south Arcadia to be more precise but because of Arcaida's pro--development free-for-all, the good folks in north Arcadia now have to spend their valuable time trying to hand on to what they have and not have it ruined by some McMansion being built next door that hurts thier property value, views, light and privacy.

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    17. 12:05, "demonize the competition"?
      Arcadia isn't the competition; it's the object lesson for how to ruin a community.

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  3. McDonald isn't Stephen Colbert. He's funnier.

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  4. Illegal quorum, that's how.

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    1. And here I thought it might have been a mini drone.

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  5. The Tatler is a pretty sophisticated outfit so you don't want to miss any of their "extras". Clink on the link under McDonald's picture where is says "here" just to be reminded of the nonsense this guy is willing to spew to get his way. While we've had a little rain lately, nobody should think our drought is over. Its far from over and its actually getting worse as each year seems to bring less and less rainfall. Go to this link for the latest on our water shortage:: http://www.whittierdailynews.com/environment-and-nature/20141003/metropolitan-water-district-official-says-rationing-will-be-needed-if-drought-doesnt-ease That also bring to mind Tom Love and his efforts to sabotage the effort to enact the moratoriums. There are a few people who belong in our pantheon of anti-heroes - Love and McDonald being right there together. Forgive but don't forget.

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    1. Did you notice how Bruce Inman looked at mcDonald after being identified as Sierra Madre's General Manager?

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    2. Inman shoots that look at lot. It's his "serious" one.

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    3. Reminds me of "blue steel" from the movie Zoolander.

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    4. When Bruce does that it is called "rusty pipe."

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    5. Film Flam Inman needs to go. I'm tired of his bs!

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  6. Things are going too well. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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  7. First, Mr. McDonald needs to learn to write. His skills are lacking. Secondly, I believe I heard him infer several times, that denial would cause some legal action. I could be crazy, and proud, if I did not hear him threaten. It's obvious to me that the council and the commission would meet to discuss the probability of a suit. And would they really want opposing council at these meetings? Once again, he threatens but doesn't cite where this would be a violation of the Brown Act. Let's not forget all those private meetings he had. Or am I imagining that, too?

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    1. I think it is just more bluster from Lawsuit Richie. He knows he got the pants beat off him so he had to act tough about something.

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    2. Agreed 8:07. The city attorney talking to the entire council (or a quorum) is no Brown Act matter.

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    3. You mean Teresa Highsmith doesn't need Richie's permission first?

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  8. McDonald is a liar.
    To threaten legal action repeatedly and then deny he did it?
    A fool and a liar.

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    1. I liked the way Capoccia called McDonald out on the untrue things he said in the Star News piece.

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    2. Yes, McDonald must look real bad to his client CETT who I'm sure followed his advice about how to get this project approved. Threats and intimidation don't sit too well in Sierra Madre. If they had tried another approach and didn't go "legal" from the very beginning, they might have had a good project up there that we could all be proud of. But don't let the owner of CETT off the hook, they are as much of a jerk as McDonald is. They have authorized McDonald's behavior and they hide behind their anonymity. Let them show get up and show their face rather than hiding in the back and hiring surrogates to do their bidding. At Tuesday's meeting, Robert Ho, who I understand is one of the owners sat in the back and then he ducked out once he saw the crowd again and knew what the result was going to be. That's why we have to keep up the pressure every step of the way.

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    3. It is too bad Ho split. His unhinged rants at public comment are hilarious.

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    4. 9:03, that wasn't Mr. Ho. Last time Ho appeared was months ago, and he stated he owns 2 lots.
      Don't know who the mystery guest, but he has been at every CETT meeting. My guess was Frank Chen, someone listed as project manager.
      Whoever really owns CETT has never appeared and announced her/himself. On paper it's a woman named Hui Ru Han.

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  9. John's efforts to obtain the email should be commended. In my opinion, of equal importance to this preservation movement should be implementation of city codes requiring a certain level of upkeep to existing homes and landscapes, that would result in heavy fines and possible liens if not met. I'm noticing far too many people around town letting their properties go, and this should be met with heavy opposition.

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    1. Storm Troopers of Real Estate, coming our way.

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    2. Do stop by and tell me how you think my house should look, 11:15.

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    3. 11:30, if your property is one of the many with peeling fascias, haphazard landscaping, little attention to detail, and an overall lack of upkeep, then you need to be led in the right direction via fines and/or liens. That element is holding back everyone's property values. It's why everyone is moving to Orange County and nobody's coming this way (unfortunately).

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    4. Let me get this straight, Dotty. You think property values in Sierr Madre have gone down?

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    5. No, they've appreciated, but they haven't kept up with surrounding communities that have mandated upkeep. That's my point.

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    6. Sierra Madre property values have consistently outperformed the vast majority of communities in the San Gabriel Valley. Obviously you are not in touch with reality. If you're looking for control freak club plan living where everything looks the same, go move to Palm Desert. You'll be more comfortable there I'm sure.

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    7. 11:15....liens? liens?... exactly WHO IN THE ($#@!) ARE YOU?....liens!!...shut the ($%#@) up, busy body (%&^%$#@#) ...

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  10. Great job Mod. When I see you I will give you 6 cents. I want to help you keep them all honest and open.

    Also I would like to easy the burden on the family budget.

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  11. Mc Donald is having bad luck along with Adele and Ho.
    The curse on that property already manifesting.

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    1. There are forces up there that nobody can understand.

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    2. What do you expect? Its an Indian burial ground.

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    3. Anyone who would try and build a McMansion on those sacred grounds, and then attempt to raise innocent children there, should be arrested for being a bad parent.

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    4. They are literally excavationg a cemetary of the Gabrieliano Indians. These homes will be built to cater to Chinese buyers. But Chinese buyers are the ones that always ask "Has anybody died in the home?" If somebody did, they won't touch it with a ten foot pole. These are the same people that don't want to buy a home that has the number 4 in the address. If they find out about the murder that occured up there and the Indian burial ground, they might ever sell one of those houses. They better hope their kids don't play around in the yard and inadvertantly dig up some bones. That will sure freak them out. I wonder if the developer will disclose the burial ground to prospective Buyers?

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  12. Here's a cautionary sight. This is the house at 190 No. Lima that's right "by the numbers" but oh-so-wrong for its neighborhood. I'm betting that 12:05, aka 11:15, would love it.
    http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/190-N-Lima-St-Sierra-Madre-CA-91024/20885543_zpid/

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  13. Our City Attorney uses the law suit ruse any time she wants to have a closed session. And, it doesn't matter if the applicant has threatened or not, it only matters that the city attorney believes it may be a threat. Case in point - the discussion re: suites vs. dwelling units when the ALF was being discussed at the Planning Commission. There was a very blatant Brown Act meeting prior to the Planning Commission meeting, but no way to prove it since the Commissioners are sworn to secrecy.

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    1. Flip it back to you. An attorney like Lawsuit Richie will tell you he and his client never once considered suing someone. Never ever ever. Right up until they time they sue. This is a two-way street. Both sides play the game.

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