Friday, January 30, 2015

Sierra Madre Tattler Friday News Clean Up

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Mod: This was one of the bigger weeks "the blog" has ever seen as far as traffic and total of reader commentary goes. The last 3 days saw over 11,000 hits and 340 comments, which is a lot for a news site largely focused on the affairs of a small San Gabriel Valley town of less than 11,000 people. We are now also in the running for 80,000 hits for the month, which would be a best ever record for The Tattler. Not bad for a blog that former Mayor Josh Moran once famously proclaimed nobody reads. Which, in case you weren't aware, is why we also like to post pictures. I thought that for today we would take a quick look at a few of the topics we probably would have posted about this week had we not gotten so caught up in what's been going down on Mira Monte. A story we're hardly finished with, so you know. 

Pasadena to pay $275K to fired department heads amid $6.4M embezzlement investigation (Pasadena Star News - link): The city will pay more than $275,000 to two Pasadena department heads who were fired amid a $6.4 million embezzlement from City Hall. Department of Public Works Director Siobhan Foster and finance chief Andrew Green were fired without cause by City Manager Michael Beck last week.

The city released details of the total severance packages that will be paid to Foster and Green on Wednesday morning. Foster will receive six months salary and healthcare benefits totaling $109,425.39. Green’s severance pay totaled $105,840.93.

In addition, Foster will receive a $33,198.21 check for hours worked, car and phone allowances, cash-outs for vacation, management time off and floating holiday hours afforded in her contract. Green will receive a $27,876.65 check.

Their dismissals came in the wake of the Dec. 30 arrests of former DPW employee Danny Ray Wooten, 51, Altadena-based contractor Tyrone Collins, 55, and former temporary city employee Melody Jenkins, 46. In a 60-count felony complaint, the city began an administrative investigation into the alleged embezzlement scandal.

Mod: Now there's a difference between public and private sector employment. If I were to get fired from my job I might be able to keep that box of fine-tipped black Sharpies I ordered recently. But I'd probably have to discuss it with HR first.

Don’t Be Left Out, Get Your Tickets Now for One Book One City Scotch Tasting (City of Sierra Madre website - link) Ticket sales begin on January 31st for the popular Scotch Tasting event, part of the One Book One City program at the Sierra Madre Public Library. The classic detective novel, The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, is Sierra Madre Library’s 2015 One Book, One City pick and a month of exciting events is planned celebrating Chandler and the LA Noir genre.

A celebration of the hard-living Marlowe will include a Scotch tasting on Friday, February 13, 2015, at 7:00 pm., in the Library and is limited to the first 30 pre-reservations. Tickets are $15 and will be available at the Library beginning at 1:00 pm on January 31st. No tickets will be sold at the door on the evening of the Scotch tasting event.

Mod: This works for me on so many levels I can't begin to tell you. Great book, one of the best genres ever, and scotch? What is the library trying to do, get cool on us?

Ray Bradbury's house, sold for $1.76 million, is being torn down (Los Angeles Times - link) Ray Bradbury lived in his 1937 Cheviot Hills home for more than 50 years. After the author of "Fahrenheit 451" died in 2012, the house was readied for sale.

The home was filled with original details, such as built-in bookcases, that surrounded Bradbury for much of his life. The next owner could be proud to live with the echo of Bradbury, the beloved science fiction writer who advised both Walt Disney and NASA.

Or not.

The longtime home of the late writer Ray Bradbury has come on the market in Cheviot Hills at $1.495 million. The home, which was purchased in June for $1.765 million, is being demolished. A permit for demolition was issued Dec. 30, Curbed LA reports, and a fan who visited the house over the weekend found it in the process of being torn down.

At the request of friends who'd heard the home was being destroyed, John King Tarpinian paid it a visit. "In only one day half of the house was gone," he writes at the science fiction site File 770.com.

Tarpinian took photos of the shattered roof, half-demolished walls and former patio where a knocked-out door frames emptiness behind. "As I was taking pictures locals were walking their dogs. They’d stop to observe and we’d converse," Tarpinian writes. "One lady had no idea who had owned the house; she was new to the neighborhood. She walked away in tears. Another long time neighbor knew it was Ray’s home and we mutually agreed things like this are just wrong but money wins out. Another young couple had no idea who Ray was ... the saddest encounter of all."

According to Curbed, Bradbury's house was purchased by "starchitect" Thom Mayne, of the firm Morphosis, and his wife, Blythe Alison-Mayne.

Mod: Maybe somebody just wanted to build their dream house there. Starchitect and all.

Falling Gas Tax Revenue Has California Lawmakers Considering Mileage Tax Plan (CBS News SF - link) With an increase in electric and hybrid vehicles along with better fuel-efficient vehicles, changing Bay Area drivers habit are posing a serious problem for state coffers.

As motorists use less and less gas, gas tax revenues to pay for state highways, roads and bridges shrink. Meanwhile, as gas prices fall, so does the sales tax generated by fuel sales. In California, among the taxes collected on fuel is a 2.25% sales tax on gasoline and a 9.67 percent tax on diesel.

Some state lawmakers feel a mileage tax is the best solution.

To pay for the shortfall, California officials are considering a plan that would replace California’s gas tax with a fee for each mile motorists drive. Drivers who log the most miles will end up paying the most, no matter how fuel efficient their car is.

Mod: This one doesn't seem to be going away. In order to track exactly how many miles you've been driving, the state would force you to carry a black box in your car that would pretty much let them know where you've been and what you've been up to. One particularly big champion of this invasive misery has been Hasan Ikhrata, the former Soviet official who now heads up our local regional planning organization SCAG. The very same inept and befuddled central government planners who yearly attempt to tell us how to run Sierra Madre. Detecting a pattern yet?

"Our Water is Black": Families Worry Over Foul-Smelling Tap Water (NBC LA - link) Families in a Southern California neighborhood worried by black and foul-smelling water pouring from their faucets, toilets and showers say their water company is not doing enough to fix the problem.

"We don't want to drink our water, because our water is black," said Gardena resident Emy Sebastian.

"My daughter says, 'Mommy the water is black and it stinks. Why does the water stink?' She doesn't want to wash her clothes."

Diane Morita and her neighbors say it's been happening off and on for months. She said the murky water "has an odor of rotten eggs or sewer smell."

"I'm concerned because it's getting worse, if it's even safe," Morita said.

"I refuse to drink the water," said resident Don Inouye. "I run it through a filter and I drink bottled water."

Some residents wonder if the black water is connected to their recent health problems. Sebastian said she and her daughter have gotten sick from drinking the tap water.

Mod: Don't you hate it when other cities try and one-up us?

City Councilman Pulls Out Gun To Defend Colleagues As Shooter Opens Fire (ABC News - link) A gunman opened fire inside a suburban Minneapolis city building Monday night, injuring two police officers before authorities returned fire and killed him, the county sheriff's department said.

The terrifying moments were caught on video inside the city council chambers. Video shows the city council memberse duck under the desk when they heard gunfire. One of the city council members even draws his own weapon, prepared to defend himself if needed.

Hennepin County Sheriff's Office chief deputy Mike Carlson said the shooting happened around 7:15 p.m. while two officers were being sworn in at the New Hope City Hall.

The newly sworn-in officers and others were leaving the city council chambers when they encountered a man armed with a "long gun," Carlson said at a news conference.

The man opened fire and struck two New Hope police officers, Carlson said. Other officers immediately returned fire, killing the gunman, he said.

Carlson said the officers are in good condition and are expected to survive. He did not identify the gunman or disclose a possible motive for the attack, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

Mod: Does anyone here know if any of our City Councilmembers are packing heat? Certainly could be an effective way of dealing with 15 minute public comments.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

56 comments:

  1. I also noticed the "Golden Parchute" package of about $275,000 given to the two Pasadena employees fired after the over $6,000,000 embezzlement. I suppose that under the union contract that the union negotiated with the Council members that they helped to elect, these two employees would have received $500,000 if the embezzlement had reached $10,000,000. The union contracts always seem to have those provisions that don't quite favor the taxpayers.

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    1. Yes. That and it is quite an expensive little cover-up they're running over there. Goes to show how unfortunate it can be to have a major embezzlement scandal right in the middle of a mayoral election.

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    2. There are many private co that give golden parachutes but it is usualy to the upper managment

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    3. The golden parachute as a reward for incompetence is just one more example of public employee excess. Let's put it in very stark terms. About 75% of the average city's entire budget now goes towards public employee salaries, benefits and pensions. That leaves only about 25% for everything else - like the senior center, library, filling potholes, you name it - only 25%. Beause that 25% is never enough cover all the things required to run a city, additonal revenue sources are needed. But nobody looks at the 75% that goes to the public employees, In fact, they keep getting raises, or increases in their beneifts or something every year. So let me ask a basic question: Do you want to pay higher taxes, work harder and retire later so that our public "servants" can retire at 50 or 55 with lavish pensions, cost of living increases, full medical benefits and yes, golden parachutes even when you get fired for incompetence? I think most thoughtful and informed people will arrive at the right answer.

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    4. Thanks for all that clarity 8:13.

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  2. I appreciate the range of stories the Tattler is covering. Along with my newspaper and a cup of Java, The Tattler has become a must read for me every morning. Thanks for digging out the stories for us not to mention the colorful way they are presented.

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  3. Mr. Mod.: Add this to your story line: Where is Adele?

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    1. She will be back and it will not be pretty.

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    2. Yes! I've been wondering where the CETT lawsuit process is.

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    3. McDonald's legal tripod only has two legs.

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  4. Philip Marlowe would know how to deal with Starchitects who tarry too long at public comment.

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  5. Ditto, 6:13, and no one can color the written word like John! He keeps me laughing as well as being informed!

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  6. Having just caught up on reading the last few days of this blog, I have to insert my two cents. I suspect most of us who view the pretty photographs of a beautiful old house wouldn’t want it torn down; I also suspect most everyone ranting on this blog DO NOT know all the details about how this project came about. Honestly, how many have sat down with the owner, the architect, and the City to know exactly what the renovation rules were before the request to demo occurred? My guess is NOT ONE of you. Therefore, you don’t know the real and complete story, yet you get on this blog and anonymously smear people just because you can. It’s fun for you but hurtful. Several of you have asserted that Vandevelde the architect is only pro- development, only supersizes homes and doesn’t “do craftsmen”. All of those assertions are completely wrong. It is disconcerting that those several of you who rant all day long, rallying each other, don’t realize how much your gumming back and forth colors the truth. How many of you donated 8 years of public service to the Planning Commission (Vandevelde did) with no drama, no other motive other than to serve the community? My guess is not one. Go ahead, run around in circles and wave your pitchforks above your head, but know that your energy is misguided because it further divides, not unites, our community.

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    1. 7:13, to sit down with every applicant is NOT MY JOB. I doubt you've done anything but bitch on this blog. A number of us have put YEARS into the preservation process.

      You want some cheese with your whine?

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    2. Why not leave 7:13 alone? Day late, brain short - have a little pity.

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    3. If anyone wishes to see how the other shoe is going to drop a little early, go to City Hall and ask to see the plans Vandy turned in for that at risk site on Mira Monte. You have the legal right to see them. And when you do it will give you a better understanding of what this is really about.

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    4. 7:13 is trying to blame the wrong people. We're not the ones tearing down beautiful old homes to build much larger homes. I know it would be a big sacrifice for the Browns to squeeze into a home just under 4,000 square feet, but why didn't they buy a home of that size to begin with. If they tear down that old home, how will it impact on the immediate neighbors? Doesn anyone care about the immediately neighbors? Does anybody care that the community wants to preserve older homes. I can believe you 7:13 or my lying eyes when I see those pictures of that magnificent old home.

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    6. In the real world if you do bad things there are consequences. If you don't like the consequences then don't do the bad things.

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    7. Look 7:13, I understand where you are coming from. But if everyone is allowed to do whatever they want, then the town of Sierra Madre changes into something else.... like Arcadia, to use the closest example. Hopefully, we can all agree that you have to have reasonable rules in place to prevent that from happening. I would think that people choose to live in Sierra Madre because its not Arcadia. That didn't happen by chance or luck. It happened because alot of people are committed to preserving this town and have spent alot of time battling developers, attending Planning Commission and City Council Meetings resulting in people like you being drawn to this special place. I hope we can also agree that when when you want to tear down an existing home and build something different, its important that what you build does not adversely impact on the neighbors in terms of their privacy, views and light. They may have lived in their home for twenty years and bought it precisely because of the views, privacy and light it has had for all the years since they have owned it. I hope we are in agreement so far. Finally, I hope you can understand that the community at large also has a stake in this process. If someone were to buy Lizzy's Trail Inn for example and want to tear it down. I'm sure they might have a few kids and they want to live in Sierra Madre because its such a great town and their might be some financial hardship because they had expected to tear it down. But can you understand why people might be opposed to tearing down Lizzy's Trail Inn. This is nothing personal against the Brown family. This is about preserving the identity and the history of this town that is reflected not just in its people but also its buildings, homes and architecture. Should we allow every old Craftsman in town to be torn down because a nice family wants to do so or should just the Brown family be allowed to do it? I think its very reasonable based on the pictures that everyone has seen as well as the listing agent's own marketing remarks to want to make absolutely sure that there is no other option for the Henry A. Darling House short of the wrecking ball. Finally, I hope we can also agree that the response to those having such concerns about the Henry A. Darling House and wanting such an inquiry should probably not be shouting "Shame on you!" to them. That's all were saying.

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    8. Thank you 10:52.

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  7. Has there ever been any good news associated with Hasan Ikrata?
    Maybe for the Russians, when he left.

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    1. He puts on a good show at the council. Remember when, for a brief moment, we were going to drop out of SCAG and stop paying the dues? Ikrata came to town to make sure that didn't happen.

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    2. Govt funded organizations like SCAG and COG exist for the sole purpose of enforcing the planning and development deals Sacramento made with various lobbyists and other pay to play entities. Corrupt govt officials need their enforcers. It helps them improve the cash haul.

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  8. Funny Mod that you'd mention former Mayor Josh Moran. I saw his picture on a milk carton the other day.

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    1. I hope for him that he is having a good life with his family. I think he would agree that the foray into politics was a big mistake.

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    2. Josh has made a few mistakes. Hopefully with age he has learned to stop making them.

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  9. I liked and respected him on the Planning Commission, but not Tuesday night when he went on and on, even after Mayor Harabedian asked him to wrap it up. Yes, again 7:13 - many of the posters (and Tuesday's speakers) have spent four years helping to develop the General Plan Update, working on the subcommittees, saving the City over $50,000 by aiding the consultants, listening to resident after resident at Town Hall Forums and in their completed surveys voice similar concerns - save our town and our funky admosphere, don't let the newbies ruin our views of the mountains and valley. The new General Plan is not in place as yet because of bad City Councils in the past, but quite a few of the speakers worked on the 1996 Plan, which also attempts to protect what we have. Julie Brown did not make any friends by saying "Shame on you" because people were speaking out against tearing down a craftsman home. Several of us had our view disappear in 1993 because of a teardown. We spoke before City Council, which voted for the new owners, except for George Mauer, who I remember saying at the time to the owners,"what you're telling us is 'I want what I want because I want it.'" That's what the Browns sounded like to us, especially those of us who have remodeled, shored up our homes without tearing them down,.

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  10. Dear 7:13, The people who divide this community are the ones that ignored the 3 minute public comment rule at the city council meeting and after 10 minutes ignore the Mayor when he politely asks them to stop. These speakers do not believe that the rules apply to them and that they are better than the rest of us who do follow the rules.

    By the way, the council members heard your concerns and will accommodate them as much as possible.

    One more thing 7:13, and I mean this with all due respect. You accuse the people who post on this blog of hiding behind unanimity but I do not see your name attached to your post.

    Respectfully, Barry Gold

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    1. Barry Gold is so right! As for sitting down with these people and discussing their needs??????Really? Did they ask us? They had a perfect opportunity to "share" with us Tuesday night. They became the belittlers and the name callers. As for the architect, "standing before us as just another citizen" never said he was their architect? So upfront, so honest, so open. Where have they been for months? Spend another couple of days reading the blogs and see if you can't come to a better conclusion. No hurt intended!

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    2. The whole victimhood schtick is just so sad. If that is all you have in your intellectual tool kit then you might as well just give up.

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    3. Hey Barry, you channeling Nancy Walsh? John V is a well respected member of this town. So what if he went over, if it would've been someone who was aligned with you're views, I'm sure you wouldn't have had a problem.

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    4. 10:52 --- Pot, kettle, black.

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    5. 10:52 is talking out of both sides of a mouth. Probably intentionally, so best to just ignore.

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    6. If it is who I think it is, 10:52 made some very big promises to some people and failed to deliver on them Tuesday. That person was unprepared, caught flat footed, and his assumption that he could bluster his way past the CC fell laughably short. That is hardly Barry's fault. Barry shows up prepared and on point.

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    7. Dear 10:52, I do not know John V but if you say he is a well respected member of this town I believe you. It is too bad that he does not respect us, especially our excellent Mayor, John Harabedian. I would, by the way, have the same problem with someone I agreed with speaking way beyond the allotted time and ignoring the Mayor’s pleas for them to let others have a chance to talk.

      10:52, you do not know me, so you might be surprised to know that I do not disagree with everything you say. I just wish you could say it with the respect you want from others.

      Respecfully, Barry Gold

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    8. Thanks for trying to elevate the discussion, Barry. You're the best.

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    9. The hangers on in the development world are too broke to pay attention.

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  11. Respected by whom?

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    1. The same 30 or so people who give each other awards a couple times a year.

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  12. We seem to have a dedicated troll on this thread. Always makes me wondered if they are paid to do it. Ya know, like Chip.

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    1. Chip is smarter. This one was grown under a light in the basement.

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    2. I'm guessing it's a female troll. I'll call her Whine (Wine) Lady.

      I prefer CAPS GUY, myself.

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  13. Since the conversation is about preservation ...
    Does anyone know the lawsuit status of the City vs Hildreth?

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    1. If anyone knows how to support a house to replace the rock foundation that would be the person.
      pretty impressive cellar

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    2. Maybe the Brown's should get his advice and keep the house

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    3. They don't want that house. They'll be selling it, bet ya.

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    4. What is the difference between a dream house and a modern family house?

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  14. Let's try to figure out how to avoid the ugly lose-lose Mir Monte/Brown/Vandertalktalk mess in future?
    Part of the problem is the realistic assumption that to get what you want you need to lie/cheat/deceive the CC, the Building Dept, the Code Inspector, the neighbors.
    The cause is that our Community principles are not clear and they can be easily(Danny Castro/Camillo) circumvented. Hopefully Barry Gold will improve that with his valiant Preserve Sierra Madre efforts.
    Most of the rules are obstructive and full of loopholes. There is lots of ugly and forbidding negative. That is O.K. if there is also some encouragement of the decent, honest, "let's restore this old house" types. So how do we actually welcome, support, encourage and attract home buyers/owners who want to do the 'right' thing. Ominously, little or nothing is said about helping the Preservation and Heritage cause by changing rules ,ordinances and yes, waiving the sillier aspects of some modern building codes.
    Without such positive changes to make the rules fit our objectives, this is indeed just whining ,with or without the cheese:-).

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    1. That is not true in Sierra Madre. That is why an ex mayor and ex planning commission member was speaking for the Browns. It is not what you know it is who you know in this town. If the in crowd doesn't like your idea, your out.
      I just wonder why the Brown's just didn't go to the Troll and do a back door deal with the City Manager.

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    2. Talk to the greedy real estate salesmen who advertise "great for a lot split", great for developers, etc. I did see on Redfin that the Mira Monte Ave. house was described by the realtor as the Darling house and that it was historic. So gee, did the Brown's read that? I did look at Vandertalks website, not much done in Sierra Madre. When he was on the PC did he also announce over and over that he was an architect as Mr. Du Sai does ? (sp) Did he give instructions to architects and builders on what and how to do what is needed to get passed? The present commissioner does that. We need to be very attentive to whom is going to go on the planning commission in the future.

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    3. 2:31 You're so right in regards to the realtors and sellers .
      Go to Zillow put in homes for sale in Sierra Madre and read about the home with the undisclosed address on Santa Anita that has plans,permits,and no problems getting the house built ...Seller is asking only for people with money and no bird dogs ,and no deals ... I'm thinking the head on this fish stinks !
      Along with that property is one on the corner of Sunnyside two blocks above Sierra Madre Blvd. going for a Million ... The realtor states the property will make for a great split or investment ... The house being sold is a cross between hoarder and ramshackled mess looking for a foreign buyer that's more than willing to get ripped off .

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