Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Hell Comes To The Highlands: Arcadia City Hall's Colossal Flip Flop On Mansionization

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It would be hard to imagine a city that sold out its residents quite as ruthlessly as Arcadia has. I am assuming that the compromised individuals who serve both on the City Council and in City Hall there are not profiting personally by their capitulation to the vast sums of cash being waved beneath their snouts. Making them kind of voyeuristic.

So here is perhaps the singular most remarkable flip-flop I've seen from any San Gabriel Valley city government in quite some time. It is rather stunning in its utter lack of regard for the needs of long time residents, people who who have paid actual taxes to the smitten City of Arcadia for years. Breathtaking, actually. You can only imagine the kinds of shady back room deals that must have taken place for this to happen.

This first article we're citing today ran in the Arcadia Weekly last December. It was a hopeful piece that left the reader with the impression that even Arcadia can show occasional glimpses of humanity. You may link to the entire article here.

Arcadia Council Deals a Blow to Builders In a unanimous vote, the Arcadia City Council backed irate homeowners and dealt a blow to builders in the city seeking to tear down existing houses and replace them with enormous mansions. At a public hearing in its moderately filled chamber, the City Council agreed with the Planning Commission’s decision to uphold the ruling of the Highlands Homeowners’ Association (HOA) and rejected the developer’s appeal. The Highlands HOA’s Architectural Review Board (ARB) had denied design plans for a new nearly 7,000 square-foot two-story single-family residence at 211 Monte Place, a cul-de-sac off of Canyon Road. ARB had turned down the builder’s plans on grounds that the proposed home was “incompatible in mass and scale to the surrounding buildings in the neighborhood.”

According to Highlands HOA statistics, the majority of the homes in the Highlands area are less than 5,000 square feet.

In front of a group of unhappy Highland homeowners and City Council members, Kurt Von Hatten, the project designer of KVH Design Group, argued that he and his staff had made significant adjustments to their plan to take into consideration resident concerns about the massive scale of the proposed home. Some of Mr. Von Hatten’s suggested modifications included increasing the home’s setback from the nearby hillside, moving the entire house further away from the curb than the existing house, placing the three-car garage as far back on the lot as possible, and putting the driveway on the side of the home.

However, City Council members didn’t buy Mr. Von Hatten’s arguments. They expressed concern that Mr. Von Hatten had not adequately consulted the neighbors about the house’s proposed square footage nor had the developer adhered to safety issues by proposing building within such close proximity of a hillside, given the possibility of the danger of mud slides.

Now that was back in December. Not too long ago. In the pages of today's edition of the Pasadena Star News we find that what was given in December of 2014 has now been completely taken away, and just six short weeks later. A link to the entire article can be found here.

Arcadia to deny appeal that aimed to halt large home development - The Arcadia City Council is expected Tuesday to deny an appeal filed by the Highland Homeowner’s Association that aims to halt development of two large homes, which residents say are “changing the fabric” of the foothill community.

The council will continue a hearing Tuesday that began at a Jan. 20 meeting, according to a staff report. At the hearing several residents in the 850-home community spoke out against proposed design plans. According to the design plans both homes could be larger than 6,000 sq. ft.

April Verlato, a member of the homeowner’s association’s Architectural Review Board, said the issues are with obstruction of view and invasion of privacy.

“These issues are very important to a foothill community where houses all have views,” said Verlato, whose home is located next door to one of the properties.

During the meeting, the council is expected to address only legal issues that were raised during the hearing, which include possible violations of the California Environmental Quality Act.

It is rather amazing that Arcadia's City Council can flip and flop with such a wild and complete abandon. So how could this happen? It has to be the money. The vast amounts of it currently being smuggled out of the Peoples Republic of China and used to fertilize some of the biggest and most ostentatious nouveau riche vanity barns in California.

You also have to wonder why the FBI isn't looking into this. It seems to me that all the signs of rampant corruption are clearly there. What else could it be?

Sierra Madre City Hall Takes The Fall

You may recall that on Sunday we were pretty certain that The Mountain Views News had spaced out on running a Public Notice for what was to be this week's Planning Commission meeting. And that because of this Thursday's meeting had to be canceled. The harm caused being an unnecessary delay in establishing the floor size restrictions that would help prevent Sierra Madre from sharing in the same sad fate the Arcadia Highlands is now facing.

However, it turns out that I was not quite as right as I'd like to be. While I did leave open the possibility that there might be other culprits responsible for this extreme disservice to this city, I put it mostly on dear Susan Henderson. And it turns out that she likely had little to do with it. At least this time.

So who is responsible? Thanks to the dedicated sleuthing of our friend Judy Gold, we now know that the fault lies with City Hall. Here is the confirming e-mail she received from Sierra Madre City Manager Elaine Aguilar.


That said, any on top of it publisher of an adjudicated weekly newspaper of record should have known that this week's Planning Commission meeting did require a public hearing notice. And therefore would have gotten on the phone and asked our snoozing city staff where it is. After all, advertising is the life's blood of the newspaper business. Plus there is that civic duty thing that comes with owning such a newspaper. It does receive tax money.

So the Mountain Views News is not completely off the hook.

But we should also take into account the bright side. While that Planning Commission meeting is not going to happen Thursday, and therefore the fight against mansionizing Sierra Madre has been unfortunately delayed, the City Manager did actually admit that City Hall made a mistake.

I do not recall that ever happening before.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

51 comments:

  1. Who exactly is "staff" in this instance? Are we to envision the entire Sierra Madre staff arm in arm all with a hand on the envelope?
    I think not.
    Who specifically is responsible, and what are their duties day to day?
    Additionally,
    is there administrative oversight is missing that would prevent failures in communication in the future?

    Neuroblast Films

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    1. Good point. There needs to be an investigation. It is a pretty bad screw up.

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    2. The City is short staffed. You need to pay more Utility User Tax in order for staff to do their jobs properly. Get it?

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  2. When will city hall issue a statement explaining how this error was made and who exactly was responsible?

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    1. When will City Hall 'fess up?, when hell freezes over, that's when!

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    2. There will be some kind of excuse.

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  3. City Hall does not make these types of errors, I suspect this move was planned and calculated.

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    Replies
    1. Slow growth gets slow approval. Developers have meetings at city hall.

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  4. Thank you Judy Gold, great detective work.

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    1. Brilliant! Ask a simple question receive a simple answer.

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  5. Arcadia City Hall. A fully owned subsidiary of Sanyao International.

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    1. Arcadia sold its soul some time ago. I'm not sure there is any coming back from that.

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    2. From public records It's clear two of the counsel members are heavily funded by the developers and in one case exclusively funded by the developers. One of them is Mayor Wuo and the other is Councilman Roger Chandler. Mr. Chandler is also a bully and rambles on and on in city hall meeting attacking everyone who don't agree with him. Both these men are in Real Estate business and bound to profit big time from these deals. Arcadia City counsel is starting to look like the city of Bell

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  6. Not only is it nice to see City Hall own up to the mistake, in the name of accuracy, we also appreciate the Tatler publishing this correction too as soon as it became aware that Susan Henderson was not the culprit.

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    1. Susan should have known the ad was do. This was laziness from both sides.

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    2. And how do you know that Susan didn't ask for the notice? Maybe she was told, it will be late.

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    3. Knowing that the meeting would have to be canceled, how could city hall be "late?" What else were they doing that took precedent?

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    4. Judging on past performance, Henderson was the most likely culprit.

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    5. I think Susan answers to Elaine.

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    6. Susan surely answers to Mayor John Harabedian. So much for the so-called "freedom of the Press."

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    7. His code name is "blue coat."

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    8. I thought it was "Legal Eagle".

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    9. Don't be silly. Henderson is for sale. She answers to the highest bidder.

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  7. That's really sad about the reversal of the decision in Arcadia. It just goes to show how you have to be vigilant or like at the last Sierra Madre City Council meeting, the developers start to apply their own pressure and they often have alot of money at their disposal. I really feel sorry for the neighbors. I do for walks often in upper Hastings Ranch. When that community was first laid out on that slope near the mountains, it was recognized that everyone could have a nice view if it was laid out like the statdium seating in a movie theater which each row in the back being a little bit higher than the row in front. Almost every home was built like that and most remain that way. But as I walk around I start to see these newer homes that have gone up that are of course 2-story to enable that owner to get even better views of the mountains behind and the city lights in front as well as the extra square footage. But by disrupting the pattern you've impact a couple of rows of homes behind you as well as destroyed the privacy of the homes in front of you. Its so selfish and it just makes me sick. All I can do is shake my head and feel sorry for the nearby homes around the 2-story. That attitude of only looking out for themselves is what is happening in Hastings Ranch, Sierra Madre, Arcadia and or course what those poor folks in the HIghland are now facing. That is how one McMansion or even just a 2-story home can disrupt the whole neighborhood. While I never recommend getting a lawyer, April Verlato needs one now that her elected representatives have abandoned her.

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    1. When you are facing a developer, a lawyer is essential.
      But the decision hasn't been made yet - maybe the council will find a way to protect its constituents?

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    2. 7:09, great comment. Thanks.

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    3. 7:20 - according to the Star News the deal is done. You know something different?

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    4. 7:35, I don't have much hope, just noticing the "is expected", and wondering how the Star News knows a decision a council has yet to make.

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    5. The fix is in.

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    6. The city ignored the will of the residents. AMore than 50 % of the residents signed a petition and sent it to the city opposing the new homes. At the end just follow the money. The Mayor is in bed with the developers.

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    7. Call the District Attorney. Too much money floating around for this not to be corruption.

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  8. Just read that Harry Reid is being accused of fast tracking visas for Chinese investors, those that want to launder money or invest. Imagine that?

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    1. Everybody wants in on the scam.

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    2. Selling out America. One green card at a time.

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    3. Ya, you got that right, $cam!

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    4. Only takes a $ 500,000 "business investment" for a free green card. Clinton started it but Bush & Obama continue the sham.

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    5. I wonder what they did with it all. Besides leaving us to live with the consequences.

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  9. Another refugee from ArcadiaFebruary 3, 2015 at 7:22 AM

    Thank you Judy and Barry Gold for fighting for us!!!!

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  10. It is important for every one who values the vintage atmosphere of our Sierra Madre neighborhoods and community to join forces with Preserve Sierra Madre.

    www.PreserveSierraMadre.com

    The over-development industry had been picking us off one by one over the past decades and in the canyon, many years ago, a homeowner and preservationist, Jeannie Kistener, was told by the lot-splitter/monster builder next door to her that he would simply outlast her and count on her to give up.

    We cannot give up.

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    1. Great post Caroline. Thanks.

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    2. Caroline's right. Trying to take these things on ourselves, is next to impossible. Right now, the histoical society seems to be AWOL on the Mira Monte house, there doesn't seem to be any other group out there besides Preserve Sierra Madre. There is strength in numbers. If you don't want to see developers like Mur-Sol build one McMansion at a time in a relentless effort at changing the character of Sierra Madre, we have to band together and get the rules in place to prevent it. We have never had a better City Council. We will get one crack at it. If we fail now, Sierra Madre is lost. And it will happen one devleopment at time and even one house at a time until we wake up one day and, we say, "Wow, what happened to the Sierra Madre I grew up in". Its easy to be complacent because one house here and there won't break the camel's back just like a few more cars each day on the 210 freeway goes almost unnoticeable. But things start adding up over time and before you know it, the 210 freeway has chronic gridlock and Sierra Madre is lined with McMansions. The few hold-outs are surrounded by these monstrosities with no views, no light and no privacy. That's the end game if we don't stop it now.

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    3. If you count the Kensington and all the houses that are in development right now, it looks like our population will increase by 200+ people in the next couple of years.

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    4. Unless you area has it in the cc and r's there is no restriction for views , privacy, light or one story only

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  11. You are so right, Caroline. That's why we need our troops to remain loyal. Those of you who have not gone to a planning meeting or city council meeting, really, you do need to try and attend one or both of the next meetings. It is so important. Bring the kids. Stay for an hour or so. The time you give up is important to the citizens of Sierra Madre. Yes, it takes away relaxation time, kid time, personal time, but we need your help. Bring a friend, have a drink before or after or a snack, whatever. Just try to be there.

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    1. John and I joined up with Preserve Sierra Madre group on the recommendation of
      Caroline Brown. I met Caroline over 20years ago when she was fighting to save our hillsides.
      Few people in this town have worked as many years and as diligently as Caroline.
      Thanks Caroline. You value virtues.

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    2. Howard Johnson is rightFebruary 4, 2015 at 5:59 AM

      We didn't give up then, and by gum we're not going to give up now.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NaQxUEfxt0

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  12. In Bel Air, it's straight corruption at the City Council

    http://www.citywatchla.com/lead-stories-hidden/8360-councilman-koretz-puzzling-support-of-bel-air-monster-mansion-has-judge-scratching-his-head

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  13. If you think the two Camillo Rd. houses are obscene then you must go see the third on one that block. The framing is almost done.

    Be sure an bring a barf bag with you.

    We must stop this insanity! The planning commission will consider requiring all 2-story houses to go through a CUP review. This will be the best defense against we can get until the General Plan is in place.

    Please go to the planning Commission meeting on Feb. 19 and support their plan to include 2-story houses in the CUP review process.

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  14. We are a village of 2 square miles with a population of about 11000. We are small, built out, and we like our village the way it is. Every project over a certain number of square feet should be placed on a case by case basis.
    The Monastery property is Institutional for no development on that property it MUST stay that way. Tell a council member! No change of zoning!

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  15. Why "Must" it stay that way?

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