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.