Monday, February 9, 2015

Manic Mansionizing In Peacock Town: Has Arcadia's City Council Really Been Bought Off?

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You hear that kind of talk all of the time. The reason a city government acts against the will of the people, or at least those people still making their opinions known, is because they are in the pockets of big money special interests. Happened a lot here in Sierra Madre during 2007's contentious Measure V election.

Of course, the fact that some big real estate and development organizations had kicked in around $180,000 in loose change did help to fuel those rumors. I am still not exactly sure who the chumps were that actually invested in downtown places like Howie's, although some here in town still do have fairly strong opinions about who actually did.

Today it is nearly 8 years later and the identities of those poor souls is still a big secret.

But that isn't what I wanted to post about today. I was perusing the Pasadena Star News late last week, and a quite interesting article about the faithless selling out of the Arcadia Highlands by a few elected officials there caught my roving eye. Titled "Arcadia OKs development of 2 large homes despite ‘mansionization’ argument" (link), this is one passage that really jumped out for me:


Now that sounded like something I needed to know about. Any time a City Council as dodgy as that bunch delivers one of those "this is not the time or place for that" speeches, when it so obviously was exactly that place, well, I'd love to be able to post about it here.

So I dropped The Tattler's e-mail address on a couple of what I'd hoped were key Arcadia websites. This along with the promise that if the involved persons would send me that forbidden and banned City Council information, I would gladly make it available to my readers. After all, isn't that what a blog is supposed to do?

Later that evening the following showed up in my e-mail box. Anonymity was requested by the source, and of course we're fine with that here at The Tattler. As far as I'm concerned, if you want see peoples' names and happy faces, go spend some time on Facebook. Here we only care about what people know.

I saw your post. I am causing all my neighbors' property values to go down because I am trying to abide by the Resolution which governs our design review zone.  In other words, I am fighting the mansionization of our area recently imposed on us by our City Council.

I simply requested public records of our City Councilmember's campaign contributors.  Attached are the Form 460's for Chandler and WuoIt appears that all these contributions are legal and that voting on issues that involve any of these contributors is legal.  But there certainly is a built in bias.

What shocked me most is that Chandler had very few contributions form "non-developers". Wuo is extremely vague and ambiguous about how he makes his money. A real estate investment company can be anything.

All of which makes perfect sense. We live in California, one of the most corrupt states in the nation. We're also in Los Angeles County, which doesn't help much, either. "Gray Area Law" has been deeply baked into the system by countless slick city attorneys, pushover judges and bought off state legislators, and because of that people such as John Wuo and Roger Chandler are legally shielded from the consequences of their actions.

But can a Mayor and City Councilman that rule in favor of McMansion developers at every step of the way, while also accepting what really are large amounts of campaign cash from them, be considered admirable, or even remotely ethical?

No. Certainly not in my opinion.

Our friends in Arcadia provided me with the 460 Forms for both Roger Chandler and John Wuo. But what was even more intriguing is that they also provided us with a chart that uses that information to show just how incestuous this developer-politician love nest actually is.

We're going to go with that one. Check it out:


One more thing before we wrap this one up for today. The Pasadena Star News has also been poking a stick into the squirming Arcadia worm ball, and they came up with something pretty good. The article is called "Arcadia given $20,000 by Chinese firms."

If you want to read the whole thing click here.


Obviously the politicians and functionaries that rule the City of Arcadia are absolutely lacking in all forms of shame and moral balance.

For the sake of the other passengers on that plane to China I hope the oxygen masks are working.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

88 comments:

  1. This explains alot. The good folks in Arcadia who are fighting the McMansions in their city have no clue of what is going on behind the scenes and why the City Council's decision was inevitable. Everyone knows that in China, you have to "pay to play". Another word for it is corruption. These developers like Mur-Sol know that to get their big projects approved over the backs of the people, they have to have influence at city hall. Is it any wonder the poor folks in the Highlands did not have the support of their City Council. As with everything, just follow the money. Great reporting Tattler!

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    1. There is always going to be pay-back when the developer funds the campaign. That's why its so important to look at a City Council candidates supporters and where the money is coming from. You can bet that once the candidate gets into office, they will be rewarding their supporters. Because the developers have the most to gain by having a City Council member in their back pocket, they will donate more than the average citizen.

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    2. Any candidate that takes money from a developer needs to be called out. They cannot be trusted.

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    3. The Tattler has the kind of stories that you just don't see too often in the regular news. Thanks for shining s spotlight on what is happening in Arcadia. I'm sure glad I don't live there!

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    4. To see that Mur-Sol is making their donations to City Council candidates in Arcadia is no surprise.
      Mur-Sol had been developing some of the biggest McMansions in Arcadia and Sierra Madre. They are also responsible for that massive multi-unit development on Mariposa in Sierra Madre that ruins the views of the neighbors to the south.

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    5. Always follow the money.

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  2. Maybe they should change the name from Arcadia City Council to the Peacock Puppet Theatre.

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    1. This whole scam is probably why the peacocks cry is "help"!

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    2. Good one 6:23......why didn't I think of that?

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    3. I think they are concerned that some of the new residents there think peacocks are for eating.

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  3. In the article in the Star News regarding the $20,000 given by Chinese firms for Arcadia officals to travel to China, it is interesting to note the reason for the visit. As the article states: "City employees plan to meet with government officials in China and Taiwan to learn more about government services, residential design and the culture in an effort to 'better serve the community of Arcadia' according to a staff report". Are you kidding me? It should be the other way around. Its called assimilation. Yet City Council members are going to travel to China and Taiwan so that they can better serve the community of Arcadia. This is insane. And more money continues to change hands.

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    1. Wouldn't private meetings with the Chinese government with so many Councilmembers be considered a Brown Act violation?

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    2. Shouldn't the FBI be showing up soon?

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    3. If we understood the full extent of foreign investment in this country, we would be in shock. Its a staggering amount, not just in Arcadia and surrounding communities but also in New York and Seattle. The money is too often coming from very questionable sources.

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  4. While in China the Arcadia City Council will need to watch their step.

    China executes tycoon who bid for Australian miner - http://news.yahoo.com/china-executes-tycoon-bid-australian-miner-054904202.html

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    1. Did the executed tycoon own any homes in Arcadia?

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    2. I cry for his mistress.

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    3. Did the Chinese taxpayers have to pay for the bullet?

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    4. The relationship between the communist People's Republic of China and Arcadia is becoming a bit too cozy.

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    5. Maybe Beijing wants to cut out all the middlemen and buy the town outright.

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    6. They already own the town. Sierra Madre is going to be the their next purchase if our realtors have their way.

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    7. I hear they already own the little red flags.

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  5. This is a very serious issue. Its also a lesson for Sierra Madre. Once the pro-development crowd and deep pocket developers get their candidates into office, you can bet those candidates will do the bidding of the developers. At that point, a city can slide downhill really fast. When the first houses were starting to get torn down in Arcadia in favor of McMansions, that's when a Preserve Arcadia type of group should have risen up. We are talking 20 years ago. The people in the Highlands, at the time, may have said to themselves, "Its all happening in south Arcadia. Its not in my backyard. Why should I care?". They were too slow to realize that it was a creeping danger that would eventually find its way to the Highlands. It is probably too late to save Arcadia. That's why we need to move fast to save Sierra Madre. The cancer of Mansionization is already trying to gain a foothold with projects like Camillo, Lima, Stonegate, Stonehouse, 576 Elm Street and the Monastery. If you don't plan on leaving Sierra Madre any time soon and are not looking to sell out, then pay attention to what is happening right now and realize why we need to stop it regardless of whether its in your immediate backyard or not. Learn from what is happening now to residents in the Highlands who probably thought that a 2-story McMansion blocking their views, light and privacy would never happen to them.

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  6. One of your main points is wrong and it is that large homes make the prices go down when the fact is they increase the value other properties , In one of the papers stories they said Arcadia prices have gone up 50% in the last two years. I don't like them but they do not hurt values

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    1. It is the massive amounts of money being smuggled into Arcadia from China that is driving up housing costs there, not those Mur-Sol mausoleums. Get your facts straight.

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    2. A few points in response to 6:43. First, if you are the immediate neighbor to one of these McMansions and just had your views, light and privacy cut off, then you probably didn't have your property value go up. In fact, you may have just lost a hundred thousand dollars in market value. Secondly, what has increased and will continue to increase property values in Sierra Madre is that Sierra Madre is unique of all the cities in the San Gabriel Valley. If you allow a development free-for-all like in Arcadia, then Sierra Madre becomes just like any other city which gives buyers lots of options as to where to live.

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    3. Sorry 8:57 No your property value did not go down it went up to the next person who wants to build when you sell and it your reasoning is true why is Arcadia now worth so much more than Sierra Madre . I am not saying I like it but those are the Economics of it

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    4. Look 6:43, if you build brand new homes on all the lots, they will usually sell at a higher price per square foot than an older home. Tough to argue with that. But is that really the kind of community we want to live in. Let's put a McMansion next to you complete with lion statues - the works. See what it does to your property value when it blocks your views, light or privacy. Or do you just not care when its your neighbor getting screwed.

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    5. 10:56, if its only about the money then ultimately you are right. But in the meantime, the person who doesn't want to sell their home is screwed. Unfortunately, too many people want to monetize everything. The Monastery only sees dollar signs for their vacant land. Forget the open space, the wildlife and even the spiritual nature of the land. What would Memorial Park be worth if the city were to sell off that land and build a big housing tract. If you want free for all development, there is going to be lots of options for buyers. The Chinese economy is starting to slow down. Its like in China where they have entire cities that are sitting vacant because they built too fast. What do you think happened to those prices? If the Chinese money dries up just like what happened with the Japanese money, prices will drop and Sierra Madre is left with a bunch of grotesquely big homes. I would say that money can't buy what Sierra Madre has to offer.

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    6. There is only one reason 10:56 that prices went up so fast in Arcadia. Its not so much the McMansions being built, its because all of the Chinese money is coming to Arcadia. Sierra Madre has lagged behind for two reasons: 1. Developers know that its not a development free-for-all like Arcadia and 2. Sierra Madre has Pasadena schools at the high school level.

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    7. i thought it was because the zip code was unlucky

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    8. 9:16 may be onto something. The number 4 means death. Maybe that's why you don't have the same influx of foreign money into Sierra Madre.

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  7. 6:16 - Please come make that point before City Council tomorrow night, come to the Planning Commission on the 19th. IF we all show up, we won't turn into Arcadia North, but it will take a huge effort. 6:43, you are so wrong, and 6:46, you are so right! When my view of the valley became partially blocked 20 years ago because of a teardown "remodel," one of the realtors in town told me my home value probably went down by $10,000 - that was just a partial block 20 years ago (I repeat). I can't imagine what those poor people on Camillo are going through now that their neighbors will be able to peer into their bedrooms. Did anybody go to the Camillo Open House?

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    1. You got off easy 7:09 if you only lost $10,000 when your view was partially blocked but I guess that was 20 years ago. Nowadays, a loss of view would have substantially more of an impact, not to mention permanently losing one of the reasons you bought your home.

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    2. There is no right to a view in Sierra Madre

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    3. Well, 10:59, if our General Plan ever gets passed, there will be a right to a view in Sierra Madre. It is the Constitution of the City, and that is what the residents said they wanted when they came to the three Town Hall Forums, and when they completed the questionnaire. We need to keep pushing City Hall and the City Council to pass it asap.

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    4. 10:59 - thanks Adolph.

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    5. you bought the wrong house pal

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    6. 10:59 is the neighbor who adds the 2nd story and says F...you to the other neighors whose views he just blocked. That's the person who always says: "It my land I cannot do whatever I want". That attitude is fine in Montana but not when we all live in relatively close proximity to one another.

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  8. So Arcadia's government is being flown to Communist China on Beijing's dime to learn how better to run their city? Where's Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg when you need them?

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    1. it's all Nixon's fault. worst president ever

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    2. There's something else to blame Nixon for.

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  9. Tar feathers and pitchforks Arcadia . Your city council members need to be kicked out now.

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  10. There was a time when I couldn't imagine ever saying this, but compared to the insanity that is going on in Pasadena and Arcadia, Sierra Madre has some pretty decent government.

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    1. Remember that when you vote for two Councilmembers next year. Please run again, John and John.

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    2. I agree 7:36, based on what I've seen so far, I will vote for John Capoccia and John Harabedian again in a heart beat.

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    3. They have both had a couple of good months on the development issue. But that is hardly the only challenge this city is facing, and neither of them have shone too brightly on those.

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    4. I think preservation is the number one issue right now facing Sierra Madre in light of what we see happening In Arcadia and which is starting to happen in Sierra Madre. If Sierra Madre turns in Arcadia and we start needing stop lights and parking meters, I'm out of here. So any other issues become meaningless if the Sierra Madre we all know and love only exists in our memory. Even if Harabedian for example is not perfect on the other issues, if he continues to be a supporter of preserving our city from predatory developers, I will walk precincts for him.

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    5. Having barbarians at the gate does focus your mind a little. But if they try and resurrect a 12% UUT? I'm going off reservation.

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    6. aw how quaint = no stoplights.
      except for the giant blinking one at kersting court

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  11. Preserve Sierra Madre just sent out the following e-blast:

    Preserve Sierra Madre's entire focus has been on curtailing over-development in the city of Sierra Madre and preserving our little town for now and future generations. We don't intend to wade into other political issues beyond that focus. We have also found that supporters of preservation cross the normal political divides whether it be Democrat vs. Republican, liberal vs. conservative or environmentalist vs. capitalist. We are all united in wanted to preserve Sierra Made - our village in the foothills.

    However, as we ponder why the City Council of Arcadia voted against The Highlands Homeowner's Association and the good neighbors of that area in favor of the developers wanting to build 6,500 square foot McMansions, we can't help but think that the politics of money and influence may have reared its ugly head. The Sierra Madre Tattler has posted a very interesting article which also draws from a story in the Pasadena Star News. It can be found at:

    While we may disagree with the Sierra Madre City Council or with some of the individual members that comprise it on any number of issues, when it comes to the issue of preservation, our City Council has been uniformly supportive of our efforts in Sierra Madre and have been courageous in their actions.

    We don't profess to know for sure the motivations of the Arcadia City Council in making the decision they did, but surely the public information put forth by the Sierra Madre Tattler cannot be ruled out as a possible explanation. But the mere fact that it is a possibility, is why residents in cities like ours must always remain vigilant.

    Another reason it is so important to follow the situation in Arcadia so closely is because the people in the Highlands probably never figured that as the McMansion boom hit the lower part of Arcadia, it would ever come to their area. Now it has come to their area and it may be too late to stop it. Perhaps, if they would have recognized that what happens in any part of the city affects the entire city, and mobilized against it years ago, they would be in a different position right now.

    This is why we are so committed to stopping McMansions, teardowns and over-development wherever it tries to gain a footing in Sierra Madre.

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    1. I think a really important point has been made here. Alot of people in Arcadia and Sierra Madre are apathetic because that McMansion only impacts on their neighbor down the street and doesn't impact on their own views, privacy and light. But we are all affected by what happens anywhere in our city. Arcadia is so much larger than Sierra Madre that the effects may take longer. But Sierra Madre is so small that what happens in the remotest part of our fair city affects us all. Among other pernicioius impacts of over-development, the road also leads to over-crowding, pollution, stop lights and parking meters. If you don't mind that future for Sierra Madre than continue to do nothing.

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    2. When I ran for City Council, I was envited to meet with the Arcadia Real Estate Board where they wanted to know how I stand on development issues, with the intimation that campaign money would be forth coming if I was aligned with development interests. I walked out of the meeting, and lost the election for lack of funds, and newspapers who only care about making advertising dollars from the highest bidders.
      It is not individual developers that is the problem, but a very quiet organized group who care nothing about the populous, only the bottom line.

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    3. Thanks for the insiight 6:53. It sounds like you would have made a good council member. Those little meetings are where the waters get tested. If you play their game, you get money and you get elected. I think though that like the public employee union endorsement, people are getting clued into what such an endorsement will mean. If I was running for office, I would tell any developers not to support my candidacy and would not take their money. For good reason, that would now be the kiss of death to any political candidate.

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  12. Thank you for all you've been doing to fight this Preserve Sierra Madre.
    Thank you John Crawford and your Tattle reporters.
    Reporting the truth....what a concept.

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    1. "The Truth shall set you free"
      John 8:32

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  13. The Highland Oaks building boom links up with the elementary and middle school within walking distance for new families. It you drive by any before or after school you will see the road jammed with cars but also lots of walking mothers/grandmothers picking up kids. Flat lots on certain streets meet the fungswei, too. It is prime territory. Down 10 Street and those areas of Arcadia around Duarte, the huge ranch lots met with cup-de-sac development into big, tightly packed lot splits a few years back. That was also during the first influx of money after Hong Kong was returned to the mainland. Now the money influx is from a much different source, corruption after the Chinese boom (earlier is was just get our money out as no one knew how the wind would blow for the Hong Kong/Kowloon entrepreneurs).

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    1. Not good at all.

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    2. Get this, the agents in Arcadia are now starting to market homes that have houses on them in the vacant land section of the Multiple Listing Service - the database for agents. They are making no pretenstion about the future for certain houses. If its on a big lot, then its a teardown.

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    3. Arcadia is corruption on steroids.

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    4. They have always marketed homes in the vacant land section if the use will sell better it is realestate does It is called highest and best use when a property is appraised

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  14. I drove by and picked up a flyer for a house for sale at 150 N. Sunnyside. The home is 1,380 square feet on a 14,510 square foot lot. Here is how the Listing Agent describes the property on his flyer: "...huge corner lot all flat with the possibility of a lot split, ideal for builders, investors, developers or just someone who wants to build their own estate, this property has endless possibilities. The home is in need of some TLC inside but it has a lot of potential, property is sold mainly as land value".
    Welcome to the future of Sierra Madre! God help us.

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    1. 4 years of Josh Moran and Nancy Walsh, along with John Buchanan and Joe Mosca, have now come home to roost. The General Plan should have been in place years ago. Those 4 did everything they could to stop it.

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    2. If we had the revised General Plan in place, things may be far different but it may also have been far worse. Imagine prior City Councils putting their finishing touches on that document. But it has put us behind in dealing with some of the present problems. Better late than never however.

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    3. There's another place for sale on the corner of Auburn and Carter - corner lot, and now a modest house. Just imagine the plans that will be made for that one.
      I hope all these protections are not going in too late.

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    4. Time is not on our side right now. The developers sense things may be about to change and they are working feverishly to get their projects approved.

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    5. Thank God Denise agreed to run for City Council. None of the changes would have happened without her.

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    6. It is hard to believe that with poor Noah's brain dead campaign, and those awful pictures, Denise won by less than 100 votes. The ability of your average dumb bunny Sierra Madrean to sabotage their own interests is immense.

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    7. The reason that has not sold and been on the market for a long time is that it can not be split and never could have

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    8. Imagine the world with Noah Green rather than Denise Delmar as a council member. I can guarantee you that that the impact would go well beyond one council members vote. Denise and Rachele too have been magnificent. I will even add Gene....at least on preservation issues.

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  15. I am sure the rest of the plane will be filled with the same City Government Officials and City Council Members from the City of Sierra Madre. Vacation time at the taxpayers expense. What is wrong with this picture. Talk about government disconnecting with the "people. Until this form of corruption is prosecuted the behavior will continue or start a revolution to restore our rights

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    1. Sho Tay!
      Up! Up! And away!

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  16. I hope Preserve Sierra Madre will also fight for not having a homeless shelter on East Montecito that our City Manager has slanted for on that street. Or the impact that is going to take place at the Church on West Montecito. All projects in the village should be on project per project basis to preserve Sierra Madre

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    1. The current General Plan is the Plan we should use. The one that the City is "working on" has the wording that a homeless shelter can that place on E. Montecito. Basically, across the street from Bean Town, pretty close to the heart of our village. So, there are still a number of issues that need to be in place rather than rush. We need to keep the Moratorium in place for as long as it takes to get the General Plan right! We do not need the homeless from other communities migrating to Sierra Madre because there is a homeless shelter. I think the better idea would be to house our one homeless person, if he wants the help that is.

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    2. The current General Plan has more holes than Swiss cheese. It is a Bart Doyle era document. It is better than nothing, but the new one will be far better. That is why the previous 4 mayors tried to kill it. They want lot splits, they want McMansions. The people of this community were betrayed.

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    3. We need to get the new General Plan passed and then translate the spirit of that document into specific rules and regulations in the Muncipal Code.

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    4. The proposed plan is also like swiss cheese and needs fine tuning. The proposed General Plan needs improvements before it is passed, and not passed until completed fully, not rushed. The General Plan needs to be for the whole Village with no loop holes for the special interests to exploit.

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    5. Are there have any specifics you would like to bring up here, 6:17?

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    6. 625 please read above to just to start

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    7. No specifics there, 6:29. Just a wee little swish of hot air.

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  17. House on 150 N. Sunnyside I'd only 14510 square feet. Minimum size for a lot split is 15000 square feet. Too small, realtor can bet in big trouble for knowing and advertising a lo split

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    1. I guess the realtor didn't do his homework. However, its still ripe for a McMansion. If I were the neighbors, I would be a little nervous.

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  18. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. day laborers loitering in the park? either they're looking for work or they're relaxing in a park. mind your business!

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    2. 7:55 = insecure

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    3. I think someone veered us off topic. Great job Tattler for the investigative journalism that is the topic of the post. I think Crawford and the Tattler should be nominated for a Pulitzer.

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  19. Why am I insecure ?

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