Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tonight's World Turned Upside Down City Council Meeting

What's upside down?
This is probably one of the more unusual City Council meetings to come along in quite some time. Rather than having the closed session with the City Attorney at the beginning of the meeting, that portion of this evening's activities has been moved all the way to the end. So what is the reasoning behind this? Trouble, and apparently lots of it.

There are quite a few legal threats now lining up against the city. Some threatened, some quite real. Tonight there are 5 of them up for grabs. Most having to do with development, which is where the real money is. And it's always about money.

Now I have been told by one City Councilmember that City Attorney Teresa Highsmith is very dedicated to the preservation of Sierra Madre. And that Teresa sees this as some of the most important work she's ever done for the Foothill Village. Proof that hope can come from many different quarters, I guess.

So who am I to doubt any of that? The world has been turned upside down, after all. Somebody is going to have to seize the burning legal sword, raise it flaming into the sky and rescue the villagers. Do you have any better candidates at this point?

So a lot is happening tonight. But in a different and out of view way. A month or so ago the City Council meeting agenda listed these five items for discussion:


Out of that original list of 5 items only the Strategic Plan Update and Turf Removal Program now remain. In other words, 3 full discussion items were bumped out of the agenda to make certain there is time enough for all of the legal issues that need to be discussed in closed session at the end of the public portion of this meeting.

Here is the list of those closed session items.


This is most likely the Hildreth case. Jeff and Taryn spoke at the previous City Council meeting, and explained to all seated at the dais that once next month's trial is over the full reasoning behind their legal strategy will become clear and even sympathetic. 

If I may throw my two cents in here, why is it the city fought tooth and nail, and at considerable legal expense, against a guy who dug himself a very large basement, yet with the wave of a $1.00 pen gave approval to an aggressive out of area developer to build those completely out of character mutant eyesores on Camillo Road? I am not sure I see the balance in this.


This, of course, is a result of the thwarted demolition of the historic Henry A. Darling home on East Montecito. Along with a suspected accompanying lot split as well.

We've discussed this one a few times in the past, and at length. But it is a good indication of just how badly some "development at all cost" minded people plan to make a lot of money here. Sierra Madre is widely perceived as a place where you can make a killing at this sort of thing, but you'll need to break down the city's resistance first. That people are willing to go to the legal wall so hard and get it is a clear indication of just how much cash there is to be made building new houses here.


Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe they're sue-bots not yet awakened from hibernation yet.


That this one is wedged in with all of those other legal issues comes as no surprise. The Sierra Madre Police Association has long been among the most litigious unions of its kind. And with the City's apparent move towards yet another round of UUT ballot advocacy, the SMPA could be making certain that their interests are made clear.


As you may recall, it was not too long ago that in a letter to Leticia Cardoso and Elaine Aguilar the attorney for the developer, Richard McDonald, stated that litigation had never been a part of CETT's strategy. After obtaining McDonald's letter in a PRA request, I posted it here on January 17 of this year (link).

Here is the most relevant passage:

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.

I guess the situation has changed a little.

The fight to preserve Sierra Madre from predatory overdevelopment may now be going beyond residents asking their City Council to do the right thing. With the next round of battles moving us right into the Courts.

The good news is that, with the possible exception of the Hildreth case, this could all take years. Something that would at least temporarily stop the mad rush to predatory development. The bad news is this could cost the taxpayers some dough. Plus a huge increase in the City's lawsuit insurance costs.

Especially if City Attorney Highsmith doesn't run the table and win them all.

There are a couple of other items on the agenda, but not that much. The demolition permit question will finally resolve. Plus the City of Sierra Madre could be saving a couple of bucks and pulling out of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership. Which makes sense since they have done very little for Sierra Madre as far as bringing any new business here.

There is going to be quite a City Council meeting tonight. But none of us are going to see it.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

65 comments:

  1. Didn't Cynthia Kurtz, the Executive Director of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership, write a big op-ed that strongly supported the 710 tunnel?

    Since Sierra Madre has committed $50,000 to work with 3 other area cities to oppose the 710 tunnel, why in the h-e-double-toothpicks are we paying dues to SGVEP? That's just stupid.

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    1. Kurtz's column was interesting. She used all the duplicitous Caltrans language about "exploring all the options," but you know that the tunnel will be the one they choose. Chris Holden, who is down on paper as supporting the tunnel, got the EIR review period extended. A big victory for the ":process," but they're still going to arrive at the same conclusion.

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    2. The current council is adverse to paying for things we don't get.

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    3. Are you saying the SGVEP doesn't have socials, roundtables and buffets?

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    4. If that's the case, they should pull the plug on the SGVEP and also issue a press release giving the reasons why they quit.

      That, or Cynthia Kurtz could resign. That would work.

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    5. buttets? you just got Nancy's attention

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    6. You also get to network with key power players in the San Gabriel Valley region.

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    7. SGVEP President Cynthia Kurtz Supports The 710 Tunnel - And Gets A Lot Of Your Tax Money While Doing It -- http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com/2015/02/sgvep-president-cynthia-kurtz-supports.html

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    8. Staff recommends denial of the renewal for the SGVEP due to lack of funds in the City. Staff also mentions that we haven't done most of the recommendations from last year, so it is actually a waste of money.

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    9. I know the feelings run strongly against staff, and with good cause for some of them. However, with this new council attitude, of putting preservation front and center, and being willing to do real budget analysis and cut waste wherever possible, the good staff are responding and I think feeling happier about where they work.

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  2. Lawsuits aren't necessarily a bad thing. They mean the city is standing up to developers who would wreck the town for nothing more than their own personal benefit.

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    1. The lawsuits are unfortunately necessary.

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  3. I feel for the council members - they are probably looking at a very late night.

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    1. It has to be some very grim work.

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    2. True, but also this council has shown the ability to be efficient. They'll need that tonight!

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    3. Tough topics, though. The developers are going to war.

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    4. Yes they are 10:43. I guess there really wasn't going to be any other way...

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    5. Air Captain ClydeMarch 24, 2015 at 1:17 PM

      The Battle for Sierra Madre has begun.

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    6. I for one am grateful we have the council that we do just now. Hope they continue to make decisions that will lead to our long term survival as a small community, with our own wells, and known for reasonably sized houses in a larger area that ruined itself through over-development.

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    7. I too have confidence in this City Council. They have shown that they won't roll over easily. I have also heard that the City Attorney Theresea Highsmith is a preservationist and has been helpful in ways we don't always know about. All we can do is support them and encourage them to stand firm.

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  4. The lawsuits may be necessary but we have very weak representation against the Police Union and Developers. Much will depend on Tattler reflecting Citizen opinion to Council Members - as usual !

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  5. The Hildreth guy built his deck over the sidewalk and has those ugly plywood walls covering his driveway.

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    1. That could have been handled in a much simpler and cost effective way. If the city is signing off on Camillo Road houses, what doesn't go?

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    2. The Hildreths - where to start. You have to go back 10 years (?), to the time a nice but thoroughly inexperienced clerk in what was (the Bart Doyle named) Developer Servicing Department signed a little piece of paper giving the Hildreth's permission to do something. The clerk was temporarily minding the store, because the guy who facilitated developing the hillsides had left, and there was no one in charge. Interesting beginning.

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    3. The Hildreth lawsuit is a holdover from the bad old days. These others are happening because Sierra Madre is fighting Arcadia style mansionization. Quite a mix of legal misery tonight.

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    4. The Hildreths exasperated the situation by poking a stick in the eye of the City by building that balcony over the sidewalk, then fighting the demolition. I'm told the neighbors made numerous complaints to the city about the Hildreth property, and the city responded to those complaints. Hildreths may have a case, but they are the ones who "started it".

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    5. 11:35, that's a bold statement.
      I'm no expert, but I took the time to look at some of the documents, and it looks like a right fine cauldron of screw ups on all sides.

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    6. I would read the documents before being so sure to judge. The Hildreth's have tries to work with the City. The deck over the walkway according the what I've read was temporary and for protection to the neighbors property. In the end, the Hildreth lawsuit is going to cost us the tax payers. Not the city attorneys, not the city prosecutors, not the city managers, they get our dollars no matter what. The City Manager will get a raise. Nothing comes out of their pocket, only ours.

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  6. Off subject but funny....from the Star News. http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/environment-and-nature/20150323/water-board-member-photographed-hosing-down-alleyway-next-to-his-west-covina-business

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    1. Yes it is funny, in a maddening way.
      It's a wonder our species has managed to stick around this long.

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  7. Remember when the Hildreths dug an hole next to the alley with no permit and the alley pavement began to sag and crack. I talked to the neighbors before they sold last year and they were glad to go after years of looking at his mess.

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    1. I don't think this is about whether the Hildreths were right or not. That is certainly debateable. The problem is city hall felt threatened and went to Def Con V. There is no guarantee Highsmith will win this thing. If she doesn't the Hildreths will walk away with millions. Not a bad payoff for digging a hole in your basement.

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    2. I know there are a lot of Hildreth lovers out there, but this is one case I hope the City wins. Neighbors should not have to put up with such flaunting of the rules to make their property a safety hazard. Hildreths generated a lot of sympathy because of the city hall tactics but the sympathy is greatly misplaced.

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    3. The city overreacted. This should have been over years ago.

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    4. I heard the Fire Dept. refuses to use the adjacent alley because it may cave in with the weight of the fire engine on it. Isn't that special for the neighbors if there's a fire??

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    5. I don't think many believe the Hildreth's did the right thing. The question is did the city do the right thing by taking the legal route. Wouldn't it be ironic that after all the Hildreths supposedly did the city ends up having to give them a few million?

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  8. Hey Mod, if you want to know what's going on with the strange "facts not know to the plaintiff" thing, file a Freedom of Information Act request. By citing Government Code Section 54956.9(b) the City has waived its attorney-client privilege.

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    1. And what law school did you go to genius?

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    2. Why so angry? Examine your feelings and get back to us.

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    3. @2:07 Google. Look it up. "(b) For purposes of this chapter, all expressions of the lawyer-client privilege other than those provided in this section are hereby abrogated. This section is the exclusive expression of the lawyer-client privilege for purposes of conducting closed-session meetings pursuant to this chapter." They should have cited 54956.9(e)(1).

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    4. Ooooh. Not a good start to lawsuit season.

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    5. That does not sound good.
      Is that item saying that the city knows about something that the potential suer does not?

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    6. If you read the code it appears to have something to do with city employee compensation.

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  9. Please let me know if you're looking for a writer for your blog. You have some really good articles and I feel I would be a good asset.

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    1. We actually have a pretty good deal for new writers looking to gain a little career traction in the highly lucrative blogging field. For a $300 per article fee I will post your efforts here on The Tattler for all the world to see. It is a great resume' builder and you will immediately notice a big difference in how you are viewed in this world.

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  10. I was surprised when I heard about the Hildreth's on KPCC
    http://www.scpr.org/programs/offramp/2011/01/15/17549/man-digs-huge-cave-under-home/

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    1. Many people sympathize with the little guy when government jumps on them with both feet. Obviously the producers of that show know what pleases their listeners.

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    2. Interesting on the KPCC photos skipped the monstrosity that's hanging over the public sidewalk. Hmmm.

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    3. I think the word monstrocity is more fittingly applied to what went fown on Camillo.

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  11. Thank you 11:35. It is always good to know that others in the community remember facts.
    I feel bad that the neighborhood had to put up with that giant uncovered hole in the ground, so glad that no one was ever physically harmed. I thought that the overhang of a plywood patio; that is over the sidewalk was supposed to come . Very unsafe.

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  12. We are requesting that city hall provide us with the court name & address - the date and time of the Hilldreth trail... The residents of Sierra Madre would like to attend in support of the Hilldreths! Our city government needs to be smaller!

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  13. 4:55PM Let's see what this city government comes up with because they are not the same bunch who created it. There seems to be an equal amount of blame. As many as support, decry. They may show up in court to be heard also. If you're so fired up, go to the city council meeting tonight and speak. I'm more interested in the police problem.

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  14. A lot of the residents of Sierra Madre would like to attend against of the Hilldreths!

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    1. Roshomon anyone?

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    2. Maybe the city manager or one.
      Everyone I have spoken with are in complete support of the Hildreth.

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    3. Maybe the city manager or one.
      Everyone I have spoken with are in complete support of the Hildreth.

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    4. Which means you have a very closed circle of friends

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    5. Sierra Madre has a reputation for being open minded and free thinking. God only knows why.

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    6. You got it all wrong! We the residents are supporting the Hildreth's!

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    7. LETS KEEP SCORE

      Hildreth 6

      city hall 0

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  15. KGEM is not working online....

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    1. The youtube hookup Kgem and the city have doesn't work, and from the looks of it, there won't be any fixes. So you have to get cable for channel 3 or go there if you want to know what happens - or read the Tattler.

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  16. I can't get the meeting. Again. Hope someone will post what goes on.

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  17. Lets support the Hildreth!


    does anyone know the date and name of court?

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  18. http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/general-news/20120211/hole-truth-still-murky-in-lawsuit-over-sierra-madre-wine-bar-project

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