|Secret Hire? Vincent Gonzalez|
Well, this has the potential for some disappointment. You would have hoped that Sierra Madre's newly hired Director of Planning and Community Preservation would be some kind of crackerjack planner dude with immense knowledge about things like how houses get designed, and what exactly must be done to preserve this community from the onslaught of mansionization that has engulfed so many of our neighboring cities. For many this is the #1 issue Sierra Madre faces.
Apparently that might not be the case. Or so it would seem at first pass at least. As a matter of fact, it doesn't appear that our new Director of Planning is even a planner. Or at least he hasn't been one recently. Rather until the end of business today he was the public relations guy for Metro. The very people who are working very hard to build the 710 Tunnel, of all things. Though they have often denied that.
This is certainly not the best of signs, at least in my opinion.
Here is an email that was forwarded to me by a concerned friend yesterday. It reveals something of great importance that has yet to be shared with anyone in this community. Making this yet another instance where The Tattler, and not City Hall, is first to break the big news.
So where do we begin our Tattler Background Check? Let's start with what exactly a Community Relations Manager does for a living. This could indicate the skill set our new Director of Planning and Community Preservation (cliche' alert) "brings to the table." Here is a description of the job from a website called PRSA Job Center (link):
Does connecting and interacting daily with the community sound like a job you would love? How about organizing events and communications to represent your organization throughout the community? If so, a job in community relations could be perfect for you.
Community relations managers are responsible for managing all community development initiatives throughout the organization. They plan, develop and implement programs to promote community awareness. Community relations managers are responsible for supervising the image of the organization within the community.
I'm not exactly sure how someone with that kind of experience is going to impress the folks on the Planning Commission very much. Pragmatic and practical people who generally are more concerned with housing set backs, R1 Zoning Guidelines, curb cuts and things of a more architectural nature. They are are not likely to spend too much time worrying about "the image of the organization within the community."
What kind of money does a Community Relations Manager make? Here is Vincent's Transparent California profile (link):
It will be interesting to see how much more money he was offered to come here and learn his new position.
I found a couple of examples of Vincent Gonzalez's work product on-line. For the record, it has always been the contention of The Tattler that Metro is not always above-board in their seemingly endless campaign to "Close the 710 Gap." And despite all claims to the contrary, the fix has been in on the 710 Tunnel for quite some time. This is due to certain geo-political realities that have prioritized the project, things having to do with getting cheaply produced foreign goods from the ports and to the big distribution points east of us more quickly.
When you are a foreign country holding a few trillion dollars in American debt, profligate Uncle Sugar is going to listen to your needs. China wants the 710 Tunnel, and has made this quite clear to U.S. government officials over the last decade or so. Link here for an informed discussion about that one in the Pasadena Star News.
So, given my opinions on this matter, I found the following letter to the Pasadena Weekly (link) to be a little disheartening.
Re: “Pasadena Must Lead,” by Pasadena City Councilman Terry Tornek, June 18
In response to the letter titled “Pasadena Must Lead,” I want to clarify that Metro is committed to a fair evaluation and an open process for the State Route 710 North Study. To say that the draft environmental document is “rigged” toward one alternative is incorrect.
Metro and Caltrans recently announced the release of the study’s environmental impact report has been postponed to February 2015 to allow more time to complete the technical studies, including traffic, historical properties, safety, air quality and economics. The findings will help Metro/Caltrans and the public better understand the different alternatives and allow a fact-based conversation once the data is known. Metro/Caltrans will extend the public comment period from the standard 45 days to 90 days and hold public hearings throughout the study area to allow for review and feedback from the community.
All of the five alternatives in the environmental document are being equally evaluated in order to provide the best traffic solutions to the local and regional areas. This includes: Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail Transit and Freeway Tunnel, as well as the No Build and Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management Alternatives.
We will continue to work with the city of Pasadena and other regional representatives in an open and transparent process.
Your readers are encouraged to visit http://www.metro.net/sr710study to obtain accurate and most up-to-date information on the 710 North study.
~ VINCENT GONZALEZ, METRO COMMUNITY RELATIONS MANAGER
The problem here is the 710 Tunnel "process" really is rigged. Terry Tornek, Pasadena's new Mayor, was 100% right about this. And, as recent events have made abundantly clear, the tunnel question has been rigged for quite some time. Metro has not been truthful.
Moving on, and in fairness, there is a Daily Breeze article from 2010 where Vincent Gonzalez is listed as a "Project Manager" for a mixed use development project. Is that the same as a planner? Project Managers in Pasadena make about $160,000 a year. Why someone would leave so high paying a job for something at Metro paying about $100,000 less would be a mystery in my opinion.
(The answer to that is Vincent worked for Pasadena's Redevelopment Agency, and once Jerry Brown killed that boondoggle off that department was let go. Redevelopment Agencies being, of course, no real friend to preserving anything we want for Sierra Madre.)
The article is called "Pasadena councilwoman dreaming of a Lincoln Avenue Renaissance," and you can link to it here.
A nearly $200,000 city plan lays out the details of her dream - a mix of condos and apartments, boutique shops, restaurants, offices and community spaces that will create a pedestrian-friendly environment.
If approved by the City Council next year, the Lincoln Avenue Specific Plan - which covers Lincoln Avenue mainly from West Montana to West Mountain Street - will improve one of the last areas in the city still in need of large-scale redevelopment.
"Many people don't realize there's huge economic opportunities here because we are bounded by single-family residential" homes, Robinson said. "People would better utilize the area if it was more pedestrian-friendly, if it was more day-to-day uses ... There's not a whole lot of opportunities right now for that to be able to happen."
If approved, the plan will bring mixed-use housing opportunities, such as ground floor shops with condos on top, to the corridor's west side, mostly from Howard Street to Pepper Street.
"With residents living full time on the corridor, it would help revitalize that portion of Lincoln Avenue," said Vincent Gonzalez, one of the city's redevelopment project managers. "It would allow for more retail opportunities and more of a 24-hour presence on the street, as opposed to current uses where people are only working during the day and leave at night."
So would a project manager for mixed use high density urban redevelopment projects be our kind of guy? This next item could also suggest to some readers that Vincent Gonzalez's heart might not be completely on board with the "Community Preservation" thing.
This from Streetsblog Los Angeles (link).
I wonder where you could fit "77 family-oriented units" in Sierra Madre? Would we have the necessary water? You can find an additional document of interest here.
So how did so unlikely a candidate come to the attention of the City of Sierra Madre? How did a Metro publicist become the first person ever hired by this community for the exclusive purpose of planning and "Community Preservation?" And how did a guy who worked high density mixed use redevelopment projects in the past get a job in a town that is adamantly opposed to just that sort of thing?
Well, I have an opinion on this as well. It was a little Metro magic, as it were (link).
Does that look like a "Community Preservation" crowd to you? Are three guys from "The COG" enough do you think? Or, to put it into L.A. County jargon, is this cluster of officials made up of best practices stakeholders who believe in the process?
At first glance none of this is very good news, I'm afraid.