Friday, May 1, 2015

Is It Just Me, Or Does City Hall's List Of Vincent Gonzalez's "Accomplishments" Read Exactly Like A Menu Of Everything Sierra Madre Does Not Need?

Let there be revenue enhancements!
As you are well aware, we dote upon conspiracy theories here at The Tattler. Actually, we also enjoy making them up. In a city where cotton candy press releases are published by the local media more often than actual news (link) (link), it is a satisfying diversion to throw out a little red meat once in a while. And what could meatier than a corking good conspiracy theory?

Conspiracy theories also have the benefit of being more true than most of what passes for news in this town. Or at least they're close enough for local government. Something that also produces its own approximations of the news, usually with the intent of raising more revenue for itself. A priority that apparently is just about its only abiding purpose. It is always about the money. Or, should I say, about your money. It really is all they care about.

After all, didn't the rejection of Measure UUT lead to the closing of the library and the outsourcing of the Sierra Madre Police Department? Yes, we all have our theories.

So here is the latest. The City of Sierra Madre is now witnessing the return of the old guard development crowd, and with it their desire to make some big money off of the birthright of the residents of this town. The driving force being the vast sums of cash flooding into the area from points way east. And there is just too much real estate hungry investment money floating around these days for our old pals to remain on the sidelines.

Besides, they've grown tired of repairing gutters, painting bathrooms and slapping up drywall. Now that there is an opportunity to make some real cash, they're yearning for some of that man-sized action. None of them are getting any younger, either. And those decade old DSP investments are showing no sign of paying off for them anytime soon. If ever.

The people working to preserve Sierra Madre have made some truly credible headway in the last few years, and with the apparent near completion of a newly renovated General Plan (which, come to think of it, just experienced its umpteenth delay thanks to city staff meddling), the old guard has become anxious.

How else do you explain the apparent flipflop on controlling McMansion development here from John Harabedian and Gene Goss? It was only a few months ago that they both were singing mighty praises for those preserving Sierra Madre.

The feeling was mutual. Here is how Preserve Sierra Madre recently described the accomplishments of now former Mayor Harabedian:

On behalf of the Preserve Sierra Madre coalition, we would like to offer our congratulations to the well-deserved accolades you received tonight from the community for your leadership as the Mayor of Sierra Madre.

Since the inception of the Preserve Sierra Madre coalition, you were the Mayor, and we must tell you and remind our supporters, that you were outstanding in your efforts at advancing the cause of preservation.  

Under your leadership and with your vote, the City Council had the following major accomplishments relating to that cause:

1. Enacting the Building and Water Meter Moratoriums.
2. Improving the Land-use portion of the 1996 General Plan which goes far towards preserving the small-town character of our village in the foothills.
3. Overturning the Planning Commission's approval of the first house at One Carter/Stonegate giving the community a chance to get a project up there that we can be proud of.
4. Enacting the demolition moratorium and later the demolition ordinance.
5. Working with the Planning Commission's recent recommendations to improve the Municipal Code so that we can end up with reasonable rules in place that help preserve our town.

It was no accident that all of these successes happened during your tenure as Mayor. You always came to the City Council meetings well-prepared as you led the City Council in thoughtful deliberations about the various issues that came before the Council.  You were also more than patient in hearing the public comments, listening to your constituents and conducting yourself as a true gentleman at all times.
    
So how did we get from all that to those recent bizarre accusations of paranoia and fear mongering in town regarding the McMansion issue? Or whatever it is John Harabedian has been endlessly lawyering about with all those CUPs and two story houses? Something that he now apparently plans to drag out for as many meetings as needed to get his way?

We are talking a 180 degree turn around here, and at the most inopportune time. It really is quite a shocking reversal.

There is only one conclusion possible. It has to be the money. What else could it be? And faced with the possible loss of what would be many happy foreign funded paydays, the development empire has now struck back.

How they managed to drag former Mayor Harabedian into their unhappy schemes is anybody's guess. Though I do have some theories.

The remaining piece of the conspiracy puzzle that we will throw out for you today involves our new Director of Planning and Community Preservation, the rather controversial Vincent "Paseo" Gonzales. Here is how City Hall extolled his many virtues in its recent press release. Which, as expected, was regurgitated nearly verbatim in our city's so-called newspaper, The Mountain Views News.


Now correct me if I am wrong, but aren't things like "transit villages" and stack/pack "mixed use developments," antithetical to everything those wishing to maintain Sierra Madre's village character want for this little town? Didn't it take a Measure V to shut down just those sorts of development boondoggles here? All while our man Vincent was working quite hard on similar projects in Pasadena?

There is also a rather suspicious piece of misinformation in this press release. Vincent was never Pasadena's "Project Manager for the Community Development Agency." He was, however, the PM for their Community Redevelopment Agency. Redevelopment agencies being something deemed so awful and financially ruinous that Jerry Brown had to kill them off a couple of years back.

Funny how that name got changed. After that Vincent Gonzalez was laid off by the City of Pasadena and never again worked in city planning. Or at least until Elaine Aguilar hired him to come here.

The press release mentions the Paseo Colorado Mall as one of Vincent's premier accomplishments. Like the Pasadena redevelopment agency that somehow got airbrushed out, City Hall probably should have fudged on this one as well.

Here is how one Tattler commenter described the Paseo disaster yesterday:

As for Vincent: I heard he helped develop the Paseo mall when he was working in Pasadena. What boon to the city that is! Many empty stores. I also heard that the condos didn't sell so many of them are rented to the culinary school students. We should be honored by Elaine's hire-NOT!

The Paseo Colorado shopping mall was anchored by its two major stores, Macy's and Gelsons Market. Here is what happened to one per the Pasadena Star News (link).


Information on the fate of the Macy's store at Paseo Colorado from KPCC (link).

The Paseo Colorado Mall today
Macy's to close store at Paseo Colorado on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena Macy’s Inc. said Thursday it is closing its Pasadena store on Colorado Boulevard.

The closure is part of a larger plan to shutter five Macy’s locations and one Bloomingdale’s store nationwide this spring. The retailer said they were selected because they were not profitable enough or because the leases on the properties were ending. The 158,000 square foot Macy’s store at the Paseo Colorado shopping center was one of two locations in Pasadena, with the other located on Lake Avenue. That close proximity led to the Paseo Colorado store’s closure.

“There is a very large Macy’s only about a mile away,” said Macy’s spokesman Jim Sluzewski. “There really wasn’t a need for the customer in that area to have a second location.”

Sluzewski said Macy’s was exiting its lease early at Paseo Colorado, but declined to say how long its lease was. The store opened in 1980 as a Broadway department store, which later turned into Macy’s. The Macy’s was the last remaining retail anchor from the old Paseo Colorado mall. The mall was transformed into a new shopping center more than 10 years ago under new ownership. In recent years, the shopping center has lost some significant tenants including Sephora and Cole Haan.

“Macy’s being a major traffic generator, the impact will certainly be felt,” said Derrick Moore, a principal of urban retail properties at commercial real estate services firm Avison Young.

The Paseo Colorado shopping mall is very much a poster child for the kinds of redevelopment schemes popular in certain planner circles. The idea being to build an open air shopping area in a key downtown neighborhood, and then surround it with vast condo complexes. This so residents in the neighborhood could walk to that mall and do their shopping.

However, in this case the condos didn't sell, therefore the customer base wasn't there. Yet so confident were the planning geniuses behind the Paseo concept that they didn't build things like adequate car parking for shoppers. You know, because they thought all of those nonexistent condo dwellers were going to walk to the mall from their apartments, and then carry their quiche back in cloth bags.

Now one of those responsible for this expensive blunder has been brought here. You know, for community preservation purposes.

Somehow I have my doubts. And theories.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

62 comments:

  1. Its hard to know what to think about that hire. Knowing that we could have had John Hutt as the Planning Director, its really hard to swallow the person Elaine came up with. John Hutt lives in Sierra Madre, he's an expert on land use issues, he's one of the smartest guys on the planet and finally he's interested in preserving the town. Why an over-qualified guy like that would even want the job is beyond me. But the city had the opportunity and we squandered it.

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    1. when you look at who's doing the hiring it's no surprise to get someone who's going to do what he's told to do which is misinform us and do what the people actually don't want in the city but helps Elaine get her next gig

      and who is actually surprised that Harabedian flip flopped - he started his campaign with shady ethics and the only reason he was on the preservation bandwagon was because it was popular, the only thing he could do and it got us off his back so he can regroup his own personal agenda just like Joe Mosca was doing here - in it for himself and to tout his own ideas and how brilliant he was in his own mind, like Harabedian

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    2. Elaine will never hire anyone she thinks she can't control.

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    3. if Elaine would purposely send out misinformation on the UUT why should we expect her to be looking out for our best interests with hiring a Planning Director

      and the city doesn't need a Planning Director - the position was just re-branded into Preservation but it's nothing about preservation, it's about undermining Measure V and raising the UUT rates so we can pay for ponzi scheme pensions

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    4. Elaine is hard to figure out. In some ways, she has been supportive of preservation efforts.

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    5. Nah. She just does spin well enough to make people think that.

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    6. Elaine is only for Elaine. Sierra Madre is her play toy. Does she hire outside her ethic background or is it my chance.

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    7. It does seem odd that the City of Sierra never seems to want to hire anybody from Sierra Madre.

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    8. The opportunity for Sierra Madre to use John Hutt's talents is too important to loose. We need to keep hammering on this issue and find an opportunity for him that gives him the opportunity to help Sierra Madre.
      In my book - he can have any position he wants -especially City Manager .
      Imagine we could have a Manager who could manage the City in the best interest of the residents ,not for the Public Employee Union.

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    9. I would endorse John Hutt for City Manager.

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    10. Yes. We need a change. And we need management that puts Sierra Madre resident interests over the benefits and retirement packages for out of town City Hall hires.

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  2. Thanks Tattler for posting that letter from Preserve Sierra Madre although they perhaps give too much credit to Councilman Harabedian. Afterall, Delmar and Arizmendi most often led the charge on some of these issues. But even so, he did vote for all those wonderful improvements to our development rules. Even Goss was on board. Its hard to figure why they have taken that 180 turn. And the interesting things is that they are not just casually voting against some of these latest anti-mansionization rules, they are passionate and agressive. Goss talked at one meeting about these "nebulous" forces that people are irrationally afraid of. Well, what about his "nebulous" and perhaps ficticious residents who all want to build McMansions and 2-story homes that hurt their neighbors. I don't think those are the kind of people we have here in Sierra Madre. Who are they? Where are they? Why don't they show up at a meeting? Why don't they send an email? Why is he so passionately advocating on their behalf? Talk about nebulous forces, he seems to have some behind him. The problem is that we just don't know who they are.

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    1. neither does Goss - he's making it up or he'd be able to substantiate his ridiculous claims

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    2. 5:59, you are right! Goss is projecting that "nebulous" stuff....it's his condition and it sees it outside himself.

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  3. The Paseo Mall is the biggest disaster in history. It was not well-thought out and the whole thing will probably be shuttered eventually. If Gonzales has anything to do with that, Sierra Madre is in big trouble.

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    1. aren't we lucky - we get a handpicked development dude who's had a massive failure, cost taxpayers huge sums of money and he obviously wasn't the best choice but he is Elaine's choice

      he certainly didn't do his homework before accepting the job and that doesn't speak well of him or for him

      and he wasn't the best candidate

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    2. Evidently, Elaine was not secure enough with herself that she could hire the best and brightest for Sierra Madre. She had to hire a yes-man. Since this guy worked in Pasadena, it would be interesting to know what Pasadena Heritage thought of him - they are the big preservation group in that town.

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    3. Pasadena decided to cut him loose when redevelopment agencies were axed by Moonbeam.

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  4. It was Harabedian's idea all along. Kind of like sending lambs to slaughter. He worked the Preserve crowd. Allowed them to think he was for their ideas knowing all along that he could cause a stalemate at his whim. He is a politician with grander schemes for himself in mind. Goss is his not so smart puppet. I'm sure Harabedian has been offerred financing of future political campaigns. There is nothing wrong with the ordinance that passing it in it's original form won't solve. It can be visited later and amended as the PC goes through the process. It's a no-brainer except for the developers. It would tie their hands really well and preserve what is left of Sierra Madre until the next attack. That will be at the council meeting soon. Harabedian and his puppet are not through yet.

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    1. and Goss is hearing nebulous voices in his head

      he's becoming as batty as Nancy Walsh but he thinks he's brilliant

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    2. if I have an ugly pompous overbearing house built next to mine I'll put an "art" display in my back yard of mirrors that will reflect sunlight directly into the windows of the McMansion

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    3. I'd buy my kid an electric guitar and Marshall stacks.

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    4. Didn't CETT want to build two story houses at One Carter? Can that be what this is all about?

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    5. Anybody can build a two story house anywhere - it's just what kind of 2 stories that matters.
      A box with windows strategically placed to ruin any chance neighbors have for privacy in their yards and sometimes their very homes? Or a thoughtfully designed 2nd story that gives the home owners the room they need and lets the neighbors keep their property values.

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    6. 6:57, what a great idea.

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    7. Goss and Harabedian seem to want to buy more and more time. It'll be interesting to see what development applications are completed in this same period of time.

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    8. They're stalling. A tried and true negotiating tactic for the lawyerly.

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    9. They keep chipping away until we'll be left with nothing.

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    10. Yep. Capoccia, Arizmendi and Delmar need to just say NO. End this as soon as possible.

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  5. One thing I have learned living in Sierra Madre for forty years..you can never rest when it comes to development issues...you always have to gear up for the next battle.

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    1. Yep. The devo crowd always shows up. Plus their ability for pod people style body snatching of elected officials is uncanny.

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  6. If people wanted to live in wacky pack housing, Paseo Colorado would have been successful. Instead they want to live in places like Sierra Madre, where home prices are going through the roof.

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  7. Let's not demonize all two story homes. If they are well set-back, well placed on a big lot , what is the problem? If we over state our case we will loose it.
    The problem is mansionization ,not 2 story per se.

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    1. Yes, but McMansions are almost always two stories. Or more.

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    2. I think you miss the point 9:19A. The only people who say we are trying to "demonize" 2 story houses are Harabedian and Goss. The ordinance only gives the city the right to look at the plans to see bulk and size or impairment to neighboring houses. When you drive through Sierra Madre, look at the height of new dwellings or condos. They are much higher than the neighbors. The developer wants to capitalize on their sales by offerring views and destroying the view of the neighboring houses. We only ask that it be fair, that new houses don't peer into our bedrooms and yards. We are not over stating the problem. We want to make it possible that smaller lots are not allowed to be over built. There never has been a problem with large lots having larger houses. We also want to avoid lot splitting so that a developer gets twice the bang for his buck!

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    3. Well said 9:49. I grew up in a 2-story home. There is nothing wrong with them except when someone tears down a 1-story and then almost always builds a 2-story that is great for them and their views, but not so great for the neighbors who weren't the ones changing the status quo. The CUP just places a "can't screw your neighbors" burden on those owners so that their project is a good one and not done at someone else's expense.

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    4. Yes 12:16!! We should start saying it's a "Don't Screw Up Neighbors' Property Rights" code. Or DSUNPR.

      Get away from the Goss/Harabedian straw man arguments and just say what it really is.

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  8. People that own 2 story homes are a clear and present danger to our way of life and must be dealt with firmly.

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    1. What punishments would you recommend, Fuhrer?

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    2. Perhaps 9:42AM wording is a bit strong but it's message is right on. There are no punishments involved. Your "Fuher" remark could be applied equally to the development side of the issue.

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    3. Banishment to Arcadia?

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    4. Unnecessary stridency in communication often creates misunderstandings.

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    5. The hell it does!

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    6. I'm sorry. I do not understand what you just said.

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

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    8. Thanks for a good laugh, 11:35 :)

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  9. Elaine listed a bunch of dates for outreach on the budget. The first one is tomorrow but it doesn't say where or what time. Can anyone go to these meetings? Not a really great outreach!

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  10. Elaine does not work in the best interests of Sierra Madre's residents. So the real question is...why doesn't the City Council do something about it? It is within their power to replace her. In fact, it is duty. (That is why it is called representative government. The Council is supposed to represent the residents' wishes, right?)

    All it takes is three votes.

    The residents should be attending the meetings en masse. They should be demanding that Elaine respect the desires of the residents...or be replaced.

    Elaine will not change unless she is forced to change.


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  11. 9:42 is a troll.

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

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  12. It's a gigantic mistake ever to compliment a politician in writing. When he screws you over in the future and you complain he digs out the old letter and calls you a hypocrite. The preservation group threw away their future leverage. Politicians shouldn't be complimented for representing their constituents.

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    1. Let me ask you a question. Why do you think they put erasers on pencils?
      A) Aesthetics.
      B) People occasionally make mistakes.
      C) To chew on and then spit out.
      D) To provide work for the people living in economically challenged rubber growing regions.

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    2. Well I'm glad you're not my boss. Compliments are always proper and appreciated by employees or as you call them politicians

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    3. 10:48 is claiming that you are not worthy of forgiveness. He might be an Islamic terrorist.

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    4. What would Jesus do?

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    5. Forgive. But probably point out why.

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    6. Jesus knows the names of the secret people who talk to Gene Goss.

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  13. Please, anyone who is reading this - email Goss and ask him the names of the secret people. He NEEDS to know that there are more than the five of us who speak at City Council meetings are watching him.

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    1. A Public Records Act request has been filed with City Hall demanding all official emails emanating from Goss's city account. We'll know who he has been in communication with soon.

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    2. I doubt it, 10:17. People who are going to be secret probably use his personal account, and you can't get that with a PRA.

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    3. Yo, we're talking Goss here.

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