|Let there be revenue enhancements!|
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|
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.