In this case, the mystery we're considering here is what exactly got into John Harabedian, and why was he so rackety adamant, and even passionate, about how the reduction in floor area ratios as recommended by the Planning Commission would affect very large properties. Particularly those lot sizes in excess of 30,000 sq. ft. You all may recall just how concerned John was about those poor lot owners who may only be able to build mere 6,000 square foot houses rather than perhaps 8,000 square foot houses.
Perhaps he was concerned about how bad they'd feel should those dreams be thwarted?
Now mind you, and according to Leticia Cardoso of the Planning Department, the number of those lots is around 20 for the entire city of Sierra Madre. Not that many. And yet, here was John Harabedian making quite a fuss for those relatively few lot owners. Many observers were left scratching their heads and asking how such a thing could be.
Well, let us be so bold as to throw out a possible theory. You know how we love theories.
Some of you may recall that when the Planning Commission was all set to approve their recommendations to reduce the floor area limits and protect against the mansionization of Sierra Madre, almost every one in attendance at those meetings spoke in favor of that happening. There was only one person who spoke against this effort and that was the new owner of 110 Rancho in Sierra Madre, Gina Felikian.
On October 31, 2014, the Felikians bought a home for $1,800,000 with a 40,616 square foot lot, and were hoping to demolish the existing casa not so grande and build something substantially larger. From what she said, Gina did not seem take too kindly to the Planning Commission trying to reduce the size of the quite large McMansionesque home she wished to build.
Chairman Desai quickly dismissed Gina's expressed concerns at that meeting by telling her that the size of the home she would be allowed to build under the Planning Commission's recommendations was still going to be a mighty big home. Just not quite as mighty as she'd hoped.
Here is the video containing that exchange of opinion.
|To view this video please click here.|
Now let's assume that Gina Felikian was probably not satisfied with that response, and later figured out that she could get another shot at the big dream when the Planning Commission's recommendations came before the City Council for final approval. Which is when John Harabedian appears to have jumped into the fray.
Here are a couple of clips of then Mayor Harabedian at the April 14th and April 28th City Council meetings where, in the opinion of The Tattler, it is possible John may have been trying to help Gina build that far bigger house she clearly wanted.
|You can link to this video here.|
Gina Felikian, perhaps not coincidentally, was the only large lot owner in Sierra Madre who, at that particular moment, owned a home so situated that was about to be demolished. So is it possible that she had reached out to John Harabedian for help? And, to speculate even further, maybe that could be the reason why the former Mayor was advocating in so forceful and lawyerly a manner? To make certain that large lot owners like Gina would not be constrained from building massive homes on their properties?
I doubt that anyone will ever forget how John Harabedian pulled out that piece of paper with his own eleventh hour changes to what the floor area ratios should be. It was a very dramatic, entirely unexpected and rather depressing moment.
Just to give you an idea of what John accomplished with these changes, under the Planning Commission's recommendations, Gina could have built a home on her 40,616 square foot lot that was a total of 6,462 square feet.
After former Mayor Harabedian managed to convince the other council members to accept his compromise, one that included a "fourth tier" for lot sizes over 30,000 square feet, Gina would then be able to build a home that is a total of 6,842 square feet. That, plus the extra 5% of a lot size that is over 30,000 square feet, would allow for a detached accessory building like a guest house. That would give the Felikians another 530 square feet.
To speculate even further, when the dust settled and the floor area limits were adjusted at the last moment in accordance with John Harabedian's proposal, the Felikans would then be permitted to add another 910 square feet on top of what the Planning Commission recommended. To put things in monetary terms, and assuming the value of a new property is about $500 per square foot, Ms. Felikian could have benefited from Mr. Harabedian's efforts to the tune of $455,000.
Without getting too complicated, part of John Harabedian's proposal reached into the lower 3rd tier, which he raised by 2%, which then gave the 4th tier a higher base from which to start any new calculations. This new 4th tier floor area ratio contributed to that total potential gain for the Felikians.
In possibly trying to please one constituent, former Mayor Harabedian, in our opinion anyway, appeared willing to disregard both the recommendations of the Planning Commission and the will of the majority of the residents of Sierra Madre. A small city filled with big hearted folks who could now be faced with the unhappy prospect of many much larger homes being built on 30,000 plus square foot lots than what was originally intended when the Planning Commission made its thoughtful recommendations.
So did John Harabedian change certain rules that will now apply to the entire City of Sierra Madre to accommodate the wishes of one solitary property owner? We will let The Tattler's many knowledgeable readers be the judge of that.
It will also be interesting to see if the Felikian's plans for their new home take advantage of that extra 5% of square footage for "accessory structures" that was first devised by our very own John Harabedian.
Like I said, we enjoy mysteries. And theories.