|A small portion of John's lengthy stemwinder. Link to video here.|
Tuesday evening the City Council will vote to seat two new Planning Commission members. Since this particular commission had to make some very important decisions recently regarding unwanted and predatory mansionization in this town, and in the face of some pretty stiff pressures from the people who stand to profit greatly from their construction, this decision becomes one of the most important the City Council will be required to make in quite some time.
John Vandevelde went to the public comment podium at the critical January 27 City Council meeting and spoke in vigorous opposition to the Demolition Moratorium that all five City Council members later went on to approve. He also discussed the further changes being contemplated for the R-1 Zoning Codes. He was strongly opposed to those as well. Something that 3 out of the 5 City Council members also voted to put in place.
Vandevelde even managed to try the patience of the always accommodating then Mayor John Harabedian by refusing his request to wrap his marathon public comment up after going way past what had already been a generously extended amount of time. Probably the nearest thing to a filibuster this city has seen in quite a while.
The Planning Commission's job is to implement things like the General Plan and Municipal Code. Would architect John Vandevelde be the best person to do that sort of work when he has previously spoken out in opposition to everything the current Planning Commission and City Council voted for and enacted?
Things designed to keep Sierra Madre safe from the threat of mansionization?
If you listen to his remarks here, John says at the beginning that he had been an architect for 20 years. Something that people watching this video might assume would make him an unbiased expert. What John did not reveal is what his business stake in all of this might be. The rumor being he was the architect employed by the Brown family to design the large and generic house that was to replace what many here think of as a community heirloom. Plus configure what would have been a very controversial lot split.
That being the 1907 Craftsman home known as the Henry A. Darling House, located at 126 E. Mira Monte.
This perceived conflict of interest is not without relevance given that one of the main reasons the City Council voted on an Emergency Demolition Ordinance was to prevent places like the Henry A. Darling Home from being turned into a pile of rubble. Then replaced by a far larger and common looking home, and on a split lot. The architectural design is pictured below.
Given the popularity here of preserving Sierra Madre's architectural heritage, as represented by the City Council's repeated accommodation of measures designed to do just that, does it really make sense to place someone on the Planning Commission that advocated so fiercely against just those very things?
Do we really need to take that kind of radical step backwards?
Here is a portion of the Staff Report for the selection of two new members for the Planning Commission.