Monday, August 31, 2015

It's Sierra Madre's First Ever McGranny Mansion Mystery!

- Behold! The mysterious rising of Sierra Madre's 1st ever McGranny Mansion, complete with elevator. -

Today's post involves a most unlikely twist on the old Granny Flat concept. As many readers here will recall, it was not too long ago that granny flats were discussed as a possible way of helping Sierra Madre achieve its Regional Housing Needs Assessment (or RHNA) numbers without having to actually allow for the building of anything. RHNA numbers being the product of corrupted Sacramento central state planners intent on forcing high density housing into resistant cities such as this one.

So in order to hit this number without actually allowing any SCAG housing in, the City Council at that time began looking at Granny Flats as a way of pumping up Sierra Madre's RHNA numbers. And it was decided that Granny Flats, those small single bedroom detached structures some people have tucked away in their backyards, could be brought up to code and then counted as real housing.

Or so the plan went. Many were in a state of disrepair of course, but should their owners fix these structures up a little and bring them up to code, the city could then count them as actual housing. Thus adding to the community's housing stock and helping dodge predatory state high density development mandates.

Invariably, the good intentions of that City Council were somehow subverted, and we are today looking at Sierra Madre's very first McGranny Mansion. Or, as some in that neighborhood have taken to calling it, the "two story aircraft carrier." Take your pick.

I like McGranny myself because it ties nicely into what has been a decade-long conversation about low income housing here.

Last week one resident did speak with the always well-informed and helpful Leticia Cardoso about this first ever McGranny Mansion, and came away with a lot of interesting information. Much of what follows is based on a series of emails sent to me yesterday afternoon. Our intrepid reporter learned a lot about the 2-story McGranny Mansion that has arisen from the ground toadstool-like out in back of the properties at 665 Fairview and 400 Gatewood, and also raised a lot of questions.

Unlike resurrected Granny Flats, the city considers this item to be an "accessory" structure, or at least according to the permit dated December of 2014. It cannot to be considered a true "2nd unit," or Granny Flat. Or so they are saying now. As such, it cannot have a kitchen and cannot be lived in on a permanent basis, although guests can stay there temporarily. It also cannot be rented.

Here I sense a disconnect. I am not certain how anyone could have gotten from the Granny Flat idea to this McGranny. How could the construction of so large a building be allowed by City Hall, yet nothing much can be done with it? If there is to be no kitchen, and nobody can rent the place, what is its purpose? Maybe it is to be clubhouse for some rather privileged youngsters? Complete with an elevator?

Because the permit was pulled in December of 2014, the new rules that were passed by the Planning Commission in June of 2015 do not apply here. Under the new rules, plans for a two story item such as this would need to be submitted to the city for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), and the neighbors would have been notified.

Even though none of this apparently applies to the object of today's conversation, our correspondent wanted to address "2nd units," which the Planning Commission will hopefully be taking up at their September 3rd meeting. So here goes.

A few years back a previous City Council changed the rules to allow 2nd units in R-1 zones. As we stated above, they did this as a way of complying with onerous state mandated RHNA requirements for more low income SCAG Housing without having to actually allow for the building of any. They faced a Hobson's Choice between allowing for more multi-unit buildings in the city, or allowing these already existing (though often rather neglected, or just plain funky in the planner sense) 2nd units to be rebuilt, upgraded and brought up to code in the R-1 Zone.

To make it easier to turn these 2nd units into viable living spaces, that City Council relaxed some of the R-1 Zoning requirements in regards to things like set backs. But now, with the rising of this city's first ever McGranny Mansion (as fine an example of good intentions gone wrong as you will ever see), the concern has become whether or not this effectively turns an R-1 Zone meant for single family homes into an R-2 Zone where pretty much anything goes.

That doesn't sound like anything anyone was looking for to me. Regardless of what you call that bizarre structure, it should not have been allowed under any rules, new or old.

Usually backyards run together. Now the neighbors of this LULU have a massive 2-story structure looming over their properties. Leticia Cardoso believes that under the wording of the new rules a CUP would apply to any 2nd story, whether it's for an "accessory" structure or a "2nd unit." Though, we must add, she wasn't absolutely sure about any of this, and intended to bring it up with the City Attorney.

It is also hoped that new floor area limits would also apply, although I'm not absolutely sure about that, either. Like I said, there are mysteries here.

Maybe this McGranny was just one of those Danny Castro "over the counter specials." You know, like the Carbuncle Castles at 319 and 321 Camillo Road? If there aren't any specific rules against approving construction, you just pass 'em through, right?

You have to wonder if there are any other surprises out there, just waiting to get built.

It might be a good idea to show up at that Planning Commission meeting at 7:00 on September 3rd. There is a lot that needs to be discussed.

sierramadretattler.com

125 comments:

  1. It is a good that the city keeps a close eye on these building projects for us. Otherwise we would find ourselves being surprised by these things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure that was said sarcastically. They are not protecting the residents the way they should.

      Delete
    2. City Staff does the bare minimum, and even then only when pushed into action by the City Council.

      Delete
    3. The residents need to be protected from this kind of thing. The taxpayers pay the salaries of city staff. They work for us and should be looking out for us.

      Delete
    4. Somebody blew it here and we need to get to the bottom of this. I hope the city will be forthcoming about what happened.

      Delete
    5. This "McGranny" is as big as a "McMansion". What in the world does the main house look like in front?

      Delete
    6. Nobody blew it, except the residents in being uninvolved for too long. The changes of this year will stop this kind of shenanigans, and the lesson learned is to read the general plan and be ready to fight for its implementation.

      Delete
    7. It certainly is a wake up call that we have to stay vigilant. If it can happen to this person, it can happen to anyone. Maybe this loophole has been closed although I'm not so sure, but developers and others will spend hours looking through the codes trying to find a way to exploit them for maximum profit which is usually at the expense of the immediate neighbors as those in Arcadia have found out.

      Delete
    8. Well said 7:18. They do indeed try to find ways to obey the letter of the law while violating the spirit of the law, and they do that consistently, predictably, ruthlessly. That's the enemy.

      Delete
    9. The residents need to stay involved. There are probably other loopholes that need to be plugged.

      Delete
  2. Oh the granny flat BS: I have a great one but Danny and their rules would not pass
    it cuz I did not have double parking. I have a home built in 1910. No driveways had
    double parking. Dumb rules for decent grannys, but then McGrannies. How could
    it get passed and not mine. Rules for some and not others??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The structure in the photo is not a granny flat, but it is ugly and does away with the neighbor's views and privacy.. The neighbors need to report the unit if it is used for a rental.

      Delete
    2. I don't know if there is such a term as "granny flat". My understanding is that the code provides for 2nd units and for acessory structures. I think we need to investigate what the difference is and what rules apply.

      Delete
    3. There can be reasonable granny units or whatever you want to call them. I think though that any accessory structure or 2nd unit should be limited to 1-story. They are always set back behind the main house so they have the potential to really impact on the backyards of the surrounding residents whether its blocking views or privacy which in turn effects values.

      Delete
  3. Talk about losing any privacy in your backyard and losing a view, this one takes the cake. The question is what is this thing and what does the neighbor who built it intend to do with it? It looks like it was built from scratch. Is it an "accessory" structure that can be lived in only temporarily and can't be rented out or have a kitchen. Orr is it a "2nd unit" that can be rented out and can have a kitchen. What rules apply to them. Questions, questions, questions. What's not a question is that this thing completely ruined the neighbor's property. This is the poster child for why we can't rely on neighbors to always do the right thing. This neighbor obviously only cared about themselves when they built this structure and while it may have enhanced the value of their property, it ruined the value of their neighbor's property.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I was the neighbor affected by this, I would be VERY upset with someone - whether its at the city or whether its the neighbor who did this.

      Delete
    2. I hate when people do things that have no regard for their neighbors. Its hard to believe that monolilth is a 2nd unit - it look more like the Taj Mahal. If its an accessory structure, what are they going to do with it without a kitchen. I bet if someone keeps an eye on this thing, it will be discovered that somebody did something they were not supposed to do. They may sneak in a kitchen or turn it into a rental.

      Delete
    3. Is this possibly allowed under the new standards that were voted on?

      Delete
    4. 10:11, no it's not - not without a full public hearing and approval by the Planning Commision.

      Delete
    5. Forget the public hearing and the need for approval by the Planning Commission. This should not even have gotten that far. It should not be allowed to build a 2-story that close to the property line.

      Delete
    6. anyone know the set backs?

      Delete
    7. There are far too many examples of exactly the same thing, so that has been allowed.

      Delete
    8. I don't care if its "been allowed". If its illegal, then its illegal. I think the affected neighor has a case here. Regardless of what the affected neighbor does, all of us have the potential to have one of these "mushrooms" suddenly rise up over our rear fence which is why we should all be concerned about this.

      Delete
    9. If I had that looking over my backyard, the neighbor and the city would be getting a letter from my lawyer.

      Delete
    10. 3:34, allowed means legal. If you don't like something, you have to work on changing the law.
      With an enormous and lengthy effort, we've done that.
      You cannot apply new standards to older applications once they've been approved.
      Want more changes, lead the charge.

      Delete
    11. The question is still whether the new rules prevent this. I have yet to hear that it does other than references to the General Plan which by definition deals in generalities and not specifics.

      Delete
    12. The General Plan is the constitution of the city, and if a code does not support the policies of the General Plan, it is the code that has to be changed to be brought into compliance.

      Delete
    13. You're right that the code needs to reflect the General Plan but right now it probably doesn't it. The General Plan has been passed. Now we need to go in and make sure the code reflects it.

      Delete
  4. Look how close it is to the rear property line. That can't meet the set back requirements for a 2-story structure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whether its the old rules or the new rules, someone at the City made a huge blunder in approving this thing. I think the neighbor has a lawsuit. The damages are lost value to their property.....and emotional distress in having to deal with this thing.

      Delete
    2. Nothing of this size should ever be approved over the counter. Ever.

      Delete
    3. Something is wrong somewhere. A 2-story building like that, whatever it is, needs to be scrutinized very carefully. It looks to be right back against their property line. There is no way that should have been approved. If it was legally done, than we have to make sure that this loophole is closed.

      Delete
    4. You can't have a city official, perhaps only one city official, making a decision that just reduced the value of the neighbor's property by $100,000 or more.

      Delete
    5. Thank God Danny Castro left. Nancy Walsh used to bellow about how awful it was when employees left, but to me some of the best things that happened at City Hall this year are the people who left.

      Delete
    6. Code setbacks: 15ft from rear property line, 5ft from side property line. Second story should have 45 degree angle plane, can't be straight up. Second story needs to be setback from the first (angle plane calculation).

      Delete
    7. I think this was approved after Danny Castro had already left. According to the post, the permit was approved in Dec. of 2014. Didn't Danny leave before then.

      Delete
    8. I don't think this is anywhere near 15 feet from the rear property line and I don't see any 45 degree angle plane. It goes straight up.

      Delete
    9. 12:53, this project doesn't have to meet those standards. This project has to meet the standards that were on the books when the application was approved.

      Delete
    10. It seems like it wasn't approved that long ago. There must have been some standards in place to prevent this monolith.

      Delete
  5. I'd like to know who at City Hall rubber stamped this project. Evidently the permit was approved as recently as Dec. of 2014 if the Tattler is correct. Just imagine if that went up just behind the end of your backyard. Every Planning Commissioner and every City Council Member would be up in arms. Every resident would be up in arms. Yet, some bureaucrat at the city can approve something like this that just cost the neighbor behind them alot of money in diminished value. Who are these people on Fairview and why would they do such a thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe it wasn't rubberstamped. Maybe somebody just built it. If so it should be red tagged and demolished.

      Delete
    2. That is exactly what the homeowners that live behind the senior housing look at everyday.

      Delete
    3. Not what people pay Sierra Madre prices to look at.

      Delete
    4. If I was the neighor, I would get an injunction against continued work on that structure. Get it stopped and then figure out the details. I would imagine it also affects the neighbors on each side along Gatewood too.

      Delete
    5. 10:03, I was thinking the same thing. Time to call the lawyer.
      Maybe have to sue the city for property damage.

      Delete
    6. This is a lawsuit. It should be torn down. I can't imagine anybody followed the rules on this one. Even if they did, you can bet they are going to sneak in a kitchen or do something else with it that is not allowed.

      Delete
    7. Red tag it now. Stop construction today.

      Delete
    8. The city needs to go over there immediately and do an inspection to see if the rules were complied with and if they rules are still being complied with. I doubt it.

      Delete
    9. The picture shows the framing. The building is FINISHED.

      Delete
    10. Even if its finished, perhaps it should be razed to the ground if it doesn't comply with the rules that existed at the time. But I'm also concerned if the new rules that have been put into place protect residents against this kind of monstrosity.

      Delete
    11. Even though loopholes can potentially affect everyone, the neighbors need to take the lead on this. I understand that Preserve Sierra Madre is also looking into this.

      Delete
    12. 3:37PM - The new rules require a Conditional Use Permit that includes a Planning Commission public hearing for any new two-story structure in the R1 zone. So yes, the new rules don't seem to necessarily stop something like this but it gives discretion to the Planning Commission.

      Delete
  6. 7:07 - You're wrong about "every" City Council member. This might be one of Gene Goss's imaginary residents who contacted him about people being able to do whatever they want with their property. I've been trying to get several of my friends more active in our politics. One, who lives very close to this property told me, "Why? They just do what they want anyway." Guess she's made her case!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nope, not anymore. If someone tried to get that through the planning department today, there would be public hearings, and protections against this in a general plan that the planning commission has the duty to implement.

      Delete
    2. If Goss and Harabedian had had their way, this destructive junk would be going on into the future.

      Delete
    3. Wasn't Goss the one who said that people should be able to do what they want to "afterall this is America". He also said he would be angry but would just "grin and bear it.". What a joke. Granted, the people who built that have property rights but what about the property rights of the neighors. Its the old adege that your right to punch stops at my nose. You should not be allowed to do something that adversely impacts on your neighors in such a manner.

      Delete
    4. Goss represents the opinions of whoever got to him last.

      Delete
    5. I would hope that even Gene Goss would feel this is too much regardless of how much weight you want to give to people's private property rights.

      Delete
    6. There is no way Goss would support this. Any decent person would conclude that the person who built this thing did a number on their neighbors particularly the one directly behind them.

      Delete
  7. Where is this place?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See paragraph 6.

      Delete
    2. The neighbor who constructed this monstronsity appears to live at 665 Fairview. At least one of the neighbors affected and most affected is the person who owns 400 Gatewood.

      Delete
  8. Straight up and with plenty of windows to keep tabs on the neighbors. Ugh

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. y'all are paranoid.

      Delete
    2. 10:21, y'all are stupid.

      Delete
    3. 10:21 - slow day at the AAR?

      Delete
    4. If 10:21 doesn't care about that kind of thing next to his or her house, fine.
      If someone does care, though, they have to have the ability to stop it.

      Delete
    5. If people behaved reasonably, none of this should happen. They can build a 1-story unit that does not destroy the neighbor's privacy and views. They obviously didn't care about the impact this would have on the neighbor's property.

      Delete
    6. Or they could have placed the windows elsewhere, and they could have offered to green screen with expensive landscaping. Instead they took the "To hell with everybody else" route.

      Delete
    7. I think "To hell with everybody else" pretty much sums things up. I don't mind that philosphy if you live in Montana with 50 acres separating you from your neighbor but we live in relatively close quarters with one another such that what you do can affect me.

      Delete
  9. This is exactly what happened to that great couple on Grandview, after they had lived here for more than 50 years. The neighbor to the north had a very large lot, but decided to put a two story structure immediately next to the couple, and their view of the mountains was gone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's right. It was a developer that did that to them. They asked the developer if he would just not have certain windows on their side so that they could maintain their privacy and the developer refused to compromise in any way and the new Director of Planning and Community Preservation told those poor folks they were out of luck - nothing could be done.

      Delete
    2. You can't rely on your neighbor or the developer to always do the right thing. That's why reasonable rules need to be put in place so everybody knows what they can and cannot do. If this was legally allowed then a loophole somewhere needs to be plugged.

      Delete
    3. I think it's been plugged 12:56, but too late for this one.
      The Director wouldn't help? Then that's where lawyers come in.

      Delete
    4. I'd like to know specifically how its been "plugged". This should never be allowed to happen in the first place and it shouldn't be up to anyone's discretion including the Planning Commission and certainly not someone down at City Hall.

      Delete
    5. Not only Lambden but Felikian, too.

      Delete
    6. 3:41, read the new requirements for second story structures. Look at the municipal codes.
      I agree with you that is shouldn't be allowed, and that's why I and others like me worked on changing the rules.
      You are protesting this one too late. The city did what it was supposed to do at that time.

      Delete
    7. 4:42, this one may have gotten away from us but please explain how the new rules that were enacted in June of 2015 prohibit this from happening? That's my concern now. It may be too litte too late. But I don't want this happening in my backyard some day.

      Delete
  10. It has happened many times in many places around our town, which is why it was so crazy making when Harabedian and Goss fought the second story CUP. They really ignored all the bad precedents.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hard to believe they did that to please the likes of Glenn Lambdin.

      Delete
    2. Given that they've made so many good decisions, the willful disregard of the evidence was surprising.

      Delete
    3. Goss's attitude is that you can basically screw over your neighbors if you want to under the guise of private property rights. Well, your right to do something stops at my right to be free from harm. Certainly the owner on Gatewood has been harmed by what the neighbors at 665 Fairview have done.

      Delete
    4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
    5. Which city should follow Palm Springs in regards to the FBI visiting with a warrant and advising city employees to leave their cell phones behind ?
      I hear the FBI might be looking into an issue having to do with a developer and a mayor ?
      Arcadia might be a very interesting choice .
      Arcadia might be an interesting choice?

      Delete
  11. 665 Fairview and 400 Gatewood

    ReplyDelete
  12. It can't be rented? What is it, a playhouse?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe for a very old player. The elevator part.

      Delete
    2. I bet you they try to put a kitchen in there and rent it out or have someone live in it permanently.

      Delete
    3. Of course people will be living it it.

      Delete
    4. Big Question: who at City Hall signed off on this?

      Delete
    5. I agree, it is a big question. I think we also need to see the paperwork explaining why this was approved. I'd like to see staff's reasons for giving the project a green light.

      Delete
    6. The staff is not responsible for writing the requirements. They enforce what is on the books. The books would no longer allow this.

      Delete
    7. I don't want staff that does it by the book. I want staff that thinks. If they actually lived here they would care enough to do what is really right.

      Delete
    8. Please tell us 4:40 what specific rules are now in place to prevent this. I suspect it would still be a dicretionary decision by someone or some body like the Planning Commission. Even though are Planning Commission is excellent and even better with the addition of John Hutt and Leslee Hinton, I still don't think there should be any discretion that allows that kind of a 2-story structure tucked away at the very rear of somebody's yard. It should just be prohibited completely. I'd like to know what rule does that?

      Delete
    9. Prohibit second story structures?
      That will take some work to craft into legalese...

      Delete
  13. Have those awful houses on Camillo been sold? And what is going on on the northeast corner of Camillo and Foothill? Have you passed that house that is going up on the corner of Grand View and Santa Anita? It will truly be as bad as the poor neighbors next door feared.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been watching that big bruiser going up on Santa Anita and Grandview - such an arrogant intrusion.

      Delete
    2. Drove by them last night. Both had parked cars under the carport blocking the living room windows.
      Talk about room with a view.

      Delete
  14. I just drove by 655 Fairview I couldn't see the rear Mcgranny but the front of the yard is a mess and totally unkept. I assume that there are plans in the making for a full sized Mcmansion soon.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Actually it's not the first. Sunnyside Ave last house on the left (VicMansion) north end of street west side has a huge 2 story VicGranny recently constructed

    ReplyDelete
  16. Maybe it has something to do with Halloween. You know how serious Sierra Madre people get about that day.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I think the correct address for the offender on Fairview is 665 Fairview.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 2;41 here. oops It was 665 I was speaking of. Typo. sorry folks at 655 lovely home..........

      Delete
  18. According to the tax records, 665 Fairview has a pretty big lot - over 17,000 square feet. That gives them alot of room to do some nasty stuff to the neighbors. They are also big enough to split the lot. That is one hole that needs fixing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They have a big lot, and yet had to put that structure there, where it would ruin the neighbors' view and privacy?

      Delete
    2. It probably could have been re-designed to do the least harm to the neighbors - that is if these people on Fairview even cared about their neighbors.

      Delete
    3. Do some 'nasty stuff' to the neighbors? You are creepy

      Delete
    4. Agreed 4:58 - that's the way it should have gone. It's called a win-win. People can expand on their property, and neighbors can enjoy their own property.

      Delete
    5. That's what you want to focus on in the comment, 7:08? Really?

      Delete
    6. can't put that genie back in the bottle

      Delete
  19. I went by the house today. I also went to the backside. Did the people at 400 Gatewood sell their house? Can't find anything on a sale of that property.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the people on Gatewood are going to build a normal house on their lot. But the whole thing was ruined by what the neighbor has done.

      Delete
  20. You all are right about China, check this out.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/china-s-investors-find-safe-haven-in-american-real-estate-171923676.html#

    ReplyDelete
  21. All this indignation is great. It's about time people were more upset about things that have gone on for too long, but you're late to the party. Doesn't matter; get involved, get knowledgable. What more needs to be fixed? How are you going to fix it?
    Blaming staff is a waste of time. Fix the rules.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who approved this place? It is a fair question.

      Delete
    2. The Planning Deopartment. Wait, since it was before the new reorganization, the Development Services Department staff approved it. There was probably one planner assigned - maybe Cardoso.

      Delete
    3. Or maybe Derrick Purificacion.

      Delete
    4. You can blame staff for follwoing orders, or you can focus on changing the orders.

      Delete
    5. Why didn't staff question so obviously an offensive project?

      Delete
    6. 12:48, that's not in their job descriptions. They've got a checklist of 175 + or - codes or rules, and they stick to it. Offensivesness is not their call - it's your's, through the council.

      Delete
    7. Oh. So they could be replaced with computers?

      Delete
    8. Computers that could have conversations with customers? Yeah, probably
      Going after staff for enforcing the rules is like blaming the servants at a party for the host's menu choices.

      Delete
    9. Staff that understands the concerns of the residents and asks questions based on those perceptions is probably too much to ask.

      Delete
    10. It's a misdirection that benefits developers - as long as responsibility is attributed to the wrong people, developers get to do what they want.

      Delete
  22. You know what gets my undies in a bunch is driving through the Arcadia Highlands and witnessing the verdant landscaping ... The lush and colorful rose garden on Orange Grove ,the green lawns,and the thoughtful developers putting in sod and other drought loving plants .... So,if Sierra Madre decided to allow Mursol (sp.) and every other developer to come in and buy and sell our little foothill village would we be given a healthier water allowance or would we stick with our current dust bowl theme ?
    Regarding our little dust bowl it would be rather prudent for the city to check into it's dead / near death trees .
    I've seen a few and hope we have a lack luster Santa Ana season considering all of the electricity poles,transformers ,dead lawns,and dry foothills I'm thinking we'll be more tinder box of the foothills than village of the foothills .
    Maybe the the guys living in the monastery will say a few prayers in our favor ?
    Just thinking outside the box .

    ReplyDelete