Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Henry A. Darling House Is Back In The Bull's Eye

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(Mod: The apparently always at-risk Henry A. Darling home is back in the news, and once again before the Planning Commission. The following went out from Preserve Sierra Madre Tuesday.)

Dear Supporters: Many of you will remember that a herculean effort was launched to save 126 E. Mira Monte, also known as the "Henry A. Darling House", from a date with the wrecking ball.  In fact, the proposed demolition of that historic property was one of the catalysts for the emergency demolition moratorium and later the demolition ordinance.

After failing in their efforts to demolish the property, the previous owners sold the property to a new buyer.  We all hoped that the new buyer would want to preserve the house.  However, while the new buyer is not demolishing the house, they are proposing to add an additional 2,279 square feet to the existing  house which is 2,052 square feet for a total of 4,731 square feet - effectively doubling the size of the home.

While this home did need to be updated, the concern is whether the modifications and interior remodeling is so extensive that it results in what is effectively a demolition of the house.  For those who had the opportunity to see the inside, the Craftsman architectural details were about as good as it gets.

The City Staff has recommended that the project be approved.  You can find the details of their analysis in the Planning Commission Staff Report for November 5th at the following link:

http://cityofsierramadre.hosted.civiclive.com/cms/One.aspx?portalId=212393&pageId=271667 (Or just link here).

Preserve Sierra Madre has every confidence that the Planning Commission will thoroughly review this project to make sure that it is in keeping with the character of the neighborhood as well as preserving the architectural character of this magnificent home.  For those who wish to attend the Planning Commission meeting regarding this project, it will be held this Thursday, November 5th at 7:00 pm at City Hall.

Thank you for your support.

Steering Committee
Preserve Sierra Madre

Mod: Here are some of the issues that are likely to come up on Thursday.

1) The applicant is requesting that part of the "lower level" area not be counted in the sq ft of the house.  A lot of this area can be used as storage since it is over six feet high. Wouldn't you like a 1000 extra sq. ft. area for storage? If this area is included the house will be over 6000 + sq ft.

2) While some of the lower level is habitable and included in the square footage there is a section that is actual crawl space and the middle space is questionable.  If included it is too large for the lot.

3) The interior is a complete redo.  It could even end up being a demo if "problems" are discovered. Consider that a loophole. Right now they can demo up to 25% without a demo application.

This is looking like it could be the first big test of the Planning Commission since its two new members were seated. You might want to check in Thursday evening.

For those of you who think your vote does not count


Selinske, whose eight years on the Pasadena Unified Board of Ed saw that beleaguered school district slide to its current abysmal statewide ranking of 543 (link), and who helped oversee voter approved and funded construction bonds during a time when they were being looted by crooked contractors (who were never prosecuted due to horrendous PUSD record keeping), just might get to play education establishment pocket puppet at our local two year junior college for a few years.

But it may not be over just yet (link).


We'll just have to see how the provisional and remaining vote by mail ballots go. But it should never have been this close. 

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

58 comments:

  1. Won't the PCC Board election be a run off? No candidate got 50%.

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    1. There is no runoff in PCC elections. However, the provisional and remaining mail in ballots still need to be counted. Ain't over 'til it's over!

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  2. I'm not sure I see the issue. Why would anyone have a problem with a crawl space exclusion. If it's not useable for habitable space and assuming the height of the house is within limits, which it must be, what is the problem.
    In my opinion the house is being saved and that's a good thing. As far as any loopholes, to tear it down, I don't believe the conditional use permit gives them the right to do anything other than what was approved. Are you suggesting their plan is a big ruse?

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    1. Good point. We have never seen ruses in situations like this before.

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    2. Rediculus to count this as living space. I was down there. No way should it be included in the total allowable area.

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    3. We have seen enough projects get approved around town that were totally out of keeping with the neighborhood. I think people just want some scrutiny over the process. Don't forget that City Staff also approved the twin monstrosities on Camillo.

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    4. The fact that City Staff approved the project means nothing based upon past history. No, I take that back, it means something. It means people need to have their antenna up. This Planning Commission is as good a one as we have ever had. They will make sure the house doesn't get destroyed during the course of the remodel and addition. I wonder if the buyers intend to live in the house or are they a developer that wants to squeeze the last ounce of profit out of it?

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    5. 8:24 - but after the renovations and repairs are made? Will things still be the same? Hmm??

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    6. The lower level addition should be included in the square footage. That's the rule. Whether its storage or a big closet, that's usable square feet and should be counted. Why does everybody try to skirt the rules. There should be no exceptions on that point.

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    7. Completely correct. Yes. Obviously that is why some people here today are being so pig-headed about it.

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    8. I am one of the sternest critics of these projects.Yet I see no problem with the proposal.
      The lot coverage is very modest.The finished structure will be unobtrusive from the street.It isn't looming over a neighbor's house.
      Someone is spending a lot of money to rescue this house.It is financial nonsense but they are doing it anyway. Great for Sierra Madre.
      If you have ever renovated one of these homes(I have !) you know the final cost far exceeds any estimate. Financially it would make more sense to buy another home. But someone is spending their money to make something that keeps Sierra Madre attractive. Bravo ! They deserve our gratitude and congratulation -even mine :-)..

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    9. The lower level is included in the gross floor area. The crawl space is not. If something is not useable why would you want it included? What exactly would you be trying to accomplish with such a punitive restriction. And what exactly is the metric you would use to quantify that? The crawl space averages 5' according to the plan. What could you do with that exactly, other than store christmas decorations, and that assumes that you finish it. Are you really suggesting that every house on a raised foundation should include their crawl space in this calculation? The code, by the way, does not include full basements in the calculation.

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    10. @8:41 that's not the rule. The new R-1 code does not stipulate crawl spaces to be included in gross floor calculation. Nor does it include full basements. If it did, this project would require a variance, which would not happen. The codes exist for community preservation, but also to provide guidance for those wishing to build. You can't just make things up.

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    11. I think the point is what the crawl spaces will become and not what they are now.

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    12. What can a crawl space become? Unless of course you dig below grade which has not been requested as far as I can see. Apart from that, this is a nonissue.

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    13. If its just crawl space, than that would be fine to not include that in the floor area calculations. Once again, we seen some peculiar things happen in this town that have been approved by City Staff. While I would hope that the new buyers would have the sense to keep the interior Craftman architectural details, I don't think there is a requirement that they do so although it would be a big mistake not to keep them intact. It would be in keeping with the style of the house which appears to be kept as it is.

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    14. I suspect that a few of the defenders of the project "doth protest too much". Perhaps they are coming from a position of self-interest and don't want any opposition to build up too much steam. When I read Preserve Sierra Madre's letter to their supporters, they are just explaining the facts and expressing some reasonable concerns. They also express confidence in the Planning Commission to fulfill their role in this process. I don't see anything wrong in that. We have new rules in place and as long as those new rules are complied with and there are no backroom deals to allow unreasonable exceptions, than everything will be ok.

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    15. There may not be a problem 6:58 but alot of people tried hard to save the Henry A. Darling House and so feel kind of attached to it. We just want to keep an eye on things that's all. There may indeed not be a problem. While I think the house will be way too big, that's not my call to make.

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    16. Before I do any cartwheels in the street, I want to see the details and hear the intentions of the new owners. Trust but verify.

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  3. "For those who had the opportunity to see the inside, the Craftsman architectural details were about as good as it gets." Yea well, for those of you who had the opportunity to see the inside of the crawl space / foundation / supports you prolly ran screaming like a baby because the place was one sneeze from collapsing. Underside of the house was def. NOT up to code even if the interior is pretty.

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    1. If the new owners are going to do work on the place you'd have to assume they would also make it architecturally secure. I don't see how that gets them around any square footage considerations, though. It is either usable space or it is not.

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    2. Not sure what 7:02 is suggesting here. Saying it has great architectural details does not mean that the foundation and other things need to be repaired. Do you think the home does not have beautiful architectural details? Have you seen the inside? Are you the new owner that perhaps doesn't have the taste to preserve the architectural details? I don't know where you are coming from? Anything that needs to be repaired should be repaired. That goes without saying.

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    3. From a value standpoint and if they are keeping the exterior facade intact as they appear to be doing, it would be very foolish to destroy the interior details that are in keeping with that exterior facade. But people do dumb things all the time. Does anyone know if the Buyer's intend to move into the house or is this just a flipper?

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    4. The owners' names are on the applications at the end of the staff report: William and Anastasia Kefalas, 267 West Montecito.
      The architect is Samir Guirguis of S.A.G. Construction and Design in Altadena.
      (I myself woud probably not go with a construction company that has SAG as its acronym.)
      Engineer, Amgad Farag at AR Engineering in Saugus.

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    5. I sure hope they are not going to gut the interior. That would be a big mistake. Update it and improve things but don't demo it.

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    6. I've seen several houses in Arcadia that were supposed to be renovations (permits costs less), rather than demolish the whole house only to tear down everything but one wall usually where the fireplace is. Then, during construction they find out the fireplace is unsafe and darn it, they have to demolish that too. Could happen to the Darling house. Sure hope not. I think anything 5 feet and under should not be counted as floor space.

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    7. Do the Kefalas's intend to live in the house or are they just developers trying to maximize their profit. Depending on what the answer is will determine how concerned we should be.

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    8. Kelafas is in property management (http://www.kefalasinvestments.com/) so it's really hard to tell.
      Plus as the commissioners have pointed out, everyone tells them they want to live in this wonderful town, whether it's true or not.

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    9. Looks like the wife is a landscape architect:
      http://www.theonlyplaceintown.com/TheOnlyPlaceInTown/OurFriends_files/gardeniaweb.pdf
      They could obviously be in it to flip it. It's not going to be possible to know what they really intend.

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    10. The kefalas family has been a part of Sierra Madre for the last 40 years, so I doubt it.

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    11. Well, pardon my bias, but so have the Lamdins, Morans, and Harabedian been here for 40 years; followed closely by the Doyles, Coburns, and a host of other slimy, slithery dynasties. Longevity in the village is not a basis for right thinking.

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  4. Yours is a prime example of enlightening writing. I think my students could learn a lot from your writing style and your articles. I may share this article with them.

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    1. hahahahahahahahahahahahaha

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    2. The partying continues at the Selinske compound.

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    3. Three votes is less than Tom voted all by himself!

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  5. I thought the city worked hard to put good rules in place - so if the changes to the house abide by the rules, I don't see a problem. It's too big to me, but if it's not offensively looming over its neighbors, or taking up every inch of the lot, maybe it will be an appropriate big house. Ostentatious yes; destructive to the city, no.

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    1. The deveil is always in the details I'm afraid.

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  6. Thanks for the link to the report, Tattler. That made it easy.
    At first glance, it look like there won't be an in-your-face look to the thing, but what do I know.
    I trust our commission to make good choices.

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    1. As is often the case, the devil is in the details. Hopefully the Planning Commission will do their usual skilled exorcism work.

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    2. Yes. Exorcism is a perfect word for it.

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    3. II don't know what I'd do with over 4700 square feet, but that's just me. Let's hope the Planning Commission will do their job. That's what we have a CUP process for. Its working like it should.

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  7. This is actually pretty bad news for Fat Tom. Osterling's early evening lead was built on write-in votes. If write-in votes remain uncounted, chances are the majority of them will not be going to Selinske.

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    1. There were no write-in votes. Osterling was on the ballot. If you are thinking on vote by mail, several of them were turned in the day of the election at the polling places. I believe those that came in earlier have been counted.

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  8. I went through the house. Exceptional features abound on the inside. From what I can see on the plans, the front of the house will stay in tact. The front windows needed a lot of repair. That can be done. The basement or storage area is of good size, however it needed lots of work. I don't know if the house was ready to fall down with a sneeze, I'm not an engineer. But if they are willing to maintain the integrity of the house, let them have the space as a thank you for not tearing it down. They are not changing the architecture and they are not looming over anyone else's house. Let the PC deal with it. They will keep it safe.

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    1. That is what makes this such an important Planning Commission meeting. There is a level of distrust in this community, much of it based on bad previous experience. The people who now own this house may be saints for all we know. But this all still has to be gone through, and in a careful and thorough way.

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    2. 9:28 hit the nail on the head. There is a legitimate level of distrust based on past projects that were approved but were in violation of the principles in the General Plan. These buyers may be good people. If they are going to keep the exterior facade, preserve some of the great details on the inside and comply with the updated rules, I'm ok with that. I will keep an open mind until something goes sideways.

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    3. Questions need to be asked. Our Planning Commission will hold their feet to the fire if they need to. If its a good project, then great.

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    4. Hey! Gina and De Sai are no slouches. We have a really good PC.

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  9. I'm with 8:55 and 9:20.
    I think it's critically important that we make it clear that we are not opposed to all development, nor are we opposed to big houses on suitable lots.
    We have to fight over-development and disproportionately big houses.

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    1. Yes. But we must also make certain everything is carefully looked at. This isn't a matter of being nice, it is one of being right.

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    2. For careful consideration, you can't get any better than Hutt and Hinton.

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    3. No architect or developer is going to pull one over on John Hutt. He knows this stuff cold. I trust him to implement the General Plan and safeguard the community from One Carter-type of projects. Sierra Madre couldn't be more fortunate to have John Hutt and Leslie Hinton on the Planning Commission.

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    4. I too feel better knowing that Hutt is on there. He knows the codes better than City Staff and probably better than any body else.

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  10. All the ordinances and General Plans in the world don't mean a thing unless the people are there to stand with them.

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    1. Precisely 1:10. Alot of good rules were fought for and put in place. I am fine so long as a project doesn't try to circumvent those rules. But as you say, all the rules in the world mean nothing unless they are enforced.

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    2. Yes. Rules do not enforce themselves. People do that. They also circumvent them.

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  11. Off subject, it look like we are getting water injected into our aquifer?

    http://www.sgvtribune.com/environment-and-nature/20151103/recycled-wastewater-to-give-los-angeles-county-some-water-independence

    https://www.revealnews.org/article/the-wet-prince-of-bel-air-who-is-californias-biggest-water-guzzler/

    Another thought: If 100 Angelonos are using about 4 million gallons a piece, x 100 is 400million. The wastewater plant will produce 21,000 acre-feet. 325,000 gallons in an acre foot. About 6-7 billion gallons a year. So for a 95 million dollar plant, should these 100 users pay for 5% of the cost? 5 million dollars?

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  12. Osterling: The budget was ruined, and I vow to use my expertise to fix it.
    Selinske: I've lived here longer.
    Yep, in this area, I'd put my money on Selinske.

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