Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Do The Passionists Know Something That We Don't?

No pools? Really?
The Passionist Fathers have a "Frequently Asked Questions" website up and running answering a lot of concerns that nobody has actually asked about lately. The assumption most in Sierra Madre are making right now is that this unfortunate 41 unit strong McMiniMansion developmental denouement is face down and floating dead in the water, and no amount of miracles from either above or below is going to make the mess swim again. Even if the area does seem strangely pool free.

I mean, nobody is really asking them any of these questions anymore. Not once, twice or, as they are claiming here, frequently. But they now have some answers prepared for us anyway. So why is that? Are they anticipating a coming political change of some sort? Something that will make their project actually seem feasible? Despite all that you might have been hearing about the sorry fate of any development at Mater Dolorosa?

Now you do know that I love a good conspiracy theory. What blog doesn't? They are occasionally interesting in my opinion, and in this town more often than not they turn out to be true. Look at John Capoccia's flip on utility taxes. In 2012 the big issue was a 12% utility tax. In 2016 it is preservation. Flips happen.

I have to tell you, I'm starting to wonder if things are not quite what they appear to be with the proposed development at Mater Dolorosa. The Passionists seem to believe that this is not quite the dead issue many think it is, but rather political conditions could somehow improve for them, and in the not too distant future. And with this FAQ website of theirs they seem to be getting ready for the special day.

This is how one commenter put this yesterday:

I think what the Passionists are hoping for is once the April election is over the city's need for revenue will outweigh any campaign promises made by the two Johns about preservation. Denise and Rachelle will fight it, but I can see the three dudes giving in and taking the development impact money, which will be considerable.

The point is a pretty good one. It very well might be that the Passionists believe the city's current stance on development at Mater Dolorosa is actually pre-election posturing, something designed to get John Harabedian and John Capoccia elected to second terms. And once they are safely beyond the reach of the voters, then the business of developing monastery lands will get done.

It all comes down to the money. It always does. The Passionists lay it out this way.


In California, which has the highest development impact fees anywhere in the country by a factor of about 10, these fees serve as a way for developers to pay off local city governments (link). You can see how it could work here. That really is a lot of cash.

Look at the situation this way. It is estimated that the City of Sierra Madre's CalPERS exposure is somewhere in the $9 million dollar range. This out of an available $11 million. Near insolvency, my friends. Even if the city's 66% utility tax increase is approved at the polls, it is doubtful the additional revenue will be enough to cover even this one demand. Much less all of the many other things they are claiming it will fund.

Once re-elected, the Two Johns will be termed out and incapable of running again. Outside of a recall, they'll have become untouchable. Having gotten all the political milage they needed out of preservation (an issue they own to the point where nobody even dares to run against them), do you really think they are beyond flipping on this issue? Given their priorities and past?

Well, do you?

In 2012 the residents voted down a UUT increase measure, and elected John Capoccia to help guarantee that such a thing would never happen again. We have since seen two additional attempts by the city to pass big utility tax increases.

Do you really believe the same thing can't happen with community preservation as well? How much are you willing to wager on that never happening?

I think the Passionists are clearly convinced it can, and they now have all of their arguments ready. Especially the money one.

You can link to all of that here.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

101 comments:

  1. I would like to know. Did city hall hire a new head librian for $157,000+ dollars a year? Did city hall agree to pay her a Pension and Cadallic Health Benifit Plan? We Must get out of the Pension Busniss and All Cadalic Health Plans. The city council is leading OUR CITY into a culta sac to BK. Why?

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    1. If you carry art objects in a cloth bag it is a culture sack.

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  2. If you add all the FAQ numbers up, we're talking about $5,000,000 bucks to the city. initially. With property taxes extending out forever. Lots of grease in that bucket.

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    1. The development fees are not that much. The property tax revenue would be offset by the increase in services that would be required. What did the priests do with all the money they raised for the retirement of Priests. It was a 5 million dollar campaign and I donated to it. I want my money back. How many millions do they need for these 59 guys. If they need more money, then raise some more. Just don't sell off the last remaining large parcel of open space in Sierra Madre.

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    2. Don't think the increase in services would be that much. Developer would have to pay for the new streets, sidewalks, sewers and water mains. Police and fire dept. costs for 40 some houses wouldn't be much.

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    3. What about the increased traffic and congestion in the city? The folks on Sunnyside already wanted a traffic study done because of the traffic to and from the retreat center. Wait till you get the trucks going up and down that street during the construction period and then the added traffic from 40-50 homes and their guests. It will be a nightmare and that nightmare will also be visited on One Carter and Bailey Park.

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    4. why don't those 59 guys get a real job and pay for themselves like most of us

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    5. They need to become Priests again and not developers. But that's a deeper problem within the Catholic Church.

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    6. I just don't trust them to do the right thing. They are so focused on getting their hands on the cash for their retirements that they will say anything. Jerry Pearson and Cam Thornton have a financial stake in the outcome so that's why they are spending so much time on this project. We need to always keep that in mind as they try to convince us how good this project is for Sierra Madre.

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    7. They're plotting a very crass development deal and wrapping it all up in pretty church talk. I don't believe anything I'm hearing from those people.

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    8. If though virtually no one wants a housing project up there, they don't care. They want to ram it down our throats. Its even more incredible coming from a religious organization that intends to still remain a part of the community at least until they completely throw in the towel. But I guess once they put up the fence, the big gate, and stopped the annual fiesta, they effectively removed themselves from the community a while ago. I guess it makes it easier for them to create turmoil.

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    9. This would not have happened when Father Pat was around. He loved Mater Dolorosa and know better than anybody that the sacred land was intrinsic to the retreat experience.

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  3. Let's not forget One Carter, too. They'll be rolling in money......for awhile anyway.

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    1. Once the 2 Johns are lame ducks, it might be easier to cite to approve those Carter 1 McMansions I think

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    2. It is sad to think that money would take precedence over community preservation. Yet there it is, a not very veiled offer.

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    3. Property tax is the lifeblood of a city, unfortunately. Development pays better than open land or not-for-profit ownership.

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    4. The Priests over there have turned into developers. They should sell the entire property and not just the lower 20 acres to some entity that wants to preserve it.

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    5. That land is what makes that place special. After almost 100 years, the Priests have now determined that it is "excess" land. What a disgrace! That beautiful land is what makes that place special. It provides a buffer between the retreat center and the houses on its southern border. Its a sanctuary for the wildlife. It would be like putting a big oil derrick in the ocean right near the shore. It destroys the entire ambiance of the place. I guess they don't care.

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    6. The poor folks on Sunnyside have already cried uncle from the traffic going to and from the retreat center. If you add to that the traffic from 40-50 homes and all their guests and deliveries, its over for them. That whole area is ruined.

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    7. Capoccia will not be in favor of a development up there. That is if they majority of the people are against it.

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    8. We now have the Passionist owners in Chicago, Jerry Pearson from Arcadia and Cam Thornton from Burbank telling us how good this project will be for Sierra Madre. When we have parking meters in town and traffic lights to manage all the traffic, they will be long gone.

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    9. The property is zoned for institutional use and there is no way that the Planning Commission, City Council or the residents of Sierra Madre will allow them to downzone the property.

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    10. If the only concern is money, we might as well sell off Memorial Park. It is also about open space, quality of life, traffic, wildlife etc.... Its pure greed here after 100 years of the property managing to remain intact. Judy Webb Martin remembers how they behaved when the Monastery building was damaged in an earthquake. We are not dealing with very religious people here. The Priests must be turning over in that graveyard up there.

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    11. I'm sorry but I don't trust the Priests any more. After what happened to the kids, do we trust them to tell us the truth about their plans for the sacred land.

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    12. Gene Goss used to live on I think it was Sierra Meadows and when he ran for office he pledged to be very skeptical of a development up there. I think Gene would be opposed to it. As would Capoccia. Its hard to know which way Harabedian would go.

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    13. Cappocia and Goss are both candles in the wind. Can't rely on them.
      Harabedian does what his political masters and SMPD want.

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    14. Goss's kids played at the Monastery before they put up the walls. I think he would want to save the property.

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    15. If it puts more $$ in the pension fund then Herabedian will be for it.

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    16. Preserve Sierra Madre made a good faith attempt to try to preserve the open space but I heard that their good faith efforts were not reciprocated by the Mater Dolorosa representatives.

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    17. They turned down a 10 million dollar offer to buy the property and preserve that sacred land. Even if the value was more than 10 million, they never really gave the negotiations a chance. They also were unwilling to discount the property at all. They could have said, "Look we know the value is X but because we don't want to create strife in the community of Sierra Madre that has been our home since 1924, and because we also acknowledge that keeping it as open apace would probably benefit the retreat center itself since it provides a nice buffer on our Southern border, we will sell the property to you for a discounted price and give the city time to buy the property". They never gave that process a chance.

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    18. Mater Dolorosa is really rolling the dice hear and getting some very bad advice. They turned down an offer of 10 million to preserve it as open space and perhaps that offer could have been increased. But if they go through this process and it gets turned down or if the EIR report comes up with some problem, the land could become worthless. The unknown has value.

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    19. I heard that the group Preserve Sierra Madre has lined up some legal help if they need it and has contacted a group called the Center for Biodiversity that is an expert at reviewing environmental impact reports and finding problems with development projects. The original developer New Urban West did not want to spend their time and money on any due diligence whatsoever because they knew they were running into a buzz saw with this project. Why waste their time and money when there are nearby areas like Arcadia and other cities where its so much easier to get projects approved. Who needs the grief.

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    20. I don't think Gene would want to see that area developed. I voted for Gene and he had talked about this issue on his website. Say what you want about Gene but he's a man of his word.

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  4. If you think going into this 2016 Sierra Madre City Council election produced a ho hum double of incumbents and one forever, sometimes, now and then candidate, just wait until 2020. What vacuum awaits us? There seems to be nothing that excites a Sierra Madre citizen of the sort who used to run for CC when they ask themselves "...is this how I want to spend my free time after a busy work day or as a retirement project?"

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  5. There are no term limits for council.

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    1. Not correct. You can only serve two consecutive terms in the 'dre.

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    2. Nothing in writing. It's a "gentlemens agreement".

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    3. There was a citizen's vote on this as a referendum, which of course is non-binding but just you try to buck the trend when since that vote all the City Council candidates, Planning Commissioners, and all the other Commissioners, had to step off for ONE year before being "allowed" to run again (as in the City Council elected office) or be appointed again (as in any of the many commissions)!

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    4. From a preservationist stand point, there was much good that happened with this City Council. I say that we need to support Capoccia and Harabedian and keep this City Council intact for the next couple of years.

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    5. I agree, I don't think that Capoccia or Harabedian would sell out the community to developers.

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  6. Mater Dolorosa and other religious entities should pay property taxes just like everyone else. Religious entities raise scads of cash. Why should tax payers subsidize religions?

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    1. Take that one up with the Supreme Court.

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    2. What percentage of Sierra Madre land is owned by religious organizations?

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    3. I don't know but that evil church of money makers across from cannon park took a lot of land off the tax rolls and keep stealing more money from the taxpayers whenever they can.

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    4. The Congregational church seems to take a lot from the community and give nothing in return. All the other places or worship in town give back to the community not these folks take,take,take in Gods name.

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    5. 9:10, why do you hate Christians?

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    6. They gave the lions indigestion.

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    7. @9:10 here I don't hate anyone but I am sickened by the "Christians" that are in it for the money. My God is not short on change. Live like Jesus or any other prophet not the emperor.

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    8. I agree with 11;:23. The Priests are now in the game only for themselves. Why sell it now. Why sell it after you duped people into giving 5 million dollars for their successful campaign to raise money for the retired priests. Why didn't they have to sell it during the Great Depression. Why now....? Its because the mindset has changed. They just want as much money as they can get. Its very sad and very shortsighted to sell off the lower portion of their property. Its just a matter of time before the retreat center gets sold.

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    9. 9:10 for someone who says live like Jesus, you sure judge like Jesus. That's not your place.

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    10. The problem is that the Passionists who own the property are from Chicago. They could care less about the impact of this development on Sierra Madre. The local folks are charged with selling the property at the highest possible price. That's the bottom line. Add to that Jerry Pearson who lives in Arcadia and Cam Thorton who lives in Burbank leading the local charge and most likely benefiting financially from the sale of the property. The people who will be left holding the bad as usual are the residents in Sierra Madre who have to put up with the consequences of this huge development.

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    11. 1:46 I'm not sure what bible you're reading but Jesus never judged anyone. Jesus the new judge jury and executioner?

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    12. If you ask What would Jesus do? I doubt that he would sell off the property. What would St. Francis do? I think we all know the answer. Mater Dolorosa needs a Priest with courage to say no to all the greed.

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  7. Very predictably, that picture of their development dream is a big fat lie. All green, all mature trees? A lie.

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    1. They will lie to get what they want and they have lied already.

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    2. If I was in charge of PR for Mater Dolorosa, I would advise them to re-think this project. Of course, if they intend to sell off the retreat center eventually as well, I guess it doesn't matter to them how much acrimony and divisiveness they cause.

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  8. That $5 million they're dangling in front of City Hall is like offering crack to an addict.

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  9. What happened at Mater Dolorosa is very simple. The Priests don't care any more. After all the carnage they caused, they are slowly but surely getting out of the business of saving souls. Father Higgins is now schlepping development projects. They stacked their Board of Directors with developers and development-friendly hacks and there you have it. All they care about is getting the money now for this current crop of priests.

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  10. $5 million for City Hall's pension mill. Millions of dollars for the Passionists and whatever developer jumps in. What do the long suffering residents get? Nothing.

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  11. Let them build. It's their land. You don't want the government telling you what to do with your property. Do you? You can't have it both ways. Hopefully, the development will be responsible and appropriate for SM.

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    1. Unfortunately 41 unit mini-mansion developments do not happen in a vacuum. They impact other people's property as well. You don't want the government telling you what can be done to your property. Do you?

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    2. Hey 8:05, I know its their land. I own my land. Can I build whatever I want to on it? Maybe I want to build a 6-story hotel on my land. You think that should allowed. That's ridiculous. We live in relatively close quarters in Sierra Madre. What you do on your land, can adversely impact on my land. That's why we have zoning. They would need a zoning change and there's now way the residents will allow that.

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    3. While I disagree with their plans, they have the right to something that is very short-sighted and bad for the residents. I support their right to make the attempt to re-zone their property. I also support the right of people like me to do everything possible to stop it. And that's what I intend to do.

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  12. Cappocia is a risk but Harabedian is a certainty to vote for everything we abhor - and anything his bud Felikian or SMPD want.

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  13. I will gladly pay a 10% UUT to stave off development of the Monastery or a parcel tax both if necessary.

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    1. You'll end up paying all of that and monastery development will still happen.

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    2. They say the value of the land is 20-40 million. That's a lie and they know it. They are a greedy bunch up there and all they care about is getting their grubby hands on the 30 pieces of silver. Why don't they offer it to the city at a big discount and create some goodwill and the many years that the city has supported their efforts up there. They don't seem to want to do anybody any favors because they want to extract every possible nickel from that land.

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    3. Dream on, 8:43. A 10% UUT will not even solve the problems we have now. Listen to the financial reports.

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    4. Time to hire LA Sheriff Dept. (LASD) yesterday. If Cappocia says 10% UUT will not save the city, why hasn't he taken the lead to save over $800,000 a year?

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    5. I live on Sunnyside and the traffic will be unbearable if they are allowed to build another 40-50 homes. It will ruin the whole northwest section of Sierra Madre as well as One Carter and Grove. Those people need to wake up too.

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    6. I think they will have a really tough time with this project. The traffic alone will be a nightmare. Regardless of El Nino, we still live in a desert and could have an even worse drought down the road. It would be irresponsible to bring on new water users.

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  14. None of this development can happen until the moratorium on new water meters is lifted.

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    1. Look out the window.

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    2. It would be a huge mistake if we say that this El Nino permanently solves the drought. Sure, its going to mitigate it but there will be future droughts and probably worse then this recent one. We will have a lot less options if we allow big developments to come on line. They want to off set any water use with conservation measures but conservation measures are supposed to save water and not just be a wash. When we get the next drought, the conservation measures that actually save water will have already been done so there's no where else to go. Mater Dolorosa and their developer will be long gone by then. I hate to think about the rationing and penalties that we then will have to endure. We need to be smart here and think about the future.

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    3. Until water rates are rolled back to pre-drought levels ,we have a water meter moratorium IMHO.No water meter = no building.Simple.

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    4. I don't care how sustained this El Nino is, we cannot become complacent and short-sighted. If we bring alot of new users on line just because we received some rainfall would be fool hardy. We came close to running out of water. When and not if we have another drought, things will be that much worse after a Mater Dolorosa's sized project is built. The penalties and rationing will be even more draconian the next time around.

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  15. The fundamental cause is the corrupt funding of lavish pensions,benefits,retirement at 50,100% job security. Until that is fixed ,matters such as this( & worse) will continue.
    The solutions?
    1. Elect good people to CC - mostly bad people seem to run
    2. Change the laws regarding the corrupt funding mentioned above - did you see what happened in San Diego with the NLRB ? WSJ yesterday.
    3. or just keep hand-wringing and chattering while waiting for BK.

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    1. 9:17 am, am I right in assuming that you have some sort of vetting process to ensure "good people" get elected to the CC? Perhaps you can sense "bad people (who) seem to run" ... We're desperately in need of your insights! Come out from behind "Anonymous" and let us get a chance to vote for you - you have until January 15th to take out papers. Don't you owe us that much?

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    2. This is an example of the gratuitous hostility that deters "good" people from running. But that is the intent - right?
      So logically, it is this disdain for decency that will force us into a situation where the Courts control Sierra Madre through BK .
      Time to support the "good" people or cozy up to the BK Court.

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    3. Tattler has already "named & shamed " all the bad CC,Mayors and City Managers.A regular reader knows them all.

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    4. Now even the Priests want a lavish pension. What is the world coming to?

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    5. I may well vote for Capoccia and Harabedian but I still would like to see some competition. They wouldn't be a shoe-in by any means if someone ran against them.

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  16. Let's get real! The CHURCH OWNS It and the CHURCH has every right to sell it! If it is such a big deal to the ones writing these post, were not stopping you, you can buy all the Church land you. The Church's land is of very little benifit to those of us who can not see it from our kitchen windows. Only a small select group of 20 homes has any benifit or can see the dead landscape. When you die, and you change your mind about going to heaven, please don't remind GOD that you screwed with HIS GUY Guys. Because you might not get in!!! Our city hall and the Churches do not pay Any Taxes, and I for One fully understand that for all the million of dollars which the taxpayers pay city hal, we are not getting anything for our money, only paying salaries. Where's the millions of dollars promised for in fracture. You know what were are talking about, Drink Water without lead and yellow cancer which eats holes in you metsl pipes. The tax Payers money is going for Pensions and Cadalic Health Benifit for others which have absoutlely No benifit To Me. Evidently - all complainters must be on the same plan, and our goal is to take All Those Plans Away . go work in the private sector and find yourself a real job which benefits others.

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    1. Humm you support organized religion through hate. Quite in vogue these days.
      P.S. you are not going to heaven as you suggest..........

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    2. 9:44, thank you for representing so clearly people with little minds.

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    3. I think 9:44 is one of the unhinged Priests up at the Monastery. Get back to the vocation you chose and stop grabbing for the money.

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    4. The property owners are no different from any other property owners here. No new water meters. That kinda ends the discussion?
      We haven't sufficient water for existing residents and the water-guzzling Kensington. So what logic allows us to approve new water users?

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    5. kThis is not just about the few neighbors who maybe want to enjoy their views. Its about the lengthy construction project, the additional traffic on Sunnyside and One Carter/Grove, the displacement of the wildlife. the disappearance of open space, the water impact, the additional traffic and congestion overall in Sierra Madre perhaps leading to our first traffic light and parking meters downtown when we visit Beantown. That property can be a jewel for the right owner but only if its kept intact. Whether it becomes a park or an ecumenical and expanded retreat center, it will be better than another unwanted housing development. It would be like the Huntington Library selling off its "excess" land. Its stupid and short-sighted. When you have a Board of Directors stacked with developers, its not surprising that a housing development is the only solution they were able to come up with.

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    6. YOU'RE RIGHT 9:44, THE CHURCH OWNS IT AND HAS EVERY RIGHT TO SELL IT. THEY JUST DON'T HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO BUILD IT!

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  17. Here's something to think about?

    When the foreigners come to cities like Arcadia and Sierra Madre, they buy real estate. Many of these house remain vacant, un occupied and very little water is used if any.

    just think, when these homes become lived in permanently, the water us age will drastically increase!

    The new water demand - usage will surely out pace the water usage of the 40 homes to be built on Gods Church Property.

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  18. Has city hall purchased the Bronze Statue located in the city of Duarte yet?

    I would like the opportunity to help name it!

    this statute should be named and dedicated to the fore thinkers of Sierra Madre who took action and did not continue to sit on the curb watching all of our water run downhill to the next city!

    O H by the way, did city hall put their rain coats on and close the divert er gate to try to hold our hillside water in our settling basins so it does not run downhill?

    AWAITING A REPLY ?

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    1. Perhaps you should ask someone at the city 355.7135 I doubt they would reply to you here.

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  19. I recently visited the Self-Realization fellowship property in Pacific Palisades. They aren't selling off their assets. They know what these properties mean and that the value does not just lie in the money its worth. They recognize that there are intangible values also like peace, serenity, open space, wildlife. What price to you put on that? The present group of Priests have lost their way and its manifesting itself in a lot of different ways.

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    1. Well said, 2:41. And I'll add that their property is worth a stunning amount of money, much more than anything out this way.

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    2. I somehow doubt if the Self Realization Fellowship people are looking at that land every day and that lake and rather than see peace, tranquility and nature, see instead dollar signs like the people at Mater Dolorosa. No wonder their is a decline in the Priesthood and no wonder the Catholic Church is losing its influence around the world.

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  20. The Churches property is all about the haves and the have nots. After the church runs out of options, they file a law suit against city hall. Then our broke city caves in and gives the church and developer what they want. The few residents who can see the dead weeds from there kitchen need to buy the property or moveon. Go fight a battle you can win or get worked up about.

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    1. The property can only be bought if Mater Dolorosa is willing to explore the option of keeping the land as open space. So far, they have not been willing to entertain that option. Besides they have no grounds for a lawsuit. The property is zone for institutional and not residential use. No one has to agree to a zoning change any more than the city has to agree to a zoning change from me to build a nuclear power plant.

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    2. Your prediction is based on nothing but your own desires, 6:15.

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  21. The rain guage on my balcony in the canyon measured 3" for today's storm. Imagine the amount of surface water that soaked in at the open space at the Monastery. Also, if the land was configured into water capture swales (with walking paths) and vegetation to hold in the moisture we would have a much better gain on our water needs.

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  22. John Harabedians mother works for the church and his family still attends at Saint Rita Catholic Church I believe. Little Johnnys mom spoke to a lot of people supporting her sons election and what mom wouldn't. With just that little bit of information you want to bet which way the Harabedians will vote. Oh, and they have police protection too. And you wonder why anyone would go up against that, Cappoccia started out saying one thing but look how he talks now, the fear factor is showing and the voters need to see and hear it so we can beat them at the polls. RIP

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