Monday, February 8, 2016

The Salisian Affair: Why Building Without Going To The Planning Commission First Can Make You Look Comedic

Mod: We have two videos today that should kick this off nicely. The response from the Planning Commission is the second, and it is one of those golden moments we all treasure from this city's first line of defense against bad development and the cracked actors who attempt it. Then we'll try to suss this all out in the clearest possible English. The matter is up before the City Council Tuesday evening, and should be quite a show.

Link to this video here.
Link to this video here.


The applicant, a presumptuous gent named Steve Salisian, bought the property at 156 W. Highland with his brother Robert Salisian. It currently has 3 rental units on it. Steve-o later told the Planning Commission that his brother lives in one of the units with the other two being rented out to tenants.

Mr. Salisian then proceeded to demolish a 200 sq. ft structure and build a 1,322 square foot 2-story affair with a kitchen and two bathrooms that he clearly intended, as least until he got caught, to be an additional rental unit.

However, under R-3 Zoning requirements, he is not allowed to do such a thing because the combined buildings exceed the lot coverage allowance. The property also does not meet parking requirements for a 4 unit structure. And, on top of all that, the new 2-story building encroaches at least 9.8 feet into the allowable side setback. It could encroach even more than that if the applicant turns out to be incorrect when he claimed that he owns a portion of his neighbors property. To our knowledge no survey has been done to confirm that.

Interesting fellow.

A concerned neighbor finally brought this mess to the city's attention. Meaning Steve-o Salisian got caught in the act or, to put it correctly, after the act since this thing had already been built and he never got the necessary city permits first.

So what does Mr. Salisian do after he realizes that he cannot have a fourth rental unit on his property?  He applies for a retroactive Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to allow this illegal structure to remain there and, after taking out the kitchen, tells us now that his 2-story 1,322 structure will only be used as a "recreation and exercise" building.

Steve-o then tells anyone who cares to listen that his family has a vital need for exercise, mostly because of the small size of the other units. I think. All of this despite the fact that it was initially built as a rental unit.

OK. But even worse, and as can clearly be seen in the first video, Steve-o arises from his Council Chamber seat and repeatedly gets his Pinocchio on to the Planning Commission about the special circumstances of this construction. On the one hand he states that the work is more than adequate, while on the other claiming that he did it all himself with no experience whatsoever.

Steve-o also represents to the Planning Commission that he had absolutely no idea that he was building an illegal unit, no idea that permits were required in Sierra Madre (really?), and had no knowledge of the approval process someone has to go through here.

Needless to say, nobody attending believed any of that hoot, and neither did the Planning Commission. And now Mr.  Salisian has the audacity to appeal the Planning Commission's denial of this CUP to the City Council in hopes that they will somehow believe his baloney and approve the project.

There is also a liability issue for the City of Sierra Madre. If the city approves a building that, according to Mr. Salisian's own testimony, was done without any experts whatsoever to insure the health and safety of anyone dwelling inside this structure, bad things could happen. God forbid if it were to collapse Third World style in an earthquake and kill somebody. Or at least crush all of that expensive exercise equipment.

We can also ask (and based on the fascinating Steve-o Salisian's apparent inability to appreciate much in the way of local development processes), what are the odds that he would later convert his "recreation and exercise" room back into a rental unit? I'd say they are pretty high.

As anyone can clearly see, this is about as flagrant a violation as you will ever get to witness. In this case, the cover-up is probably equal to the crime. People have worked very hard to put reasonable rules in place to prevent this kind of activity. As have most American cities. What kind of message does it send to developers, builders and unscrupulous homeowners if this is allowed to stand? It would certainly set a very bad precedent.

As can be seen in the video highlights, the Planning Commissioners are the experts. The City Council should not overturn their decision. In fact, the only solution is to make the applicant tear this building down and start over.

Time to get some red tags ready.

One more Salisianism for the road


Whatever you say, Steve-o.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

127 comments:

  1. I was there for this meeting. Quite entertaining! I wonder if Mr. Salesian is a friend of the Felikian's? If the CC approves this, then we are in real trouble.

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    1. It will be interesting to see if Harabedian, who carved out a special exception for Felikian which allowed her to build another 500 square ft to her McMansion, will vote in regards to Salesian.

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    2. These are the kind of cases that demonstrate whether we have corruption at city hall and whether money and influence can buy you special treatment.

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    3. If anyone wants to take the time to review the entire meeting, its on Youtube or the city's website. Thank god for our Planning Commission. If you can believe it, City Staff actually recommended that the Planning Commission retroactively approve the CUP.

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    4. Thankis Tattler for two of the most entertaining videos I have seen in a long time. Mr. Salisian was caught with his pants down for all to see. He should have come clean and just apologized. It will be interesting to see if he persists with his lying at the City Council meeting on Tuesday.

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    5. Harabedian is a lawyer. Lawyers are good at making creative arguments to allow people to wiggle free whether its building a 2-story structure without a permit or whether its murder. "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit".

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    6. What was City Staff thinking? Did the applicant ever do a survey to prove that the encroachment is no more than 9.8 feet into the side yard?

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    7. Why would Harabedian try to get this clown off the hook?

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    8. sadly ,probably because "......ian"

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    9. Don't forget the yan" too

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    10. I hope Harabedian would not put ethnicity over the community as he did with Felikian. Hopeful that was just an exception. I guess we will see Tuesday night.

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    11. Goss and Harabedian are pretty tight. He may put Goss in that role so it doesn't come from him. Watch out for that too. On the other hand, hopefully those two will do the right thing and support the rules and regulations that they themselves created.

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    12. This is too blatant to let slide. Its an affront to the entire community,

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    13. Felikian didn't do anything wrong other than reaching out to Harabedian for a favor. What Salisian did is an entirely different matter. You can call Harabedian alot of things, but being corrupt is not one of them.

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  2. I literally saw his nose getting longer as he told each fib. Sometimes he just didn't answer the question directly because he knew how absurd he would sound if he said that he had no idea permits or approval was needed. Because this is so flagrant, he should not be cut any slack. Tear down that wall!

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    1. Great videos Tattler.

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    2. They need to tear this down and do it the right way. Everyone on the City Council said they would not have allowed it to be built with an encroachment at the get go. That was totally unnecessary. You also have to figure that people that would illegally build such a project which is the first lie, then lie to the Planning Commission on video tape, would be very likely to convert this big 2-story building into the rental unit that they had hoped to get at the beginning. The "recreation and exercise" room is just a way of temporarily adjusting the use to get it approved. This is the biggest farce I have ever seen. They will surely convert it back to a rental unit as soon as the heat dies down.

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    3. He will stick a kitchen back in there in a heartbeat to go with the two bathrooms. Whose fooling whom with this "recreation and exercise room".

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    4. Where would this city be without the Tattler bringing some of this stuff to light.

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    5. Every city needs a Tattler otherwise we would never hear about these things. Thank you Tattler for letting us know about this. We are going to try to attend the meeting on Tuesday to see what happens.

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  3. $4,002 well spent.

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    1. Is that the cost of an RCUP? (Retroactive Conditional Use Permit?)

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    2. I'm not sure what worse: building a 2-story building without any permits or experts whatsoever or flagrantly lying about it to the governing body having authority over this. And it wasn't just one lie. Everything that came out of Steve Salisian's mouth was a lie. He knew it, every member of the Planning Commission knew it and if our City Council takes the time to review the record, they will surely know it too. The only mystery is how the City Staff decided to initially support it. Leticia was made to look a little silly as the Planning Commissioner's asked her how she was able to support the CUP findings.

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    3. City Staff must have been smoking something. If you watch the whole thing, Leticia seemed almost embarrassed in having to defend the reasons the City Staff had initially grated the approval. They didn't do their homework the way the Planning Commission did. We now have a Planning Commission that is really looking to protect this Community.

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    4. City Staff blew this one. How do we know the encroachment is only 9.8 feet into the side set back. Maybe the guy doesn't own a piece of his neighbor's property like he says he does. Does anyone believe anything this guy says at this point?

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    5. I don't like to reward the strategy of asking forgiveness (or in this case feigning ignorance) and not asking permission. Its very destructive to the community when people do stuff like this.

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  4. That guy was lying through his teeth. The idea that his dad, who Salisian admits is a licensed contractor, didn't give him any advice on the project is nonsensical. The idea that he built it almost himself with a few guys from Home Depot is absurd on its face. This guy should be treated as the poster child for what happens when you thumb your nose at the rules in the city of Sierra Madre.

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    1. I've been to alot of meetings over the years but have never seen anyone have the audacity to push that kind of fiction. I give the guy credit though. He stuck to his story regarding of how ridiculous it made him look.

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    2. He built it to live in it himself. You can bet that a guy who almost got away with tearing down a 200 sq. ft building to build a 2-story 1300 square ft structure will surely later convert it back to a residential unit from a "recreation and exercise" room. He will just slap the kitchen back in there when nobody is looking. This is how Sierra Madre turns into a third world shantytown.

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    3. Let's say we believe the guy. No plans, no architect, no licensed contractor, no engineering drawings for a 2nd story to see if it can handle the load, no license plumber, no licensed electrian - only him with as he admits no exerience at all and a few workers he picked up off the sidewalk in front of Home Depot. That's his own testimony in front of the Planning Commission. Anybody would be a fool to approve such a structure. What if it falls down and kills somebody, you'd see the biggest lawsuit against the city in history.

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    4. I expected to see Salisian's pants to catch oh fire (as in liar, liar) when Bob Spears was asking him questions. What a hoot!

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    5. I'm just surprised he was able to carry on the lie so persistently. It was really rather fascinating to watch.

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  5. We have an incredible Planning Commission. They saw through this guy immediately. To stand up there in open court so to speak and on tape and lie like that to our Planning Commission shows a complete disregard for every resident in Sierra Madre. The Salisians need to start over and go through the process like everyone else.

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    1. Those guys are experts. Their questions were about as good as it gets. Nobody is going to pull the wool over their eyes. I must say though, that this guy gave them a lot of opportunities to look like Perry Mason.

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  6. I loved the opening question from the Chairman to the applicant. He must have known he was going to be in for a rough ride. He should have come clean. Honesty is till the best policy.

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  7. The City Council needs to listen to the experts and that's the Planning Commission.

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  8. Bob Spears sure asked some tough questions. In fact, they were all on to this guy. I'm just concerned that if he only gets a slap on the wrist, everybody will try to do the same thing and we might as well not have any rules and regulations to protect the neighbors and the community. Just let everybody do whatever they want. That's the message that would be sent if this guy gets away with this.

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    1. You got to love Bob Spears and the Chairman of the Commission - I can't remember his name at the moment. They don't suffer people lying as blatantly as this guy Salisian was lying.

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    2. They do not suffer fools gladly.

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    3. FYI. Both Hutt and Chair Goldstein did not vote to deny. In fact Goldstein was so angry that he refused to sign the PC denial.

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    4. Bob Spears is one of the "Selective Few" Bob is a member of the in crowd. If he likes you are a friend your in. If not, very rude, not nice and very condescending. He is DIRT

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    5. They did so for different reasons than that they approved the project.

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    6. Don't crump on Spears. He was excellent at that meeting.

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    7. 10:43 - You're out of your mind.

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  9. It's history.Thank God for our Planning Commissioners.
    They work for the people...not special interests.
    This is a done deal. It will be torn down and a message sent to shiesters who try to do these things.
    Not in Sierra Madre.

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    1. That's the benefit of a Planning Commission made up of the residents. They don't accept money to get get elected and they are not trying to increase revenues to fund their own salaries.

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    2. Every one of those Planning Commissioners deserves a medal for taking their job seriously. We have a ton of experience on that commission right now and they seem to all want to protect Sierra Madre from this kind of stuff.

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  10. How is this different from the wine bunker?

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    1. The city hasn't spent $300,000 on lawyers. At least not yet.

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    2. They'll find a way.

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    3. If you mean the deck,the Hildreths tried to get the demo permits.The City refused. That is why the City will loose in court imho.Totally different situation.Driven by spite and obstinacy ,rewarded by wasting way over $500,000 in taxpayer legal fees.
      At least a cellar is out of sight.

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    4. Until the house or the alley collapses due to unshored excavation.

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    5. It shows that the Hildreth's do have permits! The City's lawsuit against the Hildreths is over 6 years old, which is our biggest concern. If the house or the alley was going to collapse it would have done so by now. The alley would be closed to both cars and pedestrians. The City would have condemned the structure if it were not safe.
      The issues with the Hildreth's is retaliation pure and simple.

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    6. There must be some legal disagreement about whether they had valid permits or not.

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    7. A million dollar taxpayer "Legal Disagreement" attorney expense.

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    8. 10:05, do you moonlight as a structural engineer? Would you be willing to indemnify when the alley collapses under the weight of a city truck or say, a fire engine?

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    9. I love the apologists who defend the Hildreths. The Hildreths started it and have continued the fight by building that structure over the sidewalk, painting signs on their building, and generally disrupted the neighborhood.

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    10. 11:40
      It's called standing up for their rights! That's what Americans can do. It is what binds us as a people, as Americans. It's called the Constitution. The Government, in this case, the city, has to follow the law as do it's people, including the Hildreths.
      After more then six years, the Tattlers articles, the news stories, and interviews, the thing that never changes is the Hildreth's story.
      The lawsuit is going to trial where the judge will rule.
      I think that if the City had a leg to stand on it would not take the Government six years to take the property.
      I hope the City and it's taxpayers are prepared for the outcome

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    11. 11:21
      I hope that is not the case.
      Why has the City not closed the alley?
      Why did the City remove the barricades?
      The City would not have removed the barricades if the alley was not structurally safe.
      You must have issues with the Hildreths or why the misinformation.

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    12. 11:40, may I have a piece of your apple pie and wave your American flag? The Hildreths have not changed their story, but the City has not changed their story either and rules are rules. Neighbors have rights too - isn't that what you espouse when you fight against the macmansions?

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    13. Lots of opinions few accurate facts.If the facts are of interest,suggest you all read one simple version here:
      https://sterlingoak.wordpress.com/
      Whatever, the situation this is an appallingly expensive 'solution'.

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    14. Yeah, sterling oak will be objective, that's the hildreths site. lolololololol

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  11. I can't wait to hear Leslee Hinton tell this guy he has to demolish his illegal building. Should be classic.

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    1. Why would a member of the Planning Commission do that? Don't we have a department of salaried employees that would enforce this? I am all in favor of volunteers assuming a lot of the staff responsibilities we now have to pay for, but I am not certain that has happened yet.

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    2. we should hire a consultant to handle the communication.

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    3. Staff should have been more forceful with this guy.

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  12. If the City Council gives this fellow his CUP then all of the General Plan reforms, zoning adjustments, and all of that other stuff that was done in the last few years becomes nothing.

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    1. That's right 6:08. It really sends the wrong message if this guy is allowed to get away with not only flouting all the rules but also lying about it to our Planning Commission and everyone in the audience for about 20 continuous minutes.

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    2. Has he no shame?

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  13. Best part - who is Harold?

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    1. Bob Spear got him on Herold. That's evidently his contractor father who probably let him know to ask forgiveness and not permission. They probably figured that somebody would cave to a fait accompli. Well they don't know our Planning Commission and hopefully they don't know our City Council.

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  14. With his track record should not Councilman Harbidian recuse himself for conflict of interest?

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    1. If so, why did he not recuse himself from promoting an 'illegal' project for a long term family friend - Felikian? Nepotism at its worst?

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    2. It will be very interesting and enlightening to see how Harabedian handles this. We saw how he carved out an exception to the floor area limits with his friend Felikian. Let's see what he does with Salisian.

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  15. There is a Pasadena insurance agent with a similar name as this guy. If it's the same person then it seems absurd to believe he does not know a building permit is required or the problems with illegal additions. TEAR IT DOWN and make him go through the same process as everyone else.

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    1. No person in their right mind would think he didn't know about it. In fact, if you see in the video, he tries to avoid answering that question directly because otherwise he looks like an even bigger idiot.

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    2. 8:03 a.m. Do you have a link to that information? The Pasadena insurance agent with the similar name?

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  16. While it is good that a resident brought this to the attention of the city, don't we have employees that check on these kinds of things? Do city employees ever go to construction sites and check permits? I hope they don't just sit at their desks and wait for the world to come to them.

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    1. This reminds me of the Congregational Church's New Life Center. It too was built without the necessary permits, and right across the way from City Hall. No city employee noticed when it was being built right under their noses. And nothing was ever done, either. Even when it was brought to the city's attention.

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    2. It just depends "who" you are !

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    3. At that time a member of the "CONG" was on the planning commission.

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    4. In those days City Hall was all about doing the Conga Dance.

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    5. maybe the Hildreths shoud join the "cong"

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    6. or add "ian" to their name

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    7. I understand that Steve comes across as someone that is very evasive. He wants to lie but doesn't want to get caught. That did not happen.
      All we hear from the City is that we need to increase our housing numbers.
      Here is a guy that got caught. His property is zoned multiple units. Steve should have to comply with zoning and the building codes.
      Steve should not have to tear it down unless it does not comply. But Steve is allowed to try to comply.
      The guy is a bone head. However, what is at issue is the zoning and building codes. Not whether he is a lair.
      If we are to achieve state mandated housing increases, we need to be forward thinking. If not, we are going to be forced with stack and pack.
      Steve needs to comply. We need to ...

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    8. If we are so concerned to penalize liars why isn't there more interest in focusing on Elaine Aguilar the City Manager. Research a few weeks of Tattler stories and you would get a far more serious list of lies that negatively affect the whole community.
      That doesn't excuse this fool but just gives a little perspective.
      Now back to following the Rules....

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    9. That is a fact! Elaine makes her lies like a professional, a true actor. Steve, looks like a lair because he was caught. We pay Elaine $225,000.00 to lie to our face. Pray, that she is fired for mismanagement with cause. Steve's project will affect and have a long lasting impact on his neighbors, but not as lasting of the impact Elaine will leave on the City of Sierra Madre. Bankrupt and in ruins. Not to mention her Cadillac pension and benefits for life.
      I hope we end Elaine employment.

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  17. Maybe that is what the "Fathers" are thinking of doing for their planned community. Then ask to be forgiven by the planning commission

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    1. They should just build the 40 McMansion and then go to confession and then ask forgiveness from the city.

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  18. I am just your average landlord with one rental in Sierra Madre, ( my parents former home) and even I know that you need a business license every year. This guy is not the only one in town who subdivided their property into multiple units without permits and without a business license. Even when the neighbors of the property that I am referring to complained, nothing was done. This fellow cannot be allowed to keep his structure up or everyone else will just do it and say sorry later when caught.

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    1. If he's allowed to get away with this, we might as well tear up the General Plan that everyone worked so hard on as well as the Municipal Code.

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    2. If he's allowed to do this I'm going to build one of these on my property.

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  19. "Staff is very busy."

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    1. They may not even have a code person any longer. I think the girl who was the code person now has a job with the city of Laguna Beach. I don't think they replaced her in Sierra Madre.

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  20. Planning commission is just another dog-an-pony show for the public to see democracy in action B.S. - these matters have ALL been decided in advance of the SHOW that is put on for the TV audience. Why even the city attorney has been made aware of these actions so he/she can prepare to ram it through or take it to court if the party in question is friend or foe of the city. That's the fact jack.

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    1. 10:22, you live in a very organized world.

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  21. I can't believe that the real estate agent didn't mention to these knuckleheads that they needed a business license to rent units in Sierra Madre. It isn't based on the rent money, it's a flat fee, under $200 a year. These guys think if they plead ignorance everything will be fine. The fact that the dad is a contractor makes the whole thing such a lie.

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  22. I circulated petitions a few times at that address. It has been a rabbit warren for a long time - multiple units/occupants, a door to some habitable space around every turn, and there are lots of turns. The commission's scrutiny of the property is a good change.

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  23. Someone is responsible for letting this happen.

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    1. He whom built it!

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    2. You are going to end up with 4 families living on that property and no parking. This cannot stand or every zoning and building regulation has no teeth.

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    3. 11:45, it's been like that for a long time. Part of the ongoing traffic mess on that part of Highland.

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    4. This is how a city gets out of control. This can be a very slippery slope if he's allowed to get a pass on this.

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  24. Did Steve buy the property that way. Was it already rented. I understand he built without permits. I would hate to see people have to move out of their homes because of Steve's stupidity. Watch out canyon dwellers if a person gets kicked out of a un-permitted building.

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    1. Nobody has moved into it yet. Likely it was meant for Salisian himself.

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  25. I wish he would have come clean. Personally, I hate the lies more than anything. The only credit I give Steve Salisian is that he was willing to lie for that long on videotape in front of a Planning Commission and audience and evidently he will do it again in front of the City Council. You can't buy guts like that.

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  26. Arrogant and Narcissistic.

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    1. If there is ever a more deserving person for the harshest punishment possible here, its Steve Salisian. Its bad enough the audacity of trying to sneak a 2-story 1322 square foot structure but the cover-up is just as bad if not worse. What does he think? That we are all stupid.

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    2. Arrogant & narcissitic? Sounds like Presidential timber to me.

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  27. Bob would make a good prosecutor.

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  28. Salisian should've built in Arcadia where he can buy votes from councilmen Roger Chandler and Sho Tay instead of permits. Sierra Madre needs to slap him silly with red tags and make him an example to all others who knowingly abuse the code.

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  29. nothing surprises me with our city management. The Cong Church did a major remodel on one of it's buildings, right under the nose of the city and nobody noticed the construction crews and at that time, a Member of the Planning Commission was an Elder of the Church and the Church got approval without any fines

    this dude just sounded flat out moronic

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  30. When this goes to City Council, Capoccia will have to recuse. This house is definitely within 500' of the Mayor's house.

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    1. Capoccia would have ripped him a new one if Salisian tried that act on the City Council. Capoccia hates liars and would not stand for that for a second.

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    2. He will get his chance tomorrow.

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    3. I think he and DelMar recused themselves. And 6:28PM. Why do you think the mayor would rip the guy cuz he hates liars. He is one himself. Kindred souls.

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    4. If only 3 Council members are voting, only need one "no" vote to kill it. Need a majority of 5 members so it needs 3 yes votes.

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    5. You are correct. I hope they don't send it back to the Planning Commission.

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  31. How did Capoccia not look into building permit? Wouldn't you if it was being built near you?

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    1. This isn't John's goof just like it's not your. It is impossible to see the construction from the street. A neighbor turned him in.

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  32. How do you begin to lump in Salisian with Felikian..? Salisian screwed up and so therefore he will have to answer for that. BTW, you "concerned" residents should be just as worried when you have no police department protecting your homes that you have all inherited from your great grandparents nearly tax free! You are the reasons why this city generates no revenue... Stop that stupid racist commentary regarding "ian" etc...Some of the building guidelines and zoning issues are stupid in this town.. oh and btw city staff is not that sophisticated.How can you buy a house on over an acre (or slighly smaller) and not be able to build what you want (assuming it looks nice and is within reason)...? Lets see what happens with Salisian but keep it focused to the issue don't go looking for a conspiracy..its annoying and we don't live in Pasadena.

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    1. After having watched Harabedian this evening, do you still believe the nonsense you've posted here?

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  33. Good Job anonymous! Took the words out of my mouth!

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  34. Anyone know why Elaine is not talking about CalPERS payments?

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  35. Commissioner Spears was afraid to answer honestly because he took the matter personally..Yes or No question Fire Guy! Your answer was Yes...hmmm who is influencing you...?

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  36. Riddle me this...? The City's permit office is now requiring OWNERS of properties to sign a letter promising never to sub-divide their lots and the City is requiring the letter to be notorized..? Does anyone know of a municipal code that requires such a thing? How could one subdivide without seeking approval from the City in the first place? Not to mention the City is witholding building permits until the said OWNER agrees and complies with the letter...Is this blackmail? Is this Constitutional? What is happening to our local government?

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