Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Preserve Sierra Madre's Email to the City Council Regarding R-1 Amendments

Dear Mayor Goss and City Council Members:
On Tuesday, September 13, 2016 you will be considering some changes to the R-1 Zone that were recommended by the Planning Commission. We have reviewed the Staff Report and Preserve Sierra Madre takes the official position of respectfully recommending that you approve all of the changes made by the Planning Commission in their entirety. Upon careful examination, we have found these changes to be intelligent, reasonable and, most importantly, consistent with the updated General Plan.

While we never want the City Council to simply rubber stamp the actions and recommendations of the Planning Commission, in this case we believe such a rubber stamp is warranted.  We are sure that a lot of time and effort went into these commonsense improvements, and we think the results are a good one.  We also thank the Planning Commission for their time and efforts.

For the benefit of our supporters who will all be bcc'd on this email, the summary of what will be addressed was copied from the City's eBlast and is offered below:

City Council Consideration of Amendments to the R-1 (One Family) Zone

At the City Council meeting on September 13, 2016 the City Council will introduced for first reading Ordinance 1379, amending Chapters 17.20 R-1 (One-Family Residential) Zone and Chapter 17.08 Definitions of the Sierra Madre Municipal Code.

The revisions to Chapter 17.20 of the City of Sierra Madre Municipal Code include:

- The establishment of maximum allowable floor area specific to new lots and lots reconfigured through lot line adjustments;

- New minor lot line adjustment provisions;

- New requirements for minimum frontage for lots located at the end of a cul-de-sac and for lots accessed by a shared private driveway;

- New diagrams illustrating the requirements for lots accessed by a shared driveway and prohibited/permitted lot configurations for lot splits, and

- Elimination of flood control easement areas in the calculation of lot area for purposes of calculating maximum allowable floor area.

If the proposed amendments are adopted by the City Council, a second reading of Ordinance 1379 will be scheduled before the City Council at the September 27, 2016 City Council meeting. The ordinance will become effective on October 27, 2016.

Thank you for your consideration.

Steering Committee
Preserve Sierra Madre

9AM Update from Preserve Sierra Madre

(Mod: This went out as a later addition to the above.)

Dear Supporters:
The email below was written by one of our Steering Committee members and goes into some detail about one of the issues that will be discussed at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, September 13th at 6:30 pm.  The City Council will be voting on whether to approve the unanimous recommendations of our Planning Commission and City Staff to further amend the R-1 zone of the Municipal Code so that it is aligned with and consistent with the General Plan. Preserve Sierra Madre supports these changes and we would urge our City Council to adopt them in their entirety.
 
You can show your support by emailing the City Council or coming to the City Council meeting.
Thank you for your support.
Steering Committee
Preserve Sierra Madre

Dear Mayor Goss and City Council Members:
 
There are a number of issues that the Planning Commission is addressing in their proposed amendments to the R-1 Zone which you will discuss at your City Council meeting on September 13th.  I would like to briefly address what I consider the most important of all the recommendations and that is the issue of lot splits.  As one of the founding members of Preserve Sierra Madre, my goal has always been to preserve the unique character of Sierra Madre.  That character is manifested in such things as the eclectic nature of our architecture and the mix of big and small homes and big and small lots.  I believe that the goals of Preserve Sierra Madre are also consistent with the directives found in the recently updated General Plan.
 
If it was up to me, my solution to dealing with the issue of lot splits would have been to simply increase the minimum lot size from 7,500 square feet to perhaps 10,000 square feet. That would mean only lots 20,000 square feet or more could be split.  I'm sure the Planning Commission had valid reasons for recommending a different approach than mine which was more draconian in prohibiting lot splits entirely for certain sized lots.  Instead, the Planning Commission wants to keep the minimum lot size alone but remove the huge incentive a developer would have to split a larger lot that allows a certain size home to be built into two or more smaller lots with houses on them that significantly increase the aggregate square footage of what can be built.
 
If we leave things the way they are by rejecting the unanimous recommendation of our Planning Commission as well as the recommendation to approve the Planning Commission's recommendation on lot splits by the City Staff, you would be effectively promoting the demolition of those existing homes on lots of 15,000 square feet or more, increasing density by having two homes or more rather than one (even though that one could be a larger home, it would still leave more open space on the same amount of land than if you had two or more homes with more square footage) and it would reduce the diversity of our neighborhoods with its mix of big and small homes and big and small lots.

Bigger lots would over time become smaller lots with more houses packed into the same area. As a long-time realtor, I can assure you that developers will be literally searching for homes that come up for sale that have lots of 15,000 or more square feet and can be split and you would virtually guarantee that they will demolish what's there, split the lot and build two or more homes where there used to be only one home on one lot.

The Planning Commission's recommendation in reducing the size of the home that you can build on each one of the split lots, just moves the needle from an obvious decision by a developer to split the lot to one that is more of a tougher call because the financial incentives are not so weighted on the side of splitting the lot.  That to me is a good thing if we truly want to preserve the character of our town and remain consistent with our General Plan.
 
I can only implore you to ask a lot of questions of the City Staff, City Attorney and any of the Planning Commissioners who may attend your meeting before you make your decision.

Thank you.

Matthew N. Bryant

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

43 comments:

  1. Why do we have a Mayorship again?September 13, 2016 at 5:15 AM

    Who wants to bet Cappocia spends nearly an hour talking to himself tonight about this simple R1 Zoning measure wasting everyone's time just to stroke his Donald Trump hand-sized 'ego' and to hear himself talk. Don't forget his history with sensible housing rules and the Planning Commission. It's honestly sad in such a small town as this that the Commission and a coalition of active, civil minded locals has to pretty much beg the Council to do whats right. You get what you vote for...

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  2. In Sierra Madre you always have to assume that what a candidate for the City Council says is the opposite of what they will do once elected. There are exceptions, of course. But John Capoccia isn't one of them.

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    1. Capoccia has strayed occasionally but overall he's been on the correct side of most of the issues so I support him.

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  3. Capoccia is his own friend and loves to hear himself talk. That system works for keeping the people from coming to city hall.

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    1. Tune in if you have trouble falling asleep.

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    2. a graduate of the John Buchanan school of public speaking

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    3. The bromidic heart.

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    4. Oh no no no. Buchanan used to lecture us on our behavior until midnight. He felt he had a mission to educate and couldn't help himself, no matter how late it got. On Capoccia's worst day he is much better than that pompous fraud ever was.

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  4. Q) How do you get John Capoccia out of your tree?
    A) Don't water it.

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  5. Has Capoccia been working on his anger management or still going into a discussion with a loud voice, maybe he is loosing his hearing, that must be it, he can't be that rude, can he?

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  6. We have some very important decisions coming up. Would be wise to try an get along with council.

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    1. Sometimes honey does work better than vinegar. Today's vote will be a good test of where the City Council is at.

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    2. I believe that by the end of tonight's meeting I will still not know what some of them think.

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  7. I'm all for restrictive setbacks from every lot line, and restrictive lot coverage, and height restrictions. However, floor area calculation has to be one of the most unnecessary tools in keeping homes sized to the neighborhood. Especially in remodels it causes architects to make bad compromises on space utilization and design. All of which only effects the inside of the house, which affects no one but the homeowners. Again you can easily control the scale of a house without this, so why so adamant about it?

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    1. Look at Arcadia.

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    2. Disagree with your comment on FAR, 7:00. I think it's a great tool for keeping house size in proportion to lot size.

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    3. 7:00A Are you an architect or a builder?

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    4. And look what Arcadia has finally done. Without FAR, Arcadia was seeing 150 demolitions a year. Nobody recognized the city. Now they have adopted FAR limits. Better late than never.

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    5. @7:00am is either uninformed or disingenuous. The proposed FAR limits apply only to new lots in order to discourage subdivision. All existing lots keep the same FAR rules. The only reason to oppose this is because you want more development.

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    6. That's right 11:13. As the letter states, they FAR limits have already been done and approved on individual lots. The Planning Commission is only talking about what you can build on the newly split lots. If you don't change the FAR limits on those newly split lots, every developer will split a big lot because you can have more buildable square footage on two split lots than you would have on one large lot of the same size. The Planning Commission is not saying you can't split the lot. They just don't want to overly encourage lot splitting which changes a neighborhood pretty quick.

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    7. Arcadia's problems could have been avoided with restrictive setbacks, height requirements and lot coverages. Let me give you an example of why Floor area is counter productive. You want to add a family room with a vaulted ceiling. You are well within the height requirement for a 16.5' ceiling, however, you now have to calculate the square footage of that room as double. Or how about this, you want a gazebo in your back yard, or a deck or a doghouse or to finish your basement, all of it has to be calculated. It's restrictive with no benefit to the neighbors. Like I said before we have better tools to control mass, this is just overreach, which causes people to circumvent the system, and for good reason.

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    8. @11:13 I am neither uninformed or disingenuous. I have gone through the process for my own home, and the overbearing floor area calculations that were passed last year caused me to make some decisions I am not happy with. They apply to every home that will be remodeled, restored or newly built. Not everyone is interested in demolishing the character of a town, and you would be wise to assume only one thing, that you know nothing about anyone other than yourself. If you call restoring a home into the 21st century, development, then yes I'm all for it. However, calculating a partial basement as floor area, which the newly passed FAR limits require (amongst other things), is just asinine. Assuming it will somehow affect anyone is equally ridiculous. It's these things that you are all for (probably because you have never had to deal with it) that has me saying there are better ways to achieve the goal of keeping the community intact, not because I want to maximize a lot split.

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    9. Sorry 4:06 and 4:23, you missed the boat. Your complaint is with the FAR rules that were passed earlier this year. You should have spoken up then if you didn't like them.

      The amendments that the City Council unanimously passed this evening only affect subdivision.

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  8. I have heard that 3 of the CC members don't like the lot split suggestion. They want to change it. Lot splitting is very important. CC needs to know that you want this passed. Unless, of course, you want another Camillo. Write all of them or show up at the meeting.

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    1. Depending upon how the City Council Members vote, will show once and for all which Council members are in the pocket of the big developers. I'd bet my house that Harabedian will be opposed to it. Watch him pull out his own piece of paper with his own calculations. After all, he knows better than every member of the Planning Commission and City Staff.

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    2. My guess is Johnny occasionally campaigns behind the scenes with at least two of his fellow City Councilmembers. This could be one of those occasions.

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    3. Maybe the Felikians want to split their big lot and Harabedian wants to do them another favor. He's done those favors before to benefit his friends. Its called corruption.

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    4. @12:05 refill your prescription ASAP. The Felikian's are well into the construction of their home.

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  9. Harabedian will not support the planning commission recommendations. He is for more houses, higher density, and parcel taxes.

    The more lot splits, the more parcels, the more parcel taxes.

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    1. In a lot of ways Harabedian has assumed the old Joe Mosca role as advocate for the agenda of the LA County political establishment.

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    2. Harabedian is the most pro-development City Council member. He doesn't mind if Sierra Madre turns into Arcadia. Goss is a mixed bag and sometimes will surprise people. We need Capoccia, Delmar and Arizmendi to support these recommendations.

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    3. All I can say is listen to John Hutt. He's a preservationist and a former developer and a lawyer. He knows the game better than any one. If he's for it, you can bet it will be in the best interest of Sierra Madre residents rather than the developers.

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    4. 10:52, I think one of the reasons that Hutt is so invaluable on the commission is that he is not prejudiced for or against preservation or development. He is still a developer, or at least in real estate as far as I know, but one who is......amazingly enough, a rarity....ethical. We have a couple of people like that - both active in preservation and in the development world. It's when someone is greedy that the problems start.

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  10. Get off my lawn! I'll do as I please with my belongings.

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    1. I'll send my fat dog over to negotiate a settlement.

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    2. 8:48 You have a lawn? Most of the city doesn't.

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  11. LOL 11:23. My lawn has been gone for years and now the trees are going.

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  12. 6:27 am. Just substitute the name Matt in place of Capoccia and you get ...blah blah blah. I'll put my trust with the City Planning Commission, they have been doing a good job and they know what they are doing. It's who sits on the Council in the End. Look what hsppened by electing Bart Doyle to Council.

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    1. 3:35 - what happened? Somebody drain your hot tub? Matt has worked miracles in this town. All Capoccia has done is break promises.

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  13. Unanimous approval. Kudos to the City Council.

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  14. Wow, this will be interesting. I'm moving into Sierra Madre from Arcadia (the city I no longer recognize & have given up on after several decades, the past one in a rapid decline). I'll be happy to help keep the McMansions OUT. Keep us in the know, Tattler & Co. I'm loving it.

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