Friday, November 4, 2016

Does It Matter If The City Of Sierra Madre Refuses To Defend Its Own Building Codes And Ordinances?

Mod: Yeah, I think so. Hopefully you do as well. Yesterday afternoon the following was sent out by the Preserve Sierra Madre coalition.

Dear Planning Commission Members and City Staff November 3, 2016: The Preserve Sierra Madre coalition is very concerned about what has happened to the 1907 Craftsman home located at 126 E. Mira Monte and known as the Henry A. Darling House.

It was only last year that a previous buyer had proposed to demolish this home. The result was an uproar in the community and several packed City Council meetings as people voiced their shock and displeasure that anyone would consider demolishing such a magnificent home that contained some of the finest architectural details that you could find in a Craftsman home of that era.

Evidently the City Council was concerned as well with preserving this home because they passed an emergency demolition moratorium that saved this home from the wrecking ball. Our City Council later passed a permanent demolition ordinance that would help to preserve potentially historically significant homes from demolition.

The home was subsequently sold to a new buyer and now we see a home that is all but demolished with only a partial skeleton remaining – a ghost-like shell of its former self. The Staff Report states that City Staff and the Applicant determined that this 1907 Craftsman known as the Henry A Darling House has no historical significance. However, they are not only not qualified to make that determination, the Demolition Ordinance specifically requires that an independent architectural historian be the one that makes that determination and provides a list of experts to choose from.

How can we trust the applicant who wants to tear the house down to dig up information on why the house can't be torn down. This ordinance is triggered when you have a home built more than 75 years ago and when you propose to demolish more than 25 percent of the building.  In this case 90 percent was demolished and now City Staff is proposing that we gather up a few old photographs of this magnificent home and store it in the public library as a reminder of its prior existence and the applicant is asking for an after-the-fact demolition permit for a home that has been virtually demolished already.

How can it be that the very home that was the catalyst for the emergency demolition moratorium and later the permanent demolition moratorium has been, for all intents and purposes, demolished without even triggering the ordinance. We would like to respectfully ask the Planning Commission how this could have happened and get to the bottom of this.

Thank you.
Preserve Sierra Madre Coalition

So How Did It Go?

The place was full, but that was because there were more items on the agenda. There wasn't a big turnout for the H.A. Darling house issue. Very few speakers - like 3. Really disappointing presence.

The commissioners were angry. Asked great pointed questions, made themselves very clear. Though Commissioner Pevsner identified himself as being “not so impassioned.” John Hutt was great and questioned the house wrecker's honesty. The burger master of Sierra Madre Boulevard bristled at that and spat, “You better be careful - defaming me in a public place.” Anyone surprised he threatened legal action?

If only the kitchen at The Only Place In Town was as quick as his legal threats.

The applicant claims he did nothing wrong - it was all the fault of a plan checker at the Planning Department for being unclear. The applicant claimed that he had permission to demolish the roof. Of course, some people find it easy to say anything.

The city has an excellent Building Inspector - gentleman named Jim, who was right on the point with answers to the commissioners’ questions - and he clearly stated that his two inspections of the property showed that he would not recommend demolition. Of course, it’s irrelevant now. But he was really good.

Joe Catalano said there were lots of options for how the owner could have done stuff in actual compliance with city laws - not just rip it off.

And a direct quote from the applicant “I truly believe I had permission to do what I did.” At which point it became clearly obvious that he is a hustler. He emphasized that he just wanted to keep his family safe. Something that shows us that certain developers are willing to take their own families hostage.

Like I said, some people will say anything. Kind of like the enabling John Harabedian. Perhaps that is who the house wrecker will be hiring as his attorney.

So what is the next move? Will City Hall stand up for all of its reforms on issues such as this? It is a bigger issue than many might understand. Do things like the new General Plan, which have been the recipient of so much easy praise from the city's elected and hired officials, actually mean anything?

If the city does not stand up and represent itself properly in cases like this, then the answer is very obviously no. Which means it was all for nothing.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

101 comments:

  1. As someone who was unable to attend the meeting but watched the live feed from home, I was struck by the arrogance of Bill Kevales. He had no remorse for what he did. Even his father and his contractor got up there and were equally combative to the Planning Commission. If we had five commissioners like Commissioner Pevsner, there would have been no penalty for what was done. He would have just rubber stamped the project and everyone goes on their merry way while the City of Sierra Madre loses another one of its historical properties. I hate to impugn motives but I have to wonder if Pevsner knows Kefales or if Kefales reached out to Pevsner for support. Nowadays, you have to watch out for that kind of cronyism. The only reason this caught my attention is because of the near unanimity of outrage from the other Planning Commissioners who were understandably upset about what this applicant had done and the position it put them in as they struggled to deal with a fait accompli - whether to grant a demolition permit for a home that was already demolished.

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    1. Seeing the way Kevales, his father and his contractor behaved towards the Planning Commissioners only reinforces my decision to never go the "The Only Place in Town again. Fortunately, they are not "The Only Place in Town".

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    2. The only good that came out of the meeting is that we could see how Commissioners Desai, Frierman-Hunt, Spears and Hutt are about as good as anyone could hope for. They really put the applicant through the ringer for what he did. Pevsner is a pro-development guy and very weak so he can't be counted on for anything other than promoting more development. But the others were magnificent last night. The only problem is that short of admonishing people like Kevales for breaking the rules, there is not a whole lot the Planning Commissioners can do when the rules and ordinances are weak and contain few enforcement mechanisms or consequences.

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    3. Maybe another good thing could come out of this - like a higher fine. Would adding another zero to that amount help?

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    4. Pevsner is predictable.
      If it's development, he's for it. The bigger the better.

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    5. Pevsner is useless. The problem is it does send a bad signal out to this applicant as well as future applicants. If they can get a few more people who think like Pevsner, then Sierra Madre will be lost. That's how fast it can happen. Thank God for Spears, Hutt, Frierman-Hunt and Dasai. If you see them on the street, shake their hand and say thanks. They are trying their best but their hands are somewhat tied by what's on the books.

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    6. The Planning Commission called raked Kevales over the coals. If that's all that happens to him for his lying, it was at least a little satisfying to see.

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    7. The city needs to sue him.

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    8. Pevsner is the guy the developers look to for assistance. Developers need Pevsners on every city's planning commission. They approach him with a kind of "You are the rational one, so we can talk with maturity and reason about this. Now here's what we want you to do." But of course that last bit is not said so baldly. Wouldn't do to make a Pevsner type feel hustled.

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  2. This guy Kevales and his dad and his contractor managed to come off worse than Salisian. All three were very vocal, very aggressive and very arrogant. They knew the rules and they calculated that the risk of breaking our rules was worth the gain. In the end, they may be right. The Planning Commission talked about doing the historical review as called for when any property is over 75 years and there is an intention to demolish over 25%. Well, pretty hard to do a historical review when you have destroyed the whole house except for a few studs. Thanks to what Kevales did, there's literally no history to review. The history all lies in a landfill somewhere.

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    1. Bob Spears and John Hutt were rightfully outraged by what happened. Their anger and indignation was palpable. Everyone is getting tired of having to deal with applicants who don't follow the rules and then expect the Planning Commission to issue after-the-fact permits to someone that broke the rules. That's really hard to swallow.

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    2. Our commissioners work very hard to make good projects, to support development that will be good for Sierra Madre. It's a very frustrating thing to have that hard work undone because of owner greed or neglect.

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  3. I think we have to face the fact that the pressure of development is coming from people who care nothing about maintaining the character of Sierra Madre including its historic resources. We know that and have to act accordingly if we want to protect what's left. The Demolition Ordinance now in place is very, very weak and can be exploited just as Bill and Anastasia Kevales have exploited it. Where it does stop them, they can just ram through it without meaningful consequences. It all comes down to this: If developers care more about making a profit then we care about preserving the character of our town, then we will lose every time. And that's what happened to the Henry A. Darling House and that's what will happen to future houses.

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    1. If you violate the demolition ordinance, you can be fined $1,000 and have your project stopped for 2 years. Forget about the 2 year stoppage. A neighbor spoke up and wants to see the project move forward because she doesn't want to look at that eyesore any longer. You can't really blame her. So forget about that penalty. That leaves the $1,000 fine. I'd venture to say that fine won't stop anybody from doing whatever they want to.

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    2. $1,000 is nothing. The cost of doing illegal business in Sierra Madre is low.

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    3. The neighbor said that she was afraid of the fire danger, and actually increased her insurance.
      But what is left to burn?

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    4. A couple of matchsticks.

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    5. If the owners can't produce the city paperwork they claim gave them the go-ahead, the city should file an action against the contractor with the CSLB. A revoked license would sure send a message out there to contractors who may be hired in the future.

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  4. I don't get why the property owner was so combative and unreasonable. He was hostile to the PC and staff, and went so far as to claim that ripping off the whole roof was a minor change.

    Seems like all he had to do was show a little contrition, say there was a miscommunication with the city and in his zeal to rebuild the house he got ahead of the permit. But as soon as he realized he was in the wrong he stopped work and asked the PC for direction, because he wants to rebuild the house as approved as soon as possible for his family and the neighbors.

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    1. He's an arrogant punk. He also believes that in the end he will get everything he wants. Unless something changes, and fast, there will be many more like him.

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    2. Channeling his inner Trump?

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    3. The owner did get everything he wanted...he's got the demolished house that he wanted, and all it cost him was a little public scolding.

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    4. The city needs to sic its lawyers on this bum. Like they did to the Hildreths. Why the double standard?

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    5. You ever go into the Only Place and see all the FD guys seated in the back? There is your answer. Free hamburgers. The city has been sold out in exchange for fatty snacks.

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    6. Our firefighters are volunteers. Are you new here? They work for us not the city.

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    7. One of my neighbors used to eat there regularly, but doesn't anymore. She said the quality of the meat went way down, and she didn't trust it.

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    8. I want go their again. Those people give off a bad vibe. Very aggressive and no remorse. Just the middle finger to the community despite what they did.

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    9. Why did they give the middle finger? Because they know there will be no consequences.

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    10. Kevales was lying through his teeth. His contractor was not better. They both should be hauled to the town square and flogged at noon time.

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    11. I am wondering if "Anonymous November 4, 2016 at 11:51 AM" has officially joined ISIS group?! This is America the Beautuful, not a third uncivilized country!

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  5. I was at the meeting. Mr. Hutt, Mr. Spears, Mr. Desai and Gina were so awesome, well suffice it to say, there would never be enough cheering for them. There seemed to be more people there to support the owners, however. They were scattered about the audience, not all clumped together. There were a few who came to listen, not really understanding why they were there. Some were property rights advocates who questioned what qualifies a historic home. I fully understood the neighbor not wanting to look at the Darling house anymore, but maybe she could put up a tree or something. She mentioned the number of hikers that are in the area and must wonder what is wrong with the city for allowing such an eyesore to linger. I'm not sure the hikers think about it one way or the other. As for the historical architect, he was siding with the owner as was the man he was with. The construction guy for the owner really made a bit of a fool of himself when he said something like nothing matched, everything was out of sync which caused Desai to say that of course nothing matched, it's to be expected, it's an old house, for which Spears said maybe they should get a different construction company. That did not go over well with the owners contingent. I came away with wondering, if the owner wanted to truly maintain the character of this house, why was the inside totally taken down? I understand he has that right. But having toured that house, the inside woodwork was beautiful. Now it's just gone! No explanation. So I must assume they did not buy this house for the inside beauty. They bought it with the intention of modernizing the inside. Sure, you can keep the outside the same with new products but there is no way to replace the woodwork on the bottom floor. The kind of wood no longer exists. And if there are craftsmen around to do the work it would be prohibitive. Mr. Hutt said he was tired of applicant's coming before the commission and lying to them. The owner was very upset by this remark. Well he should be. I will not patronize The Only Place In Town. The only decent meal I have been served there are breakfasts. I can get better at the local pub or Nano's. Thank you to the commission with the exception of Pevsner who seemed to channel remarks made by Harabedian over the Salesian issue. I'm sure the owners will appeal to the CC. Will they back the PC? What do you think?

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    1. Hutt was right. The owner is a liar. I will never set foot in his restaurant again.

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    2. Honestly, does anyone trust what that owner and contractor had to say. They were both obnoxious. They had no intention of preserving anything and never should have bought that kind of house in the first place.

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    3. Liars sometimes get away with it. But at least it was fun to see Kefales dressed down by Hutt and Spears. He deserved it for what he did to that house and thumbing his nose at the community.

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    4. in reply to "AnonymousNovember 4, 2016 at 8:36 AM
      You ever go into the Only Place and see all the FD guys seated in the back? There is your answer. Free hamburgers."
      The owner of "the Only Place in Town", Michael Kefalas is the house owner's brother Bill. Both were born and raised in sierra Madre, as well as their father and children. Moreover, Michael has been volunteer fire fighter for over 10 years, and have done to this towwn more than all these ignorant hatered-filled bloggers combined. Next time you hear a siren and a fire break in town, know that despite what was said and done against this restaurant and this family, the owner will still be the first in line of fire fighting to save our homes and properties. Shame on all of you, what do you call yourself?!!! why don't you ask "what can I do to help my neighbor rather than grabbing your torch and fork and threaten to drive the ones who build our town out of their own home?!!
      Once the house will be rebuilt to better than its original glory of run-down and despair, you will look at yourself in the mirror and you will see none but an ignorant loser and a total failure in life and in society FOR THE REST OF YOUR MISERABLE LIFE.

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    5. Ooohhh. Somebody has a knot in their bloomers.

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    6. Might not be a knot.

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    7. This shows how divided this town is. Not so "Anonymous November 4, 2016 at 7:31 AM", Jackie - is that your only way to promote your restaurant?! It would take more than demo-ing this old darling house, much more the city hall, for me to stop eating at The Only Place in Town, and then just maybe.

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  6. I wonder how this would "go down" if the applicant was not a minority? Quite a different response here I am sure.
    Make America great again...........

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    1. Make America great again. Send Traitor Trump to Guantanamo.
      https://thinkprogress.org/trump-putin-extra-22babc3a8e19#.406jcr18a
      http://bipartisanreport.com/2016/11/02/breaking-trump-and-gop-officials-ordered-to-appear-in-court-for-violating-kkk-act-of-1871-details/

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    2. Huh?
      What minority? Looked like a plain old American con to me.

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    3. 8:09 just brought the IQ level avg of the comments section down around 20 points.

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    4. Here we go with pulling the race card out again. Dishonesty is dishonesty no matter who it comes from. Breaking the rules is breaking the rules. The fact that you even noticed the race of the applicant shows whose focused on race. You're the racist.

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    5. You are correct that is why I live in Sierra Madre.
      Make America great again persecute to the full extent of the law.
      Although no law has been broken.

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    6. Trump is a developer. And a crass one at that.

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    7. Tired of the race baiting. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin". We judged Kefales's character and found it lacking.

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    8. Looser, coward, and yes-plain idiot. Why didn't you show up like a decent human to the town meeting and say what you're saying out loud. I'll watch for you walking the street with that white hood! To hell with you, the town and America will be greater without idiots like you.

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    9. Sounds like Bill Kevales Sr is upset again.

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  7. It is the duty of every American to fight for freedom. This is an act of a true patriot do not what the government orders do what is proper for your family,the oppressors be dammed

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    1. The traitors are all on the political right. Trump has his head so far up Putin's arse he can chew his food for him.

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    2. Looks like the freaks are freaking.

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    3. Posse comitatus?

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    4. The hardest part is keeping the Trumpies out of your trash cans.

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  8. What did the commission decide?

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    1. Requested additional info and continued the item.

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  9. 8:09am. Time for your medication; and dont forget todrink plenty of water.

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  10. If only for the sake of completeness, I do think we should reserve (final) judgment until the project is finished. I'm with everyone that what we've seen amounts to a tear-down, and the owner would have been kinder to his community to buy a non-historic house if structural integrity was such a priority.

    BUT, leaving the foundation really does mean something. For instance, at the moment it seems pretty clear we don't have an Arcadia situation (i.e., the home completely demolished to make way for a McMansion). And - randomly using a historical city like Philadelphia as an example - when you walk down a street in center city Philadelphia, seeing all the colonial-style buildings, it can be very hard to tell which ones are legitimately still there from the 1780's, and which were gutted and redone to look like it. If the owner rebuilds something that looks like the Darling House, it will mitigate a lot of the concerns here.

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    1. Don't you get tired of telling the same stupid lie over and over? He broke the law. Period.

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    2. You can never just replace the house even if it looks nearly the same from the outside. People buy the old Craftsman to lovingly restore them not to tear them up. If Kevales were able to buy the Gamble House, you can bet he's see no historical significance there either. He's rip up the interior without batting an eye. Look, I don't blame him. There are idiots everywhere. I blame us for not having the rules in place to stop it. Don't blame the idiots who don't care about the character of our community. There are going to be plenty of them like Kevales coming down the pike. Some people just don't care about the historical significance of homes. That doesn't make them bad people (except when they are dishonest), but it means that we can't assume everyone is going to care. We must have adequate protections in place.

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    3. I don't think that a "replica" is the same thing as a preserved home.

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    4. The house may be stripped down, but the foundation are thre, even if cracked and crumbling. Kudos to the owner to preserve the river rock revetment and build up a true and stronger foundation from the inside. I restore old houses, and I saw the shell remaining, and I can dress it up and see again the same house being built. the facade windows, doorways, and wooden entrance had to be removed against the owner choice. That was imposed on him by the city in compliance with the UBOC and fire code. They will be replaced with fire proof material and would look identical to the original ones. The roof line is the same, and once covered again, the house will look exactly the same, except will be safer to live for another 100 years or more, stronger to withstand earthquake and high wind, fire resistant, and would retain the same character which is typical of this town. what is your problem then?? Let the owner finish his work. what is your ulterior motive, why didn't you show up to the meeting or challenge the design from a rationale based on fact, figures, and building codes and ordinances. No, you prefer to dig your had in the sand, fluff your featheres and think from that part left up in the air.

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    5. Actually the owner broke the law. We need to get rid of special people exemptions in this town.

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    6. to Anonymous November 4, 2016 at 10:08 AM - We know you're that so called historian who teach preservation at school, but that's no reason to rip on the Kefalas to promote your business and feasting on the people's ignorance. What a shame.

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  11. Whatever I'm going to Sprouts,Colossal Shrimp are on sale!!!

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  12. Too bad John Hutt won't be the next City Manager. Unlike the current CM he would have shut this idiot and his criminal behavior down in a heartbeat.

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    1. Hutt is one of the best people we have in this town and also one of the smartest. Nobody is going to pull the wool over his eyes.

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    2. Yep. And don't forget, he is a real estate attorney. So he proves it is possible to be in the development game and be ethical.

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    3. You wrote (Anonymous November 4, 2016 at 1:25 PM
      Yep. And don't forget, he is a real estate attorney. So he proves it is possible to be in the development game and be ethical UNTIL HE'S NO LONGER. Then he will revert back to his nature of a lawyer and serve his own interest. He is taking this stance because of the political pressure he's getting from some unhappy bullies. This is nothing but a stunt PR for his upcoming real estate venture.

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  13. Grilled King Prawns with Romesco Sauce; I on it, thanks for the info.

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  14. Boycott The Only Place in Town. Let Mr. Kefalas know why. His email is bill@kefalasinvestments.com. One of his companies is Kefalas Investments, http://kefalasinvestments.com/. I used to live in Sierra Madre until last year, but am still taking care of the Preserve Sierra Madre website, and I do visit SoCal quite a lot, but I will not be going to his restaurant.

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    1. Btw, although I maintain the website, boycotting the restaurant is my personal opinion and does not reflect those of the Preserve Sierra Madre group.

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    2. All of us are mad, don't worry about it. i'm boycotting his restaurant too. Give him more of our money and he will use it to buy more historical properties and tear them down. I'm not going to support that.

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    3. To "AnonymousNovember 4, 2016 at 10:05 AM" - get yourself familiar with "Defamation Law", you may learn a thing or two worth talking about. You advocate "Preserve Sierra Madre" but you live out of town. LOL what a joke and fool you are!

      The greatest ememy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.

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    4. Has anyone ever told you that you're smart? If so, they were lying.

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  15. 7:10, 8:07 and 9:57 are all right. The owner's a jerk and a liar, but he won. Hopefully the demo law is changed so it won't happen again.

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    1. The best way to make sure it doesn't happen again is for the city to drag his lying a** into court and sue him into bankruptcy.

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    2. You'd think with all the taxes we pay here we'd get some decent code enforcement.

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    3. Reminds me of Alt-Right radio here today. Make up a fact,present it as fact for so long the dupes accept it as fact.Nobody has been found guilty of anything.Judge,jury,and executioner,people stop listening no credibility just mumbling to yourselves

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  16. My son is off from school today and wanted to go to the Only Place for lunch. I told him we couldn't go there. We are having lunch at Paco's in Arcadia instead.

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    1. Families with children are a servers nightmare,lot's of service skimpy gratuity,you won't be missed.

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  17. I will now frequent the Only Place in Town; if only to have a safe zone from a few of these early release loony tunes that blog on this site.

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    1. You'll have no trouble finding a waitress to refill your diet Pepsi.

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    2. 12:58, why do you read a blog you don't like? Too much time on your hands?

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    3. Slow day at the Real Estate office is my guess.

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    4. to Anonymous November 4, 2016 at 7:31 AM, on your way out, swing by the back of Paco's and resist yourself from gagging. The question is "What's in your meat?!" I feel sorry for your kid, check for sign of food poinsonning.

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  18. 1:24 pm. Usually I enjoy this Blog; among other Web Sites. Lately; it reminds me of years past in Sierra Madre. My Children would tell me to sit and wait at the bus bench on Lima Ave. Sierra Madre was known to have a White Line drawn around the City; don't let the Sun Set on you attitude.
    I read the same hatred from some of the Bloggers on this site today and yesterday.
    I would like to know why "you" feel so entitled?

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  19. That's why the guy "that doesn't live here anymore"who runs the Preserve Sierra Madre site is here today also. No Real Estate dupes to be fleeced today.Thought they were kinda outa touch........

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  20. It was quite refreshing to hear Mr. Hutt call this spitball just like he saw it. Lying and cheating by the Kevales Krew. Those smug smirks they walked in with, tell me they think they're going to get away with doctoring the ball. And they might.

    The city needs to beef up the Demolition Ordinance and in the meantime, take Kevales to court and fry him like a Grandview Burger.

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  21. I am still looking for a great burger; not frozen, but fresh. I even like the idea of calling it Fatty Snack or Demolition Burger!!! I will stop by this weekend and enjoy my burger.
    Robins Restaurant has a Garbage Burger that is good.

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    1. I will be there too at The Only Place in Town where I can eat knowing my food is hand crafted by people who care. Demolish the whole town, but keep The Only Place in Town.

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  22. Something about this whole issue stinks of incompetence and collusion by the City - Vincent are you reading?
    Kevales writes a lot of checks to the City of Sierra Madre, comps a lot of meals, knows all the 'right' people. Tell me he wasn't coached to get what he wanted this way.Just a $1000 slap on the wrist.
    The evil people at City Hall win- again. Good people like Hutt get demoralized because there is no support from City authorities. Unless of course you have no connections. Jeeez look what happened to Hildreth ! They bankrupted the guy out of sheer spite because he dared to show he had the evidence to try to defend himself.
    Salesian and Kevales get a pass because they have connections. Not the American way ,folks !

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  23. I'm sorry to tell you but it is the American way. What country you from?
    Hildreth dug a giant,unsafe hole under his house.

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    1. Crime is the American way? Where you from, Texas?

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  24. Hildreth was an opportunist, didn't give a darn about his neighbors or the Community. Talk about trying to take advantage of a mis- communication. The Court system took care of him.
    The Planning Department has some cleaning up to do; so none of this will happen in the future.

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    1. Mr. Hamburgers is no different.

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  25. Exactly ! So why not the same punishment? Answer- connections

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  26. We will have another installment of this story going up at 4AM tomorrow.

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