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.
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.