Dear Planning Commissioners: It has come to our attention that the Planning Commission will take up the issue of William Kefalas's request for a Demolition Permit for the home located at 126 E. Mira Monte better known as the "Henry A. Darling House" this Thursday, June 1st at 7:00 pm.
Here at Preserve Sierra Madre, we are not sure now whether we should be more outraged about what has been done to that once beautiful pre-Craftsman style home or the fact that our own City Staff has recommended that you approve the Demolition Permit request. This recommendation comes despite the public outcry manifested in wide-spread attendance at repeated meetings about this issue at both the City Council and Planning Commission levels, and despite the receipt of numerous emails expressing outrage at what was done to that house. This resulted in Commissioner Spears saying at one meeting that he had never seen such an outcry for any other issue that came before the Planning Commission during his tenure as Planning Commissioner.
We all know the story of this house so we will not repeat that sordid history again except to say that the first Historical Resource Report confirmed what everybody already knew who had either stepped inside that house or saw its pictures - the house had historical significance.
Now it appears that because the conclusions of that first Historical Resource Report that found the Henry A. Darling House to be historically significant did not suit the applicant's purpose to demolish the home, he has miraculously found a new "expert" who makes the farcical claim that although the property "may or may not" have been eligible for designation, in its current condition "it does not have the required physical features allowing it to be considered historical now, even if reconstructed with like-kind material as a "new copy" of the original.
Is any one surprised that's in its current skeletal condition it does not have the required physical features now - that's because the home was already destroyed by the applicant. We know how the legal system works. No matter how obvious is someone's guilt or how incriminating the evidence may be, it is remarkable how a defense lawyer can come up with an "expert" who gives an opinion the opposite of what is right there before our very eyes. It happens in every courthouse in every city where winning is more important than truth.
We would submit to the Planning Commission that the first report is more trustworthy because that expert had been invited to the house by the former owners, the Brown family, when they had intentions to demolish the house as well. Unlike the person who produced this new report, the first historical architect was actually inside the house before it was destroyed and saw first-hand the remarkable architectural features of this once beautiful home.
We conclude by saying that our opinions have not changed. Our attendance at meetings voicing our outrage, the emails from our supporters have not been swayed by the passage of time or a cherry-picked Historical Resource Report that just happens to reach the same conclusion as what the applicant had desired all along.
By the way, what happened to the Certificate of Appropriateness that the applicant was supposed to produce? Evidently they just refused to comply with what you had requested. We assume that was not done because it would have created further obstacles to the applicant's plans.
The Planning Commission is one of our last lines of defense against those who don't care about preserving what makes Sierra Madre the town that it is and why we all chose to live here. This applicant knew the history of this house and knew about the public outcry when the previous owner sought to demolish the house but proceeded forward with his plans for demolition in spite of that. An applicant who doesn't care about preserving our city and a clever out-of-town lawyer should not be allowed to make up their own rules.
We urge all of you to deny the request for a demolition permit that would erase virtually every last remnant of this once majestic home, rescind the CUP that was obtained before the house was deemed to be historically significant, make them salvage as much of the house that is still left and reproduce the look of the house using a historical architect and penalize the applicant for violating the demolition ordinance.
Thank you for your consideration.
Preserve Sierra Madre