Monday, July 10, 2017

Preserve Sierra Madre: City Council Decision on the Henry A. Darling House

Mod: The following was e-mailed to the City Council last night.

Dear Mayor and City Council Members: On Tuesday, July 11th at 6:30 pm, you will be addressing the appeal from the Planning Commission's denial of the demolition permit for the house at 126 E. Mira Monte also known as the Henry A. Darling House. While you all know the history of this home, it bears repeating how this home was turned into a mere skeleton of its former self.  In fact, it was not too long ago, when this City Council tried to save this very home from demolition plans by the previous owners, the Brown family.

At that time, the City Council chambers were packed on several occasions by citizens outraged that one of Sierra Madre's historical treasures was slated to meet the wrecking ball. In response to this public outcry, and no doubt because of your own personal feelings about what was planned for this home, you voted to enact an emergency demolition moratorium and later a permanent demolition ordinance that effectively saved this home and resulted in the Brown family selling the home to the present owners.

Despite the previous community outcry, and despite the intentions of this City Council to save it, the new owners proceeded to reduce the home to a mere skeleton of its former self. Rather than an outright request for demolition as the Brown family did, the new owners had a piecemeal approach that allowed them to exploit a hole in the demolition ordinance (that has since been filled) which caused the Planning Commission to approve various steps along the way including the granting of a CUP for a very large addition to the back. I don't think the end result was quite what the Planning Commission had in mind for this house. It might also be noted that the Planning Commission would not have granted the CUP had they known the results of the eventual Historic Resources Report done by Mr. Fisher.

Ultimately, the new owners ended up triggering the demolition ordinance when they continued their demolition into the roof structure. This required them to now comply with the demolition ordinance and get a Historic Resources Report on a house that had, for all intents and purposes, already been demolished. As luck would have it, the new owners chose one of the City approved experts, Charles Fisher, who had been to the house at the request of the Brown family and, based on the architectural detailing he observed, no doubt conveyed to the Brown family that the Henry A. Darling house had historical significance. This was the same conclusion he reached when hired to do the formal report by the present owners.

After the Planning Commission expressed their outrage about the present owner's conduct in several acrimonious meetings, and ultimately denied the request for an after-the-fact demolition permit, the present owners hired a lawyer and obtained another Historic Resources Report by a different expert, who sure enough, came up with a different result - namely that the home in its present state has no historical significance.  The owners now wish to cherry pick the second report to justify the granting of the demolition permit.

Preserve Sierra Madre is committed to preserving the historic and architecturally significant  properties in Sierra Madre with reasonable rules and regulations that are consistent with the preservation mandates in the General Plan. This is why we took an interest in the Henry A. Darling House from the beginning.

You can all decide for yourselves if the present owners knew about the concerns of the community and yes, the concerns of the City Council for the preservation of this home before it was purchased by them. Because if you believe they did know about these concerns in advance as well as the obstacles faced by the Brown family, than their conduct is all the more reprehensible and egregious. You can decide if the first Historic Resources Report should be given more weight because Mr. Fisher actually had the chance to see the inside of the home before it reached its current state as opposed to the second expert who was never inside the home.

You can decide whether there was any justification for the anger that many of the Planning Commissioners had about the end result of the owner's efforts as well as the owner's conduct and representations made to the Planning Commission. You can decide whether you want to undercut the authority of our Planning Commission by overturning their decision. You can decide if its fair to the Brown family who at least were transparent about their intentions for this home  and yet were forced to to sell it when their plans for demolition were thwarted by the public outcry against its demolition and by your own actions to preserve the house. You can decide what kind of message you want to send to those who flout our rules and hope the threat of a lawsuit will allow them to prevail.

Preserve Sierra Madre has decided not to ask its members to once again pack the City Council chambers for Tuesday's meeting, speak during the public comment section, or send emails as so many people have done in the past. We have already done all that and it is a part of the record. Our minds have not been changed by the passage of time. We remain as outraged as ever. We now need to rely on all of you to do what's right in this case. You may want to google 126 E. Mira Monte to see the pictures and refresh your memories as to what this home used to look like and drive by the address to see what it looks like now. You can ask yourselves if this is what all of us had in mind, ask if this is what you had in mind when we worked together to save this home  previously. You can ask yourselves if this is what our Planning Commission had in mind for this house as well.

Because we don't think this is what any of us had in mind for the Henry A. Darling House when we fought so hard to save it, we respectfully ask that you uphold the decision of the Planning Commission to deny the request for a demolition permit and demand that the present owner abide by what our experts on the Planning Commission think should now be done with a house that has historical significance and was once part of the fabric that makes Sierra Madre the town that it is.

Steering Committee
Preserve Sierra Madre

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

56 comments:

  1. The CC needs to back the best Planning Commission this city has ever had. All that Preserve says is true. Everyone in town knew the house needed big-time repairs. I recall the older couple from Glendale who bought their house, wanted to add onto it, but retain it's character, I have gone by their house quite often. They have done a magnificent job! The integrity of the house has been maintained. Nothing like what The Only So-called Man int Town did.

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    1. What house are you referring to?

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    2. Did you read the email from Preserve Sierra Madre. In case you missed it, scroll up.

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    3. No I mean the house you are referring to that the Glendale couple fixed.

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    4. I am brain dead today. Can't remember the street. I will drive by today and post.

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    5. City Council needs to back the Planning Commission. If they cut their legs off, it will send a terrible message.

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    6. City Council needs to back the Planning Commission. If they cut their legs off, it will send a terrible message.

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    7. It would be the worst kind of sellout.

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  2. when is it ever appropriate to demolish an old structure? Is there a metric that should be used, or is it all discretion and feelings. This house clearly had significant structural issues and I wonder where you would put the tipping point. There are many other old homes in Sierra Madre that have had no upkeep over the years which will face the same fate. My question is, will we require every homeowner, no matter the condition, cost or technical challenge, or even safety, to rehab every home over 75 years? I can understand if a home had historical significance, such that it was built by someone of significance, or even lived in by a founding city father. Our homes were not built to last forever, at which point does that become a part of the conversation.

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    1. "When is it ever appropriate to demolish an old structure?" When you have the proper permits from the city. If you don't you will end up having to spend a lot of money for some really dumb lawyers and flapping your fibbing fish lips in front of the City Council.

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    2. "Many old homes that have had no upkeep...". Of the 'many' you cite, can you provide the address of at least one?

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    3. The Special K Brigade will say anything.

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    4. Just because you want doesn't mean you get. Laws are in place for a reason. The guy didn't follow the rules. He said he bought the house because he wanted to keep it the way it was then proceeded to gut it to the frame. No preservation of the wood inside, just rip and tear and throw away. If he had proceeded the right way the PC would have listened to any problems regarding restoring. He tried to pull a fast one.

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    5. If the City Council doesn't stand up for Sierra Madre's laws then there really is no reason for them being there. Might as well just close City Hall and go home. Save everybody a lot of money.

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    6. My crappy house in the canyon was a hell of a lot worse but I've been preserving it little by little for years now

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    7. So because you have a crappy house, everyone should have a crappy house? What makes it worth preserving? Did Nathaniel Carter take a crap in it?

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    8. Did you wake up on thexwrong side of the bed today? So grumpy!

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    9. 9:26 - settle down kid. Of course I'm not saying 'everyone should have a crappy house'. That would be immature. I'm saying that in comparison to my house and several other canyon houses that have been brought back with care and compassion, by no means was the 'Darling' house, too far gone to preserve its original elements.

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    10. How piquant.

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    11. Well, at least he knew who Carter was. But maybe didn't know the fight that went down to preserve Carter's old cabin in the canyon.

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  3. I'm not sure why you are reacting to my question in such a way. I don't have a dog in this fight, just trying to start a conversation based on logic.
    By the way, I did read the staff report for Tuesday's meeting which took a while, and it would seem that he had permits to remove everything but the roof. What's not clear, is what preserve sierra Madre is trying to accomplish. What happens if the cc denies the permit? The structure stays in its current state until it falls down? At that point I assume he doesn't have to rebuild the same house, he could build anything else. This letter by psm contradicts the staff report by the way.

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    1. If you don't have a dog in this fight, why are you regurgitating the same bogus nonsense K defenders always spit up? You cannot raze a house without the proper permits and then claim because the place is now a wreck you should be allowed to build whatever you want. Stop the stupidity, will ya?

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  4. California state laws if you want to use them, can force the owner of the property & House to rebuild this house in question back to original condition inside & Out.
    How do you like those apples? Get some stones and get real here in Sierra Madre, Ca..

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    1. No they can't.

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    2. Yes they can.

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    3. Well then I guess the City of Sierra Madre for,some elusive reason,chooses not to force the owner of the property & House to rebuild this house in question back to original condition inside & Out as prescribed by state laws.

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    4. City staff seems to have capitulated to Kefalas. It remains to be seen if the City Council will follow them.

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    5. We keep hearing that things are getting better at City Hall, and I have once or twice actually believed that. Then I read things like this nonsense staff report and I realize it is all hype.
      http://www.cityofsierramadre.com/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=8771755

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  5. Currently, this will be the home that will trigger the new demolition ordinance.
    In the past, builders could leave one wall standing in a "historical" home, demolish the rest of the house and retain the historical tax break.
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, cities have no say on the interiors of homes.
    The city must show what is ment by historical significance from the Fisher report.
    The house has always been scheduled for a "re-do".
    Whether to grant the CUP is in question, from the demolition of a section of roof line being removed before a plan check had been witnessed by an observer from the Planning Department.
    Once again, tho, more efficient in their statements the Preserve S.M.Group has sadly indicated that they all lead busy lives and don't have the time to follow through on this item at the scheduled City Council meeting.
    This is art imitating itself, or the Preserve Group at the same cross roads that the Darling home found itself in the allowed deconstructed permits; just not being vigilant to the end and following through, making sure that no loop holes may occur.
    The town remains strong by community involvement at meetings or maybe we all are relying on technology replacing historic value of being physically present.

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    1. Same crap, different day, eh 7:54?

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    2. You need new material, 7:54. You've lost every round so far with that nonsense.

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    3. '...leaving one wall standing...' was a building ploy (you saw this everywhere) that allowed a project to go forward without having to adhere to new standards...keeping the old foot print for the "new" construction that would otherwise have to adhere to all the new sets backs (side, front, rear). So you got entirely new houses (just imagine that old "one wall" eventually disappeared in the interior of the house.

      One of the worst examples of this is a house in the canyon on Middle Brookside that was raised off its foundation, then a basement with a new foundation was built. The old cabin was lowered onto the new basement walls and subfloor and opps the old cabin collapsed. So, brand new walls, brand new everything, and all within inches of the property line because it was a small lot and the speculator/builder/"owner" knew that the sets backs would restrict the project.

      Lucky for the canyon this nonsense has gone away with the new canyon zone.

      This did not apply just to historic homes and I don't believe it was a tax break.

      Historic homeowners have to go through the Mills Act application process to achieve tax breaks. Owner/builder was a process that many speculators used to get reduced fee building permits.

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  6. whatever happened to the Shahanian (sp?) "compound" on Highland where they built a "gym" without permits?

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  7. 7:55am. The Library has preserved all City Council and Planning Commision meetings on recorded CD's; you will find your answer there.

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  8. What is the historical significance of the Darling House? Can a plaque be placed out front?

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    1. Please read the material provided in the staff reports by the city. It is old news and you really do need to catch up.

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    2. It wasn't really historically significant and wasn't on record as being so. But, as an original California Arts-and-Crafts home it was aesthetically significant.

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    3. Here's what the plaque should say:
      Once a beautiful house stood here, until skullduggery brought it down.
      RIP Darling House.

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  9. What is the difference between restore and replicate?
    Are policies in place for removal of material down to the bare bones of a structure only to be built in the same envelope? How does that translate? As a new build? Then CUP's would be a separate issue.

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  10. 8:44am. Good information.
    With ownership of historic homes, I hope those tactics of one wall standing, did not then, apply for the Mills Act.

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    1. No, the Mills Act application is not what these "one wall standing" projects were after. The developers just wanted to raise the house and not have to adhere to the standards of the set backs or lot coverage. This may be still happening sometimes what you see that you think is no longer allowed is for a project that was approved under old standards and is being built after new standards are adopted. Pre-existing, non-conforming was another ploy to get around new standards if the case could be made by the owner. Usually room additions, expecially second story if the lot did not allow ground level additions. That is why lot coverage percentages went into affect. The canyon zone included a building envelope for second story so going forward the looming second story close to the property line is a thing of the past.

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    2. Although I have to say there are a handful of original homes in the canyon, particularly on Woodland, where the second story actually extends over the first- I think this looks very charming in an old-world way. It works because the overall house size complements the lot size. Hopefully exceptions for future homes like these will be considered.

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  11. Sierra Madre really does have an outstanding Planning Commission, they seem to be ahead of the eight ball; or wreaking ball.
    This Darling House fiasco appears to be the tip of an iceberg on closing a few more loopholes.
    Learning curve for future policy.

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  12. 10:19am. There were some pretty cool old cabin or the old tent build formations in that canyon. They are no longer there.
    Many were built over the huge boulders, one home had the flooring built around the boulder protruding out the kitchen floor.

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  13. Anyone remember the fight that went down over the replacing of the little cabin by the wash at the entrance to the canyon? There's a little historical plaque out front by the street

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  14. Was the cabin over the wash near the old swimming pool, or near the bridge.
    Along with the cabin known as the Doll House on Brookside, all were demolished in the name of safety.
    Many cabins sat empty and in disrepair during the 60's and 70's.

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  15. Damn safety. Homes are meant for nostalgia and feelgoodery.
    So safety isn't an acceptable reason to tear down a cabin? The chronic in the canyon must be extra special today.

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    1. Anything can be fixed, Captain Trips.

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    2. No ones falling for your fake arguments

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  16. really?
    Would you fix a rusted out ford pinto with a blown head gasket, leaking gas tank, and broken axle?

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    1. You're still driving?

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    2. I pity the pedestrians.

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  17. Actually we owe this belligerent man. He made such a terrible mess of a lovely old place that it will never be allowed to happen again.
    Hey Mr. Kefalas, thanks for your service to the preservation of Sierra Madre.

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  18. Also on the city council agenda tomorrow night is a discussion concerning the sale of the property. The library is on and moving the library to the recreation center. Very interesting

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  19. They. Knowingly. Committed. Treason.

    Given what Donald Trump Jr. has now openly admitted to the press and everything else that has been revealed, those are the only four words that matter any more.

    There is nothing else that ever needs to be said about the Russian matter from here on out.

    They. Knowingly. Committed. Treason.

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