Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Is Mansionization Now Giving the Finger to Sierra Madre?

View the entire mess here.

It was obviously a throwback event at last night's City Council meeting. This most ancient of arguments re-emerged from a distant past, and was once again trotted out by a Michael Colantuono attorney. That being the city can't afford to pay them any more than it already has to defend the residents' interests in this case, and therefore surrender to a particularly aggressive McMansion developer was the only option left.

Meaning, I suppose, that the people of Sierra Madre got very little for the $200,000 in legal fees recently spent fighting mansionization at One Carter. And no, I don't think they'll be giving it back.

Is there anybody living who hasn't noticed that the Colantuono Law Firm has been with the city all throughout the One Carter disaster? All 14 years of it? And after all the city has gone through they've now declared that City Hall can no longer afford to pay them to help defend the interests of the community?

Perhaps a better solution might have been not to give in to CETT and sign off on a "process" that will now open the floodgates to mansionization throughout the last remaining undeveloped areas in Sierra Madre, but rather hire a better law firm. One that is both more effective and won't cost the taxpayers so much money, or declare that defending the city's interests is not affordable.

But that wasn't done of course, and now the word is out. Sierra Madre can be beaten. They will only fight up to a point. Wait them out, sue often, and in time this city's government will fold. It's a town on a fixed income, and once they've hit their budget limit you can get whatever you like.

Somewhere Andy Bencosme must be laughing.

So why can't the City of Sierra Madre, as represented by its governmental agency, afford to defend the interests of residents who pay some of the highest taxes in California? Because the money is spent mostly on the salary, benefits and pension costs of city employees.

Link

Ironically, the expense of paying for the needs of employees whose job it is to protect the interests of the residents is now so great that defending the place from things like predatory developers is no longer financially feasible. Why? Because most of the money has gone to the employees. Folks who then do not have the budget to act on anything like this effectively because it has now become too expensive to do so.

Which I suppose makes this a government in appearance only.

Someone remarked last night that the City Council of 2018 has now finished what the Council of 2004 started. That is quite a lot to think about.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

100 comments:

  1. The fox is in the henhouse.

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    Replies
    1. On the bright side, the cluster of macmansions is located up to the north of the city, and will be a little island away from the rest.

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    2. Creating the "cluster" is just a toehold for the developers. Once the "cluster"
      is in place they buy homes all over the city. Demolish the homes, clear the trees, and build shoulder to shoulder cookie cutter stucco McMansions with huge plate heights. Sierra Madre had better tighten up zoning codes . NOW.

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  2. Back at you, Johnny.

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  3. Why are all City Council votes unanimous?

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    Replies
    1. Partly it's because they are an efficient group and they do their homework. There come to the meetings prepared.

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    2. It is only a coincidence that they all think the same, and are always on the same page.

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  4. I'm all for paying City Emoyees a fair wage but this has gotten ridiculous. How often have we heard about cities that have gone bankrupt or are on the verge of bankruptcy because most of their budget goes towards employee salaries, benefits and pensions. Most of these same employees don't live in the city where they work and so are not affected by the cutbacks in services that regularly occur because of tight budgets. These city employees also tend to be in favor of any revenue enhancements including overdevelopment because those monies often go towards their regular salary increases and they aren't affected by the decrease in the quality of life from overdevelopment because they don't live in the city. The only protection the residents have is their City Council or state representatives but wait.....they were all elected with the financial support of the public employee unions and then owe the unions "favors" once in office like ever increasing salaries and younger retirement ages. Is it any wonder why the different levels of government in California have problems and why the residents keep getting the short end of the stick. Meanwhile, these employees can retire as young as 50 often with full medical benefits and a huge pension and then enjoy a lifetime of Sundays. Some don't retire because even they realize that 50 is an awfully young age to be lounging by the pool every day so they get another job and add to their wealth. Meanwhile the taxpayers who pay for all this have to work longer, harder and retire later. Working for the government is the biggest scam going. It's a new elite class in which our public servants have become our masters.

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    1. Thank you Mr. Hannity.

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    2. Everything is being done for you, 8:22. Even though we get so little back in return.

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    3. Sorry, 8:39, but your premise does not exist in my comment and therefore you deduced incorrectly. Let me help you anyway--I'm not a city employee.

      City employees help you; not the other way around. I suspect you'd be the first to squeal if they weren't around to serve you when you need it.

      6:23. Please provide citation for your claims. For example, show that SM city employees don't live here. Are you saying that somehow SM does not have an even distribution of employees from cities around the region comparable to other cities around the region? If so, perhaps this is because SM and other cities do not pay city employees enough to live in this enclave, making your complaints quite elitist.

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  5. The last natural areas of Sierra Madre need to be mansionized so the city can pay its CalPERS exposure. Sure the city can't afford to fight developers in court. This is why:
    http://www.pensiontracker.org/agencySummary.php?agency_name=City+of+Sierra+Madre&id=512&search=Search

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  6. Do we have any other details from the meeting? How did they vote and who said what?

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    1. The vote was unanimous. The post pretty much covers what was said. The link to the meeting video is provided above. It will help you to deepen your understanding.

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    2. I watched the meeting later, and it was clear that the council had already decided. Each member had their remarks prepared and articulated, and there was no real discussion.

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    3. Unfunded liabilities caused by employee pensions is breaking many cities. Not sure what that amount is in Sierra Madre but in Arcadia it is
      $130 MILLION and growing. Using fuzzy logic the Arcadia employees were just granted raises. Go figure. Seems like if something is dying of poison the "cure" is to administer more poison.

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    4. Sierra Madre Calpers unfunded liability is a little over 10 million

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    5. Any number like that would need to be an estimate. It really depends on the kind of return on investment CalPERS is getting on a year to year basis. If they fall short, than each individual city has to kick in more money to alleviate the shortfall. Their crystal ball is cracked, and they have no idea how they are going to do.

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  7. The message went out last night loud and clear that any developer can do anything they want if they bring legal muscle into it.
    Now it'll be Stonehouse's turn, then the Monastery, then what?

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  8. Tattler, great point about the law firm. They just lose....are they famous and sought after because they are clever at negotiating a city's defeat?

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  9. Sierra Madre cannot afford to defend itself. Come and get it!

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    1. Anybody know how much money Colantuono Etc. has made off of One Carter over the last 14 years? And will continue to make until every damn lot is filled?

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    2. I don't think they'll be making any more on it. The deal is done. It'll be the next projects they'll make their fees on. Defend the zoning and the water meter moratorium as they apply to the monastery, then counsel that the city will lose if they fight anymore.

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    3. Instead of just defending the zoning make the zoning tighter. Codes need to be written to circumvent cheating by developers. Every time a code is changed the developers spend time looking for loopholes. Loopholes are the fodder for lawsuits. Anything to squeeze out every dime and to squeeze the character out of the city. The plan: Buy, demolish, build ugly, build big, build cheap, leave town with cash in all their pockets.

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  10. This will be a weird thing for us, an area that is only for the wealthy. Sierra Madre has a really varied mix of incomes, and while there are some fancier streets or less affluent streets, there is nothing like a rich people only enclave.
    Or there hasn't been until now.
    Do you think there will be a bunch of home robberies a la Arcadia there?

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  11. Replies
    1. CalPERS Crest

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    2. There is a cut-de-sac off east Orange Grove, almost to the Arcadia boundary, with 8/9 homes that were built about 20 years ago that when you turn north into this small Sierra Madre upscale area you think you have turned south into Arcadia. However, they are "modest" by comparison to anything now contemplated for Carter. Then there is the Jamison Estate area: from the front you think somewhat to scale but then down the drive way you can site the huge rear part of the house. So, this has happened before in Sierra Madre but never over the effort to keep a neighborhood, i.e. the hillsides, to a specific ordinance. Without the conviction of the City Council and the money to have the best representation to fight the developers continuous attack on the Hillside Development standards, One Carter was a slide into the overbuilt Arcadianization of the One Carter site.

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    3. At least the Calpers pensioners will be able to afford the homes.

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    4. And of course the lawyers can buy multiple McMansions

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    5. I think they would prefer to refer to them as "investment properties." Arcadia has quite a few of them, many empty.

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    6. Not empty, the coyotes are living there...

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    7. The coyotes use them as bases of operations for their war on cats.

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  12. Why didn't the developers speak last night?

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    Replies
    1. They did not need to. It was a done deal.

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    2. They're scrambling for money. Anywhere they can get it.

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  13. If the warrants are still published by the city for you to read you can see how much the law firm makes monthly. They get a monthly stipend and then they get extra for extra work. A couple of years back I used to add it up. The figure was astounding. Of course, who knows what the monthly stipend entails but it doesn’t seem to be much. I have long said they need to find another lawyer. The Carter house was going to be built. The old CC assured that. There really wasn’t much to be done. The one thing the PC didn’t seem to do is to change the buildible lot size. The house in question has a lot of I think 13,000 sf. Most of that is hillside. A person can build a bigger house because of the lot size even though most of it is hillside.

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    1. Sierra Madre needs to address the issue of the unique nature of a hillside lot. While the lot may appear to have a large SF the buildable area is often much smaller. Yhe FAR needs to be based on the buildable SF so that open space is still maintained in the buildable area.

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  14. The real losers here are the wildlife.

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    1. It's an ugly fate for what was once beautiful habitat.

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    2. You should check this out. Amazing piece of art.
      https://www.wired.com/2013/08/r-crumbs-short-history-of-america-1979/

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  15. All the residents voted for keeping the UUT, in essence YOU voted for the large mansions. The City Council ran on keeping the UUT as their platform of change, this group sticks together. The City Council voted together to keep this law firm, another unimous vote on how to spend our taxes and defend this city.
    Residents lead busy lives and cannot find time to keep an eye on this council or what goes on in City Hall, residents of Sierra Madre YOU got what YOU voted for and fought for, the rest is easy street. Welcome to change.

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    Replies
    1. Residents voted to raise the UUT to a state leading 10% because they were led to believe it would take care of all the problems the city was having. We now know how dishonest that message was. The city needs much more. The Sierra Madre land rush is on.

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    2. I know people who supported the permanent 10% UUT knowing and acknowledging that it would not generate enough money for the budget as it grew, to encumber the UUT in it fradulent climb from 6%, 8%, 10% 12% and return to 6% as a "sunset" which never happened. A mess from start to finish!

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  16. 8:15am, 13,000 sf lot and most is hillside - check the SM Hillside Ord. Knowledge is power. 8:35am - where have you been?
    Thus has all been addressed over these many years, oh, you must be new to town. Try attending City meetings you may learn about FAR

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    1. Thanks for your criticism. I may be new to town and if I am you could enlighten me. If I’m not you could still enlighten me.

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    2. Okay, I understand the FAR. I am saying that if the house that is built on that lot is based on 13,000sf then the law should be changed to reflect the buildible square feet. Is that the way it’s done? If so, I stand corrected. If not, enlighten me.

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    3. Can you imagine the law suits that would follow an attempt to use "buildable portion" of the lots up there?

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    4. I guess they would have to reduce the size of the lots, then, huh?

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    5. What needs to happen never will. The lots need to be redesigned, to make maybe 14 or 15 lots in total.



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  17. World Cup Soccer 2026 in Los Angeles.

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    1. They divided it between the US, Mexico and Canada. Interesting idea.

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  18. Tattler readers you should laugh at your selves, or the Moderator should chuckle Andy Bencosme may have been the descending vote on the Council. Then again, if the Moderator was seated
    on Council, how would he have voted?

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    Replies
    1. Not to rescind. Plus I would have taken the time to carefully explain the city's precarious finances, and why this would be a prime factor in the vote of some to surrender to CETT. I also found the claim that this involved this house alone, and had nothing to do with any other projects, to be fairly disingenuous. Last night was one of the worst city council meetings in years.

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  19. Try and keep up 8:27am. Attend Planning Commission meetings.

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  20. The council all votes the same to save time and go home early, this is the civility group!

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  21. 7:17am if you had read the flyer placed on all homes in Sierra Madre during the UUT vote, you would have had all the factual information in you hand.

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  22. This is what Civic Fatique looks like. I had a neighbor in the canyon who fought a neighbor's oversize project for a long time. She was told but the neighbor 'I will outlast you and be at a meeting that you fail to attend and get what I want,' and he did. Not only she, but the the entire neighborhood has to live with this. Lucky for us that eventually the Canyon Zone was enacted. It will be interesting to see what the next house for One Carter looks like.

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  23. Agreed 9:36am.
    I believe this City Council serving now does a great job in keepinp the seats warm. The opportunity to detail the City finances could have been discussed before the City wide election, but then the possibility of not passing the UUT would have been open for a more honest debate.
    The best decision coming from this group was the hiring of the new City Manager.
    The old guard of City Management played the State CalPERS scam out to the fullest, increasing their pay scale so that all could retire out at the top earning level, laughing all the way to the bank, it continues today across California.
    All projects will be individually fought on Carter One, that is how the package is sold.
    This development was bound to happen on Carter One, the City allowed the land to be raped by Dorn & Platt years ago, the City then did not work on creating a fund to buy back the land at auction inorder to correct their looking the other direction.
    Extremely poor City Management and lack of involvement from younger residents, the old hippy saying if S#it happens fits.

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  24. 9:37am this council voted on doing away with the Sunset Clause, this was the first of many unimous votes.
    When the gravy train keeps rolling why question yourself on, can this city afford this...at this time?
    The reorganization of employees should have been priority, the contract with CalPERS, a Doug Hayes Council member gift to all.

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  25. The problem is not the City codes or the law firm. The problem is the City Council's backbone, or more accurately, lack thereof.

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    1. They see this as a way of paying the bills. Nothing more. It is an emotionless, technocratic bunch.

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    2. City Hall is putting its priorities ahead of the city.

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    3. I think that Sierra Madre is good at espousing thoughtful things; not so good at actually doing them.

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    4. 11.10. You are right. Sad but true. They all knew the fix was in. I have no confidence in the City Council!
      Next will be higher water rates and a parcel tax.

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    5. They are looking at water rates now, but it is more of an adjustment than an actual increase. Some categories will end up seeing a rate decrease believe it or not. The folks who are talking up the parcel tax option are the library people. This would need to go on the ballot and pass with 67% of the vote. After the many reckless claims made for Measure UUT, some are going to question why another tax increase is needed. I don't think it would pass, no matter how many postcards are mailed out.

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  26. 10:36am. Too busy to attend City meetings? Make a point of getting involved.

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    1. I have been very invoked for a very long time and have learned that the residents have NO say. All comments fall on deaf ears.

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  27. Whatty? 9:12am that is the job the City Employees signed up for, low pay? The private sector is always an option.
    Maybe you have not figured out the Calif. shell game of CalPERS. YOU may receive lower pay but your investment into the State Pension funds more than make up for that. Platinum parachute.

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    1. Sorry for the delayed response 11:23am--I actually work for a living.

      The point is 6:23am wants it both ways: he complains that city employees don't live here and also complains that they're paid too much.

      If, indeed, the former is correct (and especially if there is not a proportionate share of the region's public employees living here), it would be because public employees can't afford to live here on their current wages. Ergo, if 6:23 wants city employees to live here, we have to pay them more.

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  28. “The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.”
    ― Oscar Wilde

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  29. I am ashamed to say I know and voted for the entire city council. Next election......no financial support from me for any candidate unless John Hutt can be talked into running.

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    1. As we saw last night, it will take two very dedicated preservationist city council members to stop the mansionization gravy train. John Hutt would be a good candidate. So would Matt Bryant. Unfortunately the "Keep the 3" slate looks like they want to cash in the city's last undeveloped areas for the cash needed to handle the millions of dollars in unfunded pension debt. That is why the city needs to elect the real deal.

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    2. I don't like their decision either, but they were presented with the alternative of spending another $200,000 on a case that the city attorney thought she'd lose.

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    3. Actually she said the case could go either way. The thing is this was the first one. Not just for One Carter, but for the monastery and Stonehouse as well. This was where the battle needed to be fought.

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    4. My guess is that behind close doors she told them she was losing.

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    5. That is not what she said Tuesday evening.

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    6. She may have said something different in closed session than she said in public.

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  30. Eating at one of the.local restaurants yesterday, asked for a glass of water, instead had a glass of chlorine. The water in Sierra Madre is sadly no longer the best in the valley.
    Such bad management from the past and the unwillingness of Council's to ask the probing and important questions on how the city was being managed.
    All fall short.

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    1. Sounds like most of the water in this town is imported. No longer the same water.

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  31. Colantuono Law Firm need not be present at all council meetings,time to make a change in the contracted hours for this firm.

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  32. So what's the problem with mansionization? It seems like it's going to happen, and no one in town cares or will stop it anyway. So why make a big stink about it. Sierra Madre will be fine. Just keep on living, and don't take everything so seriously. You'll be happier in the end. Life is good.

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    1. knucklehead

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    2. 5:32, as long as you are protected from a monster size house coming next to you, blocking out the light, ruining any sort of privacy, making your house value plummet because it is no longer desirable given the new neighbor's massive structure, there's no problem at all.

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    3. 5:32, spoken like a person who is willing to destroy the hillsides.

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  33. This has surprised me. I knew that no one cares about wildlife or trees, really, and that profit rules, but it just seems so alien to this essentially unpretentious town to have a millionaires mansion row. Weird.

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  34. Could someone please post the SM FAR regulations, or a link to them, I can’t find the on the city website (they better hire 4 more people to get them posted).

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    1. https://library.municode.com/ca/sierra_madre/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=TIT17ZO

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  35. People keep throwing out words like McMansion and mansionization. I thought you fought for and won FAR limitations. You can’teven apply for a building permit for anything over 3500’ ft without a CUP which means you need the blessing of a few appointed people on the planning commission to do one sq ft over that. I should add, that includes garage, and or any accessory structures, decks or balconies. That being said on what planet is that considered a mansion? If a project fits those guidelines and the setbacks thus prescribed, why do you as a “group” feel you need further input on the project? Do you think your opinion should be weighted more than the rest of the residents/voters.

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    1. 6:35, the readers of the Tattler are not a group.
      You sound like someone who wants the new and improved Sierra Madre; vulgar, ostentatious, and dismissive of the simpler homes of the people who preserved the town that you are now eager to change to suit yourself.

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    2. Really you’re not a group? Is that why you go to the meetings, closely associate with preserve Sierra Madre and generally appoint yourselves keepers of the realm? I do like Sierra Madre the way it is (with the exception of this vitriolic cabal). What I am saying is, 3500 sq ft is neither a mansion, a McMansion, or a Kardansion. You have no definition of what you’re actually against. You don’t like the arcadia style development. Neither do I, but I know what I empirically don’t like about it. I hate houses oversized for the lots, I hate building to the property lines and I hate minimal setbacks. We have much more stringent regs in this town. Either you know the regs because you helped push for them or you’re clueless and just like to vent. Quit moving the goal line. Your home is your choice. Good. You want to live in 700 sq ft house with no seismic integrity. None of my business. My home is my choice within the guidelines established in our code. If you think my choice is vulgar or ostentatious, that’s your opinion, and I could give a rats ass. I’m not trying to change anything.

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    3. Nice vitriol, Mr Pot-Kettle-Black.

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    4. If 9:59 hates houses that are oversized for the lots, he is against every house that was proposed for One Carter. But he doesn't know it? He rather accuse others of his own faults. It's easier.

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    5. This guy shows up now and then, to do some of that reverse mud slinging. Old Dirt tactic.

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    6. I like the assumption of superior knowledge. Without actually revealing any.

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  36. The unanimous vote was no surprise. The entire City Council is lame duck. All 5 are on their second terms. Buh-bye, accountability!

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  37. Around the time that One Carter development was first being discussed, people brought up the idea that poor people, or just people who are living modest lifestyles, were going to be chased out of Sierra Madre.
    Before the over-development craze that ruined all the nicer places, Sierra Madre was not all that desirable. Then when everything else got built up and built out, all of a sudden Sierra Madre was not so bad. And so came the push to develop the hillsides, get rid of the wildlife, and make a profit.
    It does seem that the town is getting more and more hostile to those with low economic profiles.

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