Thursday, February 26, 2009

Did the Congregational Church Deliberately End Run Sierra Madre's City Council?

This is how it is supposed to work. The Planning Commission reviews applications for building projects, and then either approves, recommends changes, or rejects them outright. And on rare occasions a change to the General Plan is required as well. This occurs when a proposed building is not in line with the zoning regulations of an area in question. And General Plan changes are not lightly given. Think of it as trying to get a new Amendment added to the United States Constitution. It's just about that hard. And the only people who can authorize a change to the General Plan in Sierra Madre (and almost everywhere else) are those brave individuals that we elect to serve on our City Council.

Why is this the case? Without zoning regulations bad things might happen, stuff that really isn't in the best interests of the people living here. Like, let's say, a insecticide factory being built beside a nursery school. Or a sewage processing plant constructed next to a restaurant dedicated to fine dining. You get the picture. And zoning regulations help maintain a community's value as well. A well-ordered and maintained community being a much more enjoyable and safe place to live.

But apparently our friends at the Congregational Church somehow missed out on this very basic lesson in polite civic behavior. Or, if they actually knew about this stuff, did they deliberately ignore the zoning laws of Sierra Madre in order to illegally construct a building? One that might not be where it currently stands this time next year?

In case you have yet to behold the structure in question, it is located just north of Sierra Madre Boulevard and to the east side of Hermosa. It is a two level expansion of this Church's storied edifice located just around that corner.

Among several other things, the Congregational Church requested an amendment to this city's General Plan at Tuesday night's City Council meeting. This amendment was one of the conditions the Planning Commission had decreed as being part of the approval process for the Church's New Life Center building project. Of course, ordinarily when someone wants to build a building here in town, they get their city approvals done first. But apparently what the folks at the Congregational Church did was build the building and then ask for the City Council's approval. A most irregular way of doing business. Kind of like driving a brand new car without first going through the unpleasant process of paying for it. Or even getting a driver's license.

As was pointed out by a visibly annoyed Mayor Zimmerman, the Planning Commission required the Church to obtain this General Plan amendment before it began the actual construction of the project. That requirement was more than reasonable given that the Church was requesting permission to build an "institutional" project on parcels of land zoned commercial. The Planning Commission's condition of approval stated that the Church must first "obtain the City's approval of a General Plan Amendment to designate the subject properties as Institutional."

However, and as we learned Tuesday night, the Church just went ahead and built their project without getting the necessary amendment done first. Just up and did it. According to the Church's business manager, who was present and spoke at this meeting, the City told the Church it could build the project without obtaining the amendment if it simply applied for the amendment. Who in the City told the Church this patently absurd information? The Church's business manager seemed unable to say. Nor did the Church's business manager care to comment on why the Church would go to all the trouble and expense of constructing such an edifice based on what was obviously erroneous information. Didn't they realize they were taking just a wee bit of a chance here? And that maybe they'd want to check around a little first? Call a phone friend? Especially when the Planning Commission specifically told them that getting the nod from the City Council on that amendment thing was a key condition for their approval? I mean, Sierra Madre does have a couple of bulldozers, you know.

Something else that was rather odd about all of this. The Planning Commission heard the Church's request for the amendment in January of this year. And the resolution the Planning Commission adopted approving the amendment change, which was forwarded to the City Council for its necessary approval last Tuesday, leaves out that rather significant detail about the Church already having built the building. You can only wonder who it is that they thought they were fooling. Maybe they were all experiencing a shared senior moment?

A couple of questions for you. Is this "New Life Center" constructed in that part of Sierra Madre covered by Measure V? Seems that it is to me. And if so, does anybody know if it is in compliance with 2-30-13? We're going to need to get out the measuring tape and see what's up with that one. Should we bring Sandy Levin along, just in case? And some crowbars and saws to help with any compliance issues?

Update (7:50AM): I just got a call from Mayor Zimmerman, and he is demanding that the head of the Planning Commission address the City Council at the next meeting. Additionally he has requested that Development Services get over to Hermosa and measure this building for possible 2-30-13 violations.


  1. Why is the Congregational church above the laws in Sierra Madre?
    Why have they been able to get away with this?
    Sandra Levin needs to take legal action against them.

  2. Thanks for this information, Sir Eric.
    I'm really shocked. I had no idea they did this.
    Explains why John and Joe voted against the church......on the residential issues. They knew the gig was up.

  3. If this arrogant, in your face Christianity reflects the ethics of the Cong church.....we want no part of it.
    Deceit, manipulation without regard to the best interests of the community in order to promote their so called outreach of the love of God? Give me a break!

  4. I'm bringing popcorn to that city council meeting. This could get good. Zimmerman is a former - and highly regarded - District Attorney. There is going to be fireworks!

  5. You know what is really outrageous here? The Cong Church
    built this building and none of those people we pay at City
    Hall even noticed. I mean, this was a big project. How in hell
    can it be that those people who hang around all day at City
    Hall didn't even notice this was going on? Don't we pay them
    to enforce city laws? This is just an embarrassment.

  6. If the Planning Commission was aware or unaware of what appears to be illegal construction, heads should roll!
    If this was the city of Pasadena, and the Cong Church was caught with it's construction pants down, the enlightened city of Pasadena would have them tear it down.
    As a hard working citizen of Sierra Madre, I'm outraged. Thanks for the info.

  7. If the building is not in compliance with Measure V requirements the Cong needs to make it comply. From the picture it appears to be below grade. Is it taller than 30 feet???? If so, time for the buzz saws.

  8. Can they be forced to turn it over to the city? It could
    help us with our low income housing number.

  9. leave it to Christians to believe that "their" God is above the law - I guess in the Christian world, the ends justify the means, be deceitful and misleading, aren't those Christian vows?

    tear the building down or maybe a $ 500K fine would be appropriate but we know the Christians are armed to the teeth with lawyers

    our residents get put through massive hoops, ignored by city hall and delay after delay for permits for a simple garage additions but developers are given the keys to the city

  10. Confirms "shadow government" at city hall - George of course they were "aware" - time for Bruce Inman to go.

  11. Hilarious when the weasel from the Congregational Church said at City Council it was just a housekeeping detail to wrap up.

  12. To Margie Simpson, Congregational Church Bully:
    Where is thy sting now?

  13. Fine 'em 'cause they don't pay taxes!

  14. Mayor Zimmerman:
    Just let us know when you need people to tear that building down!
    This is outrageous.

  15. I asked this question on another thread....
    What are the benefits to the city by the Cong Church compared to the liability?
    Seems they have caused nothing but grief.

  16. The Congregational Chuch is the Dorn Platz
    of religious organizations.

  17. BK,
    The Cong Church is associated with Dorn Platz or was associated with DP. They were strong advocates of putting a high school at One Carter. Dorn Platz associates ONYX was going to do contruction for the church if Measure V was defeated.
    The Congs also were strong No on V people.
    Gee, Congs, I guess since you couldn't defeat the people's Measure V, you decided to defy it????
    How about some of you research people coming up with the names of the contractors for this illegal building? I know I saw their architect greeting his pal Rob Stockly at the city council meeting.

  18. I don't see how they could have done
    this without inside help. How could
    this building have been built unless
    somebody (or bodies) were covering for
    them at City Hall?

  19. We need not worry, citizens.
    Mayor Zimmerman, MacGillivray and Watts will take care of this.
    The only ones who should be worrying are the people responsible for this building going up without permits and proper zoning codes.
    Again, must deal with Mayor Zimmerman, MaryAnn MacGillivray and Don Watts.
    Good luck, you'll need it.

  20. Shouldn't something like the FBI be called
    in here? This is like organized crime or
    something. Did money change hands? Were
    people paid off? Why would any city official
    sit quietly by and allow this to happen?

  21. Remember The Congs (luv that!) were a significant aspect of the Downtown Specific Plan. WHY WAS CITY HALL SO EAGER TO ALLOW THE CONGS (!) TO TAKE OVER SIERRA MADRE, DIMINISHING THE OTHER FEATURES OF THE TOWN INCLUDING THE OTHER CHURCHES. Sierra Madre would have been known primarily for Congs, and nothing else. They were hijacking the town's identity.

  22. Anon at 10:54
    You're right!
    It would be like the Crystal Catherdral.

  23. The Cong has had a long history of saying one thing and doing whatever they pleased. This mess goes back to 1996.

    According to the 1996 staff report to the Planning Commission, “the administration of the Congregational Church has considered these factors and intends to return the 4 sites to commercial use within five years.” They at that time estimated a 5-year accomplishment plan to fund AND CONSTRUCT (emphasis mine) their master plan. The Staff report summary stated "To work cohesively with the Sierra Madre Congregational Church yet protecting the future of the commercial zone, staff is supportive of the extension for two years." PC Resolution 96-05 Section 2 states that "the Planning Commission hereby approves the modification of Conditional Use Permit as conditioned: 1. The expansion of the church institutional use into the commercial zone is extended for two years to enable the Sierra Madre Congregational Church to fund and present a Master plan for expansion." Section 3: Article 5 application requires "use if permitted, will, as to location and operation, be consistent with the objectives of the General Plan." PC resolution response is that "sites will be returned to a commercial use upon expiration of the Church use on or prior to May 16, 1998.

    So what happened? BRANDLEY

  24. Sandra Levin!
    Take action against the Congs NOW!

  25. Poster roia?
    When the blood stops shooting from your eyes, might we expect a comment from you?
    And where is Sierra Madre business owner? Check in!!!!!

  26. There are cities that would require this building to be demolished. I think the term is scofflaw and these people are right up there.

    The main occasions when buildings built without approval are approved after the fact are 1) ignorance--they builder thought they had all the approvals they needed, etc. 2) some completely unreasonable conduct by the city--like over-reaching in the approval process, etc. Well, as described here, there was no application, therefore, nothing the city has done was unreasonable and they should just be praying that they don't end up paying the city's legal costs for having an order to remove this. And by the way, the institution zone affecting the Congregational Church was created in heavy consultation with them. They did not oppose the footprint described for them and KNEW that anything beyond that zone was going to have to be a GP amendment and specific approval of the zone change as well.

    These people are pathetic excuses for citizens.

  27. p.s. Because this building was built without proper approval, the city can and should red tag it immediately and cut it off from all services--sewer, utilities, etc. If red-tagged (because it was built without proper approval) it should be unable to be occupied until its demolition can be ordered.

  28. During the council discussion, someone on the council (I think it was Mr. Buchanan?) remarked that the applicant shouldn't be held responsible for this confusion- it was treated like some sort of unfortunate combination of unintentional errors. Doesn't sound very unintentional, given this history. I was puzzled about why that building was allowed to totally block the view of the mountains. Stand on the northeast corner of Hermosa and SM Blvd., and look north.
    We need to hear from our very smart and capable City Attorney.

  29. roia and Sierra Madre business owner:
    Thanks for checking in.
    As usual, you guys always make good sense.
    I hope Sandy Levin reads your comments.

  30. Several years ago somebody by the name of Tesoro published the Sierra Madre News. No idea what happened to him or it, but it was always packed full of detailed information.

    As I recall, there were some extensive articles in that paper that exposed the City Council, Congregational Church, the Simpsons and their use of RPSM to exploit and manipulate the people of Sierra Madre.

    All of the questions and comments posed above could surely be answered if someone had copies of those Sierra Madre News issues.


  31. Yeah, who from city hall was dancing in that CONGa line?

  32. The Congregational Church is a cult!
    Not a church....they are a government onto themselves....they do not comply to rules....again the CONGS are a CULT!!!!!
    They are a deviant enity, one we do not need in Sierra Madre.

  33. Tesoro published a great newspaper, the Sierra Madre News. The news stories were factual and very well researched. He was a real asset to the city. Bad guys were terrified of him. With revelations of all these sneaky goings-on, they had reason to be.
    Coincidentally, the dad of a good friend of Enid Joffe's - then-Arcadia Mayor Mickey Segal - tripped in front of one of Tesoro's properties and sued Tesoro for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The city paid out a bunch to Segal's dad, too.
    Coincidentally, of course...

  34. I've always wondered whether any of Susan Henderson's good friends in town advised her before and during her theft of the Mt. Wilson Observer? It would also be just coincidence, of course.

  35. Anonymous at 3:58 pm
    Was the Segal incident before or after Tesoro's expose of Enid?

  36. Ben, I have some copies of Salvatore's papers. I'll look for the relevant articles.

  37. It would have been AFTER, Frank. Coincidentally, of course...

  38. gonna say here and now and it is almost funny that this town is so full of spies and counter spies you can only look at the people with nothing to gain but the well being of the city to know who to trust and i put tesoro on the top of the trustworthy list

  39. Mayor Zimmerman!
    Red tag that Cong property!!!!!!!!!!
    The Congs are a cult. The other churches in town don't break the rules. Why should these Congs keep getting away with this. It's a disgrace.

  40. Again, I ask.
    How much money do these CONGS contribute to the City of Sierra Madre?
    How much do they COST the city of Sierra Madre?
    Seems to me, the city is the loser here, along with the residents.
    The Congs are very bad neighbors, in more ways than one.

  41. Old Kentucky;

    They do not contribute any property tax money. The only money they now contribute is the UUT tax. They are of no value, serve no purpose and are of no benefit to the city. They would not be missed if they left tonight.

  42. Thanks, Anonymous....
    this entire subject is so upsetting.....I'm going to the old Captain Feathersword and click on the video! We all need a good laugh about now.

  43. And all this took place pretty much RiGHT ACROSS THE STREET FROM CITY HALL, WOW!!! Don't ya feel just a little..ahh..umm... whats the word, oh ya like FOOLS!!! LOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!

  44. I'm gonna call it 28 feet 6 and 1 quarter inches. We should get a pool together on the actual height, money could purchase crow!

  45. In regards to the old Ripple Mortuary, now the infamous New Life Center:
    Has anyone ever mentioned the long history of mysterious sightings? And/or "goings on"?
    Is it time for another exorcism?

  46. I heard from a reliable source, that at 6:30 AM on Sat February 28th that a new High School is going to materialize at the 1 Carter property, make sure all the Maudlins get their early ,don't want to miss this one to.

  47. Anonymous at 10:42 am...
    I'm glad you found my comment so amusing, however, I was very serious.
    This property is haunted.
    I'm going to call Huell Howser and see if he wants to do a documentary on it.
    Sir Eric Maundry? If you are really interested in a very grave (pardon the pun) will investigate this matter.

  48. Better get to Ralph's early today. I'm predicting a big run on garlic.

  49. We need Enid Joffe, in her Centennial costume.(please wear your long dress and purple hat).
    Giving Huell Howser a tour of the haunted old Ripple property. From what we have been told, there are still plenty of strange goings on there, even in the New Life Center (new life for who)?
    It would be great TV, and Sierra Madre would get paid for filming.

  50. She could "trip" in front of it and sue the church! LOL LOL LOL

  51. Fifty-two comments in 2 days!

    Man, I love this city :)

  52. Ladies and gentlemen, meet my editor at the Sierra Madre Weekly, Mr. John Stephens. Gentleman, journalist, and now a Tattler poster.

  53. Howdy, John, welcome aboard!

  54. Why is Bill Peters working for the Weekly and the Mountain Views? Are you both a joint venture?

  55. This comment has been removed by the author.

  56. Sorry readers, I was trying to post and watch TV at the same time.
    Wanted to thank John Stephens again for coming on board the Tattler.
    I picked up a copy of the Weekly, and will continue to do so. You can always find a current copy on any news rack in town, unlike some of the other "papers".
    Check it out Tattler readers......Sir Eric is one of the columnists.
    I support all advertisers in the Weekly, including realtors.


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