Nope. Instead we're going to have a neighborhood meeting. Just a bunch of us folks getting together to enjoy the company of their fellow citizens. All while City Hall explains how once again we are fortunate to have them working as hard as they do. The warm glowing heart at the center of our lives, and really, the only opinions that truly matter. Please, listen and learn. And who knows, maybe there will be pizza.
I need to level here. Nothing raises my suspicions as much as nice people. You just can't trust them. Car salesmen are nice. So are bank loan officers. The folks down at Human Resources are nice, even when they're handing you some walking papers. Aluminum siding salesmen are regular princes. So are life insurance agents. The guy that wanted to unload a time share on me a decade or so back? Very nice, actually. At least until he figured out that I wasn't going for it. The Navy recruiter who signed me up for 4 of the longest years of my life was extremely nice as well.
But the guy who drove past the recruiting station and screamed out, "Don't do it, you %#@*&$ idiot!" was not nice at all. His advice turned out to be rather sound, though. Or so I was to feel a few weeks later.
Yesterday's weekly e-mail blast from The City contained this momentous news:
Neighborhood Meeting Regarding A Proposed Senior Assisted Living Facility - A neighborhood meeting to receive public input for a proposed senior assisted living facility will be held on Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at the Sierra Madre Recreation Center (Sierra Madre Room) located at 611 E. Sierra Madre Blvd. The proposed project site is a 1.84 acre property located (at) 245 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., at (the) northwest corner of Sierra Madre Boulevard and Hermosa Avenue (across the street from City Hall). The new facility will include a 58,000 square foot, two-story building that can accommodate up to 96 residents.
Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. at which time members of the public are invited to view the proposed plans and talk with representatives of the developer and city staff. A presentation on the proposed project will begin at 7:15 p.m. when an overview and description of the project will be provided. City staff will also outline the public hearing and environmental review processes for future additional public input.
All such niceness aside, receiving public input is required by state law in such instances, so I am not certain that the use of the word "invited" is totally in tune with what is being described here. The City is doing this meeting because they have to, and not because they wish to put in a lot of extra time and effort just so they can hear residents bad mouth their months of effort on this project.
As anyone who reads this news site is aware, the Skilled Nursing Facility has been a source of great contention in this little town of ours for a long time. Bought by developers who hoped to make a quick killing building condos back when local real estate hucksters and con artists were pushing the Downtown Specific Plan, it was later allowed to sit in a state of radical disrepair when those dreams of mixed-use multi-story glory were not realized. Much finger pointing and blame assigning was done over this mess, with (rather ironically) allies of the negligent SNF developer actually claiming that the responsibility lay with those who had fought for and won a voter initiative designed to keep Sierra Madre from being turned into a kind of Rancho Cucamonga West. Rather than the bum himself.
That said, I suspect the premise behind the City's public relations approach to this project is that we are supposed to be filled with delight. That after all this time, and through so many false starts, something is finally going to happen. And who knows, maybe this really is something to be happy about, and that the infamous eyesore on Sierra Madre Boulevard is finally going to become something we can all be proud of again.
But here is a question. Where is all the information about this project? There was a City Council presentation from the developer last March, but precious little since. Can it be that the only current data the public will receive about this "Senior Assisted Living Facility (SALF?)" is to be given out just before they're supposed to deliver their "input?" Moments after they've had their nice chat with the developer and helpful city staff? With that being the only stuff they will be able to draw upon for their input?
I'm sorry, but unless something is given to the residents of this town to study and talk over before this meeting takes place, what the City is talking about here is actually public relations and marketing. An orchestrated effort to create and promote the illusion of community support. And as such a conscious attempt to circumvent any potential community opposition to what for almost everyone in town is now an entirely unknown entity.
So, and with not a whole lot to draw upon outside of some previous disappointing experiences and an innate boundless skepticism, here are some questions that I believe need to be considered for the September 7th confab:
1) There will be beautiful renderings of the building revealed at this meeting, but will they be accurate visual depictions of just how large these structures will be? Will they be shown in comparison to other buildings in town, or stand alone without any references to judge their size by?
2) Will the drawings be in full color contrasts, muted tints, or plain black & white? B&W drawings only offer an unsatisfactory two-dimensional impression of a structure's size. If these drawings are not in vibrant 3-D appearing colors, then it must be assumed that they are hiding something.
3) Where will everyone park? A facility housing 96 invalids will require a lot of staff to help them through their days. Where will they put all of their cars? And please, no talk of buses. Nobody but the most die hard public transportation advocates take the bus to Sierra Madre. You either drive or you don't come here. Life is much too short for that.
4) How will having so large a facility in town affect traffic?
5) Is this going to be a LEED certified building? Will it be sustainable? Will it be built using green materials and standards? Will it have solar panels?
6) Will the developer be asking for fee breaks? Will the developer attempt to convince us that what he is doing is an act of beneficence, and therefore the taxpayers need to pick up the tab for his licenses and fees? Kind of like with the wine tasting room?
7) Will there be deed restrictions on the property so that it can only be used as a nursing facility? So that if this business goes belly up in a couple of years, the building won't be turned into condos?
8) Have the developers received state approval for their plans? These can take as long as 15 months.
9) How affordable will this facility be? Is it for low income people, or is it something that only the wealthiest will be able to afford? Only the first 90 days of such a stay are paid for by Medicare, but after that all costs fall upon the families. How will this facility treat its indigent patients?
10) What will the impact be on Sierra Madre's tight water supply?
11) Will there be a storm water capture on this lot? I asked someone about the concept of a storm water capture and why that is important. Here is the e-mail I received in reply:
The SNF site is about 2 acres. Average rain fall is 22.04 inches per year, or around 2 feet. An acre foot of water is the amount of water needed to cover one acre in one foot of water. An acre foot of water equals 325,851 gallons. The average suburban family with a lawn uses 0.3 acre foot/year.
In an average year 2 acre feet of rain will fall on the SNF site. This equates to 651,702 gallons of water. Will the new facility have a storm water capture system to keep all of this valuable water from going straight into the storm sewers? This water should be captured and used on the property. Many cities require new developments to have systems to capture storm water? Does Sierra Madre even have such a program?
12) Will the City require a permeable covering on the parking lot?
So that is a start. Real questions rather than just bubbly niceness. Which, if you think about it, isn't really niceness at all. That is, unless you believe that subservience is a virtue.
The East Montecito Meeting
Last night the following comment was posted on this site:
Elaine Aguilar showed up at the meeting and her exact words were, "there is a very strong possibility of a homeless shelter on East Montecito." Once again it looks like the City has made up its mind.
So much for the City listening to the desires of a community, and taking its guidance. And was Elaine even supposed to be there? We will have a lot more to say about this tomorrow.