Friday, January 20, 2012

Did YOU Pass the Ambiguity Test Last Night?

"So, to be clear, it's not really a proposed clarification City Staff is seeking from the Commission, but a rubber stamp for a novel - to put it politely - misinterpretation of Measure V." - Kurt Zimmerman

It was very nice to see a packed house down at the old City Council Boxing Chambers last night. Measure V, or at least the perceived threat to Measure V that was posed by what turned out to be a rather weak gambit from the dark forces of the Levinites (or is it the Colantuonians?) brought out an energized and highly informed crowd. One that not only spoke elegantly and with aplomb from the podium, but also hooted, laughed and groaned at all the most inappropriate times. I'm telling you, it was just such a joy to be a part of it all. I felt so much at home.

The Planning Commission had been tasked by somebody or other (nobody really seemed to know exactly who), with possibly altering a voter approved law through making changes to the meaning of the term "dwelling unit" in the applicable city code. Something that is clearly defined in Measure V.

Which might have seemed like an innocuous thing to some misinformed souls, but as visiting attorney and Measure V co-author Christopher Sutton pointed out, the California State Constitution does not smile happily upon those who would arbitrarily mess around with a law that had come into existence via the will of the voters. Which was the nicest way possible of saying somebody could very well sue the bejeezus out of this City if they screwed up and actually did what Danny Castro and the other City Attorney was asking them to do.

So you can see that the Planning Commission did have their hands full last night.

But look, what they had to do was hardly easy, either. The pressure coming down from City Staff and the Kensington people to change the definition of a dwelling unit and therefore allowing the developer to build their ALF with as many units and much density as they desire, was intense and quite real. And not only did they handle it all with a thoughtful grace, they also made the right decision. Something that doesn't always happen in this town. At least not lately.

But before we get to that, it is time for you to take the Tattler Ambiguity Test. It is very important that you do so. Below are the two definitions of a dwelling unit under discussion last night. One of them is the verbiage as approved by the voters who passed Measure V in 2007, and the other one was cooked up by a few of what Kurt Zimmerman refered to last night as "city insiders" looking to cut a break for a developer they seem to have fallen in hopelessly in love with.

So which one seems more ambiguous to you?

A) "Dwelling Unit" is defined as follows in a manner consistent with its 2006 definition in Sierra Madre Municipal Code Section 17.08.020: "Dwelling unit" means one or more rooms in a building designed and intended to be used as living quarters by one person or a family."

B) "Room(s) constitute a "dwelling unit" as defined in section 17.35.050 of the municipal code, if the room(s) (1) are only for one person or family: (2) are located in a single building; and include provisions for (3) living; (4) sleeping; (5) eating; (6) cooking: and (7) sanitation."

If you picked the Letter A then you agreed with the unanimous 7 to 0 decision of the Planning Commission on which definition is the best one on that all important dwelling unit question. A rather unmistakable message that was then sent on to the City Council for them to ponder upon. Which I guess means that the only ambiguity needing clarification now is what persons in the employ of the City (either salaried or contractual) actually thought anyone would buy into their pocket full of posies.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to the three City Council candidates who went to the podium and spoke out in their defense of Measure V despite the phone calls they got today from Elaine Aguilar. Those being (in alphabetical order because we have endorsed all of the candidates) Colin Broadrick, John Capoccia and John Harabedian. Your Tattler "Profiles In Courage" medallions with logo pendants and gold plated hoop chain are on the way. Wear them with pride.

After that all finally wrapped up Billy Shields from Poway stood high above the podium and delivered his pitch and PowerPoint presentation to the Planning Commission. This was done in hopes of having his dreams of building an Assisted Living Facility in just the way that he would prefer to do it fulfilled. That also being the most pack 'em in and profitable way as well, of course.

However, since the Planning Commission had just given their unambiguous blessing to some of the density restriction language of Measure V, which would effectively limit Billy to about a third of the units he desires to build at the regally monikered Kensington, I cannot see how he is going to gain very much traction on these matters. Unless he can somehow get the City Council to pull his chestnuts out the fire, he's kinda screwed.

One last thing before I do something I haven't done in weeks, which is to go to bed before midnight. I had parked my car on the far side of Memorial Park, so I needed to walk through it to get out of there. And as I walked past the east side of City Hall I couldn't help but notice that all the lights were on in Elaine Aguilar's office. And not only that, but seated right there at her desk was Elaine herself, staring most intently at her computer screen.

You know what? I think that instead of joining in with all the joy out in the Council Chambers like the rest of us kids, she was sitting there watching the meeting alone on her computer.

Hopefully she was happy with all that she had seen.


  1. Did one person get up and support the city staff's definition of a dwelling unit? One? Or was it the city staff and city attorney versus the residents?

    Now the Development Services suggestion for a new definition goes off to the council. What do you suppose will happen there?

  2. I don't think that the Planning Commission folks have seen a crowd like that ever. Did it have an effect on their decision? I think it did.

  3. The people of Sierra Madre are going to fight the unfair practices of those who blatantly support over development, lie and break laws in Sierra Madre.

  4. The group of logical people who care about this town, which is what the planning commission is, voted this thing down unanimously. Too bad the same cannot be said of the 3 members of the City Council responsible for pushing this garbage.

  5. Not so 5:05. The Planning Commission hearings on One Carter had overflow crowds, filling the lobby and on outside, where another TV was set up. Let's hope that a large turn-out is not a sign that the Commission's decision will again be ignored by the council!

  6. Speaking of logic, Earl Richey's remarks in public comment about no water should mean no development were pretty interesting.

  7. It will be ignored by Buchanan, Moran and Walsh. They are in the pocket of development and the Sacramento political machine.

    MaryAnn MacGillivray was in the audience last night, and heard all the public and PC comments. She has spoken out before on these issues, on the council, she didn't have to last night. MaryAnn always has the correct position on these important issues, contrary to the gang of 3.
    Nancy Walsh was in the audience most of the evening, she looked lonely and very uncomfortable.
    She should be ashamed of herself being a Doyle/Buchanan puppet.
    You're on the wrong side, Nancy.
    A couple of Susan Henderson pals were in the audience, but weren't about to get up and defend the indefensible.

    Susan and her "writers" will of course spin this as usual for their small gang of "readers".

  8. Everyone brave enough to speak last night was great.

    The top speakers:
    Former Mayor Kurt Zimmerman
    SMRRD attorney Chris Sutton
    Earl Richey (gotta love this guy)
    Kevin Paschall (PC chair)

  9. Earl's point is a good one. The city wants to fine people for using too much water because of the shortages, yet on the other hand they are going to extraordinary lengths to get massive new projects like the ALF in place. Which will use huge amounts of water.

    No contradictions there!

  10. The ALF will have a hard time conserving water the way you or I are supposed to. How does the city expect to work out exemptions?

    In the meanwhile each of us has to monitor our bimonthly water bill for errors as under charming in one period puts you over into tiers 2 and 3 the next and you get these little pennies of extra fees that add up for the city coffers.

  11. Oh think of the hidden costs to the residents of the ALF in the form of water fines and tier payments in their monthly upkeep bill.

    So, we are to believe that the units will not have any cooking apparatus! Another high end expense for these residents will be that of the full meal plan. Lots of food delivery trucks.

  12. The ALF will end up being just about the biggest water user in town. Is that why everyone else will have to pay fines? So the city's most beloved project can suck our wells dry? Whatever happened to putting Sierra Madre's needs first? Who pays the taxes around here? Most people working in city hall don't even live here.

  13. Too bad the meeting had to end at 11:00 pm

    There were several people in the audience who had been taking notes and were anxious to speak after the developers gave their pitch.

    Next meeting should be fun.
    Look for more public comment.

  14. I am strongly in favor of an ALF because my 88 year old parent needs such a place in Sierra Madre. Our need is so great that I would vote in favor of an ALF that skirted many petty Planning rules.
    However when the management of a proposed ALF displays such brazen deceit in their planning application, I can't trust them with the care of a vulnerable parent.Their dishonesty and greed tells you all you need to know about placing a parent in any Kensington ALF.
    I sincerely hope that an honest ALF developer steps in to replace Kensington.I really need such a facility in Sierra Madre.But not a dishonest,deceitful one.

  15. Of course in the "assisted" part of the facility people will be preparing food. C'mon, go to any of the numerous facilities in the SG Valley to see that. The 'memory' unit is something different, and more dangerous to the inhabitants as well as everyone else. But the assisted part is really just downsizing space and chores, and upsizing help.

  16. We're in favor of a good project on that property.
    We're not in favor of anything that will negate Measure V.
    That's what this is all about.
    Slick trick, Doyle, it's not going to work this time around.
    We'll occupy City Hall before you pull this crap on us, again.

  17. I wonder why the people at city hall, or stretch from the Kensington for that matter, think they can fool the people of Sierra Madre? We always see through the BS. Every single time.

  18. This community is not the only one concerned with excess development consuming existing and dwindling water supplies.

    There's a citizen lawsuit in LA that intends to stop all development until the city can prove that it has the water, power and infrastructure able to handle the growth.

    Link above.

  19. Earl Richey did bring up a most interesting and very timely, relevant point about water. If the city council is going to continue to threaten the residents with fines for over usage of water, then how can they support this ALF development with straight faces? Methinks they speak with forked tongues...

  20. Half a million dollars in development fees! But you get something for those fees... You get a city worker paid who performs duties for which those fees are assessed. The money goes out right away... no big windfall for the city as I understand it.

  21. What a headache this town presents us with time and time again.

  22. The only thing city hall understands is lawyers. Fr them that is real power.

  23. I think if the City Council gang of Moran, Walsh and Buchanan approve this project and not allow us to vote......

    We should all team up in a huge OCCUPY protest of City Hall.
    The Tea Party people and the Occupy people, get together and protest this facsist government who wishes to take away our rights for their own personal gains.

  24. Tea Party people and Occupy people need to work together. At least in this town their aims are very similar.

  25. Too bad the queen didn't have a copyright on the name of her palace so quasi overly phony-named projects would be forced into common language names that they deserve.

  26. After watching last night's show, both on the language clarification requested by "staff" of the definition of dwelling unit and the presentation by the ALF developer, I am convinced that this project, in its current iteration, is inappropriate for this town. Aside from the glaring fact that the developer is indeed doing everything in his power to skirt around a public vote (i.e., circumvent the law), lying and misrepresenting as the process unfolds to protect his company's potential investment, the sheer magnitude, and the significant increase in density, is exactly what we the residents were objecting to when we pursued passage of Measure V in the first place. As I have said before, I will never vote in favor of this project now because of the slick ease with which the developer has attempted to illegaly exclude the residents from the final decision on its approval, aided by the G3 and city staff such as Elaine Aguilar and Danny Castro and our so-called city attorneys, Coluantano & Levin, despite Measure V requirement for a resident vote on this project. The developer wants a general plan amendment, a municipal code amendment, a special overlay zone, extremely relaxed parking requirements, and, of course, a by on the public vote mandated by Measure V. Maybe an Assisted Living Facility would be a good thing to bring to Sierra Madre, but the developer needs to do so by adhering to existing building/zoning/general plan regulations or take a long walk off of a short pier.

  27. If the developers of this ALF had put the project, even as flawed as it is right now, to a public vote, it probably would have passed, as most residents are not closely involved in politics. So this is an indication of how they do business, and I agree with 8:40 that they have proven themselves to be too mercenary for anybody's good.

  28. What an amazing show of force. The highlight for me was listening to the legal trio, Sutton, Zimmy, and Harbs, go at it. Very well done.

  29. 8:59, yes!
    Not Tea, not Occupy, but Local.

  30. That would be a great story for the press: people in Sierra Madre work to preserve their community, no matter what their national party politics are.

  31. Someone has convinced the Fountain Square Development folks that letting the Kensington Project go to a vote is to be avoided at all costs. I believe that the "all costs" is a huge retainer to a certain local lawyer who has insinuated himself into a situation with false witness.

    Billy Shields, if you are reading, demand that your project go to a vote. You'll do more for your stature as an honest businessman than continuing to be manipulated by the Buchanan triumverate attempting to make a name for themselves.

    Mr. Shields, trust the voters of Sierra Madre to do the right thing.

  32. John, please let Sir Maundry know that both definitions apply , and meant to cover the dfferent types of dwellngs, includng hotels, hostels, homeless shelters, drug rehab shelters with over night sleeping rooms, bordellos, etc.
    If the people want to allow it by G-d they have the right to vote for it in the DSP area per measure V.

  33. Do you think the G3, the CM, and the Development Services staff were prepared for the onslaught of lawyers, logic, and resistance that this barefaced attack on Measure V produced?

    I would point out that some City Council candidates ignored the not so suble intimidation attempted by the Dark Side. Good on you Colin Brauderick, John Capoccia, and John Harabedian.

    And all the others who put their reputations to the test by standing up against "ambiguity" and manipulatio regardless of their personal proclivities.

    Thank you to everyone.

  34. I just heard from city hall. They are now pushing the idea that the entire City of Sierra Madre is now 1 single unit and they are going to zone for the building of the Tower of Babel.

    Or, in their case, Babble.

  35. Unfortuntely, the water "problem" we are having will be next to impossible to back out of, we are already drawing down the water table. We are already over built, where demand has outstripped the limits of replenishment. ALL building permits requiring additional water meters should be based upon our available supply limitations.
    Unfortunately, our sitting Council refuses to pull it's head out of the sand to see it.

  36. Bruce has plenty of water, and he can show you the paperwork anytime you ask.

  37. Wouldn't the Kensington only require one water meter? The individual cells won't require individual water meters.

  38. What I found amazing was the big pretense that redefining "dwelling unit" had nothing to do with the ALF.
    They were kidding, right?

  39. Look for another closed session this time with the City Council before they tackle "dwelling unit" and how to break Measure V to allow the Kensington Project to go ahead without a vote.

  40. Don - Sir Eric is a tabloid news reporter. He writes more for effect and is no slave to detail.

  41. Where was the Star-News last night? Isn't our little village important enough to cover? Brenda, we need you back.

  42. The issue is not the Alfington, it is avoiding the first ever Measure V vote. Moran and Buchanan hate Measure V, and will do whatever it takes to stop a vote.

  43. The Alfington! That's the right name.

    My biggest question is who engineered this assault on Measure V? And I don't mean who carried it out, but who contacted Development Services and said, "This is the way you get around it," or contacted the city attorney and said, "This is what you have to figure out."

  44. The big money that Buchanan dances to wants Measure V gone. The BIA, the Realtor groups, all the usual suspects. My question - does Billy Shields know that his project is being used to settle a grudge? And if so, what is in it for him?

  45. Quick and fleeting reference last night to the former Skilled Nursing Facility/Sierra Madre Community Hospital as blight (therefore we need this phoney Craftsman ALF which is nothing more than an expensive hotel with unskilled in nursing services waitpersons).

    Well no, it is not "blight." It is an empty building, for sale, that the city did not have the will to apply its laws to prevent the decay of abandonment.

    Why was the former Java Cafe not called blight--it stayed unused and dusty, carpeted in yellowing flyers/junk mail shoved through the mail slot and it just now taking up shape as something new.

    There has been a time line of efforts to do something, anything, with the old hospital site but for the shame of the city not enforcing any abandonment laws it would never have looked so rag tag.

    I for one, remember doctor's appointments there, visiting recuperating friends and long term cared for relative there (my father) and helping a weary woman looking for the battered woman's shelter as she wandered eastward from the B of A bus stop.

    The city has caused this "blight" and if the citizens are tired of the scrap heap look they still must not let this ALF fraud run over our town.

  46. ALFington! With this high level of SierraMadreTattler readership cleaverness we can and will defeat this monster!

  47. Who thinks the City Council will over turn the Planning Commission?
    I think the vote will be 3 to 1.
    Buchanan will say, "the modified definition will be easier to understand and make Danny's job much easier."
    Moran will say, " Gee I didn't know I am breaking the law by renting out the up stairs."
    Walsh when nudged, will wake up and say, "I concur."

  48. I can not believe that the Development Director might turn down a 4 bedroom single family home because it is now four dwelling units. Come on Danny, don't be their puppet.

  49. Thank you all who showed up last night, especially those who spoke. Be prepared to attend the City Council meeting when this "definition" is discussed. A huge thank you goes to our unintimidated Council candidates who spoke: Braudrick, Capoccia, and Harabedian. This year's City Council election is shaping up to be one of facts, with excellent candidates running. Can we recall Walsh after the election?

  50. I say recall Nancy and Josh. If for no other reason than they are a waste of our oxygen.

  51. Everybody in city hall, including the lawyers, is hired and can be fired by the council. Where do you think their loyalties will lie?


  53. I like that, 11:52. Would that make an interesting little ballot initiative for the November ballot ...

  54. Check out the wood siding, shingle, and rather mundane design of the proposed ALF on the project proposal.

    It would become the most "nothing" structure on Sierra Madre Blvd. Why would Kensington not put a "Craftsman touch" or a "Mediteranean Villa" look to improve our downtown ambiance, or why would our savy Council not set a higher standard?

  55. Did anyone see Bill Coburn there last night? I didn't. I wonder if he was given orders to not cover the story.

    I just checked his site. There's no story about last night's meeting ... There's no Eugene Goss candidate page, either!

  56. Rooster only covers the stories his masters tell him to cover.

  57. I can never figure out what is in it for Rooster. Free rent? It is not like he is getting rich.

  58. There is a term I've heard being used for the kind of stuff our development services people are pushing. "Stack and pack."

    We don't need any stack and pack development in Sierra Madre. Those who push for it should just pack.

  59. Gene Goss emerges! Article that says absolutely nothing about what Gene would want to do should he get elected to the City Council is up on Rooster's site.

  60. 1:24 I think that Coburn is in much the same position as city staff, in that his income is heavily impacted by how he interacts with city hall.

  61. It doesn't say absolutely nothing 2:45. Mr. Goss is for preserving Sierra Madre.

    Maybe that sentence should be outlawed in local elections, because no one who has run for that last twenty years has said anything but "I want to preserve Sierra Madre."

  62. Yes, every candidate is required to say that they are for preserving Sierra Madre.

    Unfortunately some of them ended up wanting to do that with cement.

  63. Paving over all existing open space will seal in the vital nutrients we need to preserve Sierra Madre.

  64. He might be our Chauncey Gardner candidate.

  65. Earl Richey!
    You da man!!!!!!

    No building permits until we get a fair water rate shake.

    Especially no ALF. That phony project will be a disaster to Sierra Madre that we have never dreamed of.

    Stay tuned Sierra Madre.
    No one got to challenge that fallacious presentation by Sheilds and the other crew.
    Everything he says is a lie and can and will be exposed and contested.

  66. I believe Richey's slogan was:

    If the water doesn't flow, we vote no

  67. Absolutely vote down the UUT tax hike.
    These crooks have been lying to us for years about this.
    Now that the CRA is gone, they are needing more of our tax dollars to support fraudulent development plans like the ALF. that will absolutely destroy our city.
    This is nothing more than a "hotel"
    There will be no medical professionals on duty, just hotel workers, and the minimum cost to the unfortunate seniors who get sucked into this will exceed six thousand a month. You won't believe the hidden charges.
    Please Sierra Madre seniors and families of seniors, don't put your loved ones in these "assisted living facilities" all they will assist you with is picking your pocket and then using up our city resources, paramedics, fire dept. police and local doctors.
    Skilled nursing is much safer.
    At least you can have an RN or LVN on the premises at all times.
    This ALF will not.
    Another disaster will be Sierra Madre Blvd won't be passable for 18 months, minimum.
    This is a horrible plan.

  68. The Alfington would be a drain on our city's limited water supplies. The SNF needs to be torn down and replaced with a skateboard park. Sierra Madre's teenagers are the most underserved portion of our community.

  69. Here is my question about the whole ALF thing. Let's say you are 80 years old, and you have enough equity in this world to buy you a 5 year stay at an Assisted Living Facility. One day you wake up to discover you are 85 and all your money is gone. What happens to you then? Do they let you stay, or just push you out into the street?

  70. You'll be pushed out in the street, your family will have to put you on medical and you'll be put in a SNF somewhere, if you're lucky.

  71. So an ALF just basically sucks all the equity out of old and helpless people, and once the money is gone they kick them out the back door. That's special.

  72. If you figure 6 grand a month minimum, it's going to eat up over $70,000 a year of your money.
    How long can you and your family pay that?

    Most seniors in Sierra Madre who need a little help, stay in their own homes, they hire caregivers/ housekeepers, visiting nurse, if needed. They don't need to be in a SNF and they sure as hell don't need to be in an ALF.
    Senors in good health are no way going to pay 6 grand a month to stay in a crappy hotel room cleverly disguised as a ALF.
    Damn it, anyway, protest this.
    You thought One Carter/Maranantha was a bad deal?
    This is the DSP on steroids.
    Wake up, Sierra Madre.
    Demand the gang of 3 reject this.
    Occupy City Hall if need be.
    They are terrified of an informed and angry public, that isn't going to buy into this crap anymore.

  73. We're not buying into B.S. (Billy Sheilds)'s BS.

    Your project will drain Sierra Madre dry.

    If Buchanan, Moran, Walsh overturn the PC.

    We need to OCCUPY City Hall.
    All patriots who cares about Sierra Madre is welcome. The Occupy Wallstreeters, the Occupy LA gang and the all the Tea Party patriots.
    We're all in opposition to crooked government control and loss of our rights.

    Occupy Sierra Madre City Hall if they take away our right to vote.

  74. Now, who is REALLY going to live in this dump? Seriously, it is sounding more and more scarry for those we cherish the most.

  75. 6:56, a reputable care facility will do an analysis of a person's income and health before "admitting" him or her - and once they are admitted, guarantee them care for life. Yes, even if the money runs out. There are also organizations that accept low to no income residents, again, for life. The Alfington so far does not look like that kind of facility.


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