Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This Thursday Evening City Hall Will Attempt to Take Away Your Right to Vote on Downtown Development

"The definitions in Measure V are the definitions that existed in 2006, and the Council cannot change them. To change them it would have to go back to the voters." - Former Sierra Madre City Councilman Lee Cline

You really do have to feel sorry for Danny Castro. Many people have jobs where they are forced to do things they know are wrong, and Danny, Sierra Madre's very own Development Services Director, appears to be in that unfortunate situation. Anyone who watched him in action during the Canyon Zoning dust up can plainly see that he is deeply concerned about the unique character of this community. But now, thanks to Mayor John Buchanan and Mayor Pro Tem Josh Moran, Danny has been forced to put his name to one of the worst and most dishonest documents this City has ever produced. I can't see him being happy about that.

Thursday evening the City of Sierra Madre will attempt to change the meaning of the term "dwelling unit," something that was established by a direct vote of the residents of Sierra Madre in 2007. Measure V, which is a voter approved law that empowers the residents to decide through their votes exactly how our downtown is to look, includes a very clear and unmistakable definition of what a "dwelling unit" might be. This is how that definition reads:

"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."

Measure V, which upon approval by the voters of Sierra Madre became known as the Voter's Empowerment Ordinance, can be seen in full by clicking here. And as I said, this all became the law of this town through a direct vote of the people of Sierra Madre. Which in a real democracy is about to be as close to being sacred as things can get in government.

The stakes here are high for anyone who cares about democracy in Sierra Madre. Mayor Buchanan and Mayor Pro Tem Moran, backed up by Colantuono & Levin, the law firm that we the taxpayers pay $250,000 a year to work against our interests, want to take away our rights to vote on downtown development. And the way they plan on doing this is to change the legal definition of "dwelling unit." In spite of the wishes of the voters of Sierra Madre.

Below is how the "Executive Summary" of this dishonest document ("Clarification of Ambiguity of Term "Dwelling Unit") describes the intentions at work here. Which is to change a voter approved law while denying the voters any say-so in the process.

Whenever there is an ambiguity in the proper interpretation of city's (sic) zoning regulations, the Municipal Code requires the Planning Commission to "recommend to the city council the appropriate clarification of such ambiguity." How the term "dwelling unit" should be interpreted is ambiguous.

Of course, anyone reading the actual voter approved definition can see that there is no ambiguity whatsoever. "A dwelling unit means one or more rooms in a building designed and intended to be used as living quarters by one person or family." What could possibly be clearer? It is almost as if the City wishes you to believe that words have no meaning and only say whatever it is they themselves wish them to say.

Obviously we are entering George Orwell territory here. An impression that becomes even stronger as you read further.

Staff has prepared a Clarification of Ambiguity ("Clarification") for the Planning Commission to consider. If ultimately approved by the City Council, the Clarification would be used for all current and future projects where the term "dwelling unit" is at issue. The Clarification is intended to interpret the term "dwelling unit" in a manner to ensure consistency with all other provisions in the General Plan and Municipal Code (which necessarily include Measure V.)

What this so-called "Clarification" is actually intended to do is to morph the meaning of "dwelling unit" into something that a large and very interested development corporation would be able to work with. In other words, the intent here is to subvert a voter approved law without consulting the voters, and for the private financial benefit of an outside party. A change the City has somehow concluded it has the right to make by fiat.

The project in question, the "Assisted Living Facility," or ALF, is to be built on the site of the old Skilled Nursing Facility on Sierra Madre Boulevard. Measure V permits the building of 13 dwelling units per acre, which is a problem for this specific developer since the ALF would contain about three times as many units per acre if it is built now planned. As things now stand, in order to gain proper legal approval for this project the ALF project would need to be put to a vote of the people. Something that, for whatever reason, City Hall refuses to do.

This is how the City's "clarification" of the legal definition of the term "dwelling unit" would read:

"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."

One definition suddenly becomes seven. So much for clarification. And how do they justify this contorted hodgepodge of concessions to the needs of the developer that wants to build an out of compliance structure on the old SNF site without a public vote? They do things like quote from old building codes and things that have not had any real validity in decades. In other words, it is gibberish that might sound legalistic, but is in no way legal. It is the building code equivalent of apocrypha.

I don't know how the members of the Planning Commission feel about being asked to change a voter approved law by fiat, and in the process robbing the citizens of Sierra Madre of their right to vote on downtown development. But no matter what, it doesn't have all that much to do with "clarification" anyway since the City in its Staff Report has already dictated what that is. Rather they are being traduced into rubber stamping an edict designed to suit the needs of not only a specific developer, but also a very specific project. Which is about as brutal an abuse of established law as can possibly be imagined.

Should this so-called "clarification" go through it would mean that the voters will have their right to approve how our downtown would look taken away from them. By changing this Measure V amended Code from 13 units per acre to as many as the developer feels like, which is what this change would do, an election could no longer be triggered. In effect that right would have been wrenched from the voters and turned over to Mayor Buchanan and Mayor Pro Tem Moran, who would then be able to peddle the privilege to the highest bidder. A reactionary legal coup designed to rob the taxpayers of their rights, and all for the private benefit and enrichment of development corporations, realtors, corporate utilities and home loan companies.

Kind of the way business is done in a Banana Republic. With the spoils going to the friends and associates of El Exigente.

This change in the term "Dwelling Unit" would also precede similar amendments to the General Plan. And once the "clarification" is in place it would allow the ALF project to move forward without a vote.

The irony here is that should this ALF be put on the ballot in a City of Sierra Madre sanctioned election, it would pass in a walk. I wouldn't be surprised if it garnered 80% of the vote. But that is hardly the point for City Hall. Through their actions the City wants to do away with the voter empowerment aspects of Measure V. They want to undo what was created by a vote of the people. They are horrified by the prospect of you having a vote in these matters, and they want to take that away, and in about as dishonorable a way as possible.

I don't imagine that the volunteers of the Planning Commission feels all that good about being forced to perform this very dirty work. It certainly can't be what they volunteered for when they first signed up for the gig.

To read the City's "clarification" Staff Report in full you can go to the Chris Koerber for City Council site by clicking here. It is not available on the City of Sierra Madre site.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

76 comments:

  1. Wow! The G3 must think people are stupid! How is it that the "dwelling unit" definition was ambiguous? Maybe because it didn't include the specificity that the ALF and Billy Shields wanted? This is Mr. Buchanan's last stand against the community and it's stand against development. STOP THIS RIGHT NOW! If any reader thinks that this will only stop at the ALF, s/he is sorely mistaken! DO NOT LET THIS GO THROUGH! It is a slippery slope my friends. A VERY slippery slope!

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  2. Buchanan isn't a Mayor, he's a syndicate boss.

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  3. Staff provides no basis why it picked the definition "dwelling unit" from the 2001 Building Code. None

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  4. Surely this is illegal. even though it was put together by someone from the firm of Colantuono and Levin. Surely it is illegal! You can't change the terms after the law has passed.

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  5. Josh Moran for changes to Measure V
    http://www.youtube.com/neuroblastfilms#p/f/22/UIfB-9tQ4oY

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  6. Nancy Wassh for changes to Measure V
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wq0BxwlpIp0

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  7. Dirty Trick by Opponents of Measure V
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qoLCJS96aU

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  8. Josh Moran (for the realtors in town) vs. Mountain Views Observer
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhUX3Eat_Hs&

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  9. Neuroblast Films has a memory like an elephant.

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  10. You certainly can't beat the city's timing on this. Right in the middle of the week that the list of City Council candidates would be confirmed. I guess they thought people would be so caught up on that nobody would notice their vote robbing.

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  11. Posters have been predicting this for months, along with Crawford.
    It was obvious this ALF project's real purpose was/is to negate Measure V.
    Measure V is a good law. It protects our city from preditor development and it saved our property values during this recession.
    We know Buchanan, Moran, Walsh, Mosca and all the Bart Doyle gang who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat Measure V, are determined to get rid of Measure V, they can do it by this latest and most horrible plan.
    If the residents don't fight, they will lose their rights to vote, they will lose their stable property values, and they will lose the character of this town.
    It's up to you, Sierra Madre voters.
    If you think time running out, you are right.
    The Doyle gang will put up "Mosca" traitors as candidates , who will fool you into voting for them. Use your common sense. It's easy to see without looking too far (Neuroblast video's tell you the truth).
    Sometimes the truth is disruptive.
    However, wouldn't you rather know the TRUTH, than to be "programmed" by people like Buchanan and co, into believing their lies?

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  12. You are right 10:41, BUT the G3 also thinks we don't care enough...once again I urge YOU to attend the meeting Thursday evening. YOU can stop it, but the few of us who keep fighting for you get ignored, because "it's only (insert name here) AGAIN."

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  13. 7:04 Your hit the button!Not only have they attacked measure V,lied to us regarding water rates(rusty pipes)fibbing about the reasons for raising the UUT to an outrageous 12%and placing stealth candidates on the ballot!Neighbors,if you wish to preview Sierra Madre of the future, if they succeed,cruise through the Valley and gaze at the new super urbanized and over developed to be ghettos that lace the landscape!

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  14. Beware the red herring. Note also that the plan calls for a Specific Plan Overlay Zone so the the zoning of the two lots that comprise this project do not have to change from Commercial and
    R-3. And if this overlay zoning works here, well, it should work just about anywhere in town.

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  15. The Banana Republicans know that it will take a ton of money to fight this. They have unlimited resources because they have access to out tax money. They can pay C and L all the blood money they want. In order to save our town from the wrecking ball we have to fund our legal team out of our pockets. This is how corruption works. Our taxes used against what they people of this town showed they wanted during the General Plan Update outreach meetings. And that is for Sierra Madre to remain as it is.

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  16. Buchanan is a Democrat
    Mosca a Democrat
    Walsh is a Democrat
    Moran is a Democrat

    This is a Democratic party.
    have lots of fun....

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  17. I love this part:
    "the Municipal Code requires the Planning Commission to "recommend to the city council the appropriate clarification of such ambiguity."
    It's the code that made them do it!

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  18. Chicanery, pure and simple. Chicanery by scoundrels.

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  19. Poor Danny. The things he must to do to hold on to his job. I hope he enjoys a drink or two in the evening.

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  20. " . . . Municipal Code requires the Planning Commission to "recommend to the city council the appropriate clarification of such ambiguity."

    Doesn't this mean the Planning Commission can disapprove Buchanan's "clarification"?

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  21. There is no doubt that the Democratic Party in Los Angeles County is thoroughly corrupt. And I am certain that if there was a Republican Party here it would be corrupt as well.

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  22. 7:56, it is not a political party issue.

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  23. The Planning Commission can refuse to do Buchanan's dirty work for him. Which means if he wants to steal our vote he will have to do it himself.

    He is using the Planning Commission as human shields.

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  24. I'm actually looking forward to seeing how city hall keeps a straight face while presenting this garbage.

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  25. Danny's presentation should be filmed with laugh track included.

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  26. Aren't they breaking the law?

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  27. On Buchanan and Moran's minds the law belongs to those with the lawyers. There is no overarching legal authority in Los Angeles County that will step in to stop them. This kind of corruption is completely in line with how business is done in this part of the country.

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  28. The only way to put a stop to this, is to have an attorney file an injunction.
    If the people's will is not present to fight this, expect your neighborhood to be rezoned for multi-family development eventually.
    History shows this behavior has happened in the past, it's a promise it will happen here as well. Just drive down Rosmeade Blvd. as an illustration.

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  29. If the Planning Commission stands up to this, they will be hailed as heros in town.
    If not, they should seriously consider moving elsewhere, they will be seen as enablers of Buchanan and Moran.

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  30. "The law belongs to those with the lawyers." In this case paid for out of our tax money. Anybody feel like voting yes on the UUT anymore?

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  31. I bet 10 to 1, the Planning Commission does not have the cahonies to protect the town from this obviously illegal act, and they will not support Measure V.

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  32. 8:21, are you trying to goad them into it? I get the feeling you've never followed a planning commission meeting. The commissioners will adhere to the law. They will not be swayed by adolescent slurs on a blog.

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  33. The only problem with the Sierra Madre Planning Commission is that the council can override them.
    I just wish the PC had more power.

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  34. Danny is not so innocent, puppet yes but very much part of the process.

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  35. This chicanery will only stop when the people of this town throw out all the current anti-democratic thugs from office and elect honest citizens.
    Be prepared to dig deep into your pockets, and support those candidates you can trust.
    (Not more Moscas.)

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  36. Right you are 8:37. And while we're digging in our pockets to support honest people with integrity, we might have to dig a little deeper to defend our laws with legal action.
    Jeez it costs a lot to live here.

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  37. 8:21 you are right on the first count, but wrong on the second.

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  38. This is status quo for the City of Sierra Madre. It is run by a corrupt City Manager, controlled by a bunch of Minions, directed by a Troll.

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  39. The mind set of the C3, is they are always right, so everyone else is wrong.
    They are hypocrits.

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  40. The part I just cannot understand is why city hall went this route.

    Why not just have planned all along to put it to a public vote?

    Why cause all this bad stuff when the project would have been so welcome? Really baffling.

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  41. 8:42 this not just about the ALF, it'a also about putting in a homeless shelter and drug rehab centers in town. They must destroy Measure V so these other facilities can be put in without voter's approval.
    It's in the works.

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  42. The residents of this city need to stand up to this and write letters to the Planning Commission telling them they've got their back.

    The reason the CC folk are trying to nullify Measure V is because it's not considered a good planning methodology as civic governance goes, with the element of direct democracy applied to all projects within a bounded area. Probably some big Sacramento players are behind this (via C&L) because if it goes unchallenged, it sets a precedent that could be adopted by other cities that would effectively shut down development. At any larger scale of implementation (a city the size of Pasadena, for example) it would be completely unmanageable.

    Sierra Madre has taken a unique action in its own self-defense of small-town community character,and will have to vigorously defend the rights of its citizens to have a direct say in development. This is because any small city is disproportionately affected by development, and it's a different problem than you'll see in cities with populations over 20,000.

    There are many small cities that might take advantage of this kind of legal structure. Lots of them currently use historic preservation ordinances to achieve the same end, or will not elect people who are pro-development to City Council.

    In the San Gabriel Valley, there's been a huge regional push for more development, which is why the pressure is on (SCAG of course, on behalf of Los Angeles County). That's why Sierra Madre is "ground zero" for this issue, and why it's critical for the residents to take effective action in their interests in spite of backdoor development pressure from State or County agencies.

    If you sort the city tables in Wikipedia (blacks out on Wednesday 18th) by County - link is above - you can see that the small communities in LA Co are the high-end strictly residential communities. This leaves Sierra Madre rather uniquely vulnerable.

    So this will take tremendous vigilance on the part of residents to protect their community against the County and State pressures to develop the town.

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  43. The Kensington won't be as attractive if we vote down the UUT and Billy can't advertise the paramedics across the street from his palatial units. Remember the drop in numbers when the old SNF closed?

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  44. There is no doubt that the ALF would be approved by a popular vote. This is nothing but Buchanan and Moran trying to end Measure V. This is strongarm goon politics at its worst. We might as well be living in Zimbabwe.

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  45. Did you pre-load your story with comments? Comments posted between 10:41pm and 11:36pm and your story didn't even come out until midnight. Tattlers can time-travel??? Shows the IQ of your readership who think all the comments are real and not an imaginary conversation in your head. Got a screenshot.

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  46. 9:08, thanks for that enlightening post.
    And are you saying that because the other small places that have managed to keep development reasonable (Malibu, Beverly Hills, San Marino,, La Canada) are so much richer than we are that we become the target because the people who want to get rid of Measure V think we don't have the money to fight?

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  47. Quality Control - I can post articles with any date and time I like. Sometimes I post articles the day before the date that is provided. If you like I can change the date of this post. You want to see me do it?

    Good to see you've focused on the important stuff though. Shows where your heart is.

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  48. I for one am delighted whenever there is a fresh post in the night, and it is always clearly meant for the next day's edition of the Tattler. In fact, I was so overwhelmed by this news of the latest efforts to ruin Sierra Madre that all I could say last night at 11:36 was "Amazing."

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  49. Hey Quality Control! How many fingers am I holding up?

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  50. Ah 9:31 is kinda cute.
    Back to the matter at hand, so are we going to have to file another lawsuit?

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  51. Hey Quality Control! I saw a new issue of Good Housekeeping at Albertson's and it says March on the cover! No, really dude!

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  52. I don't think there will be another lawsuit. The Planning Commission folks are intelligent people, and they will see through this in a heartbeat.

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  53. Welcome Quality Control. Tattler, your readership just keeps growing. QC is obviously brand new to the site. He or she doesn't know that you've posted articles at all times of days and nights, with a variety of posting times on the articles, from the beginning.

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  54. Why hasn't Bill Coburn posted any information about Eugene Goss on Sierra Madre News Net? Goss pulled papers a week ago.

    I'm starting to think the whole "Getting to Know the Candidates" part of Coburn's site is done to service the Downtown Investor's Club. They can research into the pasts of the slow growth candidates, looking for ways to smear their names. But there's no info on Eugene Goss. Why not? Is he on their side?

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  55. Does anyone know anything about Eugene Goss?

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  56. Rhymes with Hoss.

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  57. I could be wrong about this, but it seems likely that candidate Goss has not spoken at a city council meeting in the last decade or so.

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  58. Goss is definitely a man of mystery.

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  59. What we have learned about Gene Goss is that he's Buchanan's hand picked candidate, Little League cohort and apparently lured into running with much the same song and dance Nancy Walsh fell for: civic duty.

    Organization is already in place with the civic organizations on board via e-mail stealth campaign.

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  60. Coburn stopped updating his getting to know the candidates piece about the time Concerned Canadian dropped the bombshell that he/she had alerted the sierramadrenews,net to Matheson's Canadian activities way back in October.

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  61. Does anyone even know what Goss even looks like? Seems odd that the chief virtue of this candidate is that nobody knows who he is.

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  62. To be successful the Dirts need only elect one candidate, since they already bought and paid for the other two who have two more years left to serve. Goss may be their man. Some would say that Brauderick and Harabedian are too, but more likely they will come down as playing both ends against the middle. We on the other hand, the White Hats, must elect three council members to gain control of the Council

    Don't waste your vote! Think carefully about the candidates you will support.

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  63. Picking a publicly unknown person may actually be the result of a consultation at high cost with a PR firm.

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  64. There is not a single picture or mention of him on Coburn's site. In Sierra Madre that means you are practically invisible.

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  65. I emailed Danny, as that is the best I can do at the moment. Included quotes from the code itself, which stipulates that any change needs to be voted on, and specifically references the 2006 definitions of dwelling unit. I urge everyone here to email, call, stop by in person, or turn in written letters to Danny before tomorrow's meeting.

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  66. Do you think QC is enjoying his/her "Gotcha!" moment takedown as much as we are?

    But Tattlers it's a sobering insight that they are out there auditing the blog, looking for detail, and trolling for election info.

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  67. So, Quality Control,

    Do you approve of what the City is proposing or not?

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  68. Right 1:01, they are watching, hoping to "catch" something, because they don't understand that to be honest and above board means you don't have to hide, or try to make things what they are not. Thanks Tattler, for being the free press in Sierra Madre.

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  69. I think they pay attention to stupid stuff like that because they don't understand the articles. It is their way of trying to participate in all the fun.

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  70. C'mon, they're a bunch of realtors with nothing better to do. The banks aren't lending.

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  71. The "Response to Comments on Initial Study Mitigated Negative Declaration" is available to read on Chris Koerber's website. Go to: chrisforsierramadre.com and look under city documents. It's under Planning Commission 1-19-12 Agenda Item VII Exhibit G.

    Thank you to all who wrote letters to Gregg Yamachika. And thank you to Chris Koerber for making these documents readily available on his website.

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  72. Less than an hour from now all of the candidates will be known!

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  73. The City blew off all of the letters

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  74. what's with the "extended" filing date of the 18th for candidates, which applies if an incumbent doesn't file? Does that mean that only non-incumbents can file tomorrow?

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  75. How can an incumbent run in the two year race, when there is no incumbent for a two year term?

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