Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Less Popular Reality: The City's Terminology Change For Pipes That Leak

Are they using proper terminology?
Sometimes popularly held perceptions can be more of a problem than the actual problems themselves. Or so folks whose responsibilities happen to include dealing with these problems might have you believe. The fear being that if people describe certain things in terminology insensitive to the very real difficulties being struggled with, the issues will become widely perceived as troubled. It is only through careful adjustments in the language being used that such problems can then be put into a more proper, and acceptable, perspective. Or so the argument goes.

Of course, there are those skeptics among us who insist that any effort to curb widely used and sometimes colorful language in order to change the public's perception of certain problems is actually an attempt to get people to shut up about it. That adjusting terminology fixes nothing, and rather is little more than an attempt to disguise unpleasant facts. The term "political correctness" is often used by those taking a dim view of practices such as vernacular reinvention and language modification.

Or was used. That term "political correctness" having fallen into disfavor in many circles for some of the very same reasons described above.

In this week's City Manager's Report an attempt is made to grapple with the soon to be incorrect term "leakers." Here is how this is broken down for you:

Use of the term "leaker" has been used for years by Water Department staff to describe water mains or combinations of water mains and house services that require more frequent than usual visits by staff to repair leaks. As we have spoken publically about infrastructure needs, we have used the term publically. This, we realize now, was an error, as it has led some members of the community to believe that we have a network of pipe that leaks constantly. That is not the case; what we have intended to say is that these mains are of such a condition that leaks occur more frequently than in other areas of the system. While we remain unswerving in our statements that parts of the water distribution system need to be replaced, we want to get away from the use of the term "leakers" and utilize something that is perhaps less convenient to say but is more descriptive or accurate. We will begin to utilize terms such as "high maintenance mains" or "priority replacement mains."

So there you go. I guess the only matter needing clearing up now would be if these "high maintenance mains" are called that because they are leakers.

Burkles Bursting In Air

Last Sunday we had a lively discussion about the current ownership situation of the market formerly known as Howie's. The surprising revelation being that the property is apparently now under the partial aegis of the Fresh & Easy supermarket chain, a financially troubled outfit now having its plug pulled by British parent corporation Tesco.

However, there was at least one sunny commenter who believed that these Fresh & Easy markets might actually survive in some form here, mostly due to the intercession of U.S. billionaire Ron Burkle. Here is what was said:

One can google Tesco and as recent as last week Ron Burkle billionaire is in talks with Tesco to buy the failing chain. His motive is to bring back the Wild Oats chain which was bought out by Whole Foods. So it may be possible to see a WO or a WF in the near future. WO is a smaller footprint and specialty niche organic foods provider.

Now I am not sure what the major DIC players have been telling some of the more unhappy investors they recruited into what became known as the Montecito Development LLC, but it doesn't look like Ron Burkle is going to be saving them any time soon. This from The Financial Times earlier this month (link):

Tesco hopes fading for sale of US Fresh & Easy chain - Hopes are fading for a sale of Tesco’s US business Fresh & Easy, even as the retailer closes in on a joint venture agreement in China.

With no deal yet struck in the US, two people familiar with the situation suggested that the most likely outcome would be a closure or break-up of the California-based operation.

Analysts said the prospect of shutting Fresh & Easy, or dismantling it piecemeal, raised the possibility of Tesco incurring more costs than the £1bn write down it announced in April.

Tesco had been thought to be close to a sale of Fresh & Easy to Yucaipa, the investment vehicle of US billionaire Ron Burkle.

However, the talks have stalled, several people familiar with the situation said. The sticking point in conversations with buyers has been Tesco’s desire for a clean break from the US. The company wants to avoid it or its shareholders retaining liabilities for Fresh & Easy after an exit.

There had been some newspaper speculation last June that Burkle would be buying Fresh & Easy, but such a happy outcome appears to no longer be the case.

Which may mean that a large ownership share of the Howie's property could be going back on the market, and soon.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Crazy Darrell Steinberg's New Redevelopment Scheme Is Based On An Extreme Form Of Eminent Domain

(Mod: It is a law potentially so bad that you might wonder how it could ever possibly exist. Darrell Steinberg, the father of the risible SB 375, who is the soon to be termed out leader of the Democratic controlled California State Senate, wants to revive redevelopment in California, and would base it on an extreme form of Eminent Domain. Called SB 1, in the possibly not too distant future government officials wishing to take your property could base their decision on whether you are using your property "efficiently" or not. An example of "inefficient property use" perhaps being an inconvenient single family home located in a area designated for "sustainable" high density development. CalWatchDog has posted an article about this example of wretched government excess - link - and I thought I should share it with you here.)

NEW: SB 1 would brand ‘inefficiency’ as blight - Should government get into the business of judging people on the “efficiency” of their property?  SB 1 would grant government that capacity — along with the power to take that property if officials decide it’s being “inefficiently” used. SB 1 is by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

Two years ago Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature abolished redevelopment in California to transfer from local governments $1.5 billion to the state budget. Redevelopment allowed local governments to declare anything, even nice homes and businesses, as “blight,” seize the property and give it to big-box retailers.

SB 1 would reintroduce property redevelopment. But this time, it only would apply to property that would comply with the “sustainable communities strategy” of SB 375, another Steinberg bill that became law in 2008 when signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. SB 375, among other things, mandated Plan Bay Area and other regional transportation, housing and land use plans throughout the 18 regions of the state.

SB 1 is really the financing and zoning vehicle for creating the new high-density, Plan Bay Area/sustainable communities lifestyle.  SB 1’s projects, paid with the new redevelopment money, would have to be high-density and restrict parking.

The SB 1 buildings also would have to be located within one-half mile of public transit, be “walkable communities” or be green energy manufacturing sites.  Other styles of redevelopment are not included in this bill, as they are not the way we are supposed to live under the sustainable communities vision.

New bureaucracies

SB 1 would allow counties and cities to create Sustainable Community Investment Authorities, which would be new government agencies separate from the governments that created them. The SCIAs would be established without citizen concurrence and would be beyond direct citizen control. And the SCIAs would wield the authority of eminent domain, taxing and bond issuance for building such projects within a specified geography.  Such projects would have other specifications, including construction under prevailing (union) wages, and large funding for subsidized housing.

In order to acquire property for high density development, the bill expands the definition of blight to include a new concept of “inefficient use.” Under SB 1, suddenly inefficiency has become the big problem.  Or, the big excuse.  A host of societal ills are blamed on it, such as a poor economy, high housing prices, pollution and more.


What is inefficiency?  It is not defined in the bill, nor are its alleged ill effects substantiated in any way. But because inefficiency is suddenly deemed so problematic, it is given powerful status for determining blight.

Normally, slums and damaged property can be determined to be blighted, which enables them to be acquired under eminent domain and rebuilt.  Eminent domain is also used to acquire property for public use, such as for new roads.  There is an extensive body of case law that has clarified what is blighted, so property owners are safe from abusive governmental takings.  This would be superseded by the new inefficiency doctrine.

Since the workings of the free economy are deemed inadequate for creating efficiency, under SB 1 the government must use bureaucratic force to create it.  Conveniently, SCIAs could rely on this new legislative definition of inefficiency to acquire property under eminent domain, without a formal process of finding slum-like blight conditions.  So, depending upon how an SCIA grades what a person is doing with their property, the owner’s ability to keep it comes at the grace of the SCIA.  Since the lifestyle the government wants is high-density-urban, anything rural, neighborhood, single family, small commercial, small farm or suburban seems perpetually vulnerable to the inefficiency charge.

In Plan Bay Area, resident surveys told the regional planning bodies that they didn’t want regional planning by unelected bureaucrats.  Further, the Plan itself concluded that “stack and pack housing” (i.e., sustainable communities/transit oriented development) did not reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which was the whole point of the Plan. Yet, the Plan was approved.

SB 1 would allow the Plan to be imposed despite citizen objections.

(Mod: In Sierra Madre "Sustainable Community Investment Authority" powers would likely fall upon the newly constituted EENER Commission. Which perhaps was the true purpose of its establishment all along. Could you imagine an EENER or City Council meeting where a discussion about the land use efficiency of your home would be discussed? And whether or not it should be taken from you? That is what may be at stake here.)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Latest Pasadena / PUSD "Community Schools Plan" Shenanigans

The remnant of the AOL/Patch empire still employs the services of Dan Abendschein, which is a good move on their part. He is an actual news guy and, while the current restrictive and frankly lighter than air Patch format doesn't allow him too many opportunities to spread his wings and do much actual reporting, he does understand what is going on. Here is an example:

PUSD Parents Invited to Thursday Meeting on Community Schools Plan (link): At a meeting Thursday, Pasadena Unified parents will have a chance to participate in a community meeting at Pasadena High on the 2013-16 School / City / Community work plan for the district and the City of Pasadena.

According to a message from the district, that plan focuses on what the priorities of PUSD and city officials should be with regards to the school district.

At a joint meeting in February, it was decided officials should focus on seven distinct areas: seven result areas: early childhood education; academic success; health and social services; involvement and learning in the community; stable and supportive environments; family engagement, and system-wide delivery.

At Thursday's meeting, PUSD families and community members will have a chance to give feedback on plan specifics and to join a volunteer "results team" to focus on how to implement specific parts of the plan.

PUSD families and residents of Pasadena, Altadena and Sierra Madre are all invited to the event. 

It is good that Dan Abendschein brought this topic up because there is a very important Sierra Madre angle to this. Dan didn't actually pick up on it much, but he certainly did open the door.

Look above to the paragraph I put up in bold letters. There is a reference to a "joint meeting in February." Which there was, and I am quite familiar with that meeting because I went to it. This was a joint meeting held with the Pasadena City Council and the Pasadena Unified School District. And it was at that time Pasadena approved this rather controversial "Community Schools Plan."

But here is the catch. Neither the City of Altadena nor the City of Sierra Madre, Pasadena's supposed coequal partners in the PUSD, were ever made aware that this "Community Schools Plan" was being OK'd on their behalf. It was done with neither city's knowledge or approval.

This despite the fact that both of these apparently orphaned cities pay taxes into the PUSD system, with many of their children attending these schools as well. Nobody ever asked Sierra Madre or Altadena what they think of this "community schools plan." Nor have any members of the Pasadena Unified School District's Board of Education appeared before the governing bodies of either of these cities to ask for their blessings on this matter.

Yet a full (and extremely long and wordy, trust me) Board of Education presentation on the Community Schools Plan was given to the Pasadena City Council back in February, which then voted to approve it.

So what is this "Community Schools Plan?" Why are our hard earned - and rare - education tax dollars being spent on it, and without any input whatsoever from the elected officials of two out of the three member cities? Here are a couple of excerpts from an article I posted last February 20th subtitled "Welcome to Chu-ville" (link):

While some of you were hanging out at The State of the City address with Mayor Mo' Money, I nipped over to Pasadena City Hall for their joint City Council - PUSD gathering. There experiencing an entirely different fog bank of bromides and wheeze. Most of the usual Board of Education types were on hand, along with Judy Chu, who was in the hizzy to speak on behalf of something near and dear to her heart. On the surface the whole thing had a atmosphere similar to what had happened in our Council Chambers just a few weeks ago.

Except that when the BOE was in Sierra Madre they left out something kind of important. 

At the Pasadena City Council confab last night they were all about something called "Community Schools." A do-gooder boondoggle of an exercise in bureaucratic welfare excess that presumes to tell all PUSD families how they should eat, study, medicate, exercise, socialize, house, and just about every other aspect of their lives.

Or, as the always eloquent Tony Brandenburg put it, "The Pasadena Community School Plan of condos, condoms, computers, fresh fruit and vegetables, drugs bad and public health good, all little more than a weaving together of a whole bunch of failed social programs and placed under a new happy face umbrella." 

All apparently done with the purpose of preparing PUSD students and their hapless families for something Pasadena apparently believes they can't do on their own, cope with the real world.

(I miss Tony.)

The catch here is that the PUSD Board of Education had been to Sierra Madre a few weeks earlier to participate in a similar joint meeting with our City Council. And while there was a lot of talk about our then at risk Middle School, the "Community Schools Plan" was never mentioned. Not even once.

So here is the question I asked the Board of Education at their joint meeting with the Pasadena City Council:

Why was this Community Schools Plan not mentioned when the PUSD's Board of Education visited with Sierra Madre a few weeks ago? After all, we will be expected to help fund this new level of education bureaucracy.

This is how I described the reply I received:

I actually did get a response to this question, and that was an admission from Renatta Cooper that indeed they had not talked to anyone in Sierra Madre about any of this. Which becomes even more bizarre when you consider that (Board Member) Ed Honowitz had apparently been working on the plan for 6 long years.  

And as far as I know the Board of Education still hasn't discussed their Community Schools Plan with Sierra Madre's City Council. Not one peep. Despite the fact that a chunk of our tax money will be going to fund it.

So let me ask you a question. If you had kids in PUSD schools, wouldn't you want them learning in an environment where math, science and the language arts are recognized as being the most important considerations?

Or would you want them in schools where a Peter Dreier-style extended social welfare system is considered a more appropriate daily lifestyle priority?

Don't you think the Board of Education should have at least asked us first? Or Altadena? Before inviting out the folks for a little social welfare indoctrination?

Instead just rolling with this on the word of Pasadena alone?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Report: Five Ways Facebook Can Be Bad For Your Mental Health

Everybody gets a cookie except you
(Mod: As you know we're not the biggest Facebook fans around. For a number of reasons. And we do enjoy pointing these reasons out to those who are fans. Call it a weakness, or an addiction to buzzkill. Plus we post here every day so we do have to come up with something. But I should also mention that when I pulled this Digital article up earlier this morning for reposting here on The Tattler, I was disturbed to receive a pop up asking me to "like" it on Facebook. That felt like a betrayal to me. But we've decided to go forward with this post anyway. It is far too late to turn back now.)

Report: Five Ways Facebook Can Be Bad For Your Mental Health (Digital - link)

These days, Facebook is just a part of life. In December 2011, the preeminent social network boasted more than 845 million active monthly users, with 483 million of those using the site daily. And a 2011 study by market research firm Nielsen shows that the average Facebook user spends four times as many hours on the network each month as he or she spends on any other site. Like getting too little sleep, drinking, smoking, or sunbathing, the increasing number of hours we spend on Facebook is surely affecting our health, right? Below, five ways experts believe Facebook could be hurting our mental health.

1. Eating disorders
Pinterest isn’t the only social network that makes people feel bad about themselves. According to a recent survey of 600 Facebook users, ages 16 to 40, by the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt (link), more than half say that seeing pictures of themselves and others on the site “makes them more conscious about their own body and their weight.” And it wasn’t only females who felt the burn; 40 percent of male respondents said they comment negatively about their own bodies on Facebook photos. On top of that, 32-percent said they feel “sad” when comparing photos of themselves to pictures of their friends. And 44-percent said they wished they had the same body or weight as their friends, when looking at photos on Facebook.

2. Low self-esteem and depression
This falls in the same vein as poor body image: an increasing number of studies (link#1, link#2, link#3) have found that posts by our friends make us feel worse about our own lives. This is due to the fact that we naturally compare ourselves to our peers. If the people around us are posting happy, significant life accomplishments (which happens every day, if you have a lot of friends), then we feel worse about our lack of having anything good to report. This is exacerbated by the fact that people usually choose to post good things about their lives, rather than the bad things, which skews our perception of reality even further. Experts suggest limiting the number of friends you have on Facebook, and de-friending those who like to brag about their “amazing” lives the most.

3. Psychological disorders
In addition to making us depressed, Facebook may also be making our kids crazy — literally. Dr. Larry D. Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, last year released a study (link) that concluded that teenagers and young adults who spend much of their time on Facebook are at a higher risk of developing a cornucopia of psychological disorders, including mania, paranoia, aggressive tendencies, and antisocial behavior. Moreover, Facebook may add fuel to the fire in those teens who display narcissistic tendencies, by allowing them to broadcast their unhealthy self-love 24/7.

4. Stress
Posting “happy birthday” on your friend’s Wall may be less stressful than actually attending a party or even sending a card. But that doesn’t mean Facebook is making your life any easier. Dr. Kathy Charles of Edinburgh Napier University released a study early last year (link), which showed that, of the 200 people she surveyed, a majority felt some type of stress in relation to the social network, and 12-percent said the site makes them feel anxious. Those with a large number Facebook friends experienced the most stress. Dr. Charles also found that many become stressed at the thought of missing out on something good posted to the site, a phenomenon now known as the “fear of missing out” (link), which has become so widespread it has its own acronym (FOMO).

5. Addiction
Up there with sex addiction, and good ol’ fashioned Internet addiction hangs a new monkey on our backs: Facebook addiction (link). Researchers at the University of Chicago recently analyzed more than 8,000 reports of everyday desires from 250 participants, and found that quitting Facebook (and Twitter) was more difficult than giving up cigarettes or alcohol (link). This follow a study of Web search analytics data by marketing firm The Internet Time Machine, which shows that the term “Facebook addiction” has become one of the most searched-for terms in this category, (with things like “alcohol addiction” still ranking higher on the list). As with stress, Facebook addiction has been linked to FOMO.

(Mod: I struggled with FOMO at one time, but then I realized I'm much happier just staying home. Here is another matter for you today. Has Facebook been spying on you for the government? With so many Internet entities having been exposed for narcing to the Feds about their trusting customers, perhaps it was only a matter of time before the big dog was dragged under the lights for its moments of retribution and shame. Just for the record, The Tattler has received no requests from any government, either large or small, for information about those who post here.)

Facebook Does Prism Damage Control with First Government Request Report ( - link)

In the wake of citizen backlash against tech companies who play nice with surveillance agencies, Facebook is divulging for the first time government requests for user data, citing its "core values" of "transparency and trust" (link).

Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch in a Tuesday blog post gave a country-by-country overview of government requests during the first half of 2013. Not surprisingly, the U.S. topped the list with 11,000 to 12,000 requests pertaining to more than 20,000 user accounts. Facebook was required by law to fulfill 79 percent of the federal government's requests by providing at least some data.

The report offers a first look at the volume of requests Facebook deals with, but not much in the way of detail. Stretch said Facebook hopes to be even more detailed in future reports, but with national security on the line, it seems unlikely that the social network will be able to disclose information about specific requests.

"We hope this report will be useful to our users in the ongoing debate about the proper standards for government requests for user information in official investigations," Stretch wrote. "And while we view this compilation as an important first report--it will not be our last. In coming reports, we hope to be able to provide even more information about the requests we receive from law enforcement authorities."

How many countries are using Facebook to prevent terrorist attacks and how many are seeking out activists? That's a question Facebook might not be able to answer. Countries in the hot seat for squashing citizen protests, like Turkey and Egypt, put in some of their own requests, but Facebook often shot them down--the network fulfilled none of Egypt's requests and less than half of Turkey's.

India ranked second behind the U.S. with 3245 requests for 4144 user accounts. Facebook complied with half of the country's requests.

(Mod: And now it is time for a discussion about the arts.)

Russian police seize painting of Putin in women's underwear (Reuters - link)

Police seized a painting of Russia's president and prime minister in women's underwear from a gallery in St Petersburg, saying the satirical display had broken unspecified laws.

The officers also removed a picture of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, his torso covered in tattoos, and two others poking fun at lawmakers who have backed legislation banning so-called gay propaganda, gallery staff said.

The police service said it had taken paintings from the "Museum of Power" gallery - based in two rooms of a flat - late on Monday after receiving reports they were illegal.

It gave no further detail but Russia does have a law against insulting authorities - an offence that carries a maximum one-year prison term.

One painting showed president Vladimir Putin wearing a tight-fitting slip and brushing the hair of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who is wearing knickers and a bra.

(Mod: Nobody really enjoys criticism, I guess.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The State of the System? Once Again City Hall Ducks the Water Bond Question

Anyone care for peanuts?
Hardly anyone showed up at last night's so-called "State of System - Capital and Long Term Master Plan, Sewer & Water System Needs" meeting. 14 residents, four city staffers, three City Councilmembers (Capoccia, MPT* Harabedian, Koerber), and one lone individual who planned to cover it as a news story. That was all of it.

After the big push that was given this confab by every communications venue available to the city, the Sierra Madre Room ended up looking like a Monday night game at just about any lower echelon minor league baseball park stuck with a last place team. With only a tiny smattering of bemused individuals lost amongst the long rows of empty seats.

Of course, there is a perfectly logical explanation for this. When you know that there will be no opportunity to speak your mind, that questions can only be asked by first writing them on a card so that the City Manager might decide if they're copacetic with her agenda, and that the information being given out would basically be the same stale material you've heard a dozen times before, why would anyone want to go? It is called voting with your feet, and last night most of the feet in town voted no.

Once again the City Manager turned what could have been a beneficial public forum into a tightly controlled infomercial taping. The meeting was filmed, of course, and will be available for later viewing on the city's website. Which explains the written postcards. There was no way that this City Hall cared to hear the actual concerns of the people they are supposed to be working for. And certainly they were not going to allow any such unvarnished honesty to make it into their nice new water rate biopic.

City Hall might be looking for more of your money, but that does not mean they're interested in having to tolerate your opinions as well. I'm fairly certain that the consultant hired on our dime to teach them such techniques had to have specifically advised against that sort of thing.

The water bond avoidance scenario went something like this. About half of Bruce Inman's presentation was given to reciting a laundry list of quite expensive capital expenditures that he believes need to be made. Bruce's golden rainbow included $440,900 for a Mountain Trail water main, $463,000 for a Well 4 rehab, $830,750 for a Well 5 rehab, $422,215 for sewer lining and spot repairs, and $908,938 in local match cash for a Santa Anita water diversion structure. To give you just a small sampling from his wish list.

So the obvious question was how the City plans to pay for these kinds of things. And this is what I wrote on the little card that I'd been handed:

How are these capital repairs and improvements to be paid for? Additional bonds? Loans? Water rate hikes? Or bake sales?

I'd hoped the bake sales bit might sneak me past the screen. However, when it comes to getting more money out of the tax and ratepayers, our City Manager is as disciplined and humorless as a guillotine engineer. Here is how my question was edited for the camera:

Someone has asked how the City pays for capital improvements.

Despite what I had written on that card, no mention of incurring any possible new bond debt was made. And for the second meeting in a row any hint of a question about new water bonds being issued by the City was left lying on the cutting room floor. Something that leads me to believe that this is a special topic, and as in the case of most special topics there just might be some hard truth to it.

What is left out can have more meaning than what actually gets said. And when that happens twice, and on two separate occasions? I'll let you decide. Personally I believe City Hall is going for it. They are working to put this City another $10 or $20 million in the hole. And my guess is that there are four members of this City Council who will vote to enable that. Including one who ran for office as an anti-tax fiscal hawk.

Which is why we might not have any other real option but to go Prop 218 on them. You either want to save this city, or you don't.

One humorous moment. Bruce Inman made quite a big deal about how the SGVMWD connection with Sierra Madre didn't cost us anything. $2,000,000 was that cost, and it was all paid for by the water district. According to Bruce.

Apparently someone in attendance last night didn't think that could be quite right, and he (or she) handed in a card questioning the source of this $2 million dollars. It turns out it came from money that had been taken from our property taxes. And that the SGVMWD has given us nothing homeowners here didn't already pay for. This was actually owed to us, and has been for quite some time.

We really do need to make some changes in this town.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tonight's Second Pitch for the Third Water Rate Increase in Four Years

As you may recall from the previous water rate sales pitch conducted on August 14th, the message that evening was that indebtedness, including our rather perilous level of water bond debt, is all a part of the price of doing business. It happens all the time we were assured, and there is little here to be worried about. The implication being that we should all just move along, there is nothing more to see here.

Below is how the attempt to explain away over $20,000,000 in City of Sierra Madre debt, the majority of it water bond debt, was carefully worded in a largely evasive consultant created PowerPoint presentation titled "Presentation on Water and Sewer Budgets, Finances, and Debt." Which was dutifully recited out loud that evening by three members of the City Staff. Please note that the entire 8.14 presentation is available on the City's website.

Long Term Debt
Used in the public and private sectors.
- Equitable to spread the cost of a project over time, thereby sharing the cost burden for the project with both current and future ratepayers who will benefit from the project(s).
- For long-term capital projects, borrowing is the most appropriate means for the City to maintain its assets and build for the future.
Additional factors that influence City borrowing include:
1. The amount of out-standing debt,
2. The opportunity cost of borrowing, and
3. The cost of borrowing in the credit markets.

 History - Water Fund Debt
• City has used Water bond financing since the City’s incorporation 100+ years ago.
• City records show that City Water Bonds date back to 1911
• 1911 - $110,000 bond issue to purchase the Sierra Madre Water Company
(Equivalent to $2.6 million in 2013 dollars)
• 1920 - $60,000 bond issue to make improvements to the water system
“Costs too large to pay out of ordinary revenue....” 1911 minutes...
• Why is debt incurred?
• Simply stated – Similar to 1911, some projects or needs are just too
significant (expensive) to pull from reserves, or “ordinary revenue.”
• Bond financing allows for the project to be paid for over the infrastructure’s useful life; for example, water reservoirs have an estimated life of 75 years, and the bond financing is for a period of 30 years, so the reservoir is “paid for” over the time period that it is “used”, with revenues generated from the “use” of the reservoir.

While it is a relief to know that the City of Sierra Madre had bond debt in 1911, and that unlike the nearly $20 million in mostly water bond debt incurred during the last 35 or so years by the City we are not still paying it off, I am uncertain how this is actually relevant to what is going on today.

Additionally, the meeting on the 14th was hardly a true and open discussion of Sierra Madre's water bond indebtedness with the residents, but rather an attempt to sell people on the notion that debt, even at the level Sierra Madre is encumbered by it, is an OK thing. It is how the Water Department buys important equipment went the explanation. Something that was reinforced in that consultant prepared PowerPoint presentation with pictures of large yellow trucks and a purposeful looking backhoe.

What I found particularly disappointing is just how controlled and scripted this all was. Questions from residents attending were not allowed unless they were first written down on small cards, many of which were then heavily edited, or even completely discarded, by City Staff. The actual purpose of the meeting apparently being more about creating a kind of television "infomercial" designed for repeated showings on SMTV3 rather than any actual sharing of resident ideas, concerns or perspectives.

In other words, it was a sales pitch for yet another water rate increase.

It is my guess that at this evening's meeting will be similar to what we saw on the 14th. There will be a consultant prepared PowerPoint presentation, and that residents will not be allowed to do anything overly spontaneous. The purpose again being public relations, and not in any way an attempt to find out what you, the person who will have to pay for any water rate increase, might think.

Tonight's chapter is titled "State of System" - Capital and Long Term Master Plan, Sewer & Water System Needs," and if the meeting 2 weeks ago was to establish that water bond indebtedness is a fine and historically correct thing to do, this evening we just might get to hear why we need to commit ourselves to yet another round of bonds. Which, as Mayor Nancy Walsh so blithely put in it an August 1st interview with the Pasadena Star News (link), is what this is really all about.

Mayor Nancy Walsh said Wednesday that residents can expect future water-rate increases to offset the city’s low credit rating. Though a current study determining the effects of water rates is still under review, “no doubt there will be an increase” again, she said.

“We need to make sure we’re good on our bond covenant,” the mayor said.

(Later) “Shortly after, our credit was downgraded,” Walsh said. “This is really talking about our credit. It’s our No. 1 priority.”

In other words, apparently the City's solution to the Water Department's long term debt problem is, you got it, fixing our bond covenants so we can initiate even more long term debt. And, assuming I am correct, tonight you'll get to hear, to use Councilmember Capoccia's folksy term for it, the sound of the proverbial can being kicked down the road yet one more time. With you the rate payer financing the deal with yet another water rate increase.

Did you ever really have any doubts?

I will be down at the Sierra Madre Room (611 E. Sierra Madre Blvd) at 6:30 with my laptop covering tonight's meeting for The Tattler. As always, live commenting on this blog is encouraged. However, without this get together being broadcast on TV I am not sure how you will do that without showing up.

Either way, I promise that you won't have to write it all out on a card first.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Real Estate Mystery: Who Owns Howie's Now? And Will They Be Putting It Back On the Market Soon?

Montecito Fresh!
Who doesn't like a good real estate mystery? And when one magically presents itself to us like this one did (it was a gift from Neuroblast Films), we just cannot wait to share it. Especially when it involves one of the key locations from 2006's Downtown Specific Plan. Those always get special shrift on this site.

The mystery we are talking about here is with the old Howie's site, which we are now calling "Montecito Fresh." The surprise for us today being that a now failed British owned supermarket chain appears to be in some kind of financial control of this troubled piece of Sierra Madre real estate.

The inset just above what I am typing here shows a screenshot taken from a website called Property Shark. It is a subscription site that The Tattler has nothing to do with. However, our friends at Neuroblast do have access and forwarded us this shot. If you click on this inset it will enlarge and you will clearly see the name "Fresh & Easy" as the holder of the deed. With our old friends from the Montecito Development Group LLC also a part of the action as well, though apparently holding an inferior position.

Now the name Fresh & Easy has been associated with the Howie's site before. It was not that long ago that the visibly excited Councilmember Nancy Walsh announced to a stunned city that Fresh & Easy was going to open up one of their signature pastel green supermarkets right here in Sierra Madre. Something that in her mind would have transformed our pleasantly funky though economically parlous downtown into a financial metropolis of the very first importance.

Here is how all this excitement was revealed on the Sierra Madre site:

Fresh and Easy Looking at Sierra Madre Site (link) - On April 27th, a Conditional Use Permit application was submitted to the Planning and Development Services Dept. for a Fresh and Easy Grocery store at the SE corner of Baldwin Ave. and Sierra Madre Blvd.  Plans call for the removal of the existing market building, to be replaced by a 10,582 sq. ft. one story building that would be situated to the east of the current building, closer to the east property line.

Parking would be located to the south and west of the building, and deliveries would be made to the south of the building, north of the City owned parking lot.  Plans as submitted would include a landscaped seating area at the corner, diagonally across from Kersting Court.  The structure as submitted appears to be a typical design for Fresh and Easy markets, and appears to conform to Measure V.

The plans are subject to environmental review, to determine if it would be necessary for a full on Environmental Impact Report, or if a Mitigated Negative Declaration would be acceptable.  According to the Planning and Development Services Dept., the timeline for the project as of now, subject to change, calls for the project to possibly be reviewed by the Planning Commission in September or October. (Posted to the SMNN site 5/25/12)

Sadly (at least for Nancy Walsh and a few others), none of this worked out. Less than a year later news was received that Tesco, the British supermarket conglomerate that had cooked up the whole Fresh & Easy shtick, was hemorrhaging vast sums of money over their investments here in the United States. So much so that they were throwing up their hands and getting out of our part of the world as fast as their fat little legs could take them. This from the April 17, 2013 edition of the Los Angeles Times (link):

Tesco to pull out of U.S. and sell Fresh & Easy markets The British grocer, which began its American experiment just as the recession began, will write off $1.8 billion in abandoning its project. It had misread both its competition and U.S. consumers.

The British are leaving. Five years after launching the Fresh & Easy grocery chain in the U.S., Tesco of England is abandoning its nearly $2-billion gamble.

Once called "foolhardy" by investment guru Warren Buffett, the ambitious experiment joins a sizable list of British ventures forced to admit defeat amid an American culture clash.

The failure of El Segundo-based Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, hastened by the recession, also highlights the difficulties of maintaining a foothold in a domestic grocery market already overrun by established, homegrown mega-brands such as Wal-Mart, Costco, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.

Tesco's "inevitably painful decision to cut and run was correct," said Neil Saunders, managing director of London research firm Conlumino, who observed that the company's American foray will be remembered "as something of an unfortunate misadventure."

"The bottom line is that Tesco probably bit off more than it could chew in the U.S.," Saunders said.

So here is our Sunday Real Estate Mystery. Tesco needs the Howie's site like it needs another hole in its corporate head. Quite obviously they are selling everything off here in the US, and I would assume that would have to include their holding in Sierra Madre.
Montecito Fresh: Yours for $2 million!
Of course, there is the quite delicious possibility that the Montecito Devo LLC bunch would have to take back Tesco's holding. I have no idea what kind deal was made at that time, but obviously the locals were not bargaining from a position of strength back then. Or ever, for that matter.

They'd been desperate to unload their dead DSP holding every since Measure V ran over their development pipe-dreams like a northbound 710 diesel truck. Not where you'd want to be when negotiating with an international cabbage conglomerate.

So assuming this property is about to go up for sale, and at a price apparently much lower than it was when our favorite LLC became involved a few years back, who is going to buy it? And what kind of things would the buyer require from this community in order to bless us with their presence?

You do know that a considerable portion of this City's naive officialdom would fall all over itself should such an event occur, and spare us no sacrifice in order to make it happen. They always do.

Of course, there is one other possibility. The aesthetic restrictions of Measure V could make this property unattractive to any serious buyer. In which case Fresh & Easy/Tesco is going to be stuck with this piece of property for a lot longer than they might have hoped.

Something I guess would then make Howie's a two shipwreck real estate holding.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Tattler Sunday News Moves To Saturday

Mod: This week we decided to move the Tattler Sunday News to Saturday. We are doing this in honor of the effort here to relocate Sierra Madre's Farmer's Market from wherever it is now to Kersting Court. Hope springs eternal in life, and more often than not it involves moving to a new location. All we need is to get to another place, then everything will be just fine. Or so we hope. Another cliche' that could apply here is every dog has its day. Or every time somebody buys a locally grown cabbage a City staffer gets its wings. Or perhaps not. Of course, having the Sunday News relocate to Saturday is only the second spot for this treasured news resource. If the Farmer's Market goes in next to Starbucks that would be its third move, which some people claim is the charm. The news follows.

'San Diego is back,' interim mayor declares after Filner resigns (Los Angeles Times: link) City Council President Todd Gloria has vowed to repair the damage he says was done to city government under Mayor Bob Filner, who resigned Friday after eight chaotic months in office.

While the sexual harassment allegations made against Filner by 18 women dominated the headlines during the six-week frenzy, council members had complained that Filner's management style was hurting the operations of the city.

That style, they said, alternated between non-involvement and micromanaging. Clashes with council members, including Gloria, a fellow Democrat, were a common tactic in Filner's approach to being mayor.

Under the city charter, Gloria will act as an interim mayor while the city holds a special election in the next 90 days to find a successor.

With a soft-spoken style that contrasts with Filner's confrontational, abrasive manner, Gloria will inherit several mayoral duties and powers but not, for example, the right to veto City Council actions.

The council Friday voted, 7-0, to accept a mediation deal that included a swap: Filner will resign and the city will allocate $98,000 for his private lawyers in the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Filner and the city by Irene McCormack Jackson, Filner's former director of communications.

The city will also defend Filner in the suit and pay his share of any damages awarded in court or in a pretrial settlement.

(Mod: Why do these guys always get to defend themselves on the taxpayer's dime? I'm not sure, but I think the cable news networks have now entered a period of mourning. I guess they'll have to go back to reporting on Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and the Kardashians.)

Plan Bay Area sued by Sierra Club, other environmental groups (San Francisco Business Times: link) A new plan that promotes high-density housing near public transit in the Bay Area faces yet another lawsuit.

The Sierra Club, Earthjustice and Communities for a Better Environment have sued to stop Plan Bay Area, which spells out how much new housing each of the Bay Area’s cities must accommodate in coming years.

The lawsuit alleges that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Association of Bay Area Governments — the two agencies that passed the plan last July — did not do an adequate environmental review of Plan Bay Area.

“The Plan does not spend enough on public transportation, and instead invests in building new highways. The current Plan will result in more time on the roads and increased greenhouse gas emissions. The Plan also fails to protect West Oakland and other vulnerable communities from the health effects of cars, trucks, ships and rail that pass through their communities. The Plan will also displace low-income and residents of color from their communities,” the groups said in a press release.
Representatives from ABAG and MTC said they do not comment on litigation.

This lawsuit is the third such suit against Plan Bay Area since it was approved last July. A libertarian group, the Pacific Legal Foundation, sued claiming the plan violates the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to “justify the plan’s high-density development scheme, and refusing to consider the feasibility of a less-restrictive alternative.”

The Building Industry Association Bay Area sued alleging that Plan Bay Area violates state law by failing to provide for enough housing to accommodate the Bay Area’s projected population and by failing to provide a realistic development pattern to accommodate residential growth.

Plan Bay Area, the result of three years of work, calls for adding almost 188,000 housing units by 2022. ABAG and MTC drew up the plan in response to a state law that requires every region in California to devise building and transportation plans to cut the emission of greenhouse gases.

(Mod: The one thing that these Sacramento generated central planning schemes don't seem to take into account is what the people living in these communities might want. Actual people have somehow been taken out of the mix and instead the special interests and lobbies for whom these development boondoggles were actually created in the first place are now suing anything they can to make certain that their agendas are properly honored. And I'm fine with that. Legal inertia could save us all. Plus by the year 2022 the majority of personal transportation in California will be electric, which means that the whole fraudulent notion of reducing greenhouse gases by taking peoples' cars away and sticking folks in vast warrens of central city micro-condos will become moot anyway.)

NSA abuses include Stalking ex-Girlfriends (Informed Comment: link) We have HUMINT, or human intelligence gathered from agents. We have SIGINT or signals intelligence. And now we have LOVEINT or NSA analysts occasionally reading the emails of ex-lovers. It doesn’t happen a lot, the NSA told the WSJ, but often enough that there is a word for it.

The NSA only admitted this abuse to the Senate Intelligence committee a few days ago.

The NSA has dealt with the spying scandal with the classic techniques of government manipulation of the public: Deny for as long as possible, then make few gradual small admissions, so when the big abuses come out the press views the story as stale and is unconcerned about the new scale of abuse coming out.

(MOD: Charming.)

FBI Deepens Its Water District Probe - The hot water around state Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) is getting deeper (KCET.Org: link) The FBI's political corruption investigation continues to focus on the senator's ties to former assemblyman Tom Calderon -- Ron's brother -- and on Tom's dealings with the Central Basin Municipal Water District. But the FBI probe has deepened and widened in recent days, raising new questions about the district's contracting and hiring practices.

New subpoenas have been issued for the personnel records of former district director Art Aguilar and current board members Art Chacon and Robert Apodaca. And more CBMWD contractors -- including one of the state's largest and most respected consulting firms -- have been ordered to turn over documents and digital files relating to their work for the district.

Investigators are scrutinizing the district's unsuccessful effort to wrest control of the basin's water storage capacity from another obscure water agency, as well as a controversial reclaimed water distribution system the district financed despite the objections of cities and water providers.

And suspicion has now been raised about the hiring (and abrupt firing) of Gil Cedillo Jr., the son of ex-state legislator and now L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo. Cedillo Jr. had worked for both Ron and Tom Calderon before being hired as the Central Basin's business development manager.

More troubling for Sacramento insiders, according to the Los Angeles Times, are the grand jury subpoenas that have been served on several state legislators aimed at clarifying what the FBI calls Senator Calderon's "income stream." The FBI declined to explain further, but the implication is that lush contracts with the CBMWD may have been brokered with a compliant district board, with some of the money channeled to the political campaigns of Calderon family members and to retaliatory campaigns against political opponents in Maywood and other cities.

(Mod: Rumor has it that amongst the punishments being considered for these fine protectors of the public's water interests is that they be forced to drink the stuff.)

Why Senator Steinberg’s SB-1 Deserves Defeat—or a Veto (The Independent Institute: link) The big budget bills have been resolved for this legislative session but the public has good reason to remain on alert. Senate Bill 1, introduced by State Senator Darrell Steinberg (D–Sacramento), is so dangerous that the Assembly should swiftly kill it.

The measure will allow any California city or county to create a “Sustainable Communities Investment Authority,” governed by unelected bureaucrats selected by the city or county officials themselves. Each newly created Authority will build development projects in designated geographic areas. These will comply with SB 375, which connects California land use to the state’s climate change law, AB 32, which sets goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Each Authority will be granted powers to build “sustainable communities.” That means jamming people into dense, urban centers using high-density residential housing and high-intensity retail and commercial buildings near mass transit corridors. To that end, SB 1 will grant each Authority unprecedented powers.

In the past, California redevelopment agencies (dissolved on February 1, 2012) were required to determine an area was blighted before they could seize private land through eminent domain. Even with this requirement, abuse of private property rights was rampant. But SB 1 will define blight legislatively, eliminating the need for each Authority to make a separate finding.

SB 1 defines blight as statewide problems such as air pollution, high water consumption, high energy consumption, reduced farmland, habitat destruction, fewer affordable housing units, traffic congestion, and the high combined cost of housing and transportation. This ridiculously broad definition is a long way from the common sense understanding of blight as abandoned buildings in a local area.

(Mod: Can you imagine a city government run by the likes of Bart Doyle or John Buchanan with the power to seize private homes through eminent domain any time they or their buddies want? And allow them to use 'saving the world' as the rationale for doing so? That thumping sound you just heard was George Orwell banging his head on the lid of his coffin.)

Irwindale hit with $20 million civil suit (Pasadena Star News: link) A Chino woman has filed a $20 million civil lawsuit against the city of Irwindale after an Irwindale police officer allegedly sexually assaulted her during a traffic stop and forced her to perform oral sex.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges that the city knew Sgt. David Fraijo was “unfit” and city officials consciously disregarded the safety of others in employing him.

The alleged assault by Fraijo occurred Oct. 20 near the intersection of Azusa Canyon Road and Arrow Highway. The woman was working, delivering newspapers, when she was stopped about 5:15 a.m. by an officer who was driving a marked SUV police cruiser.

Fraijo no longer works for the police department, according to City Manager John Davidson. He declined to say whether Fraijo was fired or resigned.

The City Council has been informed of the lawsuit and will review it with the city’s attorney and give direction in how the city will handle it, said Davidson.

(Mod: Another city that might want to consider going with L.A. County law enforcement.)

Sales of New U.S. Homes Fell More Than Forecast in July ( link) Purchases of new U.S. homes plunged 13.4 percent in July, the most in more than three years, raising concern higher mortgage rates will slow the real-estate rebound.

Sales fell to a 394,000 annualized pace, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The reading was the weakest since October and was lower than any of the forecasts by 74 economists Bloomberg surveyed.

A jump in borrowing costs over the past three months may be prompting buyers to hold back, showing the difficult job ahead for Federal Reserve officials as they try to wean the economy from monetary stimulus while sustaining growth. The falloff in demand is in contrast to a surge in confidence among builders such as Toll Brothers Inc. (TOL), which suggests they remain optimistic about the long-term outlook as employment improves.

“It’s definitely a rate shock,” said Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae in Washington. “You could see another month or two of weak sales or it could go longer. This is a sustainable recovery, but we’ve also said it’s not robust. Along the way, there will be some hiccups. This is certainly a hiccup.”

(Mod: Better put those One Carter projects on hold. The only thing worse than building McMansions on our hillsides is if they sit empty because nobody wants to pay the interest on the million dollar loan it would take to occupy one.)

CA Assembly pays women less; fewer in top staff positions (Cal link) The state Capitol remains a good old boys’ club.

Women who work for the California State Assembly face a glass ceiling, substantial pay inequities and limits to their career advancement. Female employees are paid less than their male counterparts, are less likely to serve in leadership roles and remain stuck in secretarial positions, a analysis of legislative payroll data has found. The evidence is staggering.

* Women are 9 times more likely to work as a secretary.

* Men are nearly twice as likely to serve as a highly-paid chief consultant.

* The 10 highest-paid employees of the state Assembly are all men.

* Women fill only 35 percent of the Assembly’s chief-of-staff positions, the top staff slot for each elected representative.

* The average woman employed by the Assembly makes $5,640 less per year than the average man.

* Men represent 62 percent of the Assembly’s Top 100 highest-paid employees. The Top 50 highest-paid men make, on average, $19,880 more per year than the Top 50 highest-paid women.

The analysis of payroll data comes one day after Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg urged the Capitol to “talk about gender, talk about the biases we all hold” in a speech to the California Women’s Legislative Caucus.

The best-selling author of “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” has been campaigning to address the lack of women in leadership positions in government and business. The Assembly’s payroll data suggest the state Legislature lags the private sector in issues of gender equity.

(Mod: The rule in Sacramento seems to be do as they say, not as they do. Or I guess you could just call it hypocrisy. Probably simpler.)

Enjoy your Saturday. And be sure to stock up on drinking water.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Water Letter That (Almost) Nobody Except You Will Have Seen

(Mod: It is likely that within the next few weeks the following letter will go out to the residents of Sierra Madre. After months of rumors and speculation, this note from the Public Works Department will finally put an actual date to when the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District will start pumping its version of water into Sierra Madre. The letter was first revealed yesterday as part of this week's City Manager Report, and now it can be found here.)

City of Sierra Madre
Public Works Department
232 W. Sierra Madre Boulevard
Sierra Madre, CA
626 355-7135

To: All Consumers of City of Sierra Madre Water
Subject: Temporary Change in Source of Water Supply

The City of Sierra Madre is preparing to temporarily change the source of water supply you are receiving. Beginning on September 16, 2013 the source of water will change from local groundwater to imported water from the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District (SGVMWD). SGVMWD will provide imported treated surface water produced by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). The change to MWD water supplied by SGVMWD is necessitated by the seriously reduced local groundwater levels resulting from several years of dry weather conditions. MWD is a fully permitted water system to treat and distribute treated surface water.

The change of water supply source from local groundwater to MWD water will result in changing the disinfectant in the water from the chlorine used now to the chloramines used by MWD. Chloramine treatment is not new, as chloramines have been used for disinfectant purposes for many years and are considered effective disinfectants. It is encouraging to note that complaints of taste and odors have been found to decrease in many systems after the use of chloramines begins.

Chloramines do not pose a health hazard to the general population. However, they can be a serious problem to individuals with kidney disease undergoing dialysis treatment on artificial kidney machines unless the chloramines in the treatment water are reduced to acceptable levels. We have been working with the State and County Health Department to ensure that everyone involved with the treatment of dialysis patients is alerted and that proper precautions are taken. If you are a dialysis patient receiving dialysis in your home, please contact your dialysis provider.

Chloramines, like chlorine are toxic to fish. Therefore, anyone putting fish into the water obtained from our supply should ensure that the fish are properly protected. Local pet and fish shops should be contacted to determine the best measures to cope with a chloraminated water supply. Holding the water for a period of time before using with fish may work well with chlorine, but it is not a reliable procedure with chloramines which are able to persist much longer.

If you have any questions on this change in our water supply source, please contact City water Superintendent Jose Reynoso at (626) 355 - 7135 ext. 813.

Where letters like this come from

(Mod: The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality - link - has an article on its website titled "Notifying Customers of a Change to Chloramine Disinfectant." The instructions read, "Use this sample wording to complete the required notices when your PWS changes distribution disinfectant from free chlorine to chloramine. Notices must be distributed to your retail customers, the community, and your wholesale customers at least 14 days before the change occurs." Here is how their letter reads.)

Sample Language for Notification Upon Changing from Free Chlorine to Chloramines - On [date], the [water system name] will be changing the disinfectant that we use from chlorine to chloramines. This change is intended to benefit our customers by reducing the levels of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) in the system, while still providing protection from waterborne disease.

However, the change to chloramines can cause problems to persons dependent on dialysis machines. A condition known as hemolytic anemia can occur if the disinfectant is not completely removed from the water that is used for the dialysate. Consequently, the pretreatment scheme used for the dialysis units must include some means, such as a charcoal filter, for removing the chloramine prior to this date. Medical facilities should also determine if additional precautions are required for other medical equipment.

In addition, chloraminated water may be toxic to fish. If you have a fish tank, please make sure that the chemicals or filters that you are using are designed for use in water that has been treated with chloramines. You may also need to change the type of filter that you use for the fish tank.

(Mod: Kind of similar.)

Chloraminated Water

(Mod: Tens of millions of unwitting consumers drink chloraminated water daily, and there has been no general die off amongst the human population supplied with it. But there is a fairly large body of literature criticizing the stuff, and in the spirit of keeping you properly informed about the issues, we thought we'd cite one article in particular, written by none other than Erin Brockovich. I don't know how it goes with you, but whenever I receive a letter from a government agency like the one from our Department of Public Works above assuring me that everything is generally fine, I automatically assume there must be something wrong. Why else would they bother bringing it up?)

Protection or Poison? Chloramination of Drinking Water (Erin Brockovich - link):

Water utilities across the country are changing the way they treat our drinking water. They’re switching from chlorine, the primary disinfectant used in drinking water systems for over a hundred years, to the alternative disinfectant chloramine at an alarming rate. But are they making a sound, informed decision? What are the health effects? Where are the studies to help us understand the impacts to our health and infrastructure?

The fact of the matter is chloramines are a terrible mistake. While utility companies often use chloramines as a matter of convenience, there are far safer alternatives. As a world-leading nation, we have to stop cutting corners where our health and safety are at stake.

Historically, drinking water disinfection with chlorine has been extremely successful in addressing bacterial and viral contamination. It has virtually wiped out waterborne diseases like typhoid fever, cholera, and dysentery. However, chlorine disinfection may also cause health risks. When chlorine is added to the water, it not only kills bacteria and viruses, but it also reacts with other chemicals dissolved in the water to form new compounds, known as disinfection byproducts. Some of these byproducts, such as trihalomethanes, are thought to cause cancer and pose other long-term health risks.

Chloramine, on the other hand, is a combination of chlorine and ammonia. While chlorine dissipates and evaporates into the air relatively quickly, chloramine is more stable and will last longer in the water system. The goal is to provide increased protection from bacterial contamination. Chloramine also happens to be the cheapest and easiest of the options available to water utilities. Yet even though the use of chloramine is convenient, it may not be safe.

Studies indicate chloramine causes more rapid deterioration of the municipal infrastructure and degradation of valves and fittings. In water systems that still use lead pipes or components, this causes lead and other metals to leach into drinking water and out of faucets and showerheads. The chemicals themselves may not cost much, but we can’t afford their consequences.

On top of all these infrastructure and health problems associated with chloramine use, there is growing evidence that chloramine forms toxic byproducts as it disinfects. This also occurs with the use of chlorine, but recent studies indicate the formation of toxic byproducts in drinking water may be higher when utilities use chloramines. These studies also indicate that chloramine causes more dangerous byproducts than other treatment alternatives, such as ozone or chlorine dioxide.

Disinfection byproducts are created when the compounds used for disinfecting drinking water react with natural organic matter, bromide, or iodide. Research shows that the byproducts are highly toxic to mammalian cells like ours, and they’re known to affect cells’ genetic material, which can cause mutation or cancer. In studies, some of these byproducts, such as iodoacetic acid, have been shown to cause developmental abnormalities in mouse embryos. Other byproducts of chloramine use include the highly toxic human carcinogens hydrazine and N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). Hydrazine is the primary ingredient in rocket fuel and is extremely toxic at very low levels in drinking water. NDMA is also a chemical used in the manufacture of rocket fuels. Both chemicals are a result of the chloramine’s combination of ammonia and chlorine, a potentially deadly cocktail.

Amazingly, it’s not even clear that chloramine’s benefits are worth these risks. Chloramine is 200 times less effective than chlorine in killing e-coli bacteria, rotaviruses, and polio.

How many times do we have to hear water utilities complain that the EPA is making them adopt chloramines? This is not the truth. Time and time again, water utilities shift the blame from themselves and take the easy way out, pointing to some higher authority as responsible.

These utility companies are blaming chloramines adoption on the EPA Stage I and Stage II Disinfectants and Disinfection By-Products Rule (DBPR), which has been actively negotiated since 1992. These rules tighten drinking water regulations, requiring utilities to provide their customers with cleaner, safer drinking water. To support the science behind these regulations, well over $100 million in research has been conducted to better define the risks from microbial pathogens and disinfection byproducts.

The Stage II DBPR and the Long Term Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule are the second phase of rules required by Congress. Set to take effect in 2012, these rules strengthen protection against microbial contaminants and aim to reduce dangerous disinfection byproducts. The rule targets water systems with the greatest risk and builds incrementally on existing rules. Under the Stage II DBPR, systems will conduct an evaluation of their distribution systems to identify the locations with high disinfection byproduct concentrations. These locations will then be used as the sampling sites for Stage II DBPR compliance monitoring.

Utility companies are concerned that these new regulations are too expensive. To cut costs, many are choosing to adopt chloramine treatment. It’s the cheapest way of meeting the EPA’s new regulations, but it’s one of the most dangerous ways of getting the job done.

There are several alternatives recommended by the EPA that do not involve adding more chemicals to our drinking water. All of the alternatives involve removing organic contaminants through enhanced coagulation or sedimentation, filtration, or carbon adsorption. Within those three areas of treatment, there are scores of readily available, real-world applicable options. Alternative disinfectants, such as ozone and chlorine dioxide, are better, but they too can cause the formation of other byproducts. All this demonstrates the need to effectively remove the bad stuff in our drinking water rather than trying to merely treat it with chemicals.

Collectively, we can stop the poisoning of our drinking water supplies. Speak up, and tell your water utilities, state officials, and the EPA, “We are informed, we understand the issue, and we do not want you to continue contaminating our water supplies.”  Cite the Cincinnati’s experience with granular activated carbon (GAC) as an alternative.

In December 1978, Richard Miller became director of Greater Cincinnati Water Works, home to the EPA Research Center and Office of Administration and Resources Management. Miller spearheaded the creation and implementation of a vision that would provide Water Works customers with the high-quality water they desired at a price they could afford. In 1992, he implemented a post-filtration granular activated carbon process, which essentially vacuumed up the dangerous contaminants in water. Using this process, Miller eliminated the need to sully Cincinnati’s water with chlorine, chloramine, or any other dangerous chemicals.

Eighteen years later, Mr. Miller explains, “It is better to remove contaminants by adsorption with GAC instead of adding chemicals that might have unintended consequences. Science is continually identifying additional chemicals in the drinking water supply, often in minute concentrations. While evidence may be lacking that many may pose no significant threat to public health, removing them as an additional benefit of treatment for other purposes is advantageous.”

(Mod: If you want to read more about the possible deleterious health effects of chloramine, Citizens Concerned About Chloramine out of San Francisco has put together a fairly exhaustive database. You can link to it by clicking here.)

I've one other thing for you. There is also a video available on YouTube called "Health effects from chloraminated water." Apparently this stuff really isn't for everyone. You can link to it here.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sierra Madre Weekly: Complaint filed with Los Angeles District Attorney against City of Sierra Madre

No, really.
(Mod: You have to recognize this about Earl Richey. His determination to get some real time truth on the issue of water knows few bounds, and no matter what the world throws at him he just keeps pushing on. And this time it is possible he has convinced the District Attorney that the bizarre affairs of the waterless Sierra Madre Water Company need to be looked into. If so it would be quite a breakthrough for the resident who just will not stop fighting for what he believes is important. Here is how The Weekly's newshound Shel Segal breaks it all down.)

Complaint filed with Los Angeles District Attorney against City of Sierra Madre - Public Integrity Division looking into allegations (link): One Sierra Madre resident is claiming that city water customers were collectively overcharged more than $88,000 for water in fiscal year 2011-12, according to documents obtained by Beacon Media Inc.

Sierra Madre resident Earl Richey is so convinced of this that he has filed a complaint with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Public Integrity Division.

Office Spokesperson Jane Robison confirmed on Tuesday that a complaint had been filed. However, she could not offer any specifics about the complaint.

Richey alleges the city over-billed the community by approximately 92 acre feet. He said he multiplied that figure by the city’s Tier 1 water rate of $2.21. He added he arrived at the alleged over-billed amount by multiplying that by 435, the number of water units in one acre foot.

“The city billed customers for more water than they produced,” Richey said. “I consider that fraud.”

Richey also believes the city should have fixed its water problems years ago and not wait until the current drought-like conditions.

“If it’s true the city has no water reserves left, the city should have been discussing these issues 30 years ago,” he said. “Why did we wait until the city is bone dry?”

(Mod: It is at this point in the article that Elaine Aguilar attempts to gainsay Earl's claims with what she feels is a bit of convincing counterpoint. Whether it is or not I am not sure as what she says really doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Of course, Elaine is the same person who one 4th of July weekend tried to convince me that I should support the 2010 water rate increase because we would get Federal matching funds for water infrastructure repair. I am not certain, but I believe those moneys eventually went into the General Fantasy Fund.)

City officials said while Richey’s math is correct, there is more to the billing process than what he is figuring.

“What you have here is sort of a situation of apples and oranges,” City Manager Elaine Aguilar said.

“You can’t take one apple and one orange and have two apples at the end of it. What (Richey is figuring) is apples and oranges. They’re numbers and they’re water numbers, but you can’t compare them together and say, ‘this is the end result.’ They’re two different things that are being put together.”

Aguilar added she and her staff have explained this to Richey, but that he just won’t listen.

“We have spoken to Mr. Richey in the past to why this is not possible to do what he is trying to do,” Aguilar said. “It is impossible with our current technology, to do what he is trying to do.”

(Mod: Elaine's argument seems to me to have gotten bogged down in fruit. If somebody understands what she is getting at here please take the opportunity to explain it to me. As Ross Perot says, I'm all ears.)

Who is the Sierra Madre Watchman?

(Mod: There are now three installments in the Sierra Madre Watchman series. Numbers 2 and 3 are in today's edition of the Sierra Madre Weekly. Pick up your copy downtown today. The first installment appeared there a few weeks back - link. I got permission from Terry Miller to reproduce it here. It is some pretty good stuff.)

For over thirty years, the people have been asking the City government to repair the leaky water mains. The big questions are: “When is the City going to fix the water mains? How much water is wasted by this neglect? Who is to blame, and what should be done?"

In 2010, the City said that a raise in the water rates was needed by 7.5% and adopted 3 tiers of rates, in order to repair the water mains and to increase the reserves by $500,000. They raised the water rates depending on how much water was used by the people. They said that they wanted to encourage conservation. According to Bruce Inman, the Public Works Director, the cost of a unit of water is the same whether it is the first middle, or last unit used. The result is a penalty on those people that need more water. The City is the responsible party to furnish the water in the quantity that is needed by each and every property.

The Mayor has stated that she wanted to raise the rates by 15%, but she lost in the vote. When will the City Government accept the blame, and what should be done? When will the City take the blame for their own mistakes, and do something about it, and quit blaming the people as being wasteful?

The City has not repaired or replaced any water mains nor have they built up the reserves. They say they don’t have any money to do what they said they would do with the money from the rate increases.

What would you call the action? A lie to the people or just plain fraud? In any case, it is the mismanagement of our monies and the question arises, should the City Manager be fired and, if so, how many others should also be terminated?

Out of an income of over $8M, the City cannot find any money to maintain the water system! They do have money to spend on a study, at a cost of $48,000, or more, to find out how much to raise the water rates higher. They also have money to pay a lobbyist $5,000, and money to send a number of City Council Members to visit our politicians in Washington, D.C. Note: They don’t seem to be able to talk to our representatives at home.

Now you hear the same story all over again and the City has scheduled a series of meetings and tours, to once again, try - to brain wash the people as to how bad the need is to have the people pay more for the same thing. What makes them think that the people will believe what they say they will do? Where is the guarantee that the money will be used for the purpose that they say?

When will the government take the blame for their own mistakes and quit blaming the people as being wasteful? Enough is enough!! No more water rate increases without a vote by the people.

An Honest Citizen, Sierra Madre Watchman

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

City of Sierra Madre / Hildreth Case Goes to Trial on December 30, 2013

(Mod: As a devoted follower of all things Sierra Madre I am sure that you are aware of Jeff Hildreth and his years long quest to build a wine bar deep beneath his home on East Montecito. You must also be aware that things later became quite complicated, and for as long as I can remember the City of Sierra Madre has been attempting to shut him down. What the City of Sierra Madre apparently did not take into account is what an incredibly determined individual Jeff Hildreth is, and continues to show himself to be. And now, after more than a decade of legal wrangling, it all ends up in a Superior Court trial. An event that, should the City lose (and anything is possible) could potentially cost we the taxpayers millions of dollars. All because the City rather arrogantly refused to sit down with Jeff Hildreth and work through their difficulties, and instead lawyered up ... If they'd expected that Jeff would fold and not fight back, they were wrong. Their bluff has been called ... Below is the "DEFENDANTS’ SUMMARY OF THE CASE IN RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF’S SUMMARY," as written by Jeff Hildreth's Attorney, David E. Rosenbaum. Admittedly the legalistic nature of his writing makes for dry reading at times, however there are parts that are fascinating. The remote and heavily lawyer dependent Sierra Madre City Hall is about to find itself explaining some of its actions to a Superior Court Judge. That alone has been a long time coming, and is certainly worth the price of admission ... A great introduction to this case is available from the Pasadena Star News archives. It is called "Hole truth still murky in lawsuit over Sierra Madre wine bar project," and can be linked to here.)



Case No. CV12-10339 [Assigned to Hon. William D. Stewart, Dept. A]

Since late 1998, the Hildreths have been engaged in construction of a restaurant and wine cellar at their home (“Property”) in the City of Sierra Madre (“City”). The project was authorized by a series of building permits, a conditional use permit, and residence conversion permit – all issued by the City in 1998-2001. At each step where required, the Hildreths obtained City inspections and approvals of the construction. By June 2009, the Hildreths had invested over $133,000 in materials, supplies and services in the project.

On June 9, 2009, the City’s former Building Official, Richard Temple (“Temple”), who at the time had been in the City’s employ less than six months, halted construction by issuing a stop- work order on the sole ground that there were no building permits in the City’s records for the construction. During the ensuing 18 months, no City representative gave the Hildreths notice of any specific violation at the Property other that a general reference to unspecified violations of the “building code” (which contains 3,044 provisions citable as violations) in an October 2009 letter from the City’s outside counsel. We contend that this notice was constitutionally void for vagueness (e.g., Cranston v. City of Richmond, 40 Cal. 3d 755, 764 (1985)), thereby voiding all subsequent litigation and court orders issued herein.)

For about one year before the City filed the instant complaint, the Hildreths made repeated, and unsuccessful, requests to the City for the specific Code violations it claimed. During heavy rains, threatened mudslides and City-ordered evacuations in Fall 2010, they repeatedly requested that Temple issue a permit for them to erect a deck over the open excavation to protect their neighbors’ property from erosion damage caused by the heavy rains. When he failed to respond, the Hildreths on October 18, 2010 wrote the City Council, (i) advising it that they had erected the deck to protect against rain erosion and (ii) that the City Manager’s administration refused to specify what code violations needed repair, and (iii) accusing the City’s management of corruption analogous to the City of Bell. In retaliation for that constitutional petition and expression of free speech, that City immediately began preparing the papers that led to this litigation.

At no time before filing the complaint did the City give the Hildreths the order or notice to repair violations that is required by Health & Safety Code (“H & S Code”) §§17980.6 and 17980.7(c)(4)(G) or the notice and adequate time to comply with such order that, according to H & S Code §17980(c)(14), are required “by the California ... and the United States Constitution[s].”

At all times from June 9, 2009 and continuing throughout the pendency of the instant case, the Hildreths have been forbidden – by the City’s stop work order and by this court’s injunction – from repairing or abating any alleged violation on the Property.

Without giving notice or issuing any order for abatement, the City on December 1, 2010 served the Hildreths with the instant complaint and a 2-day notice of an ex parte application for TRO, accompanied by over 3 inches of moving papers, pertinent portions of which were illegible. 8. Unknown to the Hildreths any time prior to the October 16, 2012 MSC herein, those moving papers contained declarations and a brief that perpetrated a fraud on the court in that they falsely stated that the City had never issued building permits for the project, thereby rendering the Hildreths’ Property, in its entirety, a building code violation; whereas, five photocopies attached to those declarations, when examined under magnification during the 2012 MSC, depicted the City’s original copies of the Hildreths’ building permits.

The Hildreths could not comprehend the meaning of the papers served on December 1, 2010, had no understanding of legal procedure, had no attorney and could find none to represent them in the single business day before the TRO. Through an acquaintance they contacted a non- municipal law practitioner, Mr. Ciccarelli, delivered the papers to him and persuaded him to informally appear for them. At the TRO hearing, Ciccarelli advised the court that he was appearing pro bono and was not undertaking to represent the Hildreths, after which the court signed the TRO and set a hearing on a preliminary injunction. Through a subsequent misunderstanding between the Hildreths and Ciccarelli – confirmed by Ciccarelli in a C.C.P. §473 attorney-fault declaration – they mistakenly relied on Ciccarelli to review the papers (which remained in his office) and do what needed to be done. As a result, they had filed no Opposition and were completely unprepared for the injunction hearing, at which Ciccarelli did not appear. Mr. Hildreth advised the court of the foregoing misunderstanding and surprise at the outset of the hearing. In the course of the hearing, when the Judge Simpson stated that the crux of the issue was whether the Hildreths had a building permit, counsel for the City falsely represented to the court that the Hildreths had obtained “no permits, no approvals, no inspections.” Thereupon, the court granted the preliminary injunction.

The TRO and ensuing injunction have continued in effect the City’s stop work order in a continuous and unbroken prohibition against the Hildreths performing any work of any kind [including work to abate the alleged violations] so that the Hildreths have been prohibited from abating any alleged code violations at an time since June 9, 2009.

In 29 subparagraphs of paragraph 24 the complaint, the City alleges that various conditions on the Property violate building code provisions. Two of those allegations clearly violate the void for vagueness doctrine - one alleging that the Property violates the “building code”; another, alleging that it is a “public nuisance” (a centuries-old doctrine with hundreds of possible meanings). Twelve other subparagraphs allege that the Hildreths violated the code by doing various kinds of “unpermitted” work – all based on the City’s above-described fraud on the court. As for the remaining alleged violations – as well as the ‘unpermitted’ work – the City failed to give the Hildreths the notices and adequate time to repair the alleged violations that are required by the H & S Code and the Constitution before filing the complaint.

One of said allegations was that the Hildreths constructed the deck described in ¶4 above after being served with the stop work order and that this violated the code. True, however, we believe that the building code then in effect provided that the penalties for such a violation did not apply to “emergency work” where “such work was urgently necessary.” The deck was built in such circumstances.

The City’s conduct since the filing of the complaint is consistent with an intent to harm the Hildreths in retaliation for their October 18, 2010 exercise of the rights of petition and free speech and is inconsistent with a lawful intent to abate real public nuisances. When the Hildreths, at the Court’s urging, attempted to apply for a new building permit, the City responded by refusing even to provide them with an application form. When they applied for a permit to demolish the aforesaid deck, the City denied their application in secret without notice. Between November 2011 and April 2012, the Hildreths on over 14 occasions requested that the City meet with them to discuss new and corrected construction plans that the Hildreths had submitted for City approval. The City refused all but one of those requests.

By failing to provide the Hildreths with the above-cited pre-filing §17980.6 notice of violations, and by failing to provide an opportunity to repair same, the City cut off this court’s power to appoint a receiver (§17980.7(c)), and destroyed the receiver’ s power under §17980.7(c)(4) (C), (D) & (G) to obtain cost estimates for repairs, to employ contractors to make the repairs, to borrow money for said repairs, or to obtain a lien on the Property to secure the receiver’s fees and expenses. I.e., each such power is statutorily contingent on the “notice of violation” required under §17980.6, which notice was never served.

Other than various conclusory allegations in the complaint and moving papers, the City has introduced, and the record contains, no evidence that any condition on the Property in fact threatens the safety, health or convenience of the public. E.g., there is no fire safety risk posed by the City’s claim that a chimney that the Hildreths have not even begun to construct lacks a flame arrester; nor is there any risk from alleged electrical code violations where no electrical lines have been connected to a power source. The court granted the City’s motion to appoint a receiver on the ground that “a structure erected without compliance to the applicable building codes is almost in and of itself a danger to the community.” My research has disclosed only one reported case anywhere in the country where such a contention has been made, and the court rejected that argument.

The City from the outset herein has rested its assertion that the Property is a “public nuisance” on its contention that the mere declaration in its Municipal Code that a violation of the Building Code constitutes a “public nuisance” converts any condition or activity into a “public nuisance,” regardless of whether the condition or activity in fact endangers the public. Were a court order to adopt that argument, investing the City with such arbitrary power, such an order would be unconstitutional under controlling U.S. Supreme Court law. Yates v. City Of Milwaukee, 77 (10 Wall.) U.S. 497, 505 (1871): It is a doctrine not to be tolerated in this country, that a municipal corporation, without ... [showing] a given structure ... to be a nuisance, can, by its mere declaration that it is one [i.e., a nuisance], subject it to removal

Based on the above, the Hildreths contend that from December 3, 2010 through the April 22, 2013 hearing in Pasadena, the City and the Pasadena branch of this court engaged in an ongoing deprivation of the Hildreths’ rights under the federal and state constitutionals and under the H & S Code provisions described above. City of Santa Monica v. Gonzalez (2008) 43 Cal.4th 905, 926 (“Gonzales”), which held:

“[A]n owner of a substandard building [is ensured] procedural due process rights guaranteed by the California Constitution and the United States Constitution, including, but not limited to, receipt of notice of the violation claimed and an adequate and reasonable period of time to comply with any orders which are issued by the enforcement agency or the court.” [Citation.] There is thus no question an owner may contest a section 17980.7 receivership if fair notice of a claimed substandard condition was lacking or if a reasonable opportunity to correct the cited condition was not afforded. (Emphasis added.)


Unfortunately, the misconduct at issue in this case goes well beyond the above. In the year since the court appointed Receiver David J. Pasternak, it has come to light that Pasternak has engaged in and is engaging in wrongful actions to the Hildreths’ injury. These include various findings and recommendations made in Pasternak’s Proposal, dated October 11, 2012 (“1st Proposal”) and Second Proposal, dated January 23, 2013 (“2d Proposal”). We will very shortly file the above-mentioned Motion for Leave to Sue Receiver Pasternak in the Federal Case, the hearing on which is reserved for September 20, 2013. The reason for the motion is that in the Federal Case, Pasternak has asserted that a party suing a receiver in another court must obtain permission for such suit from the appointing court (this court). We set forth in skeletal summary below the events and issues that our motion will present to this court.

As a preliminary matter, it is necessary that we advise the court that Pasternak prides himself on having been in the practice of receivership matters for 30 years and claims to have been receiver in “hundreds” of cases. He is also to be congratulated for having been in the practice of law for 36 years. He has more than adequate resources, e.g., his law office occupies half a floor of the 1875 Century Park East building, among the highest rentals in Los Angeles. Even more important, he was the receiver in Gonzalez, supra.

Based on the above, Pasternak’s fiduciary duty as receiver herein includes the obligation to apply his wealth of experience and legal knowledge in a competent manner in his participation herein. We will show that his duty of care and competence required and requires that he understand the following at the minimum:

(1) A review of the court file sufficient to understand its contents that, contrary to the mandate of Gonzalez, the Hildreths received no pre-filing notice of the specific code violations and have never been given the opportunity to repair said alleged violations;

(2) The constitutional law doctrine that overbroad government regulations and orders are “void for vagueness;”

(3) The federal case law holding that a public official’s qualified immunity from liability disintegrates when the official enforces an order that is clearly invalid or unconstitutional;

(4) A receiver’s fiduciary duties (i) of strict impartiality; (ii) to preserve – not demolish – the receivership property; (iii) to do only those things that are “strictly necessary” for such preservation and to refrain from acting “extravagantly”; (iv) to be candid with the court and all parties, including full disclosure of all pertinent matters; and (v) to seek the court’s instructions on any doubtful or otherwise appropriate matter;; and

(5) The Supreme Court’s recent adoption of the doctrine of “willful blindness” in federal civil cases. Global-Tech Appliances v. SEB, 131 S. Ct. 2060, 2069-2070 (2011).

Shortly before this court issued the order appointing Pasternak, the Hildreths filed the declarations of three expert witnesses with respect to the appropriate methods and estimated costs of correcting the City’s alleged code violations and a report to the court that the code violations alleged in the complaint can be repaired for an estimated cost of $4,900. Receiver Pasternak’s office has had copies of those documents since before the receiver’s first inspection of the Property on September 18, 2012. In formulating his 1st and 2d Proposals, Pasternak concealed and ignored the findings in those sworn expert declarations.

In preparing and formulating both of his proposals, Pasternak concealed from the court the results of Mr. Lake’s September 18 inspection. Lake, the only representative from Paternak’s office who inspected the site and the person who did nearly all the work on the Proposal, repeatedly admitted to Jeffrey Hildreth and others that Lake’s experts found no substantial violations during their inspection of the Property.

Instead of considering the Hildreths’ sworn evaluations and estimates, Pasternak formulated his 1st Proposal by concealing the above $4,900 estimate and by falsely misrepresenting therein that contractors’ bids to his office for the remediation of the code violations estimated that the work would cost $300,000-400,000. Based on that false representation, Pasternak obtained valuations and formulated a finding that said misrepresented cost exceeded the market value of the Property. This false premise, in turn, led to Pasternak’s conclusion in the 1st Proposal that “rehabilitation of the Property with the structure above the existing hole [the Hildreths’s home] is not an economically prudent course of action." From and after his formulation of the aforesaid false findings and conclusions, all work performed in Pasternak’s office and all matters formulated in the 2d Proposal and thereafter have been devoted to the demolition of the Hildreths’ home and filling the underground area with concrete slurry.

We base that above contention that Pasternak formulated false statements in his 1st Proposal concerning the contractors’ estimates of the work on the following. An expert analysis of the bids on which Pasternak relies: Contrary to the standard practice in Southern California, none of the proposals relied on by Pasternak were prepared by a licensed California contractor, and none were supported by an engineer’s report. The bid from Urban Drywall proposed work on the Property, 96.4% of which was unrelated to the code violations alleged in the complaint. Western Builders submitted two proposals – only the first of which addressed the code violations alleged in the complaint. That proposal is not an estimate of the cost of abatement; in fact, Western expressly admits therein that with respect to the violations alleged by the City, “[t]he potential cost of corrections cannot be accurately estimated without a detailed review.” The second, and completely separate Western proposal is to construct an entirely new “basement” at a cost of approximately $390,000. The latter proposal is not an estimate of the cost to abate the violations alleged in the complaint.

Given the above, most importantly Mr. Lake’s admissions to Jeffrey Hildreth, we contend that the concealment of the various facts and the misinterpretation of the Urban Drywall and West Builders’ bids exhibit a prima facie case of “willful blindness” on Pasternak’s part.

The foregoing events support the Hildreths’ further contention that Pasternak has breached his fiduciary duty of strict impartiality. We base that claim on the following: The Hildreths and their counsel have personally observed (a) repeated open displays of close friendship between Pasternak and the City’s lead attorney herein, William Litvak and (b) repeated ex parte discussions among Pasternak, Litvak and sometimes Charlene Wynder in circumstances that warrant a reasonable inference that the discussions concerned trial strategy herein. When I attempted to join one such conversation, in the corridor of the court on February 19, 2012, Litvak angrily told me to leave the vicinity.

I have repeatedly requested in writing that Pasternak make disclosures of all records of ex parte communications concerning this case between him and Litvak, and all records of fees generated for Pasternak as a result of Litvak’s nominations of Pasternak as receiver in this and other cases. Pasternak has refused to make any such disclosures. As a result, I conducted my own search of case records limited to Los Angeles Superior Court and found that in the past 36 months Pasternak has obtained or has invoices pending with courts in the aggregate of over $500,000 in fees and expenses for work in cases in which Litvak recommended him as receiver.

Based on the foregoing, commencing on March 12, 2013 I have written a series of letters and emails to Pasternak and, later, to his attorney in the Federal Case, stating or requesting the following:

(a) I have repeatedly informed Pasternak in writing that – at least on some occasions – he “performs judicial functions” within the meaning of Canon 6A (definition of “judge”) of the California Code of Judicial Ethics.

(b) I requested that Pasternak disclose the above ex parte communications with Litvak and Litvak-generated receiver fees and costs.

(c) I asked that Pasternak recuse himself as receiver herein based on the above-describe conduct, much of which consists of per se judicial improprieties. The recusal request is warranted by the Advisory Committee’s interpretation of Canon 2A of the Code – i.e., recusal is required whenever “a person aware of the facts might reasonably entertain a doubt that the judge would be able to act with integrity, impartiality, and competence.”

(d) I have asked Pasternak to seek formal instructions from the court with respect to his duties under the Judicial Ethics Code.

Pasternak has never responded to the above requests. However, he has stated in a sworn declaration and on the record in open court before Judge Simpson that he “is not a judge,” that he “makes no decision,” that he only makes “recommendations” to the court, and that in 30 years no one has ever contended that he is subject to the Code of Judicial Ethics.

Pasternak’s above refusals to disclose indicate that Pasternak has something to hide that will come out on the record if he makes the disclosures.

Pasternak’s statements about his not being a judge and making only “recommendations” – under the federal case law that applies to the §1983 case in federal court – deprive him of the “absolute judicial immunity” that he has claimed he has as to the §1983 claim. We anticipate that he will make the same claim with regard to the damage claims for his breaches of fiduciary duties under state law. We will show in our motion that Pasternak has no immunity whatsoever for any of his actions from and after the 1st Proposal because since then he has been working based on proposals the do not relate to the code violations alleged in the complaint. His work on non- code-violation matters also deprives him of his fees and expenses under both state and federal case law.

Finally, Pasternak’s wealth of experience and seniority and success in the practice of law preclude him from claiming “qualified immunity” as a court officer because he is charged with the knowledge that this court’s order appointing him is clearly invalid under the California and U.S. Constitutions and under the rationale of Gonzales in his he, Pasternak, was the receiver. Furthermore, to the extent that he claims immunity for enforcing or complying with the August 31, 2012 order, the federal case law holds that the protection from enforcement of court orders does not apply to the manner in which the officer enforces the order.

Respectfully submitted, DATED: August 16, 2013 DAVID E. ROSENBAUM Attorney for the Hildreths