(4/11/07) Editorial – Why I’m Going to Vote No on Measure V, Part 2


Let’s break it down.  Two.  As in two stories.  I talked a little about this in last week’s editorial.  Two is too restrictive, and sets limits on the rights of the downtown property owners that, I can guarantee you, you wouldn’t want placed on you if you owned the property.  Properties on a slope?  Underground parking is still considered one story.  Look how much of a slope there is at the Howie’s parking lot.  You could easily put one story of below grade parking at the south, and two stories above, without blocking anyone’s view, particularly if the stories were stepped.  We shouldn’t need an election to allow that kind of project.  The community can give its input during the planning commission and city council meetings, as they’ve done for a hundred years.

Thirty.  Thirty feet is too restrictive.  Hotel Shirley is 39 feet.  Any church that wants to replace an aging structure with a more modern one, as both Bethany and St. Rita’s have done (yes it was some time ago, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen again), would be limited to 30 feet, or would be required to go through the election process.  Of course, going through the election process, they would not have to do an EIR, so we wouldn’t really know what their project’s effects would be.  Enough said.

Thirteen.  This is the one that really gets me.  There are a lot of people in this town who still don’t know that Renaissance Plaza and Hotel Shirley have residences in them.  I lived here for two or three years before I found out.  Yet Hotel Shirley has a DU ratio of 20/acre, and Renaissance Plaza has a rating of 60/acre.  You read that right.  60 DU per acre, and many people don’t even know that it has a single residence there.  So I guess I don’t see how a DU ratio that is more than 13 is going to devastate the downtown area.  I think we could realistically exceed 13 by quite a bit before finding ourselves beset by serious negative impact.

And another thing.  If, say, 72 units are built in a residential area, the people at those 72 residences will have to drive through the downtown to get home or to do business in other cities, and they will most likely drive back downtown to visit restaurants or do some shopping, go to the post office, pick up their prescription, etc..  If those 72 units are built downtown, the residents will be able to walk to the restaurants, shops, post office and drug store.  Which way creates more traffic downtown?  I said last week, I think mixed use can be a good thing, and is consistent with the ideas of the turn of the 20th century (you know, when this town was started) because back then, shop owners frequently lived over their commercial establishments.

As I also said last week, senior housing downtown makes more sense in an area where folks who can no longer drive can walk to the post office, the drugstore, the restaurants, and the bus lines that will take them out of the City.

But I get too wordy, so here’s a bulleted list of some of the reasons why I’m voting No on Measure V, and why I encourage you to do the same.

It makes dramatic changes to the 100-year old system that got us to where we are, while claiming to want to keep things the way they are.  If the system was good enough to get us what we claim to want, why replace it?
It’s a flawed initiative with multiple ambiguities, many of which will likely need to be litigated to be defined, and we can’t afford that.
It infringes on the property rights of the property owners downtown.
It has no clause for emergency rebuilding of historic properties that exceed its restrictions.
It will require, at the very least, a re-examination of the city’s compliance with the housing element, and possibly a restructuring of the housing element.
If, due to Measure V, we fall out of compliance with state housing laws, judges can require us to accept any project that offers high density housing, whether we want it or not.
If a project goes to initiative, the developer is no longer required to complete an Environmental Impact Report.  This has the potential to be very dangerous to our way of life.
Joe Q. Public is not qualified to make decisions regarding very complicated land use issues.  I consider myself to be a fairly bright guy (did I say that out loud?), but I do not at this point feel qualified to make major land use decisions.  I think I would have to have a much better understanding of the City, State and Federal Zoning, Housing and Building ordinances and laws than I currently have to be qualified to make those decisions, especially since I’d be making them without the benefit of an EIR to help me understand the implications of the project.  And let’s not forget, this town has its share of buffoons.  I don’t want them making these decisions, either.
Second units, which currently have a height limitation of 15 feet, would be up-zoned to a 30 foot height limit.
We have been told that Measure V draws its restrictions from the 1996 General Plan.  That’s only partly true.  It places far more severe restrictions on property owner’s options than the General Plan does, and I don’t appreciate people misrepresenting the facts when they are trying to help me decide how to vote.
We have been told at the beginning of this campaign by Council Member Zimmerman that if the DSP passes, there will be dump trucks disrupting our lives as they travel up and down Sierra Madre Blvd.  But Zimmerman forgot to mention that those dump trucks will be there even if Measure V passes.  This is fear mongering, and I don’t appreciate people trying to manipulate me with fear tactics.
We have been told that if Measure V doesn’t pass, our property values will sink, sink, sink.  Presumably, lower property values make lower commissions for the realtors.  If that’s true, why aren’t the realtors and their associations backing Measure V, so that property values, and commissions, don’t sink?  Again, people are playing on people’s fears.
The League of Women Voters broke with its tradition of non-partisanship and took a stance against Measure V.  The Pasadena Star News says No on V.  The Sierra Madre Chamber says No on V.  The Sierra Madre Volunteer Fire Department says No on V.
I have read the initiative, listened to the rhetoric, visited the websites, read the mailers, read the editorials and letters to the editor, talked with the people, attended the forums, and everything I’ve learned from all this leads me to believe that Measure V is not good for our town.  And I trust my reasoning in making that decision, and I trust my instincts.  But were it the case that I didn’t…
Some of the people in this town for whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration, people that have served time on Planning Commissions, City Council, and as Mayor, and who therefore are far more qualified than me to judge this initiative, tell me either personally or by adding their names to the list of opponents, that No on V is the right way to go.  People like Clem Bartolai, George Maurer, Glenn Lambdin, Doug Hayes, Rob Stockly, Ron Brandley, John Hutt, John Buchanan, Joe Mosca, Enid Joffe, even (dare I say the names?) Tonja Torres (who sat on a council that placed 180+ conditions on a building project at the top of Baldwin, a process that would not be possible on downtown projects that exceed 2-30-13 if Measure V is approved) and Bart Doyle (yes, Black Bart, the infamous allegedly “evil building association guy”).  And frankly, I trust them.�
Many other people in this town, whose opinion I also respect, among them Eph Konigsberg, Mike Bamberger, Bill and Sue Messersmith, Bob and Rosemary Burnett, Judy Webb-Martin, Benn Martin, Hank Landsberg, and Lew and Joyce Watanabe, just to name a very few of the dozens, have declared No on V.  And I also trust them.
If you want to find information about Measure V, you can do so at www.cityofsierramadre.com (official documents), www.sierramadrenews.net (documents and opinion), www.smrrd.org (Yes on V website), www.stopmeasurev.org (No on V website) www.smrsvp.org (No on V website), www.yes-measurev.org  (Yes on V website).  Please bear in mind as you visit these sites that some of them are going to tell you only one side due to their bias towards their side, but I think it is the right thing to list them, so you can see what each side has to say, and let you make your own decision. 

I urge you to get the facts, and having learned them, I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s in Sierra Madre’s best interests to vote No on V.