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And The Answer Is … $49,170!

April 16th, 2009 by Temple City Tribune

So what is this the answer to, you ask? The question was how much did we pay Karen Warner Associates to come up with the suspect guidance she gave us for our Sierra Madre’s 2008-2014 Housing Element report? In particular, the one regarding how to handle our RHNA number and get the jerks from SCAG off our backs? Yeah, it was a cool $49,170.

Now I really don’t know what is worse, giving all that money to someone who has done absolutely nothing to help this City deal with the real SCAG problems, or that we paid Karen Warner and her fabulous Associates more than what other cities shelled out for the exact same thing.

Agoura Hills, in their agreement with Karen Warner Associates to perform similar tasks, paid $48,230. At least according to the Report to the City Council submitted by Greg Ramirez, Agoura Hills City Manager, on March 28, 2007. But the City of Walnut somehow got the same thing for $45,800, or a full $3,370 LESS than what we paid! This according to Walnut’s very own Daniel Fox in his statement to their Housing Authority, dated June 27, 2007.

Maybe ours included a box of colored pencils and books with pictures of large zoo animals.

So what did we get for this mighty sum of money? Money coming from a City supposedly hard pressed for the stuff? As far as I can tell, not a whole hell of a lot. We have a RHNA number that we’re trying to whittle down, and the City came up with an inexpensive strategy to deal with it. One that involved existing housing and little disruption in peoples’ lives. Only our $50,000 Friend, Karen Warner, told us that we can’t do it that way. Instead we need to either initiate the seizing of other peoples’ homes in order to turn the property over to developers like so much ransom, or scrap Measure V and turn our downtown into something truly special, like Monrovia Commons. Or the newly concocted Yuppie Condo Ghettoes in Pasadena.

Of course, when a City is contemplating the spending of $50,000 to get advice from a special someone who supposedly knows something, um, special, you’d figure it would look into the past of the person they’re hiring. You know, like maybe to deduce what exactly this person’s thinking might be? A person’s past being a good indication of what their point of view might be today, and what it is they are likely to tell us after we’ve forked over all that cash.

So I decided that I would do it for them. A little late perhaps, but then again I wasn’t asked about this before the decisions were made. Come to think of it, I wasn’t really even asked now. But I am a volunteer, you know.

In October of 2006 something called the American Planning Association – California Chapters, held its happening CCAPA Conference somewhere south of the Orange Curtain. It was a conference dedicated to "Reinventing Suburbia." Karen Warner was there to speak, which means that in the handout I’m cribbing from her story was included in the Speaker Biographies section. Here is what was said:

"Ms. Warner is a consultant offering over 20 years of experience in providing housing policy studies to municipal clients. She has extensive experience in preparing a variety of housing-related studies, including housing elements, redevelopment housing strategies, inclusionary housing studies and various affordable housing incentive ordinances. Ms. Warner has authored nearly 100 housing elements in jurisdictions throughout the state, and has worked extensively with built-out communities in identifying sites for development."

Hmm. So Ms. Warner specializes in finding development sites in cities that have no room for development. And how do you do that when all of the available spaces now have buildings on them? Why you separate a few residents from their homes, seize the property, and then tear the down the houses. And what did Karen recommend in the Sierra Madre 2008-2014 Housing Element report that she helped author, and delivered to the public at the so-called Community Workshop on March 31, 2009? Just that very thing. She even published the addresses of the potential victims.

Was anybody surprised? If they’d done $50,000 worth of homework, they shouldn’t have been. And perhaps those who pushed for her hiring got the desired result. Of course, there was another big fat clue to be found in reviewing the material from the 2006 CCAPA Conference. Here is the description of the panel Karen Warner was a part of. Notice how quaint and dated some of this information seems today.

"The Affordable Housing Crisis: Is the 20 Year Plan the Solution? With California’s housing prices and rents continuing to soar (sic), employers relocating to lower cost areas, and Statewide housing production falling well short of demand, can any strategy really address the affordable housing crisis? This panel will look at several major proposals aimed at facilitating production of housing, and affordable housing in particular. Representatives from SCAG and the BIA will discuss the merits of requiring jurisdictions to plan for a 20-year residential sites inventory etc …"
Uh oh. So representatives from SCAG and the BIA spoke on this panel? The dark heart at the very core of the Invasion of the Home Snatchers?

So who exactly were these panel pals?

Karen Warner, AICP, Principal, Karen Warner Associates
Lynn Harris, Manager, Community Development Division, SCAG
Bart Doyle, Esq. (BIA, SCAG, SGVCOG)
Bill Higgins, Staff Attorney, League of California Cities
Bill Trimble, AICP, Senior Planner, City of Pasadena

Now then, is it really any cause for wonder that Karen Warner recommended the kinds of things she did a few weeks back? And did we really need to spend $50,000 to get some warmed over nonsense that reads like something you might have seen on Downtown Dirt a couple of years ago? If only the City had looked a little before it leapt. And here I thought we’d moved past this sort of thing.

So who recommended that we hire this person? And why is it that after all these years Bart Doyle still has this kind of juice at City Hall? The influence to get us to pay a small fortune and hire someone guaranteed to advocate his destructive development schemes?

And, even more important, why is it that no matter how many times the voters of this town make their opinions known, the same people stay in power here?
One other thing of interest. At this CCAPA Conference dedicated to "Reinventing Suburbia," the City of Sierra Madre was celebrated for a singular achievement.

Check this out:

"The City of Sierra Madre recognized the importance of education before planning, and set an example of how to organize and deliver an objective and educational series of courses at the front-end of a downtown planning process."
As this conference was held in late 2006, they can only be talking about the dog and pony shows designed to sell Sierra Madre on the scheme to gut our Downtown and turn it into the kind of condo ghetto we see in so many other cities now. The ones that today stand unsold and for the most part empty, with the banks holding the paper on these boondoggles begging the Federal Government for our tax money.

"The City of Sierra Madre Educational Series – Understanding Downtowns’ was designed as an 8-course and 1-tour program offered publicly through the City’s Community Service Department and endorsed by the California Downtown Association. Two weeks after the educational component, the entire Sierra Madre community participated in an intense week of community involvement known as Downtown Immersion Week. During this week, the project team organized over 15 events – ranging from focused discussion groups to walking tours to a hands-on design workshop – to allow a variet
y of ways for the community to get involved in the process and employ ideas learned during the educational series."

Well sure, the community did get involved. Given that this particular little circus was part of the series of events that led up to the passing of Measure V by the citizens of Sierra Madre, I’d say their self-congratulatory celebration was just a little premature.

By Sir Eric Maundry

Sir Eric Maundry is the Editor of the Sierra Madre Tattler, online at sierramadretattler.blogspot.com. Join him and his merry band of commenters online nightly for tea, crumpets …and intrigue!

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