Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mea culpa

My post a few days ago on the controversy around our All Saints Church building project here in Pasadena has drawn some fire from Larry Wilson, editor of our local Pasadena Star-News.

In his blog (posted last night and entitled "Advice to priest -- Never blog angry") Larry took exception to my reference to Claire Bogaard as "Mrs. Mayor" and to what he experienced as my "dismissing" the preservationist organization, Pasadena Heritage. He ended his blog with what I heard as an invitation:
"I think y'all ought to talk, not rail."
So I gave him a call. And we did talk. For about 45 minutes. And while we agreed-to-disagree about several aspects of the Pasadena planning process in general and the All Saints Master Plan in specific, we ended wishing each other "Merry Christmas." And I ended regretting that I had not chosen my words more carefully.
My cavalier description of Ms. Bogaard as "Mrs. Mayor" was certainly not intended to diminish her standing as a prominent in-her-own-right preservationist but it was clearly received as such and I regret that. Likewise, I have great respect for many of the fine people affiliated with Pasadena Heritage and appreciate all their hard work and the dedication it takes to make Pasadena such a delightful place to live. As one long time Pasadenan emailed me, "Don't judge the whole organization by a few who may think they know architecture better than Richard Meier."
I do not -- and I regret that my blog comments implied that I did. Mea culpa.
I still believe that what happened at the Planning Commission on Wednesday night was a well- orchestrated effort -- by those with the power to do it -- to change the rules in the middle of the game in an effort to derail a project they had failed to defeat on as it worked its way through the planning process.
All Saints Church was making its second appearance regarding its Master Plan to remodel and build on their property. In May 2008 it was advised by the Planning Commission to make specific adjustments to the proposal.
All those adjustments were made and in the words of one commissioner, "It's the first time that I had ever seen an applicant do everything they were asked to do." And Richard Bruckner, the city's director of planning and development was quoted in the Star-News article on the Planning Commission hearing saying it was unheard of for a complete EIR to be requested at the end of the planning process. And yet, that's what happened at the December 10th hearing.
The foundation of the All Saints' Master Plan is increasing our capacity for ministry -- for outreach, with children and youth and for affordable senior housing, to name a few. And we have done everything we can -- and then some -- to work within the parameters set out by the City of Pasadena for a project of this scope. And everytime we have cleared the bar, it has been raised another notch.
Which brings me back to the "Catch 22":
The primary argument for insisting on the full EIR at this unprecedented point on this project is that it has become a controversial project.
So if this ruling stands the precedent will be set that in the City of Pasadena for ANY project ANYBODY doesn't like, all you need to do is whip up enough controversy about it so that an EIR that would not be required for any empirical reason becomes a requirement.
That is a VERY slippery slope -- and even those who agree to disagree about any number of things should agree that both the heritage of Pasadena's history and the hope of Pasadena's future deserve better.


Fred said...

One has to wonder why Pasadena Star News Ediotr,Larry Wison, took such a public potshot at Rev. Russell. He could and should have simply posted a comment on her blog rather than issuing such a public reprimand. He must have a dog in this fight. Oh yes, indeed, he does and he failed to disclose it in his letter! His wife, Phoebe Wilson was among those, including Claire Bogaard opposing the All Saints project. Cheap shot, Larry, and unethical as well. This leads to another issue: Isn't there a hint of a conflict of interest that the Mayor's wife is leading the charge against All Saints? Are the commisiomers caving to the possibily of incurring ill will from the Mayor if they support it? This is a far greater issue than what Susan wrote as her own personal opinion on her blog. Guess all the cozy relations between Pasadena Hertitage and the Pasadena City government and the Pasadena Star News just can't take the heat of the freedom of speech and are all in cozy cahoots together. Shame on you Larry, for not disclosing your pillowtalk interest in this controversy!

RonF said...

Fred - you think you've got it bad with local politics? I live in a Chicago suburb. The whole country is laughing at us. And we deserve it.

Here's a conflict of interest; Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit in the Illinois Supreme Court to try to get Gov. Blagojevich deposed from his seat by getting them to consider his situation as being under Federal indictment as a "disability". The conflict? Her father is the Illinois House Majority Leader, who in 2006 headed up the Governor's re-election campaign and in 2007 wrote a memo outlining reasons to indict the Governor. They're all Democrats. Think she's worried about the Governor dishing dirt on her Dad in open court?

Unknown said...

I agree with Fred. The All Saints project is not the only one in this City where there is a conflict of interest between the Mayor's Office, a few people in Pasadena Heritage and the Star News Public Editor.

It is really a shame that Pasadena does not have a legitimate daily newspaper. Basically, it's been a Public Relations arm of the Mayor's Office, relatives and friends to push their own personal agenda on the rest of us.

RonF said...

This is completely off topic, so feel free to delete this if you wish. But I was wondering what reaction you have to the Archibishop of Canterbury's Christmas message, especially this paragraph:

Hence the reverence which as Christians we ought to show to human beings in every condition, at every stage of existence. This is why we cannot regard unborn children as less than members of the human family, why those with disabilities or deprivations have no less claim upon us than anyone else, why we try to makes loving sense of human life even when it is near its end and we can hardly see any signs left of freedom or thought.

This seems to be a pretty clear anti-abortion statement (as well as arguing against euthanasia). What do you think?

Please forgive the threadjack; if I had your e-mail I lost it, and I don't see it on the blog's home page (which I understand - I can well imagine the abusive e-mails you must get ...).

uffda51 said...

I’ve had some experience with city planners in Glendale. Whatever issues come up later, the first question settled by city staff is the need for an EIR. Every posted meeting notice for every subsequent meeting of any governing body states the EIR status of the project. Any request to demand an EIR so late in the process would be rejected out of hand.

In one case I was involved with (not involving an EIR), our opponent’s lawyer was a former mayor of Glendale. We had no lawyer, but we did have a very feisty female former city planner. We won.

If the ASC plan didn’t require an EIR in May, how can one be required now? If the ASC project involved diverting streams, leveling hilltops, and disrupting wildlife, I would agree that an EIR is in order. That is not the case here. This is urban property that was fully developed decades ago and continues to be re-developed. Has Pasadena Heritage seen the gi-normous hotel with which we share the block?

IT said...


Kinda like Berkeley but not quite so mad

See "La Jolla"

And then you have the local monarchy

Funny how conservatives who screw everything get away with it but sensible liberals get scrod, as they say in MA.