Having born witness to the folly that has been Madrona since the beginning, few are better equipped to provide a history lesson than Council Member Roy Moore.
In his newsletter, Brea Net (No. 687) published last Wednesday, he offered this summary (published here with permission).
“I was beginning to think we would never make a final decision on the Madrona project. It has be in process now for about 15 years. The City Council finally voted last night (4-1, Simonoff dissenting) to deny the appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of the project (formerly known as Canyon Crest) and to allow the 162 Carbon Canyon homes to proceed to construction.
It has been a long and excruciating journey and now that we have reached the end (barring any legal challenges) I would like to share my disappointment, not in the final conclusion, but in the final deliberative process of the City Council.
After having read hundreds of pages of data, including the EIR, developer’s submittals, emails for and against, staff reports, etc., the Council was directed that in order to approve this project we had to find that its benefits outweigh the negatives of three overriding considerations: (1) The increase in traffic on Carbon Canyon Road, (2) the removal of 1400 oak and walnut trees, and (3) air pollution generated during construction.
A public hearing was conducted over several City Council meetings as we listened to hours of testimony from residents most expressing their opposition to the development. The public hearing was finally closed on April 15. Now it was time for the much awaited discussion and deliberation by the Council. There seemed to be a reluctance to speak but finally Council Member Simonoff stated his opposition to the project for public safety reasons and moved that the project be rejected. The motion did not receive a second and failed. More silence.
Finally I read my statement (included in Brea Net No. 682) that addressed my positions on the three overriding considerations as well as subsidiary issues of water, fire, earthquakes, landslides and private property rights. I thought this may generate some challenges and kick off a lively discussion. It did not.
Council Member Garcia voiced his support for Madrona.
At this point Mayor Murdock and Mayor Pro Tem Marick tossed a brick into the punch bowl stating they could not endorse the project unless the developer agreed to eleven new conditions essentially highjacking what was already a weak or non-existent deliberation.
All the attention now switched to these conditions and away from other key issues. Interestingly none of these additional requirements addressed any of the three overriding conditions, except for water shares, would impact Brea residents only indirectly, would increase the cost of the development and the purchase price to the future home buyers.
There is nothing wrong in requesting added concessions from the developer. I had a couple of my own. The Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem should not have waited until the public hearing was closed to discuss their concerns which must have been known several weeks earlier.
They set the council agendas and should have scheduled this topic for at least a Study Session allowing the whole Council to participate, maybe modify or add to the list. The public hearing would still be open allowing for residents’ comments.
So what could the Madrona developer do but to agree to substantially meet all the additional requirements. I understand he is facing financial difficulties and needs this project to survive. He must have invested millions already in the land, legal development, architecture design, etc., costs. He probably could not sell the land without entitlements.
Council Member Simonoff read a statement further elaborating his public safety reasons for opposing the project and requested his council colleagues to clarify their positions in regard to the three overriding considerations.
I had already done this with my statement at the April 15 meeting and voiced my continued approval of the project as did Council Member Garcia.
The Madrona applicant was called on and expressed substantial agreement with the added conditions, the City Council was satisfied and the development was approved.
After taking hours of testimony the Council did not take the time to weigh all the public’s concerns but placed most of our emphasis on how much more we could extract from the developer.
I don’t think the final result would have changed but maybe the concerned residents would have felt that we had listened to their concerns and given them consideration.
On issues like this one, often the Law of Unintended Consequences applies. Brea has worked for years to develop a good reputation for working well with developers and the business community. Sometimes it only takes one issue to sour such relationships and result in Brea losing future beneficial projects.
Not likely to be Madrona’s final chapter.
Roy mentions the possibility of litigation, a topic that has been bandied about since Hills For Everyone convinced Bev Perry, their perennial spokesmodel, to act as the appellant in their long running effort to halt the development. I’ll wager we’re nowhere near the end.
The appeal was overturned with little or no interest in traffic issues, tree removal (the paperwork for Madrona staff reports, correspondence, revised site plans, seismic data and that monstrous EIR probably destroyed more trees) or short term environmental concerns. Following the brick in the punchbowl heard around the world, most attentions turned to seeing how much more could be wrung out of a developer already beaten half to death.
Simonoff prefaced his remarks with some Kenny Rogers “condition my condition was in” reference then read a long winded reprise of his public safety message. Taking the negative position, even in the face of confirmation from staff and the Fire Chief that his concerns were unfounded, seems to me to be more about preserving his relationship with the appellant than about providing “substantial evidence.”
Then Simonoff asked that the other Council Members state their findings. C’mon Marty. A bit too obvious to some of us what this is really all about. Roy reiterated his position again. Garcia stayed out of the fray and let the limited soundbite of his support for the project speak for him.
At Murdock’s urging, the applicant’s attorney, John Erskine, addressed Council restating his clients willingness to provide sufficient overriding considerations, including their agreement to make both a voluntary community park donation and a voluntary water shares contribution, dodging the illegal nature of Murdock and Marick’s initial request, sweetening the pot by over $3.4 million.
Murdock wades in with the final word on Madrona.
Repeatedly prefacing his remarks with, “the Mayor Pro Tem and I,” muting Marick for most of the discussion, Murdock’s tortuous and generally disconnected comments sounded more like a stump speech on the campaign trail than a legitimizing of that brick in the punch bowl.
Marick was able to finally toss in a few words of wisdom of her own, but the die was cast as far as Madrona was concerned and her purpose seemed more to reclaim her independent territory than add anything new to the discussion.
Sorry Roy, but your final analysis rings a bit hollow.
You said, “Brea has worked for years to develop a good reputation for working well with developers and the business community. Sometimes it only takes one issue to sour such relationships…” and here we disagree completely.
I am certain, if you could convince folks from Madrona, Brea Downtown, South Brea Lofts, La Floresta, Central Park Brea and other major developers with history here to share without concern for retribution their experiences – you would discover Brea’s real reputation for pushing developers to the brink of economic failure.
It’s this sort of shakedown that paid for the War Memorial and countless other pet projects over the years. Sadly, it’s not that difficult to see what sort of condition our condition is in.