Sierra Madre City Council voted to overturn the Planning Commission’s denial of the demolition permit for the Henry A. Darling House at 126 E. Mira Monte, which allows the total demolition of the project to take place. The sale of the library was granted a reprieve. But based on last night’s meeting, the folks at Preservation of Sierra Madre feel it’s probable it will be sold to a developer.
Here are some of the points the steering committee made:
- “How many times do our coalition members have to attend meetings, send emails and speak at public comment in order to prevail in some of these preservation battles? We were there when the Brown family wanted to demolish the home. We were there when Mr. Kefalas tried to carry out his plans for the property. How many times do we have to marshal an all-out effort in order to stop some of the anti-preservation actions that take place? That is a question we have to ponder because in today’s busy world, there are only so many times we can marshal that kind of an effort. If we save our best for last as in last night’s appeal, there may not be a “last” because there are so many steps along the way where a given project can get the green light to go forward. In other words, we need to fight 10 battles while the developer needs to fight only one – the last one. In this case, just win the appeal from a City Council that cannot be expected to know all the nuances of what took place at the Planning Commission level.
- Many of us attended the Planning Commission meetings with Mr. Kefalas leading up to this point. We saw firsthand how angry the Planning Commissioners were with Mr. Kefalas’s conduct. Yet, all that is suddenly behind him when it goes for appeal to the City Council. In fact, the City Council was actually apologetic towards Mr. Kefalas for the Planning Commission having the temerity to stand in the way of his plans.
- Some of the City Council Members could not understand why any part of the original structure needed to be saved so long as the home was re-built to have an outside facade similar to what the home used to look like (except for a very large addition that will be appended to the back). Following that line of reasoning, any historic home can be torn down so long as a Disneyland replica can be put in its place. But is a mere replica of the Gamble House still the Gamble House? We don’t think so.
- The Henry A. Darling House had the misfortune of being situated on a very large lot. It appears that almost every buyer for the property saw the house as a mere obstacle to be overcome in their plans to build a much bigger home and take full advantage of the lot size despite the historical nature of the home and despite the incredible architectural details on the inside. If the Darling house was situated on a smaller lot, it would not have faced those same pressures and the most likely buyer would have carefully restored the home to its former glory.
- What role does City Staff play in all this? Time after time they made recommendations regarding the 126 E. Mira Monte property that had to be rejected by our Planning Commission. Do they not realize that the vast majority of residents of Sierra Madre want to preserve this town or do they become too familiar and cozy with the developers as a project winds its way through the city?
- Regarding the library, we have to wonder what the reaction of all the people who had the “Save the Library” signs in their front yards will have when they find out about the proposal to move the library to another location and sell the existing property to a developer. Many of those with signs may not be members of Preserve Sierra Madre. Hopefully, once they find out about these plans, they will join the fight to save that property.”
All in all, it’s not a good night for preservation in Sierra Madre.