Pasadena Star-News | March 14, 2016 –
There are other issues than the out-of-scale overdevelopment known as mansionization facing Arcadians and Arcadia City Hall — the fiscal danger of losing $7 million a year if Measure A kills the utility tax, for one.
But in this and next month’s municipal election — Arcadians now vote entirely by mail, with ballots due April 12 — the blight of too-big houses on too-small lots is by far the No. 1 concern.
And since the two candidates for two open City Council seats with by far the best records and campaign platforms aimed at reining in mansionization are April Verlato and Peter Amundson, we strongly endorse them in this election. We also strongly recommend a No vote on A; the city can’t afford to lose $7 million annually.
It’s true that due to unconscionably lax city planning regulations, some neighborhoods of south Arcadia are almost entirely paved over already, with gaudy, blocky concrete behemoths with little variation in their massing chockablock from lot line to lot line on street after street.
But not all those neighborhoods have yet been ruined, and residential areas to the north long famous for their charming, ranch-style and mid-century modern homes, set back from the street in large yards, are still extant.
They won’t be that way for long if the ethically, aesthetically and liveable-city challenged former majorities on the Arcadia City Council are allowed to return once again to wreak havoc on the charms of Arcadia.
The two seats open this spring are due to Mayor Gary Kovacic — one of the good guys in Arcadia politics and a leader on appropriately scaled development — being termed out of office, and appointed incumbent Councilman Mickey Segal not seeking election.
Segal was appointed to replace disgraced former Councilman John Wuo, one of the mansionization-enablers, who was hounded out of local elected politics after his embarrassing promotion of a dubious Chinese gem-based currency.
Verlato, in her first run for council, has been Arcadia’s key civic volunteer pushing for appropriate development standards in recent years. A native of the city whose law practice is in her hometown, she formed the Downtown Arcadia Association and works hard to bring a new energy to the area, which now has the promise of a little more bustle brought by the new Gold Line extension. But it is in the residential areas through her service on the Zoning Review Committee that Verlato has been a shining star. Though she agrees the new recommendations that group presented in a January report, including creating strong floor-area ratios to keep houses smaller, are a good start, she actually frequently dissented in committee votes, pushing for more stringent standards. Arcadia needs Verlato as a City Hall watchdog.
Amundson, who has served on the council before, was an early fighter for neighborhood notification on development and used to argue that “the downtown should be the downtown,” not the Shops at Santa Anita. He was appalled to hear on a visit to nearby San Marino that its planners’ main goal was “not to see what happened in Arcadia happen here.” He supports the floor-area ratio solution and laments Arcadia being known as a place “where developers could walk into City Hall and ask, ‘How big a home can I build?’” Amundson and Verlato are key to a better future.