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We have been led to believe for over a year that were would be only five hearings related to the application from developer New Urban West and the Passionists for a 42 unit housing development on the grounds of the Monastery Retreat House. In asking for clarification, we received this answer from our City Manager, Jose Reynoso.

‘Please see the explanation and government code below.

Government Code section 65905.5 states that a City “shall not conduct more than five hearings … in connection with the approval of that housing development project.” The term “housing development project” has a special meaning under Government Code section 65589.5, subdivision (h)(2). The design review permit process and the tentative tract map process are both subject to the five hearing rule. However, for administrative convenience, staff has decided to separate those approvals out into the second phase of project approvals. That means that the first phase of the project consisting of the development agreement, general plan land use amendment, zoning map amendment, specific plan, EIR certification, and lot line adjustment would not be considered with the design review permit and tentative tract map.

Therefore, staff concluded that the first phase of this project will not be subject to the five, but the second phase of this project will be.’

To clarify, Phase one will not be subject to the 5 meeting limit:

· Development agreement

· General plan land use amendment

· Zoning map amendment

· Specific plan

· EIR certification

· Lot line adjustment

Phase two will be subject to the 5 meeting limit:

· Design Review Permit

· Tentative tract map

Why is this important? This means that the phase one aspect of the approval process can be discussed in a general town meeting and can also be discussed at various Commission meetings. We are asking that the City schedule the Community Services Committee in February to deal with the park and recreation aspects of this project such as the three-acre planned park, bicycle access on Carter, sidewalks to and from Bailey Canyon Park, etc.

The Energy Environment and Natural Resources (EENR) Commission should have a scheduled meeting to have a general discussion on the prospect of having 100 mature trees destroyed including 10 mature protected oaks. The mitigation plan for replacing these trees is to plant young trees in various parts of the development. Not only will immature trees be subject to thedrought condition, but also will deny the wildlife in the area the habitat, food and protection they need. Wildlife that has been noted in the area are birds, bats, deer, and bears, to name a few.

Other aspects that can be discussed in open meetings include safety (police, fire, and traffic), water use, the development agreement itself, land use, specific plan, and lot line adjustment.

The Preserve Sierra Madre Steering Committee has asked for Town Hall type meetings, to no avail. Resident comments are limited to five minutes before the Planning Commission and a mere three minutes before City Council. Not only are we limited, but they are not allowed to respond, and each individual is only allowed to comment one time.

Additionally, a little over a year ago, City Council reduced the Planning Commission from seven to five members, and took away the majority of the design review responsibility and gave it to Staff. While Staff is qualified, this has taken away transparency, and we residents have no way of knowing what they are doing or what their rationale is for approving a project. Interestingly, we cannot remember a project that staff has not recommended for approval. The most recent example is the Planning Commission review of the Wistaria House design. The staff recommended approval; the Planning Commission found several areas of concern and requested additional review by an independent arborist and asked the owner to redesign the layout to avoid removal of one of the four wisteria trunks.

We have been told that the final EIR certification will be released in February. This means the Commissions would be able to schedule their meetings shortly after to begin a very serious open discussion of the plans for this 42 home development. There should also be a Town Hall for an open question and answer session on all aspects of the development. Please let your thoughts be known.

City Manager:

Planning Director:

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