What to believe? There are two sides to this story: on one hand - new buildings will energize the community with no or little downside. On the other hand, those who oppose the building say this will cause irreparable harm to our special town of Sierra Madre. Post cards have been sent, each claiming their side of the issue is the correct one. The pro-building folks are vastly outspending the other side. Neighbors are pitted against neighbors; lifelong friends are no longer speaking.
Does this sound familiar? What we are referring to is Measure V. If you weren’t living in Sierra Madre in 2007, you may not know that Taylor’s Market property was up for sale, as was the property where the Kensington now stands, formerly the Skilled Nursing Facility.
Residents worked on something called a downtown specific plan to reenergize our downtown area. But that would include the building of three stories in each location, two “mixed use” buildings - a combined total of about 125 condos, stores on the first floor, and underground parking. A small group of residents consulted a lawyer and, drafted a petition called Measure V, which would limit building in the downtown area to 2 stories, 30 feet high with a maximum 13 housing units per acre (called the 2-30-13 initiative). First came the deluge of postcards warning of dire consequences if you signed the petition and then if you voted for Measure V. Apartment buildings would spring up in your backyard (with pictures of these supposed apartment buildings). One man interviewed on the news cryptically said our downtown would become another Bagdad. The building industry hired a research firm, paid residents $100 each over several evenings to participate in an in-person survey to help determine which arguments would work best to persuade the voters. Two former Mayors were involved in trying to defeat the initiative. One was a lawyer for the building industry. All in all, the building industry spent $180,000 fighting this measure. The proponents for the measure knocked on doors, dispelling the falsehoods that had been generated and spent a total of $10,000. When it came down to a vote, over 50% of registered voters cast a ballot (unheard of in a local election) and Measure V won by a small margin, with several TV stations at City Hall covering the result. At the time, only Yorba Linda had successfully enacted a similar ordinance. Today, it is hard to imagine all that congestion in our downtown area, with two multi-story buildings looming large.
Preserve Sierra Madre has promised residents to be the fact finders in our fair town. The misinformation, and the money spent by New Urban West is disturbingly familiar. Many cities throughout California are facing the same overdevelopment problems, with pressure brought to bear on City staffs and City Councils. We are urging you to sign the petition that is being circulated by Protect Sierra Madre (we are Preserve Sierra Madre). The petition will give us residents a vote in what is to become of our town. The petition will not hurt the Passionists Fathers, who will still be able to sell their 20 acres to New Urban West, or any other developer to build housing and still be able to use their property for any religious purpose. All it will do is change the designation from Institutional Zone to Hillside Management Zone, like the majority of other properties along the hillside. If you sign, and if the petitioners get over 10% of the registered voters, this will go for a vote in our regular November election (unlike Measure V, which required a special election).
To sign the petition, go to: firstname.lastname@example.org.