The last City Council meeting was disturbing on several levels. The petition to put the Mater Dolorosa property into the Hillside Management Zone, instead of Institutional, as it is currently zoned was presented. 1492 residents, representing every corner of Sierra Madre, signed the petition; 1300 signatures were certified. The four options of what to do within the required time frame were agendized: 1. Adopt the initiative ordinance; 2. Submit the initiative at the November 8 general election; 3. Call for a special election to be held before November 8; 4. Direct the City Attorney to prepare a report, to be reviewed within 30 days.
As stated in last week’s column – there were 17 speakers during Public Comment. Of the 14 pro-New Urban West development, nearly all were Mater Dolorosa Board Members and employees. Of those 14, 9 threatened legal action.
Ironically, the Chair of our City’s Energy, Environmental and Natural Resources Commission (EENOR), a former supervisor for Glendale Water and Power, gave a report, before the discussion of the petition, mainly on our record drought. He quoted experts who are saying they haven’t seen anything like this in 40 years, and we need to have meaningful changes, or we will go the way of the dodo bird. Isn’t that what the residents have been saying all along? How can building 42 large homes in such a drought be a responsible thing to do?
There was no discussion by the Council about the first three options before they voted for Option #4, as was suggested by many of Mater Dolorosa’s Board Members/employees. Did the Council members discuss this behind closed doors, including the threatened lawsuit, as many good Sierra Madre citizens have speculated?
More irony in the comments by the development crowd regardless of environmental costs:
1. “This is spot zoning” (a favorite of theirs). “Mater Dolorosa should be treated the same way others are especially their neighbors.” This is exactly what the petition is attempting – every large property north of Grand View is in the Hillside Management Zone.
2. “The City has not had the actual facts.” We agree with this one, just not the way Dr Doyle intended. We keep asking City Council to allow experts not paid for by New Urban West developers to speak about the environmental damage.
3. “The petition will prohibit meaningful development.” The petition is requesting meaningful development by ensuring the large houses comply with the Hillside zoning for lot coverage, not “stack and pack” as one resident had said earlier.
4. From Father Bruno – “We’ve always welcomed people on our property.” Is that why the gate at the entrance is now often locked? Residents have not been permitted to walk the grounds for over a decade.
5. “How will people in other cities feel about a petition signed by signature gatherers who went to the supermarket?” No one gathered signatures in front of a supermarket – not even Taylor’s, and as we spoke to several people who live in nearby communities, most said they wished they could vote in Sierra Madre, to vote for the petition.
6. “The properties abutting the Monastery are zoned R-1, not to do that would be spot zoning.” Developer Representative Frankel said several times that the Meadows project is not R-1.
Just as disturbing, if not more so, was the lack of discussion on a $31 Million budget. City Clerk Laura Aguilar had said that this discussion may take two sessions. It did take half an hour, and the Council members asked relevant questions. Council members did not ask any hard-hitting questions regarding the budget. There were no concerns about inflation or increasing expenses. There was a time when the budget and strategic planning were discussed in a Town Hall type forum, with community input. Instead, Mayor Goss said, “You've given us a lot of data to crunch. Thankfully we've done so before the meeting.” We’d like to know if the numbers crunching was done individually or behind closed doors? There was no public comment.
City Manager Jose Reynoso has informed us that there will be a water report on the City website by June 24. The next Planning Commission meeting regarding The Meadows project will be July 7, 7 pm. City Council will be receiving a report on the ramifications of the petition by the City Attorney on July 12, 5:30 pm. Please plan to attend both.