The decision of the City Council to oppose the proposed Initiative at their last meeting was particularly disappointing because it was clear that our City Council is willing to make decisions without knowing the facts and issues. Critically, they are willing to argue their opinions to citizens who assume (incorrectly) that they would only express such important opinions after significant thought and study.
It is now clear that none of the Council members are familiar with the provisions of the Sierra Madre Hillside Ordinance which has been in place since 1994 and will govern any development under the Initiative. Mayor Goss was very emphatic in saying that he and Council member Arizmendi fought very hard when working on the 2015 General Plan and Zoning ordinances to keep McMansions out of our City.
They are now not aware that our Hillside Ordinance permitted the size homes they are now horrified by. That Ordinance has been approved and supported by City Councils for years and lauded for its protections of both the environment and the character of our city.
That Ordinance recognizes that owners of very large properties should be able to get an appropriate financial benefit by selling their land, while also protecting the environment. The Hillside Ordinance, like all other land use plans in our City, provides that large houses should be on large lots and should be regulated to provide the least possible impact to the environment or to the aesthetics of the City.
Apparently every one of our City Council is suddenly opposed to the protections of an Ordinance that have been in place and part of our City regulations for almost three (3) decades? An ordinance which was specifically enacted and approved by our City Councils to PROTECT our Wildland Urban Interface. Does this council feel that all those enactments over so many years were “misguided”? If so, why have they left them in place since 1994?
Or is it only if they are applied to the Monastery property?
There were many misstatements by the Council that are concerning, and we will address them going forward.
The most inaccurate arguments against the initiative were made by Councilmember Parkhurst (who we thought would be MOST familiar with the strong environmental protections of our Hillside Ordinance). Clearly he is not. He expressed three concerns that he erroneously argued as "facts".
“The Initiative will not promote all electric homes, which is something I have pushed very hard for”.
In many ads and mailers, the Developer has claimed that the Project will have “All electric homes.” The truth is that all homes will have the “option” to be all electric. The ‘all electric’ claim is not true. Gas lines will be run to EVERY house. Like all developments, if all buyers choose all electric it will be an all-electric development. If all choose gas - it will be an all-gas development.
The Development Agreement, if read by Council members, states clearly under the developer’s obligations that they will: (h) Encourage Electric Appliances by providing pamphlets, signage, model home and a website touting the benefits of electric.
In an email to the former city manager when asked if they have built all electric developments, the developer’s rep responded that ‘In the lower end of the market, we are looking into this but at the high end we really need to go with gas for cooking and heat etc. Hope that is not an issue. At the 2 mil price point people want big gas wolf and Viking ranges’.
The developer never had ANY intention of making it an all electric development and never expected buyers to choose all electric!
Argument #2 “The Initiative doesn’t address anything about wildlife”. Again, if read by council members, among the listed “Purposes of the Hillside Zone” are B. Maintain an environmental equilibrium consistent with the native vegetation, animal life, geology, slopes and drainage patters; and D. Ensure the development in the hillside areas is located so as to result in the least environmental impact. Factually, this Section of the Hillside Management Plan definitely does address wildlife!
Argument #3 “The Initiative permits No Influence in Design”.
As stated in the Hillside Zone Ordinance, its Purposes are to:
D.Ensure that development in the hillside areas is located so as to result in the least environmental impact;
E.Ensure that all hillside development is designed to fit the existing land form;
F.Preserve significant natural features of hillside areas, including swales, canyons, knolls, ridgelines, and rock outcrops. Development may necessarily affect natural features; therefore, a major design criterion for all hillside development shall be the minimization of impacts on such natural features;
H, Correlate intensity of development to steepness of terrain to minimize grading, removal of natural vegetation; and to prevent the creation of land instability or fire hazards;
I.Provide, in hillside areas, alternative approaches to conventional flat-land development practices by achieving land use patterns and intensities that are consistent with the natural features of hillside areas;
J.Encourage the planning, design, development and use of home sites which: 4. Use proper construction materials, and 5. Make best use of natural terrain.
The entire Hillside Ordinance is at: Chapter 17.52 - HILLSIDE MANAGEMENT ZONE,code of Ordinances, Sierra Madre, CA, Municode Library. It contains six lengthy sections that influence design: Sections 17.52.120 to 17.52.170.
We hope all Council members will take the time to read and familiarize themselves with the Ordinance that they seem to have decided is 'wrong for our city' or specifically, the 'monastery parcel.'
And we hope that all City Council members will recognize their duty to personally read our ordinances, the final EIR, Specific Plan and other relevant documents to learn the facts for themselves and not rely on Staff presentations before presenting their 'facts' to their constituents!
Those who elected them expect no less.