At the City Council meeting last year on October 27th, the Council voted unanimously to reduce the responsibilities of the Planning Commission and assign them to City staff. At that meeting, during public comments, a number of residents as well as two members of the Planning Commission noted that there have been on-going problems between the Council and Commission and urged that a meeting be set to facilitate better communication and working relationships in the future. Council was asked not to make any hasty decisions with substantive long term impact, but rather wait till the new Council was seated. It was noted that this was not the time to change the design review standards as those recommended by the city staff are weaker and not in the best interests of the community. With three new members joining the Council in January, what was the rush? Residents were also concerned with the reduction of planning commission members from 7 to 5.
It should be noted that the October 15, 2020 Planning Commission was the last one conducted before a reduction to 5 members. Between this meeting and the October 27th City Council meeting, the Council held three Special meetings with no public minutes.
This reduction in members, as well as the oversight and transfer of review to city staff comes at a challenging time for Sierra Madre. It is expected that the City will be asked to approve the construction of possibly 29 homes on the One Carter property as well as review a large project to construct 42 homes below the existing Monastery Retreat Center. As Council Member Garcia and the City Council acknowledged at the April 27th meeting this year, volunteers are a critical and important part of this community. For decades, volunteers have worked diligently and put in many hours to create the shared vision that is Sierra Madre today. Whether they serve on a community group, a commission or council, volunteer input has always been welcomed and valued. These changes to our volunteer Planning Commission at the end of 2020 need to be reversed. Public review of these large upcoming housing projects requires not only our due diligence but the expertise and experience of the Planning Commission. The Council has been asked several times by Preserve Sierra Madre to revisit and agendize the reduction in Planning Commission members and the transfer of responsibilities to city staff.
It is now the middle of May and no action has been taken. Join with fellow members of Preserve Sierra Madre in asking Council to place these important matters on the agenda for full discussion and ask that they restore the planning commission to seven members and restore their full duties.
Feel free to use the following: I am requesting that you revisit the prior City Council’s decision last year to reduce the responsibilities of the Planning Commission and assign them to city staff and reduce the number of Planning Commission members from 7 to 5. Please place this item on the next agenda for a full discussion of why these actions were taken in the middle of the pandemic. I urge you to reverse these decisions untimely made before three new Council members were sworn in the beginning of this year.
Contact your elected Council members at their emails below:
Mayor Rachelle Arizmendi firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Pro Tem Gene Goss email@example.com
Council Member Robert Parkhurst firstname.lastname@example.org
Council Member Kelly Kriebs email@example.com
Council Member Edward Garcia firstname.lastname@example.org