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THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE IGNORED

We on the Preserve Sierra Madre Steering Committee have lived in Sierra Madre for half our lifetimes. We’ve watched our downtown area go through hard times and good. We’ve been here through earthquakes, fires, and big local political fights; almost always about development. Twelve years ago, two of us were on the General Plan Update Steering Committee, spending five years developing our General Plan. Five years - because we polled every m neighborhood, held town halls, did surveys, and had open houses discussing potential provisions, policy and overall vision for our city. A real lesson in democracy and letting the people speak.

Now we have the Meadows development before us, and its sad to see the increasing division it is causing among friends and neighbors.

There’s a lot of talk about the impacts this development would have on our community and our long-time friends the Passionist Fathers, and the Monastery. Most of the fathers have left, the Monastery building was torn down, and only four are residents, who operate the 91 suites and other facilities. It makes sense as the Passionist Organization in Chicago wants to sell off part of this land, as they have done with most other parcels they own across the country. They want the money for their ministry abroad and to cover their retirement plans. For them, it’s about getting as much money from this tract housing development as possible.

This development could gross between 100 and 200 million dollars for the developer, New Urban West. By some calculations the building and sale of it could also bring up to $2.5M in one-time fees to the city.

Aside from the city budget, nothing about this development benefits its neighbors -- we the people that live in Sierra Madre (other than possibly the addition of an unpopular 3 acre park). Overall, it will be a cost and a real impact to the people of Sierra Madre for the next 50 to 100 years or more. It violates many key provisions of our General Plan, as we have previously written in our articles, and spoken before City Council and the Planning Commission.

The members of our City Council (CC) campaigned to support the ideals of the General Plan when evaluating new developments. Specifically:

City Council member and former Mayor, Rachel Arizmendi said during her campaign: “I will always give priority to the quality of life in our neighborhoods and best represent the voice of our residents. This will include my efforts to limit and control development. I will advocate for ordinances, zoning codes and building regulations that will prevent our neighborhoods from being overrun with homes over sized for their parcels or homes not in harmony with their neighborhoods. I will also protect our hillsides and canyons from development and strictly enforce our Hillside Management Zone Ordinance.”

City Council member Robert Parkhurst said: “I support our current zoning ordinances. They balance the development of land in the City while preventing over development. For example, our current residential zoning ordinance limits the gross floor area of single-family homes to 30% of the lot area, which is 50% less than what is allowed in neighboring Arcadia.” (Note that the Meadows development violates this and other General Plan provisions). And he said in evaluating developments he would consider:

 “How has the community been involved in the process? How has their perspective been considered?

 What are the outcomes of the noise, parking and traffic studies of the development and how will they impact our communities? How will these impacts be mitigated?

 How has the development considered the environmental impacts on the property including water use, energy efficiency, and impact to wildlife?

• What potential impact will the development have on the trail systems adjacent to our City?”

City Council member Kelly Kriebs said: “With respect to the proposed Monastery development, the City Council will need to pay particular attention (1) to the impact of the development on the immediately surrounding neighborhood, Bailey Canyon and the City at large (including on traffic and infrastructure), (2) to any proposed specific plan governing the development…”

City Council member, Mayor Pro Tem, Ed Garcia said: “If.. the area is ultimately zoned R-1, what must be monitored would be the variables regarding lot coverage, square footage, and setbacks. These factors must be negotiated in a manner that would minimize the impact for the immediate neighbors of the development. Just because the number of dwelling units currently considered is to be 42 instead of the 116 allowable under R-1, doesn’t give license for the mansionization of that neighborhood.”

What is puzzling now is that these four, as well as Mayor Goss, appear to be in full support of the Meadows proposal as it stands, in spite of it violating these principles they promised to uphold in their campaigns.

The Meadows developers propose their new area be governed under a special Specific Plan, as is their right to propose. We have read the Specific Plan and we’ve followed the work of the diligent Planning Commission. This Specific Plan violates our city’s General Plan in many significant areas, which we’ve highlighted over the past two years. It was clearly the will of the people to avoid developments like this when we created the General Plan.

Obviously, the winner in this once it is passed by the City Council is New Urban West Developers. No one else. Next week – the better alternative, Measure HR.

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