There are a few points about the proposed housing project and initiative at Mater Dolorosa that need to be clarified.
First and foremost, the initiative was drafted in direct response to the Meadows Project because that project is excessive on multiple levels, in terms of likely water usage during and after construction, wildfire danger, and its failure to adhere to the general plan and municipal code. The initiative is a good compromise, as it allows for development of the Mater Dolorosa property without over-development. Currently the Mater Dolorosa property is one of the only large properties that is not protected by a zoning designation of Open Space or Hillside Residential. And while, of course, the Retreat Center has property rights, that doesn’t mean they can build whatever they want. Like all Sierra Madre residents, we have property rights, too. But, given the size of our lots, we would never be able to get the permits to build massive houses on the small lots that New Urban West is proposing to build and to stack - side by side in the Meadows development. We simply can’t fathom why Mater Dolorosa and New Urban West should be able to exceed the maximum allowable floor area for a given lot size by up to 215%. The petition was circulated to put the initiative on the ballot for Sierra Madre residents to vote on whether Mater Dolorosa should follow the same zoning regulations as the rest of us do.
Second, good neighbors behave the opposite of Mater Dolorosa. Good neighbors don’t ask for special privileges, they tell the truth and don’t cast aspersions. They abide by the rules, and they don’t threaten lawsuits if things don’t go their way.
Third, during the June 14 city council meeting, there were several comments about what could and could not be done under the initiative with the Retreat Center having non-conforming use status. The Passionists can continue doing everything they have been doing. Changing to residential hillside zoning does not infringe on their religious freedom or their ability to complete their mission. They can install solar panels. They can remodel in any way they want. As would be needed for any remodel, they would need a permit; they would obtain a minor conditional use permit under the non-conforming uses ordinance.
Look at the Kensington after Measure V passed. The owner worked with the City to make this the best product you see, and the voters heartily endorsed it. This can happen too - if Mater Dolorosa wants to expand and build something.
There was a statement in the Mountain Views News by John Doyle stating that putting the petition on the ballot would cost $50,000. We don't know where Mr. Doyle came up with that figure and acknowledge that it didn’t come from an informed city source. City Clerk Aguilar was contacted regarding what the actual cost would be and she responded that she is unable to provide the cost of just the initiative as invoices sent by the County for elections are not itemized.
In conclusion, threatening lawsuits is not neighborly, and no one should be subjected to any more bullying, misinformation, or fear-mongering. The initiative deserves to be discussed and voted on by Sierra Madre residents based on its merits. It’s what civil discourse and democracy are all about.