A constant theme and overriding concern of ours for the past year is the lack of two-way communication from the City Council. Despite our many attempts to promote a dialogue – it falls repeatedly on deaf ears. We have asked for a town hall meeting to openly discuss the proposed Meadows housing development to no avail. Instead, there will be Joint Meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission with the project developer, New Urban West, who will view the meeting as ‘another’ successful ‘outreach’. We residents are allowed to ask questions, but only once, and only to the Planning Commissioners and/or City Council, not the developer. Is it any wonder we at Preserve Sierra Madre feel no one is listening to us, or if they are listening, they are not hearing us?
Two weeks ago, we wrote that our 24 page rebuttal to the Draft EIR for the 42 unit housing development on the Monastery project was inexplicably not included. Two emails received the day after the deadline of October 4 were included - But our 24 page report was missing? Really? Director of Development Vincent Gonzalez eventually got back to us with an explanation….It was an “oversight.” We were advised that the company responsible for the Draft EIR, Dudek, would issue an Addendum with the missing comments and responses, but we have no word on when that will be. As a result, we printed up ten copies and gave them to each City Council member and Planning Commissioner so that they would have them before the Joint Meeting.
When city officials don’t listen and don’t pay attention to the concerns of the citizens who elected them, there are other options for those willing to protect and preserve Sierra Madre. One is to give the citizens an opportunity to voice their opinion at the ballot box. The Protect Sierra Madre group has filed an Initiative to place an Ordinance on the Ballot in this year’s election to be voted on by all registered voters of Sierra Madre. As proposed, it would change the zoning of the Monastery parcel (Mater Dolorosa) and any subdivisions of it, from Institutional to Hillside Residential Zone. The “Monastery” parcel is the only large property abutting the mountains that is not protected by Open Space or Hillside Residential zoning. The Hillside designation would prevent the owner and developer from building a densely packed tract housing development or an oversized institutional development.
Over the years, our elected officials, after five years of hard work from many citizens, enacted significant General Plan changes and ordinances to protect what makes Sierra Madre special - the Environment, the wildlife, tree canopies, the Hillsides, and the Monastery parcel. The Monastery parcel had been in the original General Plan as institutional, which did not change in the update.
If the property is zoned Hillside, any building would be limited to fewer homes, larger lots, more open space, vegetation and trees. Habitat will be protected. There will be less air pollution, traffic, noise, water use and, significantly, reduced fire danger. The Retreat Center can continue its mission and visitors can continue to enjoy the tranquility that the meadow provides.
Instead of allowing this developer to ignore the city’s General Plan and zoning, and replace it with their own ‘Specific Plan’ that disregards the standards and protections we desire, registered Sierra Madre voters can sign a Petition to get the Initiative on the ballot for the November election. Yes, it is the Monastery’s property, but we have zoning laws for a reason. If City Council will not listen to their constituents, we do have options. We support our fellow Sierra Madre citizens who want the best outcome for the Monastery property in our city.