Mountain Views News, Combined Edition Saturday, April 25, 2020

MVNews this week:  Page 2

MONASTERY (cont. from page 1)

The short answer is that such a large sum of cash did not exist in the 
city’s coffers, and decision makers at the time felt that because of our 
tight-fisted legacy, it would have been an insurmountable hurdle to 
get two-thirds of Sierra Madreans to vote for a tax increase to buy the 
property and set it aside as open space or parkland.

So here we are now with the Monastery property dilemma. Should we 
buy it? When the Passionists first announced their intent to develop, a 
group of Sierra Madreans attempted negotiations with the Passionists 
and could not agree on a sale price. The group made an offer based on 
how much they figured Sierra Madreans would be willing to pay per 
year. The Passionists had done their homework. They knew what the 
property was worth for residential or institutional development, and 
they wanted fair value. The Passionists also attempted conversations 
with City staff on a proposal for residential development. The effort 
was put on hold because of California’s severe drought, which depleted 
our local aquifer and caused the City Council to place a moratorium 
on new water connections.

For several years, the proposed development was “out of sight, out of 
mind”. Meantime, the Council and staff worked behind the scenes 
to shore up our water supplies. This effort was necessary not only to 
ensure a reliable supply for Sierra Madreans, but it was also a condition 
to maintain the moratorium. By late 2018, the end of the moratorium 
was inevitable. We were on the verge of permanently augmenting our 
water supply with agreements with Arcadia to “wheel” or deliver water 
and also to drill a joint well in the main San Gabriel Basin. These 
agreements would augment our water supply to a level that’s equal 
to two times Sierra Madre’s average demand. Knowing that the Passionists 
would soon reinitiate development discussions, I and others 
thought it might be a good idea to put forth the idea of an outright 
purchase again. The thinking at the time was that we believed that the 
public was beginning to understand that our tax burden and debt was 
considerably less than our neighbors and thus might be open to the 
idea. In other words, we believed that Sierra Madre could “afford it”, 
and more importantly we believed that the public might be willing to 
pay to preserve one of the last tracts of open land given the unsatisfying 
and expensive outcome of the One Carter settlement.

The Council authorized City Manager Gabe Engeland to engage the 
Passionists in negotiations, and we were pleased to hear that the Passionists 
enthusiastically embraced the idea. The City commissioned 
a formal appraisal so that we had a baseline from which to negotiate. 
We asked for the appraised value for the property as open space, residential 
development, and as institutional development. Negotiations 
proceeded, and a price was agreed upon that was very reasonable from 
the City’s point of view given the appraised value.

At this point, I as Mayor Pro-Tem met with City Manager Engeland 
and representatives from the Monastery. A followup meeting also 
took place with then Mayor John Harabedian. At these sessions, we 
entertained a request from the Monastery representatives that as a 
condition of sale, they would like a back-up plan if the voters rejected 
a tax assessment to fund the purchase of the Meadow. This “Plan B” 
would be a streamlined path to residential development. Knowing Sierra 
Madre’s tight-fisted history, we thought this was reasonable, as it 
is entirely possible that two-thirds of taxpayers might not be willing to 
pay several hundreds of dollars per year to preserve the meadow. 

We proposed some ideas for what a backup plan might look like. 
Some of the Plan B ideas, including the idea of a fully-funded park, 
became the basis of the proposed concessions you see today in the proposed 
Memorandum of Understanding, which will be considered for 
approval at the Tuesday, April 28 Council meeting. Here’s the problem: 
If Plan B is too good, voters would determine that they actually 
prefer Plan B versus the purchase of the Meadow, especially since Plan 
B is free, and purchase would cost thousands of dollars for every parcel 
owner over the course of thirty years. In effect, a really attractive Plan 
B would undermine the effort to purchase the property. It’s certainly 
conceivable that a good percentage of voters would say that they actually 
prefer a park that they can use, and get for free, rather than pay 
thousands to preserve vacant land that is of no use to them personally. 
Knowing this, if we were to make Plan B less 
attractive, it’s still possible that we couldn’t 
get two-thirds to vote in favor and then we’re 
stuck with a bad development! After careful 
consideration, other difficulties arose. The 
Passionists also insisted on re-zoning to residential 
as part of the pathway to development 
in advance of a ballot initiative. The current 
housing shortage in California makes re-
zoning problematic, because if a ballot initiative 
to fund the purchase was successful, we 
would then have to turn around and re-zone 
again, from residential to open-space. That 
could be perceived by the State as undermining 
the approved housing element component 
of the City’s General Plan, and would bring 
unwanted scrutiny right at the time that we’ve 
begun the process of updating our Housing 
Element to include dramatically increased Regional 
Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) 

Some suggest that we should just wait, and not 
attempt to process the Passionist’s development 
proposal during the COVID pandemic. 
First, the Passionists have waited many years 
for the moratorium to lift. Delay is not acceptable 
to them. Remember, they have an 
entitlement to institutional development that 
they could force us to process immediatly. 
Second, Sierra Madre is processing plans and 
permits for other development projects. We 
cannot discriminate against the Passionist’s 
plan just because it is large and may be controversial. 
Third, given the shortage of housing 
in California, delay could result in a project 
that is more impactful to the neighbors. In the 
near future it is highly likely that the State will 
further curb cities’ ability to control their own 
land use policies, and will push legislation to 
restrict municipalities’ ability to limit development 

Sierra Madre’s best opportunity 
for a low-density, low-impact 
development of the Mater Dolorosa 
Meadow is right now. There 
will be seven opportunities for 
public input after approval of the 
MOU. It is very important that 
the public weigh in. The plan as 
described in the proposed MOU 
is just a start. Purposeful engagement 
by Sierra Madre residents 
will result in the best possible 
outcome for Sierra Madre. 

I’m looking forward to your 
participation, and as always, I’m 
happy to discuss - email or call 

John Capoccia, Mayor



ALVERNO (continued from page 1)

As many of you know, Alverno prides 
itself on its small size and individualized 
attention. This will not change for 
your daughters. But a school requires a 
minimum number of students to survive. 
To that end, the Board of Trustees 
and I have been working diligently on 
ways to best capitalize on our school 
and our large campus. After our accreditation 
visit in March, it became 
obvious that we needed to make a big 

The Board of Trustees has made the 
decision to move forward with adding 
a lower school. We have received sage 
advice from experts in the area of TK-8 
education. We will start the lower school 
with temporary modular classrooms 
that will be located on the gravel area 
north of the prayer garden and south of 
our Michillinda Avenue parking lot. The 
middle school will use three classrooms 
located at the east end of the south hallway. 
Our goal is to construct permanent 
classrooms for the lower school in the 
south-west area of the campus, near 
the Michillinda/Highland side of our 
12 acre campus. The upper and lower 
schools will have different schedules, 
different lunches, and their own designated 
areas. The Terrace is designated for the Upper school use. The lower school will have the area around the prayer garden. Both schools will 
have access to the LTC, cafeteria, athletic fields, and to our historic Villa.

We are two schools, under one name, with the same philosophy. The energy and synergy that our two schools can offer Alverno will be electric. 
Our girls can earn service hours working with the younger students and the lower school students will have some access to our amazing teachers, 
the beauty of our campus, and the hospitality of our community. Imagine events like the Gala, athletic events, performing arts, liturgies, APA, and 
fundraisers! Younger families bring a commitment and energy that can be invigorating. 

I am so thrilled to bring you joyful news during a time that seems to only bring bad news. It’s our 60th year, and though it didn’t end the way we 
hoped it would, it will roar into the Fall with a new zest and vitality to be strong and sustainable for another 60 years! If you have any questions, 
please do not hesitate to contact me at

Thank you, God bless, and be safe! Julia Fanara, P'01, P'03, and P'05, M.Ed. Head of School


Mountain View News Saturday, April 25, 2020 

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