Mountain Views News, Combined Edition Saturday, April 23, 2022

MVNews this week:  Page 2

Mountain View News Saturday, April 23, 2022 
Mountain View News Saturday, April 23, 2022 
all suffered the “heartbreaking” decision to 
close and sell, due to the declining number 
of new priests coming into the order and the 
costs of caring for an older population of clergy 
whose average age is 78. 

Presently, the Passionists Holy Cross Province 
has only four operating Retreat Centers in the 
US including our Mater Dolorosa in Sierra 
Madre. Throughout the country, Passionist 
Retreat Cen-ters and Monasteries have closed 
their doors, been torn down or sold for other 


Zoning is not whimsical. It is based on years of 
hard work by Sierra Madre citizens, staff and officials 
to carefully create the Sierra Madre of the 
future. When adopted by the City Council in 


As objections arise in the community about New 

2016, the General Plan established significant 

Urban West and its investor-supported plans to 

goals, objectives and policies to implement its 

build a 42 unit tract housing project below the 

vision for the community. Now, less than four 

Retreat Center, concerns are being raised by the 

years later, New Urban West and its investors 

Passionists that opposing this project will impact 

seek to disregard this plan and its current in-

their ability to expand the Retreat Center and 

stitutional zoning and replace it with their own 

their religious mission. 

spe-cial vision of Sierra Madre outlined in its 
Taking a closer look, we learn that the property is 

‘Specific Plan’. Many in Sierra Madre feel this 
currently zoned institutional and has been since 

‘vision’ is inconsistent with the plan we drew up 
1996, when the General Plan was updated to re-

for our future and feel Hillside Residential zonflect 
its then-current use. Hearing no ob-jection 

ing accu-rately implements the objectives and 
from Mater Dolorosa within the 90 day period 

policies of the General Plan. This parcel of land, 
required by law, the General Plan was adopted. 

adja-cent to the mountains is a Wildlife Urban 
Interface, a Very High Fire Severity Zone and, 

Under its present institutional zoning, Mater Do

critical-ly, is located on the last open alluvial fan 

lorosa can expand the Retreat Center or build an 

bordering the San Gabriel Mountains. It should 

additional religious institution to expand their 

be protected by the SAME Hillside restrictions 

mission. But they have chosen not to do that – 

and hillside residential zoning that the City has 

instead choosing to build a 42 unit tract housing 

ap-plied to ALL other large parcels that are adja

development with no religious purpose. 

cent to the Mountains. And like all those other 
During the time of its institutional zoning, there 

rezoned properties, any existing use when they 
were no attempts to expand the building and its 

were rezoned would become - UNDER OUR 
mission beyond the existing facilities. Realisti-

ORDINANCES - a nonconforming use. 
cally, there was no need as the Retreat Center has 

Hillside Residential Zoning would fairly apply to 

almost 90 single and double rooms plus confer-

the Mater Dolorosa parcel the same protec-tions 

ence rooms, a library, breakout rooms, a Chapel 

that our City (and many other Hillside commu

and a kitchen capable of feeding over 100 guests 

nities) has enacted to preserve the land and pro

3 meals a day. 

tect it from excessive overdevelopment. 
Prior to that, it had been zoned Residential for 

Their practice of religion as they have for decades 

many years with no plans to build housing for 

can continue. Despite their website FAQs indicat

any purpose. Two large buildings were on the 

ing they had no plans to build, the 70,000 sqft/90 

grounds: the Monastery Building (built in 1929) 

bedroom building can be renovated as necessary 

and the Retreat Center (built in 1950 and last ex-

to expand their mission and their kitchen. They 

panded in 1985, almost forty years ago). 

can subdivide and sell any part of the parcel for 
When the Monastery building was damaged by 

hillside residential development. Any part they 
an earthquake in June 1991, they could have re-

choose to keep and use for religious purposes 
built it and continued its religious use. But they 

can be used as it is now - for retreats - and for 
chose not to do that - instead demolishing the 

a food ministry like the one they did during the 
building in 1992, leaving only the Retreat Cen

pandemic. A win-win for everyone. 
ter. Perhaps they could clearly see the future and 

Realistically, Retreat Centers don’t have much of 

the diminishing need for facilities like this going 

a future and it would be foolhardy to believe that 

forward. And this trend continues to this day. 

our Mater Dolorosa, a special, unique - almost 

Young men and women are increasingly not in-

magical place filled with nature’s beauty - will 

terested in pursuing this way of life and there are 

be around for another hundred years, especially 

not enough of them to support the aging Fathers. 

after a dense housing development removes the 
Interestingly, the Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center 

trees, destroys the habitat of the wildlife, and 
and the property are owned by the Passionists 

ruins the peaceful tranquillity that visitors have 
of Chicago. They are one of many Passionist 

enjoyed for many dec-ades. 
groups selling off land, retreat centers and mon-

It is far more likely that the Retreat Center on 23 

astery property throughout the country. Unfor

acres will be put up for sale. And if the ‘Specific 

tunately, it is not a growing industry. 

Plan’ proposed by NUW is approved, it will pave 
Retreat Centers, summer retreat camps, Pas-

the way and set the precedent for another high 
sionist headquarters in Massachusetts, Missouri, 

density development with another ‘Specific Pan’ 
Kansas, Kentucky, Chicago, Cincinnati, Iowa.... 

to be built on the rest of the property. 


It is worth expanding on commentar-

This has been expressly stated now at least half a 

ies from the last few weeks about distilling the 

dozen times and backed up with evidence. 

truth from both sides on the Meadows project. 
If you have been following the discussion I think 

Continuing with PSM they said they “promised 

you can pull out one key theme. There is a clear 

residents to be fact finders in our fair town” and 

difference between just expressing an opinion 

also claimed that the developer was spreading 

and those that are backed up with facts support-

misinformation. They said, “The petition will 

ing the conclusions. 

not hurt the Passionist Fathers, who will still be 
able to … use their property for any religious 

Let’s look at Preserve Sierra Madre’s (PSM) April 

purpose.” That’s a nice opinion, but it isn’t backed 

9th article where they discussed Measure V. This 

up by the facts. If they have a religious purpose 

measure was not spot-zoning, targeting a single 

that includes expanding their development or 

property for an overly restrictive zoning change 

changing the use of a building then they can’t do 

which would make all existing development non-

it! In Sierra Madre Neighbors for Fairness’ edito

conforming and any future expansion illegal. It 

rial on the same page, we cited both the initiative 

was applica-ble to the downtown area and placed 

and relevant federal law to show how the zoning 

limits on building heights and density. They 

change would violate the rights of the Passion-

also mentioned that the opposition spent a large 

ists. Again, this is the difference be-tween shar

amount of money in their fight. That is the case, 

ing an opinion and sharing facts. Their opinion 

but it is not a sound ar-gument that spending 

is wrong. 

more money means one's position is wrong. This 
sort of attack is a fallacious argument attacking 

PSM went on to say “All it will do is change the 

the person and not their position. 

designation from Institutional Zone to Hillside 
Man-agement Zone, like the majority of other 

One thing that does seem to have been learned 

properties along the hillside.” It is a fact that the 

from the Measure V fight is in reference to PSM’s 

initiative will change the zoning. It is not a fact 

crit-icism of things like this: “Dire consequences 

that there are no consequences to the zoning 

if you signed the petition… pictures of apart-

change or that an insti-tutional property should 

ment buildings in back yards.” Oddly enough, 

be zoned the same as residential properties. For 

Protect Sierra Madre - Stop the Housing Project 

weeks now we and others have been spelling out 

(STOP) has been doing the same thing. They 

exactly how the zoning change will violate the 

have been making exaggerated claims (virtually 

Passionists’ rights as a religious institution, and 

all dispelled by the EIR) and showing pictures of 

we have been backing it up with facts. We have 

developments that have considerably higher den-

yet to see it shown that the facts or conclusions 

sity than the proposed project. They have been 

drawn from them are wrong. 

called out on this numerous times and continue 
these misrepresentations. Let’s see if they are us-

Are you starting to understand what is happen

ing the same misleading pictures on Saturday at 

ing here? We keep showing how the initiative will 

the Earth Day festivities. 

vio-late the religious rights of the Passionists and 
the other side keeps ignoring it. This has to be a 

Even this last week STOP continued spreading 

PR nightmare for the proponents of the initiative 

misinformation in an email where they said, 

if they must continually obfuscate what is hap

“Again, our petition does not stop development 

pening and ignore the facts. 

entirely nor does it limit in any way the current 
services that the on-site Passionist fathers pro-

Opposing the initiative is not about supporting 

vide, though New Urban West is spinning to 

the housing project, it is about supporting the 

scare residents with that fabrication.” Where has 

rights of the Monastery. We unashamedly sup-

anyone opposing the initiative made those spe

port property rights in Sierra Madre in the name 

cific claims? This is just a strawman. Why won’t 

of fairness and we do so with the Monastery’s and 

they address the fact that their initiative will stop 

the developer’s support. For more information 

all FUTURE institutional devel-opment of the 


Passionists, thus violating their religious rights? 


The City is expected to have vacancies on our commissions soon so 

you can get a head start by applying now. 
Applications and more information can be found here: cityofsierramadre.

Planning Commission has one (1) expected vacancy. 
Community Services Commission has one (1) expected vacancy. 
Library Board of Trustees has two (2) anticipated vacancies. 

Natural Resources Commission has one current vacancy and one anticipated vacancy for a total of 
two (2) vacancies. 

Interested? Go To: 

By Robert Gjerde 
One of Sierra Madre’s greatest resources is its mountains. There has been a lot of discussion about 
making sure the Meadows project protects the hillsides. The reali-ty is that it won’t directly protect 
the hillsides because the homes, which will be 500 feet to the south of the hills, will not be in the 
hillside area. The 45 acres of the Monastery lot is one of the few remaining large buildable lots in the 
city. Only the 10 acres to the north is in the hills. 
The grade below that section quick-
ly drops off to less than 15%, which 
Sierra Madre calls Slope Category 
1, and is where the vast majority 
of homes in the city are built. To 
be fair, the “hillside environment” 
doesn’t only consist of hillsides. 
The city’s zoning code also men-
tions protecting prominent hill-
side features like swales, canyons, 
knolls, ridgelines, and rock out-
crops, none of which exist in the 
area where homes are proposed. 
For comparison, we can look to the 
R-1 zoned homes directly west that 
are built on the same slope with the 
same type of cut and fill grading 
that the project would have. 
It should be mentioned that as 
part of the Memorandum of Un-
derstanding it was agreed that lots 
owned by the Monastery further to 
the north will be given to the city 
and placed in conservancy. 
Why this is important and how it 
should be done to meet the goals 
and objectives of the city’s General Plan is still being discussed. 
Regarding the highly controversial Monastery project (a/k/a The Meadows), there's so 
much misinformation out there - what to believe? We'd like to set the record straight...Anti 
Catholic? Trying to limit the Mater Dolorosa property rights and stifle their ability to do 
their good works? All because of a petition to give us residents a vote of what happens in 
our town rather than leave it up to five members of City Council who don't seem to hear 
anything that is said. 

What the petition that is being circulated by the Protect Sierra Madre group will do is give 
residents a vote in November, (when we vote for three City Council members as well as state 
and national mid-terms). The vote is to hold the owners of the Monastery property, the 
Passionist Fathers in Chicago to the same zoning laws as the rest of us. Every large property 
north of Grand View is in the Hillside Management Zone, limit-ing placing very large 
homes crammed together. This will also limit the very real dam-age of cutting down over 
100 trees. 

New Urban West representative Jonathan Frankel told the Planning Commission that they 
plan to plant 500 saplings, including many cypress and deodar trees. We know we are in a 
severe drought, and we know that these saplings will take substantial water for their roots 
to take hold -water that we don't have according to our own City Manag-er. These trees 
are highly flammable, according to a local fauna expert, being planted in the high fire zone. 

What the initiative will not do - limit the Mater Dolorosa Fathers' good works. Not only 
have they not added on to their current building, but they tore down one after the 1991 
earthquake, over the objections of many protestors. We know young men are not join-ing 
the priesthood, Retreat Centers have been closed throughout the US. Restric-tive? How 
will this hinder what they are already doing - feeding the hungry, renting out their property 
for a Retreat. 

Anti Catholic? How about anti Sierra Madre? If you attended or watched the Planning 
Commission meeting on April 7, you saw all the green shirted people in the audience supporting 
the Meadows project. Sadly, over 50% of those people had received a post card at 
their Hastings Ranch home, were fed dinner at the Only Place in Town, before taking up the 
majority of seats, including two rows of "reserved" seats. 

This project controversy will heat up as the Planning Commission and City Council study 
the facts. Let's us stick to the facts as well! 

Citizens for the Truth 

Mountain Views News 80 W Sierra Madre Blvd. No. 327 Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024 Office: 626.355.2737 Fax: 626.609.3285 
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