Mountain Views News, Combined Edition Saturday, May 21, 2022

MVNews this week:  Page 3

3 Mountain Views-News Saturday, May 21, 2022 CONVERSATIONS.......THE MEADOWS 3 Mountain Views-News Saturday, May 21, 2022 CONVERSATIONS.......THE MEADOWS 

The biggest controversy that has hap

pened in Sierra Madre in a long time is 

continuing. The Mater Dolorosa fathers 

are attempting to sell 20 acres of their 

property to developer New Urban West 
to build 42 large cookie cutter style homes on 17 of those acres, using their own rules, 
rather than the City’s. Here are the indisputable concerns: 

1. Following their own rules – New Urban West’s Specific Plan states that their 
zoning will take precedence over any zoning of the City of Sierra Madre. Included in 
that is their right to sell off more acreage. Hard to believe that they would stop at only 
42 extra large homes. There is a strong possibility that once the homes are built, and 
precedence is set, there goes the sale of the next 20 acres for more McMansions. 
2. Very severe high fire zone – According to our Fire Chief Barnett, there will 
be “no problem” building in a designated very severe high fire zone with new fire-retardant 
materials. The fallacy of that premise screamed across our TV and computer 
screens, and on the front pages of local newspapers as twenty “large luxury homes” 
burned in Laguna Beach last week. These homes, relatively new, all with tile roofs, 
built with fire-retardant materials, spaced further apart than the New Urban West 
homes would be, in a defensible space next to the ocean, could not be saved. One of 
the homes destroyed was equipped with indoor sprinklers, which couldn’t save it as it 
burned to the ground. 
The similarities to NUW’s “Meadows” project are striking. In addition to those just 
mentioned – both are next to what is thought to be touted as relatively safe from fire 
–Laguna Beach next to the ocean, the Meadows, with the Retreat Center building 
between it and the hillside. Both are in the path of howling winds, thatwinds that can 
send embers flying into nearby neighborhoods. 

Should the Meadows actually come to fruition, in any form,form; will the developer 
inform new home owners that their home insurance will be much higher than homes 
south of Grand View – if they are able to get any insurance at all? 

This is not addressed in their Specific Plan, and not a question either the Planning 
Commissioners, the City Council Members, or the public have asked. 

3. Drought – As we are all aware, California is in a 1200 year drought. According 
to last Sunday’s Pasadena Star News; that, despite recent rainstorms, 60% of California 
is experiencing extreme drought and 95% severe drought. Residents are asked to 
reduce our water usage by another 35%. Given the current housing shortage, building 
42 multi-million dollar houses that do not address the critical need for low income 
housing, will not help preserve this valuable resource. 
This, ironically, comes after our Sierra Madre ‘belt tightening’ during the declared 
drought of 2014. New Urban West keeps promoting a fantasy called “net zero water.” 
According to their representative, Jonathan Frankel, the new home owners will pay 
up front for 50 years of water. That is a problem, because according to our City Manager, 
Jose Reynoso, there is no water to be had. The situation continues to be more 
dire, as the expected snow pack didn’t happen. Just constructing one house will take 
100,000 gallons of water according to a local developer. 

Public communication with our representatives – The Planning Commission Chair 
closed public comment at 11:30, the end of their April 7 meeting. Apparently, Chair 
Pevsner received enough emails, that he reconsidered, polled the other four Commissioners 
and reopened it at the May 5 meeting. It was closed again at the end of 
the meeting. This is an awkward position for everyone and we encourage the Commission 
to be proactive in seeking a workable solution. While two Commissioners 
agreed that the public offers valuable information, and that public comments should 
be permitted that address the specifics discussed at a meeting, we remain hopeful 
that comments will be allowed going forward. 

We will continue to promote open dialogue with our City representatives and we 
encourage anyone who is interested in what is happening with this project to attend 
the next Planning Commission meeting at 7 pm on June 2. 





“Follow the Money” is a phrase used by the Preserve Sierra Madre group in their opposition to the 
“Meadows” project. What does that mean? I suppose to them it means that the greedy priests and 
brothers of Mater Dolorosa, and developer New Urban West, are taking advantage of the neighbors 
by building 42 homes on the Monastery property and are only in it for the money. But what does 
it mean for the Passionists? To them, it means that the brothers and priests can financially continue 
the many good works they provide to the community. It also means they can continue their calling 
to spread their message throughout the community, country, and the world. Of course, New Urban 
West will make money, they are a private builder in the business to build homes and make a profit. 

Those opposed to the project also say that “Chicago” is dictating what can be done in Sierra Madre. 
They say that the project is “…a financial venture designed to generate many millions of dollars for 
the developer, their investors, and the Chicago owners of Mater Dolorosa.” What does that mean? 
I suppose to them it means that some evil force from outside of Sierra Madre is forcing the Mater 
Dolorosa Community to sell to make more money for themselves. To the Mater Dolorosa Community, 
it means that they have a future to be able to continue their good works and have a secure 

One letter to the editor published on May 7th contends that the Initiative wording referenced by the 
opponents of the Initiative that says “…without expansion, significant physical alteration or change 
in use,” is a false narrative because the opponents of the Initiative claim it would infringe on the 
Passionists rights to build religious facilities…” It will actually infringe on the Passionists' ability to 
expand any institutional use, religious or otherwise. Any new institutional uses will be illegal! 

That same May 7th letter referenced “The developer NUW’s paid proxy group ‘neighbors for fairness'". 
De and I and none of the members on the Sierra Madre Neighbors for Fairness Steering 
Committee are paid as a proxy group or paid individually to oppose the Initiative. We consider 
though, the inference that we are a “paid proxy group” is an insult to the integrity of every one of the 
members of the Sierra Madre Neighbors for Fairness. Our group has made it clear that our efforts 
are to oppose the Initiative. We are not advocating for the Meadows project, but rather we are supporting 
the Passionists as private property owners who will have their property rights taken away 
should the Initiative pass. 

Pat and De Alcorn Members, Sierra Madre Neighbors for Fairness 


 I have talked with many people who signed the petition to have an initiative placed on the ballot 
to rezone the Monastery property. Most seem to be under the impression that the initiative will 
somehow save the meadow, stop homes from being built, preserve a place for wildlife, conserve 
water, reduce fire, and not increase traffic. Even people collecting signatures expressed these 
things. There is no feasible scenario where all of that will happen.

 The reality is that what the initiative does is rezone the property from the Institutional zone to 
the Hillside Residential zone. A subdivision of the lot will still take place and homes would still 
be built on the property. Since the initial lots would be two acres in size, it is reasonable that 
home builders would build the largest homes possible under the existing zoning codes. This is 
because there has to be some correlation between the price of a lot and the size of a home. No 
one is going to buy a large home in Sierra Madre on a huge lot at 2000 per square foot. That is 
why today you would rarely see a small house built on any lot in the city. The economics don’t 
work like they did 50 years ago. Smaller lots and bigger homes is the consequence of expensive 

To recover the cost of the infrastructure of a subdivision and the outrageously sized lots, a two 
acre lots will have to sell for around $3 million. That is before any home has been built. For comparison, 
the lots at One Carter have been selling for around $1 million each. There is no way to 
make the economics work under the city’s residential zoning code to only build one house on 
each lot. 

The Hillside Residential zone will initially allow for 8 two-acre lots, each with a 6500 square foot 
mansion on it. Plus they will then be allowed to build an ADU on the lot with no planning commission 
review. Each lot can also have a pool and likely a lot of landscaping. After those homes 
are built, those 8 lots will be split under SB 9 and 8 more large homes can be built and 8 more 
ADUs and 8 more pools. This scenario is highly likely because it is only with as many units as 
possible that the price of the lots will come close to being justifiable. Even after the lot splits, you 
are still looking at about $1.5 million per lot. 

Under SB 9 and with ADUs there can be 32 units under the Hillside Residential zone. That is 
only 10 less than the proposed Meadows project. But that’s not the end of the rezoning story. 
Another way to recover the value of the high priced lots is to set a portion of the land aside for 
low-income housing. Using the California Density Bonus even more homes can be built. The 
exact number of units that could be built is not known because it would depend on how much 
property a developer set aside. The Density Bonus would be based on the entire Hillside Zoned 
property, or 45 acres, not just the currently proposed 17.5 acre development area. 

What we can be fairly certain of is that something is going to be built and the “meadow” will no 
longer exist. Profits will be maximized however they can to recoup the current $20 million value 
of the property. That means the wildlife will still be displaced. The fire risk will be increased because 
there will not be a coordinated fire plan across the entire property and the east-west streets 
will likely not be built. That also means fewer fire hydrants. Traffic will likely be comparable to 
the existing proposal. Water use will be dependent on how individual property owners decide 
to landscape. There will be no concessions given to the city. There will be no park. There will be 
no water capture at the bottom of the property. There will be no net-zero water offset. There will 
be no hillsides placed in conservancy. There will be no additional funding going to the Library. 

Of course, all this assumes that when the Passionist’s property rights are violated by the overly 
restrictive downzoning of a religious institution that they won’t just sue the city under RLUIPA. 
Maybe that is the one scenario that could save the meadow. Perhaps the city will be forced to 
buy the property at fair market value because the initiative ties the city’s hands and doesn’t allow 
them to rectify the RLUIPA violation by changing the zoning back to Institutional. 

Robert Gjerde 


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:

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) 


Interested? Go To: 

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