Mountain Views News, Combined Edition Saturday, June 11, 2022

MVNews this week:  Page A:3

3 Mountain Views-News Saturday, June 11, 2022 CONVERSATIONS.......THE MEADOWS 3 Mountain Views-News Saturday, June 11, 2022 CONVERSATIONS.......THE MEADOWS 

To the editor of the Mountain Views News: 
Please share my letter to the Planning Commission 
with your readers. 

Dear Commissioners: 

I am writing to raise a number of issues regarding 
information presented at last Thursday’s 

First, Mr. Frankel told the Commission that, 
“this is very intentionally not an R-1 project, 
we are not proposing an R-1 project, we will 
not be modifying the Specific Plan to deliver an 
R-1 project. That is not going to be possible for 

However, the terms of the Resolution for the 
zoning change call for a change from Institutional 
to "One Family Residential R-1"; the zoning 
amendment map shows R-1/SP Overlay; 
and the Development Agreement attached to 
the agenda calls for a zoning change from Institutional 
to "R-1 Single Family Residential." 

My concern is that the confusion around this 
language makes the impact of the zone change 
unclear. If the change is actually to Specific Plan, 
which I think is the true intention as expressed 
in the overlay language of the amendment map, 
then as soon as that zone change is approved, 
the City is in the weakened negotiating position 
of only being able to negotiate the terms of the 
Specific Plan. Right now those terms heavily favor 
the developer and provide almost unlimited 
discretion to build whatever they want because 
it includes so much permissive language—like 
the possibility of building up to 4850 sq. ft. 
houses on every lot. I would request that you 
reserve the right to deny the zone change as you 
consider all the other resolutions before you. 

Second, the City Attorney advised having staff 
discuss the Commission’s recommendations 
with the developer for the purpose of changing 
the Specific Plan. However, I heard him say, 
after Mr. Frankel indicated that NUW would 
only be willing to reduce the maximum allowable 
square footage by 450 sq. ft from 4200 to 
3775 (more like 4400 under our R-1 measure), 
that staff would work to implement that— 
but that’s the developer’s suggestion, not the 

It seems to me the Commission clearly stated 
that the house sizes were way out of sync with 
Sierra Madre standards. As Commissioner Dallas 
pointed out, by her calculations, 76% of the 
houses could potentially be two times what is 
allowed on any other property in Sierra Madre. 
All but one of them is 171% potentially over 
what is allowable. As she indicated, it would 
seem to be legally irresponsible to approve 
something like that. The Commission seemed 
to be in agreement and Commissioner Hutt 
added that, for ease of comparison, the measuring 
tool should be our R-1 standard to evaluate 
the layout not the Specific Plan terms. Nonetheless, 
Mr. Frankel stated that NUW would not be 
changing the terms of the Specific Plan to accommodate 
the Commission’s request. 

Mr. Frankel made it very clear that NUW has 
no intention of changing the Specific Plan. He 
plainly stated that “the project that we proposed 
is what we are proposing so we cannot redesign 
the project and we are not open to going on a lot 
by lot basis and developing individual development 
standards.” He indicated he didn’t want to 
“waste your time” or give you “false hope” that 
the project could be redesigned to address your 

concerns. He repeatedly suggested instead that 
you approve the project as is and send it on to 
City Council citing what you think should be 
further evaluated—only then would NUW 
evaluate and “to the extent feasible” include any 
of the measures you have recommended if that’s 
what City Council advises. He went on to reiterate 
yet again that he did not want to provide 
any expectation that the project could be redesigned. 
This struck me as a surprisingly blatant 
attempt to sideline your authority. 

The City Attorney said staff will work with the 
developer to put harder specificity with a precise 
proposal for each of the lots to “see what we 
can get” and “subject to what we can convince 
the developer to accept.” 

It seems unlikely to me, given Mr. Frankel’s 
statements, that staff will get very far in negotiating 
greater specificity or implementation of 
any of your concerns. I would like to suggest 
that the Commission is not beholden to what 
NUW says it is willing to do. That has been a 
major issue with this project from the begin-
ning—City staff cowtowing to what the developer 
says it is willing to do without protecting 
our City from NUW’s demands. 

Commissioner Dallas was spot on in describing 
the mood surrounding this project. She articulated 
very well the sense of distrust and unease 
that is permeating the community. People do 
feel they are being lied to and ignored to make 
way for a big money developer who has the City 
in its pocket. I’d characterize it almost as a sense 
of hopelessness that our small town is bound 
to be eaten up. That said, the vast majority of 
people I have spoken with have been heartened 
by Protect Sierra Madre’s efforts, expressing encouragement 
and a strong desire to have the opportunity 
to vote on the forthcoming initiative. 

On another note, Commissioner Hutt raised 
the question of why the Passionists have a problem 
zoning the upper parcel Open Space. One 
reason, apart from the real possibility that spoken 
words differ from true intentions, could 
be that under the Development Agreement the 
Passionists are absolved of responsibility for 
maintaining the Easement which I understand 
is expensive and will fall to the City. 

One last thing I would also ask the Commission 
to consider beyond Thursday’s discussion 
is what will happen if the project is approved 
without assurances that Carter will be widened. 
I had a conversation with Mr. Frankel in 
which he told me that they didn’t have to widen 
Carter—the project could be built without 
that. Shouldn’t approval of the zoning change 
and Specific Plan be conditional upon having 
two evacuation routes? This question leads to 
the problems with the Offsite Plan not being 
properly evaluated in the EIR and the County 
requiring an approved EIR before they would 
agree to any sale of public rights of way (which I 
understand would have to be purchased by the 
City and then conveyed to the Passionists). 

Thank you all for taking care to ensure the integrity 
of your mission in the face of pressure 
from the developer to bypass your review. As 
you all have recognized, Zoning, the Specific 
Plan and Development Agreement are the only 
possible places to require the developer to meet 
Sierra Madre standards. I would urge the Commission 
to persist in demanding the greater 
degree of specificity needed for effective review 
and to postpone any decisions until all Commissioners 
are present. 

Tricia Searcy, Sierra Madre 



A group of residents in town 
are working to get an initiative 
on the ballot to prevent the Monastery 
from proceeding with 
their housing project and strip 
them of their property rights. 
They have approached you in the 
park, in Kersting Court, and also 
gone to your home to have you 
sign their petition.

 If this initiative is so good for 
our city why has the “protect” 
group used deceit and scare tactics? 
Even this week they have 
made numerous posts online 
misrepresenting the current 
state of the project, including 
the proposed square footage of 
the homes and what the developer 
has asked of the planning 

 The fact is, this initiative is 
dangerous and disastrous to our 
city. It will strip the Monastery of 
their Institutional property rights 
by rezoning the entire property, 
even if no housing project is ever 
approved. It will embroil the city 
in years of litigation, and could 
incur millions of dollars in legal 
fees that the tax payers of our city 
will have to pay. It could remove 
our Planning Commission and 

We are a group of concerned Sierra Madre neighbors opposed to the initiative that 
targets one private property owner for discriminatory treatment and prevents our 
City Council from making informed decisions about development in our town. 

We seek to ensure that our City planning laws are fair and that nobody is singled 
out or targeted because they wish to lawfully exercise their property rights. 


City Council from having the 
oversight of what is built on the 

 If the initiative passes, at least 
32 homes can still be built on 
the property, most without discretionary 
review by the planning 
commission. The concessions 
will all be lost, no three 
acre park, no land dedicated to 
preserving open space, and no 
net-zero water offsets for whatever 
homes are built. Most of the 
things you were told that the Initiative 
will protect were lies. The 
meadow will still be lost. Wildlife 
will still be displaced. The scenic 
Vista will still be gone. The last 
remaining open parcel of land in 
Sierra Madre… still gone forever.

 A quick drive through the area 
and a survey of yard signs tells 
you that the opposition is primarily 
from those who live next 
to the Monastery. It is a relatively 
small subset of the city trying to 
use every legal maneuver they 
can to stop the Passionists. They 
are going so far as to try and strip 
the Passionists of their future development 
rights. While a vote of 
the people could do this, it will 
not stand up in court.

 Let our Planning Commission 
do their job and negotiate with 
the developer for what is best for 

One way or another, the future 
of the Monastery will likely be 
determined this year. One outcome 
could be that the Initiative 
passes and the city gets embroiled 
in a legal battle with the Passionists, 
but that’s not yet relevant. 
The Planning Commission is 
holding hearings to consider the 
Specific Plan, EIR, and Development 
Agreement for the Meadows 
project. Due to the nature of 
this project the Planning Commission 
does not take a vote to 
approve or deny it. Their job is to 
consider the proposal and make 
a formal recommendation to the 
City Council, who then makes 
the final decision.

 Since the Specific Plan has yet 
to be approved, and the home 
and lot sizes and configuration 
are not yet finalized, the designs 
of the actual homes come later in 
the process. If the project is approved, 
the Planning Commission 
will then have the opportunity 
for design review, subject 
to the conditions in the Specific 

 The developer has submitted a 
plan which includes the proposed 
lot layout and a range of home 
styles and sizes. There has been 
some confusion regarding the 
stated sizes of the homes because 
Sierra Madre uses a non-standard 
metric for measuring the gross 
floor area. The standard for the 
County Assessor and most cit

ies is to not include garages and 
covered patio spaces, but Sierra 
Madre does include those. This 
difference has been known to exist 
since the first study sessions.

 The groups opposing the project 
have used this difference as a 
way to try and browbeat the developer, 
accusing them of cleverly 
deceiving the city, when in reality 
they are going by the standard 
used almost everywhere. At the 
last planning commission meeting 
the developer provided a 
cross reference so the two ways of 
measuring can be compared on a 
lot-by-lot basis. It should also be 
noted that the developer offered 
to reduce the gross floor area by 
about 1000 sq. ft. and to agree to 
some percentage of single-story 

 The Specific Plan was released 
in January, six months ago, there 
have been multiple informational 
meetings over the last year, and 
three formal meetings this year. 
At each meeting new items are 
raised and the developer has been 
asked to respond. After the break 
at last week’s meeting the developer 
requested that the Planning 
Commission determine which 
recommendations, out of the 
many things they have discussed, 
they want to make and to put 
those in the resolution to submit 
to the City Council.

 Despite what some comments later 
expressed, the developer never 

all of us, and let the city council 
that we all elected make the final 
decision. The Protect group says 
they have great admiration for 
our Planning Commission and 
yet they are trying to undermine 
their authority by nullifying any 
decision they make.

 I am a part of Sierra Madre 
Neighbors for Fairness and we 
organized the group to help protect 
private property rights in 
Sierra Madre. We are not for or 
against the project, we simply 
feel that the Passionists are being 
treated unfairly and that the city 
is being placed in great financial 

 We are here to help set the 
record straight, but we are not 
asking you to believe everything 
we tell you. Do your homework. 
Read the initiative and see how 
this discriminatory ballot measure 
will strip the Monastery 
of their future property rights. 
Look at the EIR and see what the 
truth is about the impacts. Please 
join Sierra Madre Neighbors for 
Fairness in stopping this initiative 
from getting approved.

 Martha Walsworth www.SierraMadreNeighborsForFairness. 

asked for the project to be submitted 
to the City Council, as is, 
without recommendations, or 
for the recommendations to be 
made at that specific meeting. It 
was only asked that they decide 
which of the multitude of items 
they have discussed are important 
to them and to include that 
in a formal resolution. The developer 
clarified that they have submitted 
their project and that they 
were not going to redesign the 
entire thing to a different standard, 
but rather that the Planning 
Commission should just submit 
whatever changes they want to 
the City Council.

 There have now been dozens 
of hours of public comment and 
discussion. The commissioners 
should be able to put together a 
list of recommendations to go to 
the City Council, or if they can’t 
agree they can send a recommendation 
to deny the project. At this 
point in the process the commissioners 
should have a good understanding 
of the project, having 
had time to review the Specific 
Plan, EIR, and Development 
Agreement, and they should be 
able to start formalizing their recommendations. 
The developer 
has every incentive to agree to 
all reasonable recommendations 
to get the project approved and 

Robert Gjerde 

We are Sierra Madre residents who care deeply about our neighborhood and advocate for a fair and transparent 
process to govern our community. Meet our Steering Committee: 

De Alcorn • Pat Alcorn • Phil Cannon • John Doyle • Mary Doyle • Angela Hawekotte • James Kelly • Leigh Kelly • Glen Lambdin • Dennis Lan • Dave Link • Kris Lowe • Casey Quinn • Jim Walsworth • Martha Walsworth 

John Doyle Angela Hawekotte 
"The initiative will cost city 
taxpayers at least $50,000 to 
place this petition on the ballot 
which is an unnecessary waste 
of taxpayer money. 
"I oppose the initiative because 
it imposes on the freedom of 
the Retreat Center to exercise 
its right to use its own property 
in a way that not only will 
benefit them, but will also 
enhance the surrounding 
community of Sierra Madre in 
an extremely positive way." 
The initiative violates fundamental property rights and the first 
amendment right to practice religion and risks expensive litigation 
which could very well place the city in serious financial distress..." 
Ad paid for by Sierra Madre Neighbors for Fairness, a Coalition of Local Residents, Taxpayers, and Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center; 
Committee major funding from New Urban West 
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