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

MVNews this week:  Page 3

3 Mountain Views-News Saturday, July 23, 2022 CONVERSATIONS.......THE MEADOWS 3 Mountain Views-News Saturday, July 23, 2022 CONVERSATIONS.......THE MEADOWS 

Here is a recap of the July 12 City 
Council meeting for those who were 
unable to attend or watch at home. 
As you are aware, the Passionists, who own the Monastery property, have entered 
into an agreement with a developer, New Urban West (NUW), to sell 20 acres of their 
property for a high density development of 42 homes that don’t conform to our zoning 
laws. A citizens’ petition to place the 20 acres in the Hillside Management Zone 
(HMZ), just like every other large property north of Grand View, was under discussion. 
This would limit the number of homes by requiring spacing that conforms to 
our city codes resulting in a smaller development in keeping with the surrounding 
neighborhood. 1300 resident signatures gathered in less than 3 months - 15% of the 
voters – were verified. City Council voted 5-0 to place it on the November ballot, 
rather than adopt it immediately. 

City Council requested that the City attorney, Aleks Giragosian, prepare a report regarding 
possible ramifications of the petition. It has been apparent that City Council 
relies on Staff and Council to form their opinions, rather than doing their homework 
by reading the laws involved, or by hearing experts who disagree with these opinions. 

Here are the major errors, and the Council’s faulty reasoning:

1. City attorney says: There are four possible claims to sue if this passes – “Religious 
land use and institutionalized persons alleging unlawful discrimination and 
a substantial burden on the Passionists’ exercise of religion.” City lawyer Aleks Giragosian 
put in his report that this had a chance of succeeding; the other three were 
unlikely. At the Council meeting, he said he would soften his tone and, retracted his 
statement that reconstruction of the Monastery would not be permitted. This was 
“based on what he now knows.” Apparently, Mr. Giragosian read the email sent to 
the City by the land use lawyer who drew up the citizens’ petition. 
2. City attorney says: State law SB 9 would allow for multiple units on each 
property, many more than with New Urban West’s plan – While SB9 is troubling, 
there would only be one lot split per property under this law, and one added dwelling 
unit (ADU) on each, so there would still be fewer houses should every homeowner 
decide to do this. It’s rather hard to believe that every new home owner, having paid 
around $5 million for their home (at today’s prices) would want to do this. The other 
wrinkle is that the homeowner must live there for three years after the split. Several 
cities larger than ours, like Redondo Beach, are fighting these new laws, SB9 and 
SB10, as well as others that override local zoning laws.
3. City attorney said: Square footage would be larger if the initiative’s Hillside 
Management Zone requirement takes effect than with the NUW plan of 42 houses. 
Planning Commission has worked to get NUW’s representative Jonathan Frankel to 
comply with our Sierra Madre General Plan zoning calculation of square footage. 
Although Mr. Frankel said that they have reduced the size of their 4800 sq ft houses, 
to an average of closer to 3800, these are still disturbingly large homes on small lots. 
It is puzzling where Mayor Goss got his calculation of 6800 sq ft homes should the 
initiative pass. Yes, Mayor Goss, Preserve Sierra Madre, has been fighting for reasonable 
sized homes that adhere to our zoning laws. Why would you think otherwise? 
4. More on square footage – Mr. Frankel still has not calculated the square footage 
of the homes under city rules, resulting in a gross misrepresentation of the size of 
the homes. More on that next week…. 
5. Location of the Hillside Properties – Council Member Parkhurst asked if 
the properties located south of the Monastery property, specifically Crestvale, Sierra 
Keys, Grove, and Fairview were in the HMZ. This question is highly disturbing, 
because he merely needed to look at the Sierra Madre zoning map to know that they 
are not, and to read the ordinance to know that the properties must be a certain size. 
6. Apparent bias – The City lawyer, appears to be working entirely in support 
of the New Urban West development, as does our City Council, who voted 5-0 to 
write a rebuttal to the initiative before hearing from the Planning Commission. They 
have not asked any in-depth questions regarding the project at this, or former public 
meetings. In contrast, the Planning Commission has been doing their due diligence 
on the proposal, asking many pertinent questions, and has found many disturbing 
issues. Some of these issues should be brought up, and discussed in detail before the 
Planning Commission issues its recommendation.
7. “Education of the voters” – Council Member Kriebs stated that people didn’t 
know what they signed, nor the ramifications. We would implore the Council to talk 
to the many signature gatherers and signees to see for themselves how much time 
was spent explaining the purpose of the initiative, to make sure residents were aware 
that this was not to stop the Mater Dolorosa from selling part of their property, or to 
build homes, but rather to require them to follow the same established rules as the 
rest of the town. Signature gatherers answered many, many questions. 
The most disturbing part of the July 12 City Council meeting was the total disregard 
of the input of 1300 residents from all areas of Sierra Madre who are highly concerned 
about this ill-conceived project. The least our Council, our voted representatives, 
can do is 

1). Their homework - rather than being spoon-fed “facts,” 
2). Listen to their constituents and the Planning Commission, and 

3). Ask relevant questions. 


Who Does Our City Council 


At last week’s City Council meeting, the five 
council members showed their true colors, 
specifically that they do not care about resident 
input. All Sierra Madre residents should 
be very alarmed. Though this action by the 
city council members was about the Initiative 
to rezone the Monastery land proposed for 
development to Hillside so it will be consistent 
with other 
properties that abut the San Gabriel Mountains, 
it does not matter, this city council disregards 
the input of the residents they were 
elected to represent. 

At last week’s meeting, the city council was 
required by law to either adopt the initiative 
or place it on the November Ballot. They, as 
expected, placed it on the ballot. 

The City Attorney presented a report, prepared 
at the request of the Council, comparing 
initiative to the proposed Meadows Project. 
In that report he outlined some of the 
potential legal risks the city might have if the 
initiative is approved by the voters. The city 
attorney admitted that his information on 
potential legal arguments and the case law 
supporting those arguments came, at least in 
part, from the Developer’s Attorney! Again, 
the attorneys for the developer, New Urban 
West, provided information about potential 
legal arguments in our city attorney’s 
report for our city council. 

As a result, a highly flawed and biased report 
was presented, with the threat of a lawsuit, to 
turn the council against the initiative. 

The Land Use Attorney for Protect Sierra 
Madre had submitted a legal analysis entirely 
rebutting the City Attorney’s report. That information 
was NEVER considered or even 
mentioned by the City Council. 

After hearing ONLY the attorney's report, 
our elected officials, then did something 
we’ve never seen before. One by one, each of 
the city council members came out to state 
their opposition to the initiative that they 
have never studied or discussed before this 

Starting with councilwoman Arizmendi, who 
stated her opposition, each of the others did 
the same. No matter that 15% of registered 
voters had signed a petition indicating they 
were in 
favor of the initiative, and no matter that the 
only source of information the council cared 
about hearing on this was from New Urban 

West, the developer. 

Of course, a more objective city council, cognizant 
of the fact that they were elected to 
represent the residents, would have said, 
"now that it’s going on the November ballot 
we should learn more about the initiative, before 
we state our personal opinion publicly" 
to at least feign the appearance of objectivity. 
Again, we’re not surprised by this. Many past 
actions by this Council have shown a disregard 
for the citizens they have promised to 

We are very disappointed the city council 
members took the action they did and 
blatantlyignored the wishes of 1,300 constituents, 
clearly expressed in the petition. We had 
hoped, based on their campaign promises 
that they would have felt some semblance of 
duty andresponsibility to reflect the wishes of the people 
who voted them in. We had hoped that 
they would not attempt to influence the voters 
(many of whom have been studying this 
project for the last two years, read hundreds 
of pages of environmental impact reports and 
attended many meetings) with their personal 
opinions. We had hoped they would not 
disrespect the 15% of registered voters that 
signed the petition, many after being extensively 
informed and educated about it and ignore 
the initiative that expresses what citizens 
want. The city council should have trusted 
the voters they have promised to represent. 
Why is their personal opinion more valid 
than that of 1,300 of their constituents? 

The city council, by their actions last week 
have essentially said "we don’t trust the citizens 
on this" and "we five know better than 
all of you, based on our attorney's report." 
This is why the initiative action needed to be 
taken and placed in the hands of the residents 
to make an 
informed judgement. 

It’s one thing for residents to have to deal with 
an unscrupulous developer who will go to any 
means to get this project approved, but quite 
another when we can’t trust our city council 
to stand up for its residents and essentially tell 
1,300 constituents, again many of whom have 
studied the project in much greater detail 
than the city council members, ‘we know better 
than you’. Again, why not at least feign 
some objectivity and let the voters decide 
before they provide their biased personal 

At such a critical time in our City with a proposed 
housing project that will forever negatively 
change Sierra Madre we should have 
council members that actually care, listen to 
their residents and do the right thing. 

Our city and residents deserve so much better. 
Join us in Protecting Sierra Madre. 


The city’s report on the initiative to rezone the Passionist’s property to a residential zone, thus making the retreat 
center a nonconforming use, looks at a number of scenarios for what can happen to the property. One factor they 
look at is to compare the possible number of units that can be built under the proposed Meadows project zoning and 
under the initiative. 

If you saw last week’s article by Preserve Sierra Madre it has a table showing the maximum density (units) that can be 
built. The density varies based on the city’s ordinances and then after applying the increased State-permitted density 
numbers including Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU)s, Junior ADUs, and lot splits under SB9. For the Meadows project 
area it lists a maximum density of 126 units. 

While that number is technically correct as to what could be built, it does not reflect the reality of the Meadows project. 
A benefit of New Urban West using a Specific Plan is that the project as a whole is a unified development. Instead 
of just looking at individual units for each lot, the Specific Plan places restrictions on how development takes place. 

Every lot includes a landscaping easement attached to it that prohibits construction on the sloped areas, greatly increasing 
green-space and reducing the developable area. The front, side, and rear yard setbacks don’t allow enough 
space to build an ADU on 39 of the lots. As the city attorney said in the July 12 City Council meeting, “Some of these 
smaller sites wouldn’t really allow for the ADUs, detached ADUs, because of the slope, setbacks, there are different 
issues that might prevent that from happening.” The only way ADUs could be built on the vast majority of lots would 
be to tear down a multi-million dollar home and build a smaller home and an ADU, which would be ridiculous. 

JADUs could possibly be built that convert garages, just like most anyone in the city can apply for. JADUs would need 
to fit within the maximum gross floor area of 3,375 sq. ft. In total, we are looking at 42 homes under the Meadows 
project and possibly up to three ADUs and some unknown number of JADUs fitting within the allowable 3,375 sq. ft. 

The report’s Comparison of Benefits shows that the Meadows project provides about double the benefits of any other 
possible development. This is due to the added concessions of the $910,000 for net-zero water offsets, the conservation 
easements, and the park which is likely valued at over $4 million (based on $1 million/acre, plus the park amenities 
and water capture), totaling around $7.5 million. 

Preserve Sierra Madre made some odd comments about the city council not informing the public about SB9 and 
SB10. We are not sure what supposed obligation this refers to or how it is causing concern. They also mentioned the 
city “not responding to the community with questions like the EIR, etc., etc.” Which questions are those? The city 
attorney gave a report on the status of the EIR and that it was complete. And what are these “ect., etcs.? Vague accusations 
don’t actually make a case. 

What is the most confusing is why Preserve Sierra Madre has not taken a stand against 6500 sq. ft. homes in Sierra 
Madre. Do they oppose over-development or do they only oppose the Meadows project, park, and hillsides placed in 
conservancy? Their mission statement says, “We have all seen firsthand, in Arcadia, what can happen to neighborhoods 
under a development free-for-all. That is why we have worked hard to prevent over-development and mansionization 
and to protect our historic properties and open spaces.” 

The city council understands the issue when they voted unanimously to oppose the Protect Sierra Madre initiative. 
As the mayor said, “Welcome to Arcadia. That is not Sierra Madre.” For once we can take Protect Sierra Madre’s advice 
against their own initiative, “Don't allow Mountain Mansions to spoil the treasure that is Sierra Madre!” Sierra 
Madre Neighbors for Fairness supports reasonable development while protecting the rights of the Passionists. Join is 


Dear Mayor and Members of the City Council: 

I have reviewed the Report dated July 8, 2022 prepared by 
Aleks R. Giragosian, City Attorney, in which is analyzed 
the Mater Dolorosa Hillside Zoning Initiative. 

Page 2 of the Report identifies four potential legal theories 
under which the Initiative may be challenged by 
opponents of the Initiative. The Report then discusses 
whether the Initiative may be vulnerable to a challenge 
under each of such legal theories. Of the four legal theories 
identified, the Report concludes that as to three of the 
four legal theories, the Initiative may not be vulnerable 
to such identified challenges. These are 1) The Initiative 
may not be vulnerable to a claim under the California 
Constitution alleging an unlawful form of initiative; 2) 
The Initiative may not be vulnerable to a claim under the 
California Constitution alleging an unlawful exercise of 
police power; and 3) The Initiative may not be vulnerable 
to a claim under Senate Bill No. 330 alleging an unlawful 
reduction in intensity of use. The discussion in the 
Report regarding each of these three conclusions is very 
well reasoned. 

The Report, however, does conclude that the Initiative 
may be subject to challenge under the one remaining 
potential legal theory. As stated on page 2 of the Report, 
"The Initiative may be vulnerable to a claim under 
the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act 
("RLUIPA") alleging unlawful discrimination and a substantial 
burden on the Passionsts' exercise of religion." 

This conclusion of the Report that the Initiative is vulnerable 
to challenge under this fourth legal theory rests 
largely upon its reasoning that the Initiative, with its designation 
of the property as Hillside Management, converts 
the Retreat Center and Stations of the Cross into 
non-conforming uses that cannot be altered or enlarged, 
and that the Mater Dolorosa Property's non-conforming 
status would prevent the Passionists from establishing 
new religious uses, such as the reconstruction of the 

monastery or construction of a chapel or shrine. In this 
regard, I have attached an "Independent Legal Analysis" 
prepared by an attorney for the proponents of the Initiative 
that substantially rebuts the Report's conclusions as 
to these matters. 

As to the issue of whether the Initiative violates the Passionists' 
rights under the RLUIPA, the City Council must 
carefully review and evaluate the arguments presented in 
the Independent Legal Analysis. As we all know, rarely 
is there only one interpretation of any matter that is in 
dispute. It is imperative that the City Council give the 
arguments and conclusions of the Independent Legal 
Analysis a full and complete review. As the City will be 
making disclosures in connection with the publication of 
the Initiative's ballot materials, it must be certain of the 
legal conclusions upon which it is relying when making 
its disclosures. Just as important, it must be absolutely 
certain that it can rely upon those legal conclusions when 
deliberating with respect to the Meadows Project. As 
well, if arguments presented in the Independent Legal 
Analysis are found to have legal merit the City Council 
must immediately communicate those to the citizenry of 
Sierra Madre. 

Please let me also highlight one important observation 
included in the analysis of the Report. On page 24 of the 
Report, the Report concludes, without reservation, that 
the Initiative is not subject to a claim of intentional religious 
discrimination as there is not enough information 
in the administrative record to demonstrate that any alleged 
discrimination was intentional. This is extremely 
important to note, as the allegation of religious discrimination 
is one of the most prominently asserted criticisms 
asserted by the opponents of the Initiative. 

Lou Losorelli 
Sierra Madre Resident 

Note to readers-- the text of the “Independent Legal Analysis” 
referenced above can be requested by emailing sierramadrepetition@ 



Anyone who attended, or watched, the July 12, City 
Council meeting discussing the City lawyer’s report on 
the initiative to put the Mater Dolorosa property into the 
Hillside Management Zone, had trouble sleeping that 
night. Those who gathered the 1496 signatures were 
highly distressed at the many misrepresentations in the 
lawyer’s report, and the naivety of the Council. The signature 
gatherers spoke to 1496 residents about the ill-designed 
project submitted by New Urban West developers. 
1300 signatures were certified as valid, the other 196 may 
have been illegible, erroneously signed twice, or possibly 
a mistake by the County Registrar – that’s 15% of our residents 
who signed, and 90% of those asked. 

Many residents who signed were convinced that the fix 
was already in – Council would not look out for our best 
interests, regardless of their campaign promises. It’s becoming 
more apparent that this may be the case. 
During the last meeting, discussion of the initiative was 
shoved to the back of the agenda; so once again the most 
relevant item on the agenda began after several people 
who attended the meeting had to leave before they were 
able to speak. 

As this is a certified petition, Council has two options: 
Adopt the proposal, or allow it to go to a vote of the residents. 
Council voted for it to go to a vote of the residents 
in November. They then heard the City Lawyer’s 
explanation of possible ramifications to the City. After 
listening to the biased report, the Council did not ask any 
relevant questions. The disturbing issues:

 Proponents of the project asked for this to go to the ballot, 
so the voters could be “educated.” It certainly sounds 
like they are planning to take a page out of the Building 
Industry’s campaign against Measure V, where they spent 
$180,000, “educating” us. Expect many post cards in 
your mailbox, and weekly ads loaded with misinformation. 
New Urban West has deep pockets, and has spent 
thousands already. 

One must wonder why Council readily voted 5-0 to write 
a rebuttal to the initiative, which will go on the November 
ballot. It smacks of the old “We’re going to sue you” card. 
You just need to pick up newspaper, talk to any developer 
to know that this is a common ploy – along with “we’ll 
give you a park” (whether you need one or not). 

Council’s reasons for voting this way (paraphrasing):
Arizmendi: We may be sued. 
Goss: People who signed the initiative were ill informed.
Kriebs: Many didn’t understand the possible result. 
Parkhurst: This sets at dangerous precedent. It ties our 
hands. We may not be able to have all electric homes. 

Our Response:
Lawsuit: Pick up a newspaper, talk to any developer, and 
if you’ve lived in Sierra Madre and paid attention this is a 
common ploy. 
Ill informed: Ask for a copy of the literature that was given 
out by the signature gatherers, that carefully explained 
the proposed project. Ask them how much time they 
spent talking to each resident before they obtained the 
signature. I for one, talked to several residents who said 
no at first – don’t sign petitions, don’t know enough about 
it, etc. Once the initiative was explained, most signed and 
asked me to wait while they got their spouse and adult 
children to also sign.
Didn’t understand the possible result: Really? We think 
they did – which is why they signed – 1300 certified signatures 
in under 3 months! 
Dangerous precedent: We believe allowing 42 cookie 
cutter homes, ignoring our zoning laws, will set a very 
dangerous irrevocable precedent for future development.
Will lose out on all electric homes: All new homes are 
required to be all electric by the state. Don’t forget the 
“park” we will lose. Another common developer promise, 
and why couldn’t the City ask for a park under the 
HMZ standards of a new development? 

What happened to the City Council we voted for so hopefully?….
Council Members who voted to listen to us. We 
believe 5 people should not hold the fate of Sierra Madre 
in their hands, when a better representation is 1300 unhappy 
residents voting in November. 

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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