Dear Concerned Resident:
As some of you may know, the Monastery housing project that was halted in 2014 with the enactment of the water meter moratorium is currently winding it’s way forward at a time when most people have been distracted by a global pandemic. That is not a coincidence. The proposed plan will result in one of the largest housing projects that Sierra Madre has seen in decades and will result in the destruction of open space, displacement of wildlife, increased traffic though out Sierra Madre, perhaps parking meters in our downtown area, Sierra Madre’s first traffic light, further stress on our water supply and other city infrastructure and an adverse impact on the neighbors.
We have decided to reactivate the Stop the Monastery Housing Project Coalition, which will be completely separate and distinct from the Preserve Sierra Madre Coalition. We intend to marshal a grass roots campaign to stop the housing project or, at the very least, substantially influence it to prevent all the negative consequences that would result from such a large project. We don’t believe the project as currently proposed is in the best interest of the residents of Sierra Madre for the reasons stated above. It is also being rushed through with little public input.
We also have come to the conclusion that nobody is looking out for the residents. We know that Mater Dolorosa and their developer, New Urban West, are on one side of the table with their own goals, objectives and profit ambitions. It has also become readily apparent that the City Staff and particularly, the City Manager, Gabe Engeland, are on the same side of the table as Mater Dolorosa and their developer and have utterly removed themselves from any degree of objectivity. We cannot trust our City Staff and City Manager to look out for the residents when every indication has been that they are already in favor of the project without even knowing all of the details. In sum, nobody is looking out for us. If we do nothing, then the developer has a green light to do whatever they want, which for the developer living outside of Sierra Madre, is to maximize their profit at our expense.
On or about December of 2019, Mater Dolorosa contracted with the county to spray a herbicide on the 20 acres that they are trying to develop which turned a once beautiful grassland into a barren desert. The ostensible reason for doing so was because of a “tumbleweed” problem that the neighbors we have talked to have never seen before. Many of us think the reason they sprayed was to make an area that was referred to as “The Meadows” as ugly as possible because, after all, if the land looks like a barren desert, who would want to save it The neighbors did not receive any notice about the spraying so that they and their pets could stay in doors during the spraying. Is the chemical that was used, while perhaps deemed safe now, going to still be considered safe 10 years from now? In the recent Santa Ana winds, a dust cloud 100 feet high was observed blowing off the now barren field towards the southern neighbors and west side neighbors. Is the chemical agent that was used still in the soil and is it harmful to breath in and have the dust settle all over their properties? We understand that Mater Dolorosa intends to keep that land in the same barren condition up until the time they hope construction will begin a year or so from now. The only way to do that will be to spray their property again, and once again, if no one cares, or if neighbors aren’t aware of what they are doing, they will continue to do it.
The housing project will require a zoning change from institutional use to residential use. The City Council does not have to approve that zoning change. Pleases remember that the City Council is supposed to represent us. We elected them. The City Staff including the City Manager are supposed to work for us. We pay their salary. As it stands right now however, a small number of people are trying to push this project forward at a time when no one is looking. They have had only one public forum and yet they already have a draft EIR report that has been submitted to the city. They are not going about the process the right way for a project that will be so impactful on the neighbors and the entire community.
We need your help just as many of you helped back in 2013. We need people to be involved. No one is looking out for us. We must band together to influence what happens there. Decisions are being made that will affect your quality of life, the value of your property and the small-town village of Sierra Madre.
Here is how you can help right now:
1. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the latest updates and calls to action. We must be able to communicate with you.
2. Let us know if you would like to be on the Steering Committee so that our coalition can best represent all constituencies.
3. Our website, that has been dormant since 2013, is being re-activated. You will find us at www.stopmonasteryhousingproject.com
4. Share this letter with your neighbors. We need help to get the word out before it’s too late.
5. We have Stop the Monastery Housing Project signs available for distribution. Please let us know if you would like a sign.
We know that times are difficult. But hopefully 2021 will be better than 2020. We need your help to the degree that you can help. Even simple things like writing an email or showing up for a meeting can go a long way. Again, we need the numbers in order to have an impact.
Stop the Monastery Housing Project
What has happened?
A proposal is moving forward to sell a significant portion of the Mater Dolorosa Monastery to a developer to build a housing project. This project must be stopped before it's too late. The project itself will require a zoning change from institutional to residential.
For most of us, we first heard the news of this project in the Mountain Views News article of November 16th entitled; "Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center Contemplating Housing Project." Since then, there has been a groundswell of concern and shock, that this 88 acre oasis of beauty is about to be carved up, sold to a developer, and lost forever.
How Can You Help?
1. Send us your email address so that we can contact you and give you the latest information and news alerts.
2. Email us and ask for a “Stop the Monastery Housing Project!” yard sign.
3. Call the Mater Delorosa Monastery at 626-355-7188, Archbishop Gomez at 213-637-7534 and Father Donald Webber at 773-631-6336. Share with them what the Monastery has meant to you.
4. Contact your Sierra Madre City Council members and let them know how you feel.
5. Contact everyone you know who may share your concerns about this project.
6. If you have any special expertise that you can lend to the cause, let us know. We are interested in retaining formal legal representation to assist us in our efforts.