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An objection to the housing project - WATER

Updated: Apr 18, 2021

Residents of Sierra Madre are well aware of the fact that our town is unique and they have always fought to protect our cherished way of life.

But residents are also well aware that we have obligations to preserve what is threatened, not only in our city, but in the country and the world around us.

One of the most critical of these is WATER!

In early 2020 the moratorium on hookups to our water system was lifted - but the relentless drought, in California and throughout the Country, has NOT ended and will remain critical for many years to come.

Worst drought in 120 years This map March 27 2021

Sierra Madre is able to BUY as much water as it needs from the San Gabriel Water District. But that water source is seriously low and likely to remain low or lower as droughts become a fact of life. Our City has an obligation, not ONLY to buy enough water for its residents, but to do all it reasonably can do to protect this precious diminishing resource.

San Gabriel Water District Current Statistics - 2021

Certainly as the groundwater and reservoirs become more depleted, costs will become higher and another moratorium is very possible.

All of the planned 42 homes on the monastery grounds, with an average price point of 2 million dollars, will have several bathrooms and manicured lawns, many will have swimming pools. The 3 acre park will have plants, grass and trees that require regular watering.

We have been told that the homes will be "Net Zero Water" and home buyers may pay "up front" for their water use over many years. We have not yet seen the Draft Environmental Impact Report or the developers Specific Plan so we don't know if they will prepay for sprinklers and swimming pools, or how the prepayment will calculate price increases as groundwater and reservoirs are continually more and more depleted. We don’t know if those documents have considered the effect of the 42 new connections to our still unimproved and deteriorated water pipes or to the impact to our wastewater system.

If the City KNOWS that a project will have negative effects, It can NOT accept that project based solely on a threat of an unknown "possible" alternative.

A reasonably sized institutional project, like the one that tried for years to present their project to the monastery, could potentially use less water than the housing project. Although the total number of bathrooms etc in a senior living project would be more than with the homes, there would be only one swimming pool rather than 20 - 30+ and far less acreage of manicured lawns and gardens. The senior living developer which the monastery refused to consider had suggested the possibility of leaving the west side of the meadow and some of the south side, near Sunnyside, as natural open space, as they are now, for the people and wildlife to enjoy. They said their goal would be to make the project "look like it had always been there". Without the 20 or 30 swimming pools and the constant watering of 42 lawns and a 3 acre park, a reasonably sized Institutional project might use less water.

The City’s police powers allow it to make ANY changes to its General Plan and Zoning Ordinances that it deems important for the welfare of the City, and requires the ordinances to comport to the General Plan. As part of their completion of Sierra Madre's last General Plan, City officials recognized and addressed the seriousness of the drought and the threatening water shortage. In 2014, with the recommendations of Staff and as part of its Water Conservation planning, the City made changes to several sections of the proposed General Plan that could impact future water use. Those changes involved commercial properties as well as Institutional. One change removed a previous section to the Monastery property's Institutional zoning that might have allowed them to reuse their land for housing. That section was contrary to the City's water conservation goals and unfairly provided a right to only a single Institutional property. The change made the General Plan and Zoning Ordinance uniform for all Institutional properties.

The Water Crisis has not changed since that time. The City's goal of Water Conservation is still, not only relevant, but VITAL to the future of Sierra Madre as well as to Southern California.

With the country in the greatest drought in 120 years, with no end in sight, and our local groundwater and reservoir levels precipitously low, is it reasonable for the City to CHANGE zoning to allow new homes to add to the crisis??? Primarily for the increased financial benefit of a single landowner?

It is true that the buyers of the 42 planned homes are wealthy enough to BUY our dwindling precious resources, likely at an ever increasing cost, but SHOULD that be allowed, let alone promoted by our City?

As someone in Sierra Madre recently posted:

"I think the idea that we can drill our way out of this or the justice of 'whoever can afford the biggest, longest straw wins' is wrong headed and fatally flawed."


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