Good evening Mayor Moran and Council Members. I thank you for this opportunity to address the Council on this extraordinarily important agenda item.
I appear first to reaffirm my support for the Assisted Living Facility project. This project represents what I believe is our community's last, best hope to abate the blight of what was once the skilled nursing facility. And, for those of you still deciding whether to support or oppose this project, I would ask that you consider that someday your parents, your spouse or you, yourself might need the services of, and actually live in such a facility.
More importantly, I appear this evening to request that the City Council fully comply with and implement Measure V, the 2-30-13 Initiative. Specifically, I am requesting that the voters be allowed to exercise their Measure V rights to vote on whether the project can exceed the Initiative's prohibition on development exceeding thirteen dwelling units per acre in our downtown.
As someone who was actually involved with the drafting of Measure V, I can attest that it was intended to apply to a myriad of proposed developments in the downtown core including developments such as this project. And my interpretation is echoed by the Initiative's principal drafter, Chris Sutton.
Both the letter and the spirit of Measure V support my interpretation. After all, the definition of a dwelling unit is, "one or more rooms in a building designed and intended to be used as living quarters by one person or a family." Clearly the rooms in this project are dwelling units.
Lest there be any doubt, however, Measure V contains findings that require it be interpreted broadly to effectuate its twin purposes of "Preserving the small town character of downtown Sierra Madre" and including the voters in "major decisions affecting our downtown."
I would be remiss, however, if I did not mention the competing and belated interpretation if the Initiative -- namely, that Measure V does not apply because the rooms in the project are not dwelling units. Specifically, the rooms are not dwelling units because they lack a kitchen.
For the following reasons, it is my hope that this Council reject this new interpretation -- really misinterpretation -- and expeditiously proceed with a Measure V compliant vote regarding the project.
First, as I just described, the new interpretation is inconsistent with the letter and spirit of Measure V. Indeed, Measure V does not require that dwelling units have kitchens nor does it even mention the word kitchen!
Second, this new interpretation of Measure V did not exist until it materialized in agenda reports this year in 2012. I ask this Council how could the voters, let alone the drafters of the Initiative, intend such an interpretation when it didn't exist until nearly five years after Measure V became the law in Sierra Madre? The voters of Sierra Madre have been accused of many things, but never being descendants of Nostradamus or relatives of Miss Cleo.
Third, the agenda report misinterprets the impact and intent of the Planning Commission's recent vote when it states that in approving the request for a conditional use permit, the Planning Commission was tacitly determining that Measure V does not apply to the project. Immediately following the Commission's vote, Planning Commissioner Vandevelde spoke to a reporter from the Sierra Madre Weekly, and described how in reality the Planning Commissioners hadn't really made up their minds. With respect to the project he said, "we don't know if it qualifies for the 13 dwelling units per acre."
Moreover, it is important to recall that the Planning Commission voted unanimously on January 19, 2012, to reject City Staff's proposed interpretation that the project's rooms were not dwelling units.
Finally, this new interpretation should be rejected because its only purpose appears to be the circumvention of Measure V to expedite approval of the project. Such circumvention is misguided and will (ironically) only ensure that the project will be soundly defeated at the polls. Why? Because the voters will not cast votes in favor of a project -- even a project they would otherwise support -- if they are denied the right they campaigned for and voted for to approve or reject projects that exceed 2 stories 30 feet 13 dwelling units per acre. Which is what a non-Measure V compliant ballot question would do. To do otherwise would encourage City Staff or developers to create fictitious exceptions to Measure V for the next proposed project to be constructed in our downtown.
Thank you for considering my remarks.
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