Hi John: Here is the latest salvo from Mater Dolorosa. We had proposed to them to give the citizens of Sierra Madre as well as donors a chance to try to purchase the property before they sell it to a developer.
Unfortunately, they didn't feel the amount of money we could raise would be as much as a developer would pay them for the property. The concern now is that because they seem to be focused on maximizing their profit, we will be looking at a major housing project at Mater Dolorosa. With the water shortage and other issues, this will not be a good thing for Sierra Madre.
Attached is a copy of their recent letter. They just posted it on their website under "Property News". I intend to send their letter along with some commentary on Friday to all of the supporters on our email list.
Because our efforts to negotiate a "win-win" solution by preserving the open space and getting them the money they needed, we now move into a different phase of our efforts. It will also be interesting to see how much the city will try to promote this project now that the UUT went down in flames. They would probably want the additional revenue.
It will also be interesting to see how all the people driving up Sunnyside this Friday for the Stations of the Cross will react to all those sign along the way. They have to drive the gauntlet to get there and probably didn't know a substantial portion of that property - about 20 acres - is about to be sold off.
(Mod: All good points. City Hall, which is always hungry for more development impact cash, is not likely to be of much assistance in helping to preserve the last truly open spaces here in Sierra Madre. Meaning that once again we could be on our own. Fortunately we have three new City Councilmembers who all expressed concern during the campaign about the fate of this at risk monastery land. This could be their first big test in office. Here is the "Property News" our correspondent wrote to us about.)
Property Communications - Dear Friends,
The Passionists of Holy Cross Province, headquartered in Park Ridge, Illinois and the owners of the property on which the Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center stands, has confirmed a final decision to develop an unused portion of this property, which they have owned since 1924.
The Passionists have our full support in this decision. This property is below the retreat house and is not used nor needed for our mission. As we have previously communicated, this sale has been in the planning stages since 2007.
The Passionists are selling the land to raise monies for the retirement and care of their aging priests and brothers and for the continuation of its global mission and their ongoing work. All monies raised from the sale of this parcel will go back to the Provincial Headquarters for this purpose.
We are now in the feasibility stage of our planning process. Based on the information gathered over the past seven years, the development will be in keeping with our neighborhood of single- family homes. This direction is important to the city, to our neighbors and to the many who come to Mater Dolorosa for the nearness to God, our quiet setting and Stations of the Cross provide.
As this property sits at our entrance and is around our neighbors, we have been conducting a thoughtful process to identify a firm that represents our values. Openness, listening and sensitivity to the environment are amongst the issues we have looked for compatibility.
We have looked at a range of approaches to divesting of the property from an outright sale as is to us developing the property on our own. We do not have the expertise to thoughtfully develop the property and feel it is important that we participate in offering our thoughts throughout the development process.
Consequently, we plan on entering into an agreement that in many ways acts as a joint venture arrangement with the ability for us to protect the serene environment through input and approvals throughout the development process.
Our due diligence process has included cordial meetings and ongoing phone conversations between a number of concerned residents, including Matthew Bryant, a Mater Dolorosa neighbor, Council Member-elect Denise Delmar and Leslee Hinton, a General Plan Update Steering Committee member. We have also received input from members of the Sierra Madre business community and many other long-time residents of our community.
While we will never be able to make everyone happy about this land being sold, we have found that once people learn the details and understand that any development will be in keeping with city regulations and will involve a very public process, they are more understanding.
The Passionists and Mater Dolorosa are in the final steps of selecting a developer to implement the decision in a manner that is sensitive and responsible to both the retreat center and its neighbors.
We commit to:
- speak with transparency and openness;
- keep the community informed of development milestones and provide updates on our website;
- support the developer in their intent to implement a design compatible and complementary to our retreat mission, our neighbors and surrounding land uses;
- work with the developer to provide information in a timely and detailed manner to representatives of the City of Sierra Madre as we move through the development process.
Once a purchase and sales agreement is executed, I will formally introduce the developer we will be working with.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. Retreat Director
(Mod: How jamming a bunch of tract housing up there is going to "protect the serene environment" is anybody's guess. Michael Higgins could just be saying this to make you somehow feel better. You never can tell. Someone closely associated with this "due diligence process" sent in the following. I believe it is far more to the point.)
The coalition met with representatives of the Passionist Fathers and discussed at length the concepts of developing a plan to raise 10 to 15 Million dollars to acquire the property. The representatives indicated the amounts discussed were insufficient.
(Mod: Apparently concerns over the "serenity of the environment," along with the rest of that rhythm, took a backseat to cold hard cash. Someone in the development world must be waving some very substantial sums beneath Passionist noses. As it is with City Hall, the needs of the community are now being kicked under the bus to fund the requirements of people who don't care very much about the effect their personal situations may be having on those unfortunate enough to live near them. Once again we are being asked to suffer the consequences of someone else's indifferent personal planning. Here are a couple of more points that were shared with me yesterday.)
1. Why sell it now. The property existed intact since 1926, you had the great depression as well as real estate booms. There could have been plenty of reasons to sell the property then but the powers that be decided that it was important to hold onto the property.
2. Once you sell it, its gone forever. They aren't making any more land like this. Even though they consider it "excess" land, how do they know that they won't have a need for it down the road. The Huntington Library could have sold off their excess land when they had some financial challenges. They managed to keep it and now we have the beautiful Chinese gardens.
(Mod: Ironic that an organization dealing with the ultimate in eternal considerations has here decided to take a more "live for today" approach. You can only wonder what is going to happen to the Passionist cause once its current guardians have sold off all of the remaining precious things passed down to them by people far better than they.)