Mayor John Harabedian
Mayor pro-Tem John Capoccia
Council Member Rachelle Arizmendi
Council Member Denise Delmar
Council Member Gene Goss
City of Sierra Madre
232 W. Sierra Madre Blvd.
Sierra Madre, CA 91024
Dear Mayor and Council Members,
My wife Judy and I moved from Arcadia to Sierra Madre three years ago. We chose Sierra Madre because this city prided itself on preserving its unique character as stated on the city's website which I have highlighted below.
"The City of Sierra Madre is a small, quaint, safe, and friendly town in the San Gabriel Valley region of Los Angeles County, California. The population is about 11,000. The city encompasses approximately 3.01 square miles. It is in the Foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains below the southern edge of the Angeles National Forest with the cities of Pasadena and Altadena to its west, and Arcadia to its south and east. Sierra Madre is one of the few cities in the region which has fully been able to retain its village quality despite pressures for growth, modernization and diversification."
Indeed this city has resisted inappropriate growth for decades, however, the pressures from developers who want to build outrageously large and offensively designed mansions is becoming intolerable.
To protect and preserve this city's unique character a Steering Committee was formed to update our General Plan. After several years that plan is now in your hands and you have already reviewed the Land Use portion. Allowing the public to freely participate in the review process resulted in making changes to the Plan that will significantly reinforce the goal of preserving Sierra Madre.
By early next year you will have finished your review of the General Plan and the Implementation Program. At that time the EIR will begin. This can take six months or more. It is possible that the EIR report will require a few changes to the General Plan. This could take a couple of more months. Finally the Municipal Code will have to be updated to comply with the new General Plan. This will take a few more months. So it could easily be well over a year from now before everything is in place.
The developers are aware of this and they will make every effort to build as many oversized homes as they can before the new Plan and Codes are in effect.
This brings me to the reason that I am writing to you. I suggest that the City Council pass a Temporary Stop-Gap measure to prevent oversized home building until the new General Plan and Municipal Code is in place.
The citizens of other cities are now waking up to the McMansion problem and their city councils are exploring ways to temporally halt McMansionization while they formulate permanent solutions. Los Angeles is drafting a temporary stop-gap measure knowing that it will take a long time to complete a permanent solution and that countless McMansions could be built during that time.
I am not sure what form these stop-gap measures should take. Maybe something as simple as reducing the total allowable square footage of all new and remolded houses that would be over 3,500 S.F. by 20 or 25%. Maybe putting an absolute limit on the total square footage a house can be. Or increasing the minimum lot size for lot splits to 12,500 S.F. Or a combination of a few, but simple things that do not depend on complicated formulas.
I am sure the Acting Development Director, the City Manager, the Planning Commission Members and community members could quickly come up with simple temporary changes to the Municipal Code which would protect us until the General Plan and the Municipal Codes changes are completed.
It would be so irresponsible for us to allow homes to be built that we are in the process of forbidding because we could not get our General Plan and Municipal Code changes done in time to prevent the type of development that we all know will forever destroy the charm of this “small, quaint, safe, and friendly town”.
I believe a Temporary Stop-Gap Measure to prevent oversized development would be an important item to include on the agenda of the next City Council meeting.