|The dream is over.|
UPDATE REGARDING MATER DOLOROSA PASSIONIST RETREAT CENTER
Jerry Pearson, Cameron Thornton, and representatives from New Urban West met with City staff this week regarding their future plans for the development of the lower portion of the Mater Dolorosa property into single-family residential development. They informed staff that an agreement has been signed with New Urban West to develop the site, and that New Urban West will begin “due diligence” starting in June, and will begin community outreach in June - meeting with neighbors door-to-door, contacting stakeholders as well as Planning Commissioners and City Councilmembers to introduce themselves. New Urban West anticipates an application submittal by Fall of this year.
I am not sure how well the community outreach that was planned to begin last June went, but perhaps the results were not as kindly received as New Urban West had hoped. Of course, it could also be they walked away due to the water moratorium. That and because Sierra Madre obviously does not want that area developed.
But whatever the reason, news has now reached The Sierra Madre Tattler that the developer has pulled out of this project and taken their "Montereys" and "Italian Villas" with them.
It has also been revealed to us that no other developer has signed on yet to take New Urban West's place. Something that now leaves the entire project in a state of limbo. Certainly this is not how the proponents for development on that property saw things turning out when they kicked this all off one short year ago.
Which brings us to the other big Mater Dolorosa development mystery du jour.
What is Jerry Pearson up to?
As we reported yesterday, Arcadia's own Jerry Pearson, who, along with Burbank boomer investment guru Cameron Thornton serves as a mouthpiece for development at Mater Dolorosa, has been making the rounds at Sierra Madre's "community outreach" meetings on our current budgetary challenges. Who invited him, or why he would be showing up at events that have nothing to do with a housing development project such as the one he has been advocating for, is a topic now available for our speculation.
Here is how we reported this yesterday.
The notion that 50 new homes packed onto the monastery property would be "water net neutral" was vigorously tossed and gored here yesterday in the comments. So today I thought we should take a look instead at the claims Jerry is making to anyone who will listen about all of that cash Sierra Madre would get if only we would just step out of his way and let the project go forward.
In order to attract another developer to take the place of the now departed New Urban West, the pro-monastery development faction headed by these two talkative out-of-towners (both of whom have yet to reveal any personal financial stake in this project), some support in this community is going to need to be manufactured.
That cash message, which apparently is being delivered at these meetings by Jerry Pearson from a carefully prepared script, is being presented to the people of Sierra Madre as a kind of solution to our budgetary woes. Jerry is apparently planning on attending a majority of the other community outreach gatherings as well, so you can see how he might be committed to this approach.
So where would this windfall cash actually come from? Development Impact Fees. The money that supposedly alleviates the financial impact new development infrastructure expenses make upon communities such as ours. They would cover the costs of water hook-ups, sewer connections, roads and the many other things you'd hope to see attached to a house.
But do they really cover those kinds of costs? At least on a dollar to dollar basis?
According to the NATIONAL IMPACT FEE SURVEY: 2012 (link), put together by an outfit called Duncan Associates out of Austin, Texas, there is something rather interesting about how this is accomplished in California. Apparently here Development Impact Fees are near exponentially higher than they are everywhere else. Which either means we have the most expensive sewers on the planet, or something else is at work.
Here is a chart contained in this report that shows this disparity quite clearly.
And here is another one with some actual numbers attached. Please note that we are talking three years ago, and the house prices assumed in this survey were based on a national average of $200,000. Which is just about the price of a stand alone garage here in Sierra Madre.
Next is a sampling of Development Impact Fees charged in select California cities. Here you can see DIF costs that are literally through the roof. Even a second story one. Click on the chart below to enlarge for easier viewing.
Trust me on this, Sierra Madre's Development Impact Fees are far closer to Napa than they are Placer or Redlands.
So why are California's development fees so much higher than they are everywhere else in this country? Especially in the kinds of communities developers so desperately covet, places like Sierra Madre?
Simply put, this is a mechanism that allows developers to funnel a lot of money to city governments. Especially in those cities where development such as the kind being pushed at Mater Dolorosa is so incredibly unpopular with the residents. Especially those residents who, because of proximity issues, would have to endure years of loud construction noise, dust, and truck diesel smoke.
Which is a high price to pay for somebody else's retirement. You would have hoped they'd have planned a little better for their old age.
At approximately $60,000 per each of the 50 proposed biggish bungalows at Mater Dolorosa, the Development Impact Fees the City of Sierra Madre could realize pencil out at right around $3 million dollars. Which is a vibrant number that just might turn any platinum pension-driven City Hall employee head.
In other words, in California these sky high Development Impact Fee rates give developers the opportunity to put some mad stacks into the institutional pockets of the local governmental agencies making the calls on their developments.
Kind of cozy, right? Not that we would ever stoop so low as to suggest that this DIF arrangement is a form of corruption unique to California, a state that leads the nation when it comes to development related shenanigans.
Nor would we use the word "bribery" either, a term that, if presented in this context, would suggest that there are decorum issues on this site.
But there are those who do think that about these fees.
If you see Jerry Pearson at any of the community outreach meetings you're planning to attend, maybe you should ask him about the role Development Impact Fees play here in California. Then let me know what he says.
I'd be interested to hear his take.