Friday, October 9, 2015

Monastery News: Will Leading Mater Dolorosa McMansion Development Cheerleader Cam Thornton Also Need to Apologize to Sierra Madre's City Council?

A remorseful Father Mike - Video link here.
As astute Tattler readers may be aware (and they are all astute), that just when the Sierra Madre City Council was finally poised to approve the updated General Plan on July 14, 2015, none other than Father Mike Higgins of Mater Dolorosa fame spoke up at public comment in an attempt to derail that process. He claimed concern over the fate of some language that had been inserted into the 1996 General Plan and would have made it a bit easier for an institutional land owner like Mater Dolorosa to build controversial things on the property there. In this case 50 or so highly lucrative McMannies.

Unfortunately for Father Mike, that controversial language had been previously removed by the current City Council, and for a number of sound reasons. Those included both the drought and the fact that Sierra Madre had already been entirely "built out."

It was also likely that the City Council wanted to retain their ability to approve or deny projects that, based upon the size of such institutional properties, have the most potential to negatively impact Sierra Madre. Including whether a project may be damaging to the rights of neighbors, increase traffic, or displace wildlife. Among other things.

At that critical meeting Father Higgins claimed to anyone listening that some unfortunate shenanigans had been pulled by the City Council. His contention being the copies of the updated General Plan that Mater Dolorosa had received included just such favorable language for institutional landowners. Now, and quite suddenly, it had been removed.

Sadly, Father Higgins implied that some sinister and underhanded conspiracy had occurred. He was wrong, of course. And as the above video shows he was forced to apologize to the City Council at the July 28 meeting. Evidently their updated General Plan copies actually did show that the language in question had been removed.

The Camster making bold statements - Video link here.
Which now brings us to Cam Thornton. On Sept 22, 2015 Cam claimed to Sierra Madre's City Council that most living in the nearby surrounding community, or at least those they had met with recently, favored a very large development project on the Mater Dolorosa Monastery grounds. Thornton also claimed that dozens of people had signed a specially prepared document acknowledging this surprising contention, thereby somehow committing themselves to keeping an "open mind" about such a project.

Now that statement does seem to fly into the face of what many readers of The Tattler have since told us about that meeting. People who were actually in attendance and eyewitness to what really went down.

Their first hand take is that almost everyone on hand for the meeting appeared to be strongly opposed to any McMannie housing projects being built on those still pristine lands.

Tattler readers will also recall that there was actually a demonstration at the gates of the Monastery when Cam's very first "wine and cheese" informational get together, one that invited Realtors exclusively, occurred. There were over 100 peaceful protestors on hand with signs and placards pleading that this land be preserved and remain just as it has been ever since the Passionists first purchased the place way back in 1924. Over 90 years ago.

So the question that needs to be asked now is whether, and as is the case with Father Higgins, Cam Thornton needs to get up at a City Council meeting soon and apologize for giving out incorrect and misleading information about community support for that massive luxury housing project he and his investment associates are contemplating for those still sacred grounds.

Also, let's also not forget who it is that's pushing for this project. You have the Passionist owners in far off Chicago, Cam Thornton of Burbank, and Jerry Pearson from behind the Peacock Veil in  Arcadia. All of whom must somehow instinctively know what is best for Sierra Madre.

Or maybe not.

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71 comments:

  1. You know, watching those videos makes ti seem almost pathetic what's going on over there. Here you have Father Higgins ignoring the spiritual needs of the flock and spending almost all of his time pushing a development deal that virtually no one wants. Then Cam Thornton tires to tell us in his speech that there is actually community support for their project. All you have to do is drive up Sunnyside and look at all the signs on each side of the street from Fairview to their gates and all around town. They make that drive every day. The whole impetus for the Preserve Sierra Madre movement was first ignited by the threat of a development up there on the Monastery grounds. There is about as much opposition as you could have and yet, Cam Thornton says their is mostly support for their project. I just don't get it.

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    1. They have lost there way up there. But keep in mind whose pushing this project. The Passionist owners are based in Chicago. Do you think they care about the impact of this project on Sierra Madre? You have Cam Thornton from Burbank who is an investment advisor. Do you think he may derive some financial benefit in handling the proceeds from the sale of the land? You have Jerry Pearson from Arcadia. He has been pushing this project for years. He has business ties to developers. Is he going to financially benefit from the sale? Do they care about the impact on Sierra Madre? The Mater Dolorosa Board of Directors has been stacked with developers. Joe Sanders, the President of the Board works for one of the largest builders in the nation, Pankow Builders. Robert Law works for a large builder as well. Isn't it self-evident that what used to be a religious organization has now been turned into something else. And if they have become an entity focused on maximizing profit, why are they still tax exempt?

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    2. They must have attended different meetings. Everything I heard was that very few people attended so they had alot of left over wine and cheese and those who did attend were vehemently opposed to the project.

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    3. That's quite a line up of pro-development people. No wonder they want a big housing project up there. I bet that Robert Law and Joe Sanders don't live in Sierra Madre either.

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    4. They're all just looking for their piece of the pie.

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    5. The FBI is investigating the goings on in Arcadia. Maybe the IRS should look into whether Mater Dolorosa should be a tax exempt organization. How can that be when all they own that land for is to turn a big profit for the retirements of a few dozen Priests.

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    6. Based on all that's happened to the Catholic Church and with the Priests (we all know what I'm talking about), you'd think they would be really careful about antagonizing even more people. The fact that they don't seem to care shows how far these Priests have fallen. They really don't care any more. That's not a good thing for the future of religion in America.

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    7. I remember when the gates were open and people could enjoy the grounds. I remember the annual fiesta. Once they knew they were going to sell the property the gates went up, they got rid of Father Pat and turned into a bunch of developers.

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    8. I wish Father Pat were back. This would not have happened under his watch. He knew Mater Dolorosa as something special and he would have been the first one to lay in front of the bulldozers to stop this travesty.

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    9. The first developer. New Urban West, was smart and realize that it would be a waste of time and money to pursue their due diligence only to have the rug pulled out from underneath them down the road. Who knows what's going to come up on the EIR. I heard that their may be some spotted owls that live up there and other endangered species and you have the little issue about the earthquake fault running right through that property. That derailed the Millenium project on Hollywood. And that's not just theoretical. The old Monastery was destroyed by an earthquake. I also understand there is a smoking gun in their deed that says the property never will be developed. So all this is going to come out after some stupid developer has spent alot of time and money on this fool's errand.

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    10. "I also understand there is a smoking gun in their deed that says the property never will be developed"
      Anyone got a copy ?
      That limitation could be all we need?

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    11. I was asked to read the deed. I was hoping to find a deed restriction. NO such language exists. Donate to Preserve Sierra Madre.

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    12. Mater Dolorosa is following the developer playbook which is the "divide and conquer" strategy. They have small group meetings, pull certain people aside and try to pick people off one by one. That strategy can be successful if people don't stay unified. We will rue the day when we allowed this property to be carved up. This is out community and we don't have to accept projects that have a negative effect on the community. None of the players involved for Mater Dolorosa live in Sierra Madre. They will get their money and run. Eventually the retreat center will be closed down because all they care about is the money. They should sell off the entire property and not just the lower 20 acres to some entity with a vision that recognizes the value of keeping the property intact.

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    13. Cam is an investment advisor. He gets paid to manage their money. I don't mind him getting paid for all the work he is doing but he should at least disclose this so that people can evaluate for themselves what his true motives are. And that goes for Jerry Pearson too. Father Higgins wants a really comfortable retirement so we know he has a bit of self-interest as well.

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    14. The person I feel sorry for is Father Higgins. They are trying to turn a Priest into a used car salesman. Its awful.

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  2. Its really surprising that a religious organization like this wants to proceed forward with such a divisive project. You'd think they would take a step back and ask themselves whether they should follow a different course. That land has managed to remain intact since 1924 and now suddenly they have to sell it off because 60 or so retired priests need something other than a normal retirement. What happened to their successful 5 million dollar campaign that was on their website for that very purpose. And if they needed another 10 million, why wasn't that the goal? Something is fishy in Denmark.

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    1. All those former Priests buried up there and who managed to keep the property intact since 1924 must be rolling over in their graves when they see what's happening up there. Its horrible.

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    2. I admire them for one thing. They just don't know when to quit. Aside from the opposition outside of Mater Dolorosa, you have to believe that the people who work up there and use the beautiful grounds must be as opposed to carving up those sacred grounds more than anybody. I mean they see the beauty and the solitude and the sanctuary that land provides every day. So you have to ask why and once again it comes down to the money. Nothing new. A long time ago someone else sold their soul for the 30 pieces of silver.

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    3. What makes this even more difficult to take is that the money won't even all go for the priests' retirement. Listen to what Cam Thornton, et al, have to say...They lead with the priests' retirement, but add that the money will also go for their ministry in either India or the US, depending on whose talking. So we lose our town and sanctuary for some nebulous good works somewhere?

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    4. It has become hard to believe anything those people say.

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    5. Its apparent now that they will say or do anything to get this project approved. They are literally salivating at the thought of all the money to fund their retirements. Sad to say this applies to Father Higgins too. I've met him a few times. He doesn't come across as very priestly in my view.

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    6. They are geetting out of the business of saving souls and see the writing on the wall. They want to cash in while they can. Its that simple.

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    7. All they want to do is monentize things. We might as well sell of Memorial Park. That's property worth millions to developers. Thank god people recognize there is value in open space.

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    8. I donated to that campaign to raise money for the Priests retirement. I want my money back. If I had known they would supplement all that money they raised by selling off the property, I would never have donated. They should provide an accounting of where that money went. Did it go towards retirement costs or did it go towards paying off legal judgments? I think people have a right to know.

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    9. This new breek of holy men don't carry about the fall-out from this endeavor. They are trying to get out while they can and are only looking at things for the short-term. If they had any kind of long-term vision, they would not be selling the property.

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  3. I think Mr. Thornton needs to apologize. He is giving the impression that people support the project. I was there at one of those meetings. Everyone is saw was against it and no one was willing to sign that piece of paper of support for the project. They have come off the rails up there and telling fibs because there focus has been changed from spiritual to financial. They need to spend time on their mission and the calling they chose and not on a development project.

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    1. Father Higgins does not look like a very happy person. Is this the calling that he chose when he went into the Priesthood? Its seems like a developer has different skill sets.

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    2. Mr. Thorton has a problem with the truth. It appears they are all so blinded by the money that they are unable to recognize the truth. Very sad for what that institution used to represent all these years.

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    3. Father Higgins can't be happy about what was he was hired to do when he replaced Father Pat. Who wants to go down in posterity as the Retreat Center Director and Board of Directors too who carved up Mater Dolorosa after 90 years of it remaining intact.

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    4. I wish they would share their list of supporters. Signers that don't live in Sierra Madre don't count.

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    5. I wish they would share their list of supporters. Signers that don't live in Sierra Madre don't count.

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    6. Cam Thorton wouldn't know the truth if it hit him on the head. If the sale goes through, he makes money. He's only thinking about himself.

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    7. If I did sign that little piece of paper I sure would be concerned about how Mater Dolorosa plans on using it. If they did get anybody to sign that developer gambit to get their foot in the door, its a very small number. I heard Preserve Sierra Madre is going to start a petition against this project. If they do that, I bet they would get thousands of signatures.

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  4. When will Cam be holding his demonstration? Or was that little speech to the city council it...

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    1. Its a one-man demonstration.

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    2. The people who will actually profit from the sale are the only ones in favor of it. Its always about the money isn't it?

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    3. Cam can't handle the truth because if he could, he would not be wasting his time. This dog won't hunt. Meaning this project will go nowhere.

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  5. If that project were ever to go through, it would be the spark that changes Sierra Madre. The poor folks on Sunnyside who complain about traffic now to the retreat center won't recognize their street after 50 homes with 300 or more resident, guests and delivery trucks are driving up and down there every day. And then you have Grove/Carter which is the most likely candidate for the additional ingress/egress that has to be cut out. They would probably have to widen the road and cut into Bailey Park so that its wide enough for two lanes. All the wildlife will be gone for good whether its the deer, hawks, bobcats, bears and coyotes. You will upset every neighbor around them that will have their views blocked and privacy impacted. Overall and throughout Sierra Madre, you will have increased traffic and congestion on our streets which will lead to a need for Sierra Madre's first traffic light and then parking meters when you go to downtown. You also have two years or more of construction time, and grading and dust and noise and big 4 wheelers grinding up Sunnyside every day. Every resident around there can lop 2 years or more off the enjoyment of their home during the construction period. Finally, while they are hoping that a strong El Nino will remove the drought issue, that would be very shortsighted. Sure, we may get alot of water but certainly not enough to end the drought entirely. And then when the next big drought happens, we will be all the worse off because of that huge number of users that have been brought on line. You think we had rationing and penalties before.... Yes, there are reasons Father Higgins and Mr. Thonton that nobody wants a project up there. You have no more right to build that massive project on your own land than I have to build a hotel on my land.

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    1. Thanks for the list 6:09. Every resident in Sierra Madre should be concerned about putting in one of the biggest housing projects Sierra Made has ever seen. There could not be a worse time to do that although I don't think there is ever a good time when you look at that list of negative effects.

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    2. If their land is zoned for residential housing and your land is not zoned for building a hotel, then, sorry pal, they do have more right than you.

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    3. @7:31 "Their" land is not zoned for residential. Do you live around here, possibly under a rock?
      Or are you saying if my dog doesn't have a license and you don't have a dog then you have more right to a dog then I don't.

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    4. 7:31 obviously did not read the article.

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    5. Nice try 7:31. Their land is not zone for residential housing. And no they can't do whatever they want with it. Private property does have certain limitations. That's why I can't build a nuclear power plant on my property.

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    6. There is no reason we have to swallow a huge project that will negatively impact on the neighbors and the entire city for that matter. The City Council will never approve a zoning change.

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    7. There would just be too many negative consequences to Sierra Madre from this housing project. We are built out. You can bet we will never be able to get off the MWD water lifeline and back to using our own water no matter how strong an El Nino we have, if we allow this project to go foward.

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    8. If they want a fight, they are going to get it. People will literally lie in front of the bulldozers to stop this project. It will be a public relations disaster for Mater Dolorosa and create a rift with the community that they will never recover from. They need to do the right thing here.

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    9. What is their property zoned for?

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    10. Their property is zone for institutional use. Unfortunately, that isn't the profitable way to go.

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    11. A true devout Christian would never be concerned about monetary profit.

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  6. I believe that Thornton and the rest of them see the people of Sierra Madre more as a marketing problem than actual human beings.

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    1. They will just use gimmicks. That "pledge" they want people to sign is the oldest trick in the book. Its about getting people to agree to a seemingly harmless baby step in the hope that once they get their big toe in the door, they will later be able to squeeze their whole body through. The "divide and conquer" strategy is also right out of a developer's playbook. They have the small get togethers to line up support one person at a time. I got news for them. It won't work in Sierra Madre. We are not a bunch of country bumpkins that just fell off the turnip truck. We're on to these guys.

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  7. Interesting that none of the supposed supporters show up to support in front of the City Council... just the ones who know they will directly benefit; not one nearby homeowner. It's all hearsay - these people should be ashamed of themselves for behaving selfishly like kids... "I want what I want and I won't take no for an answer".

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  8. The "field" is greener and more lush than it has been for several years. All should come a take a peek through the fence.

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  9. Father Higgins is a good man I can see the shame he feels in his eyes and in his demeanor . I wish he would take a stand against his bosses in Chicago but they would just remove him as the did Father Pat.

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    1. I've heard that Father Higgins is really focused on his retirement. I don't want to see those priests left out in the cold even though the Catholic Church still has enough money to come to the table. They raised 5 million dollars a few years ago for the Priest's retirement. If you need another 10 million, have another campaign. I would gladly contribute to that. But don't sell off the land. Once you do that, its gone forever. We don't need a big housing project in Sierra Madre. There are other ideas. We all may not have thought of that idea yet, but it will come if we have an open mind. Look what the Huntington Library did with their land even though a few years back they had some financial difficulties. They could have sold off their "excess" land. Vacant land is awfully valuable in San Marino. But because some people had the vision and realized the true value of the land and not just the monetary value, you now have the incredible Chinese garden for all to enjoy. Maybe religion is on the downside right now but there may be a resurgence some day, and then everyone is kicking themselves that the land was sold off.

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    2. Father Higgins looks tired and sad. Look I recognize that a few bad Priests gave everybody a bad name. He looks like he wants out. He doesn't care about the future of this property or what it could mean to the faithful down the road, he's focused on his own retirement. Its a tough position to be in. But it doesn't have to be this way. If they need more money, they can get it if they want to just like the way they raised the 5 million from a previous campaign for retiring priests.

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    3. Father Higgins does not want to be attending City Council meetings and giving misinformation in public and on video. Its horrible and its only going to get worse for them. But he's evidently just following orders from the people in Chicago who could care less about what is happening in Sierra Madre. This is all about the money for them sad to say. Its a sign of the times that even godly men succumb to the almighty dollar rather than the almighty himself.

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    4. Father Higgins is a Priest for crying out loud. What's he doing getting involved in pushing a development project. Is that all they are doing up there at the retreat center now? Plotting and scheming on how to push this thing down our throats. Its disgraceful.

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    5. Priests are like any soldier they follow orders from their superiors or they are punished mercilessly by the church hierarchy They have retreats going on continually and host busloads of of teens from schools around here daily. Don't attack the messenger the evil resides in evil Chi Town.

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  10. It is all about the money. Everything else they say is nonsense.

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  11. Its hard to know who the point person is with this project. They keep shuffling spokespeople to see who is the least offensive. Its Jerry Pearson one day, than Father Higgins to pull the heart strings and then Cam Thornton. Think about it, all stand to gain financially from the sale of that beautiful property on one way or another. I wish there was one or two honorable people on the Board of Directors who would yell "Stop!"

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  12. We see through everything they try.

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    1. If a developer wants an unpopular development, they just lie.
      It's very simple.

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  13. I don't know about this support they think they have. When I drive up Sunnyside starting at about Fairview, almost every house on both sides of the street has Stop the Monastery Housing Project on its lawn. I've also seen those signs scattered around town. They are fooling themselves if they think anybody supports the project beside themselves.

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  14. Some new developer may not realize they will be running into a buzz-saw with this project. They will be wasting their time and money. The project hasn't even gotten off the ground yet in any meaningful way, and you already have a huge opposition. Wait until it advances a little further. Preserve Sierra Madre was able to pack the council chambers back in 2013 and early 2014 when this idea was first proposed. Preserve Sierra Madre is probably three times as strong now as they were then when they first formed their group. I think the developer is going to have a very tough time.

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    1. New Urban West got smart and realized this was a tough road to hoe. They didn't want to spend all that time and money and partner on a project that was doomed. The problem for their development partner is that they will only find that out years down the road. That could be a very bad business decision. New Urban West is about as savvy as they come. They saw the writing on the wall.

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  15. You know Mater Dolorosa could be heroes and generate a lot of good will by saying they have listened to the community and they will not sell the property. In fact, they want to play a bigger part in the community than ever before. They will have the annual Fiesta and open the gates more to those who need the comfort, solitude an peace you can find on that property. Wouldn't that be something.

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    1. 11:03 It's not up to them if they did that they would be reassigned and other mouthpieces from Chicago would replace them. The Fiesta was hot and miserable and didn't generate any revenue it lost money the last 10 years and attendance by the community was almost zero

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  16. Let's keep this simple?
    There is insufficient water for those who already live here. The little water we have is of questionable potability. Those two issues are not going to change anytime soon. Until the water situation is permanently resolved - no more building new water meters.
    Not a new idea but simple,relevant and effective.Check out what they did in Cambria.

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    1. They are hoping the El Nino will soften things up for them.

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