Mayor Sam Abed
Deputy Mayor John Masson
Councilman Ed Gallo
Councilwoman Olga Diaz
Councilman Mike Marasco
I am writing you today to make a plea for you to carefully review, and ultimately
reject, the Planning Commission's recommendation to approve The Villages submittal.
What we learned at last week's planning commission hearing regarding the ECC:
● Most of the newer residents are typically young families
● They were attracted by the depressed real estate market in the ECC area
● They have no connection to the legacy of our long settled community
But, we also learned:
● Most of the long term homeowners are against the proposed project
● They feel it is being rammed down their throat with little or no vetting
● Even the builder admits the Villages plan is inconsistent with the existing
I also got the sense that everyone in attendance wants to heal the community.
The problem is, we can't agree on what 'healing' means...
We learned that the commissioners were influenced by
● The 'extensive planning' by NUW
● By a sense of urgency to 'put this unfortunate situation' behind us
Neither of which should have played a part in their deliberations. Both issues are incidental, because extensive planning is expected by the planning department on any and all Specific Plan Area proposals that would effectively amend the General Plan. Secondly, the only one driven by a sense of urgency is the property owner who will realize an estimated $80-100M ROI once the builder receives approvals. The staff should not be influenced by pressure or urgency. The residents know it took decades to build the desirability of our neighborhood and it will take some time to properly reinvent it.
The staff's report said the builder had adequately mitigated resource and impact issues, but as I read it, the staff never quantified the costs incurred by existing residents. Their report fails to reconcile the absence of fire threat escape routes, streetside parking issues, current water shortages and existing water use restrictions or how maintenance and operations of 'community recreational amenities' will be paid for.
As for the EIR, one commissioner noted that many negative impacts will occur outside of the influence area, so there may be increased wait times at freeway access points: then he suggested we all need to "get used to it."
Is that the kind of vacuous attitude you want making value judgements on issues that burden your constituents? My point is, this proposed redevelopment does not adequately protect the current residents from multiple negative impacts on their lifestyle and property. It divides and effectively dissembles The Country Club retirement community.
In addition, The Villages plan does not adequately mitigate:
● Increased traffic delays, accidents, and volume on residential streets
● Resource restrictions, noise, air pollution and wildlife displacement
● Loss of home equity, sight lines, privacy and iconic eucalyptus trees
● Loss of community identity
● Loss of a major tourist attraction and visitor spending
● Loss of demographic continuity
As our Council, you have all consistently claimed to have the best interests of current residents in the forefront of your actions. But your actions have not resulted in any measurable improvements or protections for ECC residents. Some homeowners have been forced to move and some are still burdened by property liens over minor encroachments. We have all been affected by the destruction of the environment and dramatic loss of equity. Our once desirable community has recently been referred to as 'blighted'. For the past five years, you have asked for and received the trust of the voters, and what do we have to show for it?
As leaders in our fine city, ask yourselves some difficult questions:
● Is abandoning the senior retirement community theme the right thing to do?
● Why are we in such a hurry to adopt the first plan presented to our community?
● Is it typical for large 'infill' projects to get approved on the first try?
● Why aren't we seeing competing proposals?
● Are we looking at this community redevelopment with an open mind?
Are we to assume that gentrification is unavoidable, despite the current explosion of aging Baby Boomers, adding 10,000 retirees to the populace every single day? Is it wise to impose a young family themed housing development smack in the middle of a large established retirement community?
As I pointed out at the hearing, you have to get this right. This will be your legacy. Please, slow down and consider the long term impacts. The Villages submission is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It has some very good aspects to it, but the overall marketing theme is incongruous with the existing community.
Our community has already weathered the worst part of this assault, so we can afford to wait a little longer if that is what it takes. As you all well know, New Urban West understands how these things work and they will hang in there until proper design modifications can be realized. They think long term, and so should the Council.
Please send The Villages proposal back to the drawing board and require any revised submission respect the nature and historical significance of our very special existing retirement community.
Thank you for helping save our community from unfettered financial exploitation.