I'm looking forward seeing the replacement of the dilapidated skilled nursing eye-sore on Sierra Madre Blvd. with the new Kensington Assisted Living Facility. The “Kensington” will brighten up our downtown, provide a means for our seniors to stay in Sierra Madre past the point where assistance with daily living is required, bring in much-needed revenue to the city coffers, and stimulate downtown commerce.
Sierra Madre's City Council unanimously supports the project, as does the Chamber of Commerce. I believe that the citizens of Sierra Madre also overwhelmingly support the project and will vote YES also. While I was campaigning for a seat on the City Council, concern for the blighted site was one of the main topics of conversation. Citizens felt it was a disgrace to our city to tolerate the blight. They repeatedly expressed their desire to have it redeveloped.
So, is it a perfect project? There is no such thing as a perfect project, but this one is pretty darned good. Concern expressed by some individuals is that it's big, it splits our downtown, and it uses too much water.
Yes, it's big compared to the existing boarded-up skilled nursing facility. On the other hand, the actual footprint is about the same, the difference being that the new facility has a second story. However, it does comply with the Voter's Empowerment Ordinance (Measure V) 30 foot height limit and two story limit that applies to our downtown. A major improvement with the Kensington is that the facade, which contains retail space, is at street level, which is certainly more attractive and “walkable” compared to the retaining wall at the boarded-up site. I give a lot of credit to the developer and Sierra Madre's Planning Commission for hammering out a design that fits with the community and introduces retail space at the street level.
Regarding the split of our downtown, this project does not split our downtown. Downtown was already split by the existing structure since the early '50s. This project improves the situation by providing retail opportunity at the street level. The alternative is simply to leave the area blighted as it is for years to come. It's simply unreasonable to expect that the commercially zoned portion of the site could be developed solely for retail use, thanks to Globalization and the defunct Community Redevelopment Agencies, which gave financial advantages to big-box retailers at the expense of small town businesses. Regarding the residential R-3 portion of the development site, I can't get excited about the possibility of more condos or apartments for Sierra Madre. The proposed Kensington is the best use overall for now and the foreseeable future.
Yes, water supply concern has recently been raised. Water supply is a topic that has arisen periodically throughout Sierra Madre's history because of our reliance on our local mountains as our source. The expected incremental demand from the Kensington is insignificant in the grand scheme of things and won't materially affect our short and long-term supply.
Approximately two-thirds of water consumption in Sierra Madre and other communities goes to landscaping in general. The Kensington has very little landscaping, and that which it has will be drought-tolerant. The building will also be constructed to the latest Cal-Green standards, which will result in low per-capita consumption. Central food preparation and laundry facilities will further conserve compared to single and multifamily residences. The bottom line is that these 96 new residents will add less than one-half of one percent to the city's water demand, and won't materially affect our supply. One-half of one percent additional consumption is not a sufficient reason to forgo the benefits that the Kensington brings to Sierra Madre.
All in all, this is a great project for Sierra Madre. We've vetted it thoroughly via nine Planning Commission meetings and three City Council meetings, where the public has given feedback which has resulted in improvements over the original proposal. The Kensington will be good for Sierra Madre, in that it improves a blighted area in a prominent location, will stimulate local commerce, bring in much-needed revenue, and serve the needs of elderly citizens.
I'm voting YES on Measure ALF and I hope you will too!