CARSON — The effort of about 2,000 Rancho Dominguez residents to have their unincorporated community annexed by Carson has been blocked by city officials.
The City Council this week decided in a 3-1 vote to shelve a property tax agreement that was necessary to complete the annexation, which Rancho Dominguez residents initiated eight months ago. Compton is also interested in annexing a portion of the area of Rancho Dominguez that sought amalgamation with Carson.
"This is a serious setback," said Donald Close, president of Action for Carson Annexation, which says it is pursuing the annexation to provide residents with coverage under Carson's strict mobile home rent control ordinance and a more responsive local government.
The property tax agreement that Carson officials turned down, at least temporarily, would have provided that Los Angeles County receive all tax revenue collected from land assessments in the 800-acre annexation area.
That is already the case in Carson, since the city does not levy property taxes, but city officials have recently backed efforts in the state Legislature that would require counties to return a share of their property tax revenue to local governments that do not levy such taxes.
Harmful to Position
City officials told Rancho Dominguez residents Monday night that support for the annexation agreement could be harmful to their position in lobbying for the state legislation. If the legislation is passed, Carson could gain more than $900,000 a year from the proposed annexation area, and more than $3.5 million from taxes collected within its current boundaries.
Officials also maintained that signing the agreement would endanger the city's position in a lawsuit filed in September by the county, which is attempting to retain about $750 million in property tax revenues that it expects to lose over the next 40 years because Carson doubled the size of its territory designated for redevelopment. (State law permits cities with blighted areas to engage in a complex tax arrangement that allows a portion of property tax revenues to be used to encourage development.)
"Should we sign a resolution such as this (allowing the county to keep all property taxes from the annexed area), I am afraid it will hamper our position with the county on the redevelopment issue and the state legislation," said Councilwoman Vera Robles DeWitt. "We cannot go forward and give an inconsistent message."
Waiting for Crisis
Although city officials said they supported the proposed annexation in concept, they voted to table the property tax agreement until the suit and the legislative issues are resolved or the matter reaches a "crisis point."
Such a crisis could arise when Compton proceeds with its bid for annexation of 320 acres in Rancho Dominguez, Carson officials said. The cities' annexation efforts overlap in two areas, one of which is expected to bring on a tug of war.
That area includes the Dominguez Seminary and Adobe, the site of California's first Spanish rancho and a federal and state historic landmark which both cities claim is rightfully theirs. Officials have made often conflicting assertions about which city has the strongest historical link to the site. A Dominguez Seminary spokesman has said the property belongs in Carson.
The county's Local Agency Formation Commission, which decides annexation issues, will not schedule a hearing on any annexation until a property tax agreement is approved by the appropriate city. While Carson has tabled its proposed agreement, Compton--which filed for annexation several months later than Carson--will probably approve a county agreement shortly after it is received, according to Bob Gavin, Compton planning director.
Single Hearing Possible
The county commission had expected to schedule the two cities' hearings at the same time, but the commission will set a hearing for a single annexation if one city fails to adopt a tax agreement, said Ruth Benell, executive officer of the commission.
Carson officials have said they will protest Compton's annexation, even if their application is not considered at the same time.
But Rancho Dominguez residents and some city officials say there was no reason to delay the proposed Carson annexation.
"We do not want to impair Carson's negotiations with the county but we don't think the annexation will affect those negotiations," said Close, the president of the residents organization.
"Carson would still be able to maintain its position on property tax with the county (and) we feel that although the council is looking toward the future with the property tax revenue issue, the sales tax and business license revenue from our area is sufficient to carry the annexation at this time," Close said.
The proposed annexation area would bring the city a yearly net profit in various sales tax and license revenues of more than $200,000, according to city staff estimates.