CARSON — In a move that prompted threats of retaliation at the polls, the City Council this week turned down a request to annex 800 acres in nearby Rancho Dominguez.
Over the protests of a raucous crowd of 200 Rancho Dominguez residents, council members said they would not reconsider the 15-month-old annexation proposal until related tax issues are resolved.
Officials in April shelved the matter, saying such a move would injure the city's position in property-tax disputes with Los Angeles County. Carson, which currently does not receive any part of the county property taxes collected from its residents, has been attempting to stake a claim on at least some of that revenue.
"I'm for the annexation, but there are problems with the county and our taxes," said Mayor Kay Calas. "When we iron out our differences with the county, we will have an annexation."
But the promise did little to appease Rancho Dominguez residents, who have been seeking annexation on and off for six years. The residents, most of whom are mobile home dwellers, say they want coverage by the city's strict mobile home rent-control ordinance and a more responsive local government.
"Your future as council members will be in our hands at the ballot box at the next election," warned Belmont Beattie, one of the leaders of the residents' effort.
"We're serious about taking political recourse," said Don Close, president of Action for Carson Annexation, in an interview. The group says it represents most of the 2,000 residents in the largely industrial area. "This is going to turn into a political issue. We will almost immediately have to prepare for an election campaign. . . . We will have to work on it from now until April," said Close.
Voted With Majority
Although they cannot vote in a city election, residents said they will seek support from Carson civic and fraternal groups for a political campaign to unseat the two members of the City Council up for reelection next April.
Those officials, Sylvia Muise and Thomas Mills, voted with the council majority to table the annexation proposal until the tax issues are resolved. Only Councilman Walter J. Egan supported the Rancho Dominguez residents.
"We only need three votes on that council, and we already have one," said resident John Fox. "If we can help elect two people that support us, maybe we can get somewhere."
Group members said that 700 Rancho Dominguez dwellers have already pledged to volunteer for the campaign. Most of them live in two mobile home parks, Del Amo Mobile Home Estates and Dominguez Hills Estates. The proposed Rancho Dominguez annexation area is bounded roughly by Wilmington Avenue, Del Amo Boulevard, Alameda Street and the city of Compton.
The residents said they expect to involve residents of the 29 mobile home parks already in Carson, a sizable and active political constituency. Several politicians have said that without the support of mobile home residents, no one can win office in Carson.
In the past, leaders of Carson's mobile home residents have expressed support for the annexation. Spokesman Harry McCarthy could not be reached for comment this week.
Rancho Dominguez residents said they also may attempt to launch a city referendum on the issue. City Atty. Glenn Watson said such a measure would probably be only advisory.
Carson officials maintain that the threats of political action change nothing.
"That's the democratic process," Muise said. "If I based my ability to be reelected on one decision only, then I would be a poor council person. I have no opposition to annexing that area, but I think there are other issues that need to be considered before we get to that point."
Said Mills, "It's the responsibility of every council person to vote with their conscience and for the benefit of all the citizens. I am in sympathy with their plight and would look at the possibility of annexation after some resolution of our cases with the county. In a month's time, we may have some feel for where we're going with the county."
Other officials were less optimistic.
To proceed with the annexation, which would have to be approved by a county annexation panel, Carson officials would have to sign a property tax agreement allowing the county to keep the $9 million in property tax revenue generated by the area. Staff reports have said the city would still gain $200,000 a year in net revenue from the area through other taxes distributed by the state.
But officials have maintained that signing such an agreement would endanger the city's position in a lawsuit the county filed a year ago over Carson's designation of some neighborhoods as "redevelopment areas." According to state law, some of the property tax revenue from such areas is supposed to stay with the city. The county suits claim, among other things, that the areas designated by Carson are not blighted. Trials are set for October and December.
Outcome of Lawsuit