GARDENA — Homeowners opposed to an 84-unit apartment complex in northeast Gardena say they have gathered more than 2,600 signatures on petitions seeking a referendum on the project.
The petition signatures were presented last week to City Clerk May Doi for verification. If 1,907 of them--10% of the city's registered voters--are valid, the City Council will have to reconsider its decision to rezone the site from single-family to multifamily use.
City Manager Kenneth Landau said the council can rescind its vote, present the referendum on a separate ballot or put it on the city's regular municipal ballot next April. The apartment development will be on hold until the matter is resolved.
'Step at a Time'
A representative for the developer, Glendale-based Bidamar Corp., said the company will take no action until the signatures have been verified. "We want to take it a step at a time," said Nicholas K. Lam, adding that the company is not considering moving the project to another site. "We want to get all the facts first."
Herman DeNunzio, spokesman for the group that circulated the petitions, said he was delighted with the response. "We had the amount about two days ago, but we kept collecting" in case some signatures are thrown out, he said Wednesday. "We've got almost 40% more than we need."
DeNunzio, who has lived in the neighborhood for six years, said residents are concerned about traffic, population density, parking and crime problems from the proposed development, on Budlong Avenue between 141st Place and 141st Street. The site has been occupied for many years by a commercial nursery.
"What they're doing is spoiling the landscape of the entire neighborhood," he said.
In spite of residents' objections, the City Council approved the rezoning in a 3-2 vote last month. Councilman Mas Fukai, who supported the rezoning, said the city was given a say in what kind of housing is built there. He and the other council members supporting the project said an environmental impact report was not needed because the developer already had made changes in response to the residents' concerns.
Edmond J. Russ, Bidamar's attorney and a former Gardena mayor, said the developer has "exerted every possible effort to satisfy the neighborhood. This would not only beautify the neighborhood, but retard the deterioration of the neighborhood."
Buffer Strip Donated
The changes include donating to the city a 50-by-315-foot strip of land on the west side of the development to buffer single-family homes on Raymond Avenue, Russ said. Other changes to the walled-in apartment complex include additional parking and traffic circulation routes to prevent congestion, extra landscaping around the building and a more residential look to the front of the building.
DeNunzio said the changes were "well-intended," but added: "There will be too many people . . . too many automobiles. We don't want all this additional traffic. It will add hazards to our streets and add crime.
"I'm not a politician. I'm just a homeowner that wants my neighborhood to be the same as it was when I moved in."
DeNunzio said there already are 270 apartment units on nearby Rosecrans Avenue, and said the proposed project on Budlong Avenue would be an intrusion into a neighborhood of mostly single-family homes.
Doi has until Oct. 26 to verify the signatures.