LYNWOOD — Scores of homeowners, upset with the city Planning Commission's recent approvals for two apartment complexes in their neighborhoods, are pressing the City Council to reverse the decision.
"We are not against progress but we already have enough apartments. More apartments only means the area will be overdeveloped," said Alex Bramlett, one of the homeowners most active in the campaign to put a permanent stop to the projects.
Last week, homeowners got the council to unanimously agree to a 45-day freeze on construction that includes the protested apartments and all other new construction throughout the city.
Reacting to more than 250 residents who signed petitions protesting approval of a 10-unit apartment complex and another building with 15 units, the council passed an emergency ordinance stopping new construction while it studies the situation.
The moratorium affects any project that has not yet received a building permit. Neither of the apartment projects in question has the necessary permit, although one has received final approval from the council.
Meanwhile, the protest group said it would begin circulating a petition to have six of the seven planning commissioners dismissed. The commissioners are appointed by the City Council.
One of the two planned projects, a 10-unit complex at 11561 Virginia Ave., was approved on Aug. 13 by the Planning Commission. Residents unsuccessfully appealed that decision to the council in September. The other, a 15-unit building at 11361 and 11363 Louise Ave., was approved on Oct. 8 by the commission. That decision has been appealed but has not yet been voted on by the council.
Residents appeared before the commissioners to argue against approval on Oct. 8 but, according to Bramlett, only one commission member was "listening to our complaints." Bramlett, 48, is spearheading one of the two protest groups.
Campaign Against Councilmen
The two groups of protesting residents live several blocks from each other in east Lynwood. Both groups are also considering campaigning against two of the three council members who are up for reelection on Nov. 5 fearing that the two might not vote to reverse the approvals of the apartments, Bramlett said.
Council members say, however, that they have every intention of responding to the citizens' demands but believe the process will take some time.
Residents said that their neighborhoods have enough apartments and that additional units would cause "overcrowding, more loud noise, traffic congestion and increases in crime," said John James, a protest leader.
"The elementary school is overcrowded. We don't need any more children in the neighborhood," said Howard Rorrer, another protester.
Protesters included not only homeowners, Rorrer said, but residents who are longtime renters in the middle-income neighborhood.
During an Oct. 15 meeting, the council unanimously voted for the 45-day moratorium, saying it would meet with the city staff and the Planning Commission to study the situation.
No date has been set for that session.
"This moratorium is like forming a committee. We don't know what to do but it gives us a little time to think. I sure we can find a solution," said Mayor John Byork in an interview.
Residents began protesting and circulating petitions after the city Planning Commission approved the construction of the Virginia Avenue complex in August. James also formally appealed to the City Council to overturn the commission's decision.
Across the Street
James, 50, a retired Compton policeman, said he started circulating a petition against the Virginia Avenue apartments after he discovered "it was to be built across the street from me." James said his Cortland Avenue home, which he purchased 14 years ago, is valued at about $125,000.
"I have put a lot of improvements in it but I would consider moving if an apartment was built near me," said James, who collected nearly 100 signatures against the construction.
The seven-member Planning Commission reviews and approves various land use requests during public hearings. Commissioners' decisions can be appealed to the council by citizens or by council members themselves.
The council heard James' complaint on Sept. 17 and voted 3 to 2 in favor of the apartment complex.
Voting for construction were councilmen John Byork, E. L. Morris and Lou Thompson while councilmen James Rowe and Robert Henning voted against it.
"All hell broke loose after that," Rowe said.
Louise Avenue Complex
More than 150 signatures were collected in opposition to the Louise Avenue project, but it was approved by the commission in October.
Bramlett, who lives on Louise Avenue, said the group "is fed up with the planning commissioners."
The leaders of the protest group began circulating another petition this week to dismiss the six commissioners who they believe have not been sympathetic to the group's concerns, Bramlett said.