MONTEREY PARK — Developers have won two major victories in the stormy fight over growth in Monterey Park through decisions by the City Council and the state Court of Appeal.
The council this week rejected a proposal for a moratorium on condominium construction.
And the state appellate court ruled in favor of a developer who is seeking to nullify an initiative that limits housing construction in the city.
The appellate court said that Monterey Views, the development firm that filed the suit, is entitled to a Los Angeles Superior Court trial to determine whether the initiative, overwhelmingly approved by voters three years ago, is constitutional, because it was adopted without considering the impact on neighboring communities. The decision reverses a Superior Court ruling dismissing the lawsuit last year.
Council Rejects Moratorium
The new decision came as the Monterey Park City Council, after flirting with the idea of imposing a moratorium on condominium construction, decided this week to allow builders to proceed with current plans while the city revises development standards for the future.
The council decision clears the way for the city to issue building permits for the remaining 50 condominiums that can be constructed this year under the growth-limit initiative.
More than a dozen residents complained to the council Monday night that poorly planned condominium projects are making Monterey Park congested, overdeveloped and unsightly.
Similar complaints two weeks ago resulted in a council directive to the city attorney to prepare an ordinance temporarily suspending construction of multifamily housing. But only two of the five council members--David Almada and Cam Briglio--supported the moratorium ordinance when it came up for adoption this week.
Mayor Rudy Peralta said some residential developments in Monterey Park are of high quality, but others are not. He said that although "there is some slipshod work out there . . . I think the matter can be resolved without a moratorium."
Councilman G. Monty Manibog said it would be unfair to penalize developers who have met existing standards by delaying their projects.
Councilwoman Lily Lee Chen blamed poor code enforement and inadequate city staff for substandard developments. She said some people mistakenly thought that Measure K, the growth-limit initiative, would improve housing quality by forcing developers to compete for the right to build, but it has not worked that way.
The initiative limits housing construction to 100 units annually through 1992. The City Council established a rating system for grading developments so that building rights would go to those projects with the least harmful impact on the environment and the best design.
Monterey Views filed suit against the measure in order to build 101 homes on 30 acres of open land in the hills west of Atlantic Boulevard. The firm claimed that its project was blocked because the city not only limited housing development to 100 units a year, but also prohibited any single developer from building more than 20 units annually.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Irving A. Shimer upheld Measure K on Oct. 22, 1984, after agreeing with attorneys for the city that the Monterey Views lawsuit offered no grounds for attacking the initiative. Monterey Views then took the case to the state Court of Appeal.
Attorney Mark Jabin, one of the partners of Monterey Views, said the effect of Measure K has been to kill large-scale development in Monterey Park, thereby lowering the quality of new housing. Instead of letting developers assemble several lots so they can design projects with open space and easy access to parking garages, Jabin said, the city has encouraged projects that are so small that builders cannot afford to include amenities.
Jabin hailed the appellate court decision and said Monterey Views will seek a summary judgment in Superior Court to invalidate the ordinance. But Mayor Peralta noted that the appellate decision partially upheld the city's position and said the case will be taken to the state Supreme Court.
The Monterey Views lawsuit attacked Measure K on five grounds, three of which were dismissed by both the Superior Court and Court of Appeal, and challenged companion Measure L, an initiative requiring voter approval for zone changes. The courts upheld Measure L.
Merit in Allegation
The Court of Appeal found merit in the allegation that Measure K may violate the due process clauses of the state and federal constitutions. Attorneys for Monterey Views alleged that the growth limit was enacted without considering "the public welfare or, in particular, the housing needs, of the region in which Monterey Park is situated."
The initiative passed by voters declared that a housing limit was needed to preserve Monterey Park's character, safeguard air quality, ensure adequate police and fire protection, avoid burdens on water and sewage systems and control traffic.