DIAMOND BAR — The Incorporation Committee has extended the deadline for signatures on its cityhood petition to Jan. 15, and plans to pursue its incorporation campaign despite the resignations of two cityhood chairmen in three weeks and conflicting assessments of the drive's chances for success.
Phyllis Papen, who resigned as chairman late in November because of business obligations only to take the post again last week, said she remains convinced that the community is ready to incorporate. She said only the legwork of petitioners is needed to meet the committee's goal of gathering about 2,300 more signatures before the new deadline.
Eighty residents were given petition forms when the drive began in late May, she said, but only about half of the workers had made any attempt to gather signatures by the first deadline of Nov. 15. The other half are being reminded of their obligation with letters and telephone calls, she said, and more people will be asked to join the drive.
So far, Papen said, petitioners have found a 2-1 preference for incorporation among those of the community's 37,000 residents who have been approached.
Incorporation proponents succeeded in getting cityhood on the ballot in November, 1983, but the issue failed by 230 of 6,696 votes cast. The matter has been discussed from time to time over the past 20 years but no other vote has been taken.
Now, Papen said, "the prospects are good if people get out there and do the work." She said the committee already has gathered about half of the 4,677 signatures--about 25% of the community's approximately 18,700 registered voters--needed before the county's Local Agency Formation Commission can review the case and arrange for an incorporation election.
Fred Sanchez, a Diamond Bar resident who agreed Dec. 9 to become chairman after Papen resigned but then quit after only a week in the post, said he believes the drive has already failed.
Sanchez said he quit the chairmanship when he realized that the petitioners began collecting signatures in May, and that the county's six-month deadline had passed.
"They just didn't have their act together," Sanchez said of the incorporation committee, part of the Diamond Bar Homeowners Assn.
However, Papen said that state rules governing such petition drives allow the committee to push the campaign's starting date forward and drop those signatures that were collected too early.
Papen, a real estate agent, said she is pushing for incorporation because the community's voice in determining its future is growing increasingly weak in the face of other demands on the county Board of Supervisors. She said that incorporation is crucial now because the local Municipal Advisory Council, which advises the supervisors on issues relating to Diamond Bar, does not have the resources or the money to adequately plan the growth of the area.
"Incorporation is a natural step in the development of the community," Papen said. "As the community continues to grow it is harder and harder for the MAC members to be effective. They don't have a staff like a city council does to give them proper support and advise them."
No Organized Opposition
Traffic control, enforcement of the largely affluent community's standards of property upkeep, and the actions of surrounding cities that affect Diamond Bar cannot be controlled without a local government, Papen added.
So far, the petitioners have met with no organized opposition. But Gary Neely, a resident who has been active in raising money for the Municipal Advisory Council, is among the most openly skeptical of the drive's chances for success.
Neely said he will wait until the Local Agency Formation Commission, a county agency charged with determining whether unincorporated areas can support a local government, completes an economic analysis of Diamond Bar before he decides whether to support cityhood.
But he said he does not think the drive will succeed. "It's over," he said. "You're not going to get 3,000 signatures over Christmas and New Year's."
Ruth Benell, executive officer of the formation commission, said the incorporation committee theoretically could go on collecting signatures indefinitely under present state rules.
The state government code says only that all signatures on the petition must be secured within six months of the date of the earliest signature, and that once a sufficient number is gathered, the petitions must be submitted to the formation commission within 60 days.
Benell said that as long as the earliest of the signatures presented is no more than 6 months old, they will be valid. Papen said that with the new deadline, only five signatures would have to be dropped because they were collected more than six months before the Jan. 15 deadline.
Benell, too, seemed skeptical of the drive's prospects for success.
"It seems to me if they're having that much difficulty getting signatures there's not that much interest in incorporation," she said.