Residents of the foothills above Arcadia have mounted a petition drive to block construction of a $2-million private tennis and social club even though the developers have yet to present a proposal for the project to city officials.
"We seek nothing but total blockage of this project, regardless of any amendments or exclusions to the original proposal such as restricted hours, limited membership or any other operational or design restrictions," said Craig Bonholtzer, a foothills resident who is leading opposition to the club.
"It is our intention to have no commercialization of our residential neighborhoods or surrounding areas."
Bonholtzer said last week that he has already gathered about 500 signatures on a protest petition despite the fact that residents, who object to the increase in traffic the club would generate, learned of the proposed project only two weeks ago. In January, the developers signed an option-to-lease agreement with the county Flood Control District, which owns the property.
The land is just a few blocks north of where the second phase of Whispering Pines Estates will be built. Just last month, residents unsuccessfully fought plans for that development, fearing that views from their expensive homes might be spoiled.
Under the agreement with the county, tennis club developers Ralph Alfieri and his son, Dennis, have 18 months to decide whether to sign a lease with the county on an 8.23-acre site located in the Santa Anita debris disposal area of northern Arcadia and Monrovia. If the Alfieris go ahead with their plans, an additional three acres just south of the site might eventually be added to the parcel, east of the flood control channel at Elkins Avenue.
The Alfieris would lease the land from the county for 55 years at a base rent of $1,500 a month or a percentage of the club's gross revenues to be determined under a complicated formula worked out by the county.
The lease would allow the Alfieris to construct and operate a tennis club, clubhouse, tennis courts, and dining, polo and equestrian facilities.
However, Dennis Alfieri said that the 8.23-acre site would not accommodate the equestrian and polo facilities, which would be added only if the additional acreage, which is now used for disposal of debris that collects in a flood control area, became available.
Alfieri said that the project he is proposing would include 14 tennis courts, a clubhouse with a dining room that could seat 150 people, two racquetball courts, health facilities, a swimming pool, a multipurpose room and a day-care room for children of members.
500 Tennis Members
The club would be named the Santa Anita Canyon Racquet Club and would be limited to 500 tennis members and 500 social members, Alfieri said. The tennis members would pay $1,500 to $2,000 to join and monthly dues of about $75.
The project must be approved by both Arcadia and Monrovia. Although officials in both cities said the complex would probably be considered recreational use of the land, requiring a conditional use permit rather than a zoning change, Bonholtzer said his group regards it as a commercial project proposed in a residential area.
But the main concern of residents who oppose the project is that there would be only one entrance to club, at Highland Oaks Drive and Elkins Avenue.
"This would cause extreme congestion and heavy traffic, including truck traffic necessary for delivery of supplies to the club," Bonholtzer said. "The result would be extensive noise and safety hazards.
Safety Hazard Alleged
"The existence of a restaurant with a liquor license in our residential neighborhood would present a safety hazard for all area residents.
"We also feel that construction of this facility would cause destruction of the natural setting of our area and we are concerned that future uses of the facility might possibly include large tennis tournaments and late-night social activities."
Bonholtzer said opponents are still gathering signatures and that the petition will be presented to the Arcadia Planning Commission and City Council when public hearings are held, possibly within four months.
But Alfieri said that before he makes the first step in getting approval from the two cities by formally submitting a proposal, he wants to meet with homeowners to explain details of the club.
A Debris Basin
"We are not touching any of the mountain or embankments," he said.
" . . . We understand residents' concerns about traffic but the club members would not all come at the same time. We can limit the frequency of our delivery trucks and intend to have the dining room open only three nights a week."
Ed Cline, president of the 600-member Highland Home Owners Assn. Inc. said the homeowners will meet with the developers sometime next month.
"There is significant opposition here," he said, "but some members of the association haven't formed an opinion.
"I am reserving judgment until I have more documentation. The first thing to find out is what the traffic count is now and what it would be if the development is built."
A traffic count would be included in an environmental impact report, expected to be required by both cities.
Alfieri said that he hopes to have approval from the cities within a year and that it would then take five months to build the project.
In addition to the Alfieris, who own Alken Construction Inc. and Alken Development Co. in Arcadia, the other principals in the project are Larry Vanni, a local attorney, and Dick Leach, who has developed 10 tennis clubs in Southern California.