To conform with state law and avoid potential lawsuits, city officials have proposed numerous General Plan amendments that they call "administrative changes."
But one of the changes represents more than mere "paper work" to residents of the city's largely Latino Santa Fe neighborhood.
Irate at the proposal to increase housing density from low to high, the residents formed a coalition, hired an attorney, gathered about 200 signatures on a petition and crowded a City Council meeting this week, where council members postponed a decision until a future meeting.
The residents said the new density designation will pave the way for apartment complexes in their area, bringing added traffic and crime. They also said the city is discriminating against them because the area is mostly Latino.
"This to us is discriminating. This area is mainly Hispanic. We're not third-class citizens," Marguerite Duncan told the council. "It seems to me that the city does not want to better its relations (with Latinos)."
About 55% of the area in dispute is zoned either R-2 or R-3, so "changing the paper work" to high density from low density would conform with the existing use of the area, Development Services Director Joyce Rosenthal said.
Under an R-3 zoning, a property owner can build up to 25 units per acre, contrasted with a maximum of 4.5 units under R-1 and eight under R-2.
Viola Placencia, another resident in the area south of Chapman Avenue between Murray Street and Bradford Avenue, asked the council: "Do you want to convert this to an instant slum?"
Rosenthal said that changing the General Plan from low-density residential to high-density residential represents mostly "administrative changes."
City land use is governed by the "land-use element" of the General Plan and the zoning map. The area has been zoned R-3 since the mid-1950s, Rosenthal said. But in 1973, the same area was also labeled "low-density residential." According to a 1979 state law, both the zoning designation and the General Plan designation must agree.
The city has been working for a couple of years to change several amendments to the General Plan to comply with the state law, assistant planner Richard Hendricksen said. Tuesday night, the council approved eight such amendments, postponing a decision on the Santa Fe neighborhood zoning question.
City officials say they fear that the city may be the target of lawsuits if the the General Plan is not changed to conform with the zoning codes. In Los Angeles, the city's 40-year-old zoning laws came under attack in late 1984 in a suit by several homeowners groups. The groups argued that the city ignored the state law requiring that zoning be brought into conformity with its General Plan.