MONTEREY PARK — Saying they were carrying out a mandate from voters, the new City Council placed a moratorium on construction of commercial buildings, apartments and condominiums this week and promised tougher development standards.
The moratorium, supported by all five council members, will be in force for 45 days but could be extended for as long as a year. Councilman Barry L. Hatch, one of three newcomers elected in a campaign that was fought largely over development issues, said he thinks it will take the city about six months to put new standards in place.
Some developers characterized the moratorium as a reaction to the influx of Asians, who now make up about 40% of the city's population, up from 10% in 1970.
Paul S. H. Yen, whose plan to build 10 condominiums on about half an acre is now blocked by the moratorium, said the move stems at least partly from "race conflict--a lot of people don't want to see too many Orientals move in."
A Similar 'Feeling'
Ted Yang, a partner in another condominium project that has been placed in limbo by the moratorium, said he shares "a feeling" that racial motives are involved, but added: "I don't have any evidence."
Mayor G. Monty Manibog said he is not surprised that developers see racial motives at work. After all, he said, most of the complaints aired in the recent City Council campaigns involved problems that could be connected to Asian immigration.
People complained about overcrowding, and most of the newcomers are Chinese, Manibog said. People complained about the proliferation of condos, and it is mostly Chinese who build and buy condos, he said. And people complained about mini-malls, and it is mostly Chinese who are building and operating tiny shops in little shopping centers, he said.
"There is a backlash," concluded Manibog, "but I don't think people mean to be racial." The complaints are not directed against individuals, he said, and the city should undertake a strong community relations program to assure immigrants that they are welcome.
"There is genuine fear in the Chinese community that they are being discriminated against," Manibog said. "We have to tell them that this isn't so."
Manibog, who had allied himself politically with the three council members who were ousted in the April 8 election, said the old council had raised development standards, but its actions did not satisfy voters. In fact, the council last October turned down a request from residents for a moratorium on commercial and residential construction on grounds that it would cause a hardship to developers who had met the existing standards and secured financial commitments tied to start-up dates.
"The previous council members tried to upgrade--the message we get is that it hasn't been fast enough," Manibog said.
Councilman Chris Houseman, one of the three newcomers who ousted incumbents April 8, said the council received a mandate from voters to strengthen controls over development.
74 Units Blocked
Henry Terashita, community development director, said the moratorium will bar construction of at least 74 residential units that are being reviewed by the city.
The moratorium also covers apartments and could have applied to a 42-unit project for senior citizens, but the council this week voted to reject that project outright, denying a zone change. The apartment site, on the Rosemead-Monterey Park border, attracted strong opposition from Rosemead residents, who said the project was too large for their neighborhood of single-family homes. Only Mayor Manibog supported the project, citing a shortage of housing for the elderly.
In enacting the moratorium, the council noted that about one-fourth of the city's residential land is zoned for apartments and condominiums. Terashita said that in addition to raising development standards, the council could consider down-zoning some areas, reserving them for single-family homes instead of multiple-family projects.
The commercial moratorium exempts property west of Monterey Pass Road, notably the Corporate Center office complex, and projects under way in the block that contains Monterey Park Hospital. Terashita said a small commercial building and a proposed auto garage are the only commercial projects now under review by the city that will be affected by the moratorium.
Planned Projects Delayed
But Terashita said the city has no way of knowing how many projects are in a more preliminary stage and will be delayed. He said pending residential projects will have to be redesigned after the city formulates its new standards.
Some developers said they are being treated unfairly.
Edmond Cheng, an engineer who works for several builders, said the moratorium "will cause a lot of difficulty financially and psychologically."