MONTEREY PARK — A divided Monterey Park City Council has embarked on a plan to spend $250,000 for expert advice on how to reverse what the council regards as the city's deterioration.
Councilwoman Pat Reichenberger said Monterey Park's schools are overcrowded, its traffic is congested and its sewers are overloaded, and it doesn't even have a "decent" grocery store.
She joined Councilmen Chris Houseman and Barry L. Hatch in voting to solicit proposals from planning firms to revise zoning, development and architectural standards for commercial and residential areas.
Later, the council will hire other consultants to analyze traffic patterns and evaluate the city's commercial prospects.
'A Farfetched Dream'
But Councilman Cam Briglio said that calling in planning consultants is not the answer.
"This is a farfetched dream," he said. "You can't wave a magic wand and change Monterey Park."
It is foolish to spend $250,000 for consultants "to tell us where the city screwed up," he said. "I don't think we have to go outside the city to find out what we did wrong."
In April, Houseman, Hatch and Reichenberger ousted three incumbents, winning election to the council in a campaign in which congestion and development standards were key issues. The challengers accused incumbents Rudy Peralta, David Almada and Lily Lee Chen of giving developers a free rein, especially in the construction of condominiums.
One of the first actions by the new council in April was to impose a moratorium on construction of condominiums and apartments citywide and on commercial buildings in most areas. The moratorium was extended last month to April, 1987.
Councilman Changes His Mind
Briglio, who voted for the moratorium, said at this week's council meeting that he has changed his mind and is withdrawing his support because the council is taking too long to devise new development standards and is contemplating rezoning in ways that might lower property values.
Because imposition of the moratorium required approval of four of the five council members and he cast the decisive fourth vote (Mayor G. Monty Manibog dissented), the moratorium should expire, Briglio contended.
However, City Atty. Richard Morillo told Briglio: "You can't take your vote back." The moratorium is already in place, Morillo said, and it would take three votes to repeal it.
Briglio said that the moratorium is a hardship on property owners and that the city already has all the studies and expertise it needs to raise development requirements.
Manibog said he is not even sure there is a need to raise standards. Shortly before this year's election, the City Council increased the amount of open space and parking required in multifamily housing projects.
The new council, Manibog complained, "didn't even look at the stringent standards imposed by the previous council." The higher standards "may have been late in coming," Manibog said, "but they are there."
Houseman said that frequent changes in building codes have created uncertainties and that now is the time to resolve the development debate that has been under way in Monterey Park for years.
With a building moratorium in place, he said, the city has the opportunity to make a thorough review and impose standards that will stick, giving developers firm guidance for the future.
Houseman said that the city should make every effort to attract the best planning consultants by conveying the excitement of the challenge facing the city. It is a chance, he said, for planners "to look at the entire city and stamp some identification on it."
City Manager Lloyd deLlamas said that the study should develop architectural themes for neighborhoods and an overall theme for the city. He said the council is looking for distinctive features so that "when you drive into the community, you will know that you are in Monterey Park."
A group of consulting firms will be invited to submit proposals by July 14. DeLlamas said that the council could award the contract two weeks later so that work could begin in August and be completed by next February. Estimated cost of the contract is $50,000.
DeLlamas said the city will spend about $200,000 for two supporting technical studies. One will analyze traffic on all major streets determine which streets should be widened, where signals should be upgraded or installed and what other steps could be taken to ease congestion.
The second will analyze the financial factors in commercial development of the city. DeLlamas said that the council is concerned about piecemeal development and the proliferation of small stores, rather than major commercial projects.
The council has directed the staff to study whether the use of city redevelopment authority would promote commercial growth in four areas: South Atlantic Boulevard, North Atlantic Boulevard, the Garfield-Garvey area and Garvey Avenue between New and Lincoln avenues.
A report on the proposed redevelopment areas will be submitted to the council at its July 14 meeting, deLlamas said.
Then, if the council gives its approval, he said, it will take about nine months for hearings, a county review and other procedures before the redevelopment project areas could be created. The city then could assemble land for development through the eminent domain process.
Houseman, Hatch and Reichenberger all spoke enthusiastically at this week's council meeting about the opportunity to reshape Monterey Park.
Hatch said the council has "dreamers and doers" who have "great plans for the city." Reichenberger declared: "Cities are built on dreams and I hope we have that dream."