By a 2-1 margin, Corona voters passed a controversial measure Tuesday restricting residential lot sizes, but they also voted to retain three incumbent councilmen who voted against the same restrictions.
"The majority of Coronans do not know who sits on their council, are unaware of the issues facing their city," said Councilman William Franklin, author of the successful Measure H, which will require the city to enforce a minimum lot size of 7,200 square feet for new single-family homes.
Franklin said the restrictions are needed to stop a flood of "substandard homes" that would overburden the city's public services and overcrowd its streets and schools. The Franklin Initiative passed Tuesday by a margin that surprised even its author: 6,222 votes to 3,093.
"While that was an important issue to many voters, it was not the only issue," said Councilman William Miller, who led a field of 10 council candidates Tuesday with 4,446 votes. "The overall issue was growth--not a particular aspect of growth, but growth in general--and obviously the voters felt the three incumbents are capable of dealing with that growth."
Miller and other opponents argued that the Franklin Initiative would limit the city's flexibility in planning and prevent officials from trading with developers to increase their allocations of parkland, open space or other public amenities.
"This is not the end of the line for anything," Franklin said of the measure's victory. "The community should not and must not relax as a result of this effort."
Councilman Richard Deininger Jr. predicted that there will be legal challenges to the initiative but not from the City Council. "On this issue, the people told us what they want," he said.
Still, officials are not sure how to implement the Franklin Initiative, partly because it is not in the form of a city ordinance, City Manager James D. Wheaton said. "It's going to be the attorneys that tell us what to do with this proposition."
Margin of Only 49 Votes
Even before the election, city attorneys said "there is considerable ambiguity in the measure" and suggested that its effects may have to be decided in court.
Beside Miller, Corona's voters retained Councilmen Deininger and S. R. (Al) Lopez. The final tally, which still must be certified by Registrar of Voters Robert G. Morgan, showed Deininger holding his seat by a margin of only 49 votes over challenger Ray L. Radtke.
Radtke was one of only three candidates who favored the Franklin Initiative. "I spent less than $1,000 and made my own signs," Radtke said, adding that he will inquire about seeking a recount.
"I am concerned" by the slim victory, Deininger said Wednesday. "I would have liked to have seen a wider spread. But I've been told by every person I've seen this morning: One vote or five thousand votes gets you elected."
In neighboring Norco, where 12 candidates battled for three seats on the City Council, incumbent Steve M. Nathan finished on top, with 1,774 votes. Councilman Richard L. MacGregor came in third, with 1,513.
John Cobbe, a member of the city's Planning Commission, garnered 1,650 votes to place second and fill a seat being vacated by Naomi R. Feagan, who chose not to seek a third term of office.