MANHATTAN BEACH — The Allens have become so active in anti-development issues in recent months that even 4-year-old Matthew has tried to do something to prevent condominium construction in his neighborhood.
In late July he dictated a letter to City Hall that said, in part, "The condos are going to block off some streets so we're going to come again and again. . . . I hope Mommy wins" her fight against the new buildings.
His mother, Christine Allen, never mailed the letter. But the condominiums to which he referred helped propel her to form the Residents Assn. of Manhattan Beach, a group that wants to limit development in the city and opposes its proposed General Plan.
The Planning Commission and City Council are considering a new General Plan that has been in the making for nearly two years. Before it is adopted, each body must have at least one public hearing on the document. The first is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday before the commission.
Council members, who must eventually approve the plan, say they want to hear residents' views at hearings before committing themselves to the proposal. Council members Bob Holmes and Connie Sieber, however, expressed support for the proposal, although they said some revisions are needed.
Cites Desire of Residents
Councilman Gil Archuletta said the proposal needs several changes to further limit density before it can be adopted. "There really needs to be some close review of it to be sure that we are following the desire of the residents, which I firmly believe is to reduce density in the city," he said, adding that he favors "a document that would maintain the character of the city."
Mayor Jan Dennis and Councilman Larry Dougharty declined to comment on the proposal.
Terry Stambler-Wolfe, director of community development whose department has been overseeing the drafting of the new General Plan for two years, said she hopes that it will be approved within six months but said that depends on the number of hearings the Planning Commission and the City Council hold. The existing General Plan was approved in stages between 1967 and 1979.
Allen said she first heard about the proposed General Plan while attending meetings to protest two proposed developments in the 400 block of Marine Avenue, around the corner from her house. Under the plans, five houses, two of which are duplexes, would be replaced with six two-unit condominiums, said Planning Administrator Steven Lefever.
Plans Put on Hold
Those plans are on hold at City Hall until discrepancies between the zoning laws and the General Plan--which state law requires to be consistent--are corrected, he said.
Allen said she learned that the General Plan is "the constitution, the master plan that's going to guide our city for the next 10 years, so it became important to us."
Now, as president of the Residents Assn. of Manhattan Beach, she is spearheading a campaign to rally opposition to the proposal. "If the residents don't unite and don't be vocal," she said, "then we're not going to have our interests met."
The plan would allow too much development, she said, despite a recent city survey concluding that residents want density, traffic and parking limited.
Stambler-Wolfe agreed that the proposal would allow greater density than now exists. But, she said, the maximum density allowed throughout the city would be less under the proposed plan than under the current one.
Allen said that she does not know enough about the existing General Plan to make comparisons but that the proposal only gives "lip service" to the residents' major concerns.
According to the background report for the General Plan, the city held several sparsely attended public meetings during the past year and mailed a survey to the entire community to get public reaction. The 35% survey response is considered exceptional, since a 10% to 25% response is typical.
The meetings and the survey both led to the conclusion that residents are most concerned about density, parking and traffic.
"The survey results should play an integral part of the General Plan that is going to set the direction for at least the next decade," Allen said. She is not advocating zero growth, she said, only limited growth.
The proposed plan states: "There has been and will continue to be pressure to redevelop to higher densities due to the city's prime location on the beach and its location adjacent to the Los Angeles International Airport business center.
"However, most public services and utilities would have to be upgraded and expanded to support more intense development. Residents have also indicated that they do not want to see an increase in densities or intensities of development."
'Densities Not Achievable'