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PERSPECTIVES ON 2 CITIES' ELECTION RETURNS : Development Won in Signal Hill Race, Councilman Says

March 05, 1987|DAVID HALDANE | Times Staff Writer

SIGNAL HILL — While newly elected City Councilman Louis Dare was characterizing this week's election victory as vindication for the city's development policies, one of his opponents was already planning a comeback.

"I plan to run again in April of 1988 when his term expires," said Jim Kruger, 27, a political newcomer who ran third in the three-man race. "The election of Louis Dare is not a step forward, it's a step back. It's as though the city has thrown itself into neutral or reverse instead of going full steam ahead."

In what was seen as a referendum on the city's successful but controversial efforts to attract new business developments, Dare garnered 348 votes, or 41.9%. Dare had been outspoken in his support of costly incentives the council gave to the Price Club discount store, which opened in November, and an Eastman Inc. office building and warehouse scheduled to open this summer.

Running second the special election was Nick Mekis, a retired contractor who served on the council from 1974 to 1978 and received 280 votes, or 33.7%. Kruger, an Irvine real estate broker, got 203 votes, or 24.4%.

The election was to fill the vacant seat of former Councilman David Bellis, who resigned in September to take a job in San Bernardino.

Dare was soundly defeated after four years on the council last April in what was regarded as a rebuff to city development policies. Sara Dodds, who strongly criticized both the location and the aesthetics of the new developments, won the council seat.

"The Price Club is past history," declared the new councilman-elect as his victory in Tuesday's election became apparent. "It has been a success and it looks good. I believe that people are not as concerned about it as they were."

But opponents said Dare's election reflected only a split in the anti-Price Club vote and not a shift in the sentiments of Signal Hill voters.

"If I had gone one-on-one, I'd have done a lot better," said Mekis, 61, who, like Dodds and Kruger, had criticized the new developments. "We talked about the possibility of this split vote happening months ago."

Critics of the council's development deals argued that it gave away too much to attract the Price Club and to keep Eastman, which had talked about moving out of the city. While the two businesses are expected to generate $1.7 million in annual sales and property taxes, city officials say, the city invested a net total of about $8.6 million, which will take at least five years to recoup.

For her part, Dodds was conciliatory. "The people are saying that this is how they want to be represented and someone in political office should abide by what the people want," said Dodds, who had endorsed Dare's two opponents in the race. "I'm really glad that we now have a full council."

Ballot Measure Approved

A separate ballot measure continuing a 9% hotel/motel tax in the city won handily, receiving 666 votes, or 80.1% of the total. Voter turnout of the city's 3,500 voters was 831, or 23.7%.

Spending in the race was fairly moderate, with Mekis' expenditures totaling $3,500, Dare's at about $1,800 and Kruger's at just $1,000.

Dare said he planned to continue his fiscal conservatism as a councilman. "We need to look very closely at the economics of the city," he said. "I will be (keeping an eye on) costs."

In addition, he said, he plans to work for lower housing densities, particularly in view of the imminent April expiration of a two-year moratorium on new multifamily construction in the city.

"There will be a lot of development," said the councilman-elect. "The main issue is density; a lot of people are concerned about losing their views."

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