MONTEREY PARK — Property owners fighting an ambitious plan that would reshape commercial growth and protect residential neighborhoods told city councilmen this week that the plan would slash property values, erode the city's tax base and invite lawsuits.
Betty Chu, a banker and a Monterey Park resident for 25 years, said that the city's "grandiose plans" for big commercial projects at strategic locations near freeways may or may not succeed, but that curbing development elsewhere will surely reduce property values. She said property owners will be hurt financially and the city will lose tax revenue.
Chu said that instead of allowing the marketplace to determine what will be built in Monterey Park, the city seems determined to dictate projects without considering the economic implications.
Support for Plan
But the plan to redirect the city's growth also attracted support.
Marie Purvis, who owns an art gallery on Garfield Avenue, told council members: "I've been a resident for 35 years, and I thank you for finally having a plan for Monterey Park."
Purvis said she welcomes the proposal to rezone her property from C-4 to C-1, even though the downzoning would take away her right to build a four-story building. The C-1 height limit is two stories. C-4 zoning might make the property more valuable, Purvis said, but "the property does not warrant a four-story building."
The public hearing this week was the first of three the council is conducting on the zoning package, which has been recommended by a team of consultants, a citizens advisory committee and the Planning Commission. The hearings will continue at 6 p.m. Monday and March 23. Any zone change affecting more than one acre must be submitted to the voters.
The effort to redesign the city began last April after three newly elected City Council members complained that Monterey Park was being ruined by ill-conceived mini-malls, condominiums and apartments.
Nearly a year of work has produced a series of recommendations to revamp regulations governing commercial and multifamily residential projects and to rezone scattered areas of the city.
The zone changes, which must be submitted to voters for approval, would change the zoning on 109 residential lots so that fewer homes, condominiums or apartments could be built there.
In addition, new development standards would be imposed to require more parking, open space and landscaping in housing projects.
Dick Morehouse, project manager for Sedway Cooke Associates, the city's consulting firm, said the regulations would "eliminate some of the problems you have had with monotonous, high-density housing projects."
Morehouse has recommended that the city undertake a number of public improvements--installing fountains at city entrances and widening major streets, for example--to attract private investment. The city would use its redevelopment authority for major commercial projects on Atlantic Boulevard at both the San Bernardino and the Pomona freeways. The projects could include a hotel, offices, auto dealerships, department stores and other retail uses.
The proposal for the downtown area at Garvey and Garfield avenues calls for construction of a plaza and parking garages.
The commercial area of Garfield Avenue near the Pomona Freeway would remain a neighborhood shopping area.
The amount of land zoned for the highest commercial use, C-4, would be reduced. For example, the C-4 area along Atlantic Boulevard, south of Harding Avenue, would be rezoned to an office professional designation to encourage developers to construct buildings with restaurants or other retail uses on the ground floor and offices on upper floors.
Other commercial areas to be rezoned are on Garvey Avenue, Garfield Avenue and Potrero Grande Drive. The zone changes would shift 73 acres of C-4 area to other, less-dense commercial uses. In addition, 27 acres now zoned for residential use would be rezoned as commercial property.
Several property owners who would be affected by the rezoning urged the council to keep the current zoning intact.
C.R. (Dick) Jones, who lives on Ramona Avenue, said that he bought his property years ago with the idea of building another unit and that his plans would be destroyed by rezoning his and five neighboring lots from R-3 (multifamily residential) to R-1 (single-family homes).
Developer Warns Council
Dorothy Ko, a developer whose company built the Monterey Park Mall in 1980, warned the council that she will take legal action if the city downzones her 6.8-acre shopping center. The property, which is now zoned C-4, would be changed to C-2 under the plan being considered by the council. Ko said the rezoning would, in effect, bar construction of a subterranean parking garage for expansion of the center.
Actually, Ko said, she has no plans to expand the center, but she would like that option kept open. And the opportunity for expansion would make the property more attractive to buyers, she said.