SAN GABRIEL — After two councilmen called opponents of an 11.5-acre hotel complex anti-Asian, the City Council unanimously approved a zoning change Tuesday that will pave the way for the project.
Some of the 250 residents who jammed the meeting hall began talking about a possible recall of the entire council or bringing the development issue to a referendum vote after Councilman Edward Lara and Vice Mayor Michael Falabrino called opponents anti-Asian.
Falabrino said some residents are concerned about the project because its developer, Lao-Ko Chu, is Chinese and might bring more of the San Gabriel Valley's growing Asian population into the city.
"I believe the public does not oppose the project but that there is Asian racism," Falabrino said, drawing a loud chorus of boos and groans from the audience that lined the aisles and spread out into a lobby and stairs outside.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 26, 1987 Home Edition San Gabriel Valley Part 10 Page 3 Column 2 Zones Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
In an article Thursday on the San Gabriel City Council meeting, the developer of a proposed hotel project should have been identified as Alethea M. Hsu. Lao-Ko Chu is the architect for the project.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday May 21, 1987 Home Edition San Gabriel Valley Part 9 Page 3 Column 1 Zones Desk 2 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
Michael Falabrino, vice mayor of San Gabriel, was misquoted in an April 23 story about the City Council's approval of a zoning change for a hotel complex. He should have been quoted as saying: "What I believe is that the public generally does not oppose the project, but there is a strong anti-Chinese feeling."
Added Lara, "I'll be damned if I'm going to let anyone be discriminated (against). If any of you think I'm going to discriminate against my Chinese brothers and sisters, I'm not going to be a bigot like some of you out there."
Before the vote, Lara read two letters he had received asking that the zoning change be denied. Lara quoted one of the letters as saying, "We do not want further Asian influence in San Gabriel."
But Greg O'Sullivan, chairman of the Citizens for Responsible Development, a group started to promote more public hearings on the project, said that the letters were isolated and the council was wrong in assuming that San Gabriel residents are racist.
"We are not anti-ethnic. We are not anti-development," O'Sullivan said. "We are angry at irresponsible development that this city has allowed. All we've asked . . . is please give us public meetings."
O'Sullivan said his organization is in favor of the development and only wanted more public hearings so residents could have more input.
But Councilwoman Jeanne E. Parrish said after the meeting that there is no need for more public debate. The city Planning Commission met in December and the council had a public meeting in March.
"They have been saying the same thing over and over again," Parrish said.
"I'm sorry the council voted the way they did," said resident Eddy Arnold. "All we have is to get a referendum or a recall."
O'Sullivan said that "the town is divided right now. We did not want a divided town. It's unfortunate it has to come to this."
Chu sought a zoning change from mixed residential and commercial use to planned development for a project that would include a hotel, restaurants and shops on the former site of Edward's Drive-In Theater at 140 W. Valley Blvd., the largest site open for development in the city.