At the same time city officials are considering a proposal to restrict construction of mini-malls, an attempt has begun to put a much more restrictive measure on the ballot.
As the City Council, at a meeting Wednesday, studied zoning changes that would curb the malls, an initiative petition was gaining signatures just outside the door.
City officials said the initiative measure, authored by former Councilwoman Helen Simmons, is so restrictive that it would hurt South Pasadena's commercial development. Simmons, who successfully led an initiative drive against a large office complex proposed in South Pasadena four years ago, said the city's plan is too lax.
"We're all going in the same direction," said Councilman Jim Woollacott. But Woollacott and other council members said the initiative is not needed to prevent a proliferation of small businesses outside the city's main business district.
Simmons, however, said she will continue the petition drive. The initiative would require the signatures of 10% of South Pasadena's 13,600 registered voters to qualify for a regular election and 15% for a special election. City Clerk Ruby Kerr said it is too late to get a measure on the November ballot. The next regular election will be in April, 1988.
The restrictions on commercial development proposed by the city and by the initiative are similar in some respects, such as parking and setback requirements. The main difference is the size of lot on which construction would be allowed.
The city's plan would allow development on commercial lots of at least 10,000 square feet.
Simmons' initiative would prevent commercial construction on any lot smaller than 45,000 square feet. "That's almost an acre, and that eliminates just about everything in the city," said City Manager John Bernardi, who wants to encourage some commercial development to increase the city's tax revenues.
The council voted 4 to 0 to return the city proposal to the Planning Commission "to clear up ambiguities and confusion, including the definition of what constitutes a mini-mall," Bernardi said. Councilman Robert Wagner abstained because he owns a shopping center in the city.
Wagner did address the council as a citizen, calling for a measure that would restrict mini-malls but allow for development of a central business district.
The Planning Commission, which has already approved the city proposal, will meet July 20. Meanwhile, council members said that at their next meeting on July 15, they will extend the city's current moratorium on all commercial construction for an additional 45 days.
About a dozen residents also called Wednesday for restrictions on mini-malls, most maintaining that the city proposal does not go far enough.
"I think we address 99% of what the initiative proposes, but not so extreme," Bernardi said. "The initiative is too final. It doesn't leave any room to grant variances. We would wind up with vacancies in small lots that would be vacant forever."
Simmons said that though her proposal is similar to the city's, "an initiative has more force. They can't change it. If they could, they might put in a lot of contingencies."
Simmons said more than 300 people signed the petitions Wednesday, the first day they were circulated.
"People don't ask much. They just say, 'Where do I sign?' " Simmons said.
She said a support group called South Pasadena Tomorrow is being formed to promote the initiative.