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Carson Rejects Plan for 17-Acre Housing Project

July 16, 1987|GEORGE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

After four hours of impassioned speeches by residents against a proposed 400-unit housing development, last-minute revisions by the developer did not prevent the Carson City Council from unanimously rejecting the project.

Then the council, which had voted down an earlier version of the project in 1986, took steps to see that the issue would not arise again.

At the council's next meeting on July 20, council members said, the Planning Commission will be told to rezone the 17.4-acre site. The current zoning, established in 1981, permits 25 units per acre.

The developer, Dennis Martin, president of Quail Contractors Inc., said after the vote, "I'm sure I won't be building in this town."

Project Denounced

At the meeting, speaker after speaker rose to denounce the project, saying it would bring crime and traffic to an area of single-family homes. None spoke in favor of it.

The council action was a political victory for Councilwoman Sylvia Muise, who lives near the project area and is considered its chief opponent on the council.

But for Vera Robles DeWitt and Michael Mitoma, two of Muise's council adversaries, the vote was a shift--DeWitt cast the sole council vote for the project in 1986 and Mitoma said before the meeting that he favored the basic idea of the project. Mitoma explained his switch by accusing the city administration of failing to inform him of the depth of community opposition to the project.

DeWitt, who seconded a motion by Calas to reject the project, said she had studied the development after her 1986 vote in favor it and concluded that its density made it incompatible with surrounding areas.

DeWitt, Mitoma and their council ally, Mayor Kay Calas, who face reelection next April, had been picketed at their homes by project opponents July 1. Muise and Councilman Tom Mills, who form the council's opposing faction, were not.

Praise for Audience

After the vote, Muise declared to applause, that she was "extremely proud and delighted with the people who are here tonight." DeWitt, who had clashed with Muise at the meeting, rolled her eyes upwards in exasperation and clutched her forehead.

The developer declined to say what he would do now, but in comments at the meeting, Martin referred to a recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court enlarging the rights of property owners who suffer as a result of a zoning decision or government regulation. In a decision that is expected to lead to many law suits against local governments, the Supreme Court ruled June 9 that property owners must be paid compensation if zoning boards or other agencies impose rules that prevent or drastically restrict them from developing their land.

Package Proposal

In an interview before the meeting, Martin said that he expected to be compensated if the city lowered the value of the land by downzoning. Martin said he acquired land for the project, which he named Victoria Woods, for $4.7 million.

The specific issue before the council Monday was Martin's appeal of a June 9 Planning Commission decision that lowered the number of units in the project and denied a variance on parking requirements.

Martin presented the council with a package proposal. He offered to sell to the city at cost 4.6 acres that it wanted for 152 units of senior citizens housing. In return, Martin asked the council to approve the use of carports, 248 units of condos on the remainder of the land and a relaxation of parking restrictions. The Planning Commission had approved 240 condo units but required garages, and no reduction in the parking requirements.

But at the council meeting, neighborhood activists attacked the entire concept of the project.

The site of the proposed project is a rectangular tract near California State University, Dominguez Hills, on the north side of University Drive just east of Avalon Boulevard. Now vacant, it borders Cal State on its northern and eastern borders and neighborhoods of single-family homes on the west and south.

The proposed project consisted of 17 two-story buildings with 132 one-bedroom units ranging in size from 684 to 708 square feet and 116 two-bedroom units ranging from 872 to 992 square feet. Plans also included a recreational building, two swimming pools and spas, three tennis courts and a playground. Prices were to range from $90,000 to $110,000 per unit.

Active Opposition

For weeks, residents of the area near the project have been seething, with crime watch organizations holding meetings and activists going door-to-door with petitions opposing the project. At the council meeting, several hundred residents filled council chambers to overflowing.

Opponents argued that the development's density made it incompatible with the neighborhood, that the units were too small to be sold as condos and that the project would soon be rented out and quickly become a haven for crime.

Several expressed fears that the project, which would send children to schools in the Compton Unified School District, would bring the crime levels of that city into Carson.

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