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Group 'Shot Down by Legal Attack'

August 06, 1987

I read with great interest the July 23 article on the court rejection of San Gabriel's special referendum election on a proposed hotel-restaurant complex. It is really a shame that the hard-working citizens group was unable to preserve the public's constitutional right to vote on, and possibly rescind, an ordinance passed by the elected local officials.

As a San Gabriel homeowner, I got involved in this cause. I attended my first City Council meeting three months ago. Major decisions regarding the type and extent of high-density development here were being made with minimum publicity and public input. Communications between concerned residents and a swiftly operating council were strained and ineffective. Now the council meetings are well attended. Many residents take the opportunity to express concerns about development as they feel the tranquility of their town being eaten away. A group of homeowners called Citizens for Responsible Development has made this difference.

The group has done this through writing and circulating petitions and talking at length to other residents. I circulated these petitions among my neighbors and found the overwhelming majority of them enthusiastically supportive of the goals of Citizens for Responsible Development. Now, with a series of questionable planning practices within the city for the last 13 years as background, and the twisted state of some of the court precedents available . . . a judge has ruled against the voting homeowner demanding his say on a matter of community concern.

The citizens group was shot down by a well-financed legal attack through an exception to the state election code too obscure to be noted there. A "grass-roots" citizens group cannot realistically expect success in the expensive legal arena. Developers are usually willing to outspend homeowners. There is disappointment and anger, but not surprise or resignation, among the members of this group.

Residents have banded together here, as in other communities, for the sole purpose of protecting their cities from the onslaught of unsightly, ill-planned projects usually built by non-resident developers. We will be watching to see how well the current city officials listen to the homeowners' concerns between now and the 1988 city elections.

G. C. DENECHAUD

San Gabriel

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