"Your net worth is very possibly going to be significantly reduced...."
"Several charming single-family Manhattan Beach neighborhoods are in imminent danger of going condo!!!"
"Your residential property is at risk."
"A small vocal minority is trying to take away your property rights and destroy the General Plan."
Flyers bearing such warnings have circulated throughout Manhattan Beach in the last year as residents and business people try to shape the course of development in the city.
The City Council has been holding public hearings since August on a proposed general plan to replace the current plan, adopted in 1967. A general plan outlines development goals within a city. Once it is passed, zoning laws are supposed to be changed to conform with the plan, according to state law.
Most city officials say the proposed plan simply recognizes how the city has developed in recent years. But opponents say the city could become overdeveloped if the proposed plan is adopted and current development trends continue.
Last Hearing Set Tuesday
The City Council plans to hold its last public hearing on the general plan on Tuesday and hopes to adopt a new plan by Nov. 24.
Revising the general plan has been under way for nearly three years. The Planning Commission held hearings on a consultant's proposal for seven months before sending it to the council in June with recommendations.
The hearings, described as tense and emotional, have been tearing the community apart, some officials and residents said.
"I see anger and I see resentment and that isn't what I think Manhattan Beach should be about," said Mayor Pro Tem Larry Dougharty. "I don't know what to do to combat it. You don't see a lot of that healthy dialogue about what can we do, what ordinances should we change."
He said he understands that some people are emotional about the general plan since it affects what they can do with their properties. "This is people's biggest investment in their lives; they have the right to be emotional," he said.
But he and others said that some slow-growth advocates have been selfish, especially when requesting that the council downzone the property of others. "People have built up private expectations of what they feel their property is worth, and I don't think it's up to the council to take away those expectations," Dougharty said.
Dougharty, City Manager David J. Thompson and other city officials said that erroneous and misleading information has been circulating through the community and has confused residents about what the proposal would do in terms of housing density, population and intensity of development.
Community Development Director Terry Stambler-Wolfe said the objective of the proposed general plan is "not to completely redevelop the plan and change the city, but to get it in conformance with what the city is today."
Population Scaled Down
The 1967 plan permitted more intense development in the city than has occurred. For example, the maximum population expected under the proposed general plan would be 39,711, while the current plan's maximum is 53,565 and existing zoning laws allow 44,373. The city's current population is about 33,500.
Councilwoman Jan Dennis said the proposed population is acceptable, but that the new plan would allow too much growth in employment and daytime population. The proposed general plan would allow the city's number of jobs to go from about 9,700 in 1980 to more than 21,700 in the year 2000.
"That is a phenomenal increase for the structure of the town, the traffic, our utilities, our fire (department), our police."
The maximum number of housing units allowed would be 15,740 under the proposed general plan, compared to 22,347 under the current plan and 18,274 under existing zoning laws. Commercial square footage allowed would be reduced to 2.8 million under the proposal, from 9.7 million under the current plan, and industrial square footage would be reduced to 2 million from 3.3 million. (Figures for existing land use are not available, but actual development is less than the proposed new maximums.)
Plan Not 'Pro-Growth'
"If someone were to look at these numbers, they'd have to come to the conclusion that it's not a plan that (is) pro-growth," Stambler-Wolfe said. "In fact, it's a lot more restrictive than what the city has been operating under for years--for decades."
Many officials said that Manhattan Beach is already close to being completely developed, and not everyone will build up their properties to the maximum limits allowed.
But despite the information that the city provides, including selling copies of the proposed general plan, residents are still confused about what the proposal would allow, many officials said.
"I've lived in Manhattan Beach for quite some time and I have never seen so much reaction without checking things out," said Councilwoman Connie Sieber. "There's a lot of presumption."