POMONA — Entering the political fray over efforts by the neighboring community of Diamond Bar to incorporate as a city, Mayor Donna Smith has raised the possibility that Pomona might annex the northern area of Diamond Bar if the current cityhood campaign fails.
At a recent City Council meeting, Smith suggested that if Diamond Bar's drive to incorporate fails, the City of Pomona should consider annexing all the unincorporated land north of the Pomona freeway.
"It's just something that I've been thinking about for months," Smith said. "It seems logical because the freeway to me would be a natural barrier."
The mayor pointed out that residents in the northern portion of Diamond Bar already send their children to Pomona schools. She added that a local city government would be more responsive than the county to residents' needs.
"Basically, I feel that Diamond Bar residents want to have more say-so in their community," Smith said. "We get a lot of calls here at City Hall from Diamond Bar residents asking us to help them with a problem in their neighborhood."
Smith's comments drew a cool response from Diamond Bar community leaders, most of whom favor the drive for cityhood, and her colleagues on the City Council.
"It would definitely be a shotgun wedding," said Phyllis Papen, president of the Diamond Bar Improvement Assn. "Diamond Bar has a strong community identity that would not blend well with Pomona."
The three other members of Pomona's City Council also questioned Smith's suggestion.
"I think it's an ill-conceived idea," said Councilman Mark Nymeyer. "I think anything along these lines has to be initiated by the the community that's going to be annexed, and I don't sense any of that in north Diamond Bar."
Dan Buffington, a member of the Diamond Bar Municipal Advisory Council, said that to many Diamond Bar residents the name Pomona connotes urban problems such as crime and budget deficits. Hence, he said, most of his neighbors would not want to have a Pomona address.
"I wouldn't say they look down their noses at Pomona, but they hear about the gangs and the other problems Pomona has and they say, 'We don't want any part of that,' " Buffington said. "I have (an employee) who is in the process of buying a home in north Diamond Bar. When she heard about (Smith's proposal), she said, 'Where can I get some petitions to put incorporation on the ballot?.' "
Cityhood proponents in Diamond Bar are circulating petitions to qualify an incorporation measure for the general election in November, 1988. A similar measure lost in 1983 by 230 votes. A petition drive last year failed to collect enough signatures.
Proponents of incorporation insist Diamond Bar, which has grown from a sparsely populated rural area to a bedroom community of 55,000, now requires a city government.
End to Country Living
"I think people are starting to see that the country living you used to have in Diamond Bar is no more," Buffington said. "You drive along Diamond Bar Boulevard on a Friday afternoon and it can take you half an hour to get from one end of town to the other. I think people are just seeing that cityhood would help us deal with some of these problems."
To qualify the measure for the ballot, cityhood proponents must collect valid signatures from one-fourth of the community's 18,890 registered voters.
Gary Werner, chairman of Diamond Bar's Incorporation '88 committee said Smith's comments may help prod some of the community's more apathetic residents to support his group's efforts.
"If there are are any voters who up to this point have felt marginal about the issue of cityhood, maybe this will convince them to take a strong stand for the incorporation of Diamond Bar," Werner said.
"Who knows?," he added. "Maybe (Smith is) floating a trial balloon. I definitely think the mayor's (suggestion) is a good indication to us that the possibility of losing parts of the community is there."
Diamond Bar residents have learned the hard way not to take the threat of annexation lightly. In 1983, the City of Industry annexed 600 acres on the western edge of Diamond Bar that community leaders were hoping to incorporate.
"From past experience, I know the annexation process can happen very quickly," Papen said. "I think residents of Diamond Bar should take (Smith's) comments very seriously. . . . One of the benefits of incorporation is preserving your boundaries."
To annex the northern part of Diamond Bar, the City of Pomona would need the approval of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO).
According to Michi Takahashi, an administrative assistant with LAFCO, the approval process for existing cities seeking to annex additional territory is considerably less stringent than it is for communities trying to incorporate.
Once approval is obtained from LAFCO, the only way annexation can be blocked is if at least 25% of the registered voters and landowners in the affected area sign petitions in opposition, Takahashi said.
Forcing a Vote