MONTEREY PARK — The popularity of the City Council's ambitious efforts to remake the business face of Monterey Park will be tested at the polls Tuesday in a special election involving four ballot measures.
The measures incorporate numerous changes in commercial zoning that have been approved by the City Council but cannot become effective until ratified by voters.
In addition, they would establish new building height limits and minimum lot sizes in commercial areas.
Councilman Chris Houseman, who is one of three council members backing the measures, said he fears that voters will be confused because the propositions involve technical issues that are not easily understood.
Actually, he said, the City Council has already adopted most of the development reforms that he and council members Barry L. Hatch and Patricia Reichenberger proposed in their campaigns for the April, 1986 council election. What is being submitted to voters, he said, is merely "the final phase, involving very narrow issues."
Houseman, Hatch and Reichenberger voted to impose a building moratorium as soon as they were elected last year and organized a massive effort to replan the city, hiring teams of consultants to look at everything from traffic congestion to market research.
A growth-limit initiative approved by voters five years ago requires the city to hold a special election for zone changes involving more than one acre. That is why the proposed changes, already approved by the council, cannot go into effect unless voters approve them Tuesday.
Other new regulations, such as changes in building standards, do not require voter approval.
Houseman said the city has enacted design guidelines requiring better architecture, more landscaping and more open space.
The city has developed specific plans for five commercial areas of the city and has started an ambitious redevelopment effort to bring the plans to fruition.
The proposals include the creation of a regional shopping complex with 1 million square feet on North Atlantic Boulevard, new auto dealerships, supermarkets and drugstores on South Atlantic Boulevard, sidewalk cafes and off-street parking in the business area along Garvey and Garfield avenues and restoration of the Cascades Waterfall.
The plan involves a sweeping redesignation of commercial zoning areas, replacing the traditional designations, such as C-1 and C-4, with six new zones, such as N-S for neighborhood shopping centers and C-P for commercial and professional uses such as shops and offices.
Mayor Cam Briglio and Councilman G. Monty Manibog have objected to the new zoning classifications, claiming that the effect is to downzone much of the city's commercial land by imposing restrictions that reduce the size of buildings that can be constructed. The result, they argue, will be a reduction in property values.
But neither Briglio nor Manibog is campaigning against the measures on Tuesday's ballot.
"I'm just sitting back and not taking part," Manibog said, adding that he will follow the wishes of the voters.
Manibog said he agrees with part of the replanning effort, such as requiring developers to increase landscaping, but "I don't like all of this downzoning."
Manibog said these changes conceal an effort to diminish the rights of property owners to develop their land.
But Houseman, Reichenberger and Hatch said the city is moving in a way that will attract new retailers and revitalize the city.
Three of the four measures on Tuesday's ballot involve zoning changes for specific areas. The fourth measure, Proposition D, would prohibit the city from granting height-limit variances that would increase a building's height by more than six feet.
Proposition A would create new zoning for the areas along Atlantic Boulevard and Garfield Avenue, between Hellman and Newmark avenues and along Garvey Avenue between Atlantic Boulevard and New Avenue.
In support of Proposition A, Hatch, Houseman, Reichenberger and two planning commissioners signed a ballot argument saying that Garvey Avenue has "deteriorated into a stretch of small, run-down businesses with unattractive storefronts and haphazard signage" and that elsewhere "instead of businesses for Monterey Park residents, we now have a mishmash of used-car lots, mini-malls and look-alike restaurants."
The plan would create zoning for a major new shopping area along North Atlantic Boulevard with buildings up to four stories high. The proposed regional specialty center zone would allow a seven-story building at the southeast corner of Atlantic and Hellman. Minimum lot size in the zone would be 30,000 square feet.
The only other area of the city with a seven-story height limit would be the Corporate Center along the Long Beach Freeway.
Three-story height limits would be established in the central business zone, which would cover much of Garvey Avenue, and the commercial professional zone, along North Garfield Avenue.