In the hottest race in Los Angeles County, voters in four rapidly developing communities in the Santa Clarita Valley were favoring a proposal Tuesday to form the county's 85th city.
With more than a quarter of the precincts reporting, the creation of the City of Santa Clarita was winning by a 2-to-1 margin.
Elsewhere, voters in all corners of the county cast ballots in 85 jurisdictions. At stake were 160 seats on nine community college and 50 school district boards as well as on the boards of nine special districts. In 12 cities, 62 candidates were vying for membership on city councils, while the City of Hawthorne was electing its mayor and three other cities were choosing their treasurers and city clerks.
And a host of measures affecting city council pay, paramedic service and local taxes also were being decided in nine cities.
The cityhood issue in the Santa Clarita Valley became a confrontation between the slow-growth movement and real estate interests hoping to expand development in the relatively rural area.
While results were slow coming in, voting in the four affected communities--Valencia, Newhall, Saugus and a part of Canyon Country--was especially heavy for an off-year election. While election officials had forecast a 10%-20% voter turnout to decide the more than 200 other issues in Tuesday's balloting, nearly half the 48,490 registered voters in the Santa Clarita Valley went to the polls.
In a related election southeast of the Santa Clarita Valley, a proposal to annex 1,011 acres of unincorporated area near Chatsworth to the City of Los Angeles passed easily, with nearly all of the 189 affected voters casting ballots.
Annexation supporters hoped to bring the area under tighter controls to provide low-density housing while opponents, most of whom live in a large mobile home park, feared the shift would lead to higher utility bills.
In Santa Clarita, the new city would become the first area to incorporate since West Hollywood became a city in 1984. While voters in this northwest county area were not as visible as their West Hollywood counterparts, the issues raised in the fight for cityhood were of far-reaching importance.
The issue here was one of growth.
The Santa Clarita Valley until a few years ago was a relatively quiet suburban area with open spaces, equestrian trails and rustic canyons. Today it still boasts all those features, but some residents have become increasingly concerned over unchecked development.
By incorporating, cityhood advocates claim that the power to make decisions on the pace of development would transfer from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to a new and presumably more responsive five-member city council closer to the affected areas.
In addition to voting whether to form a new city, voters in the four towns were casting just-in-case ballots for a new city council from a list of 26 candidates.
The incorporation effort did not go unchallenged. A heavily financed mail campaign, underwritten largely by the building industry, warned voters on almost a daily basis that incorporation would be costly, as the city would need to create a new bureaucracy and provide services now paid for by the county.
Nine cities asked voters to approve 20 different measures calling for increases in the local hotel bed, business license and utility user taxes, as well as for the creation of a special tax for paramedics.
In South Pasadena and El Segundo, voters rejected measures to create utility users taxes. In Hermosa Beach, an increase in the utility users tax passed.
Voters in Pomona, meanwhile, appeared to have turned down tripling the pay of City Council members and the mayor, who last received a raise in 1956.
Also contributing to this story were Times staff writers Mayerene Barker, Patricia Klein and Richard Simon.