A homeowners organization has launched a petition drive for an ordinance aimed at preserving views in Rancho Palos Verdes, but the city attorney said the proposal is "virtually unworkable."
City Atty. Steven L. Dorsey said the ordinance "is, in at least several respects, probably unconstitutional." The ordinance, drafted by the Rancho Palos Verdes Council of Homeowners Assns., favors "protecting views at the expense of developing property," said Dorsey, who warned about possible lawsuits if the proposal is adopted.
The city already has an ordinance that sets standards for the construction of homes from 16 to 30 feet in height, said Robert Benard, director of environmental services.
Councilman Robert Ryan said: "This is going to be a quagmire. We're going to be a lot worse with it than without it. There is going to be civil war."
In an interview Wednesday, Naomi Phillips, president of the Council of Homeowners Assns., said work on the ordinance began after a resident in the Seaview tract was given permission to build a second-story addition that "created a significant view impairment."
Phillips, who was not present at the City Council meeting Tuesday night, said the addition was permitted despite opposition from neighbors, a Seaview homeowners group and the Council of Homeowners Assns. She added that the Seaview permit was the last straw in a series of permits granted for construction that impairs views.
In response, Benard said the Seaview addition obstructed an insignificant amount of view.
Phillips said the Council of Homeowners Assns. has been working on the ordinance, with the assistance of attorneys, for six months. She said about 5,000 signatures of registered Rancho Palos Verdes voters are needed. "We are aiming to get considerably in excess of that" by the end of the month, Phillips said.
If enough valid signatures are gathered, the council must either adopt the ordinance or put it up for a vote. Phillips said she would like to see the city avoid a costly special election.
The council expressed concern that the homeowners council has never presented it with a formal copy of the ordinance and that there has been no public discussions about the ordinance. Phillips said a copy of the ordinance was presented to the city clerk when the Council of Homeowners Assns. got permission to circulate the petitions.
"They have copies. They have had copies," Phillips said. "Their public statements have been fraught with inaccuracies. If, in fact, they have not been privy to its contents, then I question how they have been able to discuss it for months."
The council formed a subcommittee of Ryan and Councilman John McTaggart to try to establish a dialogue between the city and the Council of Homeowners Assns.