SAN GABRIEL — The voters may get a public debate after all on a proposed one-year moratorium on development, which will be on the ballot in a special election Dec. 15.
Two members of the City Council, which is unanimously opposed to the citizen-initiated measure, said Tuesday that they might be willing to debate moratorium proponents if, as one put it, "a forum is set up with rules and regulations that we could agree on."
The Pasadena-area chapter of the League of Women Voters has offered to moderate the event.
About 20 members of Citizens for Responsible Development, the slow-growth group that led the petition drive to get the measure on the ballot, demonstrated in front of City Hall before Tuesday's council meeting to protest Mayor Janis Cohen's refusal to participate in the debate.
"I see it as very negative, very argumentative," Cohen said in an interview. "I think we've done that for the past 10 months. This group (the council) is tired of it."
But when protester Sandie Rambach stood up at the start of Tuesday's meeting and asked each council member to take part in a debate, Councilwoman Jeanne Parrish and Councilman Michael Falabrino tentatively accepted.
Parrish agreed to participate "if the League of Women Voters asks me" and if ground rules could be worked out in advance. Falabrino said "there's a possibility" that he would participate.
The citizens group, which has packed most council meetings since March, contends that the small-town character of San Gabriel has been altered by rapid development, increased traffic and overburdened city services. The proposed moratorium would stop all construction except single-family homes for a year so that city officials could re-evaluate the city's development strategy, group members say.
John Tapp, a leader of the group, called the moratorium "the most important ballot measure ever put before the voters in San Gabriel."
But the council and City Atty. Graham Ritchie maintain that the measure raises difficult legal problems. They contend that it would violate a recent U. S. Supreme Court decision requiring Los Angeles County to compensate a Glendale church for improperly preventing the church from using property "taken" as part of a flood protection area.
"The issue boils down to legalities," said Cohen. "Our position allows individuals the right to appeal. Even prisoners are allowed to appeal. The (ballot measure) doesn't allow that (for property owners)."
The council last month passed its own interim development ordinance, cutting the allowable density of new apartments and expanding requirements for parking and recreational space in apartment and condominium projects, among other things.
The citizens group contends that the approach of its initiative, whose terms are similar to a moratorium imposed by the Monterey Park City Council last year, has been established as legal.
Marcia Spira, vice president of the Pasadena League of Women Voters, said Wednesday that she will contact Parrish and Falabrino to discuss terms of a public forum to be sponsored by the league.