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Local News in Brief : Seal Beach : Ballot Initiative's Legality Questioned

December 24, 1987

Parts of the so-called Spring initiative, which would give voters authority over future development of the city's open space, are legally invalid, the city attorney said.

Despite conflicts between current state and local laws and some provisions in the referendum, however, the initiative will appear on ballot next March as originally drafted, City Atty. Gregory W. Stepanicich said.

Named after its founders, the Seal Beach Preservation Initiative Group, the broad measure calls for two-thirds voter approval of any future development on public or open space in the coastal town of 26,000.

Other provisions include outlawing the sale of hard liquor from the restaurant on the municipal pier and forbidding trimming or removal of urban forests--10 or more trees--without a written recommendation by the chairman of a California university's forestry department. The latter, Stepanicich said, "appears to be legally invalid" because it gives a non-public official the sole power to decide a legislative policy.

In a 103-page analysis of the initiative's legal impacts, which was presented to the City Council this week, Stepanicich said all but three of the measure's key provisions could be enacted without legal question.

Stepanicich contended that powers given the City Council by the city Charter or the state, such as authority over land use decisions, cannot be removed by local ordinance, which is what the Spring initiative would become if approved by voters March 29.

If voters approve the measure, city officials expect businesses and developers to challenge it in court.

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