Slow-growth advocates in Culver City have launched a campaign to place an initiative before voters that would cut the maximum height of new buildings from 12 stories to four.
Backers of the initiative say that the City Council has been pro-development over the years and unresponsive to the demands of residents who want new building curtailed.
"What we really want from this is intelligent growth instead of run-amok growth," said Robin Turner, co-sponsor of the initiative. "We like business, we like building, but because of height and density, it's bringing in more problems than the city can handle."
Julie Lugo Cerra, an elections consultant for Culver City, said that it is too late for the measure to be included on the April 12 municipal ballot and that sponsors will probably have to wait until the California presidential primary in June, when local issues can also be decided.
The Redevelopment Agency, which doubles as the City Council, recently voted to study a 30% cut in the density of proposed office parks in the area near Fox Hills Mall after a report it commissioned showed that such development would cause major traffic congestion.
But Morris Marmon, a columnist for the Culver City News and a co-sponsor of the initiative, said that council members who have supported large-scale development for years, now see that public opinion is against them and have shifted their positions as the election approaches.
"They are desperate in my opinion, and they see the handwriting on the wall," he said. "And they know they are going to lose."
But Councilman Paul Netzel, who is up for reelection in April along with Mayor Richard Brundo and Councilman Paul Jacobs, said he is proud of the council's record on controlling development.
He cited the tightening of parking requirements to slow the construction of mini-malls in the city and negotiations with the developers of the proposed Marina Place and the Howard Hughes Center to reduce the scope of their projects.
He said the major problem is with proposed developments such as the Hughes Center, Playa Vista and Airport North that are outside Culver City and were not envisioned five or six years ago.
Netzel, who is chairman of the Redevelopment Agency, said that the backers of the initiative are motivated purely by political reasons.
"It's clearly intended to be an attack on the council," he said. "There's no other reason for such an initiative to be put forth."
But Turner, an anthropology student at California State University, Northridge, said she has never been involved in anything political and that the initiative is meant as an emergency measure to stop growth until the council can come up with a plan for development.
Not Another Century City
"We just don't want to end up as another Century City or Westwood," she said. Turner added that one of the initiative's co-sponsors is council candidate Richard E. Pachtman. However, backers of the measure have not endorsed him.
About 2,000 signatures are needed for the initiative to be placed on the ballot, Turner said, but sponsors hope to garner 5,000.
"We're going to try to get as many as possible over the limit," she said, "just to prove to the council that we mean business.
City planner Jay Cunningham said the initiative would in fact raise the height limit from 43 feet to 56 feet in 11 of the city's 14 non-residential zoning districts, but would cut the maximum height from 167 feet to 56 feet in the remaining three.