Provoking charges that he is out to derail a proposed slow-growth initiative, Orange County Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez said Monday that he intends to propose his own measure to prevent increased traffic congestion and control development in Orange County.
"It's my hope that we can bring something together that will help solve our problem of congestion and be responsive to the public's desires," Vasquez said.
He denied, however, that the proposal he intends to submit to the Board of Supervisors would be an attempt to head off the controversial countywide slow-growth initiative that activists are trying to get on the June ballot.
But Tom Rogers--a key supporter of the slow-growth measure, officially known as the Citizens' Sensible Growth and Traffic Control initiative--branded Vasquez's efforts a "last-minute ploy."
Rogers said the timing of Vasquez's disclosure proves it is aimed at sidetracking the initiative. Backers of the initiative must file nearly 66,000 signatures of registered voters by next Tuesday to place the measure on the county ballot. In addition, committees are attempting to put similar initiatives on the ballot in many of the county's cities.
The countywide initiative would condition future development on the ability of roads and public services, such as police and fire departments, to handle additional traffic and greater workloads.
Vasquez declined in an interview to provide details of his plan, saying that county staff members, including Environmental Management Agency Director Ernie Schneider, are still preparing it.
But Vasquez said his proposal would be based on the Foothill Circulation Phasing Plan, approved by the Board of Supervisors last year. The foothill plan requires developers in the area northeast of Irvine, Tustin, El Toro and Mission Viejo to pay for a $200-million-plus network of major roads before they complete housing projects in the area.
Conceptually, Vasquez said, his plan would extend the foothill strategy to other parts of the county. Asked if the cooperation of the county's cities would be sought in implementing similar growth management proposals, Vasquez said: "I don't know yet. . . . There is no specific document yet."
"Why would he announce it one week before the initiative's deadline?" Rogers asked. "The best thing that Gaddi and the board could do at this particular time . . . is declare a moratorium on pre-development agreements to show their good faith. That would be the real test of their sincerity."
The board has approved several agreements that allow builders to proceed with developments in exchange for commitments to finance new roads and other public facilities. More than 50,000 new residential units have been included in such agreements, which Rogers and other slow-growth advocates charge are aimed at getting around their initiative.
Vasquez said he did not know yet how his proposal would affect development agreements.
He said he would have worked on his own measure even without the pressure of Rogers' initiative. He cited a poll he commissioned in his district last year which gave him a "clear signal" that his constituents were upset about congestion.
"I decided then that we needed to do something responsive," Vasquez said, "but it hasn't been easy. I'm not saying that what we come up with will satisfy everybody."
Vasquez said he hopes to present his proposal to the board before the slow-growth activists submit their signatures to the county registrar.
He said he hasn't decided whether he will ask the board to place his proposal on the countywide ballot or adopt it as an ordinance.
Members of other supervisors' staffs said Monday that Vasquez had originally talked about placing his proposal on the June ballot if the rival slow-growth initiative failed to qualify, as a means of assuring voters that board members understand their frustration about traffic and growth.
One supervisor, who requested anonymity, said the board probably would prefer adopting an ordinance because "there's no way that Gaddi's ballot measure wouldn't be seen as a deliberate attack on the slow-growthers."
Supervisor Roger R. Stanton said he was aware of Vasquez's efforts to draft "something" but did not know the specifics. "As a supervisor, I would be interested in anything that would solve the problem and meet the concerns of our citizenry," he said.
Board Chairman Harriett M. Wieder said: "Months and months ago, I went with Gaddi to Ernie Schneider and said we ought to inventory everything we're already doing and come up with a reasonable plan. Obviously, Gaddi has been working much closer to it than I have been, but the whole thrust, I think, is to show a responsiveness to an obvious problem. . . . It's not just traffic congestion, which results from inadequate or poor planning. You have to manage the plans (that you adopt) and phase them in."
Wieder said she believes Vasquez's proposal may in part resemble San Diego's phased-growth plan, in which individual areas are planned and managed as separate units, based on each community's own "input."
"I for one think there is still a responsibility to the people who did sign the initiative petition, because they signed it out of frustration."
Wieder said she intends to table her own proposal, on today's board agenda, for a public opinion survey on growth issues.
"Its time has passed," she said.