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Growing Pains : In Glendora, Hill Projects Draw Fire

March 06, 1988|JEFFREY MILLER | Times Staff Writer

GLENDORA — City officials in this bedroom community of 43,000 are unaccustomed to civic discord.

Until recently, City Council meetings were sparsely attended. The last time Mayor Kenneth Prestesater and Councilman John Gordon sought reelection, they ran unopposed.

But in the past few months, rumblings of discontent have surfaced amid the oak-lined streets and rambling ranch homes in this city, located along the Foothill Freeway between Azusa and San Dimas.

Three citizens groups are becoming increasingly active, advocating slow growth and chastising the City Council and Planning Commission for permitting what they consider rampant development.

The April 12 race for two City Council seats pits incumbent Gordon and Planning Commissioner Larry Glenn against slow-growth proponents David Bodley and Diane Vivian, both of whom are supported by Glendora Pride, the group most involved with development issues.

"We think (the development) that is happening in the city today is going beyond what a good number of people in the city think should be happening," said Bodley, one of the founders of Glendora Pride. "We just don't approve, and it's got to change."

Council members have said they are willing to work with the citizens groups to resolve their complaints about growth, but insist that the city is doing an excellent job of managing hillside development.

"We are aware of their concerns, and we will try to negate the problems that their concerns have brought up," Prestesater said. "But this could have been handled with a 20-cent phone call."

What distinguishes Glendora's slow-growth movement from similar efforts that have emerged throughout the San Gabriel Valley in recent months is that the city has not been the site of massive development.

Since 1983, the city's population has crept upward at an average annual rate of about 2%. Builders have neither glutted Glendora with rows of apartments and condominiums nor splayed miles of tract homes across the town. Instead, the structures that have ignited the residents' anger are spacious Tudor-style homes, ranging in price from $250,000 to $1 million.

It is not the houses themselves that bother residents, but their location.

With most of the flat land already built up, development has begun creeping up the hillsides, Glendora's most prominent geographic feature.

"What they're modifying is one of the primary things that people move to Glendora for--people come here for the foothills," said Tom Livermore, co-chairman of Glendora Pride, which took its name from the city's motto, "Pride of the Foothills."

Last month, about 100 residents attended a special council meeting at which members of Glendora Pride complained that officials were ignoring the intent of the city's Rural Hillside Residential (RHR) ordinance, passed in 1973 to ensure "orderly and harmonious" development of the foothills.

In response, the council voted to form an ad hoc committee to study the city's general plan, specifically the hillside ordinance. The committee's members, to be announced at Tuesday night's council meeting, will include representatives of Glendora Pride, the City Council, the Planning Commission and local developers.

Glendora Pride members have said they view the study committee as a positive step, but they contend that the city should place a moratorium on all development until the committee reaches its conclusions.

"We could have all our hillsides destroyed before the study group reaches any conclusions," said Darlene Avina, the other co-chairman of Glendora Pride.

Council members have rejected the call for a moratorium, adding that many of the most vocal critics of development were not present when the projects now under construction were approved by the Planning Commission and the City Council.

'Don't Understand'

"The people themselves have not really been involved in the community before, and they don't really understand all the mechanisms of everything that's happening," Councilman Bob Kuhn said. "I applaud these people for getting involved. As for the Pride group . . . I think most of the things they're looking for have already been included in the city's ordinances."

Slow-growth advocates agree that most residents have not shown great interest in local government, but attribute this to the large number of busy professionals living in the city.

"They're classically hard-working people," Livermore said. "It costs a lot of money to live in Glendora. You have to work hard to earn that amount of money, and you don't always have time to go and tell the City Council how you want the city developed."

Local activists said several isolated events have roused residents from their apathy and brought the various groups into being.

Access to Tract

Bodley and Livermore, neighbors on Lone Hill Avenue in the northwest corner of the city, founded Glendora Pride last fall after hearing that a developer wanted to extend their street--now a cul-de-sac--to provide access for a housing tract on the foothills above their homes.

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