POMONA — Seeking to alleviate burdens on police and schools caused by multifamily housing, the City Council has enacted a 45-day moratorium on the construction of apartments and condominiums in much of the city.
The moratorium, which will go into effect May 2, is intended to enable the city Planning Department to revise the city's General Plan to establish more stringent standards for multifamily housing. The council approved the construction ban unanimously at its meeting Monday night.
"We desperately need a General Plan update, so it's going to help us in that process," Mayor Donna Smith said. "We've had an over-saturation of apartments, so we want to have some control."
In 1986, the council passed a moratorium on apartment construction in south Pomona that lasted 10 1/2 months, ending last July.
The council must hold a public hearing before it may extend the new moratorium. State law permits the council to extend the construction ban for another 10 1/2 months.
Members of the council, which has rejected several proposals for multifamily development during the past year, said the city needs to establish guidelines to encourage high-quality projects not prone to deterioration.
Among other things, the city is considering setting minimum standards for parking and security, requiring on-site management of apartment complexes and limiting the number of people who may live in a unit. The goal, council members said, is to encourage projects that will attract smaller families with higher incomes.
"What we're trying to do is balance out the income levels," said Councilman E. J. (Jay) Gaulding. "We've got so much affordable housing. We don't have the buying power in the city."
However, several real estate agents and developers have assailed the moratorium, arguing that the council is punishing builders of new projects for the problems created by older, dilapidated housing. They argue that the city needs consistent planning standards, not a moratorium.
"I think it's an unnecessary step at this point," said Danny Holznecht, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce. "I think the developers would be willing to work with the city on what (officials) want if they could decide what they want. . . . It's decision time."
Real estate agent Bill Brooks said the moratorium is the result of the council's indecisiveness on planning.
"Since they don't know where they want certain development, they're just putting on moratoriums," Brooks said. "For too many years, they've not been following through like they should, and now they have their backs in a corner."
Because the city has lowered the maximum allowable density for developing most property--meaning that only duplexes may be built on land that was once zoned for larger apartment complexes--the cost of building each housing unit has increased significantly, Holznecht said.
"No one's building shoddy projects any more," he said. "They can't afford to do it."
Brooks said that because of the higher costs, apartment owners have a greater stake in screening tenants and ensuring that their buildings don't deteriorate.
"We do our darndest to check them out because that's basically our life savings invested into that property," Brooks said. "That's our retirement funds sitting there."
As for landlords who allow their properties to decay, Harold P. Ketterman, past president of the Affiliated Cities Rental Owners Assn., a group of landlords in the eastern San Gabriel Valley, said this is not a problem that can be solved by a building moratorium.
"It is basically a social problem," Ketterman said. "It's the management of the individual owners. There is a lot of room for improvement."
Councilman C. L. (Clay) Bryant said he agreed with some of the developers' points and chastised his council colleagues for unfairly blaming new multifamily housing for the city's blight.
"It's an emotional thing about apartments because they've had some problems with criminal activity," Bryant said. "These people equate that with all apartments, which is wrong. . . . Most of the (developers) who are coming in now are coming in with high-quality developments."
The moratorium will cover a large triangular area, bounded on the north by the San Bernardino Freeway and on the southwest by the Corona Expressway, extending east to the city limits. The northern part of the city and the Phillips Ranch area, zoned almost exclusively for single-family homes, will be excluded from the moratorium.
Developers will be able to apply for exemptions from the moratorium if their property has frontage on the city's main arteries--Mission Boulevard and Garey and Holt avenues. To be exempt from the ordinance, developers must demonstrate that their projects will not add to overcrowding in schools and will help reduce crime in the area.