PARAMOUNT — In an effort to temporarily appease both slow-growth proponents and developers, the City Council passed a 45-day moratorium last week limiting multiple-family housing construction to 22 units per acre. The existing rule had allowed up to 70 units per acre.
After listening to more than an hour of public debate Tuesday night, the council voted 4 to 1 in favor of the 45-day ban.
"We need a cooling-off period," said Mayor Charles R. Weldon, who has led a council majority's push for a compromise to please growth-control advocates as well as developers.
The moratorium will buy the council some time to allow emotions on both sides of the density issue to calm while members study the future of development in the city, Weldon said.
The temporary ban, effective as of last Tuesday's vote, places limits on any developers who file construction applications. Those who filed before the deadline can go forward regardless of size if all other qualifications are met.
At least 10 projects valued at an estimated $65 million and in various stages of planning could have been stopped or greatly reduced if the council had passed one version of the measure that called for applying the density limit to all residential projects not yet under construction. But the council sought to pass the less-stringent moratorium in a effort to "be fair to those developers who had made applications," Councilman Manuel E. Guillen said.
"They are already in the pipeline and should not be excluded," Guillen said.
Seven developers had filed applications with the city by the close of business last Tuesday, but the administrative staff had not fully evaluated them to see if they conform with the new density measure, City Manager William Holt said.
Most in the audience of about 200 cheered and applauded when the council passed the revised measure.
George Tanner, chairman of Concerned Citizens for Controlled Growth, said he thought developers had "stacked the audience with their supporters."
Tanner told the council that the slow-growth movement would continue to press for lower building densities. He said the group will continue circulating a petition, which it started in April, to qualify a density initiative for a special election or the next regular election. The group needs 15% of the 11,000 registered voters to qualify. It has until September to gather the signatures. The proposed measure would make permanent the same 22-unit limit that the council approved on a temporary basis.
"The citizens feel we have had too much (building)," said Mike (Pete) DeLivuk, who is helping circulate the petitions. "There is a stage of overdevelopment. We're at it."
Of 14 people who appeared before the council Tuesday night, a majority appeared to favor more growth, which has accelerated in this city of 40,000 since 1985.
The most outspoken critic of controlled growth was developer James Kirk Hankla of International City Mortgage Inc. of Bellflower. Hankla is the son of James C. Hankla, city manager of Long Beach.
Kirk Hankla pleaded with the council not to be swayed by "short-term political pressures."
Plan for Blighted Area
Hankla showed slides of a project his company plans to build in the 7227-7239 block of Richfield Street. The area is blighted and the proposed project, for 43 residential units on slightly more than an acre of land, will be something "the city can be very proud of," Hankla said.
Hankla said he was pleased that the council decided to allow those projects already in the works to proceed. He said his company has invested about $250,000 in the Richfield Street project.
"I can't see any reason to stop what is going on (in the way of city development)," Hankla said.
Mayor Weldon told the standing-room-only crowd that the moratorium was necessary as an attempt to find some harmony after the April 12 election, when it became apparent that citizens were not satisfied with the rapid pace of construction in the city.
Weldon, who was not up for election but who supported Councilman Gerald A. Mulrooney, said he heard a lot of dissatisfaction from voters as he campaigned for Mulrooney. Mulrooney was reelected along with Councilwoman Esther Caldwell.
Lone Opposing Vote
Surprisingly, Caldwell voted against the moratorium, even though she had been the only council member before the election to call for some kind of growth limit. Caldwell said she was concerned that city officials have not sufficiently defined what types of project will be affected by the moratorium.
"Just how many projects are we talking about?" Caldwell asked.
Holt said the city has development applications that would bring from 350 to 650 new units to Paramount, with the exact number yet to be determined.
Since redevelopment began in 1985, more than 24 acres in the city have been zoned for new residential development, including single-family housing, apartments and condominiums. City officials say 15 acres remain as prime potential housing sites.
Officials have sought developers to revitalize various sections of the city. Officials say the downtown, which has been redeveloped with more than $150,000 million in private and Redevelopment Agency funds since 1981, needs the housing projects to prosper.