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Putting the Brakes on Growth : Monterey Park Votes Halt to Construction

May 12, 1988|BERKLEY HUDSON | Times Staff Writer

MONTEREY PARK — After Councilman Barry L. Hatch implored his colleagues "to have the vision . . . to make a stand," the City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an immediate 45-day ban on new apartments and condominiums in the city's most congested areas.

The council stopped far short of approving a ban throughout the city, which Hatch had sought.

The action prohibits issuing building permits on 199 acres scattered throughout 4% of the city on land currently zoned for multifamily housing.

"There is nothing in my mind more important than preserving the bedroom community atmosphere of this fine community," Hatch said before the vote on the moratorium, which required support from at least four of the five council members. "I am appalled at the traffic, the congestion, the overdevelopment."

State law requires the council to hold a public hearing within 45 days of approving such a ban. City officials indicated that a hearing probably will be held this month. To extend the moratorium, the council would have to vote again. State law limits such an extension to 10 months and 15 days.

During the next month and a half, council members said, they will be able to consider various ways to control growth in the community, where voters last fall overwhelmingly approved zoning changes designed to reduce the density of development.

"Basically . . . this is a kind of slowdown, and it gives us an opportunity to take a breather," said new Councilwoman Judy Chu, whose recent election campaign focused on the problems of development.

Chu and Councilwoman Betty Couch were both elected last month. They joined Hatch, Mayor Christopher F. Houseman and Councilwoman Pat Reichenberger, who approved a yearlong ban on construction of condominiums and apartments after they were first elected in April, 1986. At that time, the council also reimposed a limit on new commercial construction that was lifted last October.

Planning Proposals

During Tuesday's meeting, council members spent 3 1/2 hours discussing the moratorium and talking about how development is taxing the city's sewers and water supply. In addition, Planning Administrator M. Margo Wheeler outlined a series of recommendations to increase the amount of land zoned strictly for single-family housing.

On the basis of her suggestions, the council selected the 199 acres that will fall under the moratorium, bounded roughly by the city limits on the east, Hellman Avenue on the north, Mooney Drive on the south and Marguerita Avenue on the west.

Council members say they will consider whether to change the zoning on this land to R-1, which would restrict new construction there to single-family housing.

Most of the land--170 acres--is now zoned R-3, which allows as many as 22 housing units per acre. Another 29 acres is zoned R-2, which permits 15 units per acre.

Changing the zoning would require a special election, which probably could not be held before December, Wheeler said.

Current Mix

At present, 60% of the city is zoned for single-family housing, another 19% for multifamily housing and the remaining 21% for commercial and manufacturing uses.

Builders who were given permits in 1987 were exempted from the ban, in line with Wheeler's recommendations. But on a 3-2 vote, the council rejected a proposal by Chu, also based on Wheeler's suggestions, to exempt developers whose projects have been approved this year by the Planning Commission but not by the council.

"I do believe we have to be fair," Chu said in support of developers who have already begun projects.

But other city officials said the temporary ban doesn't prohibit developers from submitting proposals, since the details of the moratorium are still being worked out.

'Pretty Good Shot'

Hatch indicated that he wasn't too worried about hurting developers' feelings. "I'd say developers had a pretty good shot at Monterey Park," he said. "I don't look at moratorium as a nasty word." But he added: "I'm not trying to intimidate anybody."

Hatch said he felt no uncertainty about a ban. "It doesn't hurt to be bold when you are right. And I am 100% right."

But one real estate developer who attended the meeting said Hatch and the rest of the council were overreacting. "We all believe in planning. We all believe in good development--controlled growth," said William Y. Chan, president of Great West Realty in Alhambra. "But Hatch is hurting a lot of people's investments, and I think he's violated a lot of property rights."

Chan, who is involved in projects in Monterey Park, where he lives, said Hatch was using scare tactics to suggest that the community will have polluted water and overflowing sewers if an all-out ban is not enacted.

However, most of the several dozen members of the audience applauded the council's action. Irv Gilman, a former councilman, said: "Monterey Park is not an island unto itself. We have to consider what's going on in the whole (San Gabriel) Valley."

Reichenberger, who before the meeting said she couldn't support an all-out ban, explained: "We don't want to chase development away. We want to control it. I'd love to put a moratorium on forever and forever. But that's not reality."

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