WHITTIER — The City Council unanimously voted to impose a 45-day moratorium on new apartments north of Hadley Street, but exempted developers who have already submitted their construction plans to City Hall.
The meeting drew about 70 angry homeowners concerned that their historic neighborhoods, among the oldest in Whittier, were being ruined by new apartments that are replacing single-family houses demolished after the Oct. 1 earthquake.
The council debated whether to exempt only developers who had been issued building permits or those who were in earlier planning stages. They opted for the latter, but will require all apartment buildings to be approved by the Design Review Board to assure that developments are consistent with the neighborhood.
Mayor Victor A. Lopez, who proposed the moratorium and exemption, said he did not want to be unfair to developers who had purchased property in good faith.
"I have a real problem (with imposing a moratorium) on people who have spent that much money," Lopez said.
But homeowner Ed McKenna said the council should be more concerned about the money homeowners will lose through property devaluation. "If my house is worth $200,000 and apartments go up next door it may only be worth $150,000," McKenna said. "What about that money?"
Plans for 183 apartment units citywide have been submitted to the Building and Safety Department, City Manager Thomas G. Mauk said. He did not know how many of those apartments were planned for the area north of Hadley Street.
During the moratorium period, the city will hire a consultant to study whether the entire city needs rezoning. The council could extend the moratorium up to 10 months, but only after holding public hearings. The consultant is to start with the area north of Hadley extending to the city limits, checking to see if the zoning is consistent with the city's General Plan, then analyzing the rest of the city in phases.
The focused study north of Hadley Street should take about four months to complete and will cost between $25,000 and $35,000, Mauk said.
Residents want the area north of Hadley between Pickering and Painter avenues to be rezoned so that no more than two residential units can be built on each lot. The current zoning allows up to four apartments on each lot.