WHITTIER — The City Council has replaced a moratorium on new apartment buildings north of Hadley Street with a more restrictive process that will require each project to be approved by both the Planning Commission and the council.
After being pressured by homeowners who feared that apartment buildings would replace earthquake-destroyed homes in the historic neighborhood, the council last week imposed the 45-day moratorium while a possible rezoning of the area could be studied.
The council's previous action exempted developers who had already submitted plans to City Hall, but required their plans to be approved by the city's Design Review Board. As of June 14, developers had filed plans to build 183 units citywide.
Councilman Robert F. Woehrmann proposed the new restrictions after learning that more than 100 of those units were slated for north of Hadley Street.
"I think we ought to have the opportunity to review these permits currently on file . . . to see if they are compatible with the neighborhood," Woehrmann said.
Helen McKenna-Rahder, a homeowner who opposes new apartment construction, said the new process was an improvement but she fears the city will approve the individual projects anyway.
"(The council) sees it as little triangles of paper," she said. "They don't see the impact."
The new process will require developers who have not been issued a building permit to obtain a conditional-use permit before starting new apartments. Each application will be analyzed by city planning staff to check for the impact on the environment, traffic flow, housing density and infrastructure.
A public hearing before both the council and the Planning Commission would be held on each project, notifying residents of their chance to comment on the project. Developers will not have to pay the usual $1,000 fee for the permit, since the council has imposed the process on them.
Since a conditional-use permit takes at least six weeks to obtain because of the public hearings, new apartment construction north of Hadley Street will essentially halt until August except for developers who already hold building permits.
The permit application may actually assist developers, Woehrmann said, because they can still continue to submit new building plans. That would not have been permitted under the moratorium.
Woehrmann said the city, by requiring the new permit, would be able to block construction that would be harmful to the area, whereas the Design Review Board could only direct a developer to use "beige stucco instead of pink."
The conditional-use permit requirement will remain in place until the rezoning study is completed, which city officials estimate will take at least three months.
Much of the area north of Hadley between Pickering and Painter avenues is zoned R-4, which means up to four apartments can be built on each lot. Homeowners want the zoning changed to R-2, permitting only two apartments per lot.