DIAMOND BAR — Proponents of incorporation for this community of 60,000 and county Supervisor Pete Schabarum agree that voters should be able to decide in November whether Diamond Bar will become a city.
However, they differ sharply on the configuration of the proposed city.
At issue is a no-man's-land of about 1,500 homes to the west of Brea Canyon Road and a smaller, triangular parcel of undeveloped land next to Pathfinder Road to the south.
The Diamond Bar incorporation committee included the territory in its cityhood application, but Schabarum believes the land is part of Rowland Heights and should remain in the county, said his press deputy, Judy Hammond.
"He's fairly committed that that area needs to be set aside in case Rowland Heights decides to incorporate," Hammond said. "It's logically part of Rowland Heights."
Incorporation backers disagree, arguing that residents of the area shop almost exclusively in Diamond Bar stores and send their children to Diamond Bar schools. The telephone area code for the disputed area is 714, like Diamond Bar, they note, while Rowland Heights is in the 818 Area Code.
"It's really an integral part of the community, it's just that politically it's never been recognized as such," said Gary Werner, chairman of the Incorporation '88 Committee. "For convenience in shopping and schools and recreational activities, those people have always been associated with the rest of us in Diamond Bar, rather than Rowland Heights."
But Schabarum's view on the matter carries a bit more weight, since he sits on the county Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), which will consider Diamond Bar's cityhood application on Wednesday.
LAFCO must act on the application swiftly if cityhood backers are to receive approval from the Board of Supervisors by Aug. 11, the deadline to qualify a measure for the November ballot. Schabarum supports approval of the application, but with the two disputed areas excluded from the proposed city's boundaries, Hammond said.
The proposed exclusion bothers some residents, who plan to testify before LAFCO Wednesday in favor of the boundaries drawn by the incorporation committee.
"I like Diamond Bar and I've always felt that I was part of it," said resident Sunny Martindale. "I shop there. My son goes to Diamond Bar High School. The dentist is there, the doctor is there. That's the area that we gravitated to when we moved here. . . . Where you live and what community you're part of should be a matter of personal choice."
But the territorial dispute involves more than just freedom of choice.
According to a LAFCO financial report prepared at Schabarum's request, the exclusion of the larger area would save the proposed city of Diamond Bar $356,000 in reduced service costs, but would deprive it of more than $800,000 in revenue. Although vacant, the smaller parcel is slated for commercial development.
Paul Horcher, a member of the Diamond Bar Municipal Advisory Board, said Schabarum's determination to exclude the two areas from the proposed city stems from the county's desire to retain control of the lucrative land.
"The county likes those cows that give you a lot of milk but don't eat much grass," Horcher said.
This is the second time Diamond Bar community leaders have sought to include the populated area, which contains the Southpoint and Larchmont housing developments, in an incorporation bid. The area was included in the community's cityhood application in 1983, but was excluded from the proposed city boundaries by LAFCO at Schabarum's request.
Factor in 1983 Failure
Horcher said the exclusion was a factor in the failure of the 1983 incorporation drive, which voters rejected 3,463 to 3,233. Cityhood backers attributed that defeat to voters' fears that incorporation would lead to increased taxes or that the new city would be unable to support itself.
"Schabarum was responsible for pruning off the tax-rich areas, which created opposition and torpedoed the cityhood drive," Horcher said. "All you have to do is tell voters that incorporation will cost money or will result in . . . bankruptcy and they'll say no."
LAFCO administrative assistant Michi Takahashi said testimony from the public hearing, not finances, will influence the commissioners' decision on whether to exclude the areas. "It's going to be (determined by) the will of the people living there."
Yet opinions differ on what the people's will is. Marilyn Ortiz, who has lived in the area 17 years, said many of her neighbors are not fully informed about incorporation issues. Some believe they are within the city of Walnut, she said, while others see no reason to be part of any city.
Ortiz said she has sought to convince her neighbors that if they do not join Diamond Bar now, they may be incorporated into Rowland Heights in the future.