Proponents of cityhood for Diamond Bar were jubilant Wednesday after the county Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) voted 5 to 1 to approve their incorporation application, including an area of 1,500 homes that Supervisor Pete Schabarum had sought to exclude.
Schabarum's motion to remove the land west of Brea Canyon Road, dubbed "Area A" by the LAFCO staff, from the proposed city boundaries failed when the six commission members deadlocked. However, the commission unanimously approved a motion by Schabarum to exclude "Area B," an undeveloped 10-acre parcel on the eastern edge of Rowland Heights.
"We got 99% of what we sought," said Gary Werner, chairman of the Incorporation '88 Committee. "We're on the road to cityhood."
But some commission members warned incorporation advocates that the road to cityhood could be much longer because of the inclusion of Area A. If any residents of the disputed area file requests for reconsideration, it would be virtually impossible for the Board of Supervisors to consider the matter by Aug. 11, the deadline for placing a measure on the November ballot.
One Opposing Vote
By including Area A in the city's boundaries, "there is not going to be an election in November," predicted Commissioner James DiGiuseppe, the only LAFCO member to vote against the cityhood application.
But other LAFCO members said they were impressed by testimony from residents, who brought petitions signed by more than 1,000 people in the disputed area, asking the commission to keep their neighborhood within the Diamond Bar incorporation area.
Residents of that area, who have Walnut addresses, told commission members they have always considered themselves part of Diamond Bar because that is where they shop and send their children to school.
"It seems so obvious to me that the people in this area want to be part of the Diamond Bar community," said Commissioner Hal Bernson.
Wait for Annexation
Schabarum told other commissioners he was "looking at the big picture," arguing that Area A--which provides much more in revenue than it consumes in taxes--should remain in the county so that it could provide a tax base for Rowland Heights, should that community decide to develop.
Some commissioners told residents of the disputed area that because inclusion of their neighborhood in the incorporation boundaries could doom chances for a cityhood vote this year, they should wait until after Diamond Bar incorporates and then request to be annexed. Many residents rejected this idea.
"If we are clearly indicating to you what we want now, why should we have to go through that (annexation) process?" asked resident Romelle Foster-Owens.
If the Board of Supervisors does not place the measure on the ballot by Aug. 11, the earliest it could go to the voters is March, 1989.
Werner told the commission that the incorporation committee considered qualifying for the November ballot to be more important than having Area A included in the proposed boundaries. After the meeting, however, Werner said he was happy the area was included, adding that he was not worried that residents would request that LAFCO reconsider the matter.
Satisfied with Vote
"The question of (residents making) requests for reconsideration is an open question right now," Werner said. "Obviously, we would like to have our cake and eat it too. We want the area, and we want the date--November, '88."
Besides Schabarum, the main opposition to including Areas A and B came from the Rowland Heights Improvement Assn. However, leaders of the group said they were satisfied that Area B had been excluded and had been persuaded by residents' sentiment to drop their opposition to the inclusion of Area A.
"Our purpose for being is to protect, preserve and improve the area of Rowland Heights and . . . we obviously want to hang on to as much of the area as possible," said Russell Bell, president of the Rowland Heights Improvement Assn. "But here there were 1,000 residents who support their inclusion in the incorporation effort of Diamond Bar. We're not going to oppose them."
Months of Anxiety
Wednesday's decision by LAFCO put an end to several months of anxiety among leaders of the incorporation movement.
Although cityhood backers submitted more than 6,100 signatures to LAFCO earlier this year, they were told in March that they had fallen 56 signatures short of the 5,028 (25% of the registered voters) needed to begin cityhood proceedings.
The shortfall occurred when 178 otherwise valid signatures were disallowed by the county registrar-recorder because they had been collected by petition circulators who were not registered to vote in Los Angeles County. However, the committee was allowed 15 days to make up the shortfall, which they did, surpassing the required number of signatures by 91.