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Growth and Quality of Life

August 04, 1988

I have some comments to make after reading the article, "Slow Growth Is Off to Slow Start in San Gabriel" (The Times, July 24).

I hope the public perception of where we are in San Gabriel goes beyond newspaper headlines of the last several weeks. Portable car phones are not the root issue. Growth and the quality of life in this city are the issues.

A little more than three months ago, an inexperienced slate of candidates was elected to regain control over developments in this city. No one should have expected major changes overnight. The process by which long-range development patterns are changed is more complex than merely having the mayor issue a directive.

The General Plan, which is about 17 years old, badly needs to be revised. The contract for the professional help required has been signed, and the first public workshop has been held. The last General Plan, which was less comprehensive than what is required today, took nearly two years to complete. The fact that the process is clearly under way now is all we could hope for.

Recent problems in San Gabriel were not caused solely by an out-of-date General Plan. We did not even have an effective sign ordinance until a temporary one was adopted this year. A permanent ordinance, now near completion, should improve the appearance of our shopping districts and make San Gabriel more consistent with its neighbors. A Design Review Committee is soon to be formed to give the city greater control over buildings and landscaping.

Zoning requirements were too loose to cope with developers who want to barely comply with minimum requirements. Inspections were not always sufficiently complete to reveal flaws until it was too late. Last year the city budget shortfall was more than $500,000. Therefore, it is not surprising that staff was spread very thin, or that some shortcuts were taken to avoid the time-consuming and often tedious correct procedures.

The last City Council was not elected with a mandate to control growth. The new one has been. The results should be quite different, but the improvements will not be immediate. We have not seen the full impact of high-density developments approved during the prior Administration. More than 250 living units, which are not yet ready for occupancy, were approved prior to last December's moratorium.

I don't think the voters of San Gabriel have changed their minds about acceptable population density since Election Day. I hope these people will take the time to provide input into the important meetings and workshops that will be taking place every month or so through next spring.

G. C. DENECHAUD

San Gabriel planning commissioner

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