PASADENA — After more than a year of planning, Pasadena Residents in Defense of their Environment has submitted a petition to put a sweeping slow-growth initiative on the March 9 ballot.
The petition was turned in Monday to City Clerk Pamela Swift with more than 10,546 signatures gathered by volunteers over the past two months.
The city is checking to make sure the petition has at least 6,903 valid signatures, representing 10% of the city's registered voters, to qualify for the ballot.
If the petition qualifies, it will become the second slow-growth proposal to reach the ballot in a year.
First Measure Defeated
The first measure, Proposition G, sponsored by a group of residents in northeast Pasadena, was overwhelmingly defeated in the June election by a vote of 20,411 to 8,971.
It would have instituted a moratorium on the construction of major projects for two years or until the city completed rewriting its General Plan to include stricter development rules. It would also have required developers to pay new fees to discourage development and ensure that the city was repaid for sewer, street and utility improvements that benefited a project.
Opponents of Proposition G attacked the measure as excessive, complex and confusing.
But they concede the new initiative stands a better chance.
The Board of Directors, which is working on its own slow-growth plan, has approved in concept a strategy that uses some of the same ideas included the residents' initiative. Directors hope they can agree on a competing growth-control ordinance before Dec. 9 so that it could be placed on the March ballot.
Cap on Development
The initiative from the slow-growth group focuses on controlling the rate of growth by placing an annual cap on the amount of residential, retail and commercial development.
Michael Salazar, co-chairman of the group, said the proposal would allow the city to continue growing, but at a reduced rate.
Under the initiative, no more than 250 apartment or condominium units could be built each year. Retail and commercial development would be limited to an annual total of 250,000 square feet of floor space.
All major projects would have to be approved by at least five of the seven members of the Board of Directors.
To give the city greater flexibility in approving projects, the initiative would allow the city to exceed the limits by borrowing square footage or housing units from the next year. The city could also carry forward excess square footage or housing units not used in the previous year.
The initiative, which would stay in effect until Dec. 31, 1999, takes a strong stand against the demolition of housing. Developers who destroyed housing without approval from the board would face a minimum $10,000 fine.
Hospitals, schools, redevelopment projects, government facilities, single-family homes, low- and moderate-income housing and commercial projects smaller than 25,000 square feet would be exempted from the initiative.
Several politically popular projects, such as the Huntington Hotel, the Pasadena Marketplace and the Plaza Las Fuentes, also would be exempt.
Salazar said he believed his group has created a proposal that is fair, balanced and acceptable to business people, residents and developers.
The group took the unusual step in August of circulating a draft of the initiative and holding a public hearing.
As a result of comments from the public, the group abandoned a proposal that would have placed an ultimate limit on the amount of residential and commercial square footage allowed in the city.
"The community really appreciates what we went through in bringing out a draft and circulating that with various groups, the Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Realtors and the Board of Directors," said Tony Thompson, a member of the group's steering committee. "I think we have been very well accepted."
But despite its effort to forge a consensus, there are already rumblings of opposition.
"If it qualifies, we definitely will mount a campaign against it," said Bruce Ackerman, executive vice president of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce.
Ackerman said many members of the chamber support the initiative's annual cap on development, but oppose the length of time it would stay in place.
"It locks in the city until 1999," he said. "It totally ties the hands of any development policy until that point."
City Hall vs. Ballot Box
Mayor William Thomson added that complex land-use issues are better solved through City Hall than at the ballot box.
Thomson has been leading the city's own effort to devise a growth-control plan.
The city, he said, has relied on studies and analysis done by city staff to decide on its strategy.
He said it would invite disaster to have those policies decided at the ballot box, where complex proposals are often obscured by emotional jargon and campaign rhetoric.
The proposal the board is now considering would also place annual caps on new construction, but targets office buildings, discount retail stores and mixed office and retail projects.
Under the proposal, office construction would be limited to no more than 150,000 square feet a year and construction could only take place in redevelopment areas. It would also limit the construction of discount retail stores to 50,000 square feet each year and mixed office and retail projects to 100,000 square feet a year. No more than 200 new housing unit could be built in a year.
The board has already approved an ordinance requiring board review of any retail or commercial project larger than 25,000 square feet and all major apartment or condominium projects.
Thomson said one advantage to the city's proposal is that it can be changed as conditions change. The plan would stay in place for up to two years while the board completes a permanent growth-control plan.