PASADENA — The political campaign lines were drawn this week on two slow-growth measures on the March 7 election ballot when the Chamber of Commerce declared its opposition to both, and ACT, a nonpartisan political action group, endorsed one and rejected the other.
ACT, which claims 600 members, endorsed the growth-limit initiative placed on the ballot by Pasadena Residents in Defense of our Environment (PRIDE) but rejected the rival interim growth measure drawn up by the city Board of Directors.
The chamber, which claims 1,500 members, declared that both ballot proposals would be counterproductive.
Don Pollard, chamber president, said limiting the amount of housing that can be built would drive housing prices up.
In addition, Pollard said, sharp restrictions on constructing office buildings and other projects would stunt job growth and make it more difficult for Pasadena residents to work near their homes.
Instead of trying to stop growth, Pollard said, the city should be aggressively dealing with such problems as traffic congestion and a shortage of affordable housing. He said the city should spend its housing funds to increase the housing supply instead of trying to limit it and should push for completion of the freeway system and development of rail transit.
Mayor William E. Thomson Jr. said the chamber is being short-sighted in opposing the city's interim growth management plan as well as the PRIDE initiative. He noted that the development controls in the city ballot measure have already been enacted and that the city is simply seeking endorsement of the course it is taking. He said defeat of both the PRIDE initiative and the city measure would put the city in a dilemma over future planning actions.
The PRIDE initiative and the city's ballot measure have a number of similarities, but the initiative would be in effect until the end of 1999, while the city measure is an interim plan that would remain in effect only for about 18 months, or until the city develops and obtains voter approval for a long-term plan.
Both the PRIDE initiative and the city measure limit the number of apartments and condominiums that could be built each year to 250 units. Both exempt single-family homes and affordable housing.
The PRIDE initiative limits the construction of offices and stores to 250,000 square feet a year but exempts projects smaller than 25,000 square feet. The city measure bans construction of large office buildings outside redevelopment areas and imposes other restrictions on commercial development.
Pollard said the city's measure "is more flexible and more workable than the PRIDE initiative" but unacceptable nonetheless. He said both measures impose radical growth limits.
While the chamber will not spend money to campaign against the ballot measures, Pollard said, many members will back the campaign efforts of a group called the ABC Committee, organized by Rick Phelps to fight both measures.
Phelps, who headed the city's Toward 2000 Committee, said the ABC Committee has already raised $1,800 and expects to draw support from both residents and the business community.
Thus far, there is no organized campaign for the city measure. Mayor Thomson, who is busy seeking reelection, and City Director Kathryn Nack, who spoke on behalf of the city measure at an ACT forum Tuesday, said they do not plan to organize a campaign themselves.
Michael Salazar, co-chairman of PRIDE, said his group hopes to raise $20,000 to push its initiative but expects to be outspent by developers. "It's absolutely critical that we raise that much," he said.
Salazar said claims that the PRIDE initiative would cause housing prices to soar are false. He said the PRIDE measure would not impose any limits on construction of affordable housing or single-family homes.
Salazar said PRIDE has never claimed that the measure would lower housing prices, but he contended that one of the pressures driving up the cost of housing in Pasadena is overdevelopment.
Pollard denied that development is hurting the city. "Our community is not out of control," he said. "Present planning tools are adequate. We have an excellent community to live and work in. The world is not going to hell in a hand basket."
Salazar said the endorsement by ACT members this week "gives tremendous credibility" to the PRIDE campaign and shows that there is little support for the city alternative.
Jeanette Mann, co-chairman of ACT, which has been involved in political issues in Pasadena since 1973, said the main benefit of the endorsement is that it provides access to ACT's valuable list of residents who regularly vote in local elections. She said ACT also may contribute money to candidates and issues it supports.