MONTEREY PARK — After hearing more than two hours of opposing views from 14 speakers, the City Council on Monday unanimously agreed to delay for a week a vote on proposals that would reduce the density of development of new condominiums, townhouses and apartments.
The proposed changes could affect existing and future projects spread over a fifth of the city and especially in the northeast section, where zoning for multiple-family housing is concentrated. Under the plans recommended Monday by the city planning staff and Planning Commission, fewer units would be allowed per acre in most cases.
The proposals would, in effect, attempt to put a ceiling on the number of people who would eventually live in this nearly eight-square-mile community of 63,500 residents. Under the main proposal being recommended, the population would probably go no higher than about 74,693, City Planner M. Margo Wheeler said.
One proposal would eliminate the so-called bowling alley look of condominiums, which have driveways running their full length. Under the changes, condominium driveways could extend no more than half the length of a parcel, thus contributing to more aesthetically pleasing designs, Wheeler said.
The proposed changes, she said, also would encourage developers to combine lots, which could result in better designed buildings.
All five council members were elected on their promises to solve overdevelopment and the related difficulties with traffic, water quality and sewage.
Monday's meeting lacked the intensity of previous debates on the subject, although some speakers were unhappy with the proposed changes, which they viewed as thinly disguised attempts at down-zoning.
One resident, Tina Martin, a leader of Citizens for Property Rights, said the design changes threaten "our God-given rights to our homes and our property." She said she believed the proposed changes would devalue her residence on Orange Avenue, making it less desirable for potential purchase by developers of multiple-family housing. She and others suggested the changes would rob them of plans for prosperous retirement, which they have based on selling their properties within a few years.
Donald J. Skraba of Walnut, who owns apartments in Monterey Park said: "I know my property will lose its value."
He and others asked how the city would handle existing properties that don't conform to any new guidelines. Would it be necessary to tear down apartments or condominiums, they asked, if there were parcels with too many units per acre?
Mayor Patricia M. Reichenberger suggested delaying the vote after the debate went past 11 p.m., to avoid the appearance of making late-night decisions. She said the delay would allow city staff members to research the issue further. Current city rules would allow property owners 20 years to make existing buildings comply.
Planning Commissioner Joseph Rubin argued against delaying the vote. "We have a problem of not just density, but of absolute population," he said.
"This amount of land in other areas of the world, and not even the most crowded areas, supports hundreds of thousands of people. We could, in theory, support hundreds of thousands of people in Monterey Park. But that's just not an appealing thing. . . . We're rapidly approaching a maximum population if we are going to have good, safe water."
The council will again consider the design proposals at its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.