Despite pleas from South Bay developers, the Inglewood City Council has bowed to residents' concerns, unanimously approving a 45-day moratorium on high-density apartment and condominium developments across the city.
The emergency measure, which became effective Wednesday, prevents developers from submitting new plans in areas zoned for multifamily units but does not affect projects already in progress, city officials said. The measure bans development in areas zoned for R-3, R-4 and P-1 multifamily housing, about 20% of the land in the city.
Time for Study
The moratorium is aimed at giving city officials time to study long-term methods of controlling growth in residential neighborhoods, such as zoning changes that would impose new restrictions on high-density development. Most apartment and condominium construction has been in council Districts 2 and 3 in the city's northern and western sections.
"It freezes everything," said Councilman Jose Fernandez, whose District 3 constituents strongly supported the moratorium. "It gives us time to address the issue. Nobody is against development. What we want is balance."
The council will consider new parking restrictions or one-way streets to relieve traffic congestion in some neighborhoods. Another possibility will be stricter enforcement of building codes that prohibit several families from crowding into single-family homes, another factor that city officials said contributes to density problems.
Developer Kerry Welsh from Redondo Beach called the moratorium "completely illogical" and said its main effect will be to force housing costs up by increasing the demand for housing. "The people have a drawbridge mentality," he said in an interview. "They want to keep all developers out."
Last year, the city tightened development standards for multifamily units through stricter height, setback and density requirements. But residents complain that those measures have failed to prevent developers from buying up single-family homes and replacing them with apartments and condominiums.
Inglewood school officials have also blamed the city's development boom for severe overcrowding at many schools. To accommodate the new students, dozens of portable classrooms have been hauled onto campuses, and school board members are considering converting more schools to year-round schedules.
Number Rises Slightly
Despite a recent boom in apartment and condominium development, the number of housing units in Inglewood has risen only slightly since 1980, from 38,225 to 38,238, as the population has increased from 94,245 to 102,400, said Deputy City Manager Lew Pond. He attributed the slow growth in overall housing units to Century Freeway construction, which required the demolition of 200 units, and two redevelopment projects that are converting land under the flight path to Los Angeles International Airport from residential to industrial uses.
A lengthy public hearing before the council vote became a fiery debate. Residents complained about traffic congestion, crime and litter caused by packing too many people into too small an area. Developers argued that replacing the city's decaying housing stock improved the community's appearance and image.
"The developers come in, they throw up some apartments, but they're out of here," said Brenda Conyers, a member of the Historical Society of the Centinela Valley, who lives in a 70-year-old house in Inglewood that was built by her great-grandfather. "They kiss Inglewood goodby. They're in Redondo Beach. They're in Torrance."
Longtime resident Mildred McNair called on developers to take as much interest in the city's social welfare as they do in its economics.
Density, Crime Linked
Residents said drug and gang problems thrive in high-density neighborhoods, although several developers said they could not understand why residents connect new developments with crime.
"Drugs and gangs breed in areas that are dilapidated," said developer Mike Walsh of Redondo Beach. "You don't see that in areas like Redondo Beach. You see that in areas like Compton."
Councilman Anthony Scardenzan, who proposed the moratorium earlier this month, responded: "We do have a heavy density that is a nesting place for drugs and all crime. Armed robbery, drugs, break-ins--you name it, they are there. My constituents are fed up with that."
Mayor Edward Vincent, who strongly criticized the moratorium when it came before the council earlier this month, supported it Wednesday.
"People will feel there's a certain amount of relief," he said in an interview. "Apparently they connect crime and gangs with apartment buildings."