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Council Majority Backs Extra Fee on Tax Bills : Assessment: More than 100 property owners protest proposal to pay for street lighting and landscaping. Vote is delayed until August.


SOUTH PASADENA — A majority of the City Council voiced support last week for tacking an extra fee for street lighting and landscaping onto property tax bills, but a vote was put off until August to allow an absent colleague to be present and to consider further belt-tightening.

More than 100 angry property owners gathered in the City Hall council chambers for Wednesday's final public hearing on the establishment of a Street Lighting and Landscaping Maintenance Assessment District.

A dozen residents took the microphone to protest the plan. One, Renee Taylor, said the proposal circumvents Proposition 13, the 1978 state initiative requiring two-thirds voter approval for tax increases.

"Howard Jarvis fought for us peons so people like you couldn't pick our pockets forever and ever . . . ," she told council members.

But Mayor James Hodge and Councilmen Harry Knapp and Amedee (Dick) Richards said they favored the fees, which could cost owners of a single-family home $73 to $110 annually.

Only Councilman Paul Zee wavered. He asked that the vote be delayed until Aug. 4, until more cuts could be made in the city budget and a vacationing Councilman James Woollacott could be present. The council agreed.

The new district would raise more than $800,000 for park and median maintenance, traffic signals, tree trimming and sidewalk repair. It would absorb a lighting district established in 1975 that brought in $405,000 last year.

Despite Wednesday's turnout, opposition beyond the council chamber among property owners failed to materialize in the 45-day period set aside for written protests. Under state law, the city would have been forced to abandon the assessment if more than 50% of the property owners in the district opposed the change.

City officials reported receiving 1,175 letters of protest, representing 18.24% of property owners, but only 253 of the letters were declared valid, in most cases because the property owner ignored a requirement to provide documentation verifying their signatures.

Tom Biesek, of the South Pasadena Taxpayers Assn., said that requirement deterred many people and taxpayers will now get the ultimate vote at the ballot box in November, when three council members will be up for reelection.

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