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Growth Is Key Issue in Municipal Races

Election: Residents in 14 L.A. County cities will head to the polls Tuesday, help shape development in their area.


Growth--whether planned at LAX or in the foothills--is a recurring theme in 14 municipal elections to be held in Los Angeles County on Tuesday.

In Santa Clarita, where the population is expected to swell by 50,000 over the next two decades, three of five council seats are up for grabs.

Most of the debate has focused on how, and whether, Santa Clarita should allow growth. The positions range from those advocating "controlled growth" to those saying they will oppose projects that lack adequate schools and roads. One candidate wants the city to aggressively lobby against growth on county land outside the city.

In El Segundo, the possible expansion of Los Angeles International Airport remains a major issue. Candidates William V. Wegner and Spencer Shakstad have expressed a willingness to negotiate with planners of the expansion project, while incumbents Kelly McDowell and John Gaines say there is no room for compromise. The four candidates are running for two council seats.

Los Angeles Times Wednesday April 10, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Culver City election--A caption accompanying a photo in Sunday's California section incorrectly stated that residents would vote to decide whether restaurants should post letter grades assigned by county health inspectors; the City Council has already voted to permit posting of the grades.

The fight for two Malibu council seats spilled onto the letters pages of community newspapers. A letter to the Malibu Times condemned the candidacy of Robert Roy van de Hoek, an environmental activist and part-time marine biology instructor who was arrested in 1997 for damaging property at a wildlife preserve where he once worked.

Van de Hoek, who described his actions as civil disobedience, said the letter should not affect his campaign. ''My feeling," he said, "is that people here want to protect the environment. Otherwise they could live in Beverly Hills.''

Real estate agent Beverly Taki, another candidate, drew criticism from some who said her job would constitute a conflict of interest. Although Taki supports low-density commercial projects, ''my job is to sell quality of life,'' she said. ''As a Realtor, I probably have a bigger stake in trying to conserve the quality of life here.'' Other candidates are Andy Stern, Sharon Barovsky and John Wall.

Two years ago in Lancaster, Mayor Frank C. Roberts' only competition was a man facing trial on stalking and drug charges. This year, he faces four challengers, some of whom say Roberts has failed to bring more lucrative employment opportunities to the city.

As the Antelope Valley shifts from its reliance on aerospace, neighboring Palmdale has attracted new retail stores. But Lancaster has focused on courting regional distribution warehouses--a move that has drawn criticism from candidate William F. Fender, a police officer.

Health-care executive Norm Hickling has emphasized the need to create medical and biotech jobs for former aerospace workers. Nineteen-year-old candidate Anthony Booth argues that Lancaster needs to attract a few decent entertainment venues downtown. Candidate Gene Gaynor says he wants to make government more accessible.

In the San Gabriel Valley, Arcadia, Bradbury, Sierra Madre, Walnut and Whittier will elect city council members Tuesday.

Sierra Madre voters also will decide the fate of an ordinance that, if approved, would allow owners of properties listed on the city's historic registry to remove them from the list.

Many owners of historical properties have said that their homes were first placed on the list without their consent. Homes on the registry are limited in the kinds of improvements their owners can make.

After voters passed a similar initiative, placed on the ballot four years ago by the Sierra Madre City Council, a citizens group sued to overturn it and prevailed in a case that went to the California Supreme Court.

The current measure was put on the ballot through a petition drive, and its backers hope it will not encounter the problems that scuttled the previous measure.

Voters in South Pasadena and Lawndale will decide whether to extend the cities' utility user taxes. Avalon and Long Beach voters also will go to the polls, and the Lawndale ballot includes an advisory vote on whether to permit the sale and use of fireworks for the Fourth of July.

In Culver City, where residents will pick a city clerk and fill two City Council seats, the most highly charged debate has centered on a culinary question: Should restaurants post the grades assigned them by county health inspectors? The current council had voted down grade posting twice before finally allowing the signs last week.


Times staff writers Sandra Murillo, Liz F. Kay and Richard Fausset contributed to this report.

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