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Hacienda Heights Wonders: Now What?

June 05, 2003|David Pierson | Times Staff Writer

There was little subtlety in the numbers -- by a 2-1 margin, residents of the San Gabriel Valley community of Hacienda Heights have rejected cityhood.

Now that the simple question of incorporation has been answered, new queries have arisen. How do you satisfy the thousands of residents who feel underserved by the county? What becomes of the lingering uneasiness in the wake of a bitter campaign that, at times, was racially charged?

"We have different places where chasms were created," Jim Crabtree, a proponent of cityhood, said Wednesday.

"It's like a bad personal relationship. Time heals all wounds. We have stories of neighbors divided on cityhood not speaking to each other. It's not going to be cured overnight," he said.

But the process of moving forward has already begun. Crabtree said his cityhood committee is considering establishing a community council to advise the county and provide more representation for the 53,000 residents of Hacienda Heights.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday June 10, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
Hacienda Heights -- An article in Thursday's California section about the unsuccessful attempt to incorporate Hacienda Heights incorrectly identified Jim Crabtree as a proponent of cityhood. He opposed incorporating the community.

He said it would be modeled on an advisory council in the unincorporated neighboring community of Rowland Heights.

County Supervisor Don Knabe said Wednesday that he would welcome such a council. For him, Tuesday's election confirms that Hacienda Heights residents are satisfied with county services.

Cityhood advocates wanted more control and tax dollars to remain in the community. Opponents did not want another layer of government and doubted that the community could collect enough tax revenue to sustain itself.

Governmental issues aside, many residents agree there is a need for better understanding between ethnic groups in Hacienda Heights, which has a population nearly equally divided between Asians, Latinos and whites.

Some Chinese City Council candidates say the election unfairly stoked fears that the 11-square-mile community would become an Asian enclave.

Tension mounted when a Chinese-language candidates forum was scheduled last month for the five Chinese council hopefuls. Under pressure, organizers later invited all 17 candidates and conducted the event mainly in English.

A second incident involved candidate Norman Hsu, who wrote an editorial in a Chinese newsletter that some residents saw as a call for electing a majority of Chinese to the proposed five-member City Council.

Pro-cityhood council candidate David Fang said the experience has left him uncomfortable because he believes there are pockets of resentment toward Chinese in the area.

"I think some voters had the feeling that they were going to be excluded by the Chinese candidates or Chinese community," Fang said. "That's totally unfounded."

Both sides in the cityhood debate say they are now willing to organize meetings and events to try to bridge the cultural gap. But it will be a challenge for a community that has no identifiable leaders or municipal center, such as a city hall.

"If we could somehow work more closely," said anti-cityhood committee member Lew Pfeffer of the ethnic divide. "I'm not sure how that can be accomplished."

This is the third time residents have attempted to incorporate Hacienda Heights. The first election in 1982 was called off because of fraudulent signatures on the ballot petition. The second measure in 1992 was defeated by several hundred votes.

About 40% of Hacienda Heights' 27,000 registered voters cast ballots Tuesday. The cityhood measure failed 63% to 37%.

"I wouldn't be shocked if it was tried again," said pro-cityhood council candidate Ken Manning, who received the most votes.

"But it's not a minor undertaking. It takes time and money."

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