YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Orange County

Second Look at Tower Petition Names

Santa Ana asks the county to verify additional signatures for ballot referendum after an initial check revealed a cushion of only 12%.

September 16, 2004|Jennifer Mena | Times Staff Writer

Santa Ana officials on Wednesday asked the county to validate additional signatures on a referendum petition seeking to block the construction of a 37-story office tower.

The review will be conducted by the Orange County registrar of voters at an estimated cost to the city of more than $30,000.

Earlier this week, county officials said that the minimum number of 8,475 signatures to force a referendum had been collected, based on the number of valid signatures confirmed among a sampling of 500.

Based on the county's extrapolation, officials estimated that 9,531 signatures were valid -- about 12% more than necessary -- from among the 13,238 signatures gathered by referendum proponents.

But the city clerk told county officials that the margin was so close that a more precise signature count was justified.

The tower "is a major issue. The credibility of the process is very important," said City Clerk Patricia E. Healy.

At issue is the future of Santa Ana's downtown One Broadway Plaza, which would be the tallest building in Orange County. The City Council approved the tower, 4 to 1, over the objection of critics who said it was inappropriately large and out-of-character for the business district and the adjoining residential neighborhood.

If the referendum petition has sufficient valid signatures, the project would be put to a public vote unless the City Council rescinds its approval.

Two tower-related lawsuits have been filed against the city -- one by opponents alleging that the environmental impact report was incomplete, and another by the developer who says that referendum backers didn't give enough information to petition signers.

Robert Thornton, an attorney representing developer Michael Harrah, said the county's estimate of the number of valid signatures is so close to the requirement that the city is being "prudent" to seek the more precise validation of signatures. "They were so close to not qualifying that it's the right thing to do," Thornton said.

Healy said the review would cost $3.40 per signature.

The registrar of voters expects to finish its work by Oct. 15. If there are enough signatures, the measure could be placed on a special ballot in 2005.

City officials "absolutely have the discretion to do this," said Suzanne Slupsky, assistant registrar of voters. "They are more comfortable with a 100% check."

Los Angeles Times Articles