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Orange County

Anti-High-Rise Petition Qualifies for Vote

Santa Ana City Council must decide whether to hold a vote or rescind the building's approval.

September 28, 2004|Jennifer Mena | Time Staff Writer

A referendum petition seeking to block construction of a 37-story office tower in Santa Ana has enough valid signatures to force an election on the issue, officials said Monday.

The Orange County registrar of voters validated the signatures, and the Santa Ana City Council is expected to decide next week whether to rescind its approval of the tower or conduct an election that would allow voters to decide the fate of the building.

One Broadway Plaza, proposed by developer Mike Harrah, who owns several properties in downtown Santa Ana, would be Orange County's tallest building.

In July, the City Council approved the tower, 4-1, over the objection of critics who say it is out of character and proportion with the rest of the business district and the adjoining residential neighborhood.

The signature review completed Monday was the registrar's second. In the first, the agency sampled 500 out of the 13,238 signatures and certified that an estimated 9,531 of them were valid.

The measure needed 8,475 names -- 10% of the number of registered voters in the city -- to qualify.

But with two tower-related lawsuits pending against the city, the city clerk wanted reassurance that there were enough signatures to force an election.

One lawsuit filed by opponents of the project alleges that the environmental impact report is incomplete, and another, filed by Harrah, alleges that the referendum backers didn't give enough information to petition-signers.

In the second review, instead of sampling, officials examined 11,391 signatures before reaching the 10% threshold of valid signatures, said Santa Ana City Clerk Patricia E. Healy. The second review cost the city $3.40 per signature, or more than $38,000.

Joann Ramirez, among tower opponents who collected signatures, welcomed the results.

"I'm pleased," she said. "We still face challenges, but this is one less monkey off our backs."

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