Opponents of Temporary Development Freeze Turn out in Force
Lack of Supermajority Support Leads Council to Scrap Development Moratorium
By Joe Taglieri
After a sizable public contingent voiced opposition to a moratorium on residential construction projects while officials hash out a zoning code update, the Arcadia City Council could not muster supermajority support Tuesday to more formally consider the development freeze.
State law requires a five-member municipal panel have at least four votes to approve a moratorium on real estate development. The council decided to nix further time consumption on the issue when it became clear Mayor Pro Tem Roger Chandler and Council Member Sho Tay would vote against an eventual ordinance mandating the temporary stoppage.
Mayor Gary Kovacic and council members Mickey Segal and Tom Beck indicated they would vote for the temporary moratorium.
“I think the proposed moratorium is basically to keep the status quo until we let the [zoning code revision] process go through,” Kovacic said.
As the discussion wore on Beck reflected the council’s prevailing sentiment: “We could go through this … in two weeks, and it’s still going to be a 3-2 vote. So I just don’t see why we go through some exercise that we already know what the result’s going to be.”
Citing financial and logistical hardships as well as an infringement on personal property rights that would result from a moratorium, a group of 15 Arcadia residents and real estate professionals fervently urged the council to quash the idea of halting residential real estate activity during the several months consumed by the code update effort and a citywide survey of historical architecture.
Officials said the moratorium would have affected more than 200 development projects in various stages of the city’s permitting process.
“Our obligation to this city is to try to make decisions that affect everyone, not 200 homeowners,” said Council Member Mickey Segal, who suggested the council consider the moratorium.
“I don’t think that moratoriums are a good thing to do,” Chandler said. “It’s a sign that you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Council Member Sho Tay referenced a local couple, Joanna Yip and Charles Chan, who said during the meeting’s public comments segment that a construction freeze would threaten their wedding plans because hosting the event at their home requires a development project.
“One of the things that touched me the most is it’s not a money issue – Joanna and Charles are getting married and they cannot build their house,” Tay said. “It takes years to plan that and you don’t want to take that away, it’s just not right.”
The lone voice of support for the moratorium in attendance at Tuesday’s council study session was April Verlato, who chairs the of the Highlands Homeowners Association’s Architectural Review Board.
The council also received a letter supporting the moratorium signed by Verlato and ARB chiefs from the Santa Anita Oaks and Santa Anita Village homeowner associations.
“The moratorium on demolition permits would help to preserve those homes that are identified in the historical resources survey before the survey results are published,” states the letter, which City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto read aloud. “In addition a moratorium would hold in abeyance further construction of homes that are out of scale with the neighborhood but comply with current codes.”
Council members also attempted to use the moratorium as a way to possibly halt a petition drive for a ballot initiative submitted by Verlato’s group Saving Arcadia, which seeks to have voters decide on the group’s proposed revision of residential building regulations that aim to reduce home size and promote a neighborhood’s architectural synergy.
While Segal, Beck, and Kovacic saw the development stoppage as a way to focus attention on the city’s zoning code study that will hinge on an advisory committee comprised of residents and real estate professionals, Tay and Chandler said they preferred to forgo talk of a moratorium and focus on defeating the voter initiative.
“I believe sooner or later we’re going to have to face the music and this will be a ballot initiative,” Chandler said. “I think we’ll defeat it.”
The city is in the midst of a public education and outreach effort as officials gauge local sentiment on real estate issues.
Public meetings in Arcadia were scheduled to take place 7 p.m. Wednesday at Foothills Middle School, 171 E. Sycamore Ave., and 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at Holly Avenue Elementary School, 360 W. Duarte Road.