Condo Ban Backers Vow to 'Stop All the Garbage Going Up'

Times Staff Writer

The City Council has ordered a public hearing to consider halting the start of any further apartment or condominium construction until the city raises construction standards.

"Let's stop now; stop all this garbage going up," said Councilman Cam Briglio. "Anywhere there's an open lot, they're jamming condominiums in. I'm in favor of stopping condominium building right now until we get the problem solved."

Briglio said that the builders of new condominiums are not providing adequate parking or places for children to play. Drive down a street lined with condominiums, he said, and you will find "kids playing in the streets and cars parked all over."

Councilman David Almada said Proposition K, a growth-limit initiative that voters approved in 1982, set a ceiling on housing construction and was designed to promote quality, but has not produced the desired results.

"We need to insist on quality at every turn," he said. "I don't want to be backed into accepting substandard condos."

Another city official said that developers are paying so much for land in Monterey Park that to make their projects work financially, they must crowd as many condos as possible on their property.

A few years ago, the city reduced the number of condominium units that can be built per acre from 35 to 25, but that did not end criticism of condominium projects.

Frank Venti, a major builder of single-family homes in Monterey Park, said he thinks that most, if not all, builders would oppose any moratorium on construction. But, he said, he thinks the city could benefit by subjecting residential projects to architectural review.

Gene Smith, who heads a development firm called Gene-Jac and who has built hundreds of condominium units in Monterey Park, said builders are improving the quality of their projects in order to qualify for construction under Proposition K and to appeal to buyers. He said the current method of assuring quality is working, but the results may not be apparent for a while because it takes so long to put a housing project together.

Gregory Tse, a Monterey Park real estate dealer, said he sees no any need for additional regulations on condominiums because the city has already reduced density, upgraded parking requirements and imposed other conditions.

The council will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 to consider imposing a moratorium while construction requirements are being revamped. The council legally could impose a moratorium for a year, but council members said they envision a pause of only a month or two. The moratorium would not affect projects that are already under construction or have received building permits, but would delay issuance of any new permits.

The council acted after a group of residents staged a demonstration reminiscent of the Boston Tea Party of 1773, in which colonists disguised as Indians boarded British ships and dumped tea into the harbor rather than pay a tax levied without their consent.

As Frank J. Arcuri, a frequent council critic, spoke to the council, two men dressed as Indians placed boxes labeled "tea" at the front of the council chamber. Arcuri said the Boston Tea Party slogan of "no taxation without representation" had been transformed in Monterey Park to "no development without representation." He accused the council majority of representing developers, not residents, and said their approval of housing projects has led to crowded schools, traffic congestion and the loss of open space.

Arcuri said the Proposition K limit of 100 guarantee 100 new cheapie condos every year. We want quality growth or none at all."

Council members said they share the concerns of Arcuri and other critics about the kind of housing that is being built in Monterey Park. But Mayor Rudy Peralta cautioned against taking any hasty action that might expose the city to liability by blocking projects.

Peralta said that the housing problems are concentrated on a few streets on which houses are being replaced by condominiums. He said 75% of the city's residential area is zoned for single-family homes and will remain so, but residents are understandably concerned about the changes elsewhere.

Proposition K bars the city from issuing building permits for more than 100 housing units a year, not including houses that are demolished and replaced.

Supporters of the initiative said it would raise housing quality by forcing developers to compete for housing allotments. The City Council devised a point system to grade developments on their landscaping, architectural design and impact on the environment and municipal services, with allotments to go to projects with the highest scores.

But the point system has yet to be enforced. In 1982, before the growth limit took effect, developers rushed to obtain building permits for 282 condominiums, saturating the market. In 1983 and 1984, there was no competition for housing allotments because the number of building permits requested was below the limit.

This year, the number of building permits requested has exceeded the limit by 14 dwelling units. Based on the point system, the Planning Commission has recommended that the City Council approve six pending housing projects, and reject two others, involving 15 units, based on the point system. The council was scheduled to consider the recommendation this week but postponed action until Oct. 28, the same night the housing moratorium will be considered.

Almada said the competitive system can weed out inferior projects only when the number of proposed housing units exceeds the limit. City Atty. Richard Morillo said the city could overcome this problem by setting a minimum point requirement for each project, and approving only those that meet that standard, regardless of competition.

Councilman G. Monty Manibog said another approach would be to require all housing projects to be approved by the city architectural review board, which now has jurisdiction only over commercial projects. But Henry Terashita, city community development director, said the architectural review board is already overburdened with work.

Councilmen said they intend to meet with the Planning Commission to discuss approaches the city should take to improve the quality of housing developments.

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