Court Knocks Life Out of Vista Redevelopment Until Hearing

Times Staff Writer

Controversy surrounding Proposition K, Vista's notorious redevelopment measure, flared again Monday when a Superior Court judge temporarily barred the City Council from adopting an ordinance formally launching the urban renewal program.

Judge Lawrence Kapiloff issued the temporary restraining order, which blocked a planned vote by the council Monday night, at the request of attorneys representing Vistans for Honest Government, a citizens' group opposed to redevelopment.

The group has also filed a petition asking the court to void Proposition K on grounds that the measure was illegally placed on the November ballot. A hearing on that issue has been scheduled for Jan. 27.

Monday's court order once again extended the bizarre saga of Proposition K, which asked voters whether Vista should establish a redevelopment agency. On election night, the measure failed by one vote. A day later, the margin of defeat widened to three votes after officials discovered and counted 40 absentee ballots.

Because of the tight finish, Mayor Mike Flick, a key supporter of redevelopment, asked for a recount. That tally yielded a tie--3,726 "yes" votes and 3,726 "no" votes--but Proposition K still was declared a loser because it needed a majority to pass.

Flick, however, didn't let the issue die there. Using money from his political action committee, the mayor hired an attorney and challenged six of 68 ballots that San Diego County Registrar of Voters Ray Ortiz had disqualified as improperly or indiscernibly marked.

On Dec. 23, Superior Court Judge F.V. Lopardo ruled that four of the six disputed ballots should have been counted as "yes" votes. Suddenly, Proposition K was a winner.

On Monday, redevelopment opponents--a coalition of slow-growth advocates--responded with their court challenge.

"We believe Proposition K should be declared invalid because the text of the redevelopment ordinance was not placed before the voters before they went to the polls," said Councilman Lloyd von Haden, redevelopment's leading foe.

Bob Glaser, a La Jolla attorney handling the case, said that under the California Election Code, the actual ordinance language should have been published and approved by the Vista City Council before Proposition K was placed on the ballot.

In addition, Glaser is challenging the validity of the recount of votes cast for and against Proposition K.

"During the recount, the measure's proponents were allowed to handle, bend and twist and otherwise mutilate the ballot cards," Glaser said. "We allege that type of tampering taints that recount."

Opponents also contend that it was improper of Lopardo to rule only on six ballots when 68 were declared invalid by the registrar.

Ultimately, Von Haden said he hopes to see Proposition K invalidated and put the redevelopment question to another test before voters in a future election.

"With the finish that close, I don't think that anybody won or anybody lost," Von Haden said. "It was not decisive. And in order to get the true answer, we should ask the voters again."

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