La Canada Candidates Even Agree on Top Issue

Times Staff Writer

One thing that all four candidates in the upcoming election for the La Canada Flintridge City Council agree on is that they don’t disagree on much.

They even agree on Proposition A, the controversial development-control initiative.

“We are all longtime residents of this city. . . .The differences between the candidates and their platforms are relatively insignificant,” said incumbent O. Warren Hillgren, echoing sentiments voiced by the other candidates Monday evening at a public forum.

At times, only experience and sex appear to distinguish the candidates, who are running for three seats in the April 8 election.


Hillgren and Edmund J. Krause are incumbents seeking their fourth terms. One candidate is a woman, homemaker and community activist, Joan Feehan. And attorney Darold D. Pieper, who has been active in civic affairs for 15 years, is probably best known as the husband of outgoing mayor Barbara Pieper. After two terms on the council, the mayor plans to work in statewide Republican politics and is not seeking re-election.

All four candidates have pledged to preserve the semi-rural, residential character of their affluent city. Each favors maintaining recreational facilities and expanding parks. All support a good rapport between the city and schools. They all intend to govern as fiscal conservatives.

And they agree on the hottest issue in town, Proposition A, which is also on the ballot. As do all current council members, the four oppose the so-called residential preservation initiative, which would require referendums on commercial or residential developments of more than two acres, giving voters a veto.

The candidates say the city’s character is sufficiently protected by existing zoning laws and the power of the Planning Commission and the City Council.


The candidates all say they want to develop Foothill Boulevard as a low-key commercial district, which they argue would generate a solid tax base for the city without changing its residential nature.

Injecting sharp conflict into an otherwise plodding campaign, Proposition A has pitted homeowners against retailers and become the most volatile issue in the city’s 10-year history. It was prompted by a proposal submitted by one of the city’s largest retailers, the Sports Chalet, to build a 9.5-acre shopping center.

Proposition A would also require a public vote to approve zoning changes that would allow higher population density in residential areas. It would freeze existing zoning and preserve the Foothill Community District, a six-block-long area between Foothill Boulevard and the Foothill Freeway, as residential property in the city’s master plan, city officials say.

More Development Feared

On one side of the controversy is the Homeowners’ Assn. of La Canada Flintridge, which last year collected enough votes to have the measure placed on the April ballot.

The group fears that a Sports Chalet expansion would bring in large-scale commercial developers and increase noise, traffic and pollution.

Opponents of Proposition A, including the Chamber of Commerce, say the initiative is legally unsound and may lead to lawsuits.

More than 100 residents attended a public forum on the measure last week. In contrast, only 50 residents, including about 10 La Canada High School students working on a class project, attended a candidate forum this week.


Adoption Date

If approved by voters, the initiative would be formally adopted as an ordinance by the new council April 15.

Of the four candidates, Feehan has raised the most campaign money--$3,779, followed by Pieper with $2,193, according to documents filed with the city. Krause is third with $1,441 and Hillgren expects to raise less than $500, City Clerk Pat Anderson said.

Council members are elected for four-year terms. The two other members are J. Bixby Smith and John Hastings, whose terms expire in 1988.

There are 13,836 registered voters in La Canada Flintridge, a city of about 20,000, according to city records. About 3,000 voters, or 20% of those eligible, voted in the last municipal election, but the city expects a higher turnout this year because of Proposition A, Anderson said.