La Canada Rejects Measure to Hold Referendums on Zoning

Times Staff Writer

A controversial initiative that sought to give La Canada Flintridge voters the right to veto large commercial and housing developments has been soundly defeated.

The issue produced the second-highest voter turnout in the city’s history.

Elected officials, who unanimously opposed the measure, known as Proposition A, cheered as final results posted early Wednesday morning showed the proposition had been defeated by a ratio of more than 2 to 1.

“We’ve been dead in the water for almost a year because of Proposition A. Now it’s time to get up to speed,” said Councilman O. Warren Hillgren, who won election to a fourth term.


Green Light for Projects

Hillgren said the measure’s defeat will enable the city to move forward with plans to revitalize Foothill Boulevard, including a potential expansion of the Sports Chalet, one of the city’s five largest retailers.

Sports Chalet owner Norbert Olberz inadvertently prompted Proposition A in 1983 when he proposed building a 9.5-acre shopping center on the existing site of his business at Foothill Boulevard and Angeles Crest Highway.

Olberz withdrew his proposal early in 1985 with the hope of reaching an eventual compromise with homeowners, but in the meantime, angry residents had drafted Proposition A and collected enough signatures to have the measure placed on the ballot.


The measure would have frozen existing zoning, required approval by the voters in a referendum to rezone any residential property for higher population density and given residents the right to vote on any development of two acres or more.

Turnout of Nearly 42%

Election officials said 5,777 voters went to the polls in La Canada Flintridge Monday, which is 41.8% of the registered voters and second only to a turnout of about 50% in 1980. City officials attributed the many voters--more than twice the number in the last municipal election in 1984--to Proposition A, which was hotly contested in the affluent community of 20,000.

Many voters cast ballots on Proposition A but did not vote for candidates, election officials said.


Debate over Proposition A pitted the Homeowners’ Assn. of La Canada Flintridge against nearly every other official group and civic organization in the city. United in their opposition to it were all members of the City Council, all four council candidates, the La Canada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce and a special committee appointed by the city to study commercial development along Foothill Boulevard.

Lawsuits Feared

Opponents said the proposition was poorly written, open to conflicting interpretations and might lead to lawsuits. Last month, the City Council allocated an extra $15,000 to the city attorney’s budget to fight any lawsuits that might arise if the proposition passed.

Jack Cane, a spokesman for the homeowners, said his group will continue to oppose large-scale commercial development in the city. He said the group supports revitalization of Foothill Boulevard, however, using a rustic town square or village concept with a woodsy design, trellises and walkways.


Although voters rejected the measure by 3,934 votes to 1,816, “We feel we’ve caught somebody’s attention,” Cane said.

Several elected officials said they also felt the ballot measure benefited the city.

“The community is a sleeping, educated giant. This thing has tweaked them. It’s gotten their attention,” Hillgren said.

He also extended an invitation to the homeowners’ group to “make a positive contribution” at City Council meetings.


Council Winners

The voters also elected three of four candidates to the City Council.

Joan Feehan, a homeowner who stressed her grass-roots ties with the PTA and civic groups, garnered the most votes, sweeping into office with two incumbents, according to unofficial election returns.

Feehan, 54, a first-time candidate and the second woman elected to the council in the city’s 10-year history, received 3,849 votes, five more than Hillgren. The third seat was taken by Edmund J. Krause, with 3,353 votes. Both Hillgren, 61, and Krause, 84, were elected for their fourth terms.


Darold D. Pieper, 41, husband of Mayor Barbara Pieper, was the loser, coming in fourth with 3,225 votes. Pieper’s wife is retiring after two terms on the council to work in statewide Republican Party politics.

Feehan, who has lived in La Canada Flintridge 15 years, attributed her victory to long involvement in school and community affairs.

“Maybe the community wants somebody fresh, with new ideas,” she said.

Feehan is a former president of the Oak Grove PTA and Women’s Assistance League of Flintridge. She was active in the city’s fight for incorporation and serves on the La Canada Trails Council, which helps maintain the city’s extensive hiking and riding trails.


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

New council members will be sworn in Monday. The council will also elect a new mayor at that time to serve a one-year term.