The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday delayed a vote on what would be the largest annexation in 22 years after petitions from residents opposing the action were presented--and then challenged.
The owner of a mobile-home park in the area, west of Topanga Canyon Boulevard and south of the Simi Valley Freeway, gave city officials the names of other property owners who he said are opposed to the annexation, as well as a petition that he said represents a majority of the area's voters.
"Everybody who signed this petition is in protest of the annexation at this time," said Peter J. Nouguier, who identified himself as part owner of the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village.
If a majority of the 159 registered voters oppose the annexation in writing, the council is required by state law to end the proceedings. The council postponed a decision for two weeks after critics complained about how the signatures were collected.
Pat Lowery, president of the homeowners association at the mobile-home park, said residents were mistakenly told that the mobile park permit issued by the county, which expires in 1991, would not be renewed by the city if the annexation took effect. She added that most of her members favor the annexation and claimed that those who signed the anti-annexation petition "have done so out of fear."
"The majority are scared out of their minds and have in some cases signed the petitions in an effort to end their torment," said Marion Steveson, who has lived with her husband at the park for 12 years.
Other speakers said residents favor the annexation because it would bring the park under the city's rent-control law.
Nouguier said the petition was circulated by a committee of park residents. "As far as I'm concerned, the tactics and techniques they used were aboveboard," he said. He acknowledged that he is concerned about rent control, but said he opposes the annexation because of uncertainties over the park's permit.
Councilman Hal Bernson, who proposed the annexation and will represent the area if it is approved, said he expects the permit to be renewed. He said city officials will investigate how the signatures were gathered.
"Some of the tactics that have been used in this particular case are some of the lowest and meanest that I have ever seen," said Bernson, contending that most of the voters in the area are elderly persons who have been "intimidated."
Bernson has proposed the annexation as a way to restrict development in the largely undeveloped, 1,011-acre area and protect wildlife migration routes into the Santa Monica Mountains from the Simi Hills and the Santa Susana Mountains. The city Planning Department also supports the proposal, which would mark the largest city annexation since 1965 when the city acquired 3,017 acres of what is today Chatsworth.
The county's Local Agency Formation Commission has already approved the move.
During the council hearing, representatives of a church in the area and the Santa Susana Parks Assn. also spoke in favor of the annexation. However, Marlene A. Fox, an attorney representing a small business that owns property in the area, said the annexation should be rejected, in part because no environmental impact report has been done and because water and firefighting services would be affected.