Monterey Park to Study New Building Ban

Times Staff Writer

Councilman Barry L. Hatch was recalling his boyhood days in this community. It was a time, he said during Monday’s City Council meeting, when never was heard that discouraging word condominium .

But in evoking those simpler days of the 1940s, when he walked to school along Orange Avenue with its single-family homes, he failed to persuade his colleagues to reinstitute a ban on the construction of new apartments and condominiums.

Although Hatch’s proposal generally was well-received by his four colleagues, including two newly elected council members, they all stopped short of saying they were ready to enact a ban similar to one the council had imposed from April, 1986, through April, 1987.

However, the council did agree to hold a workshop May 10 to discuss the idea and other issues related to development and zoning.


“All of our problems, real and imagined, stem from the fact that we are turning our city into Condominium Row,” Hatch said. “We’ve got to somehow put a limit on the number of multiple units in this city.

“My colleagues oppose me on a moratorium tonight,” Hatch said. “The reason is they want more time (to study the proposal). But I for one am ready to jump on the back of that bronco and ride it.”

The subject surfaced as the council considered proposals on three condominium projects already approved by the Planning Commission. The council’s agenda also included the Planning Commission’s recommendations for approval of 14 other new projects and changes in the city’s Zoning Code.

“We’re fast becoming a chicken-coop community,” Hatch said, complaining of “rows and rows of condominiums.”


In trying to persuade the other council members, Hatch reminded them that they were all elected on the promise that they would solve problems related to mini-malls, condominiums and traffic congestion.

The two newest council members, Judy Chu and Betty Couch, who were elected April 12, said they shared Hatch’s concerns but needed more time to study the proposal.

Couch, who for years has fought against developers in the city, said she wants to familiarize herself with the details of Hatch’s idea. She did agree, however, that Monterey Park has too many condominiums. “He’s got the advantage of sitting here for the last two years,” she said of Hatch. “I’ve been here one week.”

Likewise, Chu said she wanted more information about how the city’s growth has affected its sewer system and how that might relate to the need to impose a building ban.

‘A Lot of Questions’

Councilwoman Patricia Reichenberger said that even though she has been on the council for two years, “there are a lot of questions” involved in implementing a moratorium. “I too would like a little more time,” she said.

Due to the efforts of Hatch, Reichenberger and Mayor Christopher F. Houseman, all first elected in 1986 on a campaign to control development, the council has approved sweeping changes in how it oversees commercial and residential growth.

Within weeks of their election, the three imposed a yearlong ban on construction of apartments and condominiums. At the same time, they imposed a ban on commercial construction that remained in effect until last October.


That same month, voters, by a 4-to-1 margin, approved major changes in zoning laws that tightened restrictions on the height of commercial buildings and established standards for the overall development of shopping and residential areas.

Services Overtaxed

In pushing his idea Monday night, Hatch said the city’s sewers, streets and water supply are already overtaxed. To drive down Atlantic Boulevard, he said, is “a half-day affair. It’s gridlock. I couldn’t even get out of Monterey Park the other day.”

Although the 1985 census showed that the city had a population of 62,877, Hatch said city officials generally agree that the true number of residents today is around 80,000. “And when you drive through this city, it looks like we have a couple of hundred thousand,” he said.

Hatch, a Mormon, said he is tired of seeing new commercial buildings and condominiums “that look like crap--and except for my religion, I’d say something a little stronger.”

Suggesting that developers may sue if his proposed ban is enacted, Hatch said: “Let them sue us.”

One developer already has sued in an attempt to overturn Proposition K. Voters in 1982 approved the ballot proposal, which limits the number of new residential units that can be built each year to 100. The case is pending in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

At Monday’s council meeting, Hatch urged his colleagues to refrain from approving any more apartment or condominium projects “until this City Council knows exactly where it’s going.”


The council voted to delay any decisions on the Planning Commission’s recommendations for 14 new building projects and proposed changes to the Zoning Code. Council members said they can make these decisions more intelligently after a comprehensive review of what has happened during the last several years, including the 18 months of the construction ban.

Hatch, in proposing the ban on multiple-family residential units, advocated what he suggested would be a nice twist on the notion of no-growth.

If developers want to build, he said, let them tear down older, dilapidated homes “and build fine, beautiful, single-family units.” With that, he said, “Monterey Park can be an oasis in this great deluge of condominiums and multiple units in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.”