A powerful ordinance that would require voter approval for Lawndale’s General Plan and any major amendments has been sent to the Planning Commission by the City Council.
The law was drafted in response to claims made repeatedly at council meetings by resident Steve Mino, who said that for years the city has ignored a similar law adopted by the City Council in 1963.
Planning commissioners will review the proposed ordinance and make recommendations before the City Council considers its adoption.
The 1963 law, enacted in response to a successful voter initiative, required that the city’s General Plan be submitted to voters for approval. The General Plan is a document containing guidelines for all development in the city.
The state attorney general in 1974 said that ordinance was unconstitutional; in 1976, the council adopted a General Plan without putting it on the ballot.
Mino contends that an attorney general’s ruling cannot overturn an ordinance adopted by initiative.
The current council has asked the attorney general for an updated ruling on the constitutionality of the 1963 ordinance, but an opinion has not yet been issued.
If the 1963 ordinance is upheld, it could invalidate the city’s General Plan and throw development plans in Lawndale into turmoil, City Atty. David J. Aleshire said in a report presented to the City Council Thursday night.
Aleshire, citing legal defects in the 1963 ordinance, drafted a new ordinance that would require an election on the General Plan and on any “significant” amendments. Significant amendments are defined as those in which more than 25% of the pages in a particular element of the plan are altered, and any change in the land use, traffic or housing elements that would affect more than five properties.
Aleshire warned the council that because the new law would allow significant changes only by election, it “creates a much more cumbersome process” for amending the plan. Changes can now be made by a council majority vote.
Under the proposal, changes would have to be submitted to the city at least six months before an election, and developers might have to wait as long as a year to seek voter approval, he said.