Debate over a traffic-control initiative that would tie future development to street improvements is dominating the race for mayor and two City Council seats in Simi Valley.
Three of the 10 candidates in the Nov. 8 municipal election strongly support the initiative, labeled Measure C, and six vigorously oppose it. One candidate could not be reached.
The initiative, sponsored by a citizens group, would force developers to make or pay for street improvements, such as widening roads, within 1 1/2 miles of their projects before construction could begin.
The city has been operating under state law, which requires developers to alleviate traffic problems caused by their projects, but not before construction. In addition, the city sets no limits on the area in which traffic improvements must be made.
The initiative would also require the city, before allowing further development, to draft a plan that would spell out how it would keep traffic flowing at major targeted intersections.
Preliminary reports by city engineers say such an initiative would spur a minimum six-month moratorium on construction. However, proponents of Measure C say the city could adopt a plan within two months.
Exempt under the proposed ordinance would be developers of single-family homes on an acre or more of land, builders of a proposed regional mall, existing car dealerships and certain medical facilities. Also exempt would be several areas of the city, including the 2-square-mile West End redevelopment district.
The initiative is opposed by the five-member City Council, including Mayor Gregory A. Stratton and council members Bill Davis and Glen W. McAdoo, who are seeking new terms. It is also opposed by mayoral candidate Lincoln Demyan and council candidates Valarie Rose de Rose and John P. Smallis.
Fight Intolerable Growth and Horrible Traffic, which is sponsoring the initiative, recruited two of its members, Paul La Bonte and G. Paul Slaven, to run for office. La Bonte, running for City Council, and Slaven, running for mayor, are campaigning for the measure. City Council candidate James L. Meredith also supports it.
David Meichtry, also running for City Council, could not be reached.
Opponents say the city would become unattractive to developers, mired in expensive lawsuits and economically stagnant should the initiative pass. It would “force developers to build nothing but half-a-million- and three-quarter-million-dollar homes and pass the cost on to the buyers,” Davis said. “If it passes, only rich people will be able to live here.”
Its foes also contend that Measure C is unnecessary because the City Council earlier this month adopted a policy that prohibits the approval of projects that create permanent traffic congestion.
But proponents say the measure is needed to prevent the city from reversing its newly adopted traffic policy after the election. They said that although only two of Simi Valley’s 59 major intersections have been rated by city traffic engineers as congested beyond design capacities, conditions are likely to worsen with growth. City planners estimate that Simi Valley’s present population of about 100,000 people will grow to about 121,000 by the turn of the century.
“Simi Valley residents need to make a firm statement to the development community that says it’s not open season for developers” in the city, Slaven said. “And it sure looks like they’re getting the message loud and clear, judging by how much is being spent against it.”
Foes of the initiative have spent about $48,793 on mailers and posters, more than 31 times the $1,571 spent by its backers, according to campaign finance statements filed with the city clerk’s office.
Running for the 2-year term of mayor are:
Stratton, 42, an aerospace executive who has served on the City Council since 1979 and is running for his second term as mayor. He said that during his tenure on the City Council, Simi Valley has bought land for a 172-acre public park, updated its General Plan, and smoothed the way for construction of a new state Department of Motor Vehicles building and a new Ventura County courthouse. He said he opposes Measure C because he believes that it will create “incredible legal hassles.”
Demyan, 63, a real estate broker and actor. He said that if elected, he would repeal the city’s 1986 growth-control ordinances, which restrict development in the hillsides and limit new building permits to 3,513 over a five-year period. An opponent of Measure C, he supports a rent-control ordinance and low-cost housing projects.
Slaven, 40, an aerospace engineer who is treasurer of FIGHT. The Measure C supporter said that if elected, he would give the city’s four neighborhood councils more power and work with other government agencies to resolve traffic problems on a regional basis.
Running for 4-year terms on the City Council are:
Davis, 61, a retired electronics technician who was appointed to replace Stratton when he became mayor in 1986. An opponent of Measure C and a former planning commissioner, Davis supports setting aside money for affordable housing for seniors and single parents.
La Bonte, 38, a civil engineer and member of FIGHT who helped write Measure C. “Win, lose or draw on Measure C, we’ve already had an impact because we’ve changed the City Council’s way of thinking about traffic,” he said. Voters should approve the initiative because it forces the council to look at the impact of traffic when deciding whether to approve development, he said. If adopted, the ordinance could only be repealed by voters.
McAdoo, 49, a transportation manager who is seeking a second term. A Measure C opponent, McAdoo said that if reelected, he will work to keep crime down and continue lobbying the state Department of Transportation to widen the Simi Valley Freeway.
Meredith, 58, a retired U.S. postal clerk who is director of the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District. A supporter of Measure C, he said he is “the people’s candidate” and will be available full time, if elected.
Rose de Rose, 27, a bank teller who said she would help the homeless in Simi Valley by having the city buy vacant buildings and rehabilitate them for housing. She opposes Measure C because she believes that it will drive up housing prices.
Smallis, 24, a manufacturing product associate for an aerospace company who has lived in Simi Valley for 23 years. He said that if elected, he would work to prevent the urbanization of Simi Valley. He opposes Measure C.