At the South Street home of Yes for Progress Chairman Keith Baker, Mayor Kenneth J. Cleveland beamed as he moved among fellow supporters and applauded passage of a trio of redevelopment measures that he believes will clear the way for city revitalization.
“It is tremendous and shows that (voters) trusted the council to let them move ahead on this,” Cleveland said early Wednesday, promising to take the first step to form a community redevelopment agency at the next City Council meeting.
But as he and other supporters celebrated, opponents Dale Gilson and his wife sat quietly in the City Hall chambers watching the last returns trickle in and realizing that they had failed.
“We didn’t expect it,” he said with resignation. “But we have other strategies.”
Gilson, head of Citizens Against Another Redevelopment Plan, said “our only hope” to stop the formation of a redevelopment agency is to file conflict of interest charges with the district attorney’s office. He said he plans to do so by the end of this week.
On Tuesday night, both sides waited anxiously to see the results of months of campaigning. By midnight, it became clear that voters would narrowly approve three ballot measures that will pave the way for creation of a redevelopment agency in this residential community of about 60,000. Propositions Q, R and S were ordered to be placed on the ballot by a council vote in August.
Proposition Q, which won with 51.3% of the vote, reverses a 5-year-old ordinance that prohibited the council from forming an agency without voter approval. Proposition R, which forbids any future redevelopment agency from taking residential property through the use of eminent domain, also passed, with 52.9% of the vote.
Proposition S, an advisory measure that designates a redevelopment corridor along Lakewood, Bellflower and Artesia boulevards, received 51.4%.
Although Cleveland said he will move to form an agency next week, he added that the council “will not make too many plans for the future so quickly.”
City Administrator Jack A. Simpson said that before an agency can be created, officials must wade through the lengthy state application process and decide how to finance redevelopment operations. That could take up to a year to complete, he said.
“It’s not going to happen tomorrow,” Simpson said in a telephone interview.
Redevelopment supporters have pushed for formation of an agency to spur retail development in the aging downtown district, and to make Bellflower more competitive for sales tax revenue.
Baker, who moved into the city in 1983--the year voters overwhelmingly barred the council from creating an agency without their consent--attributed Tuesday’s reversal to Yes for Progress’ well-organized campaign.
By Election Day, the pro-redevelopment group had raised nearly $30,000, almost nine times more than CAARP collected. The group deluged the city with various mailers and passed out hundreds of blue and orange signs that urged passage of the initiatives.
“We didn’t just work hard, we worked smart and put in more hours than our opposition,” Baker said. “I think the quality of life is going to increase in Bellflower.”
CAARP treasurer Ruth Gilson acknowledged that the anti-redevelopment group did not do enough to persuade voters. “I feel we really did very good, considering that we did not have any money to work with,” she said. “But it really was not enough.”
Indeed, the same energy that drove CAARP organizers to a stunning victory in 1983 was not apparent in this campaign. The Gilsons often were the only CAARP volunteers passing out flyers and knocking on doors of residents.
Controversy Was Minor
The only controversial aspect of the campaign occurred when the Gilsons accused city officials of violating the state Political Reform Act by sponsoring several informational meetings that only expressed pro-redevelopment viewpoints.
“The city has misappropriated public funds in the form of their blatant support of Propositions Q, R and S,” Dale Gilson wrote in a statement vowing to seek a district attorney’s investigation. He has also filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission.
In August, Cleveland, a local developer and co-owner of a Bellflower Boulevard lumber yard, joined council members William D. Pendleton, Randy Bomgaars and John Ansdell in voting to put the initiatives on this week’s ballot.
Only Councilman Joseph E. Cvetko was opposed. Ansdell said he also opposed the formation of an agency, but was willing to “let the voters decide.”
Mayor Led Petition Drive
In 1983, then-Councilman James Earl Christo led the successful campaign against formation of a redevelopment agency. Capitalizing on the anti-redevelopment sentiment that had swept him into City Hall the year before, Christo launched an ambitious petition drive, gathering thousands of signatures to force a special election.
The voters, by a 4-1 margin, agreed to make it impossible for the council to create an agency without their approval.
“We thought it was over then,” Christo said in a recent interview. “Apparently they (redevelopment proponents) did not.”
On Wednesday morning, Christo vowed to collect new signatures from the “silent majority” of city residents who he believes still fear the land-taking power of a redevelopment agency and may not have realized what they were voting for. Ruth Gilson said that she heard complaints from several voters who were confused about he wording of Proposition Q.