Annexation Effort Facing Opposition in Live Oak Canyon

Times Staff Writer

Some residents of Live Oak Canyon, a rustic unincorporated area on Claremont’s western edge, have reacted strongly against city officials’ efforts to annex their neighborhoods.

The city has received a petition bearing 161 signatures of people who say they would prefer to remain under the domain of Los Angeles County.

Residents contacted by The Times gave a variety of reasons for opposing annexation, but most boil down to satisfaction with the status quo, skepticism about the benefits of joining Claremont and worry that they would be burdened with higher taxes and increased regulation.

“We don’t want to be part of Claremont,” said Tom Doty, a Live Oak Canyon resident who signed the petition. “We don’t want to be bound by their restrictions. It would just be more trouble, more taxes and nothing I would desire.”


Petition Not Official

Betty Sheldon, assistant to the city manager and coordinator of the annexation project, said the petition is not official because it was not limited to registered voters living in the annexation area. City officials don’t believe the petition represents widespread opposition to the idea, she said.

“I think the city’s position would be that some of these people have not received our information,” Sheldon said. “I think we feel with more information that maybe some of them would change their minds.”

Claremont officials have long sought to include the foothill areas to the north and west of the city limits. Annexation efforts have been stepped up recently because of growing interest in the area by developers. The area set for annexation covers 6 square miles and would increase the city’s size by more than 50%.

To begin the annexation process, at least 5% of the 390 registered voters in the affected areas must sign petitions expressing their desire to be annexed. The city has already received the 20 signatures necessary to apply for annexation, Sheldon said.

Hearing to be Held

After receiving the city’s application, the county Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) will hold a hearing to listen to protests from residents. If between 25% and 50% of the registered voters protest in person or in writing, the matter will be put to a vote. If more than 50% protest, the annexation process will be terminated.

In kaffeeklatsches with residents of the proposed annexation areas, Mayor Judy Wright and Councilwoman Diann Ring have said that under county planning standards, developers could build as many as 2,500 homes in the area. City officials, they said, would enact stringent ordinances to ensure lower housing density and preserve the area’s rural atmosphere.

But not all residents have been persuaded that city government is a safeguard against overdevelopment.

“I have no assurances,” said Charles W. Porter, who has lived on Live Oak Canyon Road for 15 years. “Elected officials change from year to year and so does the policy. Your developers are going to pressure your city councilmen and they’re going to bend.”

Such concerns are unfounded, Wright said.

“We don’t have a sleazy city,” she said, adding that Claremont officials will sign a memorandum of understanding with each neighborhood, establishing standards for development. “That’s a contract between the city and the neighborhood and that’s going to bind future councils.”

Perhaps the greatest source of opposition to annexation is the independent spirit of residents who moved to the bucolic hillside area to escape urban life and resent being corralled into a city.

“I like the idea of being in the county,” resident David Mayo said. “Some of these (city) regulations are well-meaning, but I just don’t want any more restrictions on the use of my property than already exists. I’m really in favor of minimal government intervention.”

Said Wright: “The people who live up there are independent, they’re nonjoiners, they’re free spirits. It’s really an independent, out-in-the-natural-area life style and that’s what they think is threatened. I understand that. But things are going to change and the question is, ‘Under whose standards do you want it to change?’ ”