Cityhood Advocates in Laguna Niguel Stress Vote Turnout : Incorporation: With former opponents switching to support, hopes grow for creation of Orange County's 29th city.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Call them signs of the time.

The signs say: "Laguna Niguel Cityhood: Yes on O November 7th."

As Election Day draws closer, the signs are springing up in hundreds of yards in this sprawling unincorporated community. Most urge a yes vote on Measure O, the ballot item whose approval would make Laguna Niguel the county's 29th city. If there are any "Vote No" signs, they are hard to find.

Leaders of the only organized opposition group, Stop Cityhood, switched sides after learning of new revenue estimates for the proposed city. The group now favors incorporation, and the entity known as Stop Cityhood has disbanded.

"I'm very optimistic" that the cityhood measure will pass, said Denny Harris, a member of the executive committee of Citizens for Cityhood. "The council candidates this week told us that they're getting an 80% to 90% reaction in favor of cityhood as they go door to door campaigning."

Harris and other pro-incorporation leaders say their one remaining fear is that residents will forget to vote Tuesday.

"We're having phone banks in conjunction with the Laguna Niguel Women's Club, which has endorsed us," Harris said.

He said callers will remind people of the importance of voting Tuesday. "We'll also have people standing on street corners on Tuesday morning and again late Tuesday afternoon to remind people to vote," he said. "We'll try to catch people as they go to work and come home from work."

Cityhood supporters say they have only to look northward to Laguna Hills to be reminded of the importance of getting out the vote. Incorporation there last June lost by just 284 votes out of 17,686 cast.

But cityhood supporters in Laguna Hills faced a vigorous, vociferous opposition from an overwhelming majority of Leisure World residents. There is no such bloc of opposition for Laguna Niguel.

Further, there was no controversy over pro-cityhood campaign funds, something that happened last year in the unsuccessful campaign for a city of Saddleback Valley. Harris said Citizens for Cityhood in Laguna Niguel has refused to accept any contributions from developers so as to sidestep any controversy.

"The developers aren't bad; it's just the connotation," Harris said. "All our contributions are mainly small amounts. We expect to spend about $20,000. It's been a very clean and peaceful campaign."

According to Harris and other cityhood advocates, Laguna Niguel residents strongly support incorporation for several reasons:

- A fear that Laguna Niguel will be annexed by a neighboring city if it does not incorporate. Dennis Head, who was a leader of Stop Cityhood, said this week that some politicians, whom he declined to identify, from neighboring cities had given enthusiastic support to his opposition group. "There's no doubt in my mind but that these other cities will be moving to annex this community if cityhood fails," said Head, who now supports incorporation.

- The density of development. Cityhood supporters hope that being incorporated will provide a greater ability to control planning and zoning.

- The loss of Monarch Beach. The loss of this area to neighboring Dana Point is still a sore subject in Laguna Niguel. Many community leaders believe that as a city, Laguna Niguel would be in a stronger position to push legal battles to regain the area.

- A suspicion of county government. A county environmental report listing Laguna Niguel as a possible site for a jail has intensified a fear of county government. County officials have insisted that Laguna Niguel already has been rejected as a jail site and that the report is meaningless, but some area residents are still concerned about the matter. Pro-cityhood forces also contend that a city of Laguna Niguel could better fight county proposals for things such as jails.

If a majority of voters punch "Yes" on Tuesday, Laguna Niguel would become a city on Dec. 1, and a five-member city council would take office.

Twenty-three Laguna Niguel residents are running for council seats. Most of their campaigning has been of the door-to-door variety. In making their appeals to voters, they usually include a pitch for support of Measure O. The council campaigns have, in effect, added 23 auxiliary support groups to the umbrella organization, Citizens for Cityhood.

The council candidates are Neil Burns, Eddie Rose, Marc Edward Leever, Patricia C. Bates, Maureen McManus, Roger Lance, Chris Devendorf, J. Hinkson, Eli Naffah, Daniel Jeffrey Cohen, William Thomas Doyle, Frank E. Hotchkiss, Richard Steinhoff, Paul M. Christiansen, Wilbur Davidson, Abel Armas, Thomas W. Wilson, Lynn P. Kentfield, Dennis W. Fletcher, Larry A. Porter, Mike Walsh, James F. Krembas and Mark Goodman.

If Measure O passes, the top five vote-getters will sit on the new council. Voters will also be asked whether council members should be elected by district or at large.

PROPOSED CITY OF LAGUNA NIGUEL

POPULATION

LAGUNA NIGUEL 1980: 12,237 1988: 43,053 (percent change +252%)

ORANGE COUNTY 1980: 1,932,709 1988: 2,243,324 (percent change +16%)

AGE

LAGUNA NIGUEL ORANGE COUNTY 1980 1988 1980 1988 0-17 years 27% 24% 27% 24% 18-34 years 23 19 32 30 35-64 years 40 46 32 35 65 and older 10 11 8 10

YEARLY HOUSEHOLD INCOME

LAGUNA NIGUEL ORANGE COUNTY 1980 1988 1980 1988 Less than $7,500 5% 2% 12% 7% $7,500-$24,999 32 9 44 23 $25,000-$39,999 31 17 27 21 $40,000-$74,999 27 37 15 34 More than $75,000 6 34 3 15 Average $36,634 $68,751 $26,714 $45,160

PROPERTY

LAGUNA NIGUEL ORANGE COUNTY 1980 1988 1980 1988 Owner 87% 90% 61% n/a Renter 14% 10% 40% n/a

n/a - Not Available Source: Laguna Niguel Community Services District

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