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LOCAL ELECTIONS BALLOT MEASURE : Hawaiian Gardens to Vote on Motel Tax

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Voters will be asked Tuesday to decide on a proposed room tax that would help open the doors to the city’s first motel, but some opponents say the issue may already have been decided.

Two supporters of the proposed motel won bitterly contested City Council races in April. The measure on the ballot would allow the council to approve a room tax of up to 10% on motel patrons, and even its opponents acknowledge that organized opposition to the measure has failed to materialize.

“The people that were against it have just sort of gone underground,” said Joe Cabrera, an unsuccessful City Council candidate who opposes the motel.

Another unsuccessful candidate, Richard Vineyard, a former councilman who was trying to make a comeback, said he does not see anyone working against the referendum. “If someone says we’ve got to run a campaign against it in the next few days, I will be (involved), but no one has approached me and I haven’t taken the initiative.”

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The proposed 57-unit motel at the corner of Carson Street and Belshire Avenue could generate as much as $60,000 a year for the city treasury, according to supporters. Opponents, many of them homeowners in the area, argued that the motel would bring drugs and prostitution to the city.

Both Vineyard and Cabrera attribute the current lack of organized opposition to the victories of incumbent Councilwoman Kathleen Navejas and her running mate, Domenic Ruggeri.

“With Kathleen Navejas getting more than 500 votes, (motel opponents) just feel that that’s what the people wanted,” Cabrera said. He received 145 votes. Vineyard got 386 votes.

Navejas is predicting victory for the referendum, which the council voted in November to put on next week’s ballot.

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“It’s going to pass because, with all the lies that were told during the election, the voters still saw through them and voted for Domenic and myself,” she said, referring to opponents’ concerns that the motel will bring unsavory activities to Hawaiian Gardens.

Navejas says the motel will mean jobs for the community, as well as tax revenues. She and other supporters say the motel will have banquet facilities, not now available in the city, which will also generate sales tax revenues.

She said she probably would not still support the motel if voters reject the room tax. The project, without a room tax, would not provide enough economic benefits for the city, she said.

The developer of the $3-million motel project is El Camino Real Development Co., whose principal partners are James V. Wilson of Rolling Hills Realty in Rolling Hills Estates and Malcohn Kao of MK Development in South Pasadena.

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The motel project received a conditional-use permit from the City Council in early March. The developers still need to obtain a variance from the council.


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