HUNTINGTON BEACH : Dueling Measures Confound Officials

In the wake of the City Council's decision last week to place a measure on the Nov. 6 ballot to rival an activist group's beach-and-park preservation initiative, city attorneys are now trying to figure out what would happen if voters approve both measures.

City Atty. Gail Hutton said she plans to seek an opinion from the state attorney general's office to clarify the matter.

The initiative proposed by Save Our Parks, a grass-roots group that collected more than 15,000 voter signatures to qualify the measure, would bar the sale or lease of city parkland or beach land without voter approval. The rival proposal, which four council members voted to place on the ballot Friday just hours before the filing deadline, restricts sales but would allow leasing of parkland or beach land for development without a citywide referendum.

Hutton and other legal experts say they believe that, should both proposals be approved, the measure garnering the most votes would win, as is the case with competing state initiatives. But because the measures are proposed amendments to the city charter--which carries with it a unique set of laws and guidelines-- some lawyers believe the matter is not so clear-cut.

Assistant County Counsel Arthur C. Wahlstedt Jr. said he believes the same guidelines that govern state measures would apply to city charter amendment proposals.

"If the two could be harmonized," Wahlstedt said, "it's possible that both could be passed. . . . But I'm not absolutely certain. I don't have a lot of experience with charters, so I hesitate to respond to something on city charters."

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