Opponents of a City Council plan to control population density by reducing the number of homes that can be built on a lot have succeeded in gathering enough signatures to force a referendum.
The controversial zone change must now be submitted to a vote of the people in an election tentatively scheduled for late summer.
"We were confident we could succeed," said Josefina Macias, a leader in the campaign against the zone change.
City leaders said they expected that opponents of the plan would succeed in forcing a referendum. "I have no argument with it," Councilman Robert Cunningham said. "It is their privilege."
Since the sweeping changes to the zoning map were unveiled last fall, a growing number of residents have protested, saying the changes will drive down property values and eventually force low-income residents to move from Bell Gardens. City officials have disputed that charge, and say the zone change is necessary to control the quantity and quality of homes that are being built in the city.
The zoning changes would go into effect in a minimum of 20 years.