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City Told to Rescind OK of Complex : Seniors: A judge found that the project violates strict, voter-approved building codes.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The city has been ordered to withdraw its approval of a proposed 100-unit board-and-care complex for the elderly after a judge found that the project violated strict, voter-approved building codes.

City officials, notified of the decision in late July, said a decision on whether to appeal depends on the wishes of the developer, the nonprofit Chinese-American Golden Age Assn. Frances Wu, the association’s executive director, said she wants to fight the July 12 ruling by Superior Court Judge Ronald M. Sohigian.

In 1988, three residents sued the city and the developer, charging that the project had been illegally exempted from building codes passed by voters in 1987.

An attorney for the plaintiffs--Saul Leff, Phyllis Rabins and the late John C. Nugen--said Monday that he will try to force the city and developer to pay their legal fees of about $208,630.

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Wu said the proposed three-story Golden Age Home would have housed elderly people unable to cook and clean for themselves. It was intended as the final phase of a senior housing development primarily for Chinese-Americans.

The board-and-care home was to be built next to two other projects on North Rural Avenue: the Golden Age Village, a 120-unit apartment complex for low-income senior citizens, and Golden Age Manor, which comprises 33 condominiums for middle-income seniors. Both are for residents 62 and older who can live on their own.

The suit claimed that the city improperly allowed the proposal to exceed a voter-imposed height limit of two stories. In addition, the suit said the 100-unit project would have violated parking requirements, minimum lot sizes and zoning codes that restricted any development on the site to 10 units.

And it charged that Monterey Park failed to notify nearby residents of the proposal, made it difficult for plaintiffs to challenge the project and violated state law by refusing to prepare an environmental impact report studying the facility’s effect on traffic, air quality, sewage and other concerns.

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“This was a large commercial development in a residential area snuck through by suspicious administrative procedures,” said Elbie J. Hickambottom Jr., a Pasadena lawyer representing the plaintiffs. “At a time when residents were expressing their will (to pass slow-growth measures), there would have been a serious impact on the surrounding neighborhood.”

All five City Council members who approved the project have since left office. City Atty. Anthony Canzoneri said the city is waiting to see what Wu and her attorney decide.

“The lawsuit made a lot of false claims,” Wu said Tuesday. “They are just making up stories about this and this and that. Our project was misunderstood.”

She said a number of tenants in the existing Golden Age facilities would be better served in a board-and-care home. “This is a badly needed project in Monterey Park,” she said. “The city should be able to be more flexible.”

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The home’s proposed site, a little more than half an acre on the corner of Emerson and Orange avenues, is undeveloped except for an empty five-unit apartment building. Last fall, Wu evicted the apartment tenants, expecting to win the lawsuit and begin construction immediately.


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