Growth Initiative Braces for Second Challenge in Court : Politics: New group of business leaders is expected to file suit to block a managed-growth initiative by Prevent Los Angelization Now!


A new group of business leaders is preparing the second lawsuit designed to thwart Prevent Los Angelization Now!’s growth-management initiative, this one a challenge to the constitutionality of the measure that has qualified for the June, 1992, ballot.

In legal papers expected to be filed today, the newly formed San Diegans for Economic Stability will ask a Superior Court judge to invalidate the Planned Growth and Taxpayer Relief Initiative and prevent the San Diego City Council from considering the measure Sept. 9.

The council has 10 days from that date to adopt the measure, which received an estimated 67,000 valid signatures of support, or place it on the June, 1992, ballot.


The initiative seeks to force builders to pay their share of the services required to accompany new development and prohibits new development if it reduces the number of police officers per capita or increases the likelihood of water shortages, water rationing or increased water rates.

Mac Strobl, a spokesman for the new committee and one of the petitioners in the lawsuit, said that the PLAN initiative will erect “an absolute wall in front of rational, reasonable growth, and it will cause the local economy to stagnate.”

The new lawsuit contends that the inclusion of language mandating “livable” wages for construction workers violates “single subject” provisions of the California Constitution and City Charter that outlaw initiatives covering a wide variety of unrelated issues, said Jay Hanson, the group’s attorney. Other parts of the initiative may violate those provisions as well, Strobl said.

In addition, attracting and retaining businesses, already a difficult task here because of heavy government regulation, will be nearly impossible if the requirements of the PLAN initiative are enacted, added Robert Lichter, president of John Burnham & Co. and co-petitioner with Strobl.

“You put this in place at this nasty juncture in the economy (and) you’ve basically redlined San Diego,” Lichter said. “The city of San Diego (would) no longer (be) a viable place for investment capital.”

PLAN Chairman Peter Navarro said Wednesday that “it’s a shame that the development industry will not give the voters a chance to decide this question. They’d rather fight this in the courts than at the ballot box.”

Navarro said the lawsuit has no merit and is an “act of desperation” that will cost taxpayers and PLAN money to defend in court.

A separate coalition of real estate consultants and business leaders filed suit in July to block the PLAN initiative, alleging technical violations of the signature-gathering process. Superior Court Judge James Milliken has not ruled in that case, but at an Aug. 16 hearing, he said he is “inclined” to believe that PLAN complied with election laws.

The group in the new lawsuit alleges that legislation on prevailing wages in local initiatives is preempted by state and federal laws. Strobl asserted that the wage scale clauses were inserted in the initiative to benefit local labor unions, such as Local 230 of the Plumbers and Steamfitters union, which has heavily financed PLAN’s signature-gathering efforts.

The initiative also is flawed because it presents policy direction to the City Council rather than new ordinances, illegally taking power out of the City Council’s hands, Hanson and Strobl said.

Like the previous lawsuit, the new legal action names the City Council and the city of San Diego as defendants.