In the first rebuke of the Orange County Transportation Authority's plans to bring an elevated urban rail line to Orange County, the Cypress City Council on Tuesday narrowly opposed a proposal to run the system through the city.
Following two hours of heated testimony, the council voted 3 to 2 against the OCTA plan, siding with residents who argued that a rail line would create havoc in residential neighborhoods. Mayor Richard Partin and Councilman Walter K. Bowman voted in favor of the plan.
"It does not make any sense to run through residential communities when you can run down the 5 freeway," said Councilwoman Gail H. Kerry, a staunch opponent of the idea. "It needs to be in the right place."
The Cypress section of the line's southern route is one of two options being studied by OCTA to connect the proposed 47-mile Orange County rail system with Los Angeles County. The other connector under consideration would bypass Cypress and run through Buena Park and Fullerton, both of which have endorsed the plan.
A final decision on the line is not scheduled for several months, according to transportation officials. But a consultant studying the routes is expected to make a recommendation in June.
Dave Shuter, executive director of the Central Orange County Fixed Guideway Agency, who spoke before the council Tuesday, said the resident's concerns will not be ignored.
"There is no intent by the county to mandate this system on the city," he said.
His comments were met with some skepticism by the audience after it was revealed that the county has already purchased the existing Pacific Electric rail line right-of-way that snakes through the city and would be used by the elevated urban rail system.
About 75 residents denounced the idea, which they said would increase noise, create unsafe conditions and lower their property values. Residents near the railroad tracks acknowledged that they bought their homes knowing it was in their back yard but argued that trains only run through a few times a day, and no mention was ever made of an urban rail proposal.
"I didn't buy this house to lose money," said Joseph Davis, one of about 12 people who spoke in opposition.
Three residents spoke in favor, saying it was time for the city to solve a growing traffic problem.
After hearing about the Cypress council's decision, Santa Ana Mayor Daniel H. Young, who is also chairman of an eight-city consortium of mayors overseeing the process, said the consortium will heed the council's vote.
"If they don't want it to go through their city, that is their right, and we will respect their wishes," Young said, but he added that the ultimate decision lies with OCTA.
Cypress is the only city thus far to vote down the OCTA plan. Nine cities--Buena Park, Fullerton, Anaheim, Orange, Santa Ana, Irvine, Garden Grove, Costa Mesa and Stanton--have endorsed the elevated urban rail system. However, opposition is mounting in La Palma, which is expected to hold a public hearing next week on the issue, officials said.