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Voters Will Decide Fate of Office Site

Times Staff Writer

A judge’s ruling Monday cleared the way for Santa Ana residents to vote on whether the city’s largest developer should be able to build a controversial 37-story office tower.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven L. Perk denied a motion by developer Michael Harrah to invalidate signatures collected to force a referendum on One Broadway Plaza, an $86-million office structure at 10th Street and Broadway that would be Orange County’s tallest building.

On Monday night, the City Council voted, 5 to 0, with two abstentions, to hold a special election April 5 on the referendum. Unless Harrah successfully mounts another legal challenge, Santa Ana residents will decide whether he should be able to build the project that has been at center stage of city politics for more than a year. The council approved the project in July.

The referendum was set for April because the council needs several months to meet state requirements to call the election. In addition, council members wanted to distance the date from spring vacations, said Councilwoman Alberta Christy.

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“We want as many people to be able to vote on this as possible,” she said. “This is too crucial an issue for people not to be there.”

City Manager David N. Ream estimated that the special election would cost $227,000, which would be paid for by deferring city purchases and anticipated increases in license fees.

Jo Ann Ramirez, a project opponent who collected petition signatures, said she was satisfied with the date.

“It’s best to settle this as soon as possible,” she said. “It’s healthy for the community.”

Harrah could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit filed by Harrah against the project’s opponents, the city of Santa Ana and Orange County, alleged the signatures to call the referendum were collected without providing those who signed it with enough information.

Perk wrote in his ruling that “the ‘full text’ requirement has been met.”

Harrah’s attorney, John Ramirez, said he was disappointed with the ruling.

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“In our view, we’ve never seen a petition so fraught with errors deemed to be in accordance with code,” he said.

Ramirez submitted another motion last week to Perk seeking to invalidate the signatures for a different reason.

In the new motion, Ramirez argues that the petition gatherers did not make clear the effects a tower referendum would have on the city’s general plan.


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