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Zoning issue marks race's differences

Published Feb. 23, 1995|Updated Oct. 3, 2005

The two candidates in this year's mayoral election are facing questions over maintaining the city's residential character.

Some residents say they should decide zoning changes rather than the City Commission; some question a plan to build an Albertsons supermarket near condominiums; others wonder why the city doesn't have its own library.

Mayor Fred Held and his challenger, former Commissioner Cliff Donley, have until the March 7 election to answer questions for the city's more than 4,300 registered voters.

The zoning issue places Held and Donley directly at odds in their bid for mayor, a two-year position.

"Fred has done some good things for the city but in some ways he let us down," Donley said at a campaign forum Wednesday morning. "He turned down 600 petition signatures for the right to vote on zoning changes in the city."

In response, Held said: "When he says he got 600 petitions, I must have talked to 400 of them who said they didn't know what they signed."

The debate stems from an effort led by Donley to leave to voters all final decisions on zoning and land-use changes. The City Commission voted against the idea after officials argued that it would mean setting up special elections or waiting until March each year for decisions on zoning.

The city attorney also argued that such a procedure would violate a property owner's right to due process by essentially replacing legal decisions with popular votes.

The zoning debate was triggered by a proposal to build an Albertsons at Pasadena Avenue and Sunset Drive. Albertsons officials persuaded the city to make zoning exceptions that would allow the chain to build on the 4{ acres. That angered nearby residents who called for the right to vote on all zoning changes.

"The question of rezoning property from residential to commercial gets to the heart of how this city is to be developed and redeveloped in the future," Donley said.

Held reminded about 40 residents in the recreation center on Shore Drive that Albertsons might decide not to build. The company faces up to $700,000 in costs of installing drainage in the flood-prone area. Held defended commercial interest in the city.

"Stores are filling. More taxes from businesses are helping keep residential taxes lower," Held said.

What about a library for the city's 6,000 residents? someone asked.

"The city would have to purchase land or take park land," Held said. "It would cost in the millions of dollars." It was not clear from Wednesday's forum what Donley's position is on the issue; he could not be reached later.

The city currently reimburses residents $75 for library cards for using the countywide library system in other cities. That means a family in South Pasadena pays $25 of the $100 charged by the countywide library system for a library card.

Held, 68, was appointed mayor last March when then-Mayor Barbara Gilberg resigned. Two days before that appointment, Held had stepped down from a commission post he held for more than 12 years.

Donley, 53, has served as commissioner before. He lost in a bid for re-election last year.