Los Angeles Times
Sunday, December 27, 1998
By T. CHRISTIAN MILLER
TIMES STAFF WRITER
Residents of Ventura and Sonoma counties and three Bay Area cities passed measures Nov. 3 that require a vote of the people to change the growth plans that guide a community's development. That power used to rest with local politicians.
Richard Francis, author of the successful Ventura initiative, said residents there didn't want the whim of a single county supervisor to rule development issues.
"We can't have this very important policy determined by the personality of which politician is in office at any given time," Francis said. "The [growth] plan is a document of and by the people."
In Los Angeles County, the power still rests with the Board of Supervisors and that is the reason, said critics and environmentalists, that the growth plan was repeatedly revised to benefit developers in the Santa Monica Mountains during the last two decades.
Each supervisor has near-absolute sway over decisions on developments in his or her own district.
For instance, from 1981 to 1991, when Supervisor Mike Antonovich represented the district, the mountains plan was changed 26 times to increase the number of homes a developer could build.
After redistricting in 1991, Supervisors Ed Edelman and then Zev Yaroslavsky took control of the area. Since then, there have been five changes to the mountains plan to increase the number of homes allowed.
Some environmentalists say those figures show why Los Angeles County should pass a measure similar to those approved Nov. 3 in Milpitas, Petaluma, Cotati and the counties of Ventura and Sonoma. The single exception to the statewide trend for more citizen growth control is San Diego County, where voters rejected a proposal in a campaign in which development interests outspent conservationists by a 3-2 margin.
Changing the law "makes the politicians do their jobs to protect" the environment, said Paul Edelman, a biologist with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
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