Sign initiative reworded on ballot

first_imgLOS ANGELES – The argument against an Arcadia ballot initiative that would restrict commercial signs will undergo changes in wording after a judge found it misrepresented its impact Monday. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert O’Brien ordered changes to a statement signed by Mayor Roger Chandler and members of the City Council after two residents, with the backing of the initiative’s corporate sponsor, filed suit over factual inaccuracies. “The petitioners felt the City Council had overreached in their political rhetoric, and that the ballot pamphlet, which is published by the government, needed to be accurate,” said Colleen McAndrews of Bells, McAndrews & Hiltachk. Under O’Brien’s instructions, lawyers on both sides agreed to compromise language one day before today’s deadline to finalize the statement to appear alongside Measure N on the November ballot. “If our ballot argument was worth 100 before, it’s worth 99 now,” he said. “This was just a case of Westfield flexing its financial muscle to harass the members of the City Council for daring to go against their initiative.” Measure N, along with Measure P, was sponsored by Westfield, owners of the Santa Anita mall, in response to plans by developer Rick Caruso to turn the adjacent space in front of the race track into The Shops at Santa Anita. Measure P, which imposes restrictions on parking fees at commercial developments, was not challenged under the suit. McAndrews said the decision was a victory for Arcadia residents who supported the initiative. The argument’s original statements “impugned the 7,000 voters that signed the initiative,” she said. McAndrews and other lawyers representing plaintiffs and Arcadia residents Jerry Durgerian and Elizabeth Jebbia were represented in court by Westfield-hired lawyers. Making a guest appearance, former Arcadia Mayor James Helms made the case for the defendants. One of the two plaintiffs, Durgerian, was in court Monday, and said he was delighted by the outcome. Durgerian, who serves on the executive committee of Arcadia First!, a Westfield-sponsored group opposed to Caruso’s plan, said he didn’t want the City Council to give Caruso special exemptions to build large, billboard-type signs. Unlike The Grove, a Caruso development adjacent to the Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles, the development plan for Arcadia does not include any billboard signs, said Caruso Affiliated spokeswoman Julie Wong on Monday. Caruso’s plan is currently undergoing a second, expensive environmental review on Caruso’s dime after he withdrew the original proposal to remove housing units in response to community feedback. Chandler and other city officials have described Westfield’s initiatives as an “end-around” their authority as elected officials to make planning decisions for the city. Caruso originally responded to Westfield’s initiatives with his own, which would have prevented the mall from bringing in big-box retailers such as Target, but said he abandoned the drive at City Hall’s request. (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4444160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe joys and headaches of holiday travel: John PhillipsAmong relatively minor rewording, the argument will contend the initiative would “modify” existing sign law instead of “delete” it. Most substantively, a claim that Westfield, as “this foreign corporation,” was “circumventing the normal political process” to run the city was deleted. That removal is somewhat mitigated by the preceding sentence, which rhetorically asks voters: “Do I want this Australian Corporation to run the City of Arcadia or do I want the City Council I elected to run my city?” Arcadia Councilman Bob Harbicht said the changes were minor and had “little impact on the total argument that we made.” last_img read more