A group of residents concerned about losing local control in Rancho Palos Verdes is organizing a campaign to become a charter city, which would operate less at the whim of state lawmakers in Sacramento.
The legal designation, which gives cities more control under the state constitution than general-law cities, would require voter approval, possibly as soon as November.
“We are losing our rights as a city almost moment by moment with things coming down from the state,” Mayor Susan Brooks said. “… With a charter city, at least we have a fighting chance.”
If a charter were approved by voters, Rancho Palos Verdes would follow in the footsteps of nearby charter cities Torrance, Redondo Beach, Inglewood and Long Beach.
A campaign in 2010 to convert Rancho Palos Verdes into a charter city was overwhelmingly rejected by nearly 70 percent of voters. But some say the City Council-led effort at the time was hasty and vague, and didn’t resonate with voters.
At that time, prevailing-wage laws, which require general-law cities to pay what typically amounts to union wages for municipal projects, were a hot topic. Charter cities were exempt from prevailing-wage, but state legislation has since rendered that perk moot.
But the charter prepared by the city in 2010 was a two-page document that people thought was “too skimpy,” said Carolyn Petru, who is organizing the RPV City Charter Initiative group. Petru was the deputy city manager at the time of the last city charter effort.
City Council members at the time had left the charter too broad, saying they would enact ordinances later as they were needed, leaving residents nervous about the balance of power.
“The worry was if it isn’t specified in the charter, do we really want to grant city councils that power?” Petru said.
This time, the big worries involve land use and state-mandated housing density increases and the placement of small cell tower facilities. While the latter, a bill that would have eased permits on cell towers, ultimately was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the fact that it made it to his desk was too close for comfort for some residents and officials, Brooks said.
“Now the issue is more about local land-use control,” Petru said. “It seems the state is enacting more and more legislation that seems to be preempting the city’s abilities to govern their own municipal affairs.”
Petru and a group of about a dozen residents will gather Saturday, and twice more in coming months, to discuss what residents want in a charter.
Petru said if the citizen group gets overwhelming negative feedback from residents, then it will likely present a report to the City Council on May 1. If it turns out residents are more supportive of the charter idea, the group might draft a charter to be presented to council members as well.
The council then would have until June 19 to draft a charter and vote to place it on the November ballot.
Want to go?
RPV city charter initiative meetings are scheduled in the Fireside Room at Hesse Park, 29301 Hawthorne Blvd., on the following dates:
• Saturday, Feb. 24, 1-3 p.m.
• Monday, March 19, 7-9 p.m.
• Monday, April 16, 7-9 p.m.