A citizen committee is leading the charge to make Rancho Palos Verdes a charter city — a designation that would give local leaders more control over the city in the wake of failed state legislation that some residents say would have threatened the lifestyle the semi-rural city on the Palos Verdes Peninsula offers.
The committee has worked over the past four months through community workshops and with former city attorney Dave Aleshire to draft a viable city charter. The 55-page document will be presented to City Council at a special meeting on Monday night. It would require voter approval in November and the council has until mid-July to get it on the ballot.
Residents are spurred to revive the push for a charter city designation after state legislature proposed bills that would have increased housing density and allowed telecom companies to bypass strict city regulations to easier install wireless cell towers. Both bills ultimately failed, but the idea of losing more local power was enough to push residents into action.
Carolynn Petru, one of the organizers of the RPV City Charter Initiative, said the committee tried to align the draft as close as possible to how the city currently operates while giving the city more autonomy than a general-law city.
“(Residents) probably wouldn’t notice any difference it the way the city operates, the main thing is it would change how the city is able to react to new legislation from the state,” Petru said.
In a delicate balance of state control versus local power, the committee made their draft so thorough out of fear of giving the city council too much power. A city council-led effort in 2010 to convert Rancho Palos Verdes into a charter city was ultimately rejected by nearly 70 percent of voters because the “vague” two-page charter deferred too much power to the city council.
Members of the committee went to great lengths to make the council’s powers in the charter crystal clear, Petru said.
“That was very purposeful — with a few exceptions — to keep it the same to how it is now,” Petru said. “We just wanted to codify it all … we don’t to worry that we gave the council unfettered power.”
Most of the changes are fairly subtle with the biggest ones actually giving the council slightly less power than it has now. The draft charter lengthens the amount of time City Council members have to wait to run for office after being termed out — from six months to six years.
It also calls for several potentially contentious provisions. One article states that any major capital project that will use more than $20 million of city funds would require an election of the people before approval. An example of a possible upcoming project that would cost that much is if the council wanted to build a new city hall.
“It would put more power in the voters’ hands to see where city money goes,” Petru said.
And while charter cities generally have more power than general-law cities to lease or sell parkland, an article in the draft charter states that if the city were to lease or sell such real estate to a third party, it would require a vote of the people.
After the meeting on Monday, the charter initiative will officially be in the City Council’s hands and they have until July 19 to chose a draft charter to place on the November ballot.