Voters to decide Metlox fate June 6

Voters to decide Metlox fate June 6

by John Tawa

The Manhattan Beach City Council Tuesday night called a special election for June 6 to decide whether the former Metlox Potteries site downtown should be re-zoned for public use only.

On Feb. 22, the city learned that a petition circulated by the group Residents for a Quality City had sufficient signatures to force a special election on the zoning issue.

The council either could have adopted the measure or scheduled an election for between 88 and 103 days thereafter. There was no talk of adopting the measure. Instead, the council settled on June 6, the first available date within the legal window. The ballot proposition will be known as Measure 2000-A.

The sole issue on the ballot will be whether the Metlox site should be re-zoned for public use only. Many members of Manhattan Beach Residents for a Small Town Downtown, which favors a small-scale commercial development on the site, asked the council to place a competing initiative on the ballot limiting the site's development to 60,000 square feet. An ongoing environmental impact review is studying impacts for a project no larger than 90,000 square foot development, as well as a smaller, 60,000-foot development, an open space alternative and a no project alternative.

"What's missing is a meaningful consideration to create a middle ground," said Marika Bergsund. "Faced with the alternatives, many people are going to vote for the referendum, saying we'd rather have a hole in the ground than 90,000 square feet and all the problems it will cause."

The council, however, decided against going that route.

"To place a competing initiative on the ballot before the EIR is completed makes the EIR process a sham and it is not a sham," councilmember Joyce Fahey said.

No councilmembers supported the ballot measure.

"The re-zoning initiative is flawed because it limits our choices and would be a drain on the city budget," councilmember Walt Dougher said.

Dougher added that he now favored a smaller development of approximately 60,000 square feet on the site, not the larger 90,000-foot development. Fahey and councilmember Steve Napolitano appeared to have warmed to that idea as well.

"Ninety thousand is the size of the EIR," Napolitano said, "it is not the size of the project. I expect the parameters to go down even further. I want to get through the process we've set up though." ER