Over the objections of a small group of residents, the Buena Park City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a 71-unit low-income housing project situated along its border with Anaheim.
The project will be built on a site located at 8850 La Palma Ave. that was formerly occupied by a Sears service center. The city’s redevelopment agency paid $3.6 million for the property earlier this year.
Joel Rosen, Buena Park’s community development director, said the project is just one step in the city’s plan to build 195 additional units of low-income housing by 2014. By law, cities must set aside 20 percent of their redevelopment budgets for such projects.
Some residents of the Village Park condominiums, which adjoin the site, opposed the project due to worries about safety, traffic and the size of the four-story apartment building. Similar objections are often raised in communities when affordable-housing complexes are proposed.
Angie King, who lives in Village Park, told the council that the developer, Jamboree Housing, has been “wonderful” about working with her and the other residents but said she was still worried about her safety in the event of an earthquake or fire.
“I think you’re putting way too many people in a small place,” King said, asking that the project be scaled back.
Melody Muldrow also said the building would be too big for the neighborhood. “A four-story building is not fitting into our community,” she said.
Jamboree Housing is a nonprofit corporation founded by the Irvine City Council in 1990 that specializes in building low-income housing. “Our mission is not to build affordable housing,” said Jamboree President Laura Archuleta. “Our mission is to improve communities.”
A specific concern of residents is increased traffic along Woodland Drive, which provides the main entrance into Village Park. So Jamboree scrapped an earlier plan that provided access to the new apartments through Woodland Drive. The new plan calls for access to the planned project to be via La Palma Avenue.
Councilman Jim Dow said if the council did not approve the project, it would leave open the possibility that a bigger building could be proposed for the site.
“Someone could build something as tall as seven stories,” Dow said.
However, Dow said he was somewhat concerned about the project because 11 of the units will be set aside for mental health patients whom the Orange County Health Care Agency hopes to rehabilitate.
Anthony Delgado, who represented the OCHCA at the meeting, said dangerous patients would be excluded from living in the apartments. “We’re in no way taking someone who may be a risk and letting them live independently,” Delgado said.
Mayor Pro Tem Fred Smith was surprised that the Village Park residents would oppose the development of a “deteriorated, blighted piece of property.” He said: “I really thought everyone would jump for joy that we were going to build something there.”
Mayor Art Brown said the city has a moral obligation to build low-income housing.
“What we’re doing now is for the poorest of us,” Brown said. “We have got to supply housing to those who most need it and can least afford it.”
Archuleta touted a number of amenities the project is expected to feature, including ESL classes for residents, an after-school tutoring program for children, and an environment-friendly playground and green space.
The company expects to break ground in 2011 and is aiming for occupancy by 2012, Archuleta said.
— JUSTIN VELASCO