A divided Anaheim City Council voted Tuesday night to move ahead with the 800-acre Platinum Triangle development project, despite a long line of area residents and city activists who said the plan hurts adjacent neighborhoods.
The council's official action was to approve the project's revised environmental impact report, which had been held up by court challenges. However, it is not clear, especially given the economy, how quickly progress will be made on the project, located between the Santa Ana River and the 5 Freeway.
Critics accused city leaders of listening only to potential developers and not including those who live near the project in the planning. Specifically, they said there were no firm plans for low-income housing within the project boundaries as well as parks and school sites. And they asked the sitting council not to act until after the swearing in of new council members in December.
But Mayor Curt Pringle, who leaves office in December, and council members Harry Sidhu and Bob Hernandez, voted to move forward and approved the project's revised environmental impact report.
Hernandez isn't seeking re-election, and Sidhu could leave the council if he wins his long-shot campaign for a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Voting against it were council members Lucille Kring, who is running for the state Senate, and Lorri Galloway, who lost a bid for supervisor and will be returning to the council.
Pringle and city staffers said the issues raised by critics will be addressed.
The city is talking with two developers about adding low-income housing, and parks could come later, Pringle and city staffers said. And Pringle said it is the school district's, not the city's, job to plan for schools.
However, Anaheim City School District officials asked the city not to move ahead on the project until they could work with city leaders on identifying potential school sites.
Because the high-density Platinum Triangle project is a new type of development for Southern California, it's difficult for the district to know how many new students it will bring, said Tom Rizzuti, the district's director of facilities and planning.
The project, in the works since 2004, is designed to house people earning about $60,000 a year an up, and city planners expect the apartments will house an average of 1.5 people.
When completed, it could hold about 28,000 residents, more than the city of Seal Beach, but planners cannot say now whether it will eventually attract families.
Supporters included the Chamber of Commerce, the Building Industry Association and developers who said it will bring the city jobs.
But critics testified that most permanent jobs created within the project will be low-income, including clerical, food service and maintenance jobs.
Numerous residents of adjacent neighborhoods said those who will work in the Platinum Triangle won't be able to afford to live there. City staff reports said there is low-income housing available in adjoining neighborhoods.
But residents of those areas said it is wrong to keep pushing all of the city's low-income wage earners into the same neighborhoods.
Robert Nothoff, a policy analyst for Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development, urged the council to take more time and work out the major issues. "You only have one chance to do this project right," he said.
Nothoff pointed to projects in San Diego and San Francisco created by one of the same developers working in the Platinum Triangle. He said the other cities negotiated better deals for their residents than Anaheim did.
In San Diego, he said, the project included $1.5 million for job training as well as affordable housing units. The San Francisco project also has affordable housing units with $27 million for housing assistance for local residents and $8.5 million for job training.
Other speakers said neighborhood efforts to work with the city were "ignored" by staffers and elected leaders. They said several hundred members of the community agreed on a plan and offered it to the city but never received an official response.
"We all know that the poor decisions of past leaders of Anaheim led to the destruction of our beautiful downtown," said Realtor Gail Anderson, who specializes in selling homes in Anaheim's historic district. "The flatlands of Anaheim have shouldered more than their share."
She said by working with area residents on revisions to the Platinum Triangle plan, the council would have an "opportunity to mitigate the segregation of Anaheim that has been going on for years. The decision of the council will reverberate for generations to come."
David Diaz, vice chairman of the Central Anaheim Neighborhood District, said critics weren't saying the project shouldn't be completed, but that there was no reason to move so fast with so many issues unaddressed.
He said the decision to act before the new council arrives raised the question in the community that "some people up here [on the council] want to leave office with a legacy that's the Platinum Triangle."
Pringle called the legacy issue "offensive."
But Kring said, "I do think we're imposing too much on these [adjoining] neighborhoods."
Added Galloway, "The truth is affordable housing will not be built in the Platinum Triangle without direction from the staff, the City Council." She said it was "too soon" to move ahead without answers to some of the outstanding questions.