Anaheim Council Approves Plans for Long-Awaited Makeover of City’s West Side

The Anaheim City Council this week approved a slate of actions for commercial and residential developments along Beach Boulevard that would give a boost to the city’s long-neglected west side.

For decades, while Disneyland and the resort district have received the vast majority of attention and money from policymakers and developers, west Anaheim residents have pushed for more recreation and development on their side of town, which now largely consists of single-family homes and small strip malls.

A rendering of the proposed Westgate development.

A rendering of the proposed Westgate development.

Council members Tuesday night unanimously approved the $16.1 million sale of a 25-acre former county landfill to the Los Angeles-based Zelman Development Company for development into a “Main Street-style” outdoor shopping center with dining, shops, decorative fountains and public art.

They also approved the purchase of a 3.6-acre property by the city’s Housing Authority as part of plans to push out motels along the Beach Boulevard corridor and encourage mixed use developments with some affordable housing.

“It’s our turn and we’re really happy – we’ve been fighting for a long, long time,” Jodie Mosley, a west Anaheim resident, said to city council members Tuesday. “This is the closest we have come to seeing anything actually come about.”

The intersection of Beach Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue, dubbed “Stinkin’ Lincoln” because of the odor that once wafted from the old landfill, once served tourists who couldn’t afford the higher-priced accommodations closer to Disneyland.

The 3.6 acre property is adjacent to another owned by the Housing Authority. The Zelman development will be built on the northeast corner of Beach and Lincoln.

The 3.6 acre property is adjacent to another owned by the Housing Authority. The Zelman development will be built on the northeast corner of Beach and Lincoln.

But in recent decades, the motels have become hotspots for illicit activity and draw a disproportionate amount of police and code enforcement calls, according to a city staff report. They also provide makeshift month-to-month housing for poor and homeless families who can’t pay a security deposit or pass a credit check required for most permanent housing.

Esther Wallace, a Magnolia School Board Trustee and chair of the West Anaheim Neighborhood Development Council, moved to west Anaheim in 1960, when the city had a population of 63,000. Since then, she said, blight has driven away business development.

“We don’t have a lot of problems, except with the stuff like the prostitution [and] the crime…which has really destroyed west Anaheim as far as getting businesses,” said Wallace.

City officials have had plans to rebuild commercial zones in West Anaheim since 1998, but they’ve made little progress.

Those efforts were further delayed beginning in 2012 when Governor Jerry Brown abolished redevelopment agencies, which had been the main funding source for efforts to reinvigorate blighted areas.

City officials are now close to completing a draft of a Beach Boulevard Specific Plan, a general blueprint for revitalization efforts along the corridor that would also offer incentives like fee waivers, flexible development standards and commercial rehabilitation loans to entice developers to invest in West Anaheim properties.

They hope to fund those incentives by asking other public agencies to voluntarily forgo the tax revenue they would receive from several former redevelopment agency properties.

Councilwoman Kris Murray said west Anaheim residents have wanted to “see the same kind of success for west Anaheim as we’ve seen with our public-private partnerships in other parts of the city.”

“[Beach] really is a gateway to our city on the west end,” Murray said.

Mayor Tom Tait echoed Murray’s remarks, saying: “This is a big day for all of Anaheim, particularly for West Anaheim.”

Makeover Plans for Two Properties

At Tuesday’s meeting, council members voted on plans for two major properties at the intersection of Beach and Lincoln Avenue.

Officials hope to convert the 3.6-acre property they purchased with $13 million in Housing Authority funds, which is currently home to the Americana Motel, a car wash and gas station, into a mixed-use development with affordable housing for middle-income working professionals.

Currently, half of the 18 motels along Beach are used primarily for month-to-month housing, while the 44-room Americana Motel is mostly used by sober living residents, according to city Spokesman Mike Lyster,

“We have about 875 motel rooms along Beach and through our studies we’ve found there’s only demand [from travelers] for about half of that,” Lyster said.

Asked whether the city would build more affordable housing along Beach Boulevard, to make up for new demand from displaced motel residents, Lyster said that because the properties are paid for by Housing Authority dollars, any development would be required to include affordable housing. Current zoning would allow for up to 200 units on the 3.6-acre property, he said.

Meanwhile, across the street, the Westgate Shopping Center proposed by Zelman will finally go forward after more than 15 years of delays from lawsuits and the lengthy, expensive process of cleaning up the site of environmental hazards.

The city has spent more than $25 million acquiring and rehabilitating the property since 2001. Zelman will pay $16 million for the property, about $640,000 per acre, according to a staff report.

City officials say the price of the property is somewhat discounted, given that the developer will need to build a costly foundation because of the unstable soil caused by the property’s previous use as a landfill.

Officials say construction on the $75 million project could begin in the next 18 months, creating up to 875 construction jobs and 900 permanent jobs after the center is slated to open in 2019.

At least one Anaheim resident was opposed to the Westgate Shopping Center at Tuesday’s public hearing.

“This property should not be sold to a developer, it should be used as a park for the people of Anaheim,” said William Fitzgerald.

Economic development director John Woodhead said the city is prohibited from using the 25-acre property as a park, because of restrictions on what can be built atop the former landfill.

Tait, meanwhile, praised Zelman’s plans for the Westgate Shopping Center.

“I think it creates energy and a sense of place…which I think is needed on Beach,” said Tait. “It creates energy and excitement rather than just seeing parking and a perimeter of big boxes.”

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.