The Latest Proposal For Garden Grove’s ‘Rusty Skeleton?’ Affordable Senior Housing

Thy Vo/Voice of OC

The latest developer attempting to revive Garden Grove’s ‘rusty skeleton’ wants to convert the nine-story, rusted steel structure on Garden Grove Boulevard into 400 units of affordable senior housing, the largest affordable housing project in the city’s history.

The proposal would include an “inter-generational” partnership with the Boys & Girls Club where seniors would mentor, volunteer and interact with youth from the Boys & Girls Club, said developer Alexis Gevorgian, a managing member of the firm AMG & Associates.

“Studies show seniors live longer when they are associated with youth,” said Gevorgian.

The project would build on the existing steel frame, and includes 25,503 square feet of community rooms and recreational space and 12,938 square feet of retail on the first floor. It requires 310 parking stalls.

This latest proposal for the Galleria project, which is requesting an increase in density from the original 66 luxury condominiums planned for the site, will be right across the street from the city’s largest mixed-use development, the Brookhurst Triangle project. That development includes 674 units of mid- to high-end apartments, 272,000 square feet of open space and 65,000 square feet of commercial space.

The original plans for the Garden Grove Galleria project stalled in 2009 when the bank financing the project refused to pay the developer’s construction costs, citing a decline in the property’s value during the economic downturn.

Since then the building’s steel skeleton has sat unused and undeveloped, irritating residents and prompting calls from some city council members to act on a 2013 order to demolish it.

Efforts to revive the site have been mired in lawsuits over the original project and both the bank, Cathay Bank, and property owner, the Emlen W. Hoag Foundation, have tried for several years to find a new developer to take over the project and avoid a demolition order.

Then in August 2016, Cathay Bank sold its interests in the property to AMG & Associates, ending the legal battle and allowing the project to move forward.

Gevorgian estimates the project will appear before the city’s Planning Commission in the next 45 days. And there’s urgency, he said, because a federal tax credit the project is relying on will expire in February. The company will need to secure all entitlements to the property before then.

If the project is approved by the Planning Commission and City Council, Gevorgian hopes the company will be able to break ground within six months.

The additional 400 units would make a modest dent in the city’s long waiting list for affordable housing and rental assistance.

There are roughly 15,000 people on the city’s waiting list for Section 8 federal housing assistance, according to Deputy City Manager Maria Stipe. The list receives between 100 and 200 new applicants a year, and in the first nine months of 2017, just 17 people were given housing assistance, said Stipe.

In August, the city celebrated the grand opening of Wesley Village, a multigenerational housing project by  Jamboree Housing, which includes a senior living and adult day care facility as well as a Head Start preschool center. The 47-unit development, which sits on property owned by the Garden Grove United Methodist Church, includes 31 family units and 16 units for senior citizens.

Contact Thy Vo at or 415-484-9286. Follow her on twitter @thyanhvo.

  • This is why inclusive zoning is necessary. I appreciate that Garden Grove would like to provide affordable housing for the growing population of seniors there, but it seems like they have already provided much for them in other projects. Moving forward it should be considered that affordable housing should be developed by municipalities according to the needs of the entire local population. That would include housing for the very lowest income earners (whether senior or not) and for addressing homelessness by providing permanent supportive housing that would get them off of the streets and out of the riverbed.
    The future sustainability within our communities relies on providing housing for those lowest income earners who are not yet homeless, but are at great risk of joining the growing population of homeless persons’ in our communities in the near future.

  • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

    With that much density, I hope some green elements are incorporated. Airy, sunshiney. Some gardens, some groves.
    Little patios for greenery. Or industrial trellises so vines can greener up. If we pack a lot of seniors, lets make sure it’s a garden environment for them. Vital.

  • LagunaTri

    I’m still trying to comprehend the waiting list of 15,000 for affordable housing. I always thought if you couldn’t afford to live in a region, you moved somewhere else, looked for a (new) job, or completed your education in an attempt to get a better-paying job. I guess it’s easier to rely on the rest of society. We’re becoming LA where families are on their third generation in subsidized housing. I’m all for assistance for the elderly and those who trying can’t help themselves. The lazy, lifetime slackers are stealing services from those who truly need it.

    • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

      Point on.

  • chubbers

    Make lemonade from lemons.
    I agree with the suggestion for disabled. I mean real disabled like brain trauma, disabled and unable to do anything without assistance.

    Aged out Orange County young adults from group homes in who are interested in going to university or career training. No lazy ones who just want to kick back. Max years for each 4. Strictly Orange County and referred.

    Pre school for children for 3 years.

    Just a note: The Friendly Center has an apartment complex for low income, some of the residents have lived in low income housing for 20 years plus at least that what my aunt informed me when she worked for them.
    Many of these people incomes have increased and abuse this perk.

    Low income housing should always have limits on years, max 5 that way other needy individuals can also have a chance. And women who are proactive not to pop out more children.

  • Cynthia Ward

    Wow, this is one tough room to work, tonight. Come on, guys, even I like the sound of this, I want to see more of the details, and I don’t live in GG so my opinion isn’t going to budge anyone, but this is exactly the kind of out-of-the-box thinking we keep asking leaders for, I hope voice of oc posts details like elevations, floor plans etc when they come up. This sounds hopeful to me.

    • Hold on tight, Cynthia. There’s an opportunity to do great work here, but it’s not going to be easy.

  • loudchapina

    It would be nice to see low income housing for disabled adults and their caretakers. There aren’t too many options for 18-54 year olds who are living on SSI.

    • You are very wise to see things from that perspective. Unfortunately, our leaders in local government will spoil this opportunity to do great things in the community because they will make this a way of pandering votes in an upcoming election.

  • David Zenger

    The real issue here is how the City got pulled into this pile of oxidizing iron.

  • verifiedsane

    All this story needed to report was the hard sell “a federal tax credit the project is relying on will expire in February” to create an environment of expediency…the rest is all soft snowball salesmanship.. “Studies show seniors live longer when they are associated with youth,” is anyone buying this? Studies also show that high density housing projects are very profitable…

    • The real story here is that it must appear to be a project that satisfies the needs of the majority of local voters as opposed to the needs of the local population. That way the project will break ground just days before the next election.

  • Smeagel4T

    Wait… that wasn’t meant as modern art? 🙂