A resident’s response to: Murphy: COVID Won’t Stop City’s Affordable Housing Efforts.

There were worthy goals behind granting more flexibility in considering senior housing projects through recent Zoning Code changes. These did conditionally allow senior housing only when legal findings are proven. However, leaders can’t forget that every Orange resident and business needs to believe they’re valued too during this approval process.

Orange officials should always be pleased when the community engages on issues. This is demonstrated through meaningful, open, and authentic civic engagement. Only by inviting active participation, will project proponents and city leaders prove they value the community. Unfortunately, when such input isn’t accepted, neighbors and community members feel brushed aside. Thus, projects that otherwise might be welcomed, instead trigger distrust.

I strongly support proper planning and advocate that resident and neighborhood partnerships be forged, particularly in cases of land re-use. One example where this did happen in Orange is the Washington Hamelin Tract (recently built by The Olson Company) in the El Modena neighborhood.   The developer made changes suggested by the surrounding residents that resulted in neighborhood approval.   This didn’t happen for Katella Terrace or the Trails at Santiago Creek (Measure AA).   Including a sincere outreach plan saves the community’s time and our limited city resources as projects are less likely to have opposition or be legally challenged. Without sensitive design, placing high residential densities adjacent to established single-family neighborhoods sets up unnecessary conflict.

Orange deserves excellence. Design and correct details only improve with more local input from neighbors. Plus, support and expertise given for free by members of our Design Review Committee is a step not to skip. As a former DRC member and Chair of the Planning Commission, I value their expertise.

When people are integral to planning, pride in our city grows. We need to raise the bar for open participation. If fair process and good design is sacrificed under the guise of “business friendly” or “streamlining,” then long term trust in leadership is lost.  When we approve a project because “it’s the best we can get” or “we’re stuck with just approving it,” then neighborhood protection and our quality of life is at risk. We owe it to our community to get it right.   In fact, it is wrong to settle for less than the best.

Elected and appointed officials should seriously and independently consider these factors before granting final approvals. It is duplicitous to compliment the tight-knit Orange community meanwhile marginalizing and dismissing those that simply asked for their neighborhood to be respected or for projects to actually follow our plans.

Going forward, let’s not rubber-stamp the approval process. Responsible growth of every type is best advanced through real partnerships that acknowledge neighborhood interests. Doesn’t the community deserve favor too?

Education and engagement are the path to excellence and proper planning is the key in achieving it. We can advance housing opportunities for all while retaining local control which should always be driven by the vision established by our General Plan.

Adrienne Gladson, AICP, is a city planner with a small business that assists clients on land use matters.   She is a 34-year resident of Orange living near Santiago Creek; a former Orange Planning Commission Chair and Design Review Committee member; founder of OCPOLI-C – a leadership initiative for Planning Commissioners focused on planning excellence, a graduate of Leadership Orange, and has extensive volunteer service to the community.   Ms. Gladson is the only other candidate on the November 3rd ballot in Orange for Mayor.

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For a different view on this issue, consider: 

Murphy: COVID Won’t Stop City’s Affordable Housing Efforts

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