Cities throughout Orange County are meeting tonight to figure out how they’ll spend millions of tax dollars on neighborhood improvement programs with funding they hope to receive from the federal government.
The funds, which are often listed on city council agendas as Community Development Block Grants, come from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, with cities around the country competing for a slice of the pie.
The purpose of the funds is to “improve low to moderate-income neighborhoods, eliminate blight, and create a more stable economic base,” according to a report by Santa Ana city staff, and while there’s been no announcements yet for how much money anyone will receive, cities are starting to budget where they’ll send the funds based on how much they think they’ll get.
San Clemente, Costa Mesa, Santa Ana and Lake Forest are tackling the issue tonight, opening up public forums for residents to share where they want to see the money go.
Santa Ana Councilmembers started their discussion on April 19, hosting a public hearing to ask residents where they should spend a number of different grant program funds.
But the federal community development grants were by far the largest piece of the pie, with $5.6 million expected for the next fiscal year, along with another $2.1 million coming from other grant programs.
According to city staff reports, the largest spending from the community development grants is just under $1.9 million going to improve roads in the Heninger Park neighborhood, along with $800,000 going to the Santa Anita Park improvements project.
The city also plans to spend $531,000 on a new roof and windows for the Newhope Library, with an additional $1 million set aside split between sidewalk improvements and transportation safety improvements throughout the city.
There’s also $408,000 set aside for the Police Athletic and Activities League restrooms.
The city also laid out a plan to spend $845,000 on local nonprofits aimed at “crime prevention, intervention, and/or suppression for children, youth, and families, economic development, tenant services assistance and programs, health services, and senior services.”
At their April meeting, several city council members requested to increase funding for eight different community programs at the expense of the money going to the city’s general fund, adding anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 more for programs including the Public Law Center, Natis’ House Gang Prevention Program and others.
Costa Mesa city staff are expecting to receive a little over $1.1 million for the next year from the program, along with just over $500,000 from another grant program.
The largest spending is going toward improvements on Westside Street and Wilson Street, with both projects set to receive $600,000 for repairs to the roads.
Another $100,000 is set to go to different nonprofits throughout the city, including the Mercy House Bridge Shelter, Project Hope Alliance and Families Forward.
Lake Forest’s budget is split almost down the middle between an anticipated $513,000 from this year’s allocation and $408,000 they have left over from last year.
According to the city staff report, the program is set to spend $432,000 on affordable housing programs, another $260,000 on housing rehabilitation, and just over $100,000 on administering the program’s funds, with a few smaller projects wrapped in the city’s remaining funds.
San Clemente is expecting to get just under $330,000 in grant money this year, and is budgeting that along with an extra $133,000 they had left over from last year.
So far, the biggest project city staff have set aside funding for is $260,000 in sidewalk improvements on Avenida Cabrillo, a project the city also sent money to over the last two years.
The city’s also set to send $75,000 to its Home Rehabilitation Program, along with just under $50,000 spread between six nonprofits that operate in the city.
Irvine City Councilmembers approved their grant program last week, with a combined total of just over $5 million in grant money.
According to the staff report, the city is set to spend $346,000 on their local nonprofits, and is set to invest in new upgrades at Willows Park, the Great Park, Fine Arts Center, and the Lakeview Senior Center.
They also set aside $551,000 for affordable housing acquisition, in addition to $1.9 million set aside for the Future Affordable Housing Project.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesiada.