Forum Looks at Housing in Santa Ana

Times Staff Writer

At what was billed as the first community forum of its kind in Orange County, about 150 Santa Ana residents Saturday heard predictions that their city would overcome its housing problems entirely within 15 years.

Phil Freeland, Santa Ana's executive director of Community Development and Housing, said that by the year 2000, "there should be no overcrowded or substandard units. There will be all types of housing so that all income groups will have adequate (dwellings)," he said.

The city-sponsored forum was envisioned as a first step toward giving residents the opportunity to contribute their ideas on how to curb problems in housing development and rehabilitation, schools and public safety. Santa Ana officials and housing representatives from San Francisco and Washington, D.C., suggested ways to work collectively to guide the city's future.

The City Council authorized the forum last December, when it allocated $100,000 to help relocate tenants displaced by housing-code enforcement action, which recently has become a major issue.

'On the Cutting Edge'

Freeland told the gathering at Santa Ana College, "The good news is that we are on the cutting edge of much opportunity . . . but we do have some problems, and we will have to work hard to solve them."

He said the city's recent economic boom would allow for major rehabilitation of older neighborhoods and construction of another 10,000 housing units during the next 15 years to meet demand.

In 1984, $218 million worth of new housing was started in Santa Ana, twice as much as in the year before.

But he warned residents that they must be willing to participate in more meetings such as the one Saturday, to help officials with ideas and to ensure the future changes will be beneficial.

"We are here to talk about (improving) neighborhoods, which is the key to whether a city will grow or decline," Freeland said.

Call for Civic Courage

City Manager Robert C. Bobb told the conference, "We want to convert all of you who are participating in this forum as the futurists for our city . . . . It takes a sense of urgency and courage to muster the understanding to improve our neighborhoods for everyone."

Attorney Harold La Flamme, chairman of the Santa Ana Planning Commission, said the panel could not correct housing deficiencies without hearing from the people they affect.

"We've got to solve this issue," La Flamme said.

After the officials spoke, the participants met in small groups to talk about neighborhood improvement.

Lauds Enforcement Steps

Clara P. Nava, Santa Ana chapter president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), said she was encouraged by recent city efforts to enforce housing codes some landlords have been neglecting. She said those steps should serve as a signal to residents that their advice is needed before effective changes can be carried out.

"It was time the city started putting pressure on landlords (guilty) of abuse after abuse," Nava said.

"Everything is blossoming into a new beginning, where more people are being contacted to participate. We have to keep the momentum going."

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