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Santa Ana Hotel May Reopen for Seniors : $1-Million Loan Obtained, but Church Next Door Opposes Project

Times Staff Writer

A group hoping to reopen the old Santa Ana Hotel for senior citizens obtained a $1-million state loan this week but still faces adamant opposition from the Presbyterian church next door.

City officials closed the hotel, described as a “flophouse” for transients, in January, 1984, and the last of 58 residents were evicted. The building was condemned and boarded after studies showed that it required about $750,000 in structural repairs to comply with building codes.

A partnership of Santa Ana architect Don Krotee and the Feedback Foundation, which oversees various programs for low-income residents, needs about $2.9 million to rehabilitate the building, at Santa Ana Boulevard and Main Street, into apartments designed primarily for senior citizens. Spokesmen for the group said they hope to get another low-interest loan from the City of Santa Ana and the rest in private financing.

Krotee said prospective tenants would be carefully screened. While the apartments would be designed for all low-income residents, the biggest users are expected to be senior citizens. “They’re the ones who are out on the street,” he said.

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But a committee of church members from the First Presbyterian Church, located next door at 601 N. Sycamore St., mailed a letter to Krotee and the City Council opposing any attempt to reopen the hotel as housing.

Committee chairman William D. Stauffer stressed that the church doesn’t object to low-income housing but to the hotel’s lack of parking. He said that the area is congested enough and that the church itself doesn’t have adequate parking.

“We like the idea of low-cost housing but we just don’t think this is the place for it,” he said.

If the project goes through, the church’s parking crunch would become so bad that the church might have to move, Stauffer said. Church members looking for alternative sites have been stymied by high land costs. “But we also think it’s important to have a downtown church in Santa Ana,” he said.

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Apartments in the new project are expected to rent for $165 per month for a single room without a bathroom to $250 for a two-tenant apartment with a bathroom. None of the apartments will have kitchens, and a dining room is expected to serve at least one meal a day.

Mayor Dan Griset said he and other council members want to discuss the issue with church members before deciding.

“There is absolutely zero interest on the council in approving a flophouse,” Griset said. “Not when we’ve had such striking success at renovating downtown and getting rid of the pawnshops, beer bars and flophouses.”

Krotee said the hotel would not become a flophouse again. “As a businessman in the downtown, I don’t want it to return to what it used to be. I don’t want transients down there.”

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Shortly after the city closed the old hotel, a church committee was formed to look into acquiring the site for expansion, which probably would include parking or a day-care center.

Feedback Foundation spokeswoman LaDale Dunbar said that, despite the church’s adamant stance, she believes there is time to reach some agreement. “We are open to any conversation, as we always have been. We stand ready to resolve any problems.”

Dunbar said she and Krotee have invited church representatives to sit on the hotel’s board of directors and would welcome First Presbyterian as a development partner.

The remodeled hotel would complement the city’s plans to revitalize the downtown area, Dunbar said, including a Latino-oriented shopping center, upscale apartments and restaurants and movie theaters. “I see it as supportive of that downtown environment as having a mix of residents that would encourage activity not just during the 8-to-5 hours but during the evening, too,” she said.

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Krotee added that there would be about 15,000 square feet of commercial space on the hotel’s ground floor.

Dunbar said it will probably be “a couple of months” before a loan request goes to the City Council. If the council approves a loan, the hotel could open as early as 1987, she said.

The hotel, which contains about 45,000 square feet of floor space, was closed after the city gave the owner at the time, Mark Y. Lee, repeated warnings to make the necessary repairs. Lee was later found guilty of ignoring those orders and fined $4,000. Half of that money was given to the Feedback Foundation to cover costs of relocating 34 of the tenants who were left without homes when it was closed.


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