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ANAHEIM : Suit Delays Plan for Redevelopment

Long-awaited plans to rejuvenate the Anaheim Plaza mall and the area surrounding it have been delayed because two Anaheim residents have sued the city, arguing that its redevelopment plan does not provide enough low-income housing.

Maria Torres and Maria Lara, both members of Hermandad Mexicana Nacional an immigrants rights group in Anaheim and Santa Ana, charge in a suit filed two weeks ago that the city redevelopment plan is flawed. The suit claims the city’s housing plan was not up to date at the time the redevelopment proposal was approved, as required by state law.

The lawsuit also challenges the city’s position that the area is predominantly “blighted,” which must be established before a redevelopment project area can be approved.

Through the lawsuit, Torres and Lara hope to win more money for low-income housing than what is now planned for the area. State law requires that a minimum of 20% of tax money collected in a redevelopment area be used for low-income housing. The money can be used for either constructing the housing, or paying for related uses such as road or street lighting improvements that would ensure such housing would be built.

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“We can use some of the money to build housing for the low-income people,” said Torres. “They’re paying taxes, they deserve better homes.”

The women are represented by Jonathan Lehrer-Graiwer, a Los Angeles-based attorney known for challenging redevelopment agencies and other civic entities to ensure taxes collected for low-income homes are used for that purpose.

City officials were upset by the suit, which was filed within hours of the 60-day appeal deadline. The project has been in the works for 18 months and has been met with considerable support by merchants and residents in the community.

“It was disappointing that the attorney first resorted to the court system to discuss the concerns of his clients given the exhaustive opportunities over the last year and a half for . . . all interested individuals to discuss questions and concerns with the agency and staff,” said City Manager James Ruth.

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The city has held numerous public hearings on the plan to redevelop the 350-acre area. Dozens of residents attended those hearings, culminating in an celebration with nearly 100 residents the night the plan was passed by the City Council.


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