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LA HABRA : Planners Approve Homeless Housing

Before an emotional crowd of almost 100 residents, the Planning Commission this week voted 2 to 1 to recommend the city’s first transitional housing project for homeless families.

Commissioner Joan Johnson cast the dissenting vote against Mary’s Home for Transitional Families, arguing that traffic from the project will have a negative impact on the surrounding community.

Johnson added that the estimated $2.5-million tab to build the facility could be better spent in other ways and that the proposed location--a 1.55-acre lot behind Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and School on West La Habra Boulevard--would instead be “a perfect spot for low-income housing.”

But Commissioners Paul Thornburg and Michael Collins, who voted against the facility at previous public hearings, said changes from the original plans submitted by the coordinators of Mary’s Home adequately solved parking, traffic and density concerns, prompting them to vote in favor of the revised proposal.

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Commissioners Eugene LaBlond and Patrick Kelley abstained because of personal ties to the project. LaBlond’s wife serves on the Mary’s Home board of directors; Kelley’s engineering firm conducted the first traffic-impact report.

Protesters, who made up almost half of the crowd, wore stickers reading “Against Mary’s Home” and vowed to urge the City Council to reject the plan. Lynn Rolnik, who represents about 250 residents living around the proposed project location, said a group of protesters was advised that it could take legal action, but she would not discuss details.

“No matter what size this project is, it will have a negative impact on this neighborhood’s (property) values,” Rolnik said. Echoing a statement repeated by other opposition speakers, she added: “Maybe if it was a higher-income neighborhood, (the residents) would have more pull.”

The Planning Commission’s recommendation approves a general-plan amendment to increase the neighborhood’s property density from single- to multiple-family housing, a zone variance to reduce on-site parking spaces from 99 to 61, and a day-care facility for the families living at the home. A plan that reduced housing from a maximum of 32 homeless families to 28 also was given a positive vote.

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“If this goes all the way, we’ll be able to prove to the people opposing Mary’s Home that it is worthwhile and it is a tribute to the city,” said Robert Hana, coordinator for Mary’s Home.

The City Council is scheduled to make a final decision on the nonprofit facility next month.


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