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BREA : Council OKs 5-Year Redevelopment Plan

A plan that will guide the course of redevelopment over the next five years was approved 4 to 1 this week by the City Council.

Under state law, cities must adopt five-year plans by the end of 1994 explaining how redevelopment will reduce urban blight.

Brea’s plan identifies goals such as completing the current downtown revitalization project, increasing the amount of affordable housing, marketing vacant industrial buildings and properties, and making infrastructure improvements.

Councilwoman Kathryn E. Wiser, who cast the dissenting vote, said Brea’s redevelopment efforts, which began in 1971, have had a “beautiful end result.” But she said that acquiring land by use of eminent domain is too high a price to pay.

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“The city wouldn’t stop if we didn’t have” redevelopment, Wiser said.

Brea did not originally use eminent domain for redevelopment purposes, but that policy was reversed in 1989 because the city was having trouble getting the final pieces of required property.

The city’s redevelopment efforts have been harshly criticized by some residents and business owners, and have been scrutinized by state and federal investigators.

A report by the state Fair Political Practices Commission says that one of the current council members, Carrey J. Nelson, apparently violated conflict-of-interest laws by voting on matters while he had a financial interest in property in the redevelopment area. No enforcement action was taken, however, because the statute of limitations had expired, the report says.

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Nelson, who has decided not to run in the November election, now abstains from voting on redevelopment matters.

Former mayors Ronald E. Isles and Wayne D. Wedin also were charged with conflict of interest. Isles was removed from the council after being successfully prosecuted by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Wedin was acquitted in a jury trial but chose to give up his council seat.

Despite the legal controversies, Councilwoman Bev Perry praised the city’s redevelopment.

“The downtown would not have happened by itself,” Perry said, referring to a long-delayed project to revitalize 50 acres of the city core.

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The project’s first phase got under way in June when construction began on Gateway Center, a 22-acre shopping complex at Imperial Highway and Brea Boulevard. Later phases will involve building nearly 100 single-family homes and developing the Birch Walk pedestrian mall with movie theaters, fountains, public art, shops and restaurants.

“We’re hoping this will be Brea’s future for some time,” Perry said, “and it has to be done right.”

Councilman Burnie Dunlap also endorsed the five-year plan and redevelopment in general. He pointed out that redevelopment efforts have already resulted in school improvements and construction of Fire Station No. 3.

Other redevelopment projects include the Civic and Cultural Center, Brea Mall, Brea Marketplace, renovation of the Brea plunge and widening of Imperial Highway.

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“This community has received enormous benefit and will continue to receive enormous benefit” from redevelopment, Dunlap said.

Mayor Glenn G. Parker said redevelopment has allowed Brea to increase its sales tax income in the wake of sharp revenue losses due to the passage of Proposition 13. Brea now generates enough sales tax to pay for 94% of the public safety expenses.

“Proposition 13 changed the rules for cities,” Parker said. “That’s the bottom line.”


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