Tractors have hauled away heaps of chopped concrete, broken pipes and debris from two run-down motels frequently inhabited by drug users and vagrants in Pico Rivera.
They were clearing the way for the construction of 113 new Craftsman-inspired homes and a 104-unit senior citizens apartment complex. The project represents the first new single-family development in Pico Rivera in more than a decade.
Before the city acquired the property a year and a half ago, the 13-acre blighted area also included boarded-up houses and vacant buildings that bred crime, according to Sheriff's Department officials.
The Dunes motel was the last to go. It was a small, two-story structure along Rosemead Boulevard that was frequented by drug dealers, prostitutes and vandals, said Sheriff's Sgt. Kevin Lloyd.
"It wasn't the kind of motel used by families on vacation," Lloyd said. Sheriff's deputies were called down there a lot, he said. "Every one or two days there was something going on . . . drug busts, prostitution. [The redevelopment project] is a great change for a much safer community."
The demolition of the dilapidated motels marks the second phase of the four-phase project, which is expected to be completed within two years.
Along the commercial stretches of the site are fast-food restaurants, gas stations, a florist and clothing stores.
Farther south, across Washington Boulevard, is a neighborhood of small, pastel-colored single-story houses.
The $30-million project is a public-private enterprise between Braemar Urban Ventures and the Pico Rivera Redevelopment Agency.
So far, 25 homes have been built and 20 have been sold. The single-family, two-story homes sold for an average of $175,000. Sales associates are available to provide interested buyers with information on special financing, a first-time buyer's plan and to link them with lenders.
"People have a lot of questions about affordability and many are first-time buyers," said Avi Brosh, director of Braemar Urban Ventures. "The services will ease the move-in process for them."
The senior citizens apartment complex, still in the development phase, will include one- and two-bedroom units with monthly rents at $300 to $600.
David Hertzing, the city's development director, said he is looking forward to the project's completion.
"We'll get rid of the blighted area. They provide a good, secure, safe area for people to raise families," Hertzing said. "It's a good location that provides access to shopping areas and freeways."
But longtime resident Carmen Chavez, who lives a block away from the site of the new homes, had a mixed reaction about the project.
"There are so many accidents on the intersection [at Rosemead and Washington boulevards]. It's a busy area already," Chavez said.
Pico Rivera has a population of 61,100 and includes 16,558 residences, including houses, condominiums and apartments.
"Most of the buyers are coming from Pico Rivera and nearby cities," Brosh said. "We're really not talking about overcrowding here."
Nearby resident Guadalupe Fong sees a positive effect from the project. "The houses make the area look nicer," she said. "It's important that we have good homeowners who maintain the land and keep their houses clean and safe."