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Jeffrey-Lynne’s 1-Step Program

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For Maria Torres, home is a cluttered one-bedroom apartment she shares with her husband, their 2-year-old son and another couple.

Too often, home also is the sound of gunshots. Depending on the time of night, they could be mistaken for the summer’s daily dose of fireworks from nearby Disneyland.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Jul. 08, 1999 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday July 8, 1999 Orange County Edition Metro Part B Page 4 Metro Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
Jeffrey-Lynne--A story Wednesday incorrectly stated the day when Anaheim’s City Council will consider a plan to renovate the Jeffrey-Lynne neighborhood. It is next Tuesday.

Residents call Anaheim’s Jeffrey-Lynne neighborhood “Tijuanita” (Little Tijuana). Police call it their own Vietnam in the war against crime because their efforts seem to bring no lasting victories.

That’s why next Wednesday the City Council will consider a plan to consolidate and rehabilitate more than half of the area’s apartments, including Torres’, in a $54-million affordable housing project that would boast a community center with recreation rooms.

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Torres and many neighbors are worried. While these new apartments are being built, will she be able to live within walking distance of work, as she does now? Will the new housing truly be affordable? Rents would stay in the $500 range for a one-bedroom apartment, but Torres fears that rental-sharing would be forbidden.

“I don’t know where I’ll go,” she said. “I won’t be able to afford the apartment after they renovate it.”

As in many other areas of Southern California, the question in Jeffrey-Lynne is one of how best to provide sorely needed affordable housing. Housing must accommodate the region’s hefty population growth and sustain a booming economy that depends on low-wage workers. In this case, it’s Disneyland and the businesses that support the theme park, authorities said.

“The need is much greater today than ever before,” said Mark Baldassare, UC Irvine professor of urban and regional planning. “From the standpoint of the working poor, there just isn’t much out there for them.”

No one disagrees with the need for housing. Instead, arguments over the Jeffrey-Lynne project revolve around what will happen to the people living there now. City officials assure residents that none will go homeless and promise to use public funds to subsidize differences in rent for those who will have to move. But many residents fear that the city will not live up to its promise.

“Nobody here really believes that the city wants to help,” said resident Mosqueda Candelaria, 34, who lives with her husband and three children in a one-bedroom apartment.

The plan calls for reducing the number of apartments for low-income families, from 438 to 367, in the three-block core of Jeffrey-Lynne. The plan initially will affect more than half of the available units in the area bounded by Cerritos and Audre avenues and Walnut and 9th streets. Although many of the residents will be allowed to return, the project could potentially displace more than 1,000 people, authorities said.

Because of that, Councilman Tom Tait plans to vote against it.

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“A huge chunk of housing assistance dollars” would be devoted to the project, actually worsening the housing crunch, he said. That money, he argued, could be used instead to pay for additional apartments for other families.

“I just think it’s plain wrong,” Tait said. “You’re going to have to take people’s private properties, in addition to kicking out some very hard-working families.”

Supporters of the project argue that the city needs to improve living conditions for the poor as well as provide enough housing. The best way to accomplish that goal, they say, is to gut the entire area and start anew. And without refurbishment, the neighborhood will deteriorate until it becomes nearly impossible to turn around, said Bertha Chavoya, housing manager for the Anaheim Housing Authority.

“For 20 years, we’ve poured money into this area and it hasn’t made the area much better,” Chavoya said. “This is a solution that would work. It has worked before [in similar neighborhoods].”

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Even before the housing debate, Anaheim residents and officials were arguing about who is responsible for conditions in the troubled neighborhood and how they should be improved.

Police contend that they can’t clean up the area without the help of building owners. Absentee landlords allow substandard living conditions, police say, and knowingly rent to criminals.

Building code enforcement officers have put pressure on owners to clean up their apartments, issuing more than 5,000 citations from July 1998 to April 1999. But leaky roofs, moldy floors and dripping faucets remain at many of the apartments, authorities said.

“It’s just a drain on the city and it’s not fair to the rest of Anaheim because other people need our services as well,” said Lt. Charlie Chavez, community policing commander whose team has been stationed in the neighborhood on and off for the last 10 years.

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The owners, arguing that they cannot monitor tenants 24 hours a day, accuse the city of trying to use crime to acquire the properties at below cost. Residents, on the other hand, question why the city would want to wreak havoc in their lives by permanently displacing some of them while claiming to have their best interest in mind.

Francisco Ceja, a Jeffrey-Lynne resident since 1990, said he remains skeptical of city officials.

“If the conditions here are bad, it’s partly because the city has allowed them to be,” said Ceja, a maintenance worker employed at the nearby Days Inn who is fighting the city’s proposal. “Now they want to come in and relocate people and raise the rent. It’s going to create a lot of hardship for a lot of people.”

Anaheim’s Jeffrey-Lynne neighborhood, named for the two intersecting streets at its heart, is composed mostly of Latino immigrants living in one-bedroom apartments built in the 1950s and 1960s, according to a report prepared by Related Companies of California and Southern California Housing Development Corporation, developers for the project. Most families--83%--earn less than $2,000 a month, the report shows.

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They work in the resort area, as dishwashers, janitors, cooks and other low-wage employees, city officials said. Many can’t afford the price of apartments in Orange County, which average about $900 for a two-bedroom unit, so families commonly share a rental.

“I went into one place in which [residents] have converted a one-bedroom into a three-bedroom by tying sheets in the middle of the bedroom,” Chavoya said. “The mother and father were in one half of the room and the other half went to the three boys. In the living room were two girls and the woman’s sister.”

In Torres’ apartment, her family sleeps in one corner of the living room while the other couple takes the bedroom.

“If I had more money, I wouldn’t be living here,” said Torres, who walks to work at a nearby restaurant. “But this is OK. It’s better than not having an apartment. That’s what I worry about, mainly because I have a son. He needs an apartment.”

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Authorities are responsible for finding homes for qualified low-income residents, either by offering a renovated apartment at the same price or compensation via a housing voucher or cash.

The picture is complicated by the large number of Jeffrey-Lynne residents who are in the country illegally--up to a third, city officials estimate. It is illegal to use public funds to relocate undocumented immigrants, who usually have the lowest incomes.

If the City Council approves the revitalization plan next week, housing officials will be authorized to begin negotiations on the properties, form a residential advisory board and submit an application to a national program that trades tax credits to corporations in exchange for funding. The deadline for that is July 15, and if missed, authorities would have to wait until next year to apply, further delaying the project, Chavoya said. Of the $54 million needed, about $24 million would come from the tax-credit program. The city would contribute roughly $14 million from various federal, state and city funds while $16 million more would be borrowed in a conventional loan.

“This is an enormous challenge to the city,” Chavoya said. “There’s a lot of fear out there, and understandably so. . . . But all we’re trying to do is to provide the people with a better place to live.”

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But building owners say Jeffrey-Lynne already is improving without a massive new housing project. Crime has dropped dramatically, they say, the apartments themselves have been repaired, and as real estate values begin to curve upward, they are finally profiting from the properties. After their initial talks with the developers, many landlords are complaining that they could be shortchanged as the city moves to acquire their land.

Jose Perez, who owns a building in the core area, said he recently remodeled his apartment complex, putting on a fresh coat of paint, installing new carpet and landscaping the courtyard, only to find out that the city wants to tear it all down.

Barry Reioux, who said he also has spent a lot of money maintaining a couple of buildings on Michelle Drive, doesn’t want to give up his apartments. Reioux believes that property values in the area will continue to rise, especially since it is close to Disneyland. Selling to the city now would mean losing the potential for a bigger profit, he said.

“The market is coming back and I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “I’m afraid it’ll turn out to be a freight train called the city of Anaheim.”

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Renovate, Rebuild

The City Council will vote on a plan to tear down moe than half the apartments in Anaheim’s Jeffrey-Lynne neighborhood and replace them with a $54-million affordable housing project.

Jeffrey-Lynne Revitalization Plan

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On July 13, Anaheim’s city council will consider whether to initiate an ambitious affordable housing project to renovate 50 existing apartments buildings and demolish six others to build a community center. The plan will affect an area bounded by Walnut and Hampstead streets, and Lynne and Audre avenues.

Project Highlights:

* Converting 438 one-bedroom apartments into a gated-community of 367 larger apartments, including 133 one-bedroom, 106 two-bedroom, 100 three-bedroom and 28 four-bedroom units

* Leveling all garages and replacing them with 990 parking spaces in carports

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* Creating cul-de-sacs to eliminate through traffic in an effort to reduce crime

Source: Related Companies of California


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