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Anaheim Votes to Rebuild Jeffrey-Lynne

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a controversial vote before a packed audience, the Anaheim City Council authorized housing officials Tuesday night to seek public funds to help buy out landlords and rebuild the blighted Jeffrey-Lynne neighborhood.

Housing authorities praised the council’s 3-2 vote for what is expected to be a $55-million project as one the city’s biggest commitments yet to provide quality, affordable apartments to area residents.

“We think this is a good investment in this neighborhood,” said Elisa Stipkovich, director of the city’s Community Development Department. “We’ll create long-term affordable housing.”

About 30 of some 200 people who attended the meeting spoke out, mostly against the plan. Some tenants fear that the city is exaggerating the neighborhood’s crime problem to implement a plan that will potentially displace them.

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“We will not tolerate the criminalizing of our community to justify anybody’s agenda,” resident Francisco Ceja said.

Apartment owners, many of whom were concerned that they will lose money in the deal, also voiced their opposition. Some also dread the possibility that the city will use its eminent domain power to buy their properties below cost.

The city plans to use about a third of the $55-million cost of the project toward acquiring properties. That averages about $35,000 per building, one landlord said.

“If that isn’t stealing property from property owners, I don’t know what is,” said Abbey Silverstone, who owns an apartment building.

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While Mayor Tom Daly stressed that he understood the concerns, he said the plan is the best way to provide quality affordable housing.

“There’s no question that the Jeffrey-Lynne neighborhood is overcrowded. There’s no question that housing is substandard in many of the properties. . . . There’s too much crime,” said Daly, who voted for the plan. “This plan starts to solve those problems.”

Councilman Tom Tait, who with Councilwoman Lucille Kring voted against it, disagreed, saying the rebuilding project is based on a shaky foundation.

“I have a problem with a plan based on taking people’s properties . . . and forcing people from their homes,” Tait said.

Comprised of mostly small apartment buildings built in the 1960s, Jeffrey-Lynne is an overcrowded five-block area in the shadow of Disneyland. Its mostly Latino population works at the nearby theme park and surrounding businesses.

City officials said that even though they have poured an enormous amount of resources into the barrio, including about $600,000 a year in police services alone, the area remains among Anaheim’s most violent neighborhoods.

Though there has been some improvement, police say apathetic owners and severe overcrowding--an average of five people share each one-bedroom unit--have made it nearly impossible for them to control crime in the long run.

Under the plan, the number of apartments in the core area--bounded by Hampstead and Walnut streets, and Audre and Lynne avenues--would be reduced from 441 mostly one-bedroom units to 367 larger apartments.

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