O.C. Will Renovate Facilities in La Colonia

Times Staff Writer

Months after diverting nearly half a million dollars that had been earmarked for improvements to La Colonia Independencia, a poor unincorporated area near Anaheim, Orange County Supervisors on Tuesday approved $104,000 in renovations to its community center.

Supervisor Chris Norby, whose district includes the working-class neighborhood of 1,000 residents, said the money will refurbish the center’s basketball court and pay for new windows and other items.

Long-time resident Albert Lopez, who had criticized the previous action, welcomed the board’s decision. “This is great news,” he said. “We don’t want to be abandoned.”

Some residents had expressed frustration with the board and Norby when $450,000 was diverted to repair a historic building in Placentia.


La Colonia residents told the board that then-Supervisor Cynthia P. Coad earmarked funds in 2002 to build a park and low-income senior housing. But the project died when a local school district was not able to release the land.

Faced with returning the funds to Sacramento, Norby said he decided to use the money to renovate the George Key Ranch. The 2 1/2-acre ranch is on the National Register of Historic Places and is visited by more than 6,000 schoolchildren a year, said Dianne S. Brooks, chairwoman of the county’s historical commission.

La Colonia was founded before World War I by laborers who came to work in local orange groves. As late as the 1970s, the quarter-mile-square district lacked sewers, paved streets and sidewalks. It is part of a larger area the city of Anaheim plans to annex. It is bordered by Gilbert Street on the east, Katella Avenue on the south, Pacific Place on the north, and Magnolia Avenue on the west.

“We want to get the community center in as good a shape as possible for when Anaheim takes over,” Norby said.