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Orange County nonprofit sues Santa Ana, alleging city violated affordable housing law

Orange County nonprofit sues Santa Ana, alleging city violated affordable housing law
Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido speaks during a City Council meeting. A lawsuit was filed against the city of Santa Ana on Monday alleging it is violating a state affordable housing law. (Jeff Antenore)

An Orange County nonprofit filed a lawsuit Monday alleging Santa Ana is offering land to commercial developers in violation of a state law that requires the city to first consider the parcels for affordable housing and open space.

Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development, an advocacy group for the working-class, filed the complaint amid public outcry from community groups.

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“The lawsuit is the last recourse that we would take but we feel it’s the only way for the city to listen to its residents,” said OCCORD Deputy Director Flor Barajas-Tena. “Unfortunately, it only listens when there is a lawsuit.”

According to the complaint, the Santa Ana City Council voted March 5 to put 88 undeveloped land parcels along Bristol Street out to bid for commercial real estate companies. Responses from applicants are due by May 29.

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OCCORD claims in the lawsuit that this action violated the Surplus Land Act, a state law requiring the city to first offer the land to affordable housing developers and open-space agencies.

Daisy Perez, Santa Ana’s senior management assistant, said Monday the city won’t comment on the lawsuit because it hasn’t yet been served.

Members of OCCORD and various partnering community groups have formed a coalition that has attended council meetings in the past few months in hopes of persuading city officials to reconsider. OCCORD sent a demand letter to the city on Feb. 26, threatening possible legal action.

Other organizations in the coalition include Latino Health Access, Resilience OC, Orange County Environmental Justice, the Kennedy Commission and the El Centro Cultural de México community center.

The coalition exemplifies a battle between community advocates arguing for more open space and affordable housing and a city that has trended toward commercial growth.

Barajas-Tena said the city is in an affordable-housing crisis.

“At the heart and soul of this is making a stake of who gets to remain and thrive in this city,” Barajas-Tena said. “We want working-class families to be able to have a dignified life. That’s what we at OCCORD fight for. We believe that we want what everyone wants — to be able to have parks close to us and have families to be able to stay in their city.”

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