Ethnic Cleansing

Anaheim redevelops away the poor

Photo by Myles RobinsonGreat news for residents of Anaheim's Jeffrey-Lynne neighborhood: the city plans to increase parking and widen streets and alleys.

There is one drawback: anywhere from several hundred to more than 1,000 of the mostly Spanish-speaking residents would have to find someplace else to live.

No matter how you cut it, the city's proposal for Jeffrey-Lynne—which lies in the shadow of the Disneyland Hotel—has less to do with its stated goals (fighting crime, raising living standards and increasing affordable housing) than with using federal redevelopment money (as well as various other state and local tax revenues) to finance a forced relocation program for some of the lowest-paid residents in the city, folks who can least afford to move.

After decades of ignoring the densely populated neighborhood, Anaheim ended its policy of neglect last year by announcing plans to help renovate Jeffrey-Lynne and thus raise living standards for the 3,820 people who live there.

But from the moment Anaheim announced it was working on a revitalization plan, many residents and outside observers—including the OC Weekly—feared that what city officials really wanted was to turn the working-class barrio into a suburban-style gated community (see "Here Comes the Neighborhood," July 31, 1998).

The city kept its plan in the dark for a year, told residents there was no reason for concern, and then sent code-enforcement officers into Jeffrey-Lynne to harass street vendors and banned parking on several of the neighborhood's most prominent streets.

But it wasn't until the "Jeffrey-Lynne Revitalization Project" report was unveiled on June 16—the same day it was officially submitted to the City Council for a vote by the Related Cos. of California LLP, an Irvine-based development company—that residents' worst fears were realized. The plans call for razing six low-income apartment buildings in Jeffrey-Lynne, wiping out 300 units, and permanently "displacing" up to 40 percent of the neighborhood's population.

The war on the people of Jeffrey-Lynne doesn't end there. The report shows with stunning clarity the pure nonsense of repeated promises over the past year by city officials who stated that residents' immigration status would not be a factor in determining who can stay in Jeffrey-Lynne.

Because hundreds of people will be forced to move out of the community during construction, the city by law must offer them Section 8 Housing and Urban Development relocation funds. This money, however, is only available to legal U.S. residents. Although the city says it has no idea how many residents aren't legal, the unofficial estimate is 60 percent of Jeffrey-Lynne's total population.

Hundreds of outraged residents showed up at the June 16 meeting to voice their anger over the project, anger that didn't subside until the council promised to delay its vote for a few weeks. Officials with Anaheim's community-development department apparently hope that they can iron out any problems with the plan before the council's next meeting.

But interviews last week with Brent Schultz, director of community development, and Bertha Chavoya, director of the city's housing authority, confirm that the basic thrust of the city's plan hasn't been altered—nor will it.

Chavoya asserted that the city's revitalization plan would add 300 bedrooms to the neighborhood. But she acknowledged that the city would actually reduce the total number of apartments by about 300 units. "If your definition of affordable housing is deferred maintenance; rodent-infested, overcrowded units; high crime; inadequate parking; inadequate open space—then, yes, six buildings will be gone," she said. "But if you look at safe, decent, affordable housing, more than 400 units will remain."

To get into those remaining units, however, prospective tenants will have several hurdles to leap, a process that will start when they fill out applications with the Related Cos., which will provide on-site management for the new-and-improved Jeffrey-Lynne. This means that residents who want to stay in their old neighborhood will have to pass not only the usual credit check but also a criminal background check—meaning that an entire family can be denied an apartment because one member has been arrested—and even a housekeeping examination.

"We're not looking at housekeeping, but [at whether or not] you've destroyed your unit," countered Chavoya. "If that's the case, then there's the possibility that you would not be a good tenant." But some families stand virtually no chance of remaining in Jeffrey-Lynne, regardless of how clean they keep their apartments. To wit: the city's report states flatly that "permanent displacement will be necessary in those instances where . . . appropriately sized replacement units will not be available at the complex following renovation."

Translation: large families won't be eligible to live in Jeffrey-Lynne once the project is finished. "Whenever you go into a neighborhood that is poor, families are going to be doubling up because that's the way they can afford it," said Chavoya. "We try to minimize displacement, but not every family can stay."

Chavoya said that some federal relocation assistance will still be available—on a prorated basis—for families with at least one legal U.S. resident. But community activist Josie Montoya points out that such a strategy will hardly help most families in Jeffrey-Lynne—whose average income hovers below the federal poverty level at $12,000 per year—to survive the hardships of relocation.

"We interviewed Section 8 families and actually found a case where the mom and dad were undocumented but the baby was a legal citizen," said Montoya. "They were receiving $12 per month. Giving a certificate to a family that is equivalent to one-sixth of the rent isn't a lot of help. For some reason, this project is directly costing Anaheim $54 million. Couldn't they set aside a couple of million dollars for relocation?"

The Anaheim City Council is scheduled to vote on the Jeffrey-Lynne Revitalization Project at its July 13 meeting. "We want them to delay the vote again," said Montoya. "We also want them to form an advisory committee made up of residents, property owners, community representatives and city staff to discuss the plan and how it will affect the residents of Jeffrey-Lynne. As it stands now, it's not acceptable to them."

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