Lacy neighborhood residents met on Monday afternoon at Santa Ana's Familias Corazones Verdes Park community center to talk about housing issues affecting their communities. A marker board outlined an agenda for the advocates including a discussion about last week's ground breaking ceremony for the Depot at Santiago, a new affordable housing development near the Santa Ana train station. Instead of celebrating the project as a success, residents recounted sour experiences of exclusion.
A dozen people from the neighborhood group planned to attend the ground breaking event with their children last Thursday. Being affordable housing activists, they wanted to learn more about Depot at Santiago. C&C Development acquired the property at the intersection of North Santiago Street and Santa Ana Boulevard years ago and bulldozed a strip of warehouses that once served as an underground hub for artists and Chicano culture.
A large white canopy provided shade for attendants at the noontime event. Red and white balloons helped create a celebratory atmosphere. Orange County Housing Development Corporation, C&C Development and folks from the Kennedy Commission sat at tables under the canopy. Santa Ana council members Michele Martinez and David Benavides showed up to mark the occasion where lunch and a short program exalting the virtues of the development would take place. But not all was inviting.
Maricela Castro, a Santa Ana resident with the Corazones Verdes group, brought her husband who took the day off work to attend the event. “When we arrived, there was an information table,” Castro recounted in Spanish at the Corazones Verdes meeting. A woman approached Castro and her husband. “What are you doing here? Who invited you?” she asked. “I'm with Corazones Verdes,” Castro responded. The identification didn't get her into the ground breaking ceremony. Instead, the woman questioned Castro if she came for a rental application, noting that the ground breaking event didn't have any on hand. Castro and her husband, who took the day off work to attend, left disappointed. Barry Cottle, C&C Development co-owner, insists that there had been a mix up at the affordable housing event. The city of Santa Ana's Facebook page shared the ceremony's flyer on July 18 and it reads “R.S.V.P. not necessary” at the bottom. “It got out on the city's Facebook page, which is fine,” Cottle tells the Weekly. But the folks who showed up, according to Cottle, thought that there'd be rental applications. “We gave out business cards to urge them to call us about them,” he added.
The city of Santa Ana sent out a press release earlier this week touting the 70-unit, workforce housing Depot at Santiago project. Rents will range from $606-$1,364 for future one, two, and three bedroom apartments, including units for special needs tenants. “We have 400 people already on the initial interest list,” Cottle reports. The developer doesn't want that number to discourage people from getting on the waiting list in offering a (714) 289-7600 bilingual line to call. “The demand for affordable housing is so strong.”
Families at the Corazones Verdes meeting know that all too well having long applied for units at the Depot months ago. They relayed similar experiences to Castro's during the discussion. Members talked about how the Depot at Santiago ground breaking was never mentioned as a private event with the city openly promoting it on social media. A few of the group's members managed to get in, but felt the experience to be an unpleasant one in light of those who didn't.
There's always the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Depot at Santiago is slated to move in its first tenants by July 2017.