Sweeping the Poor, the Homeless, and the Disabled under the “Rug”

This was brought to my attention and it is something that completely appalls me as a citizen of Anaheim. The City had the opportunity to provide housing for those who have been diagnosed with mental illness, the poor, and the homeless. Some of the comments that were made by those in attendance were appalling. Even city council member Lorri Galloway, who has spent her life running a home for those who are down and out, voted to table the approval of the project. Where is the leadership?

What’s next, will the City of Anaheim just round every one of the “undesirables” load them onto a bus, and dump them on the streets of Los Angeles? Is this just the continuing problem of NIMBYism that constantly affects every major local and countywide project that we have faced over the past 10 years (El Toro, Centerline, Freeway Expansion, the proposed OC-Riverside Tunnel, etc…)

On the agenda at last night’s Anaheim City Council meeting there was an item to approve an apartment community for low-income homeless with diagnosed mental illness. During a three-hour public comment period nearly fifty local residents came out in opposition to the project. The people that spoke against the project said some horrific things about the mentally ill and the homeless. They said that this community would be a dumping ground for “undesirables” and generally made bigoted statements towards the project’s target population.

The City Council called the residents out on this point, telling them that they should be ashamed for what was said during the meeting. The Council then turned around and asked that the Housing Authority pull the proposal from the agenda so they wouldn’t have to vote it down. Not only was the Council hypocritical but spineless in their actions. It is the Anaheim City Council that should be ashamed for their actions last night.

(more after the jump)

Even Lorri Galloway supported pulling the item from the agenda, the same Lorri Galloway that has made her career by running a house for the down and out. She, and the entire Council, showed no leadership on the issue of special needs housing and over the past few months they have turned their backs on affordable housing in general.

Anaheim has a large homeless population living it its motels, and it’s a problem that the City needs to address but has done nothing about. The majority of the City’s money comes from taxes on the hotels and motels that support the Disneyland Resort and Convention Center, the homeless population is one downside to the hospitality industry that supports the City of Anaheim.

It is not impossible for city officials to lead their city towards better policies on housing affordability; they just have to stand up and make the argument for affordable projects and policies and then take principled stands when they are faced with resident opposition like Anaheim’s Council was last night.

Irvine is a model for this type of leadership. In a very conservative and affluent city, the city leadership has been able to push forward a strong policy on affordable housing and because of it they have more affordable units than any other city in Orange County. The availability of affordable housing for Irvine’s workforce has contributed to the city’s economic growth and its transition from a bedroom community to a commercial and industrial center. Irvine is now ranked as one of the 10th fastest growing cities in the United States.

It is the type of leadership that Irvine has that Anaheim needs. I am sorely disappointed in the Anaheim City Council’s actions last night, both for their lack of support for this project and the cowardice they showed in the way the rejected it. Anaheim’s pro-business approach may have blinded the caring and compassion that the members of the city council possess. While Anaheim continues to grow, it will have to face these problems head on and not sweep them under the rug. The least they could have done was give it a vote and show that they too were as bigoted as the residents who spoke.

4 Comments so far

  1. Kevin (unregistered) on June 22nd, 2006 @ 3:49 pm

    Speaking as a resident of downtown Anaheim, there’s more to this particular story than what appeared in the paper.

    As I understand it, this particular parcel of land was a planned site for low-income family housing. At the last minute (like, within the last week) the developer declared that this project didn’t ‘pencil out’, changing the focus of the project to the homeless and mentally ill (to attract additional government funding), and significantly upping its density, with the majority of the units becoming studio and one-bedroom apartments. With just a few days’ notice to the public (at best), it was this totally new, completely changed project that was going up for Council approval on Tuesday night.

    With the word going around in the neighborhood that day for anyone who had the luxury to show on on short notice to that night’s Council meeting, is it any surprise that some bigoted, fearful, and less-than-erudite ‘anyones’ attended to speak off-the-cuff? With the city and the developer making no effort at all to inform citizens about this last-minute project change, is it any surprise that some of the speakers were uninformed? If city staff and the Council want positive community reaction, they should actually try working with the community beforehand, keeping them informed and soliciting their input, rather trying to slide something unpalatable through at the last minute via a bait-and-switch.

    And I don’t think it’s completely unfair to ask: why isn’t the Council considering building low-income housing projects in Anaheim Hills? Why don’t they add a high-density low-income housing component to the high-density Platinum Triangle? Look at the Times article that you linked to: at the same time that the Council is lecturing downtown residents on their shocking lack of compassion, city planners spiked a development with 300 low-income housing units along Katella Avenue (“Katella’s a major thoroughfare . . . we wanted people to see resort development along that entrance corridor”) and the Council approved the condo conversion of a large Platinum Triangle apartment complex, taking more rental units off the market. Downtown Anaheim seems to be a dumping ground for the projects that ‘rich’ Anaheim doesn’t want — and in the process, we get to be lectured about what bastards we are.


  2. Grant (unregistered) on June 22nd, 2006 @ 8:17 pm

    Kevin,

    You are completely right that the City of Anaheim is doing nothing to increase the number of affordable units within the city and the affordability of housing in general. However, you are incorrect in your facts concerning this specific project.

    The project did not change from a family to a special needs project at the last minute. That change occurred two months before this weeks meeting. In fact, the project had twice been before the Anaheim Redevelopment and Housing Commission as a special needs deal. You are right when you say that this project won’t work as a family project, and that’s what drove the change to special needs. The City is putting the land into the deal, but no money. As you might imagine, affordable housing doesn’t pay very well so the developer had to find available money elsewhere and OC HCS and the Governor’s Homeless Initiative were the only places it could be found.

    You are right also right that the city staff, and the developer, needs to work with the residents more to avoid this type of backlash. But this wasn’t a bait-and-switch on either the City’s or developer’s part.


  3. Kevin (unregistered) on June 23rd, 2006 @ 8:18 am

    I stand corrected on the sequence of events. It seems that our local politics-watchers (who are usually on top of what’s happening in our neighborhood) totally missed the boat on changes to this project until earlier this week.

    However, that doesn’t change the need for city leaders to work with the community instead of preaching to it. And given the city’s recent record on low-income housing issues, plus the inequity present in their beliefs about where these projects should be placed (nowhere that might disturb tourists or rich people!), I still find the sanctimonousness displayed by the City Council to be galling in the extreme.


  4. Grant Henninger (unregistered) on June 23rd, 2006 @ 4:11 pm

    Kevin,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The city staff and elected leadership didn’t work with the residents and have done everything they can to hide, and in most cases not even approve, affordable housing in the city.



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