City officials and residents debated the merits of Santa Ana's aggressive downtown redevelopment plans at a public meeting designed to obtain views on a document intended as a "guide" for the City Council in considering various projects.
City Manager Robert C. Bobb told about 30 residents Thursday night gathered in the Police Annex building that 14 major projects are either planned or under construction downtown with a total development value of about $250 million. Those projects include the Westdome, an enclosed sports arena to be built at the southwest corner of Civic Center Drive and Flower Street; Centerpointe, an $85-million hotel and office complex southeast of Fifth and Ross streets, and the Fiesta Marketplace, a $10-million Latino-oriented shopping area southwest of Bush and Fifth streets.
However, some people argued that Santa Ana should follow the advice of a study undertaken by the Urban Land Institute in January, which recommended slower-paced redevelopment. Bob Lopez, spokesman for the Alliance for Fair Redevelopment in Santa Ana, said the amount of subsidies given to developers is not offset by construction of replacement housing for those displaced by the activity and code enforcement.
Bobb said the frenetic pace of downtown redevelopment will produce income for the city that can be used for the replacement housing. When criticized for being so persistent in pursuing a project, the city manager replied that without such an approach, such proposals as the Westdome might not be feasible.
"When we start a project, the people who work for me had better grab hold of that project, run with it and make it happen," he said. "If they (the City Council) say 'Build it on top of the I-5 Freeway,' we will build it on top of the I-5 Freeway."
Downtown Development Commission Director Roger Kooi asked that residents direct their views on the 10-point policy to his office, or call (714) 973-6131 before Nov. 1.
Several people at the meeting expressed support for the aggressive policy, arguing that redevelopment is the only way to revitalize a slumping downtown economy. Said one member of the audience: "I'm from the philosophy that says 'renew or die.' I can support these plans wholeheartedly."