About 100 tenants picketed outside their West 5th Street residences Tuesday, protesting a plan to bulldoze their homes and build 172 apartments on the site.
The tenants of the 50 or so homes in the 3800 block of the street said that they were told of the proposal only recently and that they lack the resources to find replacement housing.
However, city officials said they complied with state and local laws in notifying all property owners within 300 feet that public hearings would be held in February to discuss the project. The residents, primarily low-income Latinos, sought legal assistance from an immigrants' rights organization, Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, and last week a Superior Court judge ruled that the development firm, Classic Development Corp. of Irvine, cannot evict anyone before a formal hearing on July 21.
The residents, who said they were notified by landlords June 9 that they would have to be out in 30 days, said that they cannot afford to move and that not enough affordable housing is available in Santa Ana. Hermandad spokesman Nativo Lopez said he hopes that the city and the developer will negotiate a settlement with the group, either to locate suitable housing or provide some low-income units within the proposed apartment complex.
"We think the onus is on the city and the developer to find replacement housing," he said. Company representatives declined comment Tuesday.
But Santa Ana City Atty. Edward J. Cooper said that notices of the hearing were sent to all property owners and that the city is not required to inform renters of such actions. In fact, the city has no involvement in that element of the private development, in which the property owner has "the right to develop the land in whatever way he wants," Cooper said.
Hermandad attorney Richard L. Spix is also calling for an environmental impact report on the project, but Cooper said the statute of limitations for such a request has passed. "This particular lawsuit has missed the mark by four or five months," Cooper said.
The apartments are dilapidated and include many with code violations, Lopez said. A tour of two units revealed cracked and broken walls, some plumbing and electrical problems.