NORWALK — In a plan that could greatly expand the scope of commercial redevelopment, the City Council this week adopted a survey area of properties to be studied for possible revitalization.
Adoption of the survey area--which includes scattered parcels throughout the city--is the first step in a months-long process toward establishing the city's second redevelopment project.
Buoyed by the success of its first venture, the city has 374 acres in the survey area--contrasted with 594 acres in the current redevelopment effort. If adopted as a redevelopment project, the properties could represent the city's best hope to attract new commercial development for years to come, city officials said.
"The original redevelopment area was not extensive enough," said Councilman Cecil N. Green, adding that he hopes that the proposed redevelopment project will revitalize the "major portion of problem properties" in the city.
Definite plans for any of the properties have not been made, but two of the major considerations for any development are the income it could bring to the city and the benefits it could have for the entire community.
The first redevelopment effort--with more than $150 million worth of projects either completed, proposed or under way--concentrated on revamping properties near the Civic Center and along Firestone Boulevard. Some of the projects include the expansion of automobile dealerships, the construction of the Price Club at a closed school site and the construction of several shopping centers, including the Norwalk Shopping Center now under way at Pioneer and Firestone boulevards.
In the new plan, the City Council agreed to add residential sites not originally recommended by staff. Among those are 13 homes contained in a triangular block near Rosecrans Avenue and Pioneer Boulevard, known as Five Points, and three mobile-home parks along Pioneer Boulevard.
Properties included in the survey area are not necessarily going to be made part of the proposed redevelopment project. The designated sites will be sent to the Planning Commission so it can formulate and adopt a preliminary plan. After the city drafts various studies, including an environmental impact report and a redevelopment plan, a public hearing will be scheduled on the affected properties. The hearing is one of the last steps in the establishment of a redevelopment project.
Most of the properties are clustered near the intersection of Pioneer and Alondra boulevards; along Rosecrans Avenue between Carmenita Road and Greenstone Avenue; the corners of the Rosecrans Avenue-Studebaker Road intersection; a portion of the Imperial Highway and Studebaker Road intersection; two corners at Alondra Boulevard and Studebaker Road; properties along San Antonio Drive between Rosecrans Avenue and Foster Road; properties near the intersection of Pioneer Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue, and several smaller parcels or blocks in the city.
'Be Fair to Us'
So far, the plan has met with enthusiasm from most affected residents and business owners, city officials said. One person spoke against the measure at Monday's council meeting. Alberta Moss, a homeowner on Valencia Street, asked the city to be up front with residents about its intentions. She said that if the city is planning to acquire property by the Five Points intersection, it should expedite its action so homeowners would not be left in limbo.
"Please be fair to us," Moss said. "Give us a time line."
Green pointed out, however, that a proposal to close Pioneer Boulevard between Rosecrans Avenue and Orange Street for the possible expansion of the Norwalk Square Shopping Center is preliminary and could be years away, even if it is approved.
Richard Orozco, owner of Mercury Para-legal Services on Pioneer Boulevard, urged the council to continue its redevelopment efforts, even if it would cost a few homes.
"No way can a handful of houses stop the development of a city of 90,000 people," Orozco said.
Michael J. Wagner, redevelopment director, said the results of two meetings held with mobile-home tenants and homeowners along Valencia Street and Orange Avenue last week showed "most would not object to being in a survey area or redevelopment area."
Concern Over Rising Rents
The tenants, however, did express concern about escalating rents. Wagner said the tenants would like to "see a program that would not raise their rents." He added that inclusion in a redevelopment project would give the city tools to create such a program.
The city has wanted to include the mobile-home parks in a project to aid tenants by helping them form a cooperative or condominium association in which they would eventually become landowners and have some say in how the park is run.
William H. Nevius, assistant redevelopment director, said the 68 tenants were "almost unanimous when they left that they would support such a program."