The Anaheim City Council on Tuesday rejected a proposal to build a new community center and park in the crime-plagued Jeffrey-Lynne neighborhood and voted instead to study ways to clean up the area.
While unanimously rejecting the proposal, the council approved spending $67,000 to hire two so-called outreach workers to help solve the neighborhood's rising gang problem.
In denying the proposal, council members cited budget constraints and the need to study open space, recreation, drug trafficking, and police-related concerns more thoroughly.
"I wish we had millions of dollars to provide for everyone, but we must stay within constraints to do the best we can with what we have," Councilwoman Miriam Kaywood told a crowd of 200 people who had packed the council chambers in support of the center.
Proponents of the new community center, who had proposed that the City Council earmark about $200,000 in community development block grant funds to pay for it, said they were disappointed but added that they would work with the city in preparing the neighborhood study.
The St. Boniface Parish Community Organization, formed last summer to improve conditions in the mostly Latino neighborhood, formed the plan for the center and park to serve the young people in the area.
"The problems are not just a concern of the people living in the area," Father John Lenihan, pastor of St. Boniface Catholic Church, told the council. "The problems will affect the entire city's ability to maintain its image. It is also an important economic issue. Much of the labor force for hotels, motels and Disneyland comes from this neighborhood."
The south Anaheim neighborhood, in the shadow of Disneyland Hotel, is home to about 4,000 people, half of them youngsters, city officials estimate. The area has been plagued by increasing drug and criminal activity in recent years.
Organization members have argued that a city-sponsored community center and park will provide an alternative for neighborhood youths who might be tempted to join gangs.
The St. Boniface group requested $175,000 to develop a park and $25,000 for a trailer to be used as a community center until a permanent facility can be built.
But Chris Jarvi, Anaheim's director of parks, recreation and community services, said the group's choice for a site--a 3-acre parcel on 9th Street owned by the city's Public Utilities Department and just south of a utility substation--is not appropriate for a park.
About two acres of the area is under high-voltage power lines, and the remainder is being reserved for substation expansion or other energy uses, Jarvi said.
The site is also within a half-mile of two other parks, Jarvi added.
Jarvi has suggested that the city spend $50,000 for a study to determine what is needed to resolve problems in the area.
But the neighborhood group argued that the $50,000 should instead be used as "seed money" in developing the community center and park.