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Garden Grove Cuts Rezone Plan After Protest


After 700 residents packed Garden Grove City Hall to plead for their homes, the City Council bowed to their demands early Wednesday and dramatically limited a redevelopment plan that could have forced 1,000 families to move.

At the close of the seven-hour public hearing, the council voted unanimously to remove huge chunks of the proposed 195-acre project, areas that include about 500 homes, 300 mobile homes and dozens of apartment units.

Consultants and some city leaders, including Mayor Bruce Broadwater, had hoped to remake Harbor Boulevard with new hotels and an entertainment anchor--such as a theme park--to entice people to come to Garden Grove.

Residents mobilized door-to-door campaigns in protest, held community meetings and turned out en masse at Tuesday's council meeting to sway city leaders.

"I feel like a proud parent with your first newborn kid," resident Bob Walker said about the hard-fought victory. "I feel like this is what America is all about. I'm glad that the City Council saw it our way. I'm glad that they did what was right, instead of what was popular."

In the end, council members said the city might have been reaching too far in its goals and might have been too ambitious with redevelopment efforts.

Adding the 195 acres to the redevelopment area would have given city officials the power of eminent domain.

If a developer proposed a project, residents could have been forced to sell their homes and move.

Some council members said the plan would have put the city on a new path--an aggressive approach that uses redevelopment as a tool for economic growth and increased tax revenue by clearing out old businesses or homes to make room for newer chains, big-box stores, or hotels.

"I don't want to be the next poster child for redevelopment abuse," Councilman Mark Leyes said. "I just thought we needed to pull back and moderate our approach."

Broadwater, one of the plan's biggest cheerleaders, said he was disappointed even though he voted with the rest of the council to pare the plan.

"We'll just have to work harder. This doesn't mean it's the end of everything," Broadwater said.

Attracting more hotels, restaurants and stores would have been one way to increase the tax revenue in the blue-collar city, ranked as second poorest in tax revenue in Orange County.

Despite the changes, the city still has redevelopment areas intact--including most of the property facing Harbor and Garden Grove boulevards.

"We're going to continue knocking on doors; we're going to continue marketing the area," said Assistant City Manager Matt Fertal.

"There's a sense of relief, but I'm going to watch them," resident Verla Lambert said.

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