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Anaheim Looks to Annex 8 'Islands'

Orange County

The areas adjacent to the city would be more efficiently run, proponents say. But some residents don't welcome the change.

October 18, 2002|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

Eight unincorporated communities in and around Anaheim would be annexed by the city in a sweeping deal that the Board of Supervisors will consider next week.

The proposal marks a significant step in the county's effort to cede control of dozens of unincorporated "islands" to adjacent cities, arguing that the municipalities can more efficiently provide services like police protection and street sweeping.

Under the plan, Anaheim would take control of 750 acres of county territory with 8,000 residents.

The largest of the communities is Colonia Independencia, which was founded by Latino laborers who came to Orange County before World War I to work in orange groves. The five-block district is made up of wood-frame homes. As late as the 1970s, it lacked sewers, paved streets and sidewalks.

Cities have traditionally been reluctant to take over unincorporated areas because of the cost of providing municipal services.

Anaheim would agree to the annexation if the county continues to lease to the city a popular golf course on county property for $1 a year for 50 years.

Details of the proposed annexation still need to be worked out and win approval from the Local Agency Formation Commission -- a process that officials said will take at least two years.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will be asked to extend the lease of the Dad Miller Golf Course for this two-year period while annexation is finalized. The course is next to the location the Tiger Woods Foundation wants for an education center to serve underprivileged children.

Anaheim officials said the deal would be a milestone.

"We're talking about one of the larger unincorporated areas in the county," said Tom Wood, Anaheim's assistant city manager. "The county has been working to eliminate these county islands for some time."

The Anaheim City Council was expected to vote on the agreement Tuesday. But that meeting has been postponed because the Anaheim Angels are playing the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.

The county has been trying to unload unincorporated areas since 1994, when the board decided to focus on "core services," such as social services, public protection and health care. Officials argued that cities -- not the county -- should be in the business of providing municipal services.

More Islands Remain

So far, county islands near Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Garden Grove have moved closer to annexation. But many more remain, from the working-class district of El Modena in Orange to such upscale communities as Rossmoor and Orange Park Acres.

There are more than 70 unincorporated islands, with a population of well over 100,000 people. Some, like Rossmoor, have fought to stay independent. Others have remained in the county because nearby cities had little interest in taking them over.

Colonia Independencia is bounded by Broadway on the north, Katella Avenue on the south, Brookhurst Street on the east and Gilbert Street on the west.

Resident Arturo Plaza said Thursday he will need to be convinced that annexation would be a good thing. In the 11 years that he has lived in neighborhood, he's seen many improvements.

"The gangs are no longer here," he said, "and, the area is cleaner, it's improved. Why do we need to change from the county to the city? I'm not in favor of that."

For residents, annexation would probably eliminate confusion over police protection and such services as sewer and trash pickup. Presently, one side of the street can have law enforcement provided by the Orange County Sheriff's Department while the other can be patrolled by local police, said Ken Lee, a project manager for LAFCO, a state-mandated formation commission.

One of the advantages of incorporation could be lower utility bills, because Anaheim owns its own utility.

"Our rates are running 25% to 40% less," Wood said. "Residents and many businesses really like that."

Still, Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly said it's important to listen to island residents before making a decision.

"Concerns of the residents have to be taken into account," he said. "I'll tell you one thing, the people who live in the unincorporated areas aren't asking for annexation."

Residents Felt Ignored

Residents in some unincorporated islands -- mostly poorer ones -- have felt ignored by the county, especially after the county's bankruptcy in 1994. Some areas still are without curbs, sidewalks and other basic amenities.

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Cynthia P. Coad has pushed to revitalize the county's unincorporated islands.

She created a task force with officials from probation, housing, social services and other agencies that move into community centers and provide services.

Mark Petracca, chairman of UC Irvine's political science department, said cities should expect to invest money if they plan to take over the poorer islands.

"You're talking about areas in some of these unincorporated areas that are dilapidated, and it's going to cost the city more money than you're bringing it," he said.

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