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Retail Center May Replace Trash at Anaheim's 'Sinkin' Lincoln' Dump

Long an eyesore at a busy intersection, the unsteady terrain at the former landfill has been a problem for residents and developers.

March 03, 2003|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

Sad though it may be, west Anaheim's best-known landmark may well be an abandoned landfill, home to dirty diapers, broken appliances and sagging mattresses. It even boasts a catchy name: the Sinkin' Lincoln -- or, on days when the soil heats up, the Stinkin' Lincoln.

For years, neighbors have been clamoring for the city to do something with the 22-acre eyesore at Lincoln Avenue and Beach Boulevard, a magnet for trash and occasional squatters since a mobile home park vacated the site in 1986.

Now, residents may finally be getting their wish.

The city is concluding negotiations with a developer to bring in a Lowe's home improvement center and Albertsons supermarket to anchor a shopping center. Restaurants, a food court and an outdoor plaza are also planned. As an incentive for the developer, the city will use $10.6 million in federal loans and grants to help cleanse the landfill.

"We need a catalyst to be the shot in the arm for all of west Anaheim," said Judy Gollette, a resident and vice chairwoman of the West Anaheim Neighborhood Development organization. "And we're desperately hoping that this will be it."

West Anaheim residents have long argued that their neighborhood deserved a little of the attention given to the tourist district just a few miles away.

About 46,000 vehicles travel past the landfill each day, making the intersection one of the city's busiest and a gateway to Anaheim and Buena Park -- a reason, west Anaheim activists say, that remedying the situation should be a high priority.

Though it's prime real estate, the landfill comes with environmental and geological problems that are costly to treat.

It's not called the Sinkin' Lincoln for nothing.

Orange County leased the landfill for municipal waste from 1958-60. After it closed, people continued to dump their trash, according to longtime residents. Later, the site became a go-cart track and then a mobile home park. Over time, some of the trash decomposed and the ground kept settling, developing into a patchwork of sinkholes.

"The streets were like a roller coaster at that time, sinking up and down," said Gollette, whose parents lived at the mobile home park in the 1980s. "I had kids, and they loved to drive up and down it."

In some spots, the ground settled so much that residents stashed a tiny rowboat at the side of the hilly streets so when it rained they could navigate their flooded neighborhood.

Besides having problems with the settling earth, city officials weren't sure exactly what kind of waste was in the landfill and whether it was safe to live on top of it, said Anaheim redevelopment director Elisa Stipkovich. At the residents' urging, the city spent more than $250,000 for soil and environmental tests.

"It's been very difficult for anybody to figure out what to do with it," Stipkovich said. "Several different people have tried."

One developer wanted to build apartments. Another considered a storage facility. After a battery of tests, the city determined that a commercial developer could build atop the landfill if it were capped and the methane gas vented.

Redevelopment manager David Gottlieb said that before anything is built, a web of pipes will be installed to rid the underground of methane.

A rubber sheet of sorts will be placed over the landfill and covered with dirt before asphalt is paved. The buildings will be on piles burrowed 50 feet deep, through the landfill and into bedrock.

Lowe's and Albertsons have expressed interest in moving into the development, which will be called Anaheim Westgate Center.

It's not exactly what residents had hoped for.

Some wanted a park or at least a stretch of green. Others wanted a movie theater. After the city said no, they settled on the shopping center but had hoped for anchors such as a Best Buy or Trader Joe's. They're fighting for a steakhouse or other fine-dining establishment, instead of the Chuck E. Cheese that has been suggested.

"We've had a problem with the city with this redevelopment," said Esther Wallace, president of the neighborhood group that has dogged city officials over Sinkin' Lincoln since the mid-'90s. "They claim nobody wants to come into west Anaheim."

Colette Vincent, whose backyard faces the landfill, said: "Upscale. Upscale. Upscale. That's the key word. Nice restaurants with outdoor dining. It will attract so many people."

The residents say they're willing to compromise, but only so much. They've attended dozens of meetings and intend to keep the pressure on until they see the shopping center they believe they deserve.

"We're not just going to spend all this time and effort and money to bring in uses that the neighborhood doesn't want," Gottlieb said. "We think it's going to be a good center and everybody's going to be happy."

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