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Plan Downsized in Garden Grove

City withdraws approval for a 14-home project, and developer proposes 12. Foes still say $700,000 houses don't belong in their neighborhood.

September 12, 2003|Daniel Yi | Times Staff Writer

An upscale residential development in Garden Grove that had spurred neighbors to force a city referendum to defeat the project has been scaled back, and the developer will have to seek new permits.

The City Council voted this week to rescind its June approval of a 14-home plan submitted by Brandywine Development Corp., thus eliminating the need for a citywide vote on the issue.

Brandywine now proposes to build 12 units instead of 14 on 2.7 acres it owns near Gilbert Street and Lampson Avenue.

Foes of the project say the four-bedroom, two-story houses -- each with a price tag of about $700,000 -- do not belong in their middle-class neighborhood of ranch-style, single-story homes. Some pledged to continue fighting the project.

"We are by no means at the end of this process," said Stan Sorensen, a neighborhood homeowner. "The answer to the option of constructing 12 homes is very simple: 'No.' "

Sorensen and others accused the city of giving the developer preferential treatment by approving a more densely designed project than is allowed under the city's zoning rules.

The new proposal does not require the zoning exemption, city officials said, and addresses several other technical issues. The dozen homes will have the same floor plans of 3,200 or 3,400 square feet as in the original project, and the lots will still be considerably smaller than others in the neighborhood.

Garden Grove Mayor Bruce Broadwater, who supported the initial proposal, said he agreed to rescind the previous approval in hopes that a smaller project would meet with less resistance.

He took issue with critics who said city officials were not listening to their concerns. "We were listening," Broadwater said. "We just didn't agree."

Santa Ana-based Brandywine bought the property, consisting of five oversized lots, and razed the existing homes, which were built in the 1940s.

Broadwater said the new homes would increase property values in the neighborhood and burnish the city's image.

But many residents near the project said their neighborhood of spacious lots with generous gaps between homes is fine the way it is. They gathered more than 8,600 signatures during the summer to force a referendum on the original project.

They will have an opportunity to speak on the new plan at public meetings beginning next month. A possible second referendum has not been ruled out.

"Maybe ... the [existing] lots are too large for homes in this day and age," said Don Palmer, who purchased his house in 1966. "So go buy a home in an area ... that when you stick your head out of your bedroom window you are right there looking in your neighbor's bedroom window."

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