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Orange County

Foes of Tower in Santa Ana Near Goal

A group collecting signatures for a ballot measure against the building need 1,200 more by Wednesday.

August 28, 2004|Jennifer Mena | Times Staff Writer

A small army of residents has fanned across Santa Ana to collect 8,700 signatures by Wednesday to force a referendum on a controversial 37-story office tower.

The group of 50 residents has set up tables in front of stores, approached motorists at fast-food restaurants' drive-through windows, and walked neighborhoods to collect signatures opposing what would be Orange County's tallest building. The group must collect the signatures by Wednesday, the 30th day following the project's approval by the City Council.

Opponents need signatures from 10% of the city's registered voters to place the measure on the ballot in a special election. They say they have about 7,500 and hope to get as many as 4,000 more by the deadline.

On Aug. 2, the Santa Ana City Council gave its final approval to the $86-million, green glass tower to be built by developer Mike Harrah, who owns nearly 3 million square feet of office space in downtown Santa Ana. The building, which would be known as One Broadway Plaza, is expected to bring 2,000 workers into the city each day.

Opponents say the building is out of proportion to the area and will increase traffic, destroy the ambience of historic homes and be an "inappropriate neighbor" to several nearby schools.

The council approved the project 4-1, with Alberta Christy opposing. Two others -- Mayor Miguel Pulido and Councilman Brett Franklin -- abstained, citing potential conflicts of interest.

Foes believe council members misjudged public opinion.

"People think this building is so important that they feel the voters should have a shot at it," said John Barneich, who has collected more than 500 signatures because he believes the building is too tall. "Only about 10% of the people [he's approached] won't sign."

Mary Estrada, who moved to Santa Ana from Newport Beach because she wanted a historic home, signed the petition and then began collecting more signatures. "The building just doesn't belong in that spot. We want to maintain the cultural and historic significance that brings people to the city.... This building does not have cultural or architectural significance for Santa Ana."

Rosa Palacio, 33, a mother of two teens, encountered tower opponents outside a store on Bristol Street. She lives about four blocks from the tower site.

"I don't approve at all of a building like that, particularly near so many schools. It will cause more pollution, and our traffic is already getting worse by the day," she said.

Joann Ramirez, who has mounted opposition to the project for five years, said response to her signature-collecting efforts has been positive. "People are saying they have never even heard about this. They have no idea what has happened. We also have people who know about it who are thankful we've taken this on."

This week, opponents also sent the city clerk a notice of their intention to sue the city to challenge the council's approval of the project's environmental impact report.

Harrah said he will not begin any work until it is clear that he will be able to move forward. "We won't do anything until they are done doing what they are doing. They are holding the city up and the future of the city. They are holding up themselves."

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