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New Homes Help Old in Changing Santa Ana Enclave

A neighborhood that's long felt neglected sees hope in the attention that lofts under construction bring.

January 01, 2006|Jennifer Delson | Times Staff Writer

For more than 10 years, residents in one of Santa Ana's oldest neighborhoods have lobbied City Hall for new sidewalks, new gutters, cleaner air, less noise and fewer trucks passing through.

The response was minimal, said residents of the mixed-use neighborhood near the Santa Ana train station. Until now.

The Logan neighborhood, home to orange pickers and railroad workers in the early 1900s, is getting a face lift. The city plans to repave its streets and redevelop a few lots, and the possible relocation of a neighborhood garbage hauler is being discussed.

But nothing signals the changes underway more than what's going just across the street from the train station, and across from the Logan neighborhood itself. A strip of 36 three-story live-work lofts have been sold for $500,000 to $600,000 each. They are scheduled for completion by March, and 72 more are slated for construction this year.

"We have struggled for so long and we saw other areas getting things like their streets fixed," said Sam Romero, a merchant on Santa Ana's 4th Street who grew up in Logan. The neighborhood is bordered roughly by Santa Ana Boulevard, Interstate 5, Lincoln Avenue and Custer Street.

"It's always been that if you were from a certain neighborhood, you could get anything," said Romero. "Now, I think the influence of the lofts is helping Logan get improvements."

The situation is typical of urban development in Southern California, in which few large swaths of land are available for residential or commercial development.

The loft property was assembled from five parcels that had been used by a pipe fitting company, an industrial building used by Santiago Canyon College for job training, vacant parcels and a city lot used occasionally for parking.

The lofts, said Santa Ana City Councilwoman Lisa Bist, are a clear signal that Logan will thrive as a residential neighborhood. She has worked with Logan residents for seven years and said it has been difficult to make the small neighborhood's wishes a city priority -- particularly because the neighborhood's future was not clear.

"We are finally turning a corner," Bist said. For many years, city staff "didn't know which way the neighborhood was going," she said.

Bist said other council members rejected her proposal to have residential permit parking in Logan. Residents had lobbied for it to discourage employees of companies and company trucks from using too much of the street parking.

The lofts, Bist said, "are recognition that the area is not totally industrial, and the housing market is driving changes in that neighborhood."

National homebuilder Lennar Corp. and Santa Ana developer Urban+West+Strategies are building the lofts on a four-acre tract. The lofts are zoned to allow commercial as well as residential use.

Lennar, with projects in 20 states, is the largest homebuilder and developer in Orange County. The company last year won a bid to purchase much of the closed El Toro Marine base in Irvine and build about 3,700 homes there.

Lennar is also the largest developer in the emerging Platinum Triangle area around Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

Within three years, Santa Ana officials estimate, as many as 300 more lofts will be built in the city by a combination of several companies.

The city is spending $500,000 to repave 10 blocks on four Logan streets -- nearly the entire neighborhood -- among them, blocks that residents were previously told had to be excluded from the project because of budget constraints.

And the city's housing division recently bought three lots in Logan and is working to have a nonprofit organization build three affordable single-family homes. So far, the 36 Santiago Street Lofts that have been sold, measuring 1,500 to 2,300 square feet, have as their key selling point the fact that there are few lofts available in suburban Orange County, said salesman Scott Weeks.

The lofts are rising on the southwest corner of Santiago Street and Santa Ana Boulevard. The next 72 will be built on the northwest corner.

Buyers are looking for an alternative to suburban living, he said. But none of the buyers have told him they will be using the train to commute and no one seems to mind the industrial neighbors, Weeks said.

In Logan, the mostly working class neighbors say they are not fearful of gentrification; in fact, they see allies in the loft buyers.

One of the pressing concerns in the neighborhood in recent years has been the presence of some of the residential and commercial neighbors, and Logan residents hope their new neighbors will give them added clout.

Many residents have long felt that the industrial businesses have operated unchecked. They complain about pollutants, the rumbling of trucks before 5 a.m. and damage to the streets done by the large vehicles.

"The potholes are so bad that when the trucks go by at 5 a.m., they send chunks of asphalt into the air and they land with a thud on the sidewalk," said resident Gloria Lara. "I'm so happy they will repave."

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