Sunday, May 06, 2007

Developing for the Better in Anaheim?

Look at what I found in this morning's OC Register. This looks interesting:

A new coalition of unions, faith-based groups and community organizations is pressuring developers to build low-cost homes and pay sufficient wages at a proposed complex next to Angel Stadium.

Three developers are competing for a contract to build offices, shops and homes on a 51.4-acre, city-owned plot, which the National Football League has considered for a stadium. On Tuesday, the City Council will discuss the proposals in a closed meeting and may narrow the field of competitors.

The new Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development, or OCCORD, is trying to persuade developers to commit to certain standards before the city awards a contract. The city's lease with the Angels forbids homes on the land now, but developers are talking to the Angels.

OK, so these folks are trying to convince developers to just do what's right for the community? How the heck does that work? Well, follow me down below for more on this interesting development...

(Cross-posted at Calitics)

So how well is it working? Pretty well, actually. Already, one developer is listening.

At least one developer is interested in making a pact with the coalition.

"We have a lot in common with the majority of their goals," said Eric Heffner, a principal at Windstar Communities. "Our development site is trying to meet all the needs of the community."

And why does this matter? Perhaps because there isn't much affordable housing left in Orange County. Perhaps because there are so many folks out there who desperately need a place to live down here.

One OCCORD member, St. Boniface Catholic Church, is pushing on its own for affordable housing on the land by Angel Stadium, first by meeting with individual council members.

Some parishioners have trouble paying for homes, doubling up in apartments or moving to the Inland Empire, said the Rev. Tim Freyer, lead pastor. The stadium property is in the Platinum Triangle, where none of the 8,292 planned homes is set to meet affordable-housing guidelines.

"There's an opportunity I think we should take advantage of," said Freddy Hernandez, a St. Boniface member.

So if OCCORD can pull it off and get the developers to agree to good labor and environmental standards, I say more power to them. And if they can get these developers to agree to include affordable housing in their plans, then we're one step closer to solving this housing crisis. After all, this is something that we can no longer afford to ignore. There really is hardly any affordable housing left in Southern California. That's why we so need groups like OCCORD to push these developers to think beyond short-term profits.

Perhaps in the near term, we'll be OK just building more luxury condos and exorbitant McMansions while ignoring all the poor and middle-class people who can't find a place to live. However, this isn't good for the long term. We need good, livable communities. We need communities with safe streets, and parks for kids to play. We need sustainable communities with services withing walking distance, and mass transit readily available to take folks farther distances. However, no good long-term plan for healthy communities is complete without a plan to ensure that people can actually afford to live in these communities. What good are the streets and parks and services and high-speed trains if no one can even really afford to live near these?

That's why we need to think in the long term. That's why we need for affordable housing. And that's why I hope OCCORD can succeed in getting developers to do what's best for everyone in the community. : )

No comments: