Anaheim Hills citizens revolt against proposed apartments
This overlay indicates the proposed development of 300 one- and two-bedroom apartments where the Festival Center's theater and 24 Hour Fitness are now located.
By Andie King
Close to 200 residents turned out to express their disapproval of a proposed housing development at the Festival Center in Anaheim Hills. The plan calls for the demolition of Edwards Cinema and 24 Hour Fitness to make way for 300 one-and two-bedroom apartments on approximately 11 acres.
The opposition to the project displayed at the Sept. 20 town hall meeting was supplemented by an online petition signed by many more citizens.
Anaheim Chamber of Commerce President Todd Ament moderated the meeting, which included city Councilwoman Kris Murray, council candidate and community council board member Trevor O’Neil, Anaheim Fire Deputy Chief of Operations Pat Russell, and Anaheim City Planning Director David Belmer.
No way out
Audience members stressed their concerns about traffic and safety, emphasizing that, during the Canyon Fire 2, it took over two hours for residents to flee their neighborhoods. That timetable would only be exacerbated, they said, should there be 300 additional apartments and, possibly, 600 extra cars clogging the streets.
City Planner Belmer reported that the development in question is, at this stage, only a conceptual idea submitted by Alliance Residential Company. It faces a processing timeline through city red tape of 15 months or more, with several decision points along the way that could halt the process.
The land in question is currently zoned for senior housing, requiring a zone change amendment to the Festival Specific Plan, and the city's general plan. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is required to analyze the effects of additional housing on traffic, schools, and city infrastructure. Leases for the two businesses in question, the theater and fitness center, are said to expire in April.
Citizens were angry that they had not been told about this development, as city notifications are mailed only to residents living within 500 feet of a proposed project. “That,” said one resident, “reaches only to Target in the Festival Center, not to homeowners.”
Will council care?
Compounding residents’ concerns is the upcoming November election during which council members will be voted in by district, as opposed to citywide. Since project approvals require four votes, Festival neighbors (District 6) fear that council members from districts unfamiliar with their issues will not make informed votes. Kris Murray, currently the District 6 councilmember, will be termed out. “How,” the audience wanted to know, “will councilmembers from other districts know and care about our concerns?”
Frustrated audience members insisted that candidates in attendance indicate their support, or non-support, of the development. Put on the spot, O’Neil said he “would not support a project not supported by my community.” Candidate Grant Henninger, a planner who has served on the Anaheim Planning Commission, indicated his faith in “the process to play out,” but said he’s a “no” vote. Mayoral candidate Harry Sidhu voiced his support for “you guys with small businesses and limited commercial spaces” and gave the project a “no-go” nod.
Belmer pledged more communication with residents, and tagged Nick Taylor as the city contact to receive emails, questions, or concerns about the proposed Festival development: (714) 765-4323 or firstname.lastname@example.org.