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Santa Ana sued over demolition of homes in Lacy neighborhood

November 23, 2009

From the Orange County Register – A newly formed neighborhood group has filed a lawsuit against the city in a last-minute attempt to save more than a dozen old houses in the path of a major redevelopment project.

The city has already hired a demolition crew to clear away the old houses by the end of the year. It envisions new buildings and new life where those homes now stand, just east of downtown – a project it calls the Station District.

The homes are old – a few date from the late 1800s – and historic preservationists have argued that they have real value. But city officials have said the homes have been renovated and rebuilt so much, and are in such disrepair, that they aren’t worth the high cost of keeping them.

The city is moving three of the homes, at an estimated cost of around $50,000 each. It figures it will cost another $500,000 to fix up each of the homes, and is hoping to find a private buyer willing to shoulder that expense.

In its lawsuit, filed late Thursday, a group calling itself the Friends of the Lacy Historic Neighborhood asks a judge to block the demolition of the other houses. It argues that the city had failed to perform a necessary review of the impacts of the project – including those to the city’s historic resources.

The group claims in the lawsuit that the city “abused its discretion” by moving forward with the demolition without doing that review. It asks the court to step in and prevent the city from tearing down the buildings until it does a full review of the impacts and any possible alternatives to demolition.

Earlier this month, before the council approved the demolition contract, city staffers wrote that the work was exempt from the kind of review the neighborhood group wants.

The City Council will discuss the issue in closed-session in a few weeks, said City Attorney Joseph Fletcher.

“We will have to take a look at it and decide what to do,” Fletcher said.

By Doug Irving
Orange County Register

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