Mon. Sep 25th, 2023

One of my neighbors approached me at the last Santa Ana City Council meeting and asked me why I had changed my mind about the proposed apartment development at 2525 Main St.

I live right down the street from this proposed development, at Spurgeon and Santa Clara. And I walk by 2525 Main St. just about every night, as I like to walk to the 24 Hour Fitness gym at the MainPlace Mall rather than drive there.

Because of my family’s proximity to this project I was at one time opposed to it. But then the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) was published. For me that changed everything. I was expecting the EIR to slam the project. Not only did it not do that, it instead put the project in a positive light. The Planning Agency was also very supportive of this project in their staff report.

This project is going to generate $33.5 million in revenue for the City’s General fund. And it will contribute millions in annual taxes. Remember that many of the residents of the adjacent Park Santiago neighborhood barely pay any property taxes, due to Prop. 13. We need this project’s revenue to offset their in adequate contribution’s to the City’s tax coffers.

Main St. is a commercial street

What else contributed to my change of heart?

  • Main St. is a commercial street – if you stand just north of the 5 Freeway and look north on Main St. all you see is development.
  • While some NIMBYs are complaining about this project they fail to understand that the real threat to our neighborhood is the homeless vagrants who live in Santiago Creek and at Santiago Park. This project will solve that problem by providing around the clock security both in the development and in the neighborhood and park. The apartments will also act as a bulwark against intruders into our neighborhood!
  • This project will not have an entrance/exit on Edgewood. All traffic will be directed to Main St.
  • I am not by the way worried about the traffic. Millennials are driving less. They often use public transportation, or walk or bike to work.
  • The apartments in question won’t be affordable housing. Their target market will be millennials. Millennials are on track to be the most educated generation to date, according to the Pew Research Center. That is exactly what our city needs!
  • The developer has made a ton of concessions and the project will include a lot of amenities for our neighborhood. The NIMBYs refuse to give him credit for any of that.
So many homes are up for sale in the Park Santiago Neighborhood

I was so disturbed by what I saw at the last Santa Ana City Council meeting. The NIMBYs showed up in force and they were unbelievably rude and just plain mean. They purport to be better than everyone else in our city but can’t behave in public? I was so embarrassed by their poor behavior.

You can already see the commercial properties next door to the Santiago Park Neighborhood

The NIMBYs don’t care about facts. Their arguments are strictly emotional and at this point can only be characterized as empty hysteria.

At the City Council meeting, which was a public hearing on this project, the NIMBY’s kept saying the same thing – “This project is too big/too dense. The EIR is flawed.”

Minh Thai

How could the EIR be flawed? That is plain nuts! The EIR process is a very tricky one and our Planning Agency Director, Minh Thai, knows it inside and out. He has been doing this type of work for over 25 years! He has worked at the Cities of El Monte, Torrance and Monterey Park. And he has even worked at Caltrans. He knows what he is doing! When the NIMBYs say the EIR is flawed please understand that what they are doing is calling Thai a liar and a fraud. That is plain despicable. Here is a video where he talks about how much work he puts into the planning process:

This project won’t be the end of the world. I am confident that after it is built the NIMBYs will all have egg on their faces as they will have to admit they were wrong.

The City Council is going to finish the public hearing on this project at their next meeting, this month. I hope the entire City Council will do the right thing and vote to approve this project. They need to vote not just for today but also for the future. That future belongs to the Millennials. In ten short years they will make up 75% of the consumers. We need to start accommodating them now!

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

30 thoughts on “Why I changed my mind about the apartment development at 2525 Main St.”
  1. There are 7 high density projects going on in Santa Ana. About 3,000 apartments are involved that will bring 4 times the revenue as 2525. And there are not long established neighborhoods in the shadow of them. You know Santa Ana and all the former neighborhoods that are no longer desirable because of irresponsible multi-family building. Think about the 1,000 cars coming out of the project that must go north on Main. If they want the 5 freeway, a u-turn or go around to Broadway, a terrible intersection. Returning, you need a u-turn at Edgewood and at rush hour, fight across the 3 lanes of traffic to the entrance. Or there will be tons of cut thru traffic. The better development in like Avery at the Grove or maybe three story apartment homes. This developer has had two of his high density developments approved, built and under construction. He has sold his rights and moved on. I have lived here for 42 years and there are young people that want to live in this neighborhood. The Planning Commission heard the same presentation from Minh Thai and voted not to approve. They got in right.

    1. The EIR took the projects into account that were already in development, as noted by Minh Thai at the last City Council meeting.

      As I noted in my article, which at this point I doubt you read, millennials are not driving as much as folks used to. So the traffic impact of these developments won’t be as bad as some NIMBYs are making it out to be.

      I am sure that the City will redesign the exit from this project, at Main, to include a left turn signal.

      I have no issue with the developer selling the project down the road. As I noted in my article that is precisely what quite a few of the residents in Santiago Park are doing as well.

      Finally I don’t care what the Planning Commission did. They are an un-elected, appointed group of amateurs. The City Council has every right to overrule them.

      1. Regardless, there has been sunshine meetings for the 1,900 apartments and 400 hotels rooms. We do not need this development. We will get 5 times the property taxes from Main Place , look it up. I don’t think our Planning Commissioners are amateur. They are former city council members. You are uninformed.

        1. There is only one former City Councilman on the Planning Commission – David Benavides. And he supports the 2525 project. So does Eric Alderete, who actually has a degree in real estate development and is an attorney.

          There are no other former Council Members on the Planning Commission. Perhaps you are referring to McCloughlin, a former college board member?

          I am glad that we will get a lot of tax revenue from the other projects. That said we should not reject the revenue that 2525 will generate.

          1. Art. At the Planning Commission meeting, David Benevides was the one who made the least amount of sense. His comments were not very well articulated and he came across as someone who definitely had an agenda to try to approve the project. His reason for voting “yes” was something to the effect of…We need to send a message that Santa Ana is business and Development friendly.

            I cringed when he said that because it is some pretty pathetic and completely irresponsible reasoning.

            The other Commissioners, asked some tough, pointed questions of the developer and staff. Many of the questions, the developer simply couldn’t adequately answer.

            It didn’t surprise me at all that Benevides was one of only two Commissioners who voted “yes” to the project.

    2. Huh? Just because the street is done a certain way now, doesn’t mean it can’t be changed later! 17th Street didn’t always have an island down the middle of it as it does now. At one point that was changed. Remember when 17th St became 2 lanes under the interstate? Right now, there is an ongoing project on Bristol Street to widen the street from 2 lanes in each direction to 3 lanes plus a bike lane in each direction. Streets are certainly NOT cast in stone and, once built, unchangible!

  2. Art,
    It’s your millennial neighbor again: Jaine from Spurgeon. I have a car.

    Many neighbors have spoken that redevelopment is acceptable, but that this project is too dense, with 478 apartments on 5.9 acres. The city has only recommended very minimal reductions in the number of units so far. It started at 517 units, and now 478 is being proposed – an 8% reduction in density.
    A 40% reduction in the density would put this project on par with other similar apartment complexes next to R1 in Santa Ana.
    What is your rebuttal to the argument that apartments are okay, if the density is comparable to similar projects in Santa Ana?

  3. I would like to say good for you for finally having the courage to put your name on this pro Addington article. Unlike the previous article and the anti Dale Helvig article that was authored by an anonymous editor.
    I want to say I respect your opinion about this development but your previous actions/articles were cowardice and indefensible. As for your points in the article I say they are flawed. To say that the EIR isn’t flawed is a joke. The biggest problem with it is what’s not in it like the Main Place Mall development. Everyone is well aware of the filing dates not aligning. However, to not take into factor the largest development/redevelopment in the 130+ year history of this city is insane. I didn’t see a counterargument for the project being too big or dense. I pointed to the Planning Commission that the EIR listed several comparable apartment complexes, but only one was against R1. That development is The Line which has a density of 58 DUA. So the developer is not only asking for a rezoning but a new precedent to be set next to R1. You even said that Main Street is a commercial road yet you’re in favor of decreasing the number of commercial lots and changing it to high density housing. About millennials, we are also not reproducing as much as past generations so why build out a huge apartment? I’m not against redevelopment I’m against irresponsible and unprecedented development. That is why I’m against this project.

  4. I too was once against this project and then as I learn more about it, the more I like it. Actually, I was vehemently opposed to it at the start. I don’t have any problems if people want to be against it for their own reasons but they should be aware of what the project can be right now…a 385K square foot office building that will bring at least as much traffic as the proposed development, and very possibly more. An office complex may very well bring more parking issues than apartments (ever been to a building with paid parking next to streets with free parking?) and the cut through traffic may be worse also due to an office building would keep the Edgewood entrance since there is no reason to remove it and people coming from the South and East will quite possibly cut through PS neighborhood in the morning and evening.

    This project will bring substantially more revenue to the city both in one time fees (low income housing/HOO, Park Santiago Improvements, Public Art display, SAUSD fees, etc..) and on-going property tax revenue. The tenants that the project will try to attract will likely also be the demographic who will want to buy our houses in the future once they establish families and want a single family house. This area of town is great and hopefully they will like it as much as we do after living there for a while.

    Despite the city not being sued like HB in making strides on housing, our city and county still have a housing shortage- just because I have a house, does not mean that everyone else has stable housing. This project will add to our supply AND it is market rate AND luxury living- something our city does not have a lot of with apartment dwellings. The low income housing fees the developer is paying ($6M) will help with affordable housing even though this project is market rate.

    Plus, this apartment is likely bringing a lot more greenspace to the area than the office building that the parcel(s) is already zoned for. There are courtyards, trees, and other green open space that most office buildings do not have to the same extent. Greenspace is something we need more of even if it is in an apartment complex. In order to create this greenspace, there needs to be more height.

    It would have been nice to have Main Place included in the EIR but at the end of the day, traffic for an office building will be similiar or worse than this project according to the traffic experts. It will not remain the same…it will be worse no matter what. Plus, the changes that they may make at Main Place are not approved yet. They will need to go through their own EIR process and evaluate its merits.

    The existing zoning may be worse than apartment alternative. I am glad that the developer has made changes after listening to folks talk at city council and other meetings and feedback…items like scaling back the height in the back, reduction of units, removal of Edgewood entrance/exit, roving security for the park and neighborhood, park improvement funds, etc…It is still apartment housing, but it is better than where we started for sure.

      1. Mike, You are saying I am wrong about the current zoning for those parcels? Sorry, I think you may be the one believing the hype or hysteria possibly… that property is absolutely zoned P with a floor area ratio (FAR) of 1.5 which puts the building right at 385K. There is adequate room for on site parking also.

        I never said it had a 40 ft setback. The property as currently zoned has 15 ft front and side setbacks and 50 ft rear setbacks. Although, even if the proposed apartment rear setback was at 50 feet, I am not sure that would make a difference to most

    1. Tim please provide me with an example of a building of the size and density that’s up against R1.

      1. Hi Justin, I don’t believe that I indicated that there was an exact same similar project next to R1 here in Santa Ana so not sure what you were expecting from me. The one that comes to mind is The Marke. Now as you likely know, it is not right up against single family residential but just across a street…somewhat comparible. Next you will say that neighborhood is not historic in nature which you would be right. There will be differentiators in most every project.

        I am not sure that I can find another national brand car dealership up against R1 either. Or a gas station with a car wash up against R1 either…I don’t know every zoning area in town so maybe they exist but even if they did not, I would not exclude them. I personally think that change can be good especially when the existing alternative may be worse. You may disagree which is fine. For a city that is relatively built out, we live with what was built years ago but still need to try to make improvements to what we have now. I would not be surprised if Willowick will have some bulky apartments next to single family by the way.

        We also don’t have too many luxury apartments in Santa Ana either, yet I think having luxury product in our city is a good thing.

        Can you find an office building that would be required to contribute $1.4M to a local park? How about an office building required to pay around $6M towards affordable housing through the city’s HOO? Or can you find an office building willing to have roving security for a surrounding neighborhood? Or an office development that can go in that periphery which will provide a similar amount of development fees which benefit not only our city but SAUSD? How about an office building that will do all of those here in Santa Ana and more? Now, those are benefits of the proposed project that will not exist with the property being built out as currently zoned. I personally think we need to consider those benefits.

        Is this proposed project something that may not presently exist in other parts of the city? For sure. Will it provide benefits thiugh…I think so. Do those benefits exceed what will be brought from an office building? Is it right for the area? Those are questions I suppose we will know in due course after the council votes on what they believe is best for the entire city.

  5. Mr. Pedroza, Think what you want about millennials not adding to traffic problems. You are wrong. I have lived in Santa Ana for 71 years, long enough to remember when there was no Main street bridge. Long enough to remember when the 5 freeway was only two lanes each way and to go from Santa Ana to Orange, you went to the end of Flower, stopped and then crossed all 4 lanes.. Traffic does not get better,
    it only gets worse.
    The EIR was a farce. It stated that we(Santa Ana) had plenty of water for all of the proposed projects being considered. Later in Appendix K it stated that between 2020 and 2040 we would use every drop of water that we have available. How could they possibly know how many people that there would be or how much water would be available. They only have estimations. We are still being tracked for water useage with 2013 as a baseline. New developments have no such baseline. How is that fair? .And if this will truly become apartments, historically the landlord pays for the water. Will every apartment have it’s own meter so that over users will be fined like we were told that we would be?
    The traffic study deems that intersection a grade of “D’ which they say is acceptable. How many more vehicles are needed to bump it into the “E” category? Not many I believe.

    1. Hello. Your statement amounts to projection. In other words you are projecting your particulars to all Millennials and the facts don’t support that. They are not buying homes and are not as likely to drive cars. Those are facts beyond dispute. Are there outliers? Sure. There always are.

  6. Hi Art! This is your very black, millennial neighbor with 2 cars.

    I’d like to get more information on your thought process by asking a few questions:

    1. Do you think a new graduate Millennial is going to be able to afford to live here without a roommate?

    2. Can you honestly say that the calculations for parking are done accurately? Don’t you think they should just consider that each home will potentially have at least 2 cars per unit?

    3. As the person who asked you why the change of heart, can you tell me that your Millennial child doesn’t have a car, works in Santa Ana and can afford to live in one of these units without a roommate?

    4. My major concerns which you don’t address at all in your article is parking! How will the patrol company be able to control/enforce people who belong or visit to the apartment complex from parking on our streets?

    Lastly, were you paid to write this? Promised anything? I know you have aspirations in politics so I’m just curious if the developers donated to you at all or if you have any plans in working with them in the future. You sure do go to bat for Minh Thai in this article and I’m not sure why your focus is on him.

    I’m just really trying to understand how this project benefits YOU!

    1. 1. It depends
      2. The Planning Director has 25 years experience. I don’t doubt his work.
      3. None of my kids work in Santa Ana. One of them makes almost as much as I do and works in Manhattan. One is working in China. The rest are still in school.
      4. The EIR already mentioned that there is ample parking in the development as well as guest parking.

      I have no aspirations in politics. I ran for the School Board last year to mark my opposition to their tax increase measure. This blog generates ad revenue. Anyone can buy an ad.

      I already noted in my article why I changed my mind about this project.

    2. Although Sabrina’s questions were addressed to Art, they are good questions so here are my two cents.

      New hires straight out of school at my firm would be able to stretch a bit and make the rent payments on their own without a roommate. After a couple of years of raises, obviously it would be much easier. A significant other/roommate definitely makes the economics easier. For most, this likely should not be a straight out of school apartment but instead a step up living situation (i.e. 2nd apartment)

      I have more than one employee at my firm who although they have a roommate (significant others mainly), they only need one car. I am surprised by the carpooling to be honest. Once they have a house, two cars are ther norm for sure. The parking studies are done based on statistics so they will not be exact but when you compare to other similar complexes, they do not have 2 cars parked per unit (i.e. actually counting cars in the lot…not the ratio). I personally feel an office complex may have more neighborhood parking issues because it almost for sure will be paid parking especially for guests. We have this issue at my office and we pay for our guest’s parking. When you put paid parking next to free parking with easy building access, there is likely to be those who do not want to pay and will park in the neighborhood. This is even true for office tenants especially with parking not being tax deductible now.

      The project would be parked at 2 spots per unit when including guest parking and valet. The developer will be required to have a parking mitigation plan and also have procedures in place for neighbors to report parking overflow issues.

      By the way, I believe I remember hearing that the developer was willing to pay for permit parking in the impacted areas if it was desired.

      And, I am not paid by the developer either however I do think that this project will bring some benefits to the city which will help us all.

  7. I want to say I respect your opinion about this development. As for your points in the article I say they are flawed. To say that the EIR isn’t flawed is a joke. The biggest problem with it is what’s not in it like the Main Place Mall development. Everyone is well aware of the filing dates not aligning. However, to not take into factor the largest development/redevelopment in the 130+ year history of this city is insane. I didn’t see a counterargument for the project being too big or dense. I pointed to the Planning Commission that the EIR listed several comparable apartment complexes, but only one was against R1. That development is The Line which has a density of 58 DUA. So the developer is not only asking for a rezoning but a new precedent to be set next to R1. You even said that Main Street is a commercial road yet you’re in favor of decreasing the number of commercial lots and changing it to high density housing. About millennials, we are also not reproducing as much as past generations so why build out a huge apartment? I’m not against redevelopment I’m against irresponsible and unprecedented development. That is why I’m against this project.

      1. I disagree. If you bother to read Appendix K of the EIR concerning water, the statement that Santa Ana has “enough water to meet all needs” is fairly ludicrous.
        How does the whoever constructed the EIR know what our future needs will be. By their own admission, we will likely use all of the water available to us between 2020 and 2040 and that does not explain what “all of our needs” will be. Basically, we get the majority of our water from a basin which must be refilled as we use the water. The majority of the replacement water is recycled waste water, runoff or in some instances, water purchased from the Colorado River system. We already had a recent drought period which we are still recovering from. I often quote an old saying that goes, “just because you can do something, it does not mean that you should”.
        Build, build, build and then tell everyone, Sorry, we did not know that we would have another drought.

        Please find in the EIR how they determined that we have plenty of water for the future.

  8. My reason for writing this is to suggest that we at least look at this issue from a slightly different angle: I’m concerned about what might get built in that space that could turn out to be much worse than a luxury apartment complex. Let me start off by saying that I don’t know what sort of “guarantees” have been made by the developer as to the design, amenities, and price points of these units and whether or not they can be held to account for their promises legally, but the point made below assumes the developer will do as they are saying and build according to the conceptual design, targeted to higher income individuals.

    Do we really want the devil we know to be displaced by the one we don’t? Maybe we do, but I work in the home building industry (I do single family, so I have no dog in the hunt as far as this developer goes), and I receive several news-aggregator emails about the industry every week. All the talk is about the lack of affordable units being built in California. Affordable single family or townhomes would be nice at 2525 N. Main, but that won’t happen – the huge costs of government fees and the dirt itself make that impossible before a shovel is even put into the ground. The only affordable units that would make sense from a cost standpoint would be high or ultra-high density condos (“unaffordable” single family might pencil out, but they’d have to sell for upwards of $1.5 million and I doubt you’d get anyone to pay that in order to live on Main St. and the 5 freeway).

    So what else besides an office building might go there? How about a low-income high-density complex? That is exactly what California’s elected officials want more than anything right now – their political lives depend on it, and it seems that they truly believe that building this kind of product throughout LA/Orange Counties and the Bay Area will solve the current homeless crisis. Has everyone considered what will happen if this “luxury apartment complex” gets defeated and the developer switches tactics and decides to propose a low-income project? Typically, those projects are much higher density than a luxury product. Also, there are many other problems associated with those sorts of projects, a couple being high crime and low-concept design.

    Let’s assume for a moment this re-zoning effort gets defeated. There is a reason we might very well see it rezoned for high density residential anyway: Low-income projects qualify for huge tax credits for developers (known as “Low-Income Housing Tax Credits”), so that gives the developer impetus to go back to the drawing board, especially when you consider that California’s extremely Progressive political machine will have no problem applying the pressure required to get Santa Ana leaders to do whatever they have to do to re-zone the land for high density residential if a low-income project is being proposed. If that happens no amount of protesting, T-shirts, or signs will be able to stop it.

    I know we’re a politically diverse group and I have no interest in mud-slinging (at least not in this forum), but I’m going to state the following for a reason: The California state legislature is even more Progressive now than it was before November, and our new governor makes Jerry Brown look like Ronald Reagan. He has already proposed a plan to make an additional half billion dollars in tax credits available to developers of low income properties and is actively advocating low-income projects every chance he gets. If any determined entity makes a push to put a low income project in that space, all they have to do is pay a visit to Sacramento (or call their lobbyist who already has an apartment there).

    And in case you’re wondering, no, I’m not advocating on the part of the developer. I’ve owned my house on Valencia for 9 years. I don’t plan on going anywhere and don’t want the neighborhood to change for the worse, but I’m also pragmatic: I’d much rather see a higher-end product built there than a low-income one. I’m not saying that will happen, only that it’s a possibility. So if any of my neighbors has the money and are willing to buy the land from the developer and install a unicorn petting zoo with cotton-candy trees for the kiddies, I’m on board. Otherwise, maybe we all need to get realistic about what might end up in that space.

    If you’re interested, here’s a link to one of many similar columns over the past few months:

    1. There was, just recently, a story about HB being SUED for “not having enough affordable housing”.

      Here it is:

      “In the Face of Unprecedented Housing Crisis, California Takes Action to Hold Cities Accountable for Standing in the Way of New Housing”

      Not advocating for the developer either. Am against it. But, Mr. Joseph DOES have a point. It would be better to deal with the devil we know than the devil we don’t know. If the current plan gets defeated, what will it be replaced with? How do we know that the Newsome won’t be rubbing his hands in glee telling the AG to “MAKE IT HAPPEN!!! DO IT NOW!!!!!!!!!” And next the we know, the city won’t have a choice but to ram in a high density, low income complex at 2525 Main? They WON’T be listening to you when they are looking at a massive lawsuit! Especially if the city attourney tells them “we can’t win this one!” Things are bad enough for our city as it is…we don’t need an expensive lawsuit to deal with on top of everything else!

      I do NOT live in Park Santiago. I am concerned about the impact the additional traffic would have. If the freeway is backed up, people start looking for other ways to get around…and, if enough, that will cause all the surface streets to back up. I remember when 17th St was 2 lanes in each direction, and how it was always backing up.

      As far as the unicorn petting zoo with cotton-candy trees is concerned…even one of those might not be safe. It has not been unheard of for government to use eminent domain to get rid of SRFs to make room for a mall…Kelo v. City of New London. A SCOTUS decision that basically says that the city can take from one private owner thru eminant domain and give it to another private owner for redevelopment.

  9. I used to oppose this project as well (back when the rumor was that it would be all low income housing), but after hearing about the proposed patrolling of our neighborhood and of the park, I am now for it. I love our park and the new playground but I am terrified to bring my son there because of the homeless problem. We also can’t use the restroom because of the prostitution problem. I am hopeful that the park will be more populated with people from the new development and the extra patrol will benefit the neighborhood.

    But I do have to say that I am a millennial and everyone I know my age and younger drives. So I am worried about the traffic.

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