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    Buena Park OKs new housing development near Downtown Mall
    • June 28, 2023

    A 25-acre housing project — that will include about 1,300 homes in a complex consisting of buildings up to seven stories high — will be constructed in Buena Park near the Downtown Mall over the next four years.

    The Village at Buena Park, as the project is called, will include 1,302 units, 176 of which are designated for affordable housing. The project features five- to seven-story apartments as well as 126 three-story townhomes, nearly 3,000 parking spaces and a publicly-accessible one-acre park.

    Although there were concerns about the project’s environmental impact and traffic, the City Council unanimously approved it during its Tuesday, June 27 meeting, with members stating they feel the project is aligned with Buena Park’s goal to provide more affordable housing.

    Mayor Art Brown attributed the high cost of housing in California to the current lack of housing. The city’s service industry consists of mostly low- to moderate-income workers and having more affordable housing is necessary, he said.

    “The people that live in apartments are not bad people,” said Brown. “I’ve met a lot of them so the worry about people living in apartments, running things down and there are going to be a bunch of criminals (is) just wrong. They’re not going to live there because they can’t afford to.”

    The new housing development will replace a vacant Sears, Sears Auto Center and parking lot, making the community walkable to restaurants, retail and entertainment. The Sears building was acquired a few years ago by Merlone Geier Partners, a real estate investor and developer.

    It is adjacent to the Buena Park Downtown Mall and nearby Knott’s Berry Farm and Soak City. It’s walkable to restaurants, shopping and entertainment, something Brown said could reduce air pollution.

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    The apartments are a mix of mostly one-bedroom and studio units as well as some two- and three-bedroom apartments. The townhomes include two- and three-bedroom units.

    Other amenities include a community room and pool for townhome residents and rooftop landscaping with a pool and shade on top of the apartment buildings.

    Buena Park is estimated to earn $8.6 million in park fees and $1.3 million in community benefits as a result of the project.

    The parking lot where the development is planned has accommodated a farmer’s market and many community events. Although the developers said their goal is to continue to accommodate the farmer’s market, its location may change throughout the construction phases.

    Many City Council members expressed concern about the impact the additional housing could have on traffic.

    Pointing to the La Palma and Stanton intersection, Councilmember Connor Traut said he was concerned about safety as children walk to school.

    A representative from the city’s public works department said the intersection is part of a state-funded project to make traffic signal improvements, including a new signal pole, additional signal lights, yellow reflective backlights and a new controller. Although Councilmember Susan Sonne proposed building a raised walkway, city staff instead suggested changing the speed limit or making the crosswalks more visible.

    Traut was also concerned that increased traffic during peak holidays, like Knott’s Scary Farm during Halloween, would be a hazard to pedestrians at the La Palma and Stanton intersection. But city staff said other intersections would be more impacted during those times than La Palma and Stanton avenues.

    Councilmember José Trinidad Castañeda questioned if the project was dense enough. However, the developer said the project was designed to be leased at a certain time, meet certain open space requirements and meet the demand for housing today.

    Castañeda also asked the developers to consider giving local workers who were involved in the project the chance to live in the building and donate excess stock materials to local nonprofit developers for other affordable housing projects.

    Responding to Buena Park residents’ concerns about the project, Jamas Gwilliam, managing director of Merlone Geier Partners, said: “I think as it comes to fruition, and as the fear of the worst-case scenario doesn’t come to fruition, that animosity subsides and it turns into pride.”

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    ​ Orange County Register