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After Almost a Decade of Delays, New Housing Development in La Mirada Breaks Ground

Written by Tony Aiello
Wednesday, 05 June 2013 00:00

La Mirada~Although the city is basically built-out when it comes to new housing developments, there are still small-scale possibilities, even if they seem to take forever to culminate.

After nine long years, and countless delays, construction on The Orchards housing development in La Mirada began earlier this week at the site of the old Alondra Center.

The former outdoor strip mall located at Alondra Boulevard and Escalona Road was demolished in 2008.

Using bulldozers and other heavy equipment, construction workers were clearing debris and performing grading work on the land.

The 3.93 acre Alondra Center site was purchased recently by Irvine-based Brandywine after construction was stalled by a lengthy state environmental remediation process.

“We are very pleased to see construction begin on Brandywine’s new housing development in La Mirada,” says City Manager Tom Robinson. “Having such an experienced private developer invest millions of dollars into building new housing in our community reflects the strength of the housing market in La Mirada.”

It all began in March of 2004 when then City Manager Andrea Travis, at a city council meeting, described the center as “blighted”, and city staff began the–not known at the time-long process of getting the site to be demolished with the intent for the city to purchase it and develop single family homes.

The latter did happen, but the city sold the property back to Brandywine earlier this year, suffering a multi-million dollar loss.

In 2004, it was a controversial decision at the time, with at least one business owner from the center (a second generation family-owned printing business) publicly opposing the decision to demolish the buildings. That business eventually moved to Santa Fe Springs.

But a report from the city’s Community Development Department then indicated the change was necessitated by the condition of the center, along with “poor tenant retention and an increase in vacancies leading to loitering, vandalism and public safety concerns with the overall condition of the center negatively impacted the aesthetics of the City,” it read.

However, opponents argued then that many shopping centers in the city could be described as blighted, and adequate reasoning was not provided as to why only this center was singled out.

Alice Palicz is an original La Mirada resident who lives on Tricia Lane and also served as the first City Treasurer, a position she held for 25 years, without pay.

Her backyard is adjacent to where the new homes will be built.

“Brandywine (Homes) has been wonderful in making sure we still have driveway access to our backyards,” she said, “but that sure seems like an awful lot of houses (for the area). We are going to hope for the best.”

Palicz admits something had to be done in 2004 because of some of the undesirable activity at the center, but she also felt a corner had been turned, “We felt bad for the shop owners because, although the center had really become rundown, it really looked better than ever at the time the decision was made to close it, and there was hope,” she said.

Chuckling, Palicz told us that when they tore down the Alondra Center she and her neighbors got back the ocean breeze they lost when the center was originally constructed over 55 years ago.

Now, with the new homes being built, they will lose it again, “When we first moved here you could see Catalina Island, now everything (La Mirada) has been built

up,” she said.

The former strip mall was demolished in 2008, and the city didn’t begin the clean-up process until 2009, almost five years after the decision to condemn it.

Then, the city says they did not receive final clearance of the work by the State Department of Toxic Substances Control until this past April- another four years.

“It’s been a long process getting this project approved and ready to go,” said City Manager Tom Robinson. “Now that it’s all squared away, we expect construction to move quickly and these new homes to be a fine addition to our community.”

“After all this time, it has taken so long, Palicz told us, her voice trailing off, “We are anxious for them to finish and I’m sure the houses will be very nice.”

The development will feature 41 Craftsman-style homes with three or four bedrooms, two and one-half to three and one-half bathrooms, two-car attached garages and private fenced rear yards. The homes will be two-story, ranging in size from approximately 1,300 to 2,000 square feet and homes will be priced at approximately $500,000.

Six of the smaller homes will be made available for purchase at prices starting in the high $200,000’s for moderate-income buyers to comply with income guidelines set annually by the State Department of Housing and Community Development.

The homes will begin pre-selling in July, with new home models scheduled to open in September. The community is expected to close out by the fall of 2014.