Orange County Under Investigation for Possible Surplus Land Act Violation
Earlier this year, Anaheim was fined $96 million for violating the Surplus Land Act in its secret negotiations for the sale of Angel Stadium. Now, Orange County is under investigation for potentially violating the same law as it seeks to build market-rate housing on county-owned property next to Santa Ana College.
Under the Surplus Land Act, public land for sale must be prioritized for low-income housing. That generally means affordable housing developers are given the opportunity to propose projects in which affordable housing would comprise at least a quarter of the units.
“I think there is a direct violation there,” Kennedy Commission Executive Director Cesar Covarrubias told Voice OC of the Santa Ana project. The Kennedy Commission is a low-income housing advocacy group.
“It has to go through the Surplus Land Act to allow for a competition, so that the housing needs in Santa Ana and for those students across the street at Santa Ana College – the majority of whom will be at low and very low income [levels] – will have an opportunity to be housed in the city and in proximity to the job centers and the school center there.”
Orange County officials are calling the project “agency use” because they plan to use the revenue from the market-rate housing for new public health facilities. It is therefore exempt from the Surplus Land Act, the county maintains.
“Because the property is needed for agency (i.e., Health Care Agency) uses, the property is not being disposed of for ‘the sole purpose of investment or generation of revenue,’ within the meaning of Government Code § 54221(c),” said County Counsel Leon Page.
Nevertheless, county officials, including Supervisor Katrina Foley, have been working with the developer to improve development plans and provide a greater number of low or moderate-income units. Foley said the developer has agreed to 20 percent affordable housing. "But we’re going to work on the puzzle,” added Foley, who also believes the Surplus Land Act does not apply in this case.
Read more at Voice of OC.