The Brea Redevelopment Agency was formed in 1972 to provide a tool to eliminate blighting conditions and thus insure that the City’s economic base would grow and remain healthy by providing new public improvements, commercial development, and affordable housing. Over the years, the Agency adopted and amended several project areas, resulting in numerous successful projects ranging from the Brea Mall and the Civic & Cultural Center to office parks, retail centers, residential projects and public improvements. Community-involved planning efforts such as the Brea Project and the Downtown Charette insured that public input was included throughout the process.
The second half of the decade saw one of the most productive periods in the history of the Brea Redevelopment Agency. Significant progress was made on the Agency’s Downtown Revitalization Project, numerous housing programs and projects, economic development efforts, and public safety.
The Downtown Revitalization project represents the most significant redevelopment project undertaken by the Agency. In 1985, the Agency began acquiring and assembling properties in an effort to transform the blighted area into an economically- viable downtown. Hundreds of blighted structures were removed and replaced with new successful developments. These include:
- The Gateway Center: A 200,000 square foot community shopping center anchored by a grocery store, drug store, and several restaurants and small shops.
- Ash Street Cottages: A 96-unit single-family for-sale-housing neighborhood that has won several awards for innovative design and quality of development.
- Brea Commerce Center: A seven-acre service park anchored by auto repair, hardware, and industrial uses.
- North Block: A revitalized block anchored by a new regional bank headquarters and a photo-processing laboratory.
But the most visible project is Downtown Birch Street, which is anchored by two state-of-the-art theater complexes containing 22 stadium-style screens. he street features approximately 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurants. It is a true mixed-use project with 62 loft-style apartments over retail, entertainment uses, and office space.
Accompanying Birch Street are the Superblocks. These two blocks adjacent to Birch Street feature an additional 105,000 square feet of retail and restaurants. They are anchored by restaurants and apparel stores.
The Agency’s participation in the downtown project includes two Agency-funded parking structures, and two surface parking lots providing over 2,000 free parking spaces. Additionally a bridge has been constructed to link one of the parking structures to the east side of town.
It is important to note that the Downtown revitalization project included the provision to provide improved public safety. The project provided for a new Police Annex on Birch Street as well as a new Downtown Fire Station to be built on Brea Boulevard. These additional facilities will help to insure improved public safety in the community.
The Brea Redevelopment Agency is very proud of its success in providing quality affordable housing to Brea families. The Agency has assisted in the creation or subsidy of more than 500 low- and moderate-income housing units in Brea. Projects range from new single-family home developments such as the Arbors and Laurel Walk projects to affordable housing rehabilitation projects such as Walnut Village and Civic Center Apartments.
The Agency also adopted an innovative Mobile Home Policy and assisted in the non-profit purchase and rehabilitation of the Rancho Brea Mobile Home Park. Additionally, the Homebuyer Assistance Program helps families move into the home ownership market and the Senior Subsidy Program assists the low-income elderly maintain affordable housing within the community.
To insure a prosperous and balanced business community, the Agency continually pursues economic development opportunities. The Agency has assisted businesses in moving to Brea. Agency staff provides several resources to the business community. Businesses that may be exploring the potential for developing or constructing a new facility in Brea are assisted through the process by a specific staff person acting as a liaison for development processing and relocation issues. Agency staff also provides up-to-the-minute information on available office and manufacturing space in Brea through an Internet membership to commercial brokerage listings.
The Agency also prides itself on maintaining a strong infrastructure for the business community. The efforts in this area can be seen in the aggressive Capital Improvement Program. The program creates improved streets, water, and sewer systems. Additionally, a commercial rehabilitation loan program has resulted in the renovation of several commercial shopping areas.
Recently, the Agency has taken a lead role in creating a regional approach to economic development. The Agency helped form the North Orange County Partnership with surrounding cities. The partnership’s goal is to insure that North Orange County fully participates in the growth of the region and remains competitive with the rest of southern California. The concept is inclusionary, where all cities will benefit from strong economic growth and from positioning the region as a business center. Although Brea has secured a strong economic base, it is essential to keep Brea and the region competitive in the marketplace.
Redevelopment – The Elimination of Blight
The Brea Redevelopment Agency is committed to identifying underutilized, blighted and economically challenged areas within the project areas and working to find solutions to making them fiscally sound and structurally safe. Although the majority of this work is now complete, opportunities still exist to complete the vision established more than twenty years ago. In an effort to insure that the downtown revitalization project is an economic success, additional projects have been recommended for research. They include linking Downtown Birch Street with the other retail portions further east on Birch Street. These include the Market Place and the Brea Mall.
Economic Development – Assurance of a Healthy Business Environment
In order to assure that the Brea community maintains its healthy business environment, the Agency will heighten its efforts in the area of Economic Development in the coming years. Staff will continue to work closely with surrounding cities in the North Orange County partnership to strengthen economic development in the region. Brea will continue to lead this group on initiatives of benefit to the region. Monitoring available manufacturing and industrial space and providing the information to businesses interested in relocating or expanding in the City of Brea will continue. A new initiative is to examine the availability of appropriate infrastructure, such as fiber optics, to accommodate the growing needs of high-tech businesses.
Highlights of Department Projects and Programs:
Ash Street Cottages
The Ash Street Cottages were envisioned as a true downtown neighborhood. The 96 homes were constructed in phases with the final phase selling out in 1997. The project has met the goal of a truly urban living experience with resident-serving amenities such as a grocery store, video rental store, cleaners, coffee shop, and unique shops and entertainment all within a short walk of the front door. The units have retained their cottage charm.
Birch Street Loft Housing
The Agency provided financial assistance to develop apartments above the retail shops along Birch Street. This type of housing was considered a high priority for the downtown in order to create an “around-the-clock” downtown. The vertical mixed use resulting from this project gives the downtown a level of energy that cannot be achieved through commercial development alone. The developer constructed 62 one-bedroom units, with 33 units set aside for low- to moderate-income households.
Walnut Village Apartments
The Agency acquired 51 deteriorated apartment units in an effort to provide for the rehabilitation and preservation of the units and facilitate non-profit ownership for long- term affordability. The project resulted in complete renovation of the units. One four-plex was removed and replaced with a community room for tutoring and other resident programs. All 47 units are reserved for very-low-income households for a 40-year term.
Rancho Brea Mobile Home Park
In 1995, the Agency adopted a Mobile Home Park Policy. The policy acknowledged that a contributing factor to mobile home park issues is separate ownership of the land and housing unit, creating competing interest and conflict between the park owners and residents. The Agency created a partnership with a non-profit housing corporation, issued tax-exempt bonds, and provided funds for renovation work on the park. The project has a total of 100 spaces, with 60 spaces reserved for very-low- to moderate-income households.
The Olson Company was selected from a competitive proposal process to build 27 single- family homes adjacent to Brea’s Community Center. The project includes a pedestrian link to the Center from Birch Street. The development included five houses sold to median-income households.
The 27-home Laurel Walk project was the second development by The Olson Company in Brea. This single-family home development used the existing alley for off-street parking which allowed for an architecturally-rich front entry to the homes, including porches and second floor balconies. Five of these homes were sold to moderate-income families. This project also enhanced the Birch Street pedestrian link by including public art adjacent to the sidewalk.
Habitat for Humanity
The Agency provided land to Habitat for Humanity for the development of four projects in Brea. The Habitat program requires a commitment from the homebuyers to provide “sweat equity,” and much of the materials and labor is donated. This approach allows for a reduced purchase price for the very-low-income family.
Practice House Villas
This project included the relocation and rehabilitation of the “Practice House,” a house that was used for high school home economics classes in Brea’s past. The home was renovated, and three new condominium units were constructed on-site. The project resulted in four low- to moderate-income for-sale units with 30-year affordability terms.
Tamarack Pointe Villas
The Agency provided financial assistance to offset the cost of developing this 48-unit family apartment complex. The assistance was provided under the City’s affordable housing ordinance. In return, the Agency received covenants on five units restricted to low- and moderate-income households with a 30-year term.
Vintage Canyon Senior Apartments
The 105-unit Vintage Canyon Apartment project was proposed by the developer as a standard senior citizen apartment complex. Recognizing the need for lower rents and higher services, the Agency and City worked with the developer to reach a lower affordability level (10% of the units are for seniors at 40% median income while the remaining units are for seniors earning 50% median income). The project includes transportation, group activities, and wellness programs. All of the units have affordable housing restrictions for 30 years.
Homebuyer Assistance Program
The Agency provides up to $225,000 in assistance to low- and moderate-income homebuyers. The loans have a 30-year term and are deferred for the first five years. If the property is sold or no longer owner-occupied, then the loan is due and payable with an equity share provided to the Agency.
Senior Subsidy Program
This program began in 1989 and provides 120 seniors with a monthly rent subsidy, which they are able to use at the dwelling of their choice. The program meets the needs of very-low-income seniors who would otherwise have to modify their spending for essential items such as food and medication in order to afford market rent.
Rental Rehabilitation Program
The Agency uses both housing set-aside funds and federal HOME funds to implement a rental rehabilitation loan program. The program has included loans issued to the BirchTerrace apartments (36 units with 18 restricted for very-low and low-income households) and the Civic Center apartments (30 units with 16 units reserved for very-low and low-income tenants). In addition to the rental rehabilitation program, the Agency also implements the single-family rehabilitation program using federal funds to implement approximately 15-20 loans per year.
Neighborhood Enhancement Plan
In October of 1998, the City Council adopted a Neighborhood Enhancement Plan. The Plan identified six neighborhoods that were showing early signs of deterioration. The Agency staff is implementing this program and held its first outreach event in June of 1999.