In Housing Density, It's Too Close for Comfort
(Comment: Something to look forward to in UTAH)
Los Angeles Times
September 15, 2003
With the most crowded households of any large U.S. city and many of its
dwellings substandard, Santa Ana faces an intractable dilemma: how to
enforce health and safety laws without forcing thousands of residents
onto the street.
Santa Ana's average household size of 4.6 people is, according to the
U.S. census, greater than that of any other U.S. city with a population
of more than 50,000. The average household size in Los Angeles is 2.8;
in New York City, it's 2.6.
* * *
And so the city is caught in the middle of competing tensions. It
attracts poor working families resigned to sharing houses with strangers
and tolerating faulty plumbing and electricity and other deficiencies.
And with diminishing resources, the city tries to enforce codes intended
to protect residents yet which, if strictly enforced, may only worsen
their immediate plight.
In the early 1990s, city officials took a beating from advocates of
immigrants and low-cost housing when they tried to impose occupancy
standards stricter than the state's, which allow 19 people to live in a
950-square-foot home. The city linked density to higher crime,
deteriorated sewers and increased fire hazards.
Indeed, countywide, many renters simply shrug and bear such conditions.
Of the 18,342 complaints received by Orange County's Fair Housing
Council for the year ending June 30, only 9% involved code enforcement
problems. More tenants are concerned about the return of their security
Undocumented immigrants fear deportation if they tattle to authorities. Others worry that if they are evicted by landlords for complaining, or
are ordered out by the city, they will not be able to find another place
to live, or can't come up with the deposit.