The Renaissance Blob in Santa Ana's Redevelopment Plan

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Today, a chingo of SanTana residents met at State Senator Lou Correa's office to discuss the Renaissance Specific Plan, which seeks to transform the city's downtown in a good (according to proponents) or gentrifying-Mexicans-outta-there (says opponents) way. I'm sure the other SanTana blogs--specifically Sean Mill at The Liberal OC and the Orange Juice! gang--will have something to say, but here's something for everyone to ponder in the meanwhile: what's with the weird blob in the bottom middle of the proposed area as shown in this included map?

The bottom boundary coming from the east is mostly First Street but then does a strange jag through lots up until a small stretch of Fourth Street. It do-si-dos around two buildings before going back on Third, hangs a left on Bush Street, then finally continues on First. The businesses inside the blob (that is, outside the boundaries of the Renaissance Plan) seem to be exactly the opposite of what SanTana planners want for their downtown--mostly auto repair shops, a Mexican dance hall, and a big, ugly shopping plaza with McDonald's and Taco Bell as the main tenants. Yet the Renaissance Blob ensures they'll be excluded from any plans or new regulations.

Why the exception? As always in SanTana politics, look to the conflict of interests involved in any decision. In this case, look at mayor Miguel Pulido and councilmember Vince Sarmiento.

Sarmiento's family has run Festival Hall at 220 E. Third Street for years. It attracts the type of crowd city planners abhor--Mexicans looking to dance. In 2001, Sarmiento helped broker a deal with the city in which Festival Hall agreed to soundproof itself in return for agreeing not to sue the city for allowing the building of lofts next door and across the street. Those lofts are also part of the Renaissance Blob.

Pulido's family, meanwhile, owns Ace Muffler & Brakes on 401 E. First Street. For years, it stood as a testament to the power of pissed-off little people. In the mid-1980s, Santa Ana officials tried to tear down Ace Muffler as part of a redevelopment plan. The Pulidos sued and won, and the developer erected their shopping plaza around the muffler shop. Miguel used that battle to catapult himself onto the SanTana City Council in 1986, and used the continuing goodwill to become mayor in 1994, where he remains. Ace Muffler is also part of the Renaissance Blob.

I'm not sure who determined the boundaries for the Renaissance Plan, but doesn't the Blob rather conveniently exclude Festival Hall and Ace Muffler from the coming redevelopment? So, Pulido and Sarmiento: put your properties where your mouths are. Miguel: you told the Orange County Register back in October that the Renaissance Plan "is a big change, a positive change." Same with you, Vincent: you fought hard and admirably to ensure Festival Hall survived--will you do the same for the residents and businesses the Renaissance Plan seeks to remove? If ustedes like the Renaissance Plan so much, why not remove your properties from the Renaissance Blob and include them in the plan? Leave your justifications below--SanTana residents and lovers of transparent governance await your response!


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