A Blast from SanTana's Gentrification Past

destroyedbridge.jpgAn antiquarian source recently rewarded us with a 1995 Orange County Register clip that is instrumental in understanding SanTana's current gentrification wars. Seems city planners wanted to build a pedestrian bridge over Interstate 5 connecting 20th Street in the mid-1990s so that kiddies could have an easier time attending Hoover Elementary School. Problem was that the 20th Street neighborhood west of the 5 is mostly apartment complexes filled with wabs, while the neighborhood east of the 5 is Park Santiago, one of the few places in the city where gabachos aren't a super-minority. Of course, the Santiagistas flipped out, railed about how such a seemingly innocuous walkway would bring in crime, and successfully convinced Caltrans to knock down $600,000 worth of construction to the half-finished bridge.

"We want to be able to maintain the integrity of the [Park Santiago] neighborhood, and one way of doing that is to limit access to the neighborhood," one Mel Vernon told the Los Angeles Times in 1994. That same article also disclosed that Park Santiago resident Jenny Doh "was booed by her neighbors at the school board meeting when she said Santa Ana needs 'bridges that foster understanding and harmony by connecting our lives with the lives of others.'

The only reason there wasn't a full-scale revolution against those NIMBYers is because Santiagistas promised to fund a small park for the folks on the other side of the 5. But let's flash-forward to the May 14, 1995 Register article.

There, reporter Agustin Gurza reported that the Santiagistas had donated a grand total of $78 to the park fund. "I feel bad that we haven't done what we said we were going to
do," Vernon told Gurza. "I'm embarrassed about that...I guess the battle was won months ago. And now I've moved on to other battles, too. "

Thirteen years later, there is still no park or recreational center in the 20th street area west of the 5 that some SanTana planners call the Triangle. There used to be a vacant lot next to Main Street near the 5 South entrance, but SanTana officials turned that into a parking lot for the explicit benefit of the Bowers Museum across the street. Broken promises, insistence anti-Mexican sentiments have nothing to do with the motivation to effect municipal change--that's the same crap supporters of the Renaissance Plan are using. So when activists raise concerns about the ambitious plan to remake the city's core, it's not 'cause of purely Aztlanista reasons--there are historical basis to their issues.

Speaking of which, developers are already trying to twist the arms of SanTana officials to get on with --but that's a post for the near-future!


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