Bare, Ruined Choirs

The historic buildings in the way of One Broadway Plaza were doomed
long before the vote on Measure A

* * *

The McNeill-Basler was unofficially renamed the "Big Brother house" last year by Ochoa and his housemates. The obvious reason, he said, was because 1103 N. Broadway had become a popular stop for Santa Ana police, responding to reports of trespassing, drinking, drugging and gay sex; the other was that the homeless living together saw themselves as a band of brothers—us against the world.

Police have visited the house 53 times since January 1999, according to Santa Ana police Lieutenant Carlos Rojas. The vast majority of police visits were in response to trespassing complaints phoned in against people probably much like Ochoa. The Michoacan native told me in early March that they found the McNeill-Basler by word of mouth late last year. He recalled in vivid broken English nights spent cowering upstairs from the drunks, thieves, junkies and maricones—theSpanish word meaning "faggots"—whom Ochoa said once caroused below.

"One night, we were here," Ochoa said, "and the police came in downstairs, and they were . . . arresting people. And we hide"—and he covered the back of his head with crossed hands. And it worked, for a while.

Their eviction was really just a warm-up; with the election over, there's no longer any doubt that another Orange County area of choice homes will make way for the marketplace, much in the way historic Anaheim did in the 1970s and 1980s. The only unanswered question now seems to be how long these two pieces of history will have to wait for the guys with neon vests, hardhats, donuts and heavy equipment to show up and take them apart.

Like the homeless, all we can do is wait and see.

This story was updated on April 21, 2005.
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