The Renaissance Blob

A guide to Santa Ana's ambitious, conflict-of-interest-y downtown-redevelopment plan

For years, Santa Ana officials have dreamed outloud about "diversifying" and "revitalizing" the city's downtown—code for driving out Mexican businesses in favor of chains and hipsters. After years of planning, city leaders now have a proposal: the Renaissance Specific Plan (RSP), which a city PowerPoint presentation states is "a planning tool to guide development" and "translates the community vision into goals, policy initiatives, regulations and standards." In other words, a way to drive out Mexicans.

We kid—no one knows what the RSP may bring. But from a glimpse of its boundaries and proposals, the RSP helps businesses with ties to the city council and friends, while screwing over everyone else. Below is a sampling of problems. (Click here for a slideshow, and definitely download this PDF!) Then join the discussion on our staff blog, Navel Gazing.


1. Ebell Club, 625 French St.
Every historic building in downtown Santa Ana falls under the RSP except this one, longtime home of Santa Ana's doyennes. Its parking lot is also excluded. Other interesting note? The Santa Ana Kiwanis Club meets here—members include council members Carlos Bustamante and Vince Sarmiento, along with former council member Alberta Christy and current Santa Ana Unified School District president Rob Richardson.


2. Spectrum Condominiums, 450 E. Fourth St.
Long a headache for Santa Ana, which paid $3 million in 1996 to settle a lawsuit filed by the builders because the city refused to issue them a certificate of occupancy after construction. Afterward, the owners paid out almost $8 million to residents who complained of mold growing in their condos. Nevertheless, this blight is no longer part of the RSP after boundary changes late last year.


3. Custom Auto Service, 302 French St.
The RSP bans all auto mechanics and parts dealers from urban neighborhoods and downtown, but newly drawn boundaries made an exception for nine of them, like this Packard-restoration place. Fans include Santa Ana mega-developer Mike Harrah and Donnie Crevier of Crevier BMW.


4. Ace Muffler & Brakes, 401 E. First St.
In 1986, the Pulido family joined others in saving their family business from city hall bureaucrats intent on redevelopment. One son, Miguel, parlayed community goodwill into a Santa Ana City Council seat that same year; in 1994, he became mayor, a post he retains. Pulido told The Orange County Registerlast year that the RSP "is a big change, a positive change"—yet Ace Muffler was exempted from it, according to planning commissioner Sean Mill, so Pulido could vote on the project and not violate conflict-of-interest laws.


5. Festival Hall, 220 E. Third St.
Council member Vince Sarmiento's family has run this Mexican nightclub for years. In 2001, Sarmiento helped negotiate 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. Originally part of the RSP, it was also supposedly removed so Sarmiento could vote.


6. The Court at Artists Village, 300 W. Second St.
Proof that if you do what the city wants, the city will leave you alone. In 2006, its new owners offered tenants a month's rent to leave, clearing out working-class folks in favor of richer people. Left out of the RSP.


7. Dearden's, 117 N. Broadway
The RSP doesn't like furniture stores such as this one. Its boundaries inexplicably zigzag to include Casa Linda Furniture across the street, another next door, as well as another one on Fourth and French streets.


8. Chivas Tortas, on the corner of Fourth and Mortimer Streets
This taco truck is an Orange County gem, hawking treats from the state of Jalisco. Visit while you can: The RSP states, "All business activities [within the RSP boundaries] shall be conducted and located within an enclosed building" and, "No sales shall be made directly from a building to persons on a public sidewalk." Adios, mango ladies, as well!


9. First United Methodist, 609 N. Spurgeon
This church has existed for 135 years in Santa Ana—and it's the only one of about a half-dozen in downtown outside the RSP boundaries. Originally, it was included—now, it's not. Wonder why? Read our Navel Gazing blog!

 
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