Hip-Hop Culture's Impact On the Gentrification of Santa Ana

Hip-Hop Culture's Impact On the Gentrification of Santa Ana
Brian Feinzimer

A graffiti mural splashed with color and the words Santa Ana looms from the rooftop over the courtyard between Fourth and French streets. In the left-hand corner of the piece, the artist tagged the phrase "East End"—the new name of the area known for decades as Fiesta Marketplace. The brick layered walkways of Plaza Santa Ana used to be home to El Faisan, a collection of kiosks offering Westernwear and Mexican imports before disappearing like many other immigrant businesses before it.

"In hip-hop—and this is one of the strongest rules—you can't grab the torch unless it's passed to you," Medrano says. "[Downtown Inc.] should have waited for the blessing of the people who were here. But they didn't."

Nowadays, the sights and sounds of traditional Latino culture are surrounded by clubs and outdoor shows pumping heavy bass and boom-bap. Clothing shops sling expensive caps and designer sneakers, as shiny cowboy boots and tejanas fade into the background. As the market expands in the plaza, it's natural to believe hip-hop culture is becoming one of the strongest elements in the city's continuing gentrification.

Ironically, El Centro Cultural de Mexico volunteer and rapper IllNess Infection (born Nestor Medrano) voices his complaints about the cultural shift in a rap song called "Santa Ana Savage."

"East End?/¡No se lo que dicen!" Medrano raps, chiding the renaming of the area.

"To me, it's always going to be La Cuatro," Medrano says. "In hip-hop—and this is one of the strongest rules—you can't grab the torch unless it's passed to you. [Downtown Inc.] should have waited for the blessing of the people who were here. But they didn't."

Ryan Chase, president of Downtown Inc. and son of property owner Irv Chase, has long been sold on the idea of making Santa Ana a gentrified urban center, with entertainment and retail central to his vision. He spoke with the Fifth Element Magazine, a hip-hop-flavored website, in December about the changes: "I've noticed just growing up in Irvine, which is about as cookie-cutter as it gets, I always wanted something different. I was always into urban areas. Orange County doesn't have that."

Near the Artists Village downtown sits the Santora Building, which houses GCS Clothing. It's one of a growing handful of stores catering to graffiti artists, skaters and hip-hop-heads. "Where some establishments try to push a certain style, we try to push a certain culture," GCS owner Hector Ruiz says. "My goal with this business is to tie the culture together."

In addition to apparel, the youth-centric store sells spray paint and markers and hangs pieces by local artists. But despite the apparent influx of hip-hop culture in Santa Ana, GCS recently announced it's closing that location. "The rent is way too expensive here in this building," Ruiz says.

Young urban hipsters going to club nights and restaurants hasn't translated into a enough of an increase in revenue for the business.

Ruiz says the controversial levies on downtown businesses also played a role in the shop's closing. "It's definitely gone up three or four times over. I definitely don't see three or four times over the amount of people here," he says. "In fact, services have gone down."

While the fate of GCS casts doubt on the purchasing power of the hip-hop community in downtown, Tyson Pruong, a Santa Ana native and event promoter, remains hopeful. He often helps to put together events with the Konsept art collective. At first, downtown Santa Ana didn't seem inviting to his vision. But for the past couple of years, Pruong has worked to change that, throwing more events that align with where he believes the market is heading.

For September, Konsept is planning a big music festival, with hip-hop and street artists among the focal points. Pruong says he envisions the event will take up an entire street. "We want to do it during the Art Walk [the first Saturday of the month], [when] we know there's going to be a good amount of foot traffic. That's a way of getting all the businesses wanting to do it as well," says Pruong. "If anything would have a chance [to define this area], it probably would be hip-hop."

Of course, whether it's called the East End or La Cuarto, locals and out-of-towners will play a pivotal role as to what changes to the neighborhood are really going to stick.

"One person's gentrification is another's improvement and evolution," Ruiz says. "It depends on which side of the fence you're on."

 
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27 comments
mister_ecks
mister_ecks

Hey, your last pic, that's actually inside The Collectiv, not GCS. GCS actually closed recently, they have to move out of the Santora building. Source: I bought two shirts at their moving sale.

Also, as a recent hipster emigre to SantAna, I say Viva Gentrification!!!! I would never have forked out $400K for a house in Washington Square if it wasn't for the awesome changes downtown.


carpetbagger
carpetbagger

Gabe,

Don't forget DTSA is a great place to get your head STOMPED in, by angry club goer's too. But, you have to be quick, with each fresh murder, they'll change the name and the chef!

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

When did gentrification become a dirty word?


Rodriguez Liz
Rodriguez Liz

Seriously .. I hope Santa Ana keeps changing .. It's positive , out with the old .. East End sounds great , love it

LaCuatro
LaCuatro

I wish the name change of downtown were the problem because that's an easy fix. It's the strategy to wipe away the past and current business owners and residents (many of who are immigrants) that folks really need to consider and condemn. 

Luis Lopez-Maldonado
Luis Lopez-Maldonado

We invite change. Everywhere. But those that have been here, 20, 30, 40 + years… know. That is all. East Side. West Side. Santa Ana. La Bristol. La Quarto. La Primera. La Main. . . . . . No one can take history away… Our roots.

Sean Coolidge
Sean Coolidge

Hmmm...but I didn't have a say when the City of Santa Ana decided to rebrand my neighborhood "The Station District". Guess what? It changed nothing.

Milton Diaz
Milton Diaz

East end. ...oh this is what is called. ...I thought it was "la primera" "la cuatro"..no pos wow...

Joki Robotita
Joki Robotita

Ughh East End? Seriously? I will always call it "la CUATRO"

Nikki Brunetti
Nikki Brunetti

Tyrone Monroe... look familiar? I know some guys! :-)

YouMustLearn
YouMustLearn

Councilwoman CLAUDIA ALVAREZ set back the very serious issue of gentrification with her histrionics and hate. It is great to see that gentrification is being discussed and that folks take seriously the displacement of the business owners and residents that invested for years in the downtown.  Our City Leaders' collective response has been anemic:  They sit on their hands and ignore the plight, only taking the time to lift their arms when receiving a campaign contribution from the Chases and their associates. 

GentrificationOrBust
GentrificationOrBust

Thank you for posting this. Mr. Chase (from Irvine) and his followers (who are not from Santa Ana, but rather Garden Grove, Irvine, Mission Viejo etc.) reduce something that is all about inequality to middle-class agonizing over authenticity.And, then they hide their intentions with hip-hop, coffee and arugula.

It’s beyond time that the city council, planning commission and fax-urbanites degentrified their thinking about Santa Ana which requires them to abandon a number of pervasive myths that have helped legitimize inequality and contribute to gentrification’s colonization of the hip-brave new urbanists’ imagination.

Chase attempts to argue that his work fixes urban decay.This offers a false choice.No serious critic of gentrification wants to maintain decay.Instead of either gentrification or decay, cities should push for more equal distribution of resources and more democratic decision making. 

Gentrification doesn’t help the less fortunate because the “very fortunate” seek to bend municipal priorities and local land uses towards their own needs (appointing lobbyist to positions and letting campaign contributions determine policy outcomes).

It’s a sickening process and as Santaneros do nothing, Calle Cuatro becomes East End.

illnesinfection
illnesinfection

Billionaire investor only see there business model when they look at our town. They dont see the people and tbeir stories. All in the name of development.

jcsna
jcsna

The same old spray painted graffiti art in every other "urban" area...  how unique.


Property values downtown have done well over the last two years, but where in OC have property values not done well over the last two years?

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

You're such an idiot.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

It's a marketing tool you idiot!

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Grow up. Nobody is trying to erase the precious past. If you really think you will forget, write a book about it.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

I saw you standing there crying when the marketplace sign came down.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Good for you. I'm sure you will be busy with that.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Keep your job at the National Enquirer, nobody believes you bullshit here.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

What did he say! I fell asleep after, 'Thank you'.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Tbeir? Ah, another student in the SA school district.

Brainwashed_in_church
Brainwashed_in_church topcommenter

@illnesinfection They're only delivering what people want. If the people didn't want it (developement) then the people wouldn't buy it and the billionaires wouldn't be billionaires.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Fact: Our neighborhood property values increased do to the vastly improved downtown. Of course we live in north Santa Ana.

 
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