Can Santa Ana Residents Successfuly Use a Community Benefits Agreement to Mitigate the Re-Renaissance Plan?

SanTana's ambitious plans to remake its downtown core and the head-in-the-sand approach it takes to the area's actual needs came to a tragic collision today, in the form of a 16-year-old cyclist smashed into by a car.

The car hit the boy with such impact that the windshield shattered, the bicycle was broken in two, and the vehicle suffered a massive dent. The Orange County Register is reporting the teen is in critical condition--I was there at the scene and thankfully didn't see any blood, but never saw him move his hands and legs, either. He only responded to pleas by a dentist to breath, and the teen's tortured gasps for air were a sound I hope to never hear again.

The accident--which happened just before 1 p.m. next to Garfield Elementary School; I know, because I was one of many who placed a call to 911, and a gracias to SanTana firefighters and police officers, who were on the scene in less than three minutes--put a damper on the festivities that were happening in the Garfield parking lot: the unveiling of a plan to combat the city's Re-Renaissance Plan.

For the past couple of months, a coalition of community groups gathered under the name SACReD (Santa Ana Collaborative for Responsible Development) have met to determine how best to respond to SanTana Mayor Don Papi Pulido's plans to add thousands of new residents to the Latino-heavy neighborhoods going from the city's train station to its downtown. Their plan was unveiled today in the form of a community fair with participation ranging from baile folklorico dancers to the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society and others: a community benefits agreement.

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The concept is quite a progressive one: community groups ask the city and developers to enter into a legally binding agreement in which all sides agree on perks for local residents (such as affordable housing, park space, and jobs) in return for developers to build with little grassroots opposition. Successful CBAs have been negotiated in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other liberal havens--but in SanTana, where the Kingdom of the Don Papi loves developers the way Henry VIII loved wives?

Attendees seemed to respond well to SACReD's proposed strategy, but the thoughts of most were understandably on the injured boy. "This is already a neighborhood that's way overcrowded," said a lady who identified herself only as Yuri. She had no idea of the city's plans for her neighborhood, which include squeezing in high-rise apartments. "We need parks, not more buildings--there's already too many apartments! With more people and more cars on these small streets, there's going to be more accidents!"

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