Thanks in part to enthusiastic labor union support the Santa Ana City Council tonight unanimously approved five development agreement concessions to a wealthy Newport Beach real estate developer who is proposing to build Orange County's tallest building.
The smiling, red-faced ZZ Top look-alike sitting in the audience after the vote was Michael F. Harrah, who wants to construct One Broadway Plaza, a 37-story building in downtown Santa Ana.
Harrah didn't speak. He let more than 70 union leaders and workers who'd packed the city council chamber talk. And boy did they talk and talk and talk--all of it in dramatic support of Harrah, who has made no secret his project could create 2,900 local union jobs in a dismal economy.
"We have an opportunity to create some jobs," said Jim Adams
, a high-ranking Los Angeles-Orange County union official.
Katherine Cate, who lives a few blocks from the proposed building site, mocked Harrah's inability to find tenants in the five years since the controversial project won voter approval as well as his newfound affection for union labor.
"Mr. Harrah has been a landlord in Santa Ana for at least a decade," Cate said. "What jobs has he ever brought to union members?"
But Art Pedroza, owner of the Orange Juice blog that covers Santa Ana politics and a person who originally opposed the project, described Cate's concerns as "bogus BS." He urged the council to give into Harrah's wishes.
"[Harrah's proposed] amendments are reasonable," said Pedroza who noted that job creation is critical to the local economy.
Among the five Harrah demands were requests that the city delete a requirement that he first lease 50 percent of the building before beginning construction as well as a restriction that blocks him from bringing on financial partners.
Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez dissected the arguments of the project's opponents and then dismissed the "naysayers."
Mayor Miguel Pulido, a longtime Harrah pal, couldn't contain his excitement.
"It's going to be a gorgeous, gorgeous building," he said after the vote. "Other developers are going to look at our city differently."
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly