The next phase of Santa Ana's Bristol Street Widening Project, a decades-long redevelopment plan, is threatening old-rooted businesses, including a 47-year-old karate dojo run by the man who trained Karate Kid actor Pat Morita.
“I have taught here for 47 years. Everyone knows we're here,” said Shihan (an honorific for a karate master) Fumio Demura at his studio, across the street from Santa Ana College near the interesection of Bristol and 17th streets. “All I want is to teach.”
Demura, who was one of the first Japanese Karate masters to come to the United States, has trained notable actors and martial artists from out of his dojo, Shito-Ryu Karate-Do Genbu-Kai Dojo, which he opened shortly after arriving in Santa Ana in 1965. He prepped Morita for all four Karate Kid films, performing as Morita's stunt double in three of them. He has also worked with Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, and other Hollywood martial artists in different capacities. The walls of his front office are lined with honors he has received, acknowledgements from elected officials, and over 50 magazine covers on which he is featured.
And it might all be gone by next year.
The Bristol Street Widening Project's next phase–dubbed Phase IIIb–calls for the road to be expanded from two lanes in each direction to three with a center median. To do that, it requires about a dozen businesses along Bristol, between Washington Avenue and 17th Street, to give up the land that they currently own so that the city can level their buildings and develop the area for “general commercial” use.
Demura and other affected business owners, including optometrist Bob Gonzales, who was lead plaintiff in a 1993 lawsuit against the city concerning the project, have joined together as the Bristol Street Business Owners Coalition to combat the seizure of their property. Students at Demura's dojo, Shito-Ryu Karate-Do Genbu-Kai Dojo, can bring home petitions to be signed and later presented to the city council at future meetings.
The project is a long-time coming; some form of a redevelopment plan for Bristol involving widening of the street has existed since 1991.
But that doesn't deter Demura, whose ties to Santa Ana remain firm, and who's ready for the eminent-domain fight.
“I just want to teach, especially children [because they are] our future,” Demura says. “I want to build a community like before.”