The Source OC, Buena Park’s giant open-air mall that’s sort of open, is planning to add condominiums to its site despite still having many empty storefronts. The proposed 187-foot tall mixed-use development with 250-units was outlined during Tuesday night’s city council study session. And if the big blight on Beach Boulevard isn’t enough of an “eyesource” for residents now, the artistic rendering of condos to come brought a chorus of comments on its ghastliness from concerned residents and council members alike!
Of course, when Arne Emerson of Morphosis Architecture first boosted the project, he had much nicer words. The condo expansion, which looks like it came from a Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer, was lauded as a masterpiece of Modernism. “At the top you really see the idea of this crown,” Emerson said, referring to the protruding penthouses overlooking Beach Blvd. “It’s about forming this threshold that pulls you in, that’s this immediate signifer that once you get off the freeway you’re immediately greeted by this.”
Bruh, you ain’t no Neutra.
The conceptual plan drew thunderous applause from the audience. In fact, the study session moved back into council chambers from a smaller conference room before the presentation started because the Source turned out people in droves to support. But the days when the Source could waltz into council chambers without a hint of dissent about its plans are starting to fade. Residents angered by its slow build voiced their concerns abut the condos and its accompanying five-story parking structure.
“When the Source first came into this community around 12 to 15 years ago, they showed us the same fancy pictures,” longtime resident Ken Anderson said. “We don’t need this reject from Star Wars as a new identity! Our identity today is just great.”
The project would be built on the corner of Beach Blvd. and Melrose Street where M+D Properties acquired a Pizza Hut, doughnut shop and residential parcels.
Katie Wanamaker, M + D Properties’ president of property management and government relations, invited mostly Korean community partners in the audience to stand up in support of the uniqueness of the plan against its doubters. “They don’t understand really what the hipsters, and millennials and all these new families are looking for to buy,” she said, recounting a recent conversation with Source developers (and brothers) Min and Donald Chae. “They want to be able to eat, shop and dine and have all their recreation and entertainment all in one spot.”
Activists from Buena Park United largely steered clear of the project’s unsightliness to ask more critical questions about whether it planned on making a percentage of its units affordable housing or use union-contracted labor for its construction. (And the only reason archival video footage of the study session is available is thanks to the livestreaming efforts of BPU founder and former council candidate Susan Sonne, not the city). Before discussion got underway, Mayor Beth Swift had to recuse herself, like always, because she lives in the Brenner-Melrose neighborhood the Source dumped itself in the middle of. She took to the public comments podium as just a plain ol’ resident.
“The neighbors are completely unaware of what’s being proposed for our neighborhood,” Swift said. “This building is right on the sidewalk. There’s no way to mitigate the awful size, the awful look.”
Surprisingly, fellow council members took cues from Swift’s chiding of the fugly, out-of-place design. “I am not excited for this project,” councilman Steve Berry said while waffling on using the word “shocking” to describe the design. “It almost looks as if a tornado has gone through it.” Councilwoman Virginia Vaughn called the rendering a little “harsh.” Even councilman Fred Smith, who’s received more Source-related campaign contributions than any other Buena Park politician, didn’t mince words. “It’s ugly,” Smith said. “I don’t want it in my city.”
Aesthetic criticisms aside, none of the 250-units would be set aside for affordable housing and there’s no plans to use union contractors for construction. The condo expansion is also just the first phase of the Source’s residential plans that called for 1,000 total units in total when first passed in 2008. After Tuesday’s study session, city planners will consider the pushback on the project’s design before coming back to council.
Whatever the appearance, Melrose Street residents should ready to brace for another round of Source-related construction. Fun!
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!