Every couple of years, a downtown SanTana booster with a very specific vision of what the area should be–by and for hipsters, with all working-class Mexican immigrants and quinceañera shops neatly scrubbed away through the magical process of gentrification–makes a promo video trying to convince the rest of the world that this DTSA is AWESOME. And every couple of years, the end results keeps getting more and more hilarious. Back in 2008, it was a short film about some of the characters in downtown; after I criticized the filmmaker's lack of raza, they promised to rectify the oversight…and nothing. (Oh, and one of the hipsters said disparaging things about my wife–classy!). A couple of years later, there was another video that started with ex-councilmember Carlos Bustamante and went downhill from there. And anyone remember the propaganda for a light-rail system that ruined U2's "Beautiful Day" forever?
Now the latest entry in this curious genre has emerged: Santa Ana: The Heart of Orange County, and you already know where this is headed when they're not only claiming the famously center-less, soulless OC has a heart, but spell it "Santa Ana" instead of SanTana.
It was produced by something calling itself the Santa Ana Economic Development Council, and debuted in time for the GROW Conference, a collection of Brave New Urbanists that met at the Discovery Science Cube earlier this month. The video caused an online stir among lifelong, working-class santaneros all weekend–you know people are pissed when my former neighbor David, who's about as political and radical as a Q-Tip, chimed in on Facebook. Typical of the reactions is the following Facebook post:
BOOM. My advice to Boomer and others: Make your own videos to show your SanTana–could be fun!
Now, before I rip apart this video, full disclosure: I have more than a couple of friends pop up in this flick. Fuller disclosure: I THINK my close pal helped in the production of it. Fullest disclosure: This infernal rag now has an office in downtown…somewhere.
Now, roll the tape! …or not, because the makers of Santa Ana: The Heart of Orange County know they created a sack of revisionist shit and thus haven't allowed their video to get embedded or accept comments on YouTube (here's a link to the video). But here are the lowlights:
*"Santa Ana is one of those undiscovered gems," says someone at the start, and right there–right there!–is the biggest problem with the video's philosophy. "Undiscovered"? That's news to the 350,000+ residents of the city and its tens of thousands of expats. It's part of the Brave New Urbanist Columbusing project for Fourth Street, of which I had this to say back in 2009:
But there were Mexicans there. Mexicans saved SanTana's downtown. Mexicans believed in it back in the days when Don Papi fought against the very redevelopment he now proposes. They filled the buildings no one else would at the time, and with no city funds. If it weren't for Mexicans, SanTana would've probably knocked down the historic buildings that make the Artist Village so purty like Anaheim did with its old downtown. But credit something good to Mexicans in this county? Nah…
*The only residential neighborhood highlighted is the segregated-Halloween lovin' Floral Park. What, Townsend Street too rough for y'all?
*While SanTana's food scene is great, it's nowhere near "the most amazing culinary scene in Southern California," as one booster puts it. That's just trying too hard.
*Sorry, Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) head Ralph Opacic: SanTana Mayor Don Papi Pulido and the city council have NOT had "tremendous vision" with SanTana–maybe for your institute, as it's devoured more and more of the buildings on Main Street, but not anywhere else.
*How telling that when the boosters talk about SanTana's "great" education, they only talk about charter and private schools–you know, the schools where hipsters and middle-class folks place their children, the better to keep them away from all the dumb Mexi kids who go to the regular schools.
*And where you know this video is full of shit is its loving gaze upon Mike Harrah, the guy who's been trying to build the 37-story One Broadway Plaza in SanTana for over a decade but couldn't build it for years because of a pesky clause in his contract that required he rent at least 50 percent of the building before starting construction. Nevertheless, there's the bearded baboso in hard hat on the long-vacant One Broadway Plaza lot, pretending to pour over building designs for the cameras. By the way, anyone else notice how Harrah says One Broadway Plaza will be 688,000 square feet, even though his website claims it'll just be 612,000 square feet–and the city only signed off on 518,000 square feet last I remember? See that sleight-of-mouth there?
*A female narrator talks about "buildings that people forgot," referring to the historic buildings on Fourth Street, Broadway, and Main. Forgotten by who? Refer to my above rant. And bringing those buildings "back to their glory"? You mean, the glory of a discriminatory past?
*While the film strains to show a multicultural paradise, the main question raised by folks: Where are all the Mexicans? In a city that's 80 percent Latino? Were they all at the Bristol Swap Meet the day of the shoot?
*And that final outer space shot? WEAK SALSA…God, I think I did one like that on my Sega Saturn back in the '90s…HA!