Second Street Promenade is the centerpiece of Santa Ana’s Artists Village–and now another front in the city’s war against the homeless. The cobblestone courtyard welcomes people to restaurants like the Den Cafe and Lola Gaspar as well as Grand Central Art Center. It’s also a place where the city’s homeless have rested on benches watching the day go by or have washed up with the water trickling down from the promenade’s central fountain.
That is, until all the benches in the promenade got removed a few weeks ago, leaving people with nowhere to sit. The city insists that the decision to take out the benches wasn’t done to deter the homeless from the area.
“The benches were temporarily removed last month because of they were in need of maintenance and repair,” says Daisy Perez, city spokeswoman. “The benches will be replaced in the future.”
Either way, the decision is already making the area feel more unwelcoming to homeless people. With the benches gone, Santa Ana police officer Frank Aragon approached a black homeless woman on Sept. 10 and gave her an early morning misdemeanor citation for storing property in public.
“I’m going to give these out all day long,” he told her before giving a loitering lecture. “We’re going to have signs up here pretty soon. The signs are going to say ‘no loitering.’”
The city didn’t respond to Weekly questions about loitering signs to come.
Two years ago, Anaheim removed benches at bus stops near Disneyland on the grounds that homeless people used them as beds under a makeshift shelter. Garcia views Santa Ana’s explanation for removing the Artists Village benches with great skepticism.
“I walked by the benches on a daily basis,” she says. “They always seemed sturdy. They didn’t seem to need any work done on them.”
Since their removal, Garcia has noticed less homeless people in the Artists Village area, save for those who find rest sitting on a stoop. To her, it’s far from just being coincidental.
“Witnessing homeless people get asked to leave the Artists Village when sitting on the benches has led me to believe that this is a direct action against them,” she says. “If the city says the benches are going to come back, I’ll be here to see if that actually happens.”