Local

Santa Ana’s gentrification sparks debate

AirTalk's March 28, 2011, debate on downtown Santa Ana's proposed development projects at the Libreria Martinez.
AirTalk's March 28, 2011, debate on downtown Santa Ana's proposed development projects at the Libreria Martinez.
Karen X. Fritsche/KPCC

The Santa Ana City Council has proposed multiple projects to upgrade housing and bring new business activity to the area. But some vocal groups oppose redevelopment. They argue that the changes will push out family-owned businesses and negatively transform the character of downtown Santa Ana.

As with all such undertakings, various interests and issues come into play:

On March 28, AirTalk went "on the road" to Libreria Martinez in Santa Ana to debate the pros and cons of that city’s revitalization process.

On one side is the all-Latino City Council. They are pushing for redevelopment and feel it would bring in much-needed revenue.

“All we're doing here is trying to create opportunities for everyone,” said Carlos Bustamante, a Santa Ana Councilman, adding he wants to see a “rebirth of the city.”

Bustamante said there is a big decline in shopping in the area because of the recession. He also attributes the drop to changing consumer habits as shoppers seek out bigger businesses such as Kohl's and Wal-Mart, he said.

Some residents and business owners fear that new development would push out “mom and pop” stores and dilute downtown Santa Ana's proud Latino heritage.

If new development is going to come to downtown Santa Ana, residents and business owners want guarantees outlined in a Community Benefits Agreement that a development deal would come with good jobs for local workers, a business development plan for existing businesses, the creation of parks and open space, affordable housing, and historic and cultural preservation.

“If they're going to do everything that they say they are going to do, what is the problem in signing something that guarantees the community a right to respond — if and when these things are not done?” said Carolina Sarmiento, board member of El Centro Cultural de Mexico, a local community organization.

For more, listen to the whole debate on AirTalk's page which includes a link to bonus Web audio with audience questions and comments from the Santa Ana Event.