Tuesday, August 19, 2008


One of the best things about living on Santa Ana Boulevard is the convenience of being able to spark a conversation with any of the many pedestrians that pass through here daily.

People who’ve lived in this area of Santa Ana are happy to see something as nice as our lofts finally come to their neighborhood. Joggers and dog walkers are popping up everywhere and it's great!

Having spoken with several high school students that transverse these sidewalks (upwards of ten times a school week), these lofts represent what these students could achieve should they choose to continue on their paths for higher education–in other words, these lofts represent hope.

In a city touting an “Education First” motto, but only supporting a painfully low 56% graduation rate among high school students (source: Civic for Civic Innovation), hope is something this town and these students desperately need.

And what of the 56% of students that do graduate from high school and move on to pursue a four-year degree? Do you think that Santa Ana has what it takes to retain these educated individuals once college is done?

No. They end up moving to real cities with real downtowns such as Los Angeles, San Diego or Long Beach.

The remaining 44% of students who don’t graduate from high school statistically end up in low-wage jobs, with very few options or ways out of this city.

Having spoken with a friend that once worked at Latino Health Access, 8 out of 10 teenage females will get pregnant in the city of Santa Ana.

As a good friend put it, Santa Ana has created a wonderful system of dependency.

Growing up, I didn’t have much, but I did see a lot of wonderful things happening in downtown San Diego that aspired me to continue on with my education.

Though the Broadway One tower (terrible website design) is riddled with controversy and shenanigans, I welcome that development in that it too brings hope. Once built, the tower will not only bring in new faces to Santa Ana, but also large corporations that could help retain the educated students who would normally make an exodus from this town.

Currently, downtown Santa Ana does not allow standard (R2) residential living. As stated in the Renaissance Plan, this restriction would be lifted offering new living options to current residents and outsiders seeking the urban lifestyle.

Anyone who knows me personally has probably heard my rant as to how important this zoning change is to this city. With such limiting restrictions on residential developments, our downtown currently operates as a dismal 10-hour downtown when it could easily be an 18-hour downtown full of restaurants, activities and a wondrous nightlife.

Employment opportunities will blossom from every corner. Restaurants such as Memphis, Jason’s and Tommy Pastrami could support a full 7-day schedule with the influx of hungry urbanites. County workers that normally stampede out of the city come five o'clock now have a reason to hang out and spend some time and money in our fabulous downtown. The increased foot traffic would create a better sense of security for those who before, would never step foot in Santa Ana, and now would do anything to be here.


Anonymous said...

Well put!

Anonymous said...

Good post Ben...keep it up my friend!

Spencer Hoo said...

Like Ben, I too would love to see redevelopment happen sooner than later (later sometimes turns into never as we all know). From my sources, I hear the PrimeUrban Depot project planned across from SSL seems to be on pause until an indefinate date. Breaking ground date keeps on getting pushed further and further away. This project, teamed with what was supposed to be built in the Train Depot Parking Lot, is just what is needed in our current down economy.

And FYI regarding the vacant land parcels along Santa Ana Blvd next to the Freeway 5 exit, the front parcel belongs to County of Orange (unsuccessful attempt to auction it earlier). The 2 back parcels accessible from Washington St are now under control of Santa Ana Redevelopment Agency (belonged/belongs to Cal Trans).

So that site definately will have something new coming soon. How soon, is a big ? mark. Alot of developers seem to be shelving projects until the real estate market is back in a growth curve, which may take longer than 5 years. Those that are still developing, are only completing projects that are already started or ones that they are too heavily invested in to pause.

I am told that they will be doing a RFP process to select the new buyers/developer for the 2 rear parcels.

As a real estate practitioner, I represent a client interested in building a mixed use live/work type high-rise community with street level commercial, which exceeds minimal level of LEED certification requirements. My client is not afraid of nor dependent on current real estate trends and would opt to begin construction immediately (pending city aprovals, permits, etc).

However, as many SA residents and readers of this blog are aware, navigating this type of project and dealing with SA, can be a difficult and frustrating one. It took over a month for me to get anywhere and get helpful information from the Redevelopment Agency.

If anyone has any advice or other contacts I should try, feel free to email me to the email linked by my profile.

Just wanted to share. If I have a part in helping change Santa Ana for the better, great. If someone else does it, great. But the fact that these things are not happening fast enough does concern me (and MANY others I have spoken with).


Slaymetender said...

Yup, living here is a long term goal of the neighborhood becoming a mecca. I for one think it will happen, but it's going to be 5+ years.

Anonymous said...

Ben: If you want to stake hope on a building, better to go with the Santiago lofts than One Broadway Plaza, a monument to Harrah's perpetual grasp of the SanTana's council you-know-what befitting the planned building's Freudian symbolism!

Anonymous said...


R/2 downtown sounds great to me and I think that the City is behind that concept as well.

OBP would be a logistical traffic nightmare. How do you get 1500 people in and out of there at the same time? There is no infrastructure to accomplish that. The proposed trolley to the train station would handle 20% max of that - not enough.

And there are many more problems with that monstrosity - it is completely out of place for that area of Santa Ana.

Support for the new Renaissance Plan depends a great deal on what the City is going to throw in the bag.

Keep holding down Fort Santiago - good things will happen soon.

Ben Dayhoe said...

Thank you anonymous #1/2 for the kind words :)

Spencer, I too would like to see the Prime Urban Depot move forward, but I can wait until the market recovers and a solid product is developed, rather the developers rush into a half-assed project only to make a quick buck.

I couldn't agree with you more.

Politics and shady dealings aside, once the building is completed and larger corporations relocate from Irvine to Santa Ana, there will be many more internships and professional opportunities made available to the youth of Santa Ana. "Start a career, then a family."

You bring up an excellent point about OBP. I'm interested to see what the EIR and Traffic Study have to say.

Santa Ana Boulevard becomes a parking lot at 5PM during the mass exodus. It's only going to get worse.

Our Mayor wants Santa Ana to become a multi-transit city and I do too. But I worry when I think about Karen Haluza and Jay Trevino being the ones to manage this goal, not to mention the future of our Santa Ana.

Karen's claim to fame is having worked on the redevelopment of "downtown" Brea–-that place is a traffic nightmare at all times of the day!

But...I've heard fantastic things about Cindy Nelson who's be rumored to become Dave Ream's successor.

Let's keep our fingers crossed :)

Anonymous said...

Cindy Nelson is just another self serving hack who bailed out to go work for a developer who now wants to rent out high rise condos on the south end of town. She only came back to work for us after she couldnt get a job elsewhere.