Last night I attended a community listening meeting regarding the proposed rail project connecting the Santa Ana Train Station to Garden Grove. There were several stations set up with poster boards of information on the project, the potential routes of the project and the potential rail and bus proposals. There was a table at the end to take comments. Overall I think there is room for improvement on the corridor to be used for the rail, and I still insist it should go all the way to Downtown Garden Grove. There is NOTHING at Westminster Boulevard and Harbor Boulevard to justify it as a terminus for a light rail line and I have heard that there is support from Downtown Garden Grove merchants to have the project extend to Garden Grove Boulevard and Main Street.
One other problem was the amount of notice given for this event. Apparently many people only found out the day of the event, so the outreach component is still typical City of Santa Ana style: try to keep as little of the public involved as possible. I found out by reading the Santiago Street Loft Blog authored by Santa Ana’s own Ben Dayhoe.
The most interesting aspect of the proposed project was the brand new Transit Zoning Code being floated around by the City. You can read more about it HERE. Lucy Linnaus from the Planning Department was there to speak on this. Above is a map of the proposed Transit Plan. Does it look familiar? That is because it is nearly identical to the highly controversial RENNAISANCE PLAN. Two key differences areÂ the proposed changes to the zoning in the area are overlayed on to the Industrial properties in the plan area, which was a major issue that held up the Rennaisance Plan previously and that the Logan Neighborhood residential properties are given similar zoning to other residential properties in the plan area instead of trying to zone the whole neighborhood as Industrial-Residential, which would have permitted such businesses as Ware Disposal to thrive in a primarily residential neighborhood.
What has me suspicious about the latest proposal for this area is the what the City is calling it. The title is very misleading. Would the city have us believe this is new proposal is nothing more than a plan to change the zoning to allow for enough density to increase the chances of obtaining federal funding for transit?
Now I am all for transit, don’t get me wrong, but if the zoning changes being proposed are needed only to make the area more conducive to transit, then why are they still talking about the redevelopment plans and the need for the City to acquire more property? What it seems to me is a back door way to get most of the original Renaissance Plan adopted with as little attention to the redevelopment components as possible, by making it look like the City is only adopting a simple “Transit Zoning Code.” This reminds me of a quote in L.A. Confidential where Guy Pearce’s character says “A hooker cut to look like Lana Turner is still a hooker.” And the Rennaisance Plan cut to look like only a Transit Zoning Code is still the Rennaisance Plan.
I agree that change is needed to the area to help develop it, but the city really needs to ask the community what they want and actually listen to the community. I saw very little zoned for open space, with all the area zoned already existing, with the largest “open space” being a school, which is inaccessible to the public most of the time. When I asked Lucy Linnaus about that, she said they were looking at more open space in the Station District Area, but it was zoned for residential already. If they wanted to make it a park, just zone it open space. After hearing many residents tell me that they really want and need more open space, this shows me that the City once again plans to jam this down our throats without any regard for what residents have to say. By not zoning it open space, the city is not held accountable and can just shrug their shoulders when they build more concrete jungle with no park that the residents of Lacy have made it clear they don’t want. Having specific areas in the Transit Code zoned for open space holds them to it, and not just the areas that already are or are a school.
In the past I have seen some good ideas proposed in the Rennaisance Plan. The original charettes back in 2006 had A LOT of open space proposed, but now it is back to virtually nothing.
It is interesting to point out, a couple of weeks ago while taking my daughter to her dance class at the Academy of International Dance in the Fiesta Marketplace, I was approached by a person who was doing a survey for the City asking what kind of businesses I would like to see Downtown. I mentioned that the Calle Cuatro shopping district is is working and Latinos come from all over Southern California to shop there. It is the second largest producer of revenue for Santa Ana after the Mainplace mall.
They city needs to do more to seek input from residents and stop the divide and conquer tactics that has been their normal way of operating. Having the survey’s taken is a positive sign, but the track record of the City has me suspicious. We need to keep an eye on this, especially going into election season. We need our elected officials to listen to us for a change. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided by naysayers who do the bidding of some of our more ignorant and aloof Councilmembers. We, the residents of Santa Ana, need to send a message to City Hall that they are accountable to us and that they need to listen to us.