The Santa Ana Sentinel

Arte Santa Ana No. 7: Commentary on the Santa Ana Arts & Culture Commission

Fellow Santa Ana born and bred artist Francisco “Frank” Saucedo and I discuss matters concerning the formation of the Santa Ana Arts & Culture Commission on the latest Arte Santa Ana Podcast. Listen through the following links and on iTunes.

Omar Ávalos Gallegos
Associate Music Instructor,
Santa Ana College
Principal Musician, UC Irvine
Co-Founder, Arte Santa Ana

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Santa Ana: Identity, Meaning and Purpose

Posted in Downtown, Education, Midtown, Opinion, Santa Ana College, SAUSD, South Coast Metro, The Sentinel Asks, Ward 2, Ward 4, Ward 5 by Omar Ian Ávalos on January 9, 2013

Here are some questions addressed citywide.

What is Santa Ana to you?

If you reside here, do you have a sense of purpose, a sense of thinking outside of yourself or whatever comforts you may have? Would you act towards bettering the community as a whole?

What are the needs of the majority?

What do Santa Ana kids need from the education system?

Are you newly arrived to the downtown? If so, what brought you here?

What do you want to see happen in the downtown?

What do you as a newcomer want to see for the rest of the city, beyond the downtown?

It’s said that a city is defined by its downtown, and so I ask longtime Santa Ana homeowners, citywide, what do you want YOUR downtown to be?

Why did William Spurgeon keep the name Santa Ana? Where did he get the name from?

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Remembering Santa Anita

Posted in In Retrospect, Ward 4, Ward 5 by Omar Ian Ávalos on July 23, 2012

By Omar Ávalos, Salvador “Sal” Navarrete and Francisco Ávalos Ortiz

Barrio Santa Anita, or “Santa Nita” as some locals have always called it, is one of the oldest Mexican colonias (neighborhoods / colonies) in Santa Ana. It extends from Campesino Park on the north to Santa Anita Park on the south, and from Harbor Blvd on the west, to about Jackson street or a few streets more to the east. It is one of the largest barrios, possibly larger than Barrio Artesia, another historic Santa Ana barrio. One cannot get an appreciation for, or a sense of the scale of the neighborhood until driving through it. A drive through it while talking of the neighborhood’s yesteryear with lifelong Santa Ana resident and DJ Sal Navarrete is even better.

Prior to moving to Santa Anita, Sal and his family lived in the other historic Santa Ana barrios of Logan and Artesia. Sal’s father set roots and moved his family to the Logan area in 1960 where the family lived at Garfield street and Santa Ana Boulevard.

In 1972 the father moved the family to Barrio Artesia where they lived at 3rd and Daisy streets.

In 1978 the family moved to Fifth street and Bewley in Santa Anita, where Sal briefly attended Russell Elementary, which was and still is, oddly, part of the Garden Grove Unified School District.

Sal remembers seeing Barrio Santa Anita with no sidewalks and dirt roads. A number of the main streets we drove through like Bewley, Jackson, Gunther, Figueroa and others were still dirt roads with eucalyptus trees with huge roots in the late 70s and early 80s. He remembers when the reputable Favori Vietnamese restaurant on First and Jackson streets was a Burger King and when the Taquería La Vida a bit further west on First street was a McDonald’s. A portion of a McDonald’s golden arch still remains on the side of that building.

It was on Bewley that Sal met and married his neighborhood sweetheart.

There was a gas station that dated to the 1920s on the corner of 5th and Gunther streets, and there was a dairy that sold freshly squeezed milk from cows that grazed on land near the Santa Ana River and Fifth street, across from Campesino Park. That land is now the site of the Wellington Place and Bentley Park housing developments.

My father, Francisco Ávalos Ortiz, remembers seeing horse stables and trails by Fifth street and the Santa Ana River.

Sal mentioned that the city has always tried to redevelop Willowick Golf Course and the Santa Anita area since the 1980s. There was talk in the early 80s of building a mall there. The amount of land there was enough to whet the appetites of any developer. Sal said that in more recent times some homeowners were sent letters indicating an intent to develop a soccer stadium at Willowick for Chivas USA, and that some homes could be bought and removed for that purpose. His friend “Checo” who lives on Figueroa said his household received a notice about a potential Chivas move.

There was a time when more people in the neighborhood used to know each other but many of the Santa Anita friends and families that he remembers have passed on or moved away and only very few remain.

Santa Anita, on a personal note and how I remember it, has always seemed to be a bit of a sleepy side of town, at least from the outside, and this may be because of its troubled past with crime and the Santa Anita gang. Sal said that there were too many bars near Santa Anita, and that the neighborhood was plagued with drug dealing. Santa Anita was the first Santa Ana neighborhood to have a gang injunction placed on it, and that made the neighborhood even more sleepy, but on a good note.

Nowadays it is very rare if not impossible to see a gang member anywhere in the neighborhood. Instead, ordinary people are seen playing basketball at the courts at Santa Anita Park, and there’s a very well-kept and fenced-off soccer field there. The whole park seems a bit under utilized with more potential. At the road entrance to the park there’s a section of land that is fenced-off and used, infuriatingly, for nothing more than storing tires. In a city that needs park space that land should be incorporated into Santa Anita Park. Additional parking could be added there along with more park space.

The Santa Anita that I as a passerby have known, my sleepy Santa Anita, is like a sleeping giant. It is in the hands of those in Santa Anita to determine the future of their neighborhood by enlivening their local economy with new businesses. It needs an economic shot in the arm and who better to pick up Santa Anita than those that are there or have roots there?

At the same time the city’s elected officials need a wakeup call and they need a visionary there, a fresh set of eyes, to help bring Santa Anita to its maximum potential. The city can start with acquiring the land next to Santa Anita Park to add more park space.

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Who’s Ward is This?

Posted in Ward 5 by Omar Ian Ávalos on June 21, 2011

Willits street divides Wards 4, which is south of Willits, and 5 on the north side (Click here for a Santa Ana Ward map). The intersection on Raitt & Willits is now very congested due to population growth over time and more pedestrians etc. When you couple increased traffic and pedestrians with inconsiderate drivers that don’t give the right of way, or don’t know traffic laws, then you get headaches or the potential for something worse. So it’s time to add traffic lights at this intersection. This intersection has been without traffic lights for over 35 years because it hasn’t needed one, but times have changed and there are more and more cars now.

It is worth noting that there are OCTA bus stops on the north and south sides of Willits which make this a main intersection and stop, but there are no traffic lights.

The new traffic lights at Willits & Sullivan and Raitt & Glenwood certainly do help but Raitt & Willits was overlooked. The intersection falls into the Casa Bonita, in Ward 4, and Bella Vista, in Ward 5, Neighborhood Associations and are represented by council members David Benavides (Ward 4) and Claudia Álvarez (Ward 5). Click here for a map of Santa Ana Neighborhood Associations.

Is this a hot potato or something?

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Rescue Mission Razed

Posted in Progress Report, Ward 5 by Omar Ian Ávalos on May 3, 2011

WARD 5. An old abandoned rescue mission on Walnut and Daisy streets was razed this week. The place was abandoned for the last few years and became a gathering spot for drug pushers and loiterers. This spot was identified in the Santa Ana Sentinel as problematic in October of 2010, but for years prior it was a gathering place for such elements.

This corner was not much different than the Orange County Civic Center during the day with its multiple loitering transients. Drug pushers stepped up their activities under the cover of night and are now removed.

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More Trouble in Ward 5

Posted in Santa Ana Noir, Ward 5 by Omar Ian Ávalos on October 13, 2010

Kate Linthicum of the LA Times reports that a disabled woman was found dead this morning near 1st and Center streets. This death is being treated as a potential homicide because of the nature of her wounds.

This story may go unnoticed, or it may not be given enough importance to, if not for the fact that it occurred at a part of town where there is continuous crime. 1st and Center streets are near the old rescue mission near 1st and Daisy streets, where there still are transients and drug pushers loitering on any given day or evening.

I brought this to the attention of at least two council members, one of them being the representative of Ward 5. I don’t know how well the Ward 5 representative knows this ward, but I’ve seen what goes on near that area; people trying to flag me down to sell me drugs as I drive by, and now a murder.

If it were up to me, I’d put police there and stamp out those pushers for good. Take note.

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New Category: Ward 5

Posted in Ward 5 by Omar Ian Ávalos on September 6, 2010

I want to be able to say much more about Ward 5 than the recent street paving going on. It never fails that during an election year, streets get paved. Recently, there have been a number of streets that have been repaved on both sides of Willits street, which is the dividing line between Wards 4 and 5. Sullivan street, on the Ward 5 side, finally got paved from Willits to 1st street. Daisy street has also been repaved on both sides of Willits street.

Another improvement along the Ward 4 and 5 border is the soon to be implementation of traffic lights at the intersection of Willits and Sullivan, something that is long overdue. Speaking of long overdue, the intersection of Willits and Raitt streets needs traffic lights as well.

Lincoln Elementary School, in Ward 5, has also undergone a considerable amount of improvement, to its exterior. May that translate to academic improvement.

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Santa Ana Teen Shot and Killed: One of the Many Ills Within Ward 5

Posted in Opinion, Santa Ana Noir, Ward 5 by Omar Ian Ávalos on June 23, 2010

I happen to live in Ward 5, in fact I grew up here. There have been many stories like this one throughout the years, and very close to home. This latest one happened near the corner of Willits and Sullivan streets in the early evening, just after 6:00 or 6:15. I was on my way out when I saw a huge crowd of onlookers along with I don’t know how many SAPD cars and officers that sealed off Sullivan street from Willits to First. Today, as I drove through that street, I saw flowers and a picture of the adolescent lain where he fell, something that is very common when things like this happen.

Why does this have to happen? What went wrong here? How could have this been prevented? What can be done to prevent tragedies like this in the future?

Is city council listening? Are they asking themselves these questions??? This ward has long been neglected. Drive through the intersection at Daisy and Walnut at night and you will see that disgusting drug-pushing element that remains. The removal of that rescue mission did absolutely nothing to improve conditions there. That intersection must be patrolled regularly…. regularly!!

It is worth pointing out that Willits street divides Wards 4 & 5. This occurred just barely within Ward 5. What side of Willits did those murdering scum come from? Were they caught? Who else are they involved with? What is being done to eradicate the gangs in the area?

When will SAPD wipe this place clean of these gangs the way they did with the 6th street gang in the nineties? Where is the political will??

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