The Santa Ana Sentinel

Commentary: Arts in Politics and Vice Versa

Posted in Art Music, Art Walk at Artist's Village, Artists Village, Arts & Culture, Arts Review, Civics, Downtown by Omar Ian Ávalos on October 9, 2013

Art is tied to politics. Some of the greatest works of art have messages tied to all kinds of political topics including social justice, economic disparity, economic policies and history, just to name very few topics.

Politics are not only present in visual art, where they perhaps are most evident, but also in musical art. Politics occur when an orchestra conductor or a philharmonic society that he or she serves decides what music gets programmed.

Politics occur at music venues that deny a type of genre to be performed, or at movie houses that won’t show certain film genres, or at museums that won’t display visual art forms that they don’t see fit.

These two things, art and politics, are inseparable. That’s the way it works and always will.

With regards to the controversy over a proposed Santa Ana mural

A grand-scale project, like painting a mural, obviously has to go through a public approval and process of some sort. This wouldn’t be just any mural, it would be the largest publicly visible one ever painted in Santa Ana. Do you know that the City of Los Angeles even has a Mural Ordinance? In fact, Los Angeles even has a Department of Cultural Affairs and literature concerning mural processes including issues, rights & responsibilities.

It turns out that Santa Ana’s Planning and Building Agency has guidelines for Public Art processes. These sections in Chapter 15 are crucial to the development of a public artwork, like a mural.

a. Public art associated with
commercial development is
encouraged. It is strongly
encouraged that art should invite
participation and interaction,
add local meaning, interpret the
community by revealing its culture
or history, and/or capture or
reinforce the unique character of
a place.

Already, a problem is presented with the recent painting of a mural at Plaza Santa Ana. Based on PBA Chapter 15.1, said mural does not “add local meaning, interpret the community by revealing its culture or history, and/or capture or reinforce the unique character of a place.”

Fairness dictates that the following question be asked of the desingers / owners: How does that design add local meaning, interpret the community by revealing its culture or history, and/or capture or reinforce the unique character of a place?

Also, regard section 15.3.d:

d. Art should be sited to complement
other features, such as a plaza or
architectural components that
acknowledge and respond to the
presence of the art and make the
art an integral part of site

So, again, in fairness, how does that piece complement the plaza? I’ve seen the Workshop for Community Art’s propsed mural sketch and it would not complement the one above the plaza. They don’t complement each other because the one proposed one tells a story and the other one just…?

And this gets me to another mural, one in an alley on the side of the Yost. That mural raises a very valid and serious question that no one has bothered to ask publicly. Again, how does that mural add local meaning, interpret the community by revealing its culture or history, and/or capture or reinforce the unique character of a place?

What is in place is a giant graffiti mural or “bomb” (what the one at Plaza Santa Ana is, in reality) with a giant dragon, which is a symbol of Asian culture. Is it because when people think Santa Ana, they think Asian dragons? Or is that what developers want people to think?

The “re-envisioning” and re-characterization of downtown Santa Ana has been studied and proposed before. Refer to this person’s master’s thesis on ripping out Mexican symbols in downtown Santa Ana called “Identity Design for Downtown Santa Ana.”

So now you see the politics behind this newfound “mural movement” in the downtown.

Developers should contact the City as
early as possible during the design
process to obtain information
regarding inclusion of artwork within a
development proposal and guidelines
for developing a project art plan,
selecting and working with artists and
art consultants.

Project developers are strongly
encouraged to work with an art
consultant in the selection of artists
and artwork. An art consultant can
provide expert assistance
about artists
who work on public projects.
Budgets, site selection and contract
knowledge will assist the developer in
developing the Public Art Plan.

Artists selected should be generally
recognized as a professional of serious
intent. Their work should show strong
artistic excellence, the ability to
produce works appropriate to the site,
integration of artworks into the design
of the building or landscape. The
artwork should show recognition of
accessibility, durability, and an
awareness of the issues of security,
maintenance, and safety.

Based on these guidelines, and based on the fact that such a thing as a mural ordinance does exist in other places, I recommend that the City of Santa Ana enact a specific mural ordinance, with a body to oversee projects, and make recommendations.

The process should be opened to interested groups to bid on mural projects (what’s fair) to find the best-qualified muralists with a proven record as accomplished muralists and for them to provide that expertise expected in the Chapter 15 Public Art Guidelines.

Said ordinance would complement and strengthen existing guidelines.

Take for example that in Los Angeles, there’s even curriculum being developed for Judy Baca’s mural La gente del maíz (The People of the Corn). Including curriculum could be part of a new ordinance.

It just seems obvious that prior to painting such an important mural, that it has to be done right, with as much information synthesized from what can be learned from other mural movements. We don’t have to look that far, LA is a perfect model. In LA there’s the Social and Public Art Resource Center – SPARC. How do they work with public entities and with the LA mural ordinance? What can be learned from a community that has more of a history with public art in the form of murals? There is much to be learned from an organization involved with the production of 105 murals since 1988. Again, their work directly engages and involves the City of LA’s Department of Cultural Affairs.

Going forward it makes all the sense in the world to adopt and enact a process, one even guaranteeing conservancy.

What we have now is a rush job and a horse race, all the while disregarding processes and more careful studies of other mural projects. There’s an overwhelming amount of information about each mural out there, complete with the histories they contain and the processes involved in getting them done. They too synthesize public input.

Fairness dictates that neither group competing for a public wall, not WCA or UASA, should be awarded anything until there are mechanisms and systems in place in the form of a mural ordinance and an arts commission.

A project like this can only benefit from more thought put into it.

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DTSA: How Are We Doing?

Posted in Business, Downtown, Food, Opinion by Omar Ian Ávalos on May 13, 2013

It must be asked. How is Downtown Santa Ana doing? How does it compare to other downtowns? The answer is obvious, (not so well) but let’s take a look at some of the downtown’s strengths and weaknesses.


What’s good about Downtown Santa Ana? Original brands. This is one area where the downtown sets itself apart from others. First of a kind restaurants and store brands make the area unique and that is a strength. Some city dwellers don’t want the downtown to lose that uniqueness by coupling more recognizable franchised brands with those newer, unique ones.

The Crosby found success marketing to its niche. Their $2 tacos on Tuesdays are one of the best values in the downtown, and are highly recommended.

There’s only one Chapter One, even though you could say that it is an offshoot of the Library Bar in Downtown LA, the similarities seem like more than just coincidence.

There’s the list of other unique brands; Playground, Little Sparrow, Au Naturaw, Lola Gaspar, etc. And there’s the list of upcoming brands that reveal that this is the trend here. But there still isn’t enough cultural variety, which is common in other downtowns in the LA area.


So what’s missing here? Much is. We don’t have Italian (remember Trattoria Ciao?), Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Mediterranean, Indian, Thai or other cultural eating choices. These varieties are common in other historic downtowns like Long Beach, Pasadena, even Fullerton. We do have these eating choices scattered around town, but it would be great to have them centered in the downtown.

Also, can you imagine having something comparable to Baja Fish Tacos, located at MacArthur and Bristol streets in Santa Ana, in the downtown? They are always packed and have been in business for over fifteen years. How about something like the Kicking Crab across the street? What about upscale Mexican like La Huasteca in Lynwood, or Rosa Mexicano at L.A. Live?

There’s this great Spanish deli, Ole, near MacArthur and Main streets in Santa Ana. Imagine that in the center of town. Why aren’t these great choices around town found in or closer to the downtown? Who is dropping the ball here?

If I represented the downtown (Ward 2) in city government, I’d go after businesses like that and try to attract them there. I live in Ward 5 so worry not.

I’ve only touched on eating in the downtown. Retail has a long, long way to go here.

Food for thought

The Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Statistical Area is defined as Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana. Now, I read somewhere that it’s now being called Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, but it has always been the former, and, Santa Ana is still the county’s seat of government. The area is called it the latter because Anaheim’s population is supposedly higher (not hard to fathom), but, the Census Bureau’s numbers on Santa Ana are likely not precise. Can every single head in Santa Ana truly be counted? That’s impractical especially when we’re one of the densest cities of its size in the country. I read somewhere that our numbers shrunk when I’ve seen nothing but the opposite in the last decade, just look at all of the added classrooms at just about every elementary school, and more and more cars parked overnight.

Isn’t it time that Downtown Santa Ana look and act more like those more cosmopolitan areas? Surely those newly arrived “Santa Anans” that tout the downtown so much want this area to be spoken highly of outside of here. Yes it has some strengths but it’s a must that those weaknesses be worked on.

Let Long Beach and Pasadena be the bar against which this downtown is measured. It’s as historic as those places, and (fact) it was built with the same bricks (Simons bricks*)! Oh, go to Original Mike’s and you’ll see that stamp on those bricks.

*If you’re a history buff and you want to know more about how the LA region was built, read Whitewashed Adobe: The Rise of Los Angeles and the Remaking of its Mexican Past, by USC Professor William Deverell.

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Santa Ana: In Need of a Real Renaissance

Posted in Arts & Culture, Business, Civics, Editorial, Education, Opinion by Omar Ian Ávalos on April 11, 2013

In a city that is overwhelmingly Latino (upwards of over 80 percent) it becomes necessary for the majority to be reflected in the city’s decision making. Santa Ana is in need of a true organic growth from within, and not from unmeasured transplantation from without.

One area where Latinos are grossly under-represented is in business. We Latinos in Santa Ana have the numbers. We are a numeric and political majority, but we are not an economic majority.

Let me rephrase that. We are not the economic engine. We provide dollars and consumers, but we generally don’t generate the jobs, much less own commercial real estate.

In a city where we’ve faced controversy and battles over gentrification, it is up to those of us that care for this city, and who want to see our majority reflected in all aspects of city life, to become the business class.

We’ve faced problems with what some of us interpret as a transgressive landlord in the downtown at the newly christened “East End.” Well the way to counteract landlords like that is to become one yourself. We need more Latino commercial landlords for every type like the “East Enders.”

Why? Why is it important for us to have our majority reflected in commercial real estate? Because then we decide what gets programmed and housed. We decide what cultural activities and events are appropriate. We decide what businesses get leases.

The way things are setup now, The Yost Theater is not a space reflective of the Santa Ana community, and it is a shame. A former city council facilitated privatizing this historic theater and in doing so took what should have been a historic resource and cultural outlet away from the community.

Arts & Letters

Santa Ana is in need of a real rebirth and it must show in the Arts & Letters. Who is our Langston Hughes? Where is our real literary movement? What can we learn from the Harlem Renaissance?

Why is there talk of building a modern museum of Asian art on Harbor Blvd when it is more than obvious that a Latino-specific museum is in order here?

We need to raise the bar of what is expected of ourselves. A publication like Santanero or the sensationalism of Gustavo Arellano is only a start. We can do better.

It is heartening to learn that Latino high school graduation rates are on the rise, as the Department of Education reports. This should translate in the future to more Latino business and commercial real estate owners.

Sandra Wood, Professor of Sociology at Santa Ana College taught that Latinos would become a numeric and political majority first, prior to becoming an economic majority. We’re 2/3rds of the way there.

That day when we’re an economic majority cannot come fast enough.

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Want Variety? Not in DTSA

Posted in Business, Downtown by Omar Ian Ávalos on January 5, 2013

It’s become clear that when earlier Santa Ana city councils thought of reviving the downtown, they thought of recreating Costa Mesa’s “The Lab.” The city enticed business owners at “The Lab” to come to DTSA. The word is that the city gave certain businesses large sums of money to setup shop.

The problem is that they needed to couple consumers for those types of businesses, and those consumers were generally newly arrived as well. There was, never, any intention of marketing to the Santa Ana consumer base.

What’s that? You want proof?

Years ago, before the Proof bar opened, the “Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce” sent out a newspaper called the City Line. I clearly recall reading in that paper that Proof was specifically going to cater to “young professionals from Anaheim Hills, Irvine etc.”

I thought, WHAT THE #%$@?!

How dare they be so blatantly ignorant of Santa Ana locals, and how stupid are they to publish such nonsense without thinking that a local would read it?

Fast-forward and some downtown business owners, or one specific entity, will have you think that all is fine and dandy.

Take for example what this person told the Register.

“Downtown Inc. is pleased to have the question (of) the legality of the assessment of downtown property fully behind it now and looks forward to continued success in revitalizing Santa Ana’s newly vibrant downtown for the benefit of all users and the City as a whole,” said Ryan Chase, the nonprofit’s board chairman.

Orange County Register, January 4, 2013.

I don’t believe it. Why? Because for as long as the Yost theater has been reopened I can count the number of Spanish pop concerts held there that appeal to Santa Ana locals with five fingers. Oh, but I’ve been told that shows like this will occur there. And I am yet to be satisfied.

The House of Blues (Hollywood and Anaheim) gets Spanish rock / pop. El Rey Theater gets it. The Observatory in Santa Ana gets it. The Conga Room DTLA gets it. So many other LA-region venues get it but this one Yost just refuses to.

Note that an older attempt from that venue to bring in something “Latino” failed miserably, and that was when they brought in Norteño music, a genre commonly associated with stories of drug cartels.

Thanks. Because when I think Latino or Mexican music, I think Norteño narco corridos.

Before we continue, know that Santa Ana’s median age is something around 26 or 27 last time I checked. Whoever is promoting the Yost is clearly, clearly, out of touch with this demographic, perhaps even willingly.

Want Eating Choices? Not in DTSA

Do you want to find a, respectable, variety of eating choices coupled with nightlife in Downtown Santa Ana? You won’t find it here.

But you can go to Memphis for a burger, then you can go to Chapter 1 for a variation of a burger, then you can go to The Playground for an overpriced burger.

Am I oversimplifying? Yes. But can I go downtown for Mediterranean? No. Cantonese? No. Indian? No. Five-Star Mexican? No. Sushi? No.

It is absolutely preposterous that in a city like Santa Ana, we don’t have a dining experience like La Huasteca at Plaza México in Lynwood.

Where is the Ward 2 Representative?

It’s said that a city is defined by its downtown and just where the heck is the Ward 2 rep?

I argue that a councilperson representing Ward 2 should get to the task of networking and attracting a variety of businesses to the downtown. To not do that is to allow whatever promoting agency that exists now (Downtown Inc) to use their network or whatever people they know, people that they want, to setup restaurants or businesses catered to non-Santa Ana locals.

In other words, and to put things frankly and bluntly, allow the complete and finalized whitewashing of DTSA.

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This is Santa Ana, Not “the OC”

Posted in Opinion by Omar Ian Ávalos on November 21, 2012

This is Santa Ana, not “the OC.”

Not knowing your place when in Santa Ana, and referring to this place as “the OC” is an affront. Some people still think it’s taboo to mention the name Santa Ana but this is a disservice to the city’s name and brand.

I overheard someone over a cellphone conversation at the Starbucks on 17th & Grand say, “I’m in the OC right now.” I know, because you still think its taboo to mention the Santa Ana name.

Most probably don’t know that “the OC” term was created by Angeleno television producers. Yup. But wait, isn’t it an “OC” mantra to disassociate with anything LA? “We are not LA!,” said an angry “the OC” dweller. The creator of the series, Josh Schwartz, is not even a native of Orange County, or of California.

Local arts person Don Cribb said at a city council meeting awhile back that there was a time when people flew into Santa Ana (airport code SNA) but refused to even mention the name, instead opting for (cough, cough … ick) Orange County. Guess what? That is still the case today and it is being perpetuated by our own city council. “Downtown Orange County?” Huh? Where else on the planet is there a “Downtown County?”

Interchanging “OC” and Santa Ana harms the Santa Ana name, brand and reputation. But years ago, the city council was in a hurry to jump on “the OC” fad and bandwagon and thought that associating with that brand was somehow going to work wonders. Well guess what, now you have Santa Ana businesses that market precisely to “the OC,” which represents a demographic that Santa Ana is not. Some businesses are still ashamed to use the name Santa Ana.

Let’s see, there’s the Boiling Crab “South Coast Metro,” that initially said it was in Costa Mesa, The Observatory OC, OCCCA, OCHSA etc. I just want to see more businesses and organizations located in Santa Ana not be ashamed to use the Santa Ana name.

Some reporters have gone as far as making up an airport code for our airport, calling it JWA. The airport’s correct code is SNA because it is located in Santa Ana. So to all of you regional reporters, when referring to this place and its airport, please report with factual specificity.

Add to this the embarrassing incidents happening in Yorba Linda, and countywide, and there’s even more reason to disassociate with “the OC” brand. If you read the article I linked to you’ll see that some spokesperson denies that racism happens in what he / she refers to as “the OC.”

Bravo, “the OC” you are truly astounding. Way to keep it classy.

PAC Linked to Controversial Downtown Inc is Backing Benavides

Posted in Civics, Downtown by Omar Ian Ávalos on October 31, 2012

A political action committee with close ties to the controversial downtown community management district entity “Downtown Inc” was recently discovered as being behind a defamation campaign aimed at Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido. The group is called the “Stand up for Santa Ana Coalition.”

The names of those involved with Downtown Inc and the PAC are available here.

The question of who is behind Benavides’s campaign was answered piece by piece this week.

There is at least one downtown restaurant owner who is backing him. On Monday night Benavides campaign signs were added to the inside of an empty storefront at the Empire Building on 2nd & Broadway courtesy of a Chapter One business owner. Access to the building was made possible by the building owner, Bob Stewart, who is a former director of Downtown Inc.

Another piece of the puzzle comes in the form of the current Downtown Inc director, Vicky Baxter. She distanced herself and the entity from the mayor over the controversy around the possibility of moving pro soccer club Chivas USA to Eddie West Field, and later, Willowick Golf Course. Downtown Inc was supportive of the move until they were intimidated by a vocal minority in town. She stated in that email, in which she distanced the entity from the mayor, that Downtown Inc does not politic.

Not exactly.

Instead, at least two members inside of Downtown Inc are listed as members of this PAC, acting with a name separate of Downtown Inc, but the members are one in the same.

The pattern that has emerged is one of the Downtown Inc network being behind the attempt to oust Pulido.

Downtown Inc has been largely criticized for being out of touch with the longtime local population of Santa Ana and for co-opting ideas based on the OC Film Fiesta and the Grain Project’s Farmer’s Market. The Farmer’s Market ran for years prior to the existence of a Downtown Inc. The entity has also been criticized for showing an unwillingness to work with those that have experience in the downtown, like the directors of the Film Fiesta and the Grain Project.

Another criticism of the entity, that lends to the idea of them being out of touch with Santa Ana, is that they are made up largely of non Santa Ana residents or newcomers.

The entity was formed out of a controversial and unpopular property based tax known as the PBID (Property Based Improvement District). Benavides defended the PBID in the past by taking a dismissive tone of an Orange County Grand Jury Report that was critical of the PBID. He too is a newcomer to Santa Ana in comparison to many others.

The downtown entity is looking for ways to remain solvent, or for a political structure in their favor, perhaps one that will continue to execute a PBID or something similar.

They’re betting on Benavides to be their guy in City Hall.

Editorial: The Arts are What Saved Me

Posted in Arts & Culture, Editorial by Omar Ian Ávalos on October 18, 2012

I grew up during very difficult and challenging times in Santa Ana. I came into adolescence in the early 90s and I remember how throughout that decade there were multiple gang shootings on almost a nightly basis. You could hear them.

This was during a time when party crews were at their peak along with tagging crews. It was all too easy for kids to be led astray into these types of activities.

Back then there was no Orange County High School of the Arts or an Artists Village. That meant that there were less alternatives to gangs and crews.

I became engulfed with the downtown when I discovered Neutral Grounds Cafe around 1997, where Lola Gaspar now stands. They had poetry readings and an open mic every Thursday. The area that came to be called Artists Village gave me a place to be and become.

This area was a stimulant, it allowed me to think creatively and wildly. These thoughts alone were deterrents to negative distractions like gangs and the like. My mind became occupied and stimulated by the arts and this place to be an artist.

This area contributed to the forming of my artistic personality. There was a time when I performed a new classical guitar piece for a series of Thursdays at Morey’s Deli, formerly Neutral Grounds. These kinds of activities reinforce the artistic personality.

I was fortunate enough to be part of substantial artistic events in the Santora, like when world-renowned Mexican composer Arturo Márquez came to town. I got to moderate a panel discussion with him and another world-renowned sculptor, Felipe Castañeda and also Pilar O’Cádiz, daughter of muralist Sergio O’Cádiz, whose relief work decorates the façade of Santa Ana City Hall.

The downtown allowed me to generate ideas and projects like one I called Flamenco de la Santora, a performance project that I ran for two years.

The downtown allowed me to generate another project that I called The Institute for Mexican Art Music, which I headquartered at the Santora for a year.

The arts in the Artist Village stimulate creative thinking, free thinking. The Artist Village is not for archaic, suppressing, stymying, controlling entities commonly associated with churches.

That anyone would even think of interrupting or altering this free-thinking environment is an affront to artists and free-thinking people.

After awhile, time spent in the Artists Village was time well spent because each visit there was a reinforcement of my developing musical and artistic persona. I didn’t do too bad either. I’m lucky enough to work in the arts, in Music at Santa Ana College, at Phillips Hall Theatre at Santa Ana College and in Dance at UC Irvine. Anyone else can too.

I honestly don’t believe I’m anymore capable than anyone else. I was on track to be another statistic, another kid found dead in Santa Ana. Sometimes I’m amazed that I even survived.

The point is that I know that the arts can save others. I know that they prevent gang activity. That anyone can disrupt the fact that the arts are what has changed the perception of Santa Ana, and that the arts have a salvaging and positive effect is completely unforgivable.

I’ve been here all of my life, I’ve seen the dark and bright sides of Santa Ana. This place is synonymous with the arts. Anyone that doesn’t realize this is completely out of touch.

Eibar Coffee to Host Workshop for Community Arts

Posted in Arts & Culture, Downtown by Omar Ian Ávalos on August 4, 2012

Eibar Coffee in the Downtown will host a Workshop for Community Arts on August 4th, 11th and 18th.

The workshop is organized by Adriana Alexander of the Workshop for Community Arts. The theme on August 4th is to brainstorm ideas and responses to two questions: What do you see in Santa Ana that others do not see? What do you love about Santa Ana but have never told anyone?

The next two Saturdays will be devoted to making “guidebooks” for the city out of cardboard led by a renowned cartonera artist from Puerto Rico. The workshop is 12:00-2:30pm with a reception to follow nearby.

About The Workshop for Community Arts

Mission: The Workshop for Community Arts (WCA) is a community-based and artist-run organization located in Santa Ana that facilitates creative workshops, projects, and events. With expertise in creative writing, visual art, music, and community organizing, we use our experience, resources, and craft to engage in collaborative art-making and create opportunities for people to share their stories.

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Letter from the Editor: Why I Support Dissolving the Downtown PBID

Posted in Downtown, Editorial, Ward 2 by Omar Ian Ávalos on August 1, 2012

An Orange County Grand Jury Report on the City of Santa Ana’s procedure on establishing a Community Management District (CMD), also known as a Property Based Improvement District (PBID), in the downtown is available here.

We’ll fast forward within the Grand Jury Report to its Findings:


In accordance with California Penal Code §933 and §933.05, the 2011-2012 Orange County Grand Jury requires responses from each agency affected by the Findings/Conclusions presented in this section. The responses are to be submitted to the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court.

Based on its study of the Santa Ana Property Based Improvement District, the 2011-2012 Orange County Grand Jury makes the following Findings/Conclusions:

FINDING 1. City of Santa Ana appears to be in violation of California State Law in the formation of this Improvement District.

F2. Monies collected from the improvement district appear to have only benefited a few and have not resulted in a direct benefit to the assessed property as required by California law.

F3. An appearance of impropriety exists in the relationship between the developer and the City of Santa Ana.

F4. An appearance of impropriety exists in the relationship between the developer and Downtown Inc., the administrator of the funds from the special district.

F5. The process by which the district was established in regard to the mailing of ballots, the process of tabulation, and the voting by the City of Santa Ana does not appear to be in compliance with the statutory requirements for establishing an assessment on property owners.


From the Grand Jury Report:

The city ordinance that governed the formation of the PBID differed from state law in that it required 30 percent approval of the properties in the district, with the votes weighted by assessed value. The state normally requires 50 percent. Also, the life span of the PBID was set at 10 years, while the state limits the initial span to five years, with renewals for 10 years.

Because the city of Santa Ana voted on behalf of its downtown properties in the election that formed the PBID, and then used the city clerk’s office to tabulate the vote, there is a lack of impartiality, or certainly the appearance of one.

Furthermore, in light of the history of this area over the past twenty-five (25) years, the way in which public money has been channeled to a select few, and with these select few continuing to exercise control over the proceeds produced by this assessment district, there exist strong reasons to suspect that appropriate procedures were not followed.

The LA Times chimed in on the matter too, stopping short of verifying that Santa Ana did act against State of California standards concerning the formation of a CMD / PBID.


I have always wanted to see improvement to the downtown, but I don’t agree with all of the patterns seen in recent years there.

I’ll reiterate what I’ve said time and time again. More local people need to be business and commercial real estate owners, and not just the new-coming or those that have owned downtown property for awhile but don’t upkeep it. My argument is about empowering the local community through fostering a business mentality and entrepreneurship. Having a PBID has done nothing to help in this matter, because the focus of the PBID is not too empower the people already in place in Santa Ana, it doesn’t include them as part of the solution.

In a response to the Grand Jury Report, a representative of Downtown Inc wrote the following:


Based on our conversation, I appreciate your analysis that the City’s Rebate Program (the Fourth Street Façade Program) and the PBID’s assessments are separate issues. However, in the OC Watchdog article, the issues are lumped together. In my opinion, the Grand Jury report incorporates issues that do not pertain to Downtown Inc., i.e. the City’s Rebate Program. (Orange County Register: “Grand Jury Never Contacted Us,” June 29, 2012).

How convenient to separate two things that are entirely related, which are façade improvement and property assessments. Why is it not the task of those that administer PBID money to see what’s wrong with the picture (blighted buildings) and approach those owners to improve their properties? If it’s not their task to inform property owners, why is it not their task to proactively engage the city to enact an amendment to its municipal code to deal with blighted buildings and their owners? After all a PBID is for improving properties. Let me remind you of what the mechanism that funds you is about. It’s called a PROPERTY Based IMPROVEMENT District. What’s that you say? There is no more redevelopment money? Then another method for improving property and stimulating economic development must be included in the city’s municipal code, without stopping short of executing the powers of eminent domain.

Your jobs are to IMPROVE PROPERTY in a district. What is obvious is that “district” has been interpreted to mean only an “East End” and an “Artists Village.” Someone needs to do their homework and see what the National Register of Historic Places says about Downtown Santa Ana. The boundaries according to the National Register are in fact not promoted in their entirety. Take a page from Pasadena that doesn’t simply promote pockets of its historic downtown.

There are plenty of examples of downtown property owners that keep their buildings in terrible conditions. 410 W. Fourth street is but one example. That property owner has failed to be proactive in finding a tenant for his street level space and as a result it has become a place that is commonly trashed by Club Velvet clients, and others possibly, because of that club’s proximity. The existence of neither the PBID nor its offshoot Downtown Inc has done anything to remedy that recurring and intolerable problem at 410 W. Fourth or any other poorly-kept downtown building, therefore, Downtown Inc cannot use “cleanliness” as a reason to further its intentions.


Another troubling point with the PBID’s Downtown Inc is their dropping support of bringing Chivas USA to Santa Ana. At first the entity placed large banners announcing support for the club to come here, then suddenly, they pulled support due to being intimidated by a vocal minority.

Remember this?

A project like this is good for Santa Ana because this is the most popular sport in this town in case you didn’t know. A project like this creates jobs. A project like this is worth fighting for, which is something that Downtown Inc failed to do. This, undoubtedly, reveals that the entity and those that intimidated them are out of touch with Santa Ana. What is wrong with the fact that football / soccer is preferred by people of Mexican descent? Can anyone truly block out the sun with their finger and ignore that Santa Ana is a majority Latino town? What is wrong with expressing ourselves through art and sport?

Along these same lines, many downtown businesses do not cater to locals, and by that I mean people that have long roots in Santa Ana, that same Latino majority that has been here all along. It’s not uncommon to see many a party bus bring in people from some other part of the county. The proof is in the type of entertainment offerings at different venues ranging from the Yost to Memphis, just to give one example. A business owner might argue against my point, but even if there has been one offering here and there, they still are very far from enough, and few and far between. These entertainment offerings certainly don’t satisfy or reflect on the majority Latino population that Santa Ana is made up of. What is wrong with Spanish Pop, Rock en español, a Mexican rock band? I have yet to see the Yost as packed as when Molotov performed there. Entertainment attractions like these are a very profitable and perfect fit for Santa Ana. Anything else seems like a willful intent to not attract that profile of a Santa Ana Latino consumer and commoner. The message that is sent is that Santa Ana Latino resident money is not good enough. The solution is not to replace one group of people with another.

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In Retrospect: The Orange County Latino Film Festival, Part I

Posted in Artists Village, Arts & Culture, Downtown, In Retrospect, Santa Ana Showbiz! by Omar Ian Ávalos on July 9, 2012

In October of 2004 Manuel “Manny” Saldívar, a protégé of movie producer Moctezuma Esparza,
in association with Vanguard Cinema, brought a Latino film festival to downtown Santa Ana’s Metropolitan Fiesta Twin theater. The OCLFF set a standard that has yet to be topped by other attempts at film festivals in Santa Ana, but it went away after two years due to a main sponsor, Vanguard Cinema, pulling support.


Back then there was no “Downtown Inc,” much less a supportive city council. This was during a time when the mayor’s office found it “unethical” to have a Latino film festival in Santa Ana. We’ve seen that now the city sponsors another film festival and puts their seal of approval on it (same mayor, different council).

The inaugural festival was visited by Mexican film industry heavyweights Gerardo Tort (director), Fernando Sariñana (director and father of singer Ximena Sariñana), Carolina Rivera (screenwriter) and Maya Zapata (actress), as well as local industry professionals Michael Peña (Crash, Walkout, etc), Moctezuma Esparza (producer), and others.

An opening night outdoor gala was held at the Artist’s Village downtown promenade, in between Pangea (now Lola Gaspar) and the Gypsy Den. Pangea provided catering.

2004 Feature-length Films:

Amar te duele
Alex Lora, Esclavo del rocanrol
Asesino en serio
Azul y blanco
C feliz
Chalino Sánchez – Una vida de peligros
Como el gato para el ratón
Cuento de hadas para dormir cocodrilos
De la calle
El misterio de la trinidad
El nominado
Hoy y mañana
Las caras de la luna
Carros clásicos de Cuba

2004 Short Film Program:

Una bala
Dia de suerte
La partida
Que me va hacer
El excusado
La milpa
La cumbre

Guest celebrities

Maya Zapata
Michael Peña
Patricia Rae


Moctezuma Esparza, Producer – “Selena”, “God’s & Generals”, “Walkout”
Carolina Rivera, Screenwriter – “Amar te duele, “Todo el poder,” “Cilantro y Perejil,” “Niñas Mal”
Fernando Sariñana, Director – “Amar te duele,” “Todo el poder”
Gerardo Tort, Director – “De la calle”
Luis Kelly, Director – “Alex Lora: Escalvo del rocanrol”
Nacho Argiro, Director – “El nominado”

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In part two, we’ll look at the 2005 Orange County Latino Film Festival and the people that took part in it.

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