Mixed use projects a mixed bag in Fullerton and Santa Ana

The parallels between Fullerton and Santa Ana are eerie.  We all know that Fullerton is where Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido grew up.  And he still serves on the board of a bank in Fullerton.  More than one Santa Ana City employee has run for the Fullerton City Council – and now a professor who teaches at Fullerton Junior College is running for the SAUSD School Board.  The same School Board where Sal Tinajero was once a Trustee.  Tinajero beat the odds and was elected to the Santa Ana City Council – and he teaches at a high school in Fullerton.

The latest connection involves “SoCo Walk, a mixed-use project in downtown Fullerton that opened in late 2006,” according to the L.A. Times.

SoCo Walk “is next to the busy Santa Fe Depot that serves Amtrak and Metrolink trains — are touted as ways to put housing, shopping and work close together.”

But there is a problem.  In fact quite a few problems, “Neighbors of the project say its residents don’t mix with the existing community. And though some SoCo Walk residents say their lives improved when they dropped the commute, many worry they’re too close to downtown and all its attendant problems. The harshest critics say the project was badly executed.”

This all reminds me of Santa Ana’s Santiago Lofts, which like the SoCo Walk attracted an interesting mix of new residents, but it also stuck them in an area where they are under-served by the existing business base, and where crime is a very real issue.

In fact SoCo Walk residents are also complaining about gangs and drug-dealing.

Tonight the Fullerton City Council debated yet another of these mixed-use developments.  I don’t know the outcome of that debate yet but I am sure it was quite a stormy process.

Personally I think these developments show some promise but you can’t just dump them into troubled areas and expect them to solve everything.  In both Fullerton and Santa Ana there is a need to invest in troubled areas and to provide more educational and recreational opportunities to the youth, particularly those whose families are hovering on the poverty line.

In related news, Santa Ana Planner Karen Haluza is running for the Fullerton City Council this year.  I was a bit harsh in my initial assessment of Haluza, based on my experience with her when I served on the Santa Ana Housing and Redevelopment Commission.  She seemed to be quite the cold fish at the time.

However I ran into Haluza at the Memphis last week and she was quite charming.  In fact I am told that Fullerton Republicans are getting behind her, even though she is a Democrat.  Apparently there is some unrest in Fullerton with some of the Republicans on the City Council, notably Dick Jones.  He is widely viewed as an ineffective stooge for Congressman Ed Royce.

Haluza has also attracted the ire of Red County Editor Matt “Jubal” Cunningham.  That actually will probably help her more than anything else.  If she does win, she will have her hands full dealing with Fullerton’s planning issues – which sure look a lot like Santa Ana’s planning issues…

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"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.