Save the Jägerhaus and Sunkist Plaza!

I’ll start with the little bit of semi-good news, and we also wanted OJ readers to be the first to know – Anaheim’s beloved, world-famous German restaurant and meeting house the Jägerhaus is moving to a new location on Anaheim Blvd, practically next door to City Hall (where there used to be an Indian Restaurant.)

It’s a good location, and if the owner, Sandie Schwaiger, manages to get all the financing together, she should be opening up the new location sometime over the summer.  And it’ll be nice to have German-founded Anaheim’s only German Restaurant (now that the Phoenix Club has been sold) right in the center of Anaheim’s action.  Just think – the community resource that for forty years has provided meeting space for Los Amigos, the Anaheim High School Alumni Club, Toastmasters, Chamber of Commerce-sponsored political debates, weddings and quinceañeras, located right by City Hall.

Except, Sandie didn’t want to move.  She had big plans for her old location, with a picturesque European beer garden out front and more, which won’t work now.  People from all over Southern California have been frequenting her place for forty years, and may have a hard time finding the new location.  She is being forced to move by the LA speculators Golcheh Properties who are determined, despite unanimous public opposition, to tear down Sunkist Plaza at Sunkist and Ball and replace it, as that company always does, with a giant carwash, a 24-hour 7-11, and a gas station.  [Update – Golcheh is now calling themselves “Anaheim Care LLC,” LOL.]

Chamber-connected lobbyist Jeff Flint, to whom the Anaheim Council never says no.

Beyond that, the move will cost her hundreds of thousands, and while the Golcheh spokeswoman Shira Golcheh promised her, in front of many people, from $100K to $200K in relocation fees, she is now attempting to deny and retract that promise.  In fact timing suggests that, once Sandie acquired the Anaheim Blvd location, Golcheh decided to spend that money instead on hiring lobbyist/puppetmaster Jeff Flint to ensure their project goes through Council with no hitches.

And speaking of relocation and welching, there are SEVEN other small businesses at Sunkist Plaza who will be displaced by Golcheh and have not seen a cent of the promised relocation help THEY were promised.  These are all small, locally owned AND immigrant-owned businesses, exactly the kind the “pro-business” Anaheim Council is supposed to care about, businesses who have suffered and survived through this Year of Covid.  And they’re not as well-known as Sandie’s Jägerhaus – an employee of His Nibs Liquor told me, “Our customers are not going to go looking to find out where we moved to, not like Sandie’s.”

Well, why SHOULD Golcheh have to pay?

And here’s where we make THAT case.

Let us count the ways that Golcheh’s project will hurt Anaheim and drain our resources.  Like so many of today’s developers and other big corporations, Golcheh lives by the creed “Privatize the Profits, Socialize the Costs.”

1.  It is not an exaggeration to say that the carwash / 7-11 as well as the eviction of popular local businesses is “unanimously opposed” by the local community.  As required, the speculator went through the motions of a community meeting, in late 2019 a little before Covid, to “listen to concerns” and explain how wonderful their project would be.  Over a hundred neighbors showed up, and when asked to raise hands for support or opposition, EVERYBODY THERE OPPOSED.  Add to that the e-mails received by the Planning Commission – nearly a thousand in opposition (vs. a handful of astroturf from Chamber-friendly sources,)  Sandie’s file of 4000 e-mails supporting the Jägerhaus staying where it is, and 2200 signatures on a “Save the Jägerhaus” petition.

2.  And there are good reasons for this unanimous public opposition.  First of all the TRAFFIC around Ball, Sunkist, and the nearby 57, is ALREADY a nightmare and has been for years.  It’s common sense that this new gas station, 7-11, and especially a carwash which plans to service 600 cars a day, will change bad traffic to HELL traffic.  But you may not be surprised to learn that there are consultants who, for enough money, will massage up a “study” demonstrating for you that the sky is green.  So of course Golcheh paid for a study proving with lots of numbers that the traffic will actually improve.  One of those “Who are you going to believe, our numbers or your lying common sense?” studies.

3.  Nighttime security at the 7-11.  The neighbors really don’t like the prospect of a 24-hour convenience store nearby, a place where troublemakers will hang out at all hours, loitering, hollering, brawling, robbing.  Golcheh’s response to that concern was “We trust the Anaheim Police to keep order for us.”   Yes, our already overstretched APD will take care of it.  Like we said, “Privatize the profits, socialize the costs.”  When some on the Planning Commission suggested they should provide some of their own security, did Golcheh respond by promising private guards?  No, Golcheh promised CAMERAS.  As little as possible, and a Golcheh Promise at that.

4.  There’s no denying the NOISE from the 600-car-a-day Carwash will be a real nuisance, especially for the folks who live right over the wall behind it.  So Golcheh proposes to mitigate that noise somewhat by making the wall a lot HIGHER.  Only thing is… the proposed 12-foot wall at residents’ backyards will ALSO be miserable, blocking out sunlight and any sort of view.  Damned if you do, fucked if you don’t.  Some neighbors are already putting their homes on the market before they lose value from this.  Can’t there be an option C of “Golcheh just go away?”

5.  The neighborhood (but what do they know) is adamant that they simply don’t NEED 1) one more carwash when there are already eight carwashes within a mile; 2) one more 7-11 when there are five within two miles including one 650 yards away; and 3) one more gas station when there’s one across the street.  The carwash/7-11/gas station combo is what Golcheh always does everywhere, it’s their one trick, but the taxpaying, voting residents of Anaheim DON’T WANT OR NEED IT. 

6.  We’ll look at this in depth in a bit, but Golcheh’s project is displacing eight locally owned small businesses, and destroying them if Golcheh doesn’t cover their relocation costs as they once promised when first courting public opinion.  The human costs to THAT would be devastating, as we’ll see.

What Golcheh is demanding

Today at Planning Commission (5pm) and in a few weeks at City Council, Golcheh will be asking our representatives for four things that they need to legally allow them to wreak all the above havoc:

  1. a conditional use permit to construct a new 24-hour convenience market with gas sales and an express carwash with ancillary vacuums;
  2. an associated Determination of Public Convenience or Necessity to permit off-premises sales of alcoholic beverages;
  3. an administrative adjustment to exceed the maximum wall height along residential properties; and
  4. a tentative parcel map to consolidate three parcels into two lots.

My most urgent point is that with Golcheh taking so much from the city, causing so much damage, AND demanding so much from our government, Council and the Planning Commission have the leverage and the duty to make them at least provide relocation fees for the eight businesses that will be so rudely displaced.  But we should also be demanding that they deny the four items above, so Golcheh CANNOT proceed with their project.  What’ll happen?  Golcheh will sell the property to somebody else, perhaps for a small loss, someone who will respect the neighborhood and local businesses.

The apologists for this Council are already claiming that “the government has no right to tell a property owner what they can and can’t do with their property.”  This is what you always hear from these kleptocrats when there’s an unpopular project they favor, and it’s convenient, pernicious bullshit.  I mean, duh – why else are these permits and variances something they even get to vote on then?  Who is a City Council supposed to work for?  The people and small businesses of Anaheim, or out-of-town speculators they sympathize with for whatever reason?  I don’t remember Shira Golcheh ever voting for this Mayor and Council (nor Newport’s rent-gouger John Saunders, nor Arizona’s insatiable Angels owner Arte Moreno, nor the La Habra speculator who they let shoehorn 39 three-story townhomes into the Pauline Street neighborhood.) Yet they want us to believe they HAVE TO BE A RUBBER STAMP.

This same exact project by Golcheh was REJECTED by the City Council of Pomona – a carwash, 7-11, and gas station (like I said, that’s what Golcheh does) – and was it the end of the world?  No, Golcheh cut their losses in Pomona and moved on to their next mark, Anaheim.

WELL, the unprecedented sometimes happens, and maybe the Planning Commission and Council WILL vote in favor of Anaheim’s neighborhoods and small businesses.  We should remind them of their own words – all seven of the Councilmen at least pretend to care about neighborhoods and local businesses.  Newly elected Democrat Avelino Valencia rousingly said (in the context of post-Covid re-opening)

“No large California city has been affected as much as Anaheim. And it’s not just City Hall: working families and small businesses have suffered. Fifteen thousand people are out of work. Thousands of small businesses have closed – some for good. Many of these small businesses represent someone’s life investment.”

Anaheims “pro-business” Council majority.

So does Avelino really care or not?  Does Jose Diaz, small business owner from Cuba, care about his fellow immigrant small business owners?  What about Steve Faessel, whose district this is in?  More than half of the residents who don’t want this project voted for him, and he goes on about neighborhoods and businesses as much as the rest.  Trevor O’Neil gloated after the election that his new colleagues add up to a “pro-business majority” – does that mean anything?  And does Jordan Brandman want to give us one LESS reason to recall him?

But if this Council IS determined to roll out the red carpet for Shira Golcheh and her carwash / 7-11 / gas station, the least they can do is make them pay sufficient relocation fees for the Sunkist Eight.  If these LA speculators are looking to make millions off us, they can afford a few hundred thousand for the local small businesses they’re endangering, and our city government has the right and duty to demand that from them.

Panoramic view of Sunkist Plaza, you can click to make it bigger.

Meet the Small Businesses of Sunkist Plaza.

The liquor store “His Nibs,” the first business you’ll see on the corner, is owned by Syrian-American Elias Moussa (seen to the right in better days.)  It was named “His Nibs” when Elias bought it twenty years ago, and the University of Toledo graduate enjoys explaining that the British phrase is a “mock title used to refer to a self-important man, especially one in authority.”  Covid has slowed down business a bit this year, but Elias has kept four employees working – when things get better there will be more, like before.  If this Golcheh deal goes through, and Elias isn’t given enough money to relocate, he will be homeless –  he is on dialysis for his kidney, and he has three kids (the oldest daughter at UCI right now)  This is the damage that happens when some wealthy outsider comes in and destroys an Anaheim business.  He would have more capital for this crisis, but he invested in new refrigerators just a few years ago.  He says he will need $200K to relocate.

The next place you get to in Sunkist Plaza is Melchor Panadería, which just happens to be the favorite local panadería (or Latino bakery) of a lotta folks I know, long before this desmadre started.  It was founded by Guatemalan immigrant Miguel Angel Gonzalez, 17 years ago.  Well if it’s Miguel’s place, why’s he call it “Melchor?”  Good question, Melchor is his mom’s last name.  Here’s Miguel at work, in his Hard Rock Cafe shirt.

Over these past 17 years, until Covid hit, Miguel has kept four locals employed.  This past year it’s been just him, but when things start picking up again (if his business doesn’t get displaced) he would go back to four employees like before.  Every year Miguel’s bakery makes large donations to a cancer charity called the Junior Foundation.  He and his friend Rocio a few doors down who runs the beauty salon always have a table at that charity’s annual luncheon.  A modest guy, Miguel estimates he could relocate for $30,000, but Rocio thinks he would actually need more.  If he loses this place, his prospects are grim – he has no family in this nation, and only one eye!  (Though it’s pretty hard to tell with the new glass one he got last year.)  Here is the dazzling display you first see when you walk into Melchor Panadería:

And this is sad.  We have to change our slogan now to “the Sunkist Seven,” or even “the Sunkist Six” (if we exclude Sandie) because Sunkist Donuts, owned and run for over 30 years now by Sam and Jenny from Cambodia, recently had to shutter for good, between Sam’s lymphoma and the new Golcheh situation, with a big fat topping of The Pandemic on top.  Damn.  I used to always pop in there for a chocolate bar with cream inside, on my way to Los Amigos meetings.  No more.

Their experience dealing with new property owner Shira Golcheh during the twin crises of Covid shutdowns and Sam’s lymphoma was apparently bitter.  Sam’s wife Jenny texts me:  “I remembered around mid February , my husband had to go to the hospital and on the last week of February , they found out my husband had cancer. Yes , I plan to sell the business to get the money for retire . But in my situation , I cannot do anything . Even my equipments in the shop I had to call to give away because I cannot keep ( the owner of our shopping said they don’t give us free rent , they will charge us by day ) and we have until 3/15 have to clear it out”

But you probably wanted to know, why are all Orange County donut shops owned by Cambodians?  So I had to ask Jenny and she said “It just happen like that, one Cambodian start a donut shop, others come to America and learn from him, next thing many many Cambodian donut shops.  Just like Koreans and dry cleaners, or Chinese and liquor stores.”  Yeah, that’s how I pictured.  We all hope Sam survives his chemo and lymphoma better than he survived the Golcheh takeover.

Moving down the row, Home Masters Consulting reminds me of Jesus Aguirre’s place across from Varsity, in that they do a little bit of everything, but they are run by a nice Syrian immigrant named Fahdi and his wife.  As you see in the picture below, Fahdi and his wife can take care of your legal and financial consulting, your accounting and bookkeeping, your income tax preparation, AND they’re notaries public who can come to wherever YOU are!  Fahdi has built up a large clientele over the 17 years he’s had this place.  Yes, SEVENTEEN YEARS again – it seems a lot of these business owners started up in 2003 or 4, and they’ve all become a big family.  Unselfish, Fahdi figures he can take care of his own move, but is really concerned with a lot of his neighboring businesses.  He’s looking for a cheaper location, maybe in Placentia, and hopes his clientele will follow him there.

Rocio is the most talkative of all the Sunkist Six business owners, and started up her New Look Beauty Salon, yes, 17 years ago.  (Musta been a big year for Sunkist Plaza.)  “New Look” is a name her ten-year old daughter came up with, and LOOK at the picture above – the “O’s” are OJOS.  I hadn’t noticed that before.  Rocio’s from Mexico City but wants you to know she is not a “chilanga.”  She’s the one who emphasized to me what a family this whole Plaza has become over the decades. 

What makes “New Look” a special boutique, better than others?  “My daughter answered that once, that ‘we do our job with love and passion.’  We care about our customers, we’re not like a big corporation.”  What will happen to Rocio and her daughters if they lose this business?  “Do you want to make me cry?  I don’t know.  I don’t know what to do.”  Rocio estimates she would need about $50 K to move.  “My situation isn’t as bad as Elias’.  Or Miguel’s.  For now we’re all trying to take care of each other.”

OK, lets not make Rocio cry.  But this next place already gave in and moved to Orange, so they’re not part of the Sunkist Six:

There are two small businesses left in the Sunkist Six, both owned by nice Korean-American ladies.  Westway Cleaners  has been owned by Sarah Song (below) for 16 years – her husband is the celebrated mailman Do Song; they have two kids.  I can vouch that Sarah gets a dirty blazer clean.  But she and her husband figure that what makes them unique is they care about the customers, they talk to them a lot, they know all their names.  This whole plaza sounds like a Cheers episode, no snark.  What’ll you do when you have to move?  “I don’t know.  My brain is empty.”  Sarah and Do estimate they’ll need $30 K to move, but Sarah really wants to stay.

Finally, Hey Kyung Kang has had her Ace Flower Shoppe next door to the Jägerhaus for a whopping 23 years – since 1997!  Her English is not so good, but she loves her flowers, she thinks her prices are better than anyone else, and she wishes she could do this job for another “ten or fifteen years.”  Moving with her floral refrigerators will be expensive, and she does not want to be a burden on her four sons.

UPDATE TUESDAY NIGHT

REPORT ON LAST NIGHT’S PLANNING COMMISSION!

There’s a lot to report from Monday night’s Planning Commission. I’ll try to keep it brief, stick with what’s important, leave out a lot of amusing stuff that I might report on later. For now I’ll skip Sandie’s speech, and all the lies that Shira told, and wow were there a lot. I’ll get into all that later, soon.

To speak against the Golcheh project me and Mark Daniels showed up, along with FIVE of the Sunkist Six – Rocio, Miguel, Sarah, Hey Kyung, and Elias (who got there late because of his dialysis.) They all did great, I was proud of them.  After talking with Rocio earlier, I realized we had THREE alternative demands – deny the project, or provide relocation fees, or at the very least, allow a lot more TIME for the businesses to recover from Covid and save up for their own moves.

We had six commissioners to decide on our case, because Lucille Kring was conflicted out of the issue.  And on our side we had Steve White, as well as Kimberly Keys who is the chairman of the commission, as well as Steve Faessel’s appointee. Apparently Faessel is planning to vote against the project which makes sense, since the very unpopular project is in his district. But I still think he’s not so strongly and sincerely against it that he doesn’t want it to pass, he just wants to vote against it safely in a minority. Just my impression so far.

So we had those two voting no, and the other three voting yes – but even they weren’t that bad, because they specified that the tenants should be given at least nine months before having to leave, and get some sort of assistance from the city (again, socializing the project’s costs.) So that’s as bad as it could be, which coulda been worse.

The slippery LuisAndres

We needed one more no vote, because a 3-3 vote woulda been a denial. So it came down to Commissioner LuisAndres Perez, a Democrat appointee of Avelino Valencia, a building trades guy with whom I’ve had many disagreements. I was dying to see how Luis would vote, which could also be a sign of how Avelino would eventually vote – he hardly said a word during the meeting, except asking a pretty lame question about “How many car washes [or convenience stores] does the City allow in a square mile?”  Really irrelevant, nobody was claiming the carwash was illegal.

And when it came time for Luis’ vote… he ABSTAINED. So we lost 3-2. WTF? He couldn’t decide between the neighborhood and small businesses of that area and Jeff Flint? I didn’t notice at the time, but the Commission’s attorney rushed up to say something to him right after his abstention.

Turns out, Planning Commissioners are NOT ALLOWED to abstain, without declaring a legitimate conflict. So, we are going to call for another vote at the next Planning Commission meeting April 26, and see how THAT goes. We have reason to feel optimistic.

Also, I’m developing a new appreciation of Jeff Flint’s power in this town. The Council majority and mayor report to the Chamber’s Todd Ament, we all know that, but the very mentally limited Ament takes his orders from Jeff Flint.

Jeff Flint is the VICEROY that Curt Pringle left in charge of Anaheim when he moved.

And he is the one who gets his palm greased by people like Golcheh Properties when they want to be sure of getting their way in Anaheim. Jeez that’s corrupt.

Hence it would be even nicer to win this Sunkist battle and defeat Flint.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.