West Anaheim Karens freak out over City’s Official “Ghetto Art!”

Some time around the holidays, pleasant art including the “SUN WAVE” mural above began to appear around the blighted parts of Beach Blvd in West Anaheim. And immediately outraged comments like this one (anonymously published under the name “What every one is thinking” on Matt Cunningham’s Anaheim Blog) began to appear on the internets and social media:

“The ghetto sidewalk painting now extends to the other side of the street.
I understand if you come from very graffiti lined, spray painted areas this may seem acceptable, but its not, Jose Diaz.
… Its ugly, and brings down the neighborhood.
Remove this ghetto look immediately. It looks like the cheapest person on earth tried to beautify.
This looks awful!!!! How dare you do this.
Cheap, ghetto, ugly.”

[At Beach and Ball now.]

Well, there’s no accounting for taste, is there?

Or IS there?

When I first read that comment I thought, “Wow, this I gotta see!” I gathered that the walls of West Anaheim must be sporting bright vibrant portraits of Malcolm X or Tupac, or detailed representations of the decades-long struggles of migrant farmworkers, explicable only by Chicano Studies majors, the kind of mural art that makes old white people feel bad, or less-than.

Pero no…

[at the Beach Blvd CVS.]

There’s a lot to unpack in that comment.

  • There’s the assumed sense of schoolmarm authority in “Remove this immediately!”, “not acceptable,” and “How dare you do this!”
  • There’s the kneejerk blaming of the art on immigrant Councilman Jose Diaz, who had nothing to do with it, but they can certainly order him to remove it! (Yeah, he obviously must have imported the graffiti culture from Havana to District 1.)
  • The handle “What everyone is thinking” is shorthand for “He/she is simply saying out loud what everyone else is thinking” – used for politically incorrect comedians like Anne Coulter and Donald Trump, and betraying the awareness that calling this innocuous art “ghetto” IS a little uncool.
  • And there’s the troubling association of anything colorful and public with the feared and loathed “GHETTO.”

I mean who looks at these pleasant pastel decorations and sees “GHETTO?”

[Beach balls at Beach & Ball – get it? Never mind. Pic by Mark Daniels.]

But anonymous blog comments did not suffice. This affront on the propriety of the Beach Boulevard area was so severe it merited the public appearances, at Jan. 24’s Council meeting, of the impacted ladies! And to nobody’s surprise, that was Jodie Mosley and a couple of her friends, all decrying these efforts as “GHETTO” and “unacceptable.”

These ladies, indefatigable complainers about immigrants and the homeless, are what’s left of the original membership of the West Anaheim Neighborhood Development Council (WAND.) Their venerable founder Esther Wallace passed away in 2020, rest her soul. The immigration-obsessed Amanda Edinger moved away to a less-Communist state. And Kathy Chance has been expelled from the crowd for having the audacity to share Jordan Brandman’s Vicious Texts with this blog.

Southeast corner of Lincoln and Beach – and it was so PURTY before!!! 🙁

Yes, three or four of these offended West Anaheim ladies showed up to call this city-funded art “GHETTO,” and more troubling than that, they all said, “I don’t know a single person that likes this ghetto art!” (Speaking for myself, *I* haven’t met anyone yet that didn’t like it, or at least had any problem with it!)

But really, Jodie doesn’t know a single person who doesn’t hate this? That leaves us a difficult choice – should we be troubled that SO MANY West Anaheim residents find this art “ghetto,” or just be sad for Ms. Mosley that her circle of friends is so tiny?

[You asked about Beach & Orange? Here’s Beach & Orange.]

I spoke with City Spokesman Mike Lyster about this worrisome development – WHY such angst from older West Anaheim Karens? Mike suspects that, since this part of town has been so long neglected and fed empty promises of renewal from the City, that Jodie’s klatch is worried that this is ALL the City is doing to fix up Beach. “NOT THE CASE!” Lyster yearns to impart, this is probably… “maybe FIVE percent of the good stuff we’re working on in that area.” The City has ONLY JUST BEGUN to tear down old motels and replace them with nice housing, A LOT of which he promises will be low-income/affordable (which these ladies also won’t like.) “You should help us get out the message that this art is only a TINY FRACTION of what we’re doing there!”

Except I don’t really think that’s these women’s problem – they insist that the art should NOT BE THERE because it is GHETTO. As in, redolent of encroaching hordes of dark minorities. Lyster and I, in rare agreement, beg to disagree. The goal, he explains, and which I believe they’ve succeeded in, is to “bring much-needed brightness and light” to a FORMERLY ghetto area. Sounding like “broken-windows theory,” he insists that illegal drug use and other crime is much less prevalent in bright colorful environments.

[Nice. South side of Beach and Orange.]

But try telling that to the Karens of West Anaheim; it will just not compute. They insist that “As soon as this ‘art’ was installed, it was covered with graffiti.” First of all, very exaggerated – Mike admits that there were a couple instances of tagging which were quickly and easily cleaned up. Because – just as I suspected – this art utilizes a type of paint from which spray-paint is easily wiped off. Big Brother was prepared for gangbangers!

And who cleans the graffiti off in that area but West Anaheim’s friendly HOMELESS folks! Operating under Nathan Zug’s “Better Way” organization, they thus gain “volunteer experience” helping them get into the workforce. Well, SORT of “volunteer” – Lyster allows as to how they are often given GIFT CARDS. Somehow I don’t think ANY of this is gonna make Jodie and her friends ANY happier though.

[West Anaheim Youth Center.]

So, who did all this art for the City, I wanted to know? “It was the idea of these consultants we’re working with – Urban Arena – they thought it would really help improve the atmosphere of the area.” Wait – CONSULTANTS again? Now *I’m* pissed off. Why is our public money constantly going to consultants? “We spent $17,000 on that ‘SUN WAVE mural at Beach and Rome” [shown in aerial view at the top of this story, and partially below.] “The rest of it is kind of hard to compute, it was just stuff the consultant did.”

I ask, “Did you guys at least use local artists?” The City spokesman sadly admitted no, but hastened to re-assure me that when they, soon, take down the Anaheim Lodge, they are talking about replacing it with an “ART LODGE,” where local artists WILL have the chance to express themselves. That Lyster knows how to assuage the person he’s talking to, but I still fear that Jodie and her crowd are just getting more and more irate. Here’s Beach and Rome viewed from ground level:

Speaking of Beach and Rome, and speaking of Councilman Diaz who lives right there, what the ladies SHOULD be mad and suspicious about is HOW DID HE GET HIS STREET ALL CLOSED OFF AND BEAUTIFIED? Lyster tries to re-assure me that there’s no secret Councilman favors going on here, that that little area was particularly problematic with prostitution and drug use – johns would pull over there and do their john things – and that now, with the closed-off road and the beautiful art, that’s all a thing of the past!

Well, I’m gonna go ahead and say that I think what the City has done here is nice, although it shoulda been done with local people rather than some fancy expensive outside consultants, and I’m also gonna add that I think the West Anaheim people who hate this are a bunch of misanthropic WEIRDOS. What do YOU think?

Vern out.

Wait – that’s Mike Robbins talking to a cop – maybe THAT could be disturbing!
Picture by Mark Daniels, which could also trigger some.
Other pictures thanks to the City.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.