Retorts: Tragedy and an opportunity

SHANGHAI’S SKYLINE shows the futuristic look of 21st century development. Perhaps we might see something of that on the Willowick site (Shutterstock).

You hear a lot these days about mixed-use projects. Well, this week’s Retorts is a mixed-use column about two items of interest to our communities and, well, our columnist.

Police shootings not always what you think

The recent fatal shooting of a 27-year-old man by a Huntington Beach police officer has generated a lot of heat and a small bit of light on social media. As can be typical of Facebook frenzies, the discussion ranged from “don’t shoot” to “good riddance.”

In the situation under study, videos show the man struggling with the officer, grabbing at him and trying to land a punch. While it’s clear than the man had some emotional or other problems, a police officer in that situation is in no position to act as a sidewalk psychologist.

Know this: a violent person cannot only harm the officer, but also others. If an assailant gets a hold of the officer’s pistol, one tragedy can turn into many. There is no way to predict just how far an out-of-control person will go.

Some folks asked why the officer didn’t issue a verbal warning or why he fired seven times. The space between the two parties was so close that a warning ­ – if not heeded, which seems possible or even likely in this instance – might have further endangered the officer or others.

As for the seven shots, once an officer – or a soldier, for that matter – opens fire his goal is to kill the other person. There are no warning shots, nor “shooting to wound.” That’s movie or TV fluff. As my old gun instructor once said, “There’s nobody madder than someone you just shot.”

I’m not saying that all such shootings are justified. Police, like all people, have their imperfections. They can make mistakes. I don’t romanticize any group; there are heroes and heels in any profession. But in this instance, the tragic use of deadly force seems to be well within the standards of responsible law enforcement.

Going for a hole in one at Willowick

I’m going to mix my metaphors mightily here, but I hope the cities of Garden Grove and Santa Ana really do aim for a home run, a slam-dunk and an eagle on the possible reuse of the Willowick Golf Course.

The two city councils have approved a memorandum of understanding about the possible future use of the 101.5-acre site on West Fifth Street. Located near the Santa Ana River and in a highly-populated area along a planned streetcar route, that parcel – with few structures – is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to develop something beyond cool.

A SOCCER stadium is one of several ideas kicked around in the past for the site of the Willowick Golf Course.

Of course, the major complication is that while the land is owned by the City of Garden Grove, it is located right across the municipal limits in the City of Santa Ana. GG owns the dirt, but SA controls the zoning. Hmmm ….

As a Garden Grove guy, my preference would be for Santa Ana to agree to transfer the land to GG, just as Orange realigned its western border slightly to allow for the development of a housing tract at Lewis Street and Garden Grove Boulevard. Santa Ana’s share would be to get a piece of the action from revenues created from the ensuing development.

Just what might that development be? The possibilities tossed out before include a soccer stadium, an amusement park or another larger entertainment venue. The soccer idea is probably a non-starter because a second Major League Soccer team, the Los Angeles FC, will launch next season at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles.

The theme park idea has some merit, but the site lacks the kind of freeway access that such a development would require. The streetcar stop will help a bit, but not nearly enough.

There are lots of other possibilities, but my bet is that neither will include much in the way of parkland or housing, especially low-income housing. Simply put, the land is too valuable to not devote to high-return projects.

We’re going to keep an eye out for possible out-of-the-box concepts such as a regional mixed use – there’s that word again – which could bring together emerging trends in virtual reality entertainment, or a West Coast location for an East Coast university looking for a national reach, or even a water-oriented development as part of down-the-road reclaiming of the Santa Ana River as a real waterway and not just a big ugly concrete flood control challenge.

The mind boggles at the possibilities. The Willowick, nearly a century old, is now like a 19-year-old kid; nothing to do but anything at all.

Jim Tortolano’s Retorts appears each Wednesday. As for development ideas, he is thinking of a vast theme park called Pizza Land. Remember, you saw it here first!





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