Across the Area

Jets, murder, pot, plans and Amazon

HOMELESSNESS was a problem for Garden Grove, Huntington Beach and Westminster in 2017 and will likely continue for years.

Every year is a newsworthy year these days. 2017 was 12 months of shocks, progress, setbacks, tragedy and triumph. Here are the Orange County Tribune’s list of top news stories for the Garden Grove-Huntington Beach-Westminster area for the year just gone, in two categories: breaking news and continuing issues.

Breaking news

  • The Rusty Skeleton (Garden Grove). The unfinished structure on Garden Grove Boulevard has been an eyesore for over a decade, but it became a news story twice this year. First, a developer surfaced to try to resume and complete construction of the structure and, secondly, the discovery of a dead body on the premises, both reminding of the potential and the problems of the city’s problematic “landmark.”
  • Breitling Air Show (Huntington Beach). An estimated 1 million people viewed the aerial extravaganza over the pier and beach. Not only was it a huge success from an attendance standpoint, but also it signaled a future of potential big events in the downtown area, including perhaps a role in an upcoming Olympic surfing competition.
  • Revolving Door at the WSD (Westminster). Cynthia Paik spent only four months as superintendent of the 10,000-student Westminster School District before she was fired by the school board. She was the fourth top educator in the WSD in seven years.
  • The Murder of Amanda Jensen (Westminster/Garden Grove). Amanda Jensen, a resident of Garden Grove and the city clerk of Westminster was killed in July in an apparent murder-suicide. Police believe she was killed at the Seal Beach home of Los Alamitos police captain Rick Moore, who then turned the gun on himself.
  • The In-N-Out and Bob’s Big Boy (Garden Grove). No story we published in 2017 attracted more interest than plans to tear down a former Bob’s Big Boy (now a Coco’s) at Harbor Boulevard just south of Chapman Avenue and replace it with an In-n-Out restaurant. Some locals applauded the news; some expressed disappointment with the change.

Continuing Issues

  • Homelessness: Just about all cities are plagued with the problems of homelessness. A housing shortage, drug addiction, changes in state law and the unwillingness of some to accept help have all been blamed for the problem. So far, no city has found the magic bullet. Garden Grove and Westminster have assigned police officers to the issue and contracted with CityNet to tackle the matter.
  • Downtowns: The hottest urban planning issue today is building or improving city centers. Garden Grove is looking forward to the opening of the SteelCraft urban eatery and the Cottage Industry project in its downtown and Westminster is planning on converting its Civic Center into a mixed-use project. Huntington Beach, which has a thriving core, is looking at maintenance issues and ways to boost vitality outside of the summer season.
  • DEALING with marijuana sales issues is a matter for all our cities.

    Marijuana: The legalization of cannabis, first for medicinal purposes and later for recreational use, poses a lot of questions for local cities. State law allows cities to ban the sale of pot, but many illegal “weed shops” have nevertheless popped up in our cities. With local agencies under financial pressure, the idea of allowing marijuana sales as a means to reap a sales tax bonanza is attracting some attention.

  • Transit: Rails, bikes and shuttles: A lot of interest is focused on getting around town. If all goes well, the OC Streetcar connecting Santa Ana and Garden Grove could start construction in 2018. Westminster and Garden Grove have extensive plans for bike paths and bikeways and Huntington Beach has a successful shuttle service linking downtown with the Bella Terra shopping area and other locations. Also, plans for a widening of the San Diego (405) Freeway will impact all three of our cities, but especially Westminster.
  • Amazon HQ2: Plans by Garden Grove (with partner Santa Ana) and Huntington Beach (with partner Long Beach) to attract a huge new “second” headquarters are probably long shots, but at the very least they could attract enough attention to lead to something else sort of big. In any case, it seems likely that the 101-acre Willowick Golf Course (the land is owned by the City of Garden Grove but within Santa Ana city limits) will take on a new life.





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