Retorts: Let’s sign up for some charm

DOESN’T this sign capture your attention? (Flickr/Chris Goldberg).

“No matter where you go, there you are.” That’s a well-worn line from the cult film “Buckaroo Banzai.”

When people ask you where you live, or where are you from, what do you say? Do you say, “L.A.” or “Orange County” or “near Disneyland” or simply the city you live in?

In communities with distinct districts or areas, the choice is often more specific; you might say “Huntington Harbour” or “West Garden Grove” or “Anaheim Hills” or “Little Saigon.”

Is that a good thing or not? Does identifying with a section of your city lesson your connection to the rest of the community? Does it set up a “my area is better than yours” situation?

There are positives and negatives to this, but overall I have always liked the idea of nurturing neighborhoods and districts. As cities get bigger and sometimes, more impersonal, it’s generally a good thing to have a more modest area to call your own.

The master planners of Irvine saw the value in that, and that city is peppered with communities like Woodbridge, Turtle Rock, University Village, Orchard Hills and more. It’s intended to kindle a sense of neighborhood and sell houses.

This past week, a West Garden Grove sign was erected at an offramp of the San Diego Freeway at Valley View Street. Most people seemed to like the idea, but a few insisted that folks remember it’s “still” Garden Grove.

Fair enough, but the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn are “still” New York City. Hollywood is “still” Los Angeles. The Gaslight District is “still” San Diego.

A city with identifiable districts can be a sign of cultural sophistication and diversity, in the best senses of those words. If you are at all a traveler or tourist, you might find yourself searching out the hidden delights of the best ethnic food, the coziest park, the most historic sights of town.

Of course, if a community or city wants to encourage that, it can do a lot toward recognition of those areas, capitalizing on existing features of the area.

Huntington Beach, for example, has the outstanding areas of the Harbour, downtown and beaches. But there’s also a distinctive area along the Edinger Corridor that takes in not only the Bella Terra shopping area, but also Golden West College. Then, there’s the South East near Edison High School, and the area in and around the Central Park.

Westminster, which is seeking to develop its downtown and Civic Center area, already has Little Saigon and Westminster Mall (likely to be re-named) as a starting point for places to call your neighborhood.

Garden Grove is working hard to develop its central area into the downtown and Civic Center area, and there are distinct patches along Harbor Boulevard (Grove District/Anaheim Resort) as well as Koreatown (along Garden Grove Boulevard between Brookhurst and Magnolia), Little Saigon “2.0” (Westminster and Brookhurst) and what used to be called “Uptown” (Chapman and Brookhurst).

Special zoning overlays and some imagination could turn our largely suburban sprawls into something extra special. But sometimes it all starts with a sign.

Jim Tortolano has lived in Providence, Wilmington, Fontana, Anaheim, Huntington Beach and five places in Garden Grove. That boy, he’s been around, in a local kind of way.






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