The creation and revitalization of downtowns is the principle feature of urban development these days. Central business districts prevailed all across the county until the 1960s and 1970s when Americans went crazy for enclosed malls in suburban areas.
Of course, as the saying goes, “Everything comes back into fashion if you wait long enough.” Most cities in Orange County are part of the movement to strengthening or establishing a downtown, and now Stanton is moving in that direction with the development of a “Town Center” specific plan.
The city, originally incorporated in 1911 and then rebooted in 1956, is in the midst of creating a town center specific plan. There have been stops and starts over the last 20 to 30 years, but now it looks like Stanton, under the direction of City Manager Jarad Hildenbrand, is going to give the idea the full court press.
According to the city’s community and economic development department, the area to be considered is generally bounded on the north by Cerritos Avenue and the south by Katella Avenue. There is even a Main Street south of Cerritos that bisects Beach Boulevard, but it’s not now the center of much of anything, with a mix of older homes and small businesses.
The most recent previous try at creating a downtown came with the renovation and replacement of Stanton Plaza, located on the east side of Beach, north of Orangewood Avenue. That center featured a one-screen movie theater and an Alpha Beta supermarket. It fell into disuse and neglect by the 1980s.
A developer sold the city on the idea of replacing the center with a mixed-use development, and showed the city council attractive artistic renderings of a commercial area – complete with al fresco dining – bordered by medium-rise residential.
The housing was built, but over a decade passed before the promised commercial was constructed. It now consists of a Wendy’s fast food eatery, and a convenience store-service station. The other stores at the site have remained vacant for several years.
Now, the city is taking another shot at it. There has been considerable success in repurposing land uses along Beach such as mobile home sales, car washes and used car lots into other purposes, mainly apartments and condominiums. The biggest success story has been tearing down the old Village Center on Beach (just north of Garden Grove Boulevard) with the 22 At Beach development with several very popular eating places.
This time around, the specific plan is going to encourage mixed-use development with an emphasis on transit and pedestrian uses. Stanton is located on or near four major highways and is traversed diagonally by the old Pacific Electric right-of-way. The stretch could be used as a bike and walking park-path – as has happened in Garden Grove – and might eventually accommodate a light rail or other dedicated transit operation.
Right now, Stanton is working on community outreach, developing a plan and environmental studies. It is expected to go the public hearings and possible adoption in the fall of this year.
Will this effort have better results than earlier endeavors? Economists are predicting that once the coronavirus pandemic is over, there will be a huge expansion of economic activity. It could be that Stanton’s timing is just right.
From Surf City With … Uproar?
Huntington Beach is known for its popular beaches, surfing and well-upholstered neighborhoods. In recent weeks, political activity has brought to the forefront the idea that this city of about 200,000 is also the home of – or at least a magnet for – some pretty angry political partisans.
The idea was underlined when two “far-right activists” – as termed by the Los Angeles Times – from HB were in Washington, D.C. when the U.S. Capitol was stormed on Jan. 6.
According to published reports, Kristopher Drew and Michelle Peterson each posted videos (soon deleted) of the incident on social media. Drew posted that he “just got back from storming the Capitol,” but later said that he was there but did not participate in any illegal or violent actions. Peterson declined comment.
“Usually Reliable Sources” is posted on alternate Wednesdays.