Across the Area

A look at what’s down the road

WHAT DOES the new year hold for the communities of Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Stanton and Westminster? (Shutterstock).

By Jim Tortolano

To paraphrase a line from a movie, looking at the future is a little like looking at a cake. Until you taste it, what do you really know?

It’s good advice, but the desire to look down the road is so common, we could not resist the temptation to give it a try. Based on our coverage of the communities of Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Stanton and Westminster since 2016, we feel we are in position to offer some “informed speculation.”

One thing that’s universal among the cities we cover and all of Orange County is deciding how to spend the millions of dollars allocated from the federal government under an infrastructure bill and the American Rescue Plan Act. Some of those millions have an expiration date, so 2022 should be a year in which some projects – new buildings, water and sewage rehabilitation, modernization, etc. – will be earmarked, if not spent.

Here’s our city-by-city outlook in general.

GARDEN GROVE: Development of the 102-acre Willowick Golf Course site – owned by the City of Garden Grove but located in Santa Ana – is expected to progress in 2022. No sticks will be in the ground but a developer or developers will be chosen. What will the project be? Some at City Hall speculate it will be some kind of mixed-use development with commercial, residential and open space.

Not within the decision-making power of the city but very much potentially significant is the OCStreetcar project connecting Santa Ana with Garden Grove. Construction won’t be finished until 2023, but the Orange County Transit Authority is expected to get $1 billion from Uncle Sam, and some OCTA officials are already talking up the possibility of extending the line north along Harbor Boulevard to the Disneyland/Convention Center area, or northeast along the old Pacific Electric right-of-way.

Several major hotel projects on Harbor are expected to move along with construction in 2022, but are not expected to open for business this year.

Finally, will the coronavirus situation allow for the return of the annual Strawberry Festival, suspended the last two years? Fingers crossed …

HUNTINGTON BEACH:  The selection of a new city manager could be a big deal for Surf City. Oliver Chi left after serving for two years as the city’s top appointed official for the manager job in Irvine. The interim city manager is Sean Joyce, who – ironically – retired from the Irvine city manager post in 2018.

Environmental issues may top the agenda in 2021. Huntington Beach has been hit by two oil spills – one fairly big and one small – in the last year as well as a sewage discharge, the oil and the sewage each resulting in beach closures.

The city council’s public friction with elected City Attorney Michael Gates is down to a simmer, but considering the personalities involved, a little boilage is possible.

A cooler topic might be the proposed Trails to the Sea project, which could involve repurposing unused space along the Talbert and Huntington Beach flood control channels for use as a corridor for “family-friendly outdoor spaces” and connections to schools, parks and the beach.

There is a recall movement aimed at most members of the city council, but the expense and burden of getting enough signatures to force an election make that prospect “a heavy lift.”

STANTON: This community is on a roll. Considerable development along Beach Boulevard has added much in the way of retail and residential uses, and there’s more building on the way, including some large housing projects in the Tina-Pacific area. Issues facing Stanton in 2022 include further progress in addressing homelessness – as do all our cities – and the prospect of cannabis production, processing and sales as a key revenue source.

WESTMINSTER: Every city has elections scheduled in 2022, but ballot box decisions in this All American City will have a bigger-than-usual impact. In June, voters will be asked whether to change the position of mayor from being directly elected, or revert to the former custom of the city council choosing a mayor from amongst its number.

Another key election issue is the city’s 1-cent sales tax, slated to expire in 2022. If not renewed by voters, finance officials have predicted deep cuts and potential bankruptcy. So far, the council has not decided to place the matter on the November 2022 ballot. Even if it is and voters agree to renew the tax, the city could lose millions of dollars in revenue because a renewal could only take effect on April 1, 2023.

Additionally, after a revolving door of regular and interim city managers, a new one will have to be chosen.


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