What-ifs of West Orange Co.

THE NIKE MISSILE base in what is now West Garden Grove. What might have been built there? (OC Archives).

Have you ever wondered how your life might have turned out if you made a different decision, taken a different job, married a different person, moved to a different city?

How about how your city might have been different if other people had made alternate decisions. Here’s some speculation. What if …

Stanton never disincorporated. In an effort to head off Anaheim’s plans to build a stinky sewer farm in the community then known as Benedict, residents rallied in 1911 and created the city of Stanton, which was about 17 square miles – the largest in Orange County at the time. That stopped the sewer farm, but residents decided to backtrack and dissolve the city in 1924 to gain the advantage of county-financed roads through their town. 

If they hadn’t taken that step, Stanton would have become one of the biggest cities – in area and population – in the county, instead of one of the smallest. Anaheim would be smaller than now, and people living in what’s now Cypress and Buena Park would have a different mailing address.

The Nike Base had been developed differently. From 1956 to 1974, the large area near what is now Chapman Avenue and Knott Street was a Nike anti-air missile base termed  Garden Grove-Stanton (LA-32). Built as a means of defending the Los Alamitos Naval Air Station (now the Joint Forces Training Base), the weapons were manned by troops from the California Air National Guard.

When the land was declared surplus in the mid-Seventies, Garden Grove citizens and officials debated the land’s fate. Huge housing tract? Regional shopping mall? Regional park? Feeling the need for more property taxes, the city council went with a gigantic industrial park that runs generally between Western Avenue and Valley View Street.

Building many acres of new, upscale homes there could have changed the demographics of the city and expanded the school district’s array of campuses, but possibly also seriously stressed traffic even more than it is now.

If Bolsa Chica hadn’t been saved. For decades developers wanted to build many homes in the area in and around what’s now called the Bolsa Chica Wetlands facing Pacific Coast Highway and south of Warner Avenue. Environmental groups fought doggedly to resist and eventually prevailed, setting a precedent statewide for the preservation of habitats for endangered species and open space. Not only would Surf City have become more crowded, lost would have been the example that led to other successful preservation efforts.

More “What-Ifs” on Wednesday.

Categories: Opinion

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2 replies »

    • Jim, what a great blast from the past. My grandfather was around for the Stanton story. I was around for the rest. Great local history. Thanks for the great work bringing out for others to see.

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