By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
The public got an introduction to the concept of mixed use Tuesday night, as Garden Grove city officials and urban planning consultants held a workshop outlining what might be the future look of the city.
“Mixed use” refers to the concept of allowing development that combines residential and commercial operations – for example – in the same block, or even in the same building, instead of the recently traditional practice of grouping homes, businesses and offices into separate zones.
The workshop, held at the Community Meeting Center, attracted 20 attendees. It will be followed by additional such presentations.
“Mixed use is important now because there is a scarcity of land,” said Susan Emery, Garden Grove’s director of community development. “We don’t have a lot of new land to build on, we’re going to have to build up.”
What’s in the works is a revision of the city’s general plan and zoning, with a timeline of approval set for the fall. At Tuesday’s workshop, possible areas to be opened up for mixed uses included:
• the Brookhurst-Chapman retail area;
• Valley View Street in West Garden Grove;
• the Civic Center and downtown area in the vicinity of Euclid Street and Garden Grove Boulevard;
• the older industrial area west of downtown;
• much of Garden Grove Boulevard;
• major arterial streets such as Magnolia Street, Brookhurst Street and Beach Boulevard.
“Mixed use doesn’t mean that developers have to build, say, commercial and residential together,” said Emery. “It just opens up the land to that possibility.” Those possibilities could include buildings as high as 10 stories.
“I think mixed use can work,” said Peter Katz, president of the Garden Grove Downtown Business Association, “but if you allow the developers have the reins, if can get out of hand.”
He emphasized the need for open space, compatible uses and sensitivity to cultural differences. “There needs to be more control and responsibility on the part of the city,” he said, citing examples of jewelry stores turning into pawns shops and spas turning into massage parlors.
Josh McIntosh, a fourth-generation resident of Garden Grove, said “There are definitely some areas where mixed use would definitely be beneficial to Garden Grove. In some areas along Garden Grove Boulevard, that would definitely be good.”
He worried that mixed use in the industrial area would drive out long-established firms that he called “pillars of the community.”
The possibility of the use of the old Pacific Electric right-of-way being used for a light rail line connecting Orange County to Los Angeles County may also prove to be a catalyst. “Mixed use works better with rail,” said Emery.