By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
The imminent sale of Garden Grove’s most famous building was the most attention-getting news story of 2011 in the Big Strawberry. But the spotlight of publicity also fell on the case of the angry woman who allegedly cut off her husband’s penis, the arrival of a Vietnam War Memorial, a controversy over marijuana dispensaries and a shift toward mixed uses.
Those are all stories that are likely to remain in the news well into 2012 and beyond.
1. Sale of the Crystal Cathedral: Staggering under a debt of millions of the dollars, Garden Grove’s most famous church filed for bankruptcy, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange outbid Chapman University for the land and buildings. The Diocese will use it as the county’s central cathedral; Chapman was considering building a medical school on part of the site.
2. Woman Cuts Off Man’s Penis: Worldwide attention came to the Big Strawberry in a grisly way when Catherine Kieu on July 11 allegedly drugged her estranged husband, tied him to the bed, cut off his penis and ran in through the garbage disposal. She’s pleaded not guilty to charges of torture and aggravated mayhem.
3. Vietnam Moving Wall Comes to GG: A half-size replica of the Vietnam War Memorial stopped in Garden Grove for several days in October, attracting many Vietnam war vets and prompting many recollections. A lasting effect will be a Vietnam War museum in Garden Grove, probably on Harbor Boulevard.
4. Medicinal Marijuana Mess: In order to avoid costly lawsuits, the City of Garden Grove agreed to allow medicinal marijuana dispensaries in town. But the proliferation of marginal operations led to a crackdown and new, stricter regulations. At the peak, there were an estimated 60 marijuana dispensaries in the city.
5, Mixed Use Movement: City planners and leaders embraced mixing residential, commercial and other uses in a variety of decisions in 2011, including possible mixed use in the city’s central business district at Chapman Avenue and Brookhurst Street.
Also memorable in 2011
• Police shootings became more common in 2011, with GGPD officers fatally wounding five suspects.
• Bree Morse, 19, was chosen the new Miss Garden Grove for 2012, while Jazmin Avalos, 14, was named Garden Grove’s Outstanding Teen.
• Redevelopment got a haircut and a makeover as the state of California replaced the process with a “voluntary” aspect. Garden Grove ended up paying $8 million to the state to save its community development agency.
• Longtime Chamber of Commerce president Connie Margolin was let go and replaced by Jeremy Harris, who vowed to modernize the organization.
• City Councilman Andrew Do unexpectedly resigned, citing business pressure, and was replaced by Kris Beard.
• A new crackdown on risqué cafes with waitresses dressed in see-through, topless or revealing clothing followed reports of X-rated restaurants in Garden Grove’s Vietnamese business districts.