In school I didn’t much care for geography. It was always presented in the most boring fashion, and demanded that we memorize the principal exports of Brazil (Brazil nuts? Brazilians?). But local geography, that that’s a different story.
New York and Los Angeles are examples of how many communities can exist, each with their own culture, within a greater city. Areas like Riverside, Harlem, Central Park East, Echo Park, Encino all summon up a sense of diversity and urban sophistication that might be lacking in, say, Pig’s Knuckle, Arkansas.
The folks who master-planned Irvine knew this. As they rolled out the residential areas of that city, they dubbed the villages with cute names like Woodbridge and Turtle Rock. The concept intensified the feeling of a hometown within a big, growing and sophisticated city.
We have the makings of that in our cities of Garden Grove, Stanton and Westminster. Back in the late Seventies, some stabs were made at encouraging neighborhood pride with signage and such, but there was little follow-through.
As the redevelopment era fades, and economic development shifts to improving what we’ve got (as opposed to luring big outside developers with almost-free land and financial subsidies), it might just be time to dust off the neighborhood or district concept. We’re not talking about district elections (yet) here, just a recognition of “place.”
The most obvious individual community in Garden Grove is West Garden Grove, which is that part of the city west of Beach Boulevard. It’s the most affluent, least (how shall I put this?) ethnically diverse part of the municipality, and residents there sometimes feel slighted by City Hall, sometimes with good reason.
Next would be the Little Saigon area of Garden Grove (south of Trask Avenue and running generally along Westminster Avenue and Brookhurst and Magnolia streets). That, of course, is smaller than the “big” Little Saigon along Bolsa Avenue in Westminster, but it does have a large concentration of Vietnamese businesses and residents.
But at the western edge of GG’s Little Saigon is a growing Arabic/Muslim community clustered around the Islamic Society of Orange County’s Mosque and Orange Crescent School.
Koreatown runs along Garden Grove Boulevard from Brookhurst Street to Beach. The Medical Center district is along Garden Grove Boulevard from Harbor to Haster street, featuring Garden Grove Hospital, medical offices and senior-citizen housing.
Chapman Avenue and Harbor make for the Hotel District, and if city plans to spread development down the street come to fruition, the term International West will start entering common use, instead of just being a slogan on a few signs and a website.
Downtown is a term loosely applied to the vicinity of Main Street and Garden Grove Boulevard, located immediately west of the Civic Center. Right now, there’s not much downtown there (the city tore most of it down in the late
Seventies), but with new attention focused on it, it could bloom again, especially if more effort is placed on expanding it and connecting it with the Civic Center.
Brookhurst and Chapman were once referred to as “uptown” Garden Grove, and I am starting to see that term coming back into use. The arrival of a new, huge Walmart there should add a jolt to the area, and perhaps another big retailer (Target, please!) will fill the old Vons Pavilion and really make that region a business powerhouse.
I know that it might seem humorous to put Walmart and “uptown” in the same sentence, but I, for one, will take what I can get.
There are other recognizable sections of the city as well, including the posh Royal Palm Estates, and the neighboring Melody Park Estates. West Garden Grove can even be bifurcated into two sections: Eastgate and Garden Park.
Some of this will work for Westminster, too. There’s the area around the mall, there’s the Civic Center, Old Town (Beach and Westminster Boulevard and the surrounding streets, including Sigler Park.
Westminster Village stretches each of Springdale to Bolsa Chica Road, and a few old timers even remember Barber City around there.
Even Stanton, the smallest of our three cities, has some cool geography, with the Civic Center area (Beach and Katella), north of which is the Little Mansions tract, and north of that is Benedict, which is older than Stanton itself.
I think it would be great to go historical and see these references on maps (digital and otherwise) and signs. This is the kind of geography that gives people a sense of place.
A critic once said of Oakland that there is no “there,” there. Well, we have plenty of Theres here; we just need to pay more attention to them.