I received a phone call today from Sam Romero, a longtime community leader who used to head up SANO, an organization of 13 Santa Ana Neighborhood Organizations. He has run a Catholic curio store called St. Teresa’s Gifts, in the historic 4th Street marketplace, in Santa Ana, for 35 years.
Romero wanted to talk about the Santa Ana PBID – an annual assessment that affects all the businesses in the downtown area. Romero, as it turns out, is one of the businessmen who spearheaded the effort to collect signatures asking the Santa Ana City Council to rescind the PBID.
I wrote a post about the uprising against the PBID a few days ago. In that post I identified Dr. Art Lomeli, a dentist in the downtown area, as one of the leaders of the PBID rebellion. Romero however said that Lomeli was late to jump on this issue. Both Romero and Lomeli supported failed Santa Ana mayoral candidate Alfredo Amezcua.
I told Romero that his support for Amezcua is going to make it tough for him to get much attention from City Hall. Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido won easily in November – and he knows full well who opposed him. Romero said he goes way back with Pulido, having been there when Pulido was first elected. Romero said he pined for years for an all-Latino City Council. We have that Council now, but Romero, like Lomeli and Amezcua, has nothing good to say about them.
Romero helped Pulido’s family to save their muffler shop, which is now known as Ace Auto Care, many years ago, when the City Council at that time was trying to destroy it in the name of redevelopment. Romero admitted that Pulido has never forgotten that favor and that he has always been cordial to Romero and his fellow businessmen in the Fiesta Marketplace.
The problem for Romero is that now he is watching his friends go out of business, and he is not happy about that at all. He blames the PBID, which drains thousands of dollars from every business in the area. The problem, says Romero, is that he and his associates get no benefit from the PBID, which is managed by Downtown, Inc., a non-profit marketing association.
Romero points to the recent Downtown Santa Ana Christmas Event, which he said ran from 4 pm to 10 pm. Most of the shops in the Fiesta Marketplace closed at 5 pm that day. “This only benefited the restaurants in the Artists Village,” said Romero.
Romero says that the businesses in the Fiesta Marketplace also have their own assessment, which amounts to a nickel per square foot. They use that money to promote their shopping area. Romero claims that he and his fellow businessmen started the annual Santa Ana Cinco de Mayo event, “but the city took it away from us.”
The Cinco de Mayo event is still held in the 4th St. area. Pulido met with the merchants in that area this year, in advance of the event, as was widely reported in the local Spanish language newspapers. (See a picture of that meeting above this paragraph).
Romero said the City of Santa Ana also took the annual Noche de Altares (Day of the Dead) event away from them. It was a huge event this year – over by the Artists Village.
I took a look at the Fiesta Marketplace website, which includes a list of the businesses in that area. These shops include:
- Brian’s Fashion
- Genesis Bridal
- Guadalajara Jewelry
- Imperial Market
- Infinity Plus
- Kids Avenue
- KV Sports
- La Fiesta Shoes
- La Paloma Fashion
- La Reyna de Michoacan
- Mariscos Tampico
- Mi Fiesta Party Rental
- Moya Bakery
- Patty’s Bridal
- La Pizza Loca
- R and R Sportswear
- Roberto’s Shoe Repair
- St. Teresas
As you can see, the merchants include quite a few clothing stores, as well as a few eateries and jewelry stores. Their biggest challenge is that the locals can buy similar products, for less, at Wal Mart and Target.
The Fiesta Marketplace website states that “Fiesta Marketplace strives to accurately represent Mexico down to the smallest detail. The restaurants serve delicacies made from traditional, Hispanic recipes, and its stores sell a wide array of foods, toys, clothes, and other goods imported directly from Mexico. A playhouse regularly presents plays and readings in Spanish, and a cinema plays the latest films from Mexico and South America.”
The harsh reality is that many of the immigrants who shopped at the Fiesta Marketplace for years have gone back home, to Mexico and Central America, and some have moved to other States in the U.S., in an attempt to find work and to flee from California’s high cost of living.
Downtown, Inc., has in fact produced many events that were targeted to Latinos, but I don’t know if they succeeded. I do know that they are trying to do the best they can, but it has been a tough year for everyone.
Romero is convinced that the PBID’s ulterior motive is to gentrify 4th St. and to drive the businesses in the Fiesta Marketplace bankrupt.
Romero said he plans to speak at upcoming Santa Ana City Council meetings and that he has asked State Senator Lou Correa to intervene. Correa previously held a public town hall meetings when many local businessmen were upset about the now-defunct Santa Ana Renaissance redevelopment plan.
I have already suggested, in my previous post, that the City Council bring everyone together and rework the PBID. And put it to a new vote. Romero wants it gone, period. I don’t see that happening, to be honest.
Romero cited several examples of businesses losing their shirts, including a parking lot that is not making any money, but is losing thousands to the PBID, every year.
It is worth noting that Pulido’s own family, which still runs their auto shop, also signed Romero’s petition against the PBID.
I don’t know what will become of the Fiesta Marketplace, but they do have an event coming up on January 6. From their website: The first event celebrated in Fiesta Marketplace is the Dia de los Reyes on January 6. The highlight of the event is when the “Reyes Magos” arrive in Fiesta Marketplace. The Reyes Magos give presents to children and in the morning, bread and hot chocolate are given to the public. In the afternoon typical meals from Mexico such as pozole, mole and tamales are given free of charge to the people enjoying the event.
Here is map of the Fiesta Marketplace: