The OC, sweet home of Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy and the even more bankrupt Crystal Cathedral, is at it again. This time the developers have decided that they have a surefire business plan to attract shitloads of hella rich people to the northern outskirts of the Knott’s Berry Farm corridor Potemkin Village with a massive mall/park/neighborhood called–ooh hell yes, I do love me some pretentious marketing–“The Source.”

Let’s hear about this bullshit straight from the horse’s mouth:

“The Source will be the premiere destination for the aspiring Buena Park community, also known as the “Center of the Southland,” and its surrounding areas. It will be a welcomed addition to this underserved area that currently has limited retail offerings within a dense and demanding market. Perfectly positioned in beautiful Orange County, it will be an exciting haven for locals and out-of-town shoppers to indulge in a unique fusion of world-class shopping, dining and entertainment. With its distinct, modern design, retail-lined streetscapes, dining patios, water features and well-manicured rooftop gardens, The Source will entice and captivate each guest as they journey through this exciting, aesthetically inspiring, dining and retail rich shopping mecca. To further enhance The Source as a highly desired and frequented destination, a health club, entertainment and nightlife concepts will be a part of the diverse experiential mix.”

And now for a word or two about the target demographic:

“Residential Population
Buena Park and the adjacent communities of Fullerton and La Mirada are composed of an ethnically diverse mix of upper-middle class families and wealthy urban professionals.

Money & Brains – wealthy and highly educated older families

American Dreams – ethnically diverse upper-middle-class families

Bohemian Mix – progressive, early adapting and young middle-class students and professionals

The Cosmopolitans – educated, upper-middle-class and ethnically diverse urban couples
The Average Household Income within a 5-mile radius is over $80,000 and over 26% of Household Incomes are $100,000 or greater.”

Well, then.

You can’t make this shit up. Obviously, these are some crass operators. It takes a certain lack of manners to praise one’s prospective customers in such a condescending, backhanded fashion. What transforms this rubbish from vulgar to transcendentally ridiculous, however, is its utter lack of relation to the existing neighborhood around the project site. I happen to have been stayed in the neighborhood for nearly a week of my current trip to the Southland, and I’ve spent enough time here over the past year to be reasonably familiar with it, so I’d say I’m qualified to state that it is not at all as the promotional materials for The Source describe it. The construction site is directly across Orangethorpe from a Fuddrucker’s, a Subway and a liquor store, directly across Beach from a Chevron, a Catholic church, school and retirement home, and catty-corner from a mall containing a Days Inn, a Denny’s, two workaday teriyaki joints, and a Target. If you go east on Orangethorpe, the neighborhood gets really ugly right away and stays that way for miles; to the west, it starts getting ugly at the Stater Bros. (a regional supermarket chain mainly serving the ass ends of the LA metroplex that is stuck in something of a 1970s aesthetic time warp).

A brief look at some of the other cities near Buena Park makes this project look even dumber. If you’ve watched televised brain rot like “The OC,” you probably assume that Orange County is nothing unshakably rich people who live near the beach and spend their free time complaining about their First World Problems, which probably include romantic drama with overbearingly handsome and sensitive people like Ben McKenzie. If you believe that, you’ve obviously never ridden OCTA. You can take the white trash out of Stanton, and the 29 bus does that every fifteen minutes at rush hour, but you cannot take the Stanton out of the white trash. Or the mid-Harbor love, because there are hella trashies all the way from the 91 to the 405, and I’m being a bit conservative about that. Or the North Harbor love, because damned if that low living doesn’t start again around Bastanchury, and definitely by Imperial. Yup, the trashies have a pincer move going on against Fullerton, the poor man’s Palo Alto.

Oh, and the Asians are in on the vulgarity, too; but of course. Rowland Heights, over the hill in East Los Angeles County, is an aesthetic nightmare chock full of Marion Barry’s favorite “dirty Asian shops,” including Dong-a Teacher’s Book Plaza and a restaurant that serves that classic Chinese appetizer, pork bung. Westminster, center of the biggest Vietnamese community in the United States, is an exceptionally ass-ugly place, as is its more heavily Korean neighbor to the north, Stanton. We ugly in all language, God bress Amelica! Or, as the middle-aged Asian lady said to me and a waddlingly obese black lady on the Blue Line about the very large but shapely Latina fare inspector, “She look like she RAPE me!” This black lady, as it happened, was cited by the other fare inspector, a very quiet West African immigrant man, for not having fare on her TAP card, but after showing me her summons and complaining that the fare inspector was dogging on her for no reason, she tore it up, on the legal equity argument that “Sheriffs think they the motherfucking police!”

That isn’t the kind of multiculturalism they taught you in school. Still, it’s an improvement over the Ghetto-Ass Bitches of 103rd Street, whose main argument is that “she ugly; she KNOW she ugly,” with the ancillary argument that “her hair always gonna BE nappy!”

But we aren’t here to discuss why multiculturalism is preached by those who don’t practice it and criticized by those who do. Well, maybe we are here for that, and maybe also for some more gratuitous comments about Michael Jackson, who seemed a perfectly agreeable black man before he became a horrifically fucked up white woman. (I was amazed when, after his booking in Santa Barbara County, I learned that he was not trans. It was just one of those things that stood to reason.)

But to return to the subject of things that know they ugly: Stanton Avenue. (Not all of it, but enough of it.) I could go on. I’m sure I have yet to discover all the fugly seedy commercial strips in the OC. One thing I will say, though, is that North County knows how to keep it real in a way that Mission Viejo and Lake Forest don’t. The more or less normal people in South County whose company my family keeps may in fact be abnormal by countywide standards. They certainly are by the standards of the fulleted pop music troubadours, dust-covered soup-snorters, and retarded guys in white track suits and leopard beanies on the 43 bus.

Maybe the problem with the kind of people who are involved in the development of these money sinks is that they’re professionals. Maybe professional qualification is a worse idea than just taking the bus to the project site, then strolling the neighborhood, and seeing what kind of freak show comes out of the woodwork. Qualified financial professionals who ride OCTA seem to be about as common as pieces of the True Cross. (Bank tellers, no matter their natty dress or their delusions of grandeur, are not “financial professionals,” not withstanding the guy I knew at Alma Mater reported to the alumni magazine that he had left “a career in finance” when he resigned a position as a bank branch manager that he had held for three years.) I highly doubt, for example, that Snappy Nigel and Sullen Nigel, the two very nattily dressed Englishmen I eavesdropped on a few months ago at the Starbucks at Orangethorpe and Harbor, and the two foremost Legends of that intersection, take the bus. This isn’t really about blame for being snooty; as a repeat OCTA rider, I can attest that most of the system sucks donkey balls, and I’ve seen plenty of people who obviously have cars riding on the more functional parts of the LA Metro system. There are, however, things that one misses by just driving through.

And there are definitely things that one misses by just crunching the numbers like an Asperger’s-spectrum quant. For example, who the hell are these phantom rich spendthrifts? Did it occur to anyone that these families with incomes of $80-100k have, like, mortgages and tuition payments, and maybe that’s one of the reasons that they shop at Target? Bueller? Did anyone consider that maybe there’s less of an untapped market for rich people stuff than there is a heavily tapped market for fast-casual food and fast-casual clothes? (There may be no such thing as the latter, but there should be. After all, isn’t that exactly what Target sells?) My Opposing Viewpoint on the matter is that the reason there’s so much petty bourgeois squareness around Harbor and Orangethorpe is that the local customer base has square, petty bourgeois tastes, tastes informed by a desire not to be crushed by consumer debt for no good reason in the grand tradition of Alien Uncle. I also have the sneaking suspicion that people in Buena Park whose taste in clothing transcends Target aren’t crestfallen to have to drive to, say, the Brea Mall, and that those who post White Whines on the subject will probably move out of Buena Park at the first opportunity.

Census statistics back up my argument that the North County flats are not a power center for rich people. Let’s look at some median household incomes from QuickFacts: Buena Park, $63,295; Fullerton, $67,179; Stanton, $51,539. Going upmarket a bit: Brea, home of the eponymous mall, $79,647. But for the real beneficiaries of the Hall and Oates Effect, we must go to South County, where we find Aliso Viejo at $95,498 and Mission Viejo at $95,878. So, yeah, Buena Park is just full of hella rich people with lots of money to burn, and it’s inconceivable that a rich people’s mall hasn’t been built for them already. I mean, like, geez, who do those people think we are? Or, to quote my regular lunchtime adversary in college, Young Carnegie, “My parents own a steel mill. They earn $240,000 in annual income and have five million dollars in assets. My parents own a goddamn steel mill! I am NOT middle class!”

A question that might come to mind about a scheme to build a Field of Dreams mall for phantom rich people in a neighborhood where the locals are all about Denny’s is where the developers expect to get the financing for such a boondoggle. Fear not: private lenders may have too much prudence to front that last $50m, but the Buena Park Redevelopment Agency will find a way. That’s almost a quarter of the total budget coming from the local municipal government, an amount equivalent on a per capita basis to the City of Los Angeles dropping over $2.3 billion. For some perspective, $50m is approximately OCTA’s annual farebox revenue, and about a fifth of its annual budget to provide bus service for the entire county. If Orange County spent money like that on its transportation infrastructure instead of goofy-ass bullshit, it could build itself a rapid transit system like LA has done.

Just as I suspected, the Source is another opportunity to pour money down a sinkhole. Tax money, as it happens.

I think I’ll eat at Denny’s tomorrow. I can get frequent flier miles if I do.

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