Futuristic Santa Ana City Project on Hold

Times Staff Writer

Renowned architect William Pereira, who died of heart failure Wednesday, was about to embark on an ambitious project to transform the depressed Logan-Lacy area of Santa Ana into a new “city within a city.”

Pereira’s master plan envisioned parks, schools, stores, industry and homes for the area, bounded by 1st and French streets, Grand Avenue and the Santa Ana Freeway.

George Bliss, president of Pereira’s planning firm, Duquesne Properties, said: “In general, our concept was to create almost a town square with pedestrian walkways and bike paths linking the commercial areas with the residences.”


Workers in the industrial area would live in the town square’s homes, Bliss said, and the plan “would at least keep the automobile out.”

Bliss said the concept would be unusual in its master-plan approach to a low-income, inner-city area of more than 300 acres. “I can’t think of anything similar to it, although there have been smaller versions of it,” he said. “The closest approximation would probably be in downtown Portland.”

The project interested Pereira as a challenge rather than a potential investment. “Bill was never too concerned about money,” Bliss said. “He saw the opportunity in Santa Ana to create something truly unique.”

The City Council was to consider a one-year exclusive negotiating agreement with Duquesne Properties on Monday, but City Manager Robert C. Bobb said he would recommend a postponement. Pereira had promised to be personally involved in drawing up the master plan during that year.

Bobb said he would meet with representatives of the firm and other project participants today to discuss the feasibility of continuing. He said he hoped the project would not be abandoned, adding that a decision would probably be made by Dec. 1.

Cappy Dobbs, a Mission Viejo developer and partner in the project, said he believes the plan can be accomplished. “We feel that we can take his (Pereira’s) ideas and make them work,” he said. “We certainly have the talent available to make it happen.”


“Our feeling is that Santa Ana is ideal,” Bliss said. “There is a profile that cries out for low- and moderate-income housing in that area.” He cited the city’s aggressively pro-development posture, its central location and status as the seat of county government, and the completion of the new Transportation Center as reasons for pursuing the plan.

Santa Ana officials have been working on plans for redevelopment of the industrial part of the area, which would include a proposed Free Trade Zone and a Business Enterprise Facility. In September, a Regional Transportation Center opened at Santa Ana Boulevard and Santiago Avenue, and a training center for police and firefighters is under consideration, Bobb said.

Bobb said the city had been discussing a project within the Free Trade Zone with Pereira, and that the concept of a master plan was first introduced by the architect himself--whose Orange County work includes the master plan of Irvine and UC Irvine, the Fashion Square Mall and several buildings in Newport Center--at the dedication of the Regional Transportation Center on Sept. 7.

“We were looking for something more (than a single project),” Bobb said. “And this is what he proposed. It’s a futuristic plan for total development of the area that would take us to the year 2005.”

While Pereira’s plan would mean a radical transformation of a rundown area, it would stress preservation of the residential areas, an important point to the City Council.

“These are people who have been there for many years, and we really don’t want to do anything to uproot them,” Councilwoman Patricia McGuigan said.


Sam Romero, a spokesman for Logan-Lacy residents, said he “felt really good” about the plan after meeting briefly with Pereira and Dobbs last month. “I think they were very sensitive to the concerns of the residents,” he said. “If it’s really as positive as it sounds, I hope there will be no delay.”

He said residents are a little skeptical about the “super-duper” plan because Logan-Lacy is not Irvine. “There’s a big difference between a master plan for a $100,000-average-income area and one with about $11,000 to $12,000,” he said.

If there was to be some delay, Romero said, he suggested that the city consider a moratorium on any demolition of housing and a change in zoning to strengthen the residential locations.

Dobbs said the plans call for preservation of the housing, except for a few particularly blighted sites along railroad tracks, which would be rebuilt. Any restoration or redevelopment would mean only temporary relocation of residents, he said.

Pereira’s credits include the Transamerica Corp. building in San Francisco, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Houston Center, Pepperdine University, Cape Canaveral and Los Angeles International Airport as well as master-planned communities in Africa and Taiwan. He also did some work as a film producer, winning an Oscar for special effects as part of a team in 1942 and was a professor of architecture at USC in 1949.

Bobb said he and other city officials had anticipated development of the master plan over the next year. “It would have been a unique opportunity to work with a person of this stature,” he said.