Twenty-five years ago, Honer Plaza near downtown Santa Ana was one of the busiest shopping centers in Orange County.
Today it is a dowdy collection of vacant stores, a few businesses, a supermarket--and an infamous adult movie theater that the city tried for years to shut down but never could.
The Santa Ana City Council took the first step Monday night toward renovating one of the city’s biggest eyesores, approving plans to build a Home Club store as part of a major remodeling of the 37-acre site at the busy intersection of Bristol and 17th streets, directly across from Rancho Santiago College.
“In the ‘50s, this was the shopping center for the county,” said Jeffry S. Rice, an associate city planner. “But with the freeways and the regional malls--The City in Orange, Fashion Square (now remodeled into MainPlace/Santa Ana), South Coast Plaza--it just hasn’t kept pace.”
The shopping center’s antiquated design--two rows of stores with a small pedestrian mall in the center, surrounded by acres of parking--contributed to its demise, Rice said.
“You can’t see any shoppers from the street,” he said.
The new plan would eliminate several vacant stores, spruce up old buildings and place new buildings along the edges. “It would be more than a minimall, not just a row of shops with parking in front of it,” Rice said. “There would be some sensitivity to the adjacent surroundings.”
The owner of the shopping center, Long Beach-based Interstate Consolidated Industries, already has plans to tear down the adult movie theater, operated by the Mitchell Brothers, when the current lease expires in 1990.
For almost a decade, the city fought the Mitchell Brothers in court, finally agreeing to drop the lawsuit in 1986 and pay the theater owners $200,000 in attorney fees and other compensation.
Interstate Consolidated’s plan to renovate Honer Plaza must still receive final approval from the city Planning Commission. But the current plan calls for a net increase of about 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and for closing to vehicles two residential streets that now lead into the center’s rear parking lot, the proposed site of the 104,000-square-foot Home Club.
Several residents at Monday’s meeting voiced opposition to the plan to close Tammy Lane and Pacific Avenue, saying many elderly residents who use those streets to walk to the center will be forced to use busy Bristol Street if Tammy and Pacific are closed off by a proposed concrete block wall along the northern border of the plaza.
But other residents applauded plans to close off the streets, saying that keeping them open would invite the expected throngs of Home Club shoppers to use their neighborhood for access to the plaza.
The City Council voted 4 to 2 to approve the plans for the Home Club, with Councilman Miguel A. Pulido Jr. absent.
Council members John Acosta and Ron May voted against granting a conditional use permit for the Home Club, arguing that too many neighborhood traffic issues remained unresolved.