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For Some, Fiesta Is Nothing to Celebrate

Times Staff Writer

Not all the merchants who owned property along 4th Street are as happy about Fiesta Marketplace as Raymond Rangel and Jose Ceballos, who held on to their businesses and became partners in the project.

William S. Doddridge operated a pawnshop and wholesale jewelry business from his building at 4th and Bush streets and was grossing more than $1 million a year when the city decided the area needed to be redeveloped.

Doddridge met with the group of property owners that eventually persuaded the city to let them do the project themselves, but he felt that a pawnshop would be unwelcome in something called Fiesta Marketplace. Besides, his building would either need extensive seismic work or it would have to be torn down (it turned out to be the latter). He decided to sell.

“I didn’t really have much choice in the matter,” Doddridge said. “I absolutely refuse to be told what to sell. My business freedom is extremely important to me.”

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Under state redevelopment law, the city was obligated to pay Doddridge for his property, moving expenses and loss of good will. But what the city wanted to pay at first wasn’t what Doddridge had in mind. After a 2-year battle, they finally settled, and Doddridge received about $485,000.

“Overall, when I look at the compensation, it turned out OK,” said Doddridge, who now operates a jewelry shop on South Main Street in Santa Ana. “But I went through a lot of stress.”

Doddridge said he thinks the new Fiesta Marketplace will be a complete flop. “What drew people down there was the ability to owner-occupy, and the place was full,” he said.

Doddridge’s anger pales when contrasted with that of Luis Olivos Sr. and his three sons, who contend that the city stole their beloved Yost Theater from them so it could sell the theater for peanuts to the Fiesta Marketplace partners. City officials contend that it bailed the Olivoses out when they were about to go bankrupt and lose everything they owned.

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A lawsuit is pending. The Olivoses say the city blocked their efforts to obtain low-interest loans that would have enabled them to retain their theater, then pressured them into selling the Yost for $600,000--less than they say it was worth--the day before they would have gone into foreclosure.

Bob Hoffman, real estate officer for Santa Ana, said the Olivoses came to the city just before defaulting on a note that encumbered their Santa Ana home, a ranch in San Diego County and the West Coast movie theater on North Main Street, which the family still operates.

“We bought it in record time,” Hoffman said. “Then, almost as soon as we had it, they wanted to buy it back for $50,000, because that’s what we were going to sell it to the developers for.”

(All told, the city paid out $7.5 million for property in the Fiesta Marketplace project area, plus an additional $800,000 on demolition and relocation and good-will benefits. They sold that property to the Fiesta Marketplace partners for just under $1 million).

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“As long as I live, I’ll say that the city stole the theater from us,” said Luis Olivos Sr., the family patriarch. He had operated the theater for almost 40 years, and once brought great Mexican screen and song idols such as Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete to the Yost’s stage. “It was like taking an arm off--it hurt me that much.”


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