The Santa Ana neighborhood known as Minnie Street long has been a contender for worst enclave in the county. Overcrowded apartments housed tenants often afraid to go outside because of the drug dealers and gang members on the streets below.
That's been changing, though not very quickly. Last month the Santa Ana Housing Authority provided a welcome boost to progress by approving an $8.1-million bond offering that will pay for the renovation of more than 100 apartments on South Minnie Street. Another 150 or so already have been rehabilitated or soon will be.
The rehabilitation of the apartments financed by the bonds will be done by a Los Angeles-based company that specializes in renovating homes in poor neighborhoods. When it finishes, the company will have a Santa Ana-based, nonprofit organization manage the units.
Apartment renovations are the latest piece in a mosaic of improvement that offers lessons to other beaten-down neighborhoods.
Several years ago, residents of the three-block Minnie Street area complained long and loudly to police and city officials. Santa Ana has been in the forefront of community-based policing, which has police out walking and driving around neighborhoods and getting to know the residents.
Minnie Street benefited from the extra attention as police patrolled frequently. Residents said drug dealers and gang members were pushed out.
For a while this year it seemed that renovation might be delayed by the disclosure of the Santa Ana mayor's ties with a Minnie Street project developer.
Fortunately, the rehabilitation has continued despite the filing of a lawsuit over the actions of the mayor, who has denied any wrongdoing.
Minnie Street also has benefited from attention by the group Latino Health Access, which uses outreach workers to address social problems among Santa Ana residents with the lowest incomes. At Minnie Street, a doctoral student has taught English classes to students who usually have two jobs and little time to travel to school.
It will take a sustained effort to have the neighborhood looking good again, but the renovations will play an important part.