Cities look to reinvent Beach Boulevard, rid it of run-down motels

A person rides along Beach Boulevard, past motels and hotels in Anaheim in this 2019 file photo.
Beach Boulevard is an iconic 21-mile highway in Orange County that leads to the beach. But for decades, inland cities have been saddled with out of date, rundown motels that serve more as magnets for crime than tourism around Knott’s Berry Farm. Anaheim, Buena Park and Stanton have all charted their own paths on how to deal with the motels in the way of redeveloping Beach Boulevard into a destination again.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, May 31. We are Carol Cormaci and Vince Nguyen, bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter. Together we’ve aggregated the latest local news and events.

It was the headline that caught our eyes — “Orange County looks to redeem its fabled ‘Road to Summer,’ one seedy motel at a time.”

What other thoroughfare might the writer have been referring to other than Beach Boulevard? In its glory years the 21-mile road delivered families in station wagons to the promised land where Knott’s Berry Farm and, a stone’s throw away, Disneyland beckoned. Motels with enticing swimming pools had begun to line it in the 1950s, many boasting neon signs that could be seen for blocks.

The enterprising article by L.A. Times metro reporter Gabriel San Román gives an in-depth look at how three of the cities through which Beach Boulevard travels — Buena Park, Anaheim and Stanton — are taking different approaches with the same goal in mind: to replace the run-down motel properties with solutions to 21st-century challenges.

“Families knew it as the gateway to Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, where they could gobble the famous fried chicken and whoop through the thrilling final drop on the Timber Mountain Log Ride,” San Román writes. “And beachgoers knew it as the most direct route to the sandy shores and celebrated swells of Huntington Beach.”


Those were heady days for the burgeoning region. But time passed, and some of the once inviting new motels lost their way, the reporter explains.

“By the 1980s, Beach Boulevard had entered what would be a decades-long descent, its aging neon-lit motels becoming synonymous with prostitution, drug-dealing and cheap long-term rentals for people on the brink of homelessness,” he writes.

Cities looking to revitalize the area and clean up the rundown motels have been pouring in money. According to the story, Anaheim has spent millions, buying out three motel operators since 2019. Negotiations are underway for a fourth, San Román reports. City officials hope to replace the aging structures with townhomes, apartments and an affordable housing project.

It’s a daunting enterprise and has not been without some struggle, including a lawsuit. “Despite the progress, another 15 mostly dilapidated motels remain along Anaheim’s 1.5-mile strip of the boulevard,” San Román writes.

In Stanton, Frontier Real Estate Investments acquired in 2017 a 22-acre business plaza and revamped the site into a condominium project anchored by Rodeo 39 Public Market. The popularity of Rodeo 39 has captured the attention and imagination of other developers. Stanton has also bought into “Project Homekey, a multibillion-dollar state effort that provides cities and counties funding to convert underused hotels and motels into permanent housing with supportive services for homeless people,” according to the reporter.

Before the state dissolved its redevelopment agency funding program, Buena Park had purchased several old motels but was left holding the bag when that funding came to an abrupt end. “Saddled with empty lots afterward, the city sold the land at cut-rate prices to lure new attractions. In 2015, Rock & Brews, a national restaurant chain co-founded by members of the rock band KISS, opened at the site of a motel demolished by the city. Two years later, Porto’s Bakery and Café, a popular Cuban American chain, welcomed lines of customers where two other motels formerly stood,” San Román writes.

The efforts thus far to clean up the blight seem to be paying off. One of the reporter’s sources, Anaheim Police Sgt. Brian Paqua, gives thumbs up to the results thus far: “We’re starting to see families walk up and down Beach Boulevard again,” he said. “It’s nicer and safer than I’ve seen it in the 21 years I’ve been here with the police department.”


A landslide damaged the historic Casa Romantica Cultural Center and sent debris cascading toward coastal railroad tracks.
A landslide damaged the historic Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens and sent dirt and debris cascading down a hillside toward coastal railroad tracks on April 28 in San Clemente. Rail service remained unavailable in southern Orange County until Saturday.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

— Amtrak and Metrolink services from San Diego to Orange County resumed Saturday after a landslide in San Clemente forced its closure. The slide did not cause any damage to the railroad tracks, but the rail line closed so the hillside could be stabilized and debris could be cleared.

— Orange County has released its proposed budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year, with the spending proposal up nearly $475 million from last year. The budget will be the first that does not include state and federal funding related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but officials are still focusing on bolstering its public health initiatives, stemming largely from efforts to reduce the homeless population.

— The state Department of Finance indicated in a letter May 22 that it will not challenge or appeal a California Superior Court judge’s February ruling that it owes about $25 million to Huntington Beach in the so-called Waterfront Loan case. Surf City sued the Department of Finance in 2018, for up to $75 million in reimbursements after the state pulled the plug on redevelopment agencies in 2011.


The family of the late Huntington Beach Police Officer Nicholas Vella hug one another at a ceremony last week.
The family of Huntington Beach Police Officer Nicholas Vella hug one another as officer Vella’s name is added to the memorial wall during the Orange County Sheriff’s Advisory Council annual Peace Officer’s Memorial, honoring and remembering the county’s 54 fallen peace officers at the Orange County Sheriff’s Training Academy on Thursday.
(James Carbone)

— Huntington Beach Police Department Officer Nicholas Vella, who died last year in a helicopter crash while in the line of duty, was honored again Thursday as he was added to the Orange County Peace Officers’ Memorial Wall. The wall honors and remembers the county’s fallen peace officers, writes Daily Pilot reporter Matt Szabo. Vella was killed when the helicopter he was in crashed off the coast of Newport Beach. His name is the first one added to the memorial wall since 2014.

— A fire alarm that sounded at 8:15 a.m. yesterday at Cal State Fullerton summoned firefighters to Dan Black Hall, which contains research labs. Although responders smelled smoke on the second floor, fire suppression sprinklers had quickly doused the blaze and no one was injured, according to a City News Service report.

— The Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigators were continuing their search this week for suspects in the weekend beating of two Marines near the San Clemente Pier by a large group of people, mostly teens, at around 9:15 p.m. last Friday. The Marines were treated at the scene for minor injuries but refused to go to a hospital, authorities said.

— An eight-car pile-up occurred at 5:54 p.m. Saturday in the 12100 block of Lewis Street in Garden Grove that resulted in the death of a pedestrian, a 73-year-old man who was a resident of Westminster, according to CNS. Later the same night, also in Garden Grove, two people were shot and another experienced head injuries in an altercation at the Hot Lounge & Restaurant on Magnolia Street. One man was taken into custody in the latter incident, according to Sgt. Nick Jensen of the Garden Grove Police Department.

— A 24-year-old Tustin woman died in a collision on the 405 Freeway in Costa Mesa on Thursday after her vehicle crashed into a work truck parked in the southbound lanes during a routine freeway closure, according to the California Highway Patrol. The Orange County coroner’s office identified the driver as Carmen Sanchez Rodriguez.


Alyson Beukema, left, shops at Nordstrom Rack in San Clemente with her “little,” Emily.
(Casey Gomez)

— Nordstrom Rack opened a new 32,000-square-foot store in San Clemente Plaza over the weekend, and participants in Big Brother Big Sister of Orange County were among the first to shop in a special mentorship moment and store preview on May 23. To date, Nordstrom Rack has donated more than $1.5 million in support of its long-term partnership with the nonprofit organization.

— Since it launched in 2020, EZ Kebab has grown a dedicated following serving Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego and the Inland Empire. As TimesOC reporter Sarah Mosqueda writes, the business found a new home in Costa Mesa in April, occupying an old A-frame building at 1951 Harbor Blvd. The walk-up window serves char-grilled kebabs and spit-roasted shawarma, as well as falafel and other side dishes.

— Disneyland officials have released the design details for a Pixar-themed hotel opening up next to California Adventure. Renovations have been underway since last year to convert the 15-story Paradise Pier Hotel into Pixar Place Hotel, featuring designs inspired by the animation studio behind movies like “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo.” Officials say Pixar Place is scheduled to open this winter, and Paradise Pier will continue to take reservations amid the renovation. In other Disneyland news, the “Fantasmic!” fireworks show will remain closed until at least Labor Day, which falls on Sept. 4, according to resort officials. The 45-foot-tall animatronic dragon burst into flames toward the show’s climax on April 22.


Alfred Arrieta, 100, shown with his wife of 69 years, Frances Arrieta, 89, right, and his daughter, Gloria Arrieta-Sherman.
Alfred Arrieta, 100, shown with his wife of 69 years, Frances Arrieta, 89, right, and one of 10 children, his daughter Gloria Arrieta-Sherman, served as a waist gunner in a Flying Fortress during World War II. Today Arrieta lives in Seal Beach.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

— Alfred Arrieta, a resident of Seal Beach’s Leisure World, served as a U.S. airman in France during World War II. He flew 32 missions, was shot down on Christmas Eve 1944 and crash-landed in a farm field in France. He turned 100 last week, according to this feature story written by our colleague Nathan Solis that the L.A. Times ran over the Memorial Day weekend. “I feel fortunate,” Arrieta told Solis. “I made it through the Great Depression, the 20th century and World War II. I’m here, very grateful and proud of my country.”

— The nonprofit Trust for Public Land has hailed Irvine’s park system as the best in California and one of the top five in the nation in an annual survey published May 24, according to a news item by our colleague Eric Licas. The program’s 2023 Parkscore Index scores the 100 most populous American cities based on size and number of parks they have, the variety of amenities they offer, how accessible they are and how fairly distributed those green spaces are distributed across a community. More than 26% of Irvine is parkland. In related news, the next phase in the “Great Park Framework Plan” is underway. As Daily Pilot reporter Andrew Turner writes, Irvine city officials on May 23 marked the beginning of construction for 300 acres of new amenities and features, including a veterans memorial park, a library and a permanent amphitheater. The project is expected to cost $1 billion.

— The Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens has reopened after landslides in San Clemente forced its closure, hosting ceremonies to mark the landmark’s return. The closure has put the center in a tough financial situation, however, with uncertainty surrounding its programs, private events and activities. In order to recoup its losses, Casa Romantica has launched an online fundraiser with hopes to raise $250,000 by June 30.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Newport Beach Animal Shelter’s grand opening.
City officials, dignitaries and Friends of the Newport Beach Animal Shelter gather at the Newport Beach Animal Shelter’s grand opening.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

A ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday celebrated the new and permanent Newport Beach Animal Shelter on Riverside Drive. The 1,565-square-foot, single-story shelter, which is expected to begin operating in a few weeks, has a 755-square-foot kennel that can house up to 29 dogs. The city is responsible for managing, operating and maintaining the shelter.


CdM junior Niels Hoffmann won the CIF Individuals boys' tennis singles title without dropping a set.
CdM junior Niels Hoffmann won the CIF Individuals boys’ tennis singles title without dropping a set.
(Matt Szabo / Daily Pilot)

— Corona del Mar junior Niels Hoffmann defeated Palos Verdes Peninsula senior Sean Ferguson 6-2, 6-1 in the CIF Southern Section Individuals boys’ tennis singles title match to be crowned king of the court. He joins his older brother Bjorn, who won the CIF Individuals title as a senior for CdM in 2016, as section champions. They are the first brothers to both win CIF singles championships since Rick Leach and Jon Leach did so for Laguna Beach High in 1983 and 1988, respectively.

The top senior volleyball players in the county suited up one more time to play in the 46th annual Dave Mohs Memorial Orange County All-Star volleyball matches last week. The South Orange County boys’ and girls’ teams earned victories, and Beckman setter Ryan Graves and San Juan Hills outside hitter Ashlyn Beebe were named MVP of their respective matches.


The Norco Cowgirls Equestrian Rodeo Drill Team during last year's Balboa Island Parade.
Parade chairman Jack Callahan rounded up the Norco Cowgirls Equestrian Rodeo Drill Team during the annual Balboa Island Parade last year. This year’s event starts at 11 a.m. Sunday.
(Susan Hoffman)

— The 28th annual Balboa Island Parade takes place this Sunday, June 4, beginning at 11 a.m. This year’s theme is “Horsin’ Around Island Style.” Spectators are encouraged to grab their cowboy hats and ride down to the island clad in their aloha shirts and shorts. The bridge to the island will close at 10:45 a.m. for the parade.

— The Newport Beach Jazz Festival runs this Friday through Sunday at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach, 1107 Jamboree Road. Ticket information can be found here.

— Classical music offering: Orchestra Collective of Orange County presents its annual Summer Serenade on Saturday, June 3 at 3 and 7 p.m. at Curtis Theatre, 1 Civic Center Circle, Brea. Ticket prices are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors, medical and military personnel and first responders. Tickets can be purchased online here.


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