Following a victory party at the Ace Muffler shop Saturday afternoon, Miguel Armando Pulido will board a bus for Mexico to spend several days praying at the church in his native village, thanking God for the land he will be able to keep in his adopted country.
"I'm very proud of what happened," he said Wednesday, one day after the Santa Ana City Council members voted not to condemn his East 1st Street shop. "It happened in this country, and I'm sure it would've been impossible anywhere else."
Pulido, 60, said he is still "shocked but happy," adding that he hopes the rift in the community that arose from the city's decision last year to include his thriving shop in the redevelopment of an otherwise blighted area would be healed.
"I had faith that I was going to win, but I never thought I would win last night," he said.
Pulido was not alone in registering surprise over the favorable decision at Tuesday night's Community Redevelopment Agency hearing, held expressly to consider condemning his shop and land.
"Throughout this whole thing, we've prepared ourselves emotionally not to get too high or too low, not to expect too much," said Luis Pulido, one of three sons. "I was ready for them to condemn us--I was very surprised."
"Surprised is not the right word," said another son, Miguel Angel Pulido. " 'Stunned' would be better. I was so mentally prepared for a loss that I had everything planned for the next two years on how an ultimate victory would be achieved."
Like the Pulidos, many city officials look forward to ending the period of divisiveness that has wracked Santa Ana over the Ace Muffler case for so long.
"The council still holds out some hope that we can achieve the (shopping center) development with the muffler shop remaining," said Mayor Daniel E. Griset, knowing that the city might be sued for breach of contract by the developer, Urbatec. "We didn't feel we could rule that prospect out," he said.
Noting that Urbatec's image in Southern California is crucial to its "interest in being a successful developer in the years to come," Griset added, "We want to work with the developer to find some kind of a happy ending. But we've put priority on Mr. Pulido's business in our commitment to getting this project done."
Urbatec's attorney, Mark S. Novak, said he had been authorized to file a lawsuit demanding specific performance by the city.
"I think Urbatec has no choice but to demand its damages," Novak said. The company "very well might ask for specific performance of the contract, that the city deliver the land pursuant to the agreement," he said.
Three Alternatives Offered
Novak predicted that the city would wind up paying damages. In any case, a suit will be filed in two weeks, he said, "unless the city has something new to suggest."
City Manager Robert C. Bobb said Urbatec has three alternatives: Sue the city, walk away from the project or "work with us to cause a shopping center to be constructed with Ace Muffler in place."
The third alternative is the most attractive, Bobb added.
Councilman Dan Young, who made the motion Tuesday night not to condemn the muffler shop, said the ball is now in Urbatec's court. "Our fate is largely out of our hands at this point. We need to have our attorney talk to the developer's attorney and try to minimize the damage. Additionally, we need to begin a brand-new planning process and hopefully use a better approach this time, one that involves the Pulidos.
'Gesture of Good Will'
"If Urbatec drops the threat of a lawsuit, it would be a tremendous and very gracious act, a gesture of good will that would spare the city a costly lawsuit and continued divisiveness."
John Acosta, the only council member who voted against beginning condemnation proceedings last month, said he "has no idea" what Urbatec will do, but that was not the important issue the council members faced.
Saying he, too, was "totally surprised" by the unanimous vote not to condemn the shop, Acosta said he is "excited--I feel good" about the agency's decision. "I'm proud of my agency fellow members because we listened to the will of the people," he said.