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Merchants, Santa Ana Residents Compromise on Little Saigon Sign

November 20, 2003|Jennifer Mena | Times Staff Writer

After six months of debate, Santa Ana residents and merchants in a neighboring city agreed on a location for a sign designating the entrance to Little Saigon -- so long as it's stripped of the Vietnamese wording used to designate the ethnic shopping center.

The sign, originally proposed to include a South Vietnamese flag and Vietnamese wording to promote Little Saigon, was first approved for 1st Street and Harbor Boulevard on the condition that the flag be removed.

Responding to neighbor complaints, the Little Saigon Business District Committee agreed Monday to install the sign farther west, at Euclid and 1st streets. Neighbors said the sign did not seem appropriate in a mixed-use area.

The committee, which wants to promote Vietnamese shopping mostly in neighboring Garden Grove and Westminster, will pay $20,000 for the sign. They agreed that the sign will be in English, not Vietnamese.

Neighbors who objected to the sign said they were put off by the use of a language they do not understand and the use of public property for a sign to promote private businesses. They left the meeting Monday without complete satisfaction.

"We felt that having it in Santa Ana was improper because we are not a part of the Little Saigon business district and that it was wrong for them to give a public right of way to a private enterprise," said Robert Henson, who lives near 1st and Harbor and is a member of the Riverview West Neighborhood Assn. "It does nothing for the city of Santa Ana."

Though Santa Ana is largely Latino with only a small Vietnamese population, the Little Saigon shopping district has begun to stretch into the city.

Little Saigon developed in the 1970s as Vietnamese immigrants moved to central Orange County. What started with a few mom-and-pop businesses in Westminster has become a major shopping destination with hundreds of stores and restaurants spilling into neighboring Garden Grove, Santa Ana and Fountain Valley.

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