LAS VOCES DE SANTA ANA: How the loss of Northgate left a void in Downtown Santa Ana’s Latino community

Northgate construction
In the beginning of Oct. Northgate was already in process of demolition. Photo by Lucero Garcia/ el Don

After two months of appeal, the City of Santa Ana on Dec. 1, 2020 approved the construction of 99 residential units on the site of Downtown’s only Northgate Market.The developers are Northgate Gonzalez Real Estate and Red Oak Investments. 

The Northgate Gonzalez Market located on 409 E 4th St in Downtown Santa Ana was a staple grocery market for the Latino community in the area. Selling authentic Mexican food and fresh produce that many residents in the area could buy. Northgate was not simply a grocery store, it was a part of culture where residents could buy warm tortillas, pan dulce and meats. Now that the Northgate is no longer there, many residents say it has created more disservices than services to them.

These are the voices of residents who have been affected by the removal of Northgate, and a Q+A with Council member Johnathan Ryan Hernandez who represents Ward 5 in the City of Santa Ana discussing how the removal of Northgate can affect the community as a whole. 

William Edgardo 

Edgardo now has to drive to another Northgate location . Photo by / Lizeth Martinez

I am from El Salvador and I have lived in these apartments for five years. Northgate was built before I moved to these apartments. I used to always go to that Northgate, so once I moved here it was closer to me and because of that I would go to that store much more often.

It has affected me a lot not having Northgate here because before I would just have to cross the street and the store was there. Now it is difficult because I have to spend more time at FOOD 4 LESS or go all the way to Main St to the other Northgate. It is difficult because imagine, getting another Northgate is farther to me which causes a loss of time. 

I go in the car, before I never wasted money on gas. Now i have to go all the way over there not only wasting time but gas which is more money. It would have been good if they didn’t take out Northgate but sadly there is nothing we can do anymore. 

I would have loved for this not to have happened. Of course that is what I would have liked, for them to keep the store because it was better for the whole community  to have a store so close. I would tell them to bring back the store even though I know it is not possible anymore. It truly has affected me and I think it has affected everyone here in the community. 

 

Maria Teresa

Teresa use to go to Northgate to buy her bread, meat, and Mexican products. Photo by/ Lizeth Martinez

I am from Puebla, Mexico and I have been living here in the city of Santa Ana for 32 years. 

Northgate was still not built when I first came to the area. I used to live on the other side and one day there was a machine digging very deep and I asked myself “What are they going to do there?” I thought they were going to build parking lots or apartments, but then throughout the process I saw that they were building Northgate. 

I used to always go to that store because it was the closest one I had available. I would go every day. In the mornings I would buy my bread, tortillas because they made them there, and go to the bakery. I loved the vegetables, the fruits always so fresh and the meats. 

Now the problem is that since I do not know how to drive it is very difficult for me to go to other grocery stores. FOOD 4 LESS is the closest one to me but still I miss Northgate. I really loved Northgate because there were Mexican things. The other grocery store, LA MEXICANA I do not like that much because there is nothing fresh. The vegetables are not the best and the meat is alright but it is too small and more expensive. 

 

Palmera Muñoz

Muñoz say she feels like they took away a part of her community.

I am from Guanajuato, Mexico and I have lived here for 17 years, and when I came here, Northgate was already built. 

I would go to Northgate all the time. Ever since I came here Northagte was there and I would always go. Now I have to go to other places and take the bus because I do not know how to drive. Because I do not have a car, I have to buy food weekly. When Northgate was still here  I would quickly go every time something occurred to me. Now I have to dedicate two to three hours to go and come back to other stores and get all the food I need. 

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Building apartments is wrong, because there are already many apartments in this area. I don’t think these apartments will help residents because they are too expensive. 

In one part it is true that we do have stores near us but at the same time we were already accustomed to what Northgate sold like the bread, tortillas. There were a lot of Mexican things that other stores do not sell. In a way I feel that they took away a part of my culture because there we had everything Mexican, the pots, plates, cups and tortilla machine and so much more that no other store carries. 

 

Olivia Abelino 

Now that Northgate is no longer there, Abelino needs to plan her grocery shopping two-to-three hours in advance. Photo by/ Lizeth Martinez

I am from Mexico and I have been living here for 17 years. Northgate was already built when I came here and for me Northgate meant so much to me because I practically had everything near me. There are six people living here and whatever small thing we wanted we would just run to Northgate.     

Now that it is not here, it has affected all my family because we would always go to Northgate. Yes there are more stores close by but Northgate is something we needed. 

Now when I get off work I have to go to the closest grocery store. Then go to the house with all my groceries and start cooking. When Northgate was here I would just go straight home from work and go to Northgate to just go buy the food. We go to FOOD 4 LESS but it is not the same as Northgate. Cash registers at Northgate were much faster. We all have to run to FOOD 4 LESS to buy food and honestly it is stressful. 

 

Q&A with Councilmemeber Johnathan Ryan Hernandez 

Q: You were one of two council members that voted against the removal of Northgate, what made you take that vote? 

A:  I feel that the community needed that grocery store over more unaffordable housing. Northgate added more quality of life than a high rise building that is unaffordable would do to those families that shopped there.It is clear food is important and so when we remove it and add housing we are creating a stronger need. Therefore I do worry that it’s going to be something that presents more challenges.

 

Q: Would you say Calle Cuatro has become a food dessert? 

A: Indeed it is a food desert. It forces people to look at the very limited options that they have along with the cost. In downtown you have 4th street market which does have wonderful food options, but many of them are not affordable for the families that live in the lacy neighborhood.

 

Q: How can these apartments change the makeup of the community? 

R: That’s that nuance people underlook so often that those are those stores that have allowed families..that was a very important deciding factor when families when they  moved into these neighborhoods were grocery stores. Now that you have families that live here for generations that are going to be gone because it changes the makeup of the neighborhood moving forward. Who knows if this will be a multigenerational neighborhood now because how dense and unaffordable some of these housing has become, it may push families out.

 

Q :Is this a solution? 

R: I look at that and I think..is this really a solution? And my answer is it’s not. The solution was expanding the services to that neighborhood and they needed that grocery store. Unfortunately this is going to be a big loss for the community so I have to find ways to get them back. 

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