Santa Ana Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez apologized Thursday night for comparing major downtown property owner Irving Chase, who is Jewish, to Adolf Hitler.
“I did not mean to offend, I do want to apologize and I have been apologizing,” Alvarez said in an interview with a Voice of OC reporter. “I did let my emotions get the best of me.”
Alvarez made the comment during a highly charged City Council meeting Wednesday night. While discussing a special property tax that funds Downtown Inc. — the organization that promotes, secures and cleans up the downtown core — Alvarez criticized Downtown Inc. for renting an office from the Chases.
“So if Hitler rents you a place, and he gives you a good deal, do you take it?” Alvarez said.
The special property tax has faced growing opposition in recent months, with many property owners arguing that they receive no benefit from the tax, which has doubled, even tripled, their property tax bills.
Alvarez ripped into Irving Chase, his son Ryan Chase, and Downtown Inc. at the council meeting. She said the Chases were interested in an “ethnic cleansing” campaign downtown, plotting to clear the area of Latino merchants. She also insinuated that the Chases had a plot to snatch up downtown buildings by bankrupting Latino businesses.
The Anti-Defamation League quickly condemned Alvarez’s remarks in a press release, demanding that Alvarez apologize for her “anti-Semitic tirade.”
Alvarez also retracted her “ethnic cleansing” remark — a phrase usually reserved for conflicts involving genocide — saying that she did not want to trivialize events like the Holocaust.
“No, I’m not equating what’s going on in the downtown to those atrocities, but I do think that people downtown are being oppressed,” Alvarez said. “When I made that historical reference I made, it was because of the oppression in the downtown, not because Irv Chase is Jewish.”
Alvarez did, however, stand by her insinuation that the Chases may be plotting a takeover of downtown buildings. She said that taxpayer money was used to create what was known as Fiesta Marketplace — the heavily Latino part of downtown owned by the Chases — and that the Chases refused to renew downtown merchants’ leases unless they diversifed their merchandise and changed store plans.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if that would be the final plan,” Alvarez said.
Irving Chase called such accusations “classic anti-Semitism.”
“You take the Jew and you accuse him of conspiracy,” Irving Chase said.
Alvarez said she had no plans to step down from either her City Council seat or her position as a deputy district attorney, saying that she would still be able to walk into a courtroom without being accused of having bias.
“I am not anti-Semitic,” Alvarez said. “I don’t think the job I do during the day relates to me representing my constituents.”