Sanchez: Keep Willowick Golf Course as Parkland

My name is Marlha and my family has lived in Santa Ana since the early 1950’s. My Grandparents moved here from a small town in central California, they came here to build a better life for themselves and the generations to come. They bought a home on Gunther Street and raised their kids there . . . my parents and I lived with them as we saved up money to buy our own home. Most of my childhood was spent at that house on Gunther Street with my Grandparents while my parents worked. I have had the privilege to live there as an adult caring for my aging and ailing Grandparents and raising my own children.

When my Grandfather was still alive I would hear him talking with my tios and father about how he was worried that they would lose the house because of its location. He feared that big businesses and the city would “come for this land”. Since its near Harbor/Disneyland, close to downtown, near the river and the golf course he feared that we would be pressured to sell or pushed out.

Our family has always felt this was coming, it has always been a worry on our minds . . . and we’ve seen over the years how this “hood” has been forgotten. We had heard rumors of developers and the city planning what the Willowick Golf Course would become. That there are eyes that want to remove the families, community, and culture that thrives here in favor of bringing in tourists, higher income residents from other areas and making money.

It breaks my heart to see so many people living in or near poverty, struggling. All of us living too close to the edge. Watching as rents in our city rise. Seeing that the ideas being presented by the city and developers do little to nothing to empower and uplift the families already living here.

In an area that is population dense, low income and severely lacking in parking how does it make sense to put in a stadium or housing that is meant for those privileged with high incomes. Wouldn’t it make more sense to invest in the community that has housed the homeless in the river bed and where prostitution is a nightly occurrence. To work towards raising this community up, by meeting needs and empowerment of residents.

I would like to see my city, our city be a leader and innovator when it comes to building healthy communities and sustainability. I would like for every child to have a park near their home where they can play and exercise safely. I would like our youth to feel empowered and proud of where they come from so that they can bring their gifts to their families, communities and the world. I would see us work towards eliminating food deserts and accessibility to healthy foods for all. I would like for elders to have community centers nearby where they can gather, take classes and enjoy some open space. I want our communities to feel like we have just as much of a right to our homes and a good life as those tourists and businesses that come for the art and culture but do not respect those who created it.

Finding a Win/Win solution doesn’t seem that complicated to me. Truly listening to the communities that will be directly affected by development projects is a great place to start. If what communities need is taken into account then we can find common ground. Healthy and thriving communities will benefit the city. Putting people before profits is thinking of the long term, when people can get behind projects, be inspired by them, when these projects are impactful and useful, the whole community thrives. From the microcosm to the macrocosm. When we give families tools and resources to live a good life that ripples out into our schools, the workforce and beyond. We all win.

Marlha Sanchez is a single mother, micro business owner and birth worker who runs a Homeschool cooperative from her family home. Her family has lived in Santa Ana since the early 1950’s. It’s been her dream to hold on to their family home to work and raise her children there. 

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