Santa Ana, California [July/20th/2011]

We are calling upon artists in this critical moment for Santa Ana. Gentrification is intensifying throughout the city and is being done in the name of ‘the Arts’ as one of its principle justifications. It is precisely this focus that calls into question the role of artists in affirming or defying the process of gentrification in Santa Ana.

The shape and scope of this open letter will change with time, but for the purposes of this initial phase, two avenues of musical/cultural expression will be highlighted. The historic Yost Theater situated in what was once known as the Fiesta Marketplace (and has since been given the ‘East End’ as its new name) is a vital centerpiece. A brief history into this venue reveals that the city of Santa Ana bought the Yost Theater in 1985 from the Olivos family for $600,000 with the promise to resell to them. This marked the tragic end to the decades-long transformation of the building from its sad segregated past to a vibrant cultural hub for the Latino community of Santa Ana and greater Orange County. The city of Santa Ana resold the Yost Theater to a consortium of property developers for $50,000 later that year breaking its promise to the Olivos family. The preceding demand by the city to invest in retrofitting the building and the sale that followed after financially devastated them.

More than 25 years later, Irv Chase, who is directly linked to that history, and his son Ryan, are set to have the Yost Theater reopened in partnership with Koo’s Inc. as part of their greater effort to gentrify core centers of the city’s downtown and bring in an imported, more affluent clientele. This is occurring after a local Mexican cultural center originally showcased the potential of the building by putting on cultural events starting in 2007 that hinted at the revival of the Yost Theater’s past before being pushed out of consideration for its future. The reversal of fortunes for the venue, then and now, can only underscore how, as musicians and artists, it is impossible to perform at the Yost Theater without legitimizing and furthering the gentrification of our city. Given this history, we appeal to musicians and performers whose understanding is in accord with the inescapable reality of the situation.

In addition to the Yost Theater, there is also the Downtown Summer Concert Series to consider. From July 22nd to September 30th, Downtown Inc. will use Friday evening musical performances on the corner of 4th and French streets to further gentrification by generating patrons towards nearby restaurants, bars, and other nightlife destinations and away from the businesses that created the daytime family atmosphere of the former Fiesta Marketplace. Ryan Chase is President of the Board of Directors for Downtown Inc. and the group has hired a new ‘nightlife promoter’ to facilitate the series. Downtown Inc. notes its mission as ‘to facilitate the enhancement of Downtown Santa Ana as a vibrant shopping, entertainment, business and cultural destination for all.’ Despite its appeal to cultural inclusiveness, the Summer Concert Series will be another form of promoting the favored establishments of the so-called East End to the detriment of small businesses in the heavily Latino Fourth Street and other surrounding areas. Downtown Inc. will, and has already reached out to local bands in this effort. Decline their invitation or cancel in solidarity.

As the process of gentrification continues to its logical end, the focus will sooner or later shift to the struggle of renters’ rights against forthcoming displacement. Don’t let it come to that. Please give your talents to Santa Ana, just don’t do so in a manner which supports its gentrification. Performers and patrons alike, support the call of this open letter regarding the gentrification of Santa Ana, the Yost Theater and the Downtown Summer Concert Series.

Artists and Musicians Against Displacement

If you wish to take a public stand by adding your name to a list of performers who will join in solidarity by not performing or canceling an already scheduled event with the venue or series noted in the open letter, please contact us: