Along Santa Ana Boulevard, paleteros push ice cream carts, residents water their yards and women carry loads of clean clothes from the neighborhood laundromat.
Residents go about their days as construction crews work on sewer installations. Orange cones and signs announce street closures.
Crews are making way for a streetcar that will soon travel through this Orange County neighborhood — known as Artesia Pilar in the city of Santa Ana — and carry passengers along a 4.1-mile route that will link the city to bordering Garden Grove. It will be the first modern streetcar in the county.
Transportation officials say the $408 million project, expected to be in operation by 2022, will help passengers get to their final destination after getting off a train. It will connect the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center to the downtown area and link up with a new transportation center in Garden Grove.
Downtown stakeholders say it will spur economic development in the area. City leaders believe it will improve the quality of life for carless commuters. Some community organizers, however, worry property values around the neighborhood may rise and could displace longtime residents. Research shows gentrification tends to happen in neighborhoods with transit systems.
This can be concerning because the Orange County Transportation Authority — the lead agency behind the project — has not implemented equity guidelines that would address displacement issues. A 2016 UC Berkeley study found that Orange County has the greatest share of neighborhoods considered “disadvantaged” or susceptible to gentrification when compared to Los Angeles and San Diego counties.