Addressing homelessness in wealthy Orange County

Suburbs in Orange County, California are working to address homelessness:

The vanishing benches were Anaheim’s response to complaints about the homeless population around Disneyland. Public work crews removed 20 benches from bus shelters after callers alerted City Hall to reports of vagrants drinking, defecating or smoking pot in the neighborhood near the amusement park’s entrance, officials said…

At the county’s civic center in Santa Ana, homeless encampments — complete with tents and furniture and flooring made from cardboard boxes — block walkways and unnerve some visitors. Along the Santa Ana River near Angel Stadium, whole communities marked by blue tarp have sprung up. In Laguna Beach, a shelter this summer is testing an outreach program in which volunteers walk the streets offering support and housing assistance to homeless people.

Cities across California — notably Los Angeles and San Francisco — are dealing with swelling ranks of the homeless. But officials in Orange County said most suburban communities simply don’t have the resources and experience to keep up.

Susan Price, Orange County’s director of care coordination, said officials are trying to build a coordinated approach involving all of the more than 30 disparate cities that takes into account the different causes of homelessness, including economic woes, a lack of healthcare and recent reforms in the criminal justice system.

With a location like this, the headline just writes itself: “While homelessness surges in Disneyland’s shadow…” Juxtaposition! Yet, this shouldn’t be a surprise in this suburban era. Fewer suburban communities and residents are far removed from what they may have once considered to be “urban problems.” The changes across suburbs in recent decades – more diverse populations, continued job opportunities though there is an increase in the service sector, higher housing prices (particularly in places like California) – have pushed many suburbs to consider new issues.

If Orange County does indeed enact a regional approach to homelessness, it could be a worthwhile study to compare the outcomes with those in the city of Los Angeles. Can wealthier suburban communities successfully address homelessness compared to cities who have addressed the issue for longer periods of time? (Success would not be allowed to be defined as moving the homeless elsewhere.)

Adding an observatory to an “otherwise ho-hum OC McMansion”

Already have a saltwater pool, a four-car garage, and 6,000+ square feet? Follow the lead of one Orange County McMansion and add an observatory:

Behind the doors of this “custom,” yet seemingly cookie-cutter mansion in pricey, master-planned Laguna Niguel, lies a definitively unique feature: a “commercial-grade telescope” in a private observatory. The owners have spent “Over $450,000 in upgrades since 2010-11 to perfect an already gorgeous home,” according to the listing (via the LA Times), but a large portion of that probably went toward putting that star-gazing equipment in place. The 6,073-square-foot, four-bedroom house also comes with a saltwater pool with waterfall, a fire pit, four-car garage, wetbar, and built-in outdoor barbecue. The property last sold in 2010 for $2.75 million, according to Redfin; it’s now asking $3.188 million. There’s a potential sale in the works, but it’s still accepting backup offers.

And they say McMansions lack customization. I would guess that this family did not recoup their entire investment in this observatory though given the large population of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, there has to be one household that really wants an observatory.

Such a feature could be viewed by some as the sort of customization lauded by the Not-So-Big-House movement and other architects and psychologists who tout the fit of the home with the occupants. Yet, guessing again, I imagine more people would see this observatory as another garish symbol of the McMansion.

“This [car] is bound for glory…”

Megan Garber of the Atlantic explains the car-centric origins of Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral:

The efficiencies of the [Orange Drive-In Theatre where Rev. Schuller first held services in 1955 in Orange County, CA] were obvious: For cinematic purposes, the drive-in was useful only in the darkness, which meant that it could play an effortlessly dual role, theater by night and church by day. The architecture and technological system built for entertainment could be repurposed, hacked even, to deliver a religious ceremony for the golden age of the car. An early advertisement announced the new ministry’s appeal: “The Orange Church meets in the Orange Drive-In Theater where even the handicapped, hard of hearing, aged and infirm can see and hear the entire service without leaving their family car….”

The Schullers, and their contemporary entrepreneurs of religiosity, had happened into an idea that made particular cultural sense at its particular cultural moment: In the mid-1950s, Americans found themselves in the honeymoon stages of their romances with both the automobile and the television. And they found themselves seeking forms of fellowship that mirrored the community and individuality that those technologies encouraged….It was, with its peculiar yet practical combination of openness and enclosure, an improvised idea that happened to fit its time. The Schullers’ motto? “Come as you are in the family car.”

As the article goes on to note, Schuller eventually moved out of the drive-in and into his Crystal Cathedral, which has been “in the news most recently for its financial troubles — culminating in bankruptcy, a controversial shift in the the church’s leadership structure, and, finally, the sale of the Cathedral itself to a neighboring (Catholic) diocese.”  I guess things went a little off the rails at some point.

More seriously, however, I find Schuller’s integration of the automobile into Christian liturgy fascinating (and more than a little disturbing).  Megan’s article makes it clear that, by and large, Schuller’s drive-in congregants remained in their cars throughout services (“Church rubrics, the guidebooks for services, included instructions not only about when to sing, speak, and stay silent, but also for mounting the speakers onto car windows”).  It’s hard to understand how attendees could have Christian communion–in either the literal or general sense–by themselves from the walled-off comfort of their own cars.

“A vestige of tradition” in Orange County

One common view of California from the Heartland/Midwest/flyover county is that it is a liberal state that leads the way in many social problems. But historically, Orange County has been a bastion of conservatism (see Suburban Warriors about the rise of political conservatism in Orange County after World War II) and can still be considered conservative today even with an influx of immigrants:

Analysts, however, say the county’s loyalty to convention is not due to a push to maintain its image as a pillar of social conservatism. Instead, they point to the bustling Latino commercial districts in Santa Ana, the Vietnamese American coffee shops in Garden Grove and the halal butchers in Anaheim — to an influx of immigrants who have imported the old-fashioned family structures of their homelands.

Orange County’s ethnic enclaves are founded on religious and cultural values that include strong family ties, said Jack Bedell, a sociology professor at Cal State Fullerton…

Orange County, home to 3 million people, has the lowest percentage of single-parent households of any county in Southern California, according to a Times analysis of U.S. Census Bureau figures, as well as the lowest percentage of households occupied by opposite-sex unmarried couples.

It also has one of the lowest percentages of same-sex households and has retained one of the highest percentages in the region of nuclear-family households — those with a married man and woman who are raising children under age 18.

The article suggests that traditional family arrangements are declining in Orange County, just at a slower rate than other places. What I find most interesting is that the article makes no reference to political parties but rather stresses moral values or “family values.” How do “family values,” particularly among immigrants, match up or conflict with “social values”? Do these immigrants vote more for Democrat or Republican candidates?