The Los Angeles Times published an article on Saturday about Anaheim’s Little Arabia, a stretch of shops and restaurants along Brookhurst between crescent and Katella:
Yet Little Arabia is largely unknown to the millions of tourists who flood into Anaheim every year — and it remains below the radar even to longtime residents in the city’s west side.
A group of ambitious activists and business owners is trying to change that by getting city and tourism officials to recognize the commercial district as a destination.
“The most important thing to us is saying, ‘We are part of Anaheim,’” said Rida Hamida, director and co-founder of the Arab American Civic Council. “You have Disney, the Honda Center, the Angels, and you also have Little Arabia.”
The push is starting to gain some momentum. Most recently, the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau agreed to put Little Arabia on its visitors guide.
Not everyone supports an official city designation of a Little Arabia district:
To some Little Arabia denizens, there’s a sense that the enclave is just not ready for a coming-out party.
Generally seen as the dense commercial strip along Brookhurst Street between Crescent and Katella avenues, Little Arabia holds a wide variety of storefronts. There are restaurants, grocery stores, hookah bars and clothing shops, each catering to the region’s large Arab American population, all intermixed with a slew of chain groceries, fast-food places, Mexican diners and muffler shops.
“We’re not ready to do a grand opening yet for Little Arabia because it’s not ready,” said Ahmad Alam, owner of Arab World Newspaper and a local property owner who envisions malls, movie theaters, “something to hang on to.”
Alam said Little Arabia lacks cohesion and has fallen short of the place he imagined: an ethnic community that would “make everything available for the new generation, to know about their history and heritage.” The area, he said, is not yet suitable for an official designation.
[Mayor Tom] Tait said he supports efforts to draw more attention to Little Arabia but not an official designation.
“It’s this great local flavor that we should be bragging about,” he said. However, “as far as the city saying here’s where the lines are, I’m not for that, because if we do that officially that could exclude people who aren’t a part of it.”
Tait is right. The best approach is for these sort of areas to evolve organically, on their own, with local merchants and merchant associations leading the way – regardless of (ultimately arbitrary) lines on the map drawn by the city.