Beach Boulevard stretches about 20 miles from the hills of La Habra to the sands of Huntington Beach. It crosses seven cities (as well as Midway City, which we know is not a city but whatever). Though most of Beach Boulevard is heavily commercialized, the communities it passes through are very different.
On July 9, the Renew Beach Boulevard Coalition–which formed a few years ago and is comprised of Anaheim, Buena Park, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, La Habra, Stanton, and Westminster–announced that they’ll collectively hold a massive new street festival in November called Meet on Beach.
Officially presented by Go Human and the Southern California Association of Governments, Meet on Beach is a new, one-day event that organizers hope will “reimagine Beach Boulevard across seven Orange County cities” by “activating their tens of thousands of residents,” according to a July 9 news release from event organizers. During the event various sections of the boulevard may be limited to bike and pedestrian traffic only, allowing for all sorts of festivities, including food and other pop-up sites.
“We are so pleased to be leading a seven-city coalition focused on the revitalization of the iconic Beach Boulevard through Orange County,” said Joel Rosen, Director of Community Development for the City of Buena Park, in the news release. “During Meet on Beach, Orange County residents will have the chance to experience the boulevard like never before. Through partnerships and community engagement, we hope to promote economic development and healthy communities along the historic 21-mile stretch connecting the hills to the ocean.”
That the word “reimagine” appears twice in the news release is especially fascinating to me, because 20 years ago I walked the entire length of Beach in one day. I did this for a couple reasons–first, to see if I could do it, and second, to try to take in all of what the famous boulevard offered at a more human speed (though much of the road was decidedly unfriendly to pedestrians, with long stretches that lacked sidewalks). Then as now, the road was undeniably eclectic, and often harsh. All of this was confirmed to me when I came upon Knott’s Berry Farm, which I wrote about in this 1999 story:
I dined on a grilled-chicken sandwich and lemonade at the McDonald’s next to Knott’s Berry Farm; it’s the McDonald’s with the big virtual-reality ride that sits on the bones of the old Alligator Farm. Today the park is quiet enough, but when I walked by, there was a short, tough-looking man standing on the thin strip of grass in front of the theme park and flashing a thumbs-up sign to passing cars. He had a grizzled beard and a straw fedora and introduced himself as Joseph Tinnerirello of the Carpenter’s Union Local 803. He said he’d been out there since April of that year, protesting Knott’s Berry Farm’s decision to hire a nonunion firm to build the West Coast’s largest wooden roller coaster.
“They’ve ordered me off the property,” he said, occasionally waving at passing truck drivers. “They’ve obstructed me from passing out fliers; they’ve even bumped into me the way a kid throws a tantrum. I’ve also had water thrown on me.”
Beach Boulevard was designed many years ago to move vehicular traffic through the heart of Orange County. “Reimagining” the road as something more pedestrian-friendly, while certainly laudable, is also a monumental task that will be something to see.
For more information, go to Meetonbeach.com.
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.