Ellyn Pak, Orange County Register (Santa Ana), May 30, 2006
ORANGE — The Hills left East Vine Avenue two weeks ago. The Wigginses plan to leave in a month or so. And just last week, the Hansons put up a for-sale sign.
In a few months, most of Carol Fulton’s longtime neighbors will be gone. And in a flash, summer barbecues, Fourth of July parades and baseball games at the East Vine cul-de-sac will become distant memories.
Fulton sits on her front porch, pensive and surveying the neighborhood. It has changed drastically, she says.
The familiar smells and sounds of backyard barbecues are replaced by mariachi music and the honking horn of a shaved-ice cart. Fulton sees unfamiliar cars and people streaming onto the street.
Overcrowding caused by boarding homes — more than two leases on the same property — is an issue that city officials and residents have grappled with for years.
“This used to be a fun neighborhood,” says Fulton, 56. “Kids stayed outside until 10 or 11 p.m. I figured we’d live here until we died. We never in 100,000 years thought it would change.”
On most days, Fulton caps off the night at 10 with a cigarette in her garage. But these nights, she does it with the door closed.
“We were always outside. In the summertime, I was a free spirit,” she says. “Not anymore. We don’t go outside anymore.”
Fulton has to decide if she, like her friends, is going to go.
Fulton moved to Orange in 1986 with her husband and two daughters from a previous marriage.
She loved the clean neighborhood. There were other families with children. And everyone called each other by their first names. The house they rented had no air conditioning. Fulton cooled off under the tree in her yard.
A year later, they moved across East Vine into a three-bedroom house they bought for $175,000. The Fultons, whose family grew to five kids, envisioned growing old with their neighbors.
Orange had deep roots, a city with generations of families where grandparents and parents settled and their children held onto the threads of their childhood.
The neighborhood transformation was subtle at first.
Some families moved away and a more transient community began to develop. Unfamiliar faces filtered in and out of several houses.
By the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, longtime residents complained about a parking crunch caused by dozens of people crammed into the neighborhood’s first boarding house — the big house they called “the Fortress.” The city eventually required parking permits, and the problems subsided.
In the late ‘90s, Fulton caught people peering into her rooms, urinating in her yard and making catcalls at her.
It was common knowledge that there were multiple families and dozens of men, mainly day laborers, living in the homes, she says.
During her free time, Fulton helps a neighbor pack for her move out of the county.
“Get out when you can,” says her friend. “I’m moving to an American neighborhood.”