TAKE ACTION: Tell Anaheim City Council to Designate Little Arabia on August 23rd

On August 23, 2022, the Anaheim City Council may vote on a formal designation of Little Arabia in Anaheim, which was finally agendized during the July 12 council meeting.

Sign the Letter:

Send a letter to Anaheim City Council: bit.ly/DesignateLittleArabia

Little Arabia: The Little Arabia District is a cultural and hospitable hub in Anaheim. In the past 40 years, Little Arabia has provided access to the Middle Eastern culture through food and services to Arab and non-Arabs in Anaheim and throughout the country. Little Arabia has helped residents access and learn about the Arab American culture while serving as an essential anchor for the community. 

Click Here for an Interactive Map of Little Arabia

Why Designate Little Arabia, and What Will it Do?

Economic Growth: During the 1990s, the Little Arabia District grew as Arab Americans moved to Orange County and started new businesses. The Little Arabia District received the 2018 “Best of Anaheim” Award in the local business category for helping make Anaheim a great place to live, work and play. Over 100 Arab-owned businesses on Brookhurst Street offer new and innovative opportunities for businesses in Anaheim. An official designation as a cultural site could help the community in the Little Arabia District continue to grow, which in turn helps strengthen the local economy. 

Diversity and Culture: Orange County is home to diverse ethnic communities, including Little Saigon, which received its official designation as a cultural site in 1988, and Koreatown, which received its official designation as a cultural site in 2019. These communities provide the region with restaurants, shopping centers, and an array of businesses and services. Within Little Arabia, an intermixing of languages, including English, Arabic, and Spanish, has reflected and brought awareness to the unique character of Anaheim.

  • Much like Little Saigon, Little Tokyo, or the Korean Business District, an official designation of Little Arabia as a cultural site would celebrate the beautiful diversity of Anaheim’s residents and create a new attraction for residents and visitors. 
  • A designation is more than naming a portion of Anaheim. Designating Little Arabia provides everyone access to the warm and hospitable culture of Arab and other Americans of Middle Eastern descent. It recognizes the hard work and contribution of immigrant communities in Anaheim since the 1980s and adds a cultural and economical attraction to Anaheim.

Our Call to Action: 

  • Send a letter to Anaheim City Council: bit.ly/DesignateLittleArabia
  • Gather at the Anaheim City Hall on Tuesday, August 23, 2022, at 4:30 PM and speak during the public comment period during the meeting, which begins at 5:00 PM.

A Beloved District

  • “Arabia” refers to a region encompassing a diverse range of languages, cultures, and economies. All are recognized and celebrated in Little Arabia.
  • Little Arabia District is home to over 140 services catering to the Arab American community of Southern California. Little Arabia has been a launching pad for immigrants to enter the American dream and a cultural attraction for Arab Americans across the country for over forty years.  
  • Designating Little Arabia as a cultural district will preserve Little Arabia’s heritage in Anaheim while providing resources for educational, economic, and community development.  

Arab American Civic Council Releases Results of Little Arabia Designation Survey

 The Arab American Civic Council (AACC), a grassroots community organization based in Orange County, today released a poll finding residents are open to an official Little Arabia designation in Anaheim.

According to the poll, conducted by AACC and the University of San Diego’s US Immigration Policy Center, more than 58% of registered voters in the City of Anaheim support a Little Arabia designation. Support increases further to more than 75% of those who have been to Little Arabia district. 

Little Arabia is a cultural destination that comprises dozens of Arab American-owned businesses on and around Brookhurst Street in West Anaheim. Since the early 1990’s, Anaheim’s Brookhurst corridor has transformed into a cultural and commercial epicenter for the Arab American community.

The campaign to #DesignateLittleArabia was launched in November to urge the Anaheim City Council to recognize the Arab community’s economic and cultural contributions to the city, while supporting small businesses by officially designating the district, which would aid in Anaheim’s economic recovery in the aftermath of the government-ordered shutdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Brief History of Little Arabia

Little Arabia District is a cultural destination in Orange County, California, the center for Orange County’s Arab-American community. It is sometimes referred to as “Little Gaza” which was a play on the original designation of this area as the “Garza Island.”

According to the OC Weekly, prior to the arrival of Arab merchants and families, the section of West Anaheim was popularly known as the Gaza Strip because of an unincorporated area called Garza Island. “Rising from agricultural fields in the 1950s post-World War II building boom, the Gaza Strip hosted a collection of dive bars, restaurants, and mom-and-pop stores on the main streets, with tract housing and apartments in the neighborhoods giving it a distinctly working-class feel. The area’s most famous business is Linbrook Bowl, a legendary bowling alley that Huell Howser has profiled and whose Googie-style sign, complete with rotating pin, still lights up every night. “But by the 1980s, white flight left the Gaza Strip mostly abandoned or replaced with seedy businesses,” according to an OC Weekly 2012 cover story.

Little Arabia grew significantly in the 1990s with the arrival of immigrants from the Arab World, and is home to thousands of Arab-Americans predominantly hailing from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine.  Local Arab American business leaders such as Ahmad Alam and Belal Dalati saw a mutual benefit in commercial real estate, they  began buying distressed homes, flip them and selling them to Arab immigrants. They also bought plazas, office buildings, and  recruited and encouraged merchants to start up new businesses in West Anaheim.

In 2004, more than 50 leaders gathered at Access California Services to brainstorm ideas to elevate the Arab American community in Anaheim. One of the ideas was to create an official designation of Little Arabia. Read here.

In 2010, local Arab American groups launched a social media campaign to build momentum around the idea of officially designating the area as “Little Arabia.” The coordinated campaign included a drive to contact city officials to express support for a designation alongside other outlined goals such as partnering with the city to improve signage and building facades.

Four years later, in 2014 a renewed push by community groups to advocate for an official designation of the district brought nationwide media coverage to Little Arabia, including in the Los Angeles Times, NPR, and Aljazeera America.  In addition, former Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait praised the businesses of Little Arabia during his 2014 State of the City address, an event held at the time by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. For the first time in the city’s history, the Mayor encouraged more than 600 attendees to visit the district and dine at authentic Arabic restaurants in Anaheim.

During the 2016 and 2018 Anaheim City Council candidate forums, the issue of Little Arabia designation was brought up. In 2016, every present candidate said they support the designation.

During the CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION, , State Senator Ling Ling Chang introduced the non-binding Senate Concurrent Resolution 71 (SCR-71) to support the designation of Little Arabia upon approval from the Anaheim City Council. 

The resolution proposed by Sen. Chang was never brought to the Senate floor for a vote.