View Mobile Site

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos


City defends English forms

Newhall revitalization does not provide applications in Spanish, deterring some business owners

Posted: October 31, 2009 7:40 p.m.
Updated: November 1, 2009 4:55 a.m.
As part of a broad plan to revitalize downtown Newhall, the city is offering grants to local businesses to expand their shops and make them look nicer from the street.

But despite the fact many of the area’s shop owners are Spanish-speakers, city officials are offering grant applications only in English, upsetting many in the business community — and intimidating some who said they would otherwise have applied.

“It would be smart to provide forms in both languages (English and Spanish), especially when dealing with Newhall redevelopment,” said Kathy Sturkey, chair of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce Hispanic Business Committee.

“I don’t understand why they wouldn’t do that for a predominately Spanish-speaking community.”

City officials defended the practice, saying they have not yet received specific requests for a Spanish version of the grant application, though they acknowledged the letters announcing the program were only distributed in English.

“There is no language barrier between the city and the business community,” said city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz. “We know our audience. If there is a need, we haven’t heard about it.”

City: No demand
The city began offering two different grants to small businesses in redevelopment areas in Newhall in October. Businesses in some areas can apply to the city’s redevelopment agency for grants of up to $5,000, said Alex Hernandez, an administrative assistant with the development department.

The city is also offering building-improvement grants of up to $20,000 through the federal recovery act for businesses in the downtown Newhall redevelopment area to improve building façades, he said.

All the information about the grants, including grant applications and letters notifying business owners of the program, are only offered in English, Hernandez said.

The city has bilingual staff members who can translate the grant forms upon request, Ortiz said. There have been no requests from the business community to receive the literature in Spanish, which she said was a sign that there was little need for the service.

If the city receives a request, it will provide the literature in Spanish, she said.

Having primary documents in Spanish is particularly important when dealing with the government, Sturkey said. Translating documents isn’t an exact science, which can be problematic when mistakes can mean the difference in securing a grant, she said.

Ortiz said the city is not trying to exclude the Spanish-speaking community, but that there are a variety of languages being spoken in the area.

“We cannot go around profiling our business community — it’s rude,” Ortiz said. “Just because they cater to the (Spanish-speaking) clientele, that doesn’t mean that’s what they are.”

Uneasy with English
Many businesses and organizations in downtown Newhall — including a Spanish-language church, pharmacy, grocery store and bakery — serve the area’s large Latino community.

Since many business owners’ primary language is Spanish, it’s intimidating to apply for grants that use complicated English legal jargon, said Karina Perez, the bilingual manager of Vallartha Services, a downtown Newhall firm that provides insurance, travel and accounting services.

Perez translates information sent from the city to property owners and business owners in the area who speak only Spanish, she said.

“(Owners) don’t submit (grant) forms because they have trouble writing down what they want in English,” Perez said. “They would be more comfortable with Spanish.”

Ema Rivera, owner of Lissette’s Flowers, said through a translator that she had tried to apply for the grant by going onto the city’s Web site. She said she didn’t finish the grant application because the language barrier was too difficult to get around.

The form was complicated, asked for detailed information and was difficult to understand, she said.

While she understands some English, she would only feel comfortable filling out the application if it were offered in Spanish, she said.

Tammy Sanchez, owner of Juanita’s Beauty Salon, said through a translator that by only having documents in English, the city is brushing off the Spanish-speaking community.

She said if someone needed something translated from the city, he wouldn’t contact the city — he would find a friend to do it for him.


Most Popular Articles

There are no articles at this time.
Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.


Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...