THE STRANGE & TRAGIC TALE OF HILLCREST PARK


UPDATE: We are republishing this wonderful post by Fred Olmstead originally posted on February 21, 2009. We do so in order to highlight the fact that the park – suffering from real blight – is in the Redevelopment project area, and stands as yet another testament to the failure of Redevelopment. Sharon Quirk, are you reading this?

- The Fullerton Shadow

 

Loyal Friends of Fullerton’s Future, gather ‘round the cool glow of your computer terminals and follow a sad saga of miserable municipal negligence.

Located in the center of Fullerton is a resource of inestimable value, overlooked by almost everybody in and outside of City Hall: Hillcrest Park. Included in an early vision of the city it followed upon the City Beautiful, and natural urban park elements of the Progressive movement; and coincided nicely with the new auto culture of the 1920s, positioned as it was, along the original Highway 1.

Developed fully during the Depression in a rustic mode, the park soon after began a long decline into municipal irrelevance, and if anything, seemed to be perceived by many as a liability rather than a great asset.   This tragic trajectory is a shameful blot on Fullerton’s history and is akin to placing your eighty-five year old mother in a criminally negligent nursing home.

After Don Bankhead and Fullerton’s Finest chased out the acid-dropping hippies in the 1960s, the park became a haven for perverts; trees began to die and were not replaced; erosion claimed many of the north and west facing slopes and was not arrested; as the infrastructure crumbled it was replaced by City Engineer Hugh Berry with incongruous cinder block walls and concrete light poles.

In the mid-1990s Redevelopment Director Gary Chalupsky, in a philanthropic mood, decided that Redevelopment funds could be used to address Hillcrest Park issues – the first official over-the-shoulder glance toward the park in years.

And here, dear Friends, the story turns from a chronicle of benign neglect to one of outright incompetence and, one might plausibly argue, a form of bureaucratic malevolence.

In 1996 the usual scoping/charette pantomime was performed with an historic park landscape architect, specially imported from Riverside. An odd thing happened: every time the consultant prepared a list of priorities for the park, the Community Services Department’s wishes kept getting pushed to the top. The Director of Community Services was Susan Hunt, a woman long known for her mindless turf battles with her constituents – (including the Isaak Walton Cabin in Hillcrest). Hunt was determined to hijack the process and divert resources from where they were needed to facilities that she and her department could control and perhaps even profit from.

Hunt was successful. The consultant, knowing whom it was important to please, seemed only too happy to abet the fraud that was perpetrated. The city council (including current Jurassic members Bankhead and Jones) went along. Chris Norby was there, too. Now he’s in charge of the County’s parks.

A new playground replaced the old one in the Lemon parking area even though no one had complained about the existing one that parents seemed to like. More egregious still, a new facility (known as Hillcrest Terrace) was built behind the Veteran’s building that could be rented out for social functions. But the real needs of the park – slope stabilization, plant cataloguing and replacement, the removal of inappropriate elements – went unaddressed – and the problems have continued unabated to this day, ten years later, as interest in the park waned again.

Last fall the City once again roused itself from its somnolence and created an ad hoc committee to consider issues related to Hillcrest Park. The time is, perhaps, propitious. Susan Hunt has disappeared into an overdue and well-compensated retirement, current Director Joe Felz is much more amenable to citizen input. It’s time to reclaim this park.

Hillcrest is still in the Redevelopment Area and remains affected by indisputable blight. This should become a priority for Redevelopment Director Rob Zur Schmied.

While we wonder if the Hillcrest Park committee will actually display the necessary independence from staff manipulation, and that they possess the necessary technical abilities, we wish them well. And we encourage citizens to make sure that this time any assessment of Hillcrest will objectively address the needs of the park and report directly to the City Council. Recommendations should be included in the City’s Capital Budget.

Hillcrest Park can and must return to being the crown jewel of Fullerton’s parks.

More about , , ,

Email This Post To A Friend Email This Post To A Friend

  1. #1 by Joe Sipowicz on February 21, 2009

    Yes, a story of official neglect and public indifference spanning decades.

    Thank the good Lord that Susan Hunt is gone. Probably the least popular person in Fullerton – but the darling of Jim Armstrong. They shared the same disdain for the public.

  2. #2 by Cal Vaux on February 21, 2009

    Hillcrest Park is an eyesore. As much as I wish this “ad hoc” committee could really help I believe they won’t. I understand that Dorian Hunter and Vince Buck are among the members. Dorian doesn’t know her ass from her elbow; Vince will no stand up to the parks Department.

    Mark my words: this will just be another effort to divert funds from the real needs of this park. More facilities will be built that the City can charge fees for: government run more like a business. Where have we heard that one before? Joe’s right – Jim Armstrong.

  3. #3 by van get it da artiste on February 21, 2009

    ironically, surrounding hillcrest park, the backdrop for my first teen-age true love,are the csu fullerton newly built subsidized housing for faculty that is going bust for lack of buyers. probably, these potential home buyers are turned off by the view of this ghetto park.

  4. #4 by van get it da artiste on February 21, 2009

    pardon moi bad english,is the csu fullerton . . .

  5. #5 by The Ghost of Jim Armstrong on February 22, 2009

    Hey leave me alone. You’re just jealous ’cause now I’m City Manager of a REAL city and not a podunk OC burb that didn’t have enough sense to tax itself when I told them to.

    If you ever get up to Santa Barbara you’ll see what a REAL city looks like.

  6. #6 by Fullerton Dude on February 22, 2009

    Unfortunately, the dim-witted sports field parents are the squeaky wheels that get greased in Fullerton. Nobody cares about Hillcrest Park except for a few nattering boohoos who won’t go there anyway. This “committee” is just window dressing to pretend someone cares.

    I would change my mind if Quirk or Keller actually demanded results. But they won’t because they’re afraid to do anything without direction from the bureaucracy.

  7. #7 by Roxanne on February 22, 2009

    Hey guys, wait a sec. Isn’t Hillcrest Park an historic site or something? Why hasn’t the historical group Fullerton’s Heritage lobbied on behalf of this park?

  8. #8 by Lee Adler on February 22, 2009

    Yeah, Roxanne, right. That historical group Fullerton’s Heritage is nothing more than a bunch of city butt kiss lackeys.

    My God, two of their boardmembers Bob Linthead and Terry Galpan are former city employees. Those two all by themselves are responsible for most of the messed up remodels of historic buildings in Fullerton.

    The group makes me want to puke.

  9. #9 by T Bone on February 22, 2009

    I went to a Fullertons heritage meeting a few years ago and all they talked about was putting brass plaques on buildings and how the city was doing such a great job blah blah blah.

  10. #10 by admin on February 22, 2009

    #3, easy on Dorian, she has Florentine (sidewalk) in the cross hairs, and that’s good for Fullerton, perhaps you could give her another chance.

    #4, “are the csu fullerton newly built subsidized housing for faculty that is going bust for lack of buyers?” The answer is no, it’s going bust because they are too expensive, too restrictive, and too much government controlled.

    #10, the heritage group has a plaque fetish, if the group had their way they would be plaquing plaques.

  11. #11 by T Bone on February 23, 2009

    Plaques on plaques. That’s a good one.

  12. #12 by Damage Controller on February 24, 2009

    Hey, FFF why not a post on the damage done to Fullerton by Hugh Berry. All those four lane highways to nowhere? The Bastanchury Freeway? Could be fun.

  13. #13 by Travis on March 2, 2009

    So how much does the city make by renting out our park?

  14. #14 by Joe Sipowicz on March 3, 2009

    Travis, the City rents out the “Hillcrest Terrace” to the public. I’m sure the fees are listed on the City website. The real question is why this facility was built in the first place and what function it serves – other than giving Community Services Department a toy to play with.

    Of course it’ll never even pay for itself as the real needs of the park continue to be ignored.

  15. #15 by Travis on May 2, 2009

    Of all the parks in Fullerton, this one has the most potential. It’s large, unique and right in the center of our city. Why has it been overlooked for so long?

  16. #16 by admin on May 2, 2009

    Everyone gave up on it – except the perverts.

  17. #17 by Rachel on June 18, 2009

    #16 I remember as a child we never went to the park because they had perverts in the park, this was 43 years ago!

    #10 They need the restriction, years ago over 20, there was a government subsidized condo project in Laguna Niguel, The buyers were well aware in the contract that should they decided to sell the property it would have to sell a below market price so that way another family may afford it, they could not rent the property because this meant they no longer qualified for low income subsidies. Needless to say some owners cheated the taxpayer and did not abide by contract.
    If the housing project was not subsidized by the state of California (Cal State = State of California) I would say “Go for it!” But the houses belong to the taxpayers and if anyone is going to have control it should be the taxpayer.

    In terms of the park I have noticed many people have illegal rental units above their garage, they put plumbing and small kitchens after getting a pass by building code enforcement, I think they should charge a yearly fee to these individuals in addition to the code violations, the fee should be $20 per year to help pay for the park

  18. #18 by Frank on July 22, 2009

    There’s a Parks and Rec open meeting Monday night 7-27 at City Hall for meeting about Coyote Hills park that’s way bigger than Hillcrest. Chevron, yes big oil, has some good ideas they got from people who ride, walk-run the Fullerton trails =see it to believe it, they’ve shown them to some people already, a friend has sent me photo files. We can’t stop this development anyway, we should get all we can from this deal and some of it looks sweet. This may sound like heresy on this blog, but there you are.

    • #19 by The Fullerton Harpoon on July 22, 2009

      “This may sound like heresy on this blog, but there you are.”

      This blog encourages all views, and our Friends include many who would just as soon stop all development up there, and some who welcome development. Each blogger here can lay claim to whatever part of the WCH issue they want. Just tell us why.

      BTW, development IS NOT inevitable. What is inevitable is that the developer will be paying millions in fees that prop up the City’s General Fund, and that, in essence makes the City staff partners in the deal. This is the nasty little secret of big development projects. And one hardly anybody ever talks about.

  19. #20 by admin on July 22, 2009

    Frank, “We can’t stop this development anyway, we should get all we can from this deal and some of it looks sweet.”, thanks for the heads up, what does the not so “sweet” part of Chevrons project look like?

  20. #21 by Frank on July 23, 2009

    When I say some of it looks sweet, I mean the parts about it I’ve looked at, and I mean the trails and nature preservation features. I thought this was the parks and trails section of the blog. I like that they will respect the gnatcatcher and preserve the original plants, plus remove those that don’t belong there.

    I can’t speak for the rest of the development, if I did I’d comment in a different section.

  21. #22 by The Fullerton Harpoon on July 23, 2009

    Frank, we don’t have “sections” just individual posts that we categorize according to the list at the top right. As you can see there is a “Coyote Hills” category although we haven’t posted much on it. I understand that that may change in the future.

    In the meantime is you want to write a post on the subject, go ahead and then send it to us. If it meets the standards of our editorial board (bar set very low) we’ll publish it.

  22. #23 by Staff Report on February 15, 2010

    February 2010 – Hiltscher Park: Typical pattern of severe erosion and the loss of five mature trees.

  23. #24 by len zivitz on August 25, 2010

    the ad hoc committee for Hillcrest Park meets Wednesday, Sept.8 at 3:30 in the afternoon. It is not a public meeting (that comes later) but, of course all city gov’t meetings are open according to law. It’s always nice to hear what’s going on before the staging of the public meeting.

    • #25 by admin on August 25, 2010

      Len, where do they meet at?

  24. #26 by Dorian Hunter on August 25, 2010

    The meeting on Sept. 8 will be in the Red Cross building on Lemon St. in Hillcrest Park.

  25. #27 by admin on August 25, 2010

    Dorian, it would be good if someone from your group would write a post every so often to keep our Friends informed about the ad hoc committee’s latest and greatest plans for Hillcrest Park. Please send it to: info@fullertonsfuture.org Thank You.

  26. #28 by tiffany on January 16, 2011

    i know every thing about that park*******its really sad for your safety dont go there when theres no pple!!!****

  27. #29 by tiffany on January 16, 2011

    ce pour les français….tout savoir sur ce parc******son vraiment triste pour votre sécurité ne pas aller là quand theres aucun peuple!!!****

  28. #30 by dorian hunter on January 20, 2011

    I am not on the ad hoc committee for Hillcrest Park, I do attend most of the meetings to which the public may come and comment. The City will hold a public meeting on Feb.2,2011 in the City Hall Council Chambers the landscape design plans will be presented, I encourage you to attend and make comments. See you there.

    I’m not sure of the time please check with the City Parks and Rec. dept. ask Ron Pichard.

    The next step for the plans will be the Parks and Rec. Committee and then on to City Council, follow the progress.

  29. #31 by Lori on January 10, 2012

    My family and I love this park…it’s really sad to see what it’s become. We just went there yesterday Monday 1/9/11. It really could be a great place. We went around noon and witnessed a lot of people working out some in pairs others alone walking up and down the hills. When we walked up to the cabin I noticed three backpacks tucked under the surrounding walls of the cabin, like people were sleeping there and who knows what else goes on there. We went down to the playground right below the Cabin, it was a mess. It was pretty scary looking. The playground is so neglected with some graffiti and run down/boarded up play areas. The bathroom gate was locked up and we could see the bathroom was full of trash. Needless to say, we left that area of the park quickly and went to the other end of the park to the playground by the rec. center. It would be great to see the presence of a park ranger or two…maybe a police unit or two driving through the park once in a while might eliminate any wrong doings in the park. I’ve seen other parks with park rangers driving around in their little white pick-up trucks constantly and police officers eating their lunch at those parks. Those parks are clean, crime free, and not falling apart…it’s nice to see people care about their parks. I lived in Fullerton a long time when I was young and it is sad to see how the City of Fullerton could turn their back on such a beautiful place. This park deserves to be cared for and the City of Fullerton should take some pride in this park and do something about cleaning it up.

  30. #32 by Lori on January 10, 2012

    Sorry…we went to the park on 1/9/2012.

Comments are closed.