And My Field-trip to Fact-Check Red Oak Investments
This coming Tuesday the Fullerton City Council has a packed agenda and the most noise I’ve heard over the agenda is regarding the Red Oak Development. For the uninitiated that is the “Mixed-Use” Apartment complex that is being proposed at 600 W. Commonwealth where the Chevy dealership once sat.
I’ve written about this project elsewhere but I really want to dive into some of the rhetoric of Red Oak Investments.
When this project was in front of the planning commission back in September the spokesman for Red Oak, Alex Wong said the following:
“This project creates rich, new open spaces that are usable and accessible by the public. The courtyard on Chestnut is very similar in dimension and character to the charming courtyard that is in front of the Dripp Cafe and Stadtgarten. Very similar situation but twin courtyards that match each other on both sides of Williamson are coincidentally are very similar to the situation we have at Wilshire and Pomona, the plaza by the museum. And those are really special spaces. This is a private development but it is proposing to create public spaces that are usable both the people that live there and people who are also in the neighborhood whether they’re working or living there.”
I almost fell out of my chair laughing at this comment and spoke up in the public comments that these “public courtyards” wouldn’t stay public. I also called out the fact that the “open courtyard” at Stadtgarten is behind a wall and through a private entrance which isn’t exactly public nor open. This was false advertising at best and deceptive at worst. (more…)
The City of Fullerton is the process, through the planning commission, of bringing another abomination of a project back to life. What was once “Amerige Court” will now be “Amerige Commons”.
The key reason that the Amerige Commons project is being resurrected is because we allegedly need it. Need being the operative word thanks to our supposed housing and retail shortfall. Or so says the city. Again. Again. And yet again. I’m starting to wonder what the word need even means anymore in this town. Or any town for that matter.
City folk say that our residential vacancy rate is X% and to the city that alone correlates need. In a market economy you would look at what’s selling and adjust to reflect the market. Therefore if single family homes are the fastest sellers you would work to build more single family homes. If you wanted to court a younger population you would build in their price-range. However we’re talking about government and not a market economy and in this case the only sales that matter are the votes of our council members and the developers locked most of those sales up years ago.
If we take the city planners seriously we are forced to focus on the need issue so what do we really need here in Fullerton? (more…)
Someone once advised that bad design costs just as much as good.
This is particularly true of development that squanders resources, overloads infrastructure, gobbles up energy and foists snarled traffic on the rest of us.
So how come Fullerton has gone head over heels for massive, five-story (and more) apartment blocks the past five years?
At first I thought it was because there was no planning director and that in this void stuff was happening without any sort of adult in the room. Then Karen Haluza came along. Yes, the same Karen Haluza who, as a private Fullerton resident and council candidate, opposed the Amerige Court (now Commons) monstrosity back in 2008. But now Ms. Haluza seems to spend all her time pitching the same ridiculous monsters that were approved when nobody was in charge.
Then it hit me.
These huge projects are moneymakers, and not just for the out-of-town developers that rake in the dough and move on. They are one-time bonanzas for city staff that haul in huge developer fees and massive park dwelling fees. These fees run into the millions.
Now, let’s say that you are a garden variety city manager such as Joe Felz. You have mismanaged the City of Fullerton into a string of unbalanced budgets amounting to over $40,000,000 in just four years. Wouldn’t yoube groping for anysource of revenue you could find?
Apart from the physical cost of these horrible projects, there is the obvious budgetary problem of relying on one-time sources of revenue to make your budget shortfalls look less bad. But to acknowledge that problem would require honesty and a degree of professional integrity.
Hello Fullerton Friends. I’ve been gone for a few weeks owing to the Flu, Family, Festivus and other merriment this time of year. I hope you’re all enjoying your holidays whichever ones you choose to enjoy. Feeling better I wanted to start to dive into some of the public records requests I’ve received from the city but my wife wants me to write about Amerige Court. As my Grandfather once told me that the two most important words in a marriage are “Yes, Dear” I suppose I’m going to have to write about Amerige Court.
For those who don’t keep track of Fullerton boondoggles year in and year out Amerige Court was originally planned to be a 9-Story Mixed Use monstrosity which would sit on the property that is currently some of the most heavily utilized parking for Downtown Fullerton straddling Amerige Avenue between Harbor Blvd and Malden Avenue.
The plus side, at the time of inception anyways, was that it would provide Downtown with 150% of the parking that was (and is) currently available with the downside being every other aspect of this plan. When people got wind of it the city pushed the plan into a “Study Session” where it was cut down from 9 stories to a more reasonable size and the 150% parking requirement was nixed because why not take the only good thing away from the plan. (more…)
When it came to boneheaded belligerent bombast there was no one quite like former (and recalled) councilman Dick Jones. Here he is in 2007 and 2008 pontificating about downtown Fullerton and the “monster” he created. His endless fixation on the same tired baby/bathwater cliche remains hilarious as he twists it around and around inside his befuddled noggin. If anybody can explain what a “ruly teenager” looks like, please let us know.
The FFFF editorial staff have enjoyed long hours of amusement courtesy of the corn-pone explursions of Ol’ Country Doc Jones captured on this video. The string of priceless HeeHawisms just gets better with age.
Meantime nothing has changed in downtown Fullerton – except the passage of ten long years and more of “yesterday’s felons” than ever.
We’re getting used to things like a City Manager involved in a crash getting a free ride home and no questions asked; for years downtown bars and night clubs have been masquerading as restaurants; Hell, we even had one club owner build a room addition on a public sidewalk and get away with it. How many FPD crimes large and small have been hushed up, made to go away? Who really knows?
But if ever a Fullerton resident wanted to find an example of how there are two sets of standards that apply to folks in our town, he need look no farther than a greasy institution called The Slidebar Rock-N-Roll Kitchen.
When it comes to double standards, no one quite succeeds like Jeremy Popoff, proprietor of the Slidebar.
Even if you are not a boozed up troublemaker from Norco, you may have heard of this place and its owner. This was the establishment from whence came the phony call that eventually cost Kelly Thomas his life five years ago. But this isn’t the story of a bar that wanted to get rid of a “nuisance.” No, this post is about a nuisance. A big one.
See, the Slidebar transforms into an entertainment venue at various times during the day, and every night. But the Slidebar has no Conditional Use Permit to so operate as required by the Fullerton Municipal Code. Why is that? Most likely because such a CUP would formally require noise monitoring. And there’s the problem.
Here’s a noise sampling from just outside this venerable establishment:
The Slidebar has been violating both the City’s noise ordinances and the noise levels established in the Transportation Center Specific Plan for years. The cops won’t do anything about it and neither, apparently, will the people paid to enforce the city’s code.
Stories have been circulating for years that the Slidebar treated Fullerton cops to free food and drink. Is this true? I don’t know, but it certainly gives pause – for a lot of reasons, maybe the least of which is an FPD lack of appetite for clamping down on this public nuisance.
And consider this: Mr. Popoff has made it his business to grease the political gears in Fullerton via campaign contributions. Big time. And is it any surprise that this fine establishment regularly hosts election night parties for incumbent city councilmembers?
Here’s a fun story from the Orange Juice Blog about our lobbyist-councilperson, Jennifer Fitzgerald, partying it up with the Slidebar proprietor, perhaps star-struck by Mr. Popoff’s low-grade celebrity and other mysterious charms. This was at precisely the same time that Mr. Popoff became such an expert at demographics and cartography that his districting map was chosen at the last minute by our feeble city council – unanimously. The sole purpose of that map was to illegally carve up downtown Fullerton – an indisputable “community of interest” – into five districts, thus ensuring that the downtown residents would never have a say in the governance of the open air saloon where they live. And the completely nonsensical ballot statement in favor of this gerrymandered embarrassment was written by none other than…Fitzgerald.
But back to the CUP and noise issues: would it be too cynical to suppose that Popoff’s connections to Ms. Fitzgerald is one of of the reasons this business continues to break the law with impunity?
In the first installment of this two-part series we saw examples of how a mere two downtown Fullerton bars (one illegally operating as a night club) had racked up a massive inventory of misdeeds, amounting to hundreds of cop calls in a few years. Just imagine how tough it is for the Fullerton Police Department to manage all this madness, night after night. And what happens to cop service calls in the rest of the city. Poor cops, right?
Yet before we shed any tears over the FPD and the horrible burden they bear, let us contemplate a “story” from the cop union website that glowingly talks about the special relationship that exists between downtown booze peddlers and our boyz in blue. Here are some choice quotations from the article:
Business in downtown Fullerton is booming.
Thousands of people flock from all over Southern California for the food and atmosphere – and to have a good time.
Police officials want to keep it that way.
In downtown Fullerton last year, officers made 562 drunken driving arrests, including 13 DUI crashes. There were also dozens of assaults.
“We could put 100 cops downtown, but we’d be swatting flies,” said Lt. Andrew Goodrich. “We want to work together to solve this.”
Added Police Chief Dan Hughes: “We want downtown to continue to flourish.”
Slidebar owner Jeremy Popoff had already convened a group of owners, calling it the “Downtown Restaurant Association.”
Do you see the absurd disconnect? Booming, flourishing business? Sandwiched between the happy horseshit talk are the startling statistics of our downtown, open-air saloon. The police are not only tolerating Crazytown, a situation they admit they can’t control, they are aiding-and-abetting it. Why? We certainly know that some bar owners like Popoff are politically connected – his place operates without the CUP the City legally requires of a night club. Then there are the recurring and disturbing stories about cops getting free food and drink at some of these bars – like Popoff’s place. These are stories that nobody has denied.
So are the cops just trying to make the best of a bad situation, or has the culture of the department finally become as gin-pickled with downtown booze as the rest of the City political establishment? I believe the department has enjoined a pretty sick symbiotic relationship with the downtown culture. And notice how the good ladies of MADD, the FPDs 5th Column, have never been mobilized against this massive affront to sober driving? Coincidence? I think not.
It’s obvious that there is zero political will from our city council to do a damn thing about the problem they created over the years. Just the reverse, in fact. Notice how our council unanimously agreed to carving up downtown among five separate council districts so as to dilute the influence of actual voters in that undeniable “community of interest?” The ballot statement supporting that mess was written by none other than our Lobbyist-Mayor, Jennifer Fitzgerald. Hmm.
As for Popoff, he can join with his fellow merchants of martinis and call themselves a”restaurant association;” they can pretend to play nice even while they are racking up ever-lengthening lists of police calls; what they can’t do, at least now that people are finally paying attention, is pretend that their operations aren’t draining financial resources from the average Fullerton family and putting it in their own bank accounts.
The annual downtown fiscal deficit to the taxpayer is well over a $1,500,000 – that’s ten bucks for every man, woman and child in Fullerton; somehow business is booming – but not the City’s General Fund.
And now, returning to the “article” cited, above: let’s have our new amigo, Mr. Gregg Honour, the control-your-bars consultant, whose attention has been drawn to downtown Fullerton and to FFFF, take us home:
Gregg Hanour, former owner of the Shark Club in Costa Mesa and author of “A Business Approach to Reducing Drunk Driving,” said police departments typically conduct undercover stings to build a case to remove a troubled bar.
“You’re lucky,” he told the bar owners. “Your police department wants to work with you.”
It is often said that nature abhors a vacuum. I think government ineptitude and corruption does, too. For a void created in the latter case attracts all sorts of opportunists looking to get ahead. Just consider the Gennaco affair for a moment: an out-of-control police department and a city government that wanted it to stay that way, called on the “professional” services of Michael Gennaco to make sure nothing was done at all.
The other day our crack team of investigators discovered that a fellow named Gregg Hanour had made public records requests for police calls to two of downtown Fullerton’s fine dining establishments night clubs – Bourbon Street and our old friends at Slidebar Rock ‘N Roll Something-or-other. Mr. Hanour is a former bar owner who now makes it his business to explore ways in which bars can quit annoying the municipalities in which they are located, abide by the permits that let them operate, and control their rowdy and inebriated customers, etc. Apparently, one of the main strategies offered by Mr. Hanour is to get bartenders to quit serving alcohol to drunks.
Downtown Fullerton must occupy a bunch of Hanour’s business development resources, given the completely out-of-control booze and barf culture that appertains. Good God! Just look at these two rap sheets:
Of course we are all familiar with the Slidebar and its checkered history. What most people in Fullerton don’t realize is that Slidebar is currently operating illegally as a night club. That’s right. This establishment has no conditional use permit, and every time something untoward goes on there a tremor of fear should pass through the City’s Risk Management Department. That’s because the City has intentionally looked the other way while Slidebar and it’s politically connected owner Jeremy Popoff keep the doors open and the drink flowing.
The real possibility of injury or assault or worse is evident in the long list of police calls to this bar. Can the City be held responsible for the consequences of letting this place run without the necessary permits? I don’t know. Shall we ask the City Attorney?
According to the City of Fullerton’s website the City Attorney is looking for an “independent person” to investigate the activities of our City Manager, Joe Felz. Here’s the PSA:
Now in the first place, the idea of of our mush-mouth City Attorney employing anybody not willing and able to deliver the right verdict on the events of Wednesday morning, November 9th, is ridiculous; but really, an independent “person?” Attorney Jones’s gardener? His CPA? His car detailer?
Seriously, though, the hiring of an investigator by the City and calling him (or her) independent is a complete farce. For there is a fundamental conflict of interest here, just as there is for the Fullerton Police Department to investigate their own boss. I can see it, you can see it. Probably even comically ardent FPD supporters like Chaffee, Flory and Fitzgerald can see it. But unlike us, they don’t care.
The truth of what I’m saying is pretty evidently contained within the facts of this situation: it is not a personnel matter. Joe Felz was driving home from a series of private parties in Downtown Fullerton’s Liquor Row. He was not on duty, he was not engaged in any official capacity. He was just a guy fidgeting with wires under his dashboard who ran off the road, knocked over a tree, churned up some dirt with spinning tires, moved on down the road a bit, was interviewed by the cops, was given an okie-dokie by them, was driven home by them, and was tucked into bed.
What does any of this have to do with Mr. Felz’s job as City Manager?