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…)
Here’s the letter Fitzy wrote to then mayor, Sharon Quirk-Silva:
Naturally, once safely in office this support for looking into possible, maybe someday, perhaps switching to the Sheriff Department at huge cost savings to the taxpayers of Fullerton evaporated like the morning dew on a summer day. Since gaining office Fitzgerald, along with Jan Flory and Doug “Bud” Chaffee have been resolute in their goal that no reform of the Fullerton Police Department take place and that no acknowledgement of any Culture of Corruption could possibly exist.
Some cynics suggested this letter was only meant to call off pro-recall forces; other cynics suggested this was the price Fitzgerald had to pay for Supervisor Shawn Nelson’s endorsement. Probably it was both. Either way the commitment was thinner than the paper it was printed on. And Fitzgerald never mentioned it again.
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.
On the City’s website, right above a news release about an upcoming osteoporosis seminar at the Community Center, we discover that the City Council has unanimously chosen a replacement for Joe Felz. Felz, you will recall, drove off of Glenwood Avenue, ran over a tree, blew a tire and tried to drive away in his crippled vehicle.
Allan Roeder, former City Manger of Costa Mesa, is the replacement, on an interim basis. He is part of a small pool of extremely expensive place holders brought in like bullpen pitchers, when the starter gets into trouble in the late innings. These already pensioned-off fellows go on to rake in enormous second incomes while already collecting their massive CalPers checks every month.
The new guy was hired yesterday in a Special, Behind-Closed-Doors meeting of the City Council.
Why the City needs to pay somebody a hundred grand for a five or six month stint is a question you should ask one of your “unanimous” council who seem to be oblivious to the fact that the City is running massive deficits every year, already. Oh well, it’s not their money, right?
Here is our new Mayor, Bruce Whitaker extolling the virtues of Mr. Roeder:
“We are happy to have someone as established and seasoned as Mr. Roeder to serve our city,” said Fullerton Mayor, Bruce Whitaker. “Allan’s experience will be welcomed at City Hall and he will be a valuable asset to the entire city until we appoint a permanent city manager.”
Now did Mr. Whitaker actually say that? Let’s hope it was a canned quotation put in his mouth by some overpaid “public information officer.” Having Felz around for the past six or seven years is proof positive that from a strictly practical perspective we don’t even need a city manager, and would probably have been a lot better off without the last one we had.
Well, now we have one that can absorb the blame for whatever unfortunate happenstances come our way in the first half of 2017, and be off down the road to the nearest bank.
It is common for government to bury waste carefully, neatly hidden away from the citizens who pay for it. Other times, they shove it right in your face like an ether-soaked rag.
That’s what happened at Chief Danny Hughes’ grand farewell party on November 10th. Fortunately, one neighbor filed an hour-long interactive grievance and shared with us the highlights.
Helicopter overhead, fire engines, barricades, officers, SWAT trucks, oh my!
The cast of characters does not disappoint. Look carefully for the appearance an oblivious “Patdown” Pat “I hired them all” McPension. Watch the FPOA thank Hughes for staying “on course” through “the lowest parts” of FPD history (when their constant misdeeds were finally exposed to the public). Listen to Jan Flory offer a cringe-worthy come-hither to her “Big Boy” Hughes, warn him of the “five-headed beast” that is the city council, and then trumpet her slavish dependence on city staff. Don’t forget to note Stan Berry, the OCDA investigator and FPD buddy boy who was first charged with looking into the Kelly Thomas murder. I’m glad he was able to maintain good relations.
If you were able to retain your lunch through all of that, congratulations. Now think about the hundreds of Fullerton commuters and residents who were caught in the traffic blockades on two major roads during rush hour. The police force parked their equipment and their posteriors in the middle of the roadway for this pointless pomp and circumstance, holding the public and its safety in complete disregard.
Of course the most comic part of this display of flags and armaments (think Soviet May Day parade) is the fact that just two days before, Mr. Integrity ordered his boyz to give City Manager, Joe Felz a free ride home with no Breathalyzer test after having careened though a sleepy Fullerton neighborhood after an evening of partying in the gin mills of downtown Fullerton.
Below is a video from late 2015 featuring Ron Thomas, the father of Kelly Thomas, who had just gotten a massive check courtesy of the taxpayers of Fullerton.
First, enjoy the feeble bleating of “city attorney” Dana Fox who is just soooooo darn glad the settlement bought peace of mind so everybody can “move on,” although, damn, that’s a pretty high price tag. Of course it ain’t coming out of his pocket, or “Patdown” Pat “I hired them all” McKinley’s, or Manuel Ramos’s or Jay Cicinelli’s or Joe Wolfe’s. We picked up the check for this, just like we always have for the FPD Culture of Corruption, and as with all settlements, the public who pays the freight never gets to learn key information – in this case the extent to which Captain Dan Hughes and former Chief McKinley may have helped cover up the mess and perhaps even if there was collusion between the cops and originator of the phony phone call that led to Thomas’s death. Naturally, neither Hughes, Joe Felz, Jennifer Fitzgerald, Jan Flory or Doug “Bud” Chaffee wanted a trial.
And Ron Thomas himself may have wanted to avoid a trial, too, since that would have meant a jury and the general public would have found out that he sold the picture of his broken, comatose son for publication on FFFF – for $1200.
Anyway, at the end of this video you will hear Ron Thomas exclaim that the big settlement is an admission of liability by the City, by which he really meant us taxpayers. He says that’s all he ever wanted. Did that make you feel any better?
And now we pivot just slightly to another video, this one from 2011, wherein Ron Thomas has alerted the media that he is going to donate all of any lawsuit or settlement amount to the homeless.
Now at least we can be satisfied that some good has come out of the Kelly Thomas murder, even if we had to pay for it – $6,000,000 so far, not counting the invoices forwarded by Mssrs. Jones & Meyer, Fox, and of course the ever helpful hazmat clean-up crew run by Michael Gennaco. At least $4.9 million (less Gary Mardirossian‘s giant fee) is being given to homeless programs. Right, Ron?
Sometimes the best Christmas presents are the ones you give yourself. In this case that would be Complaint #PSB16-0048.
See, when you submit a complaint to the FPD about an incident that involves their personnel’s abandonment of policy, they do respond in writing. Here’s the response to the complaint filed by Travis Kiger about the behavior of the FPD cops who dealt with the Joe Felz incident in the early hours of November 9, 2016 in which Felz jumped a Glenwood Avenue Tree, ran over a tree, and attempted to leave the scene of the accident; all we know is that the doughty minions of the law confronted him in some as yet unknown manner, smelled alcohol on his person, declined to give him a Breathalyzer test and drove him home. We also know that the watch commander, the egregious Andrew Goodrich, and the former police chief Danno Hughes were in communication, a fact that most certainly never would have happened had you or I been the motorist. In fact, Goodrich would no doubt have our pictures in the next morning’s early editions.
Now, as to the content of the letter, notice how now the FPD has now decided to do nothinguntil the DA figures out what to do. It’s hard to see how this is anything other than temporizing, given the need to at least pretend to some proactivity on the matter to show the public – in a “timely manner.”
Of course we were also promised some sort of “independent person” report too, by our estimable City Attorney, Dick Jones, that seems to have vanished into the late December air. But a civilian investigation is important too, given what might be an overly charitable adios to Mr. Felz by sympathetic council members.
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?
Enjoy as our Lobbyist-Mayor reads outgoing City Manager Joe Felz’s out-of-a can valediction.
Heartwarming, huh? There is no doubt Ms. Fitzgerald is sorry to see Joe go, but the reasons may have more to do with exercising authority in Fullerton than in any heartfelt sentiment. The important part of this speech, however, is in her description of Felz’s contributions to Fullerton and his legacy. These are important matters to Fitzgerald, as re-writing history always is to politicians.
Note how she credits Felz with bringing Chief Danny on board to “reform” the police department. And how he has masterfully handled the West Coyote Hills shambles, wherein a City government just gives its resident a big fuck you. Even his role in the everlasting Hillcrest Park embarrassment is embellished as some sort of grand victory.
Some people may be forgiven for refusing to accept this self-congratulatory nonsense as they address themselves to some obdurate facts. Such as refusing to reduce personnel, even as Redevelopment was shut down. For outsourcing graffiti removal but keeping the employees on the payroll. For four years of red ink baths to backfill an unbalanced budget. Hiring “Chief Danny?” The man who denied the obvious Culture of Corruption in the FPD. The man who claims to have watched the Kelly Thomas video 400 times, and who let the goons who killed him compare notes and re-write their reports? The man who promoted the only target of the Gennaco report – Goodrich. The man who covered up Felz’s Wild Ride Home on his next to last day of work? Is this supposed to be some sort of sick joke?
And yet for us citizens, no word on what really happened in the early morning of November 9th 2016; no word on what sort of “ongoing criminal investigation” is being pursued, if any; no word on what, if anything the DA has been asked to review.
Well, don’t worry Friends. We will be pursuing the details of Felz’s departure to see what sort of specifics may have been memorialized. And we will not give up getting those cop video records of the night when our former City Manager drove off the road, tried to get away from the scene of an accident, was stopped by the cops, and then given both a pass and a free ride home.
One of our well-placed sources in the City administration has informed us that on-leave City Manager, Joe Felz will be quitting permanently soon, even as conversations now spin around who will replace Felz. Is this true? It has the ring of truth to it.
Speaking of spinning, Felz spun off the Glenwood Avenue in the early morning hours of November 9th, ran over a tree and tried to drive away. The cops on hand smelled alcohol but for reasons that have not yet been revealed, administered no breathalyzer test and instead drove Felz home.
The City Attorney has been trying to protect Felz with illegal bogus claims of “personnel matters,” so that excuse would soon be gone if Felz flees the scene. Then there’s the matter of the rather bizarre “ongoing criminal investigation,” that some folks reasonably think is nothing but another dodge to avoid releasing incriminating video and audio records that were made when the cops arrived at the crash scene. No one has even bothered to explain to the public what possible crimes were committed, or who may have committed them. And of course our City Council members have not expressed any curiosity about that, either. Sooner or later our mush-mouth City Attorney is going to have to admit a big problem with his “criminal investigation” yarn, to wit: nobody was arrested that night. No evidence of drunk driving was collected. We don’t even know if a citation was issued.
When Felz goes, he will save the the taxpayers the cost of that so-called “independent person investigation” that the City Attorney thoughtfully cooked up to stall and obfuscate the matter. If so, it will be the one and only time Felz ever saved the taxpayers anything, and that going out the door.
Of course the open question is this: what sort of windfall will be offered by our ever-helpful council to grease the skids of Felz’s departure? If he quits he won’t get his guaranteed payola, but the circumstances of his Wild Ride may make that a moot point.
Whatever happens, rest assured, we will told as little as possible, as late as possible.