How Much Mixed-Use Do We Need?

Looking Askance at the “Need” Argument

If you build it…

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…)

Amerige Court Becomes Amerige Commons

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…)

Joe Felz Sure Knows How to Pick ‘Em

Nicole Bernard
Nicole Bernard

Without comment (for now), and with emphasis and typing as originally delivered, I present a letter that was delivered from Anonymous City Staff;

“November 11, 2016
Taxpayers, Council Members, City Staff, and concerned parties:

What would you do if you were made aware of a city employee who has caused numerous issues affecting the city including: failing to perform her job, creating a hostile work environment causing several city staff to quit and causing others to file complaints with the Manager and Human Relations Department, taking advantage of her close relationship with the your city manager, illegally allowing a Chevron lobbyist to conduct in-private hiring / personnel interviews with city applicants, illegal and inappropriate use of her city credit card to purchase among other things food and drinks for her personal and private enjoyment, stealing tax payer money by attending private functions on city time, ignoring calls and emails from business ·developers and others (who she doesn’t like or benefit from), purposely not setting up her city voicemail in an effort to avoid having to return calls from anyone, not being held accountable for official complaints sent in by non-city and city persons, constantly showing up late, constantly leaving early, not even understanding her job (however she recently started telling people she is the Assistant City Manager so maybe she does have authority to commit all of these actions regardless of the financial and other carnage.) Other areas of interest will be listed in the remainder of this letter. Will you ignore all of this or do something about it? Some of you may be aware of these issues or may have heard bits and pieces but you may not know the extent of the issues caused by Ms. Nicole Bernard.

But the question is, why has she been receiving all this preferential treatment under the protection of the City Manager even though H.R. is aware of it? Some believe it is because of her oddly close relationship with City Manager Joe Felz. Later it will be explained just how odd this relationship is. To use Ms. Bernard’s words, “I get what I want.” Is there some inappropriate personal relationship, does she have something she has been holding over the City Manager’s head from her time in Redevelopment where a lot of money was involved in their budget, was there some deal made on bringing in certain businesses to the city, or is it he just has a certain fondness for Nicole? Several employees mentioned a time when Ms. Bernard told of rumors emanating that she and the city manager are having an affair and how other staff members questioned their relationship because of the promotions she keeps receiving She should not be having this type of conversation with any employee. But what if the rumor is true or is there some other reason she keeps getting promoted with ridiculous amounts of salary increases? As of today, Ms. Bernard makes an obscene amount of money, but by the end of the 2018 contract, she will make $145,000 plus 35% in benefits equaling about $195,000 per year which is the same as the City’s Human Resources Director.

Staff, including Directors, have stated there must be incriminating evidence she has on the city manager or they are sleeping together due to the promotion, which accompanied a large pay increase. Many people know she does not know her job and does not perform well. Complaints are continuously received against her for her lack of response to phone calls and emails from developers, individuals and companies. In fact, if you call her office phone number she does not have a voice message or name attached to her phone number. When asked the reason for not having her voice mail set up, her reply is that she doesn’t want to return anyone’s call and wants to hide in her office because she is far too busy. We are confident that if her previous Redevelopment co-workers were queried they would provide interesting insight to her work ethic and how she tries to pawn her work off onto them by way of her using her current title as a means of intimidation, as if this will accomplish her doing less and them doing more. This is poor customer service and a tactic to avoid people and accountability. She shirks her responsibilities. Her co-workers are unjustly compensated for the quantity of work they perform in comparison to her. Each can easily outperform her and do it well but they do not receive their fair share of compensation. She receives much more, very unfair and disparate.

She has stated that she caters specifically to the Korean community as this is Fullerton’s future and she will devote as much as she needs in order to bring their business to the city because that is where the money is and, “that’s what she is about.” She stated something along the line, “…they (Koreans) get the vip treatment from me but don’t get me wrong I am not a Korean lover and I don’t have to live here so I don’t care how many of them come in”. Is this the way Fullerton conducts business? Are there preferred ethnicities for city services? This sounds quite discriminatory and coming from an individual who has their own personal agenda. Oddly, since her latest promotion as Assistant to the City Manager or as Ms. Bernard puts it to outside colleagues, “Assistant City Manager”, she chooses the ethnicities that seem most lucrative but for her personal gain. She brings in Korean businesses, is recognized for this one portion of her job, and receives an obscene salary. So on one hand she uses the business owners but does not like Koreans?

(more…)

An Ominous Cloud Forms Over The New Community Center

Oops! The new Fullerton Community Center opens up tomorrow, but this news alert might put a damper on the festivities. It turns out the state has rejected redevelopment funding for the project even though it’s already been completed, meaning the city’s troubled general fund may be on the hook for an extra $19 million that it does not have.

It looks like a generation of reckless redevelopment spending has led us to a very dark place.

RDA Woes Trigger Fullerton, Calif., Downgrade

Friday, October 5, 2012 | as of 12:53 PM ET

Standard & Poor’s downgraded Fullerton largely based on California’s rejection of its recognized obligation payment schedule for the city’s role as successor agency to its former redevelopment agency.

California cities could elect to become the successor agency to their RDAs after legislation dissolving the agencies went into effect early this year.

S&P lowered the city’s long-term rating to AA-minus from AA and assigned a negative outlook to lease revenue bonds issued by the Fullerton Public Financing Authority.

Standard & Poor’s also lowered its long-term and underlying ratings to AA-minus from AA on Fullerton Redevelopment Agency certificates of participation and the city’s previously issued revenue bonds.

“The negative outlook reflects what we view as the city’s exposure to previously state-rejected redevelopment projects which, if not approved, could affect Fullerton’s credit fundamentals in the future,” analysts said in the report. “In addition, city officials estimate some continued structural imbalance in the general fund, despite some previous budget reductions to offset historical revenue declines.”

A portion of the disputed bond proceeds has not been spent, but $22 million was used to build the city’s community center.

The state rejected that as a valid redevelopment project because the city, as opposed to its redevelopment agency, had signed the contracts with the developer as was the city’s practice pre-dissolution, according to the report.

The city has resubmitted its request to the state Department of Finance, but if it rejected again, the city could be on the hook for $19 million.

However, city officials told analysts that it would use reserve money from the city’s general fund to cover the bond payments.

Analysts credited Fullerton for continuing to budget appropriate amounts in the general fund to fund both its Series 2010A bonds, which were backed by federal subsidies that now may not be available, and on the COPs issued for the RDA.

The 2010A debt was issued as federally taxable recovery zone economic development bonds. The city has budgeted for the full cost of payments on the bonds regardless of whether it receives the federal subsidy.

Jan Flory’s Poisoned Park

Maybe it was the fumes…

Just the other day Fullerton City Council candidate Jan Flory was heard to remark about needed reform: protecting the poor, underpaid and overworked city staff that used to bring her all those important projects when she was “on council” right after the last ice age.

Well here’s a staff-driven project that her beloved staff dumped on her and which she happily voted for: The Poisoned Park.

Don’t go there…

We did a whole series on this fiasco that you can read about here and here. In a nutshell, the City bought contaminated property from the Union Pacific Railroad on West Truslow for a community park. Forget the basic fact that nobody in the neighborhood wanted a park, let alone a gang hang out; the land was there and a private party wanted to buy it.

Fullerton’s stellar bureaucracy led by Susan Hunt (Parks Director), Bob Hodson (City Engineer), Jaim Armstrong (City Manager), Gary Chalupsky (Redevelopment Director), and Paul Dudley (Planning) just couldn’t get in the way of a pending deal fast enough. The City steeped in and bought the land for over a million bucks, then they built their park. More millions spent. All approved by Jan Flory.

And then disaster. It transpires that there was a toxic flume under the site. A fence was set up around the offending park and it remains closed to this day, over ten years after it was purchased, falling into decay. Nobody had ever bothered to to a proper environmental assessment and make the sale contingent upon its results.

The Poisoned Park may well be the exemplar of an incompetent collection of boobs from whom no accountability was ever demanded and from whom none was ever delivered.

But to Jan Flory’s “lights” these are the “heart of the City.” Hmm.

 

 

Municipal Redevelopment Arrogance: A Common Scourge

Sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Like the case in Philly where a local businessman may be sued by the Redevelopment Agency for cleaning up trash and beautifying a piece of blighted Agency-owned property that they willfully refused to clean up. So ths guy spends 20 big ones of his own dough since the City blatantly ignored its own mess, and is now looking at a potential lawsuit – a lawsuit some asshole city bureaucrat says is based on “principle.” Principle. Now that’s a scream.

What’s really funny is that if the city had done the work it would have cost twenty times as much and taken ten times longer.

Of course apologists of Fullerton’s former Redevelopment Agency (you know who they are) would be quick to point out is that this sort incompetence and arrogance  never happened in Fullerton; Fullerton Redevelopment folks were  just so darned…well… you know.

But consider this: Fullerton has had a long and inglorious Redevelopment history that includes building, then demolishing concrete trestles along Harbor, giving away a public sidewalk to a politically connected apaign contributor, subsidizing dozens of boondoggles, supporting architectural design Nazi-ism, stealing an old lady’s property to give to a car dealer, and nasty little sales tax kick backs from Redevelopment funds – all done to promote more tax revenue to pay for pensions, League of City junkets, and all those inevitable step pay increases for the gang.

A final thought: even though Redevelopment is supposedly dead in California you can bet the farm (if they don’t steal it for High Speed Rail) that the lobbyists are busy at work in Sacramento trying to revive it, and that local mall fry politicians and local political wannabes are real eager for it to come back.

Why not? It’s fun and it isn’t their money.

Jan Flory Talks About Sex and Water

Correct. We do not want you to discuss sexy issues.

Okay this post is not about Jan Flory discussing anything remotely “sexy” because the thought of that…well, never mind.

The post is about her latest Facebook scribblings in which she opines on a subject near and dear to the hearts of Fullerton reformers: the illegal 10% tax on your water that the City collected for the past 15 years. $27,000,000 worth.

First I’ll start by stating what you could have already guessed. Jan Flory does not want you to get a refund of the theft. In her world-order the taxpayers are meant to be milked, not refunded.

Her assertion that the collection was “illegal” the past three year is a bad lawyer’s half-truth that amounts to a bald-faced lie, of course. It has been illegal for 15 years, six of them on her watch as a council person. The City has a legal opinion that it is only obligated to refund three-year’s worth of the theft. Not the same thing, is it? Of course Mrs. Flory is desperate to disassociate her name with the tax. Too late. She is on record in the 90s as having known it was wrong and doing it anyway.

Mrs. Flory and her ilk love footling committees, especially when they are selected by ozone brains like Jone, Quirk, McKinley and Bankhead. Even better are the “consultants” selected by staff who give them their marching orders. The “report” cooked up by the water rate consultant was so evidently bogus that it hardly needs to be restated. But I will: their goal was to gin up as much phony cost as possible to keep the bureaucrats greedy little fingers on that 10%. Flory may think this gives her cover, and under the old Culture of Corruption it would have. Not any more.

The 10% was expressly collected  to cover specific City staff costs associated with the water utility. However, it turns out that those departments were already charging directly to the Water Fund. Which is why I am happy to refer to the tax as an illegal theft.

And another point: it’s real easy to say that the illegal tax should be refunded to the Water Fund for capital improvements. That’s convenient, but immoral. The tax that was collected had nothing to do with infrastructure. Nothing. True infrastructure costs should be rolled into an effective rate for water transmission, a correction of years of mismanagement by Mrs. Flory and her cohorts that still needs to be done. Confusing these two issues is simply a convenient way for the perpetrators to hide their crime and their dereliction.

Now, let’s address the issue of the reserve funds, a subject that Mrs. Flory wants people to believe she knows something about. There is no need to empty these accounts to pay refunds. No, indeed. I find it remarkably disingenuous for anybody to assert this, especially given just two of City manger Joe Felz’s most recent “cost saving” measures.

First there was the egregious relocation of former Redevelopment personnel into General Fund departments for which they had no apparent expertise. Most recently the City contracted out your graffiti removal services for $120,000. Yay! Big savings, right? Wrong. The city employees were simply reassigned to other  jobs in the Engineering Department that were vacant. Net cost savings? -$120,000.

The City just missed an opportunity to shave a million bucks off its payroll costs. Of course, my point is that the General Fund is far from depleted.

Finally, in closing, I would submit that Mrs. Flory knows more about witching hours than any of us. However, if she doesn’t like staying up that late every other Tuesday night, then she has no business on a city council. And it’s really too bad that the Council is scheduling special meetings to attend to the people’s business.

Mrs. Flory’s little rubber stamp has been put away and locked up.

The Three Empty Pez Dispensers

Looking for brains, courage, a heart.

You know, Larry Bennett really could have just left it alone. After dodging a final, humiliating meeting to certify the recall election that drove them out of office, at least one of the Three Bald Tires finally deigned to show up at Fullerton City Hall tomorrow morning to do the deed. It could have been done quietly with as little fanfare as possible. Actually only one of them even needed to show up.

But no.

Bennett seems to think the Three Dead Batteries need a sendoff appropriate to all the wonderful things these men have done for Fullerton. Friday he notified supporters of the Three Tree Stumps that there was to be a special council meeting, and that he hoped everybody would show up to let them know what terrific public servants they have been.

Bennett has likely spent the week-end making phone calls to drum up some folks willing to say kind thing about the Three Pea-less Pods. No doubt some will show up. And others are likely to show up now, too. People who recognize the disastrous misrule of these three characters:

Yes, I was the king.

Don Bankhead: dumb-bell, and self-annointed king of Fullerton, whose somnolent councilmanic career was punctuated with one Redevelopment boondoggle and union give away after another.

Crazy? Check. Rude? Check. Gone? Check.

Dick Jones, the southern fried lunatic and loud-mouthed bully who never came to understand that the authority to give orders doesn’t confer wisdom – or even relevance.

To all appearances it looked a lot like a street gang.

Pat McKinley: protector and apologist for the undeniable Culture of Corruption in the Fullerton Police Department that he himself had created. Those ladies weren’t like you. Aliens. Don’t rush to judgement.

Well, good bye and good riddance.

The sun had been warm and life was good. But all that changed.

And please take Larry Bennett with you. The tide is rising.

 

 

 

What to Do With Former Redevelopment Employees? How About Pink Slips?

Anybody who reads this blog knows that I have had a running battle with the Fullerton Redevelopments Agency, even going so far as suing the Agency to block its bogus expansion attempt into areas of west and east Fullerton that had no blight. That was just a fraudulent attempt to divert property tax revenue from legitimate recipients.

Now that Redevelopment has been killed off by the Legislature and the Governor, I really have to wonder what has and will become of that small army of government economic planners, boondoggle promoters, bribers, bagmen, design guideline perpetrators, and the rest, whose job it was to gin up sales tax revenue and property tax increment (usually at the expense of somebody else) while dictating land use development in Redevelopment project areas across California.

Lest anybody think I’m just grousing about an abstract problem, consider an article here in the OC Register that points out the exorbitant amount that Fullerton Redevelopment Agency wasted on administration.

Anyway, these folks were in the business of playing developer without taking any of the risks, and with a compliant city council there was never any fear of them being held accountable for their manifest failures.

Some of the former Redevelopment employees will be kept around to close things out. The rest? Who knows? In Fullerton, some of them have already been absorbed into the regular bureaucracy, to be supported by the General Fund – as if these people were simply interchangeable and indispensable parts. The message that move sent to the citizens of Fullerton is a really bad one – that the government has no appetite to shrink, even though a specific purpose has been ended.

 

 

Who Opposes The Recall and Supports Doug Chaffee?

This guy. That’s who.

That would be former Redevelopment Director and big Fullerton pension recipient Gary Chalupsky.

Some may remember Chalupsky for his long string of embarrassing boondoggles and Redevelopment expenditures of questionable legality – like building the Muckenthaler amphitheater which is not even in a Redevelopment project area.

Just type in “Redevelopment” in our search box and knock yourself out. From the Knowlwood fiasco and North Platform smash up to The City Lights debacle and the humiliating Poisoned Park disaster, Chalupsky was there every inept, unaccountable step of the way. For well over ten years. Plenty of time to get vested in CalPERS.

Gary Chalupsky was the guy who proved beyond all doubt that Fullerton was very much for sale. Ever wonder where the 100 East section of Whiting Avenue went? Ask Chalupsky.

Others may also remember this upstanding individual for his phony “retirement” and immediate double-dip that was countenanced by an incompetent council who seemed to think Chalupsky knew what he was doing.

Redevelopment is now thankfully dead. But it feathered a lot of nests along the way.