Sustainable Design

Sustainable Design is the philosophy of designing buildings to comply with the principles of economic, social, and ecological sustainability. There is very little sustainable design in Fullerton, mostly due to the lack of vision by the city and its favored developers.

Will Fullerton Go Green? No

On tonight’s Planning Commission agenda there’s an item titled “Planning Commission Position on Green Building”. This should be fun to watch. I’ll make anyone a bet that the Planning Commission decides to send a letter to the city council recommending to NOT mandate Green Building standards. Stay tuned!

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Being Dick Jones; Excessively Intellectually Unattractive

Friends, re-enjoy this Hee Haw blast from the past. Colonel Cornpone’s bloviations never cease to amuse.

- Joe Sipowicz

Dear Friends, we have reached way back into the dusty corners of our video archives and have retrieved this gem – an unedited rant by our own beloved eccentric on the Fullerton City Council, Mr. Dick Jones. Last fall some of Fullerton’s middle-brows got bent out of shape because we went to the trouble of patching together clips of Jones’ fulminations and actually elevated his crazy diatribe into high art. So here we present him in his own, unvarnished syntactical glory!

The project that Dick Jones is ranting about was a housing/re-use proposal for the old Kohlenberger/Morehouse building on Commonwealth. Housing and preservation, good goals, right?

See if you can slice though the chicken-fried blather coating this brainless bluster and find any substance.

Pea-brained, parochial, pitiful. Is this really the best Fullerton can do?

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“Would you support our efforts to make our neighborhood historic?”

I received this post from a Friend who wishes to remain anonymous for reasons that you may understand after you read this post.

Think historic neighborhoods. Immediately, one’s mind goes to such places such as Bungalow Heaven in Pasadena, Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia and others where houses, landscape, and layout reflect a distinct architectural coherence.

What we don’t think of is the hodgepodge of homes built over a span of more than fifty years within the boundaries of Skyline, Frances, Luanne, Canon and Lemon here in Fullerton. True, the neighborhood has a sort of charm. But this four block area (oddly denuded of trees) doesn’t fit the definition as historic.

Yet, for over twenty years, this neighborhood has been besieged by a small but persistent group to designate itself as such. The original movement came about when a neighbor (who has since moved away) decided the mix of 60’s ranch homes, 30’s Spanish Mediterranean  and 80’s boxes needed to be protected.

Why? Because the empty lot behind her house, which she had enjoyed as her own personal open space, was going to have a house built upon it.  This led to a movement asking for historical designation, with one very vociferous neighbor putting out a letter decrying such crimes as pink flamingos in yards. It ended when a flock of roving pink flamingos went from yard to yard, to rebuke this snobbishness. It was clear then, as it is now, that the historic designation is more to control everything from the color of homes, the installation of skylights, solar panels, to pink flamingos in yards.

In more recent years, the issue was raised again when a member of the Fullerton Heritage group moved into the neighborhood.  This woman could often be seen taking photographs of her neighbor’s homes. She personally crossed the boundaries of neighborliness by posting a photo of one on their website as an example of “muddled and conflicted” architecture. Battle axes were raised when during a neighborhood meeting, an argument ensued. This busybody sat in the back, mute –rendering herself all but invisible. At no point did she offer any explanation why this issue meant so much to her that she was willing to pit neighbor against neighbor.

The reasons for not wanting this ridiculous designation are simple.

1.     There’s no consistent architectural coherence in the boundaries of Lemon, Skyline, Frances, Luanne and Canon. While there are individual examples of historically significant architectural styles, as a neighborhood – it lacks consistency and coherence.

2. It would give Fullerton Heritage – and the City Planning Department far too much power over our neighborhood. Note, they already have ultimate veto power over designs submitted to the city for everything from new development to remodeling in other neighborhoods designated as a historical zone. In one neighborhood, they vetoed the homeowner’s request to install a skylight. Such oversight is petty, and subject to the changing whims of the board.

3. This will lead to more “fake old” McSpanish architecture. Another uninformed member of the Fullerton Heritage group noted at a meeting at Hillcrest Park that she thought the predominant style in the neighborhood should be “Spanish Mediterranean,” whatever that means.

4.     The $1000 fee for the designation doesn’t even begin to cover the costs of actual staff time. In addition, this doesn’t cover the costs of ordered revisions by the owner’s architects or engineers. Fees like this are never gotten rid of, rather, the fee could be raised and the neighborhood would have no control over the amount they have to pay.

5.     The city of Fullerton has a permit process already in place. This is an added layer of bureaucracy with not only more additional staff time needed, but oversight from an outside organization (Fullerton Heritage).

6.     A small cadre of neighbors has already been vociferous to the point of rudeness about things they don’t like: the color of a neighbor’s home, plantings, flamingos, and more. Worse, their gossip has hit people in ways that have become personal. While we realize they are voicing their opinion, we’d hate to give them permission to authorize or disapprove on any official level.

At some point one must work with and trust the neighbors.  Most of the neighbors who support this notion have lived in the area for 40 years without the intervention of the city. Why they think they should leave future generations with a law to be enforced long after they have enjoyed their own latitude –is for reasons of ego.  While the notion of a historic neighborhood seems appealing, in reality it is cumbersome, vague and will leave future homeowner’s with no choice but to deal with more government and bureaucracy. It was clear twenty years ago as it is now:  these people need to get a life.

All we can do is work with one another, and be neighborly but not meddlesome.

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News Flash From Hillcrest Park Pals

On Saturday morning from 9:00 to noon, the City of Fullerton and landscape architect Mia Leher will present two alternative master plans for the restoration/preservation of Hillcrest Park. The meeting is open to the public and will be held at the picnic pavilion near the recreation center.

Mia Lehrer

Recently the north hill of Hillcrest Park was raped of it’s natural grade and historic landscape. For those of you that don’t know, the city of Fullerton Landmarks Commission is required by law to review and approve (or disapprove) of any changes to local and/or National Historic Landmarks. Hillcrest Park is both. To this day, the Fullerton Landmarks Commission has never addressed the issue of the Lyons Field renovation which included the north hill of Hillcrest Park.

This may be the last chance for real public input. If you want to be heard, the time is NOW. Please show up at the meeting on Saturday. If you can’t make it, you can still join Hillcrest Park Pals by sending an email to: HILLCRESTPARKPALS@GMAIL.COM.

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Coyote Hills Brouhaha; Tonight at 5:00

Tonight we have the first of a two-meeting public hearing at City Hall to discuss West Coyote Hills.  Actually, after reading tonight’s agenda, it looks like council just might clear the way for the bulldozers.  If you have something to say to the council members, tonight’s your chance, just show up early.

If Councilman Shawn Nelson wins the 4th Supervisorial District race, we will have three council seats to fill in November.  Tonight’s meeting could be the nail in the political coffin for some of council members no matter how they vote.  West Coyote Hills isn’t new to City Hall and it has been a hot-button issue for environmentalists and residents in La Habra and Fullerton for decades.  There are those who see an opportunity to generate desperately needed tax revenue while others see their open spaces shrinking and pollution growing.  Whichever side of the fence you are on, I think we can all agree that this has been one political football that has been fumbled for far too long.  There are pros and cons to this development just like any other.

The meeting is scheduled for 5PM in the council chambers (303 W. Commonwealth Ave.).  As I mentioned, it will be a full house, standing room only, so show up early to get your chance to either support or oppose the development.

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Fullerton Decision-makers Lied To. So What’s New?

Last year just before Christmas the Fullerton City Council voted 3-1 to approve the idiotic Richman housing project, a staff-driven boondoggle that makes zero planning, housing, or economic sense. We wrote about it here.

We also wrote about the review of the same fiasco-in-the-making by the Planning Commission here, in which we lauded Commissioner Bruce Whitaker for his solitary stance in opposing it. As the YouTube clip shows, Whitaker objected on economic grounds citing the project’s dubious fiscal foundation.

This position was immediately questioned by Commissioner Lansburg who inquired about it of the city attorney, Tom Duarte:

Commissioner Lansburg: is it within the Commission’s purview to look at this from a financial standpoint or are we only to look at this from a planning standpoint?

The city attorney Mr. Duarte answered: In the commissions purview its a land use issue, the city council will look at the financial impact.

Well, the project was passed by a Commission majority, with only Whitaker dissenting.

Subsequently Commission Chairman Dexter Savage addressed the following  communication to staff, seeking clarification of the issue.

And now, Lo and Behold, the issue has been agendized by the City Council; and just look at staff’s response: economic considerations are indeed within the purview of a planning commission in many respects, and are nowhere prohibited.

This response begs  several questions. Why did the city’s attorney misinform the commission? Is he incompetent, or was he motivated to press the approval of a project near and dear to the hearts of the city staff, without any reference to the law.

Why did the staff present like (John Godlewski) not correct him? He countersigned the above memorandum contradicting Duarte, yet was at the meeting and said nothing.

The facts can really only be interpreted in one way. Both the attorney and staff were more interested in the approval of the project, no matter how bad, than in the service of the public interest, or the truth, or the law.

Now the entire matter has been brought to the City Council for its enlightenment as agenda item #16 at the January 19, meeting. But it’s really to late for the Richman project – a Redevelopment/housing staff concocted project that has all the tell-tale signs of a disaster in the making.

And Friends: there you have it.

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Another Disaster in the Making

How come our electeds don’t seem to be able to grasp simple concepts; why have they no resistance to the bureaucratic sales pitch; why must they obscure their own ignorance in a cloud of asinine nonsense or outright lies?

If it was hard we couldn't do it!

If it was hard we couldn't do it!

Last Tuesday night the Fullerton City Council/Redevelopment Agency approved the idiotic Richman housing project, a staff-concocted, no-bid, pet project that proposes to subsidize ownership of condos. The vote was 3-1, Sharon Quirk-Silva, dissenting. Shawn Nelson took a powder.

Why is this project idiotic? First we believe that the ownership of a house is something that should be available equally, and not doled out by the government to its own selected recipients.

Second, the units in this project will have to be perpetually restricted to people whose income levels qualify. Perfect: perpetual housing bureaucracy! The necessary deed restrictions are a pretty significant encumbrance and will just add to the financial shakiness of the whole enchilada. But without these restrictions the original buyers would be in line for a massive windfall courtesy of all of us, when they sell.

A third point, as was admirably developed by Sharon Quirk-Silva, the proposed occupancy restrictions would very likely  disqualify people who need housing the most. Which leads to the fourth point. These units will not count against Fullerton’s most neglected RHNA category – low and very low income. Which leads to:

Five. Dick Jones claimed that approving  the Richman project is required to satisfy some legal mandate - it is THE LAW. That’s just a tin-plated, bald-faced lie. The SCAG RHNA allocations are goals, not a legal mandate. Cities are required by the State HCD to provide evidence of programs used to achieve those goals – not specific projects. And, in any case hypocritically, this project does not address the most urgent RHNA category of all which means that for folks who profess to really like this sort of thing, an opportunity has been lost.

Finally, FFFF has tried to promote better, more sustainable design in government-subsidized projects. And this project just promises more of the same old architectural crap we’ve been getting all along.

And now that we contemplate this fiasco, we feel the need for a last minute adendum to the Fringie Worst Vote category.

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The Questionable Promise of Technology

See? We told you it would work...

See? We told you it would work...

Using computers to arrange and sort data is useful for all sorts of things - especially when in comes to creating three dimensional imagery. Nobody can deny the impact of presenting scanned data for medical diagnostic purposes; or the use of scaled multi-disciplinary construction models that can simulate a 3D environment: very useful for ascertaining “clashes” between different trades as well as presenting the architect and client with views of his proposed effort.

But despite the technology drum beater’s boosterism (think laptops for kids, FSD style) there reaches a point in every computer application where the information is either too dense or voluminous to be assimilated or analyzed by those looking at it; or is just plain non-effective compared to traditional approaches; or worst, lends itself to misinterpretation or deliberate misrepresentation. This point of diminishing returns is reached quickest when the recipients of data just don’t know what to do with it. When that occurs they’re bound to do something bad with it.

Such may very well be the case with a City of Fullerton program that promises to create a three dimensional model of downtown Fullerton. We received an e-mail the other day from Al Zelinka, who works for the Planning Department. We point out that Mr. Zelinka is very careful to explain that the pilot program is being paid for by SCAG, not the City (where SCAG got the money is obviously not a point of interest for Mr. Zelinka, or, presumably, us).

First, we are inevitably forced to ask why. Who will benefit from the necessary resources plowed into such a program? It’s hard to answer.  And who will be able to use the information? We can envisage all sorts of staff (and consultant)  time going into creating maintaining and manipulating such data; and then the inevitable jargon and rhetoric tossed back to the public to foist staff driven projects onto the public. The Council: aha! See? The 3D model supports (fill in the name of the Redevelopment Agency’s favored project).

Perhaps the most important question is whether, once the model is done, it needs to be tended and updated by the City. If not, the effort going into seems to be something of a waste.

In any case the public are invited to a meeting on December 16th @ 6 PM in the Council Chambers to see the wonders of 3D modeling. No doubt all of our questions will be answered with sparkling clarity.

At the bottom of his e-mail Mr. Zelinka (AICP) includes a quotation that ought to give pause to even the biggest Planning Department cheerleader:

“Dedicated to Making a Difference.”

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir [women's and] men’s blood….” – Daniel Burnham

Ay, ay, ay!

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Bruce Whitaker Sharpens Axe, Eyes Giant Turkey

Redevelopment brand turkey...

If it walks like a turkey and gobbles like a turkey...

Here’s a great youtube clip showing Fullerton Friend and Planning Commissioner Bruce Whitaker argue against the ridiculous Richman housing project that intends to provide enormously subsidized houses to people.

This “project” has waddled and gobbled along for quite some time, the darling of the Redevelopment staff who conceived, concocted, and cajoled this thing, with their specially selected McSpanish “dee-veloper,” of course.

Anyway, watch Bruce W. in action; and be sure to stay tuned for a separate post we will be doing on the lame clownery of Bruce’s fellow planning commissioners who will do almost anything to avoid looking out for the interests of the citizens and residents of Fullerton.

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Give It Back. Now.

We received an e-mail the other day from a Friend calling herself “Lady Artist.” It was a good letter and it made some excellent points so we agreed to publish it.

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Didn't they put a moustache on the Mona Lisa?

The City of Fullerton has proven to be a faithless custodian of a modern architectural gem. I have come to the conclusion that the best fate of the building that has come to be known as the Hunt Branch Library is to give it back to the Norton Simon Foundation or, at least to someone who will appreciate it.

William Pereira designed this building in concert with a larger, integrated development; a site plan that included the Hunt Administration Building and coordinated landscape that included a reflecting pool and ”floating”  concrete slabs and steps. Over the years the property has been partitioned by a fence, the reflecting pool filled in by its new owners, with new and comically bad architecture burdening the site. Perhaps most insulting of all, the City has put a “bark park” on the grounds next to the library.

A bark park. Great for dogs, insulting for a work of art. Unless by art you mean a group of dogs playing poker.

In the eyes of the beholder...

Fullertonians may not know art, but they know what they like.

I believe that almost anybody would be  a more reliable guardian of this building than the City has shown itself to be. The homeless people who camp out under the extended roof seem to appreciate it more than the City does.

I also believe the present location for a branch library couldn’t be worse. It is not well known, and frankly, I question the number of users claimed by the Library itself in its annual counts. Why continue to fund a branch library at this near-hidden location when neither north nor east Fullerton have branch libraries at all; not to mention that the existence of the Hunt Branch would probably come as a complete surprise to most west Fullerton denizens? But these are separate issues in themselves, and I digress.

For years I’ve heard all this weeping and wailing about how Fullerton could have had the Norton Simon Museum. Why mourn that? Fullerton doesn’t deserve it. Never did. The inescapable evidence is on display at the Hunt Branch every day of the year. 

Let’s give it back to Norton Simon, with our thanks; and our apologies for not recognizing the architectural legacy that he gave us.

Thank you, Lady Artist, for a thought-provoking piece.

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