Posts Tagged Hillcrest Park
How about a taxpayer-subsidized McFullerton to compete with non-subsidized local eateries. It’s Fullerton. it’s Redevelopment. It’s not impossible.
Seriously, could our city council really be contemplating a commercial restaurant in Hillcrest Park as part of the new Master Plan?
Well, why not? They’ve shown a total disregard for the park an historic resource over the years; for the Community Services Department Hillcrest Park “revitalization” has merely been an exploitation opportunity over the years, much as Downtown Fullerton has been for the Redevelopment Agency employees. So why not?
When it’s Fullerton’s Hillcrest Park, of course. Then it’s a resource of a different kind: an opportunity for City Staff to play upon the sentimentality of Fullerton’s park and history lovers to destroy the very resource that is ostensibly being saved.
They did it 15 years ago and they are doing it again.
I went to Saturday’s latest public meeting to “save the park” and witnessed something quite remarkable. Just like last time the City staff has employed a consultant to remake the park in its own desired form, replete with new facilities it can market or operate, while ignoring the true needs of the old girl.
But this time the ludicrousness of the whole operation became apparent immediately. A representative of the landscape architect hired to foist the exploitative plan informed us all what was wrong with Hillcrest Park. It has bad chi. And all these years we just thought it was neglect by the parks and police departments. Chi. Hmm.
So what’s the solution to clean up the chi and get things all aligned, nice and proper?
A restaurant, for one thing, down by the duck pond; and a new park entrance; new retaining walls along the Brea Creek and an abandonment of the interior roadways might just get that troublesome chi back in balance, we were informed.
Ye Gods! Chi. What’s next, park feng shui?
I don’t know how much we’re paying these yahoos to further destroy our park, but I’ll bet it’s a lot. And I’ll also bet that Redevelopment money is picking up at least part of the tab. And ultimately the only way to pay to comprehensively destroy this historic resouce is to use big piles of Redevelopment money to do it. Redevelopment destroying historic resources. That’s not a new theme.
Hillcrest Park is on the National Register of Historic places but nobody seems to treat it like it were. Only last year the City embarked on massive alterations to the north slope of the park without review by the Landmarks Commission.
Well, good luck Hillcrest. And in the meantime may the chi be with you.
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.
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.
If you’ve driven along Brea Boulevard lately you will have noticed that the north hill side of Hillcrest Park has been completely scraped as part of the so-called Lions Field improvements. Well, the hillside was suffering from total (and I mean complete) negligence on the part of the City for decades. What is being built, are large retaining structures to “stabilize” the slope. The only problem is that what the slope needed to stabilize it was appropriate landscaping – a solution that the parks Department ignored for years.
The addition of retaining structures in the park is inappropriate. More than that, it’s illegal. Hillcrest Park is a designated Fullerton Landmark (#6) and as such the types of alteration being proposed should have been reviewed in a public hearing by the Landmarks Commission. This never happened. It’s true that Hillcrest Park doesn’t fit into any of the categories included in the watered-down version of the Landmarks Ordinance passed by the City about 12 years ago. But adherence to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards is one key. Another issue is that of demolition and replacement of historic elements. Even the watered down code has a spirit that has not been observed.
Once again the City has ignored its own laws, laws that you or I would be expected to follow. It has specifically ignored the Landmark Ordinance once again, a part of the Zoning Code that the City has habitually and serially abused over the years (if you want I’ll make a list).
For years the City has turned over the park to pervs and low-lifes while ignoring the historic built environment. And now it seems they are embarked on another form of abuse of an historic resource.
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.
In the year 1992 Fullerton’s City Manager Bill Winter was just about out of gas. He had been running on fumes for quite a while and figured it was time to rest on his threadbare laurels. He could also see the handwriting on the wall. A practical cipher, he had let Hugh Berry run the city and the Redevelopment Agency. A culture of permissiveness obtained at City hall during his tenure. Things were about to change – but not for the better.
The Council hired James L. Armstrong to replace Winter. He had been in Anaheim as an Assistant City Mananger and had also done a term at Hanford located somewhere out in the miasma of the San Joaquin Valley.
Armstrong arrived just as the 90s recession was beginning to sink its teeth into the local government wallet. Revenue was falling and something had to be done to protect city workers. Lack of revenue threatened automatic “step increases,” raises, and City PERS contributions. Perhaps Armstrong felt he had the solid backing of the City Council, but the Fullerton novice certainly had no reading of the mood of the electorate.
Within six months of assuming his new job, Armstrong had persuaded Molly Mc Clanahan, Buck Catlin, and Don Bankhead to go along with the imposition of a new Utility Tax. They deliberately denied a plebescite – knowing as they did that it would be rejected. And so they held the usual dog-and-pony budget hearings, passed a budget based on the Utility Tax, and approved the tax, too. Bankhead and Catlin were allegedly conservative Republicans, but that soon became an apparent farce; even worse, Bankhead had run for re-election in the fall of 1992 promising no new taxes!
The citizenry rose up in fury! Raising taxes during a recession just to protect city employees? The tocsin was sounded and an strange new locution echoed through the corridors of City Hall - Recall! The word had never been uttered in staid, conservative Fullerton before. The statists and the public employee unions, and Fullerton’s good-government liberals were aghast. The newly energized pro-recall crew were seen as outsiders – who are these people, they’ve never served on one our precious committees! Barbarians at the gates! God, almighty! Civilization itself was at stake.
Within a year the Recalls Committee, gained their signatures, placed a recall on the June 1994 ballot, and successfully recalled Catlin, Bankhead and McClanahan. He had only been on the job eighteen months, but our hero Armstrong had instigated a municipal civil war, and had managed to mismanage three of his supporters into ignominious political humiliation.
The way things ultimately worked out, the new Councilmembers were no better than the old. But the Utility Tax was repealed during the interregnum; without it the City got along just fine. But because the Old Guard had managed to hang on to elected office the managers in City Hall never had to confront the consequences of their point-blank refusal to reconsider the way they ran their departments. This was Fullerton after all.
Meantime Jim Armstrong was a busy fellow. He presided over just about every Redevelopment fumble, boondoggle, and cover-up of the 1990s; he made it very clear that when bureaucrats blundered the wagons were to be circled and nobody (in City Hall) would be any the worse for it. The jewels in his tarnished crown were the attempt in 1993 to forestall the Depot corrective work caused by incompetent design (full story coming soon), the complete mismanagement of the new Corporate Yard project, the deployment of attack dog Susan Hunt – whose job was to kick all citizen groups out of city facilities and keep them out, and his mania to turn public facilities into cost centers administered by city employees (see related post on Hillcrest Park).
An aura of arrogance clung to City Hall like the ripe aroma surrounding the local Materials Recycling Facility; the City Council was just there to ratify Armstrong’s policy. If they liked that, so much the better. And they sure seemed to.
Armstrong’s miserable misrule came to an end in 2001 when he took the top job in Santa Barbara – you see in Jim’s line of work nothing succeeds like failure. And he set the bar high for his successor, Chris Myers, who learned from the best: when you find a cushy spot like Fullerton where nobody demands accountability, stick to it like a barnacle – until something better comes along. In the meantime – close ranks, clam-up, and cover up.