No, not that one!
That’s the way Redevelopment likes to choose its favored developers. A kabuki-like pantomime is undertaken by issuing an RFP (Request for Proposals). In the end the process presents the decision makers with a choice that is essentially no choice. To illustrate the point, Loyal Friends, we go back in time almost ten years to examine how the “Save The Fox” movement got off to a rousing start.
In 1999 after catching the wave of the Save The Fox movement, the City issued an RFP for private developers to take over the job of restoring the Fox and developing the adjoining area. The City had committed to build a parking structure and hand over other developer goodies. Proposals were received in August. In October the Agency was presented with the lucky winner, Staff’s choice – “Berkman/Chaffee” a local restaurant owner and a politically-connected lawyer turned low-income housing credits entrepreneur. Paul Berkman was there to provide credibility to run a “dinner theater” and Doug (Bud) Chaffee’s job was to look like a land developer. The only problem, as it soon transpired, was that Berkman refused to promise a dinner theater, only movies. And Chaffee had never “developed” anything but heavily subsidized housing.
To complicate matters a second proposer named Dana Morris of Morris productions, who believed himself to be in the running, actually showed up at the meeting desiring that the elected officials, not staff, decide who might get the gig. His idea was to create an performing and fine arts academy on the site that would, in turn, generate all sorts of ancillary business opportunities downtown and not compete with existing businesses.
To the acute embarrassment of staff, Morris managed to organize a slew of supporters, including a backer who promised to help finance the venture. They asked for more time to prove their bona fides.
On cue, some of Fullerton’s usual lefty suspects got up to promote Berkman/Chaffee although their proposal was dubious, at best, and despite the fact that neither partner had any experience doing what they claimed they were going to do. There were strong undertones of religious bigotry pulling their adherents along, for it had become known that that Morris was affiliated with BIOLA, and in some peoples’ minds that was anathema.
To add hypocrisy to the mix, people who had never shown a dime’s worth of concern when the City acquired property in downtown Fullerton were suddenly horrified by the thought of a non-profit foundation paying no property tax!
The council finally voted 4-1 (Flory dissenting, naturally) to continue the item so that Morris could clarify certain financial points in his proposal. In the intervening time, as Morris later told us, he was treated with such overt contempt and continuing hostility by Redevelopment Director Gary Chaplupsky that he finally abandoned his proposal as simply not worth the aggravation. We have only his word for what happened, but given the Redevelopment Agency staff’s propensity for prevarication over the years, we are inclined to accept it. And so a plausible concept for the Fox was lost because the staff did its level-best to thwart a reasonable proposal and award the deal to their favored team – the team that could be counted on to play ball.
And now Patient Friends, we finally return to our title. At the hearing in October, 1999 it slipped out that of the eight original proposals only two were even deemed worthy of consideration; and the City Council was never informed that one of the other six actually came from the janitor at the Hub Cafe! Of the two “finalists” it was clear that Morris never stood a chance, thus effectively limiting the Agency’s choices to none. This “planning and activity” as our faithful reader “Jack B. Nimble” characterizes it was nothing but a sham, a fact that later became evident when the Berkman/Chaffee partnership permitted its agreement with the City to lapse, and was never heard from again. And so a feeble concept had gained traction even though (excluding Morris) there was not one credible respondent to the proposal. But in government circles, that’s all it takes to gain momentum!