Almost twenty years ago Fullerton made its first significant foray into the quagmire of affordable housing, acquiring the the Allen Hotel and turning it over to a fellow named Jose Zapeda. Mr. Zapeda’s job was to accept a huge subsidy to “renovate” the original building and build a new addition. Apartments were to be low income.
The total taxpayer payout exceeded one million dollars – a tidy sum, to be sure – over $70,000 per unit, in fact. Cynics claimed that the exorbitant subsidy was just a way to buy down the quickly escalating affordable housing spending requirement of Redevelopment law that the City had ignored for years.
The usual suspects were on board. Perhaps the most comical (and racially charged) comment came from then City councilmember Molly McClanahan who bragged: “we’re giving them one of their own” as if Mr. Zapeda, because he was Mexican American, was more qualified to build and run a low income housing project – inhabited by – Mexicans! Molly also proclaimed that she liked the simplicity of the proposal, as if a stucco box with flush vinyl windows and stick-on brink lintels over the windows was somehow virtuous.
The replacement of the original fenestration with plastic windows, and the transom glass with fake leaded lights (grid glued on the back!) just showed that historic preservation was being used as a pretext for the big subsidy. With the passing of the years it’s truly hard to see how this eyesore has avoided targeting by Redevelopment as blight – since it was blighted from the moment its “designer” put pencil to paper.