The West Harbor Alley Improvement Project

The other day I took my elementary-age children to Cafe West for a cool drink, and found this postcard on the counter:


The triptych above seems to reflect a strategy all too common in the city:

  • Phase #1: tear out trees (and put in a subsidized fire line for the “night clubs”)
  • Phase #2: fill holes with temporary asphalt
  • Phase #3: ask questions later

To most of us, this would seem a bit like putting the cart before the horse, but one has to wonder if the RDA sees it that way.

Redevelopment Project Overload; Council Loses Traction

What’s the mystery here? For goodness sake, this is just an alleyway, all they’ve done is yank out a few trees!  What kind of “design” is required here? Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill!

From this...
From this...
... to this!
... to this!

My own kids provided some helpful suggestions as to what to do with the freshly vacated space in the alley. One of them thought a modern sculpture would be appropriate, while the other mused that perhaps another luxury apartment complex could be squeezed into that tiny space. Hey, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The view's not all that great, but the rent is reasonable!
Or how about affordable housing? Alley-style!

However, given Fullerton’s recent trend of rolling out the red carpet to the bar scene, perhaps a European-styled “pissoir” could not only provide a visually attractive option, but one that’s functional as well.

Et voila! Le pissoir de resistance!
Et voila! Le pissoir de resistance!

True, a few fumes may greet the occasional pedestrian walking through the alley, but this would be one project the RDA could actually claim where form follows function.

This triptych seemed to reflect a strategy all too common in the city:

21 Replies to “The West Harbor Alley Improvement Project”

  1. Typical Redeveloment make-work. Can you believe it? Nicole Coats (AICP) is a redevelopment project manager – and is put in charge of an alley!

    What is also typical is the free water line and the removal of trees without telling any one. The trees get ripped out – then they have public meetings! Way to go Nicole! Way to go Zur Schmiede. If any citizen even so much as raised the topic of taking out a tree in downtown Fullerton staff would mobilize every knee-jerk tree hugger in the city.

    The intenet here is clear. Phoney “input meetings” followed by some nutsy Redevelopment overbuild of junky illuminated arches, expensive pavement, new plantings to replace the old stuff they killed, etc. SoCo-style, in fact.

    If somebody on this city council can’t call them on this one it may be time to give up.

    It’s just a goddam alley!

  2. Right you are Harp. Welcome to the fun zone! Be prepared to have a helluva good time! Those little pudenda are called “bollards.” They were first installed by a gentleman named Terry Galvin.

  3. Oh, oh. We’re in trouble now. FFFF bloggers punning in French?

    The literary level of this blog just leapt exponentially with the addition of Mr. Peabody.

    1. Fullerton Gal, a brilliant suggestion. And since the politicians love to put their names on stuff I suggest we give credit where credit is due:

      The Dr. Dick Jones Memorial Vomitorium

      Has a kind of a ring to it, doesn’t it?

  4. Was anybody lucky enough to attend either of these two meeeting? We’d love to get some feedback on what must have been a scintillating evening.

    1. Hear, hear, Harpoon! I’m sure that after opening the floodgates of public input there must have been such an enthusiastic torrent of original and competing ideas to help with the “the aesthetic and functional design” of that alleway! It must have been quite a challenge to hear everyone’s contribution, those meetings must have dragged on into the wee hours! (pardon the pun)

  5. Just another redevelopment make work project.

    I heard a guy was knifed in this West Harbor alley last week. Bar fight, knife, barf, some things never change. Does anyone know what the plan is for the two alley patios which are obstructing the public’s right of way?

  6. Went to this meeting too. Bob, the consultant, presented some background on project. The new water line installation tore up the pavement, and they want to know what to do with it now. The main issues were the conflict between vehicular and pedestrian traffic, disability access to the adjacent businesses and beautification.

    I believe every one of the dozen or so in attendance wanted to convert the alley to pedestrian use only and establish a loading area for business closer to the parking lot. There were also concerns expressed about the permanent nature of the outdoor dining fences on the public property in the alley.

    Some of us suggested a simple hardscape instead of the paver tiles used on SOCO. No sense in making it look like Main St. at Disneyland.

    The staff and consultant asked for our ideas. Some people wanted some illuminated public art, which could be nice if the fire trucks can get by it (the alley would still need to be accessible to emergency vehicles). If that part does come to pass I would like it be good art. Then again, to quote a character on the Simpsons, I’d like a solid gold house and rocket powered car, so I asked what the budget for this alley improvement project was, but no one could give me an exact figure. It seems that the whole project costs several hundred thousand dollars, but some of that money has already been spent on the water improvements.

    I felt somewhat at a loss trying to provide sensible input when i didn’t know how much money we had to spend. We all drew with colored markers on big black and white plans of the alley. I had a nice conversation about aging sewers with a city engineer, and I was offered cookies.

    1. “If that part does come to pass I would like it be good art.”

      By the time a piece of art gets churned through the Downtown Art Committee(!) grinder and the inevitable convocation of the Fullerton philistines I think the odds of that are slim. Still, hope springs eternal.

      But, really why not just leave it an alley? Is there really a need to separate cars and (sober) walkers?

  7. The patios behind Revolution and Zings are detrimental to downtown. They should be removed. I got beat up in that alley just three weeks ago, the place gets out of control. I don’t understand why the City would continue to allow the use of public property for private gain at the expense of the public.

    1. “I don’t understand why the City would continue to allow the use of public property for private gain at the expense of the public.”

      We don’t either, Mr. Adams. In the meantime our advice comes from Mr. Bob Dylan in The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest:

      The moral of this story, the moral of this song,

      Is that one should never be, where one does not belong

  8. I don’t understand. Would you critics be happier if this were done “behind closed doors” like you complain about in another post? Come on now. This will end up being a beautiful alley and may even have some nice art work.

    We are the Education Community! Let’s get educated, people!

  9. First of all, congratulations for recognizing the eyesore in the alley in Downtown Fullerton and the fact that The West Harbor Alley Improvement Project needs to be completed!! I can’t believe how hideous it looks every day when I’m down there. I think a 10 story parking garage should be squeezed into the alley as opposed to more housing that won’t sell. (See Brea Blvd nightmares!).

    Seriously though….ATTENTION CITY OF FULLERTON!!!

    Do you know how many times I’ve been rundown in the alley??? During the day??? And no, they don’t know me. MAKE IT PEDESTRIANS ONLY!!! Duh……

    How the hell are you supposed to attract any other type of business other than a restaurant/bar/nightclub with the alley in its current state of disrepair with Speed Racer mowin ya down in the Alley?

    In all seriousness…..the alley should be cleaned up and done so to restore the beauty of the old buildings with a little more uniformity. However, to put art down in the alley is the dumbest waste of money (aside from the restoration of the Fox Theater….don’t get me started there!)!

    I’ve been downtown on a Monday morning and stepped over a used “needle” that had been discarded in the parking lot. We’ve all been downtown after a night of where urination and defecation has been callously placed on the doorsteps of our livelihood!

    My point???? Why the hell would you even consider putting artwork where you know it will be destroyed with the mayhem that thrives downtown….after hours? Don’t get me wrong, during the day it would be beautiful, for maybe the first month. Until the city gets tired of coming out and cleaning up the artwork. Then during the day it will just remind us of the tragic chaos that thrives in our beloved town once the sun goes down.

    Now….on the flip side, the restaurants are good for the economy in Downtown Fullerton. Let’s be honest folks, that’s really the only type of business that can survive down there aside from another Tattoo Parlor or Thrift Store (even the pawn shops left town…) , and we certainly don’t want the “Ghost Town” that existed 10 years ago.

    So here’s my suggestions:
    1. Make the alley for pedestrians only! No Cars, Trucks or Delivery Vehicles!!
    2. Put some new concrete down, clean the buildings and restore the patios!
    3. No housing, parking structures or any other lame brain building needs to be constructed at this time until we clean up what we’ve got!
    4. Resurface the parking lots behind all restaurants. Paint lines to accommodate something larger than a Yugo!
    5. Keep the artwork in Villa Del Sol, where it will be protected and enjoyed!

    Figure it out now! Let’s get Downtown looking good! It’s rundown and dug up. Now Finish the West Harbor Alley Improvement Project!

  10. I always thought that alley could be used once or twice a month on a Sunday as a marketplace for local artisans. Sell their handmade soaps, jewelery, pottery, ahat have you. I have seen this done in San Francisco and in LA in areas of potential blight, and the market encouraged local activity and restored a pride of ownership to the residents who frequented the market. The only foot traffic anymore are the pre-drunk diners and Thursday Farmers Market shoppers. A weekend marketplace would bring sober traffic to the wonderful liitle shops.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *