Downtown Fullerton Redevelopment Failure

In 1974 the various Redevelopment project areas were created in Fullerton, including the area that includes the downtown.

This was at the very tail end of the urban renewal era of social engineering that gutted old neighborhoods and districts across the land only to see the creation of bureaucrat-planned ghost towns and vast housing projects that nobody wanted to live in.

Although the downtown area was pretty much left to its own devices in the 70s, the 80s saw a new and noxious interest in re-inventing the area according to the whims of the Redevelopment manager and whatever cookie-cutter standardization idiocy was emanating from central planning workshops. Anybody remember the embarrassing concrete trestles?

True, the old businesses were leaving, put out of business by a new Mall culture. But what was the cure? Specialty retail, standardized street furniture, stamped concrete paving, design guidelines, and a plethora of silliness whose only aim seemed to be to create a roofless mall (an obviously pointless goal) – and provide employment for the Redevelopment manager. Hideous trees were planted that destroyed the sidewalks and on-street parking was removed, spelling final doom for what was left of the downtown businesses, but it was all part of the Master Plan, see? And new Master Plans kept being spit out every five years or so.

And while the City professed an interest in historic preservation, and even took credit for it, historic buildings kept disappearing – either completely or under a wall of brick veneer.

Things weren’t working. A ban on churches and pawn shops and junk yards couldn’t alter the fact that the low rents were pulling in businesses that weren’t “specialty retail.” They were mom and pop second hand stores masquerading as “antique” this and “vintage” that.

Ah! Much had been accomplished, but more work needed to be done. Job security for life!

The FFFF pages are strewn with the ugly history of the late eighties and the nineties when an unaccountable city staff engaged in boondoggle after boondoggle with a complaisant council going along every step of the way, and always taking credit for “revitalizing” downtown Fullerton.

Much had been accomplished, but clearly more work needed to be done.

Huge apartment blocks were approved, giving away millions in profits to favored developers through entitlements and grants. City streets were handed out like Monopoly deeds. The hope was that a captive residential audience would have to patronize downtown business. Synergy was the watchword of the day!

Much had been accomplished, but clearly more work needed to be done.

A new phenomenon was beginning to emerge in the late 90s. The subsidized restaurant. And a  new booze culture was coalescing. Was it policy or accident? Who can say now. But what is inescapable is that for more than a decade the City’s actions and lack of actions had demonstrable effects. And the effects weren’t salutory. The restaurants morphed into bars and the bars morphed into bootleg night clubs and dance halls. The latter weren’t shut down; they were permitted. And then they were subsidized by the taxpayers with free fire water lines.

Every night the downtown area was filling up with drunken out of towners; fights, rapes, a murder. The City Manager wrung his hands. The downtown area was costing over a million dollars a year more to manage than it was bringing in in revenue.

Much had been accomplished, but clearly more work needed to be done.

In the 2000s the merry chase for revitalization continued apace with lustful Redevelopment eyes alighting on a vast Fox Theater project, cynically calculated to leverage popular interest in the Fox Theater. Aha! The anchor project that would make all the other pieces fall into place: success was at hand! Sure, we could move the McDonald’s a couple hundred feet. Six million? No problem! Environmental impacts? No big deal.

Then there is the Amerige Court monster. Aha! The anchor project that would make all the other pieces fall into place: success was at hand! Environmental impacts? No big deal.

And now Redevelopment in downtown Fullerton is 36 years old. Let’s put this in perspective: Fullerton was founded in 1886. And that means for 30% of its life span downtown Fullerton has had Redevelopment. And in 2010 the very sort of business that redevelopment bureaucrats find abhorrent starts up in the very heart of Redevelopment territory. See the irony yet? I do. It’s not about sex, it’s about failure. Oh, well.

Much has been accomplished, but clearly more work needs to be done.

11 Replies to “Downtown Fullerton Redevelopment Failure”

  1. I am working on my agenda breakdown and will have a LOT more on the Land Czar’s waste of public funds. You will be disgusted but not surprised. Should be done before lunch… The agenda is massive!

  2. TDR, good recap. Thanks for the history lesson.

    Redevelopment has failed – by its own stupid standards. Yet they shamelessly keep coming back for more.

    Shut it down. Now!

  3. This masterpiece should be read aloud before every meeting of the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency.

  4. Qu “aint” downtown fullerton anymore. Big daddy government doesn’t have a clue what people like best in a city’s downtown. government tends to departmentalize tax dollars but it all comes from one wallet, ours, the tax payers. millions of dollars for redevelopment funds, social engineering programs bankrupts the private sector.

  5. At the end it says, “It’s not about sex”. Have we really reached a level of depravity where we need to be told that a story about the downtown redevelopment program is “not about sex”?

    Or are you trying to imply something that you are afraid to say?

    Also, this article does not give a clear view of what path the city should be going down instead. What would you suggest the city do about it’s core? Nothing? Or something else?

    1. Maybe you missed the point – just like the people who turned this into a story a bout a sex store, per se.

      It’s about how even by its own definitions Redevelopment is a failure.

      Why does anybody have to offer suggestions and solutions? When we see something that is a patent failure from A to Z we have a right to criticize it without trying to fix a mess that 35 years of incompetent bureaucrats have screwed – and continue to screw up.

      But I will offer a plan: end Redevelopment in Fullerton.

      1. I don’t count myself as a proponent of the redevelopment agency, and you and the author certainly have the right to criticize the results of the plans our representatives make for us.

        I am only asking for clarification. Is the point to end the redevelopment program and then don’t allow lingerie stores? Is the goal a free market? Or some mixed market?

        1. Godammit it’s not about a “lingerie store.”

          They can put a 10 foot high vibrating purple phallus in the window for all I care.

          The point of the original post was that this is exactly the kind of store the City doesn’t want – borne out by their effort to go after the owner.

          The goal should be to quit micro-managing uses. It stated with terry Galvin back in the 80s and has been going on ever since.

          P.S. If you read my narrative I believe it will be difficult for you to come away with the idea that there are any “plans.” The whole thing looks like a 4-decade long fustercluck to me.

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