Say, Whatever Happened to Fullerton’s Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan and the $1,000,000 in State Money that Paid for It?

Most government projects have three things in common: they are bad ideas promoted by bureaucrats, they are obscenely expensive, and there is no accountability attached to them.

In Fullerton we have lots of examples over the years that touch all three bases. But if ever one needed a veritable poster child for government fiascoes, the ill-conceived “Downtown Core and Corridors” Specific Plan would be it.


Back in 2010, the City of Fullerton put in an application for a “project” to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s  “Strategic Growth Council” an assemblage of bureaucrats and political appointees selected by the governor to promote sustainability and responsibility in urban (and suburban planning). On the face of it, the idea was to promote development that would be eco-friendly – somehow, someway. Lo and Behold! Fullerton received a $1,000,000 grant to create the Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan, a massive overlay zone. In 2013  a committee was appointed to make this look like a community driven enterprise, but as so often happens the committee was led along by the consultants and staff who were being paid, and paid well, out of the grant money. Some members of this committee only went to one meeting, the last one, in May 2014, a meeting consumed by passing out certificates of participation to committee members for all their hard work.

In the meantime, the intent of the creators of the specific plan became crystal clear: opportunity for massive new housing projects along Fullerton’s busiest streets, development that would not even have to undergo the scrutiny facing normal projects so long as the permissive guidelines of the specific plan were met. Naturally, lots of people objected to the continued over-development of Fullerton, and the utter disconnect with what the Strategic Growth Council was ostensibly promoting. Perhaps the most obnoxious thing about the specific plan proposal was the way it was being used, unapproved by any policy maker, to promote other massive apartment projects already in the entitlement process.

And then a funny thing happened. The Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan vanished into thin air. Although recommended by the Planning Commission in August of 2014, the plan and its Environmental Impact Report never went to the city council for approval. 2015 passed; and so did 2016 without the plan being approved. Even modifications rumored to have been proposed by the now-departed Planning Director Karen Haluza never materialized for council review or approval.

I’ll drink to that!

Some cynical people believe the plan was postponed in 2014 because of the council election, an election that returned development uber alles councilmembers Greg Sebourn and Bud Chaffee. And they believe that the subsequent attempt to erase the plan from the municipal memory was perpetrated by none other than the hapless city manager, Joe Felz and lobbyist councilperson Jennifer Fitzgerald, (so the story goes) two individuals who had every incentive to shake down potential developers one by one, rather than granting a broad entitlement for new and gargantuan development. Felz had a massive budget deficit to fill, and Fitzgerald had massive lobbying opportunities from potential Pringle and Associate clients.

A chemical bond

What is undeniable is that three long years have passed and no action has been taken to either approve or deny the specific plan. The grant money approved by the State has been a complete waste – a travesty so embarrassing to everybody concerned that no one seems to want to demand an explanation for this fiasco. Neither the city bureaucrats or council, nor the State has any incentive to advertise this disaster, and you can bet there never will be an accounting.



39 Replies to “Say, Whatever Happened to Fullerton’s Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan and the $1,000,000 in State Money that Paid for It?”

  1. Don’t forget the money for the EIR. That may very well have come out of the General Fund.

  2. it’s instructive to know that the whole Strategic Growth Council program is paid for by Prop 84 bond revenue, a bond that was approved by voters as a water quality and supply measure.

  3. I was not a member of the citizen’s committee, but I did attend the last comminity meeting on the DCCSP. The community participation consisted of giving participants three circular stickers, one blue, one red and I forget the third color. Participants were the directed to a board with the goals of the DCCSP wrotten out and asked to place the blue sticket by their top priority, red for their second highest and the thirs color for their third hoghest. That was it. I considered that to be an insult to the concept of comminity participation and did not partake of the exercise.

    1. Have you heard anyone ask about the money that was wasted? Okay. a million bucks is chump change in government nowadays, but still, $1,000,000 could get you 3 Andrew Goodriches for a year!

      1. I hear a lot is done behind the closed doors and that the council will get right on it once they have a majority.

  4. Sean, is it true you put aluminum foil around an Imbriano campaign sign?

    If so, well done. If not please give it some thought next time!

    1. I didn’t take one of his signs, I designed one for him. Since he still didn’t have campaign signs at the time I wanted to give him a design that captured the essenxe of his campaign, not iust for City Council, but his overall vision.

  5. Zelinka, Haluza, Meyer, Felz.

    Everyone who touched this plan eventually jumped ship. That should tell you something.

  6. The “Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan” was/is? itself a resurrection of an earlier (and thankfully last!) Redevelopment zone established by a narrow vote against strong opposition…of which I was an active participant. The two square mile gerrymandered outlines of the zone/project area were far-flung and barely contiguous. Ostensibly intended to “jump start” activity and renew tired properties along arterial corridors, downtown and generally, the airport area. A blight designation was approved by Council Members, acting as Redevelopment Agency Members which applied to all properties within. Subsequently, any property owner’s legal challenge to the blight status would be dead on arrival if that property was within the project area. The Courts or any Judge would be powerless to act, the prior legislative action by Council Members (empowered through the Health and Safety Code) deemed to be presumptively conclusive. Thankfully, that redevelopment zone never became operative with the demise of redevelopment in California in mid-2012.

    1. Except that the Core and Corridors had no Redevelopment imminent domain authority and was JUST meant to be a continuation of the policy that created all the massive projects YOU voted for. In fact ITWAS USED AS JUSTIFICATION FOR THE PROJECT ON HARBOR THAT YOU APPROVED.

      1. Right on. No revisionist history. Take you medicine, Bruce. You thought no one was watching. We were.

  7. “People Who Don’t Care” … Apparently doesn’t care about facts. I spoke out strongly and loudly and campaigned vigorously against the Core and Corridors plan at every opportunity. The effort to pre-approve and effectively abdicate Planning Commission and City Council responsibility and accountability to unelected bureaucrats removing the due process rights of neighboring property owners deserved to die an ignoble death. Your false spin is easily disproved by any review of the record.

    1. So you are all in favor of massive wealth created for developers by YOUR upzoning just so long as YOU make the decisions as opposed to bureaucrats?

      You really care about the “due process rights” of the neighbors? Sure. You and your pals have been destroying Fullerton with all these huge prison blocks. You get wined and dined. We get the traffic.

    2. You spoke out “strongly and loudly”? And when was that?

      And what about accountability? What have you ever done to expose that wasted million dollars of public money? Silent as a little mouse.

      And speaking of accountability, what are you doing about the shoddy construction work on those idiot stairs (you voted against that stupid project, right?).

      And while you’re here please explain why you voted for a new chief of police with a fake academic credential and gave him $20,000 per year MORE that the last guy. And why did you give the new city manager (who’s never been one before) $20,000 more than the last one. Why did you give the “interim” $100,000 for just six months to accomplish nothing?

      Sitting on you butt and collecting a check once a month isn’t leadership.

      1. Oh, yeah, and Bruce, can you please explain for everyone what you did about all those millions of gallons of water that disappeared out of Laguna Lake and the steps you took to demand accountability for that fiasco?

        Please be specific.

        1. The original plan was to drain the lake and make it off limits to use for a two year, $2 million project. With the objections of nearby residents, I forwarded a simple, low cost method using inert liquid sealer which might have created less disruption to wildlife and cost perhaps $50k. Of course, a majority of the Council opted for bentonite- the clay-coated pea gravel layer which could only be applied by use of a special barge, lowering the cost of draining and repairing ($2mil) yet fully ten times the lowest cost method…but resulting in significant disruption to wildlife. Whether or not that “solution” has solved the leakage is yet to be determined.

          1. And why didn’t you drain the lake UNTIL a solution was found? You and your crew wasted hundreds of millions of gallons of water and nobody was ever held accountable for the failure of the lake to retain water in the first place.

            Looks like auto pilot to me.

          2. That comment tells folks all they need to know about the Lazy Man’s Approach to Limited Government.

            You “forwarded a solution?” Really? When did you become a hydraulic engineer?

            That lake had been losing water for years – untold millions of gallons of water. The parks director, the water utility director, the City Engineer, and of course Joe Felz ALL knew about it because they were the ones pumping water into back into it endlessly (what was it, 100,000 gallons a day?) and yet nobody ever said anything about it until word got out. Did they ever tell you? If they did then you were in on it too.

            The previous engineer’s professional liability insurance should have been attached when the leak was first detected and the people who tried to hide the embarrassment should have been fired. You’ve been protecting an incompetent staff even if you don’t recognize it. Ditto the stairs project.

            And how is it that you STILL don’t even know if the lake can hold water?

      2. What is it that you don’t understand about the “math” of City Council Member votes?

        1. Oh, I get it. Because a majority may disagree with you it’s okay just to sit there like a lump. YOU HAD A MAJORITY ONE NIGHT TO GET OUT OF SCAG – A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY – AND YOU SAT THERE LIKE AN OLD POTATO.

        2. We all get the math.

          I also get the fact that you (if it really is you) have the ability to raise issues such as the hideous wooden stairs and yet you just sit there silent as a lamb. If you are so gosh darn worn out that you can’t stick up for the people who go to the council meetings with legitimate issues, you should have just quit instead of running for re-election. And NOW you want an even higher office after you accomplished nothing in the job you already have.

          1. Yeah, when did Whitaker ever back up Ferguson or Curlee or Paden at a meeting? Has it ever happened? Or does he just sit there LIKE A POTATO?

  8. I think given the tenor of some of these comments (that are only marginally germane to the post) maybe we should give Mr. Whitaker a fair chance to do a post on his accomplishments on the city council.

  9. It appears useless to discuss policy with anonymous commenters who espouse limited and honest government, yet can’t distinguish between friend or foe, facts or fiction. Good luck with that!

    1. Policy!?

      It appears useless to expect you to get off your butt and WORK for your constituents.

      What was there about limited government that made YOU hire a cop with a bogus academic credential and pay him $230,00 a year?

      What was there about limited government that made you hire an interim city manager for six months at $100,00 who did NOTHING but warm a chair?

      What was (and is) there about limited government that made you go along with a series of public works fiascoes that have had no oversight, no accountability, and no repercussions to the people who screwed them up?

      What was there about limited government that made you sit there like a dumpling when you had the chance to get us out of SCAG?

      etc., etc., etc.

      I can tell the difference between friend and foe just fine. I can also tell the difference between cheap talk (yours) and action.

    2. Mr. Whitaker, if you would like to write a post about your accomplishments FFFF will be very happy to publish it. I can’t vouch for the warmth of the reception but you’ll get tens of thousands of page views in the next few months and it won’t cost you a dime.

      1. He’ll never go for it. Writing that post would require WORK.

        Here’s a thought: just put up a blank post and let people write their own list in the comments section.

    3. “If they can make penicillin outta moldy bread, somebody can make somethin’ outta you”

      Muhammad Ali

    4. It appears useless to believe a single word from a zombie that voted for the Sildebar council district map created by all the worst assholes in Orange County.

      Man up, Whitaker. You’ve never accomplished a goddam thin except sign your name to that $800 a month paycheck they hand out.

    5. Bruce, you can’t make the club in the tub. Quit the dumb photo-ops and listen to what people are saying about you. Maybe you don’t care – but you should.

    6. “…can’t distinguish between friend or foe,”

      Uh, yeah, right. How many time have your “friends” – Ferguson, Paden, Curlee, Rands got up in public and documented some incompetence or misfeasance by your staff – and were attacked by Flory or Fitzgerald – and you just sat there like a bump on a log after they put their asses out there to do the right thing?

      Don’t lecture anybody on not recognizing friends, pal.

Leave a Reply

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