Fullerton’s City Council last Tuesday, as expected, voted to change the rules governing how bars operate in the city in order to facilitate having more bars and making them more profitable.
The crux of the change is that it was too hard for staff to do their jobs, and for the Police Chief to stop rubber stamping permits, so the city needed to change the rules. This time they mean to enforce them unlike the last decade+ they promise… kind of… well not really.
Not one council member got an answer of who was in violation of what rules they were changing and why it was so hard for community development, code enforcement and the police to use a checklist to sort it out and in fact Ted White’s answers on how Conditional Use Permits work negated his own arguments of the Title 15 change. But again, council was too inept and/or lazy to follow the logic of the change or to ask any real questions per the norm.
The council ALSO voted to launch a pilot program, which we all know will be permanent, for paid parking in downtown. This is a data driven program tracking who comes and goes how often and how long they stay based on license plate data. As we heard at the meeting the whole point was data, data, data and more data. You will be tracked and your data will likely be sold. It’s so data driven that the vendor, staff and council want you to punch in where you park even when you don’t have to pay for parking – just because you WANT to be tracked.
When council asked who owned the servers the vendor claimed it was a “cloud based server” and that’s where the questions stopped. We don’t know what data is kept, where it is kept, which servers are used or who our travel data is being sold to – all because council couldn’t be bothered to ask.
It was a pathetic meeting full of incompetence, malfeasance and laughable gaffs. The Other Dick Jones™ got torn into by both Fitzgerald and Zahra for how they can/can’t handle an agenda item and when the city clerk offered helpful info the council just blanker her. It was probably the worst example of governing I’ve seen in years.
Individually the council members didn’t do themselves any favors in the integrity or intelligence departments.
Mayor Silva wasn’t interested in details as he was too busy chomping at the bit waiting to launch the pilot program like a kid waiting for Christmas morning. His actions where those of a man in somebody’s pocket, somebody too inept to understand the issue or perhaps somebody just not interested in honest brokering of information.
Jennifer Fitzgerald has zero damns to give about privacy because she’s in the tank for the bar owners and has no integrity, same as Flory.
Bruce Whitaker gave said some nice things but offered almost zero pushback, no real followup for staff and no tough questions.
And Ahmad Zahra gave a really nice performance and even offered a motion on both items to push them back a meeting to get more answers with neither getting a second from another council member- because???
Oh well for one, Whitaker can’t be bothered to vote with Zahra out of spite and the other three don’t care about honest information.
Zahra’s performance was pointless mostly because he’s the sellout who put Flory on council and thus he owns her votes despite the charade of him voting “no” each time.
Just like the SOCO parking structure didn’t stop street parking, this paid parking game won’t solve the problems in downtown and will likely drive many nightlife customers out of the area – but that’s a bonus says Fitzgerald.
I kid you not – Fitzgerald bought off on and sold the idea that one of the problems in the structure is “pre-gaming” (drinking in one’s car before going to a bar) and that we need to discourage that behavior by charging for parking. The city needs to discourage the patrons of bars from drinking before going to those bars so they… won’t be over-served? Maybe the bars should discourage that behavior by not over-serving people or by not serving already drunk patrons? Maybe require bars to follow CA law, ABC rules and regulations and hold bars accountable to for the DUIs they embolden? Oh… then we might not have as many DUIs in Fullerton and who would MADD give all of those fancy awards to each year?
While the pilot is for nighttime parking starting at 9pm, Fitzgerald asked for it to be studied for an all day system because driving people to other cities is apparently her goal.
Fullerton is not an island and I’ll illustrate the problem easily:
I go to Ace Hardware pretty often but if I have to pay for parking, or deal with the hassle of a parking kiosk, just to grab widgets for a project then I’m going to drive the 1.5 miles to Lowes in Anaheim where there is abundant free and hassle free parking. So Ace loses my business and Fullerton loses the sales tax revenue. I’m not about to add $5 to each errand because Fullerton can’t manage the subsidy required to clean up vomit from the bar crowds.
Now think of that problem across any business in downtown. You had better be extremely loyal to a business to put up with such nonsense with so many options in such short distances from Fullerton. We’re surrounded by cities with vibrant and growing shopping, entertainment and dining areas and new people have no reason to be loyal to a city that sees them as nothing but sources of revenue.
As these actions cause bars to become more profitable and prioritized by staff the price of rents will increase and more businesses will be driven out as a result. I for one will mourn the loss of our downtown retailers, service providers and other establishments that our city has thrown to the four-winds for the sake of 62 (and counting) liquor licensed businesses.
When amazing shops such as Roadkill, Atelier Mela, the Brick Basement and others close our town will all the worse for it. It’s hard enough to stay in business in California without Fullerton picking one type of establishment over all of the rest. Council will of course say nothing as these doors close and our downtown continues to become one giant outdoor saloon, in fact they’ll continue to hasten it with relaxed noise rules and on and on and on.
While members of council virtue signal about the rents at a trailer park on the Anaheim border they ignore the very law of supply and demand and their impact on rents in our downtown.