What Does Downtown Cost?

There’s an old rumored study that is often referenced, but not in detail, that says that Downtown Fullerton costs the city about $1million/year in a general fund subsidy.

Meaning that according to the available data we have the city subsidizes the bar scene out of money that could be doing things for us such as fixing our roads. But how much is downtown actually costing us?

No clue. This study is only ever referenced in passing and no numbers are ever presented.

Back in Oct 2017, when City Staff was selling council on a “Downtown Parking Plan”, which is nothing more than handing over our free city owned parking to bar owners at night so they can charge people and profit, they referenced this subsidy:

2017 Downtown Subsidy

Then again in Feb 2019, when staff was pitching the same parking nonsense they used the same allusion to a subsidy:

2019 Downtown Subsidy

To sort this out we asked how this subsidy is calculated because there is no way our City Staff, Manager and Council are so lazy as to rely on a years old, and disputed, study to determine new and current costs associated with how we run our city’s finances. Today the city got back to us.

Here’s the response in full from the city’s Administrative Services Director:

The comment was meant as a general comment and to briefly mention that future items would come before the Council. More specifically, this comment is based upon my understanding that a report was produced several years ago that demonstrated that there was an approximately $900K-$1M general fund subsidy for the Downtown area at the time the report was produced. There isn’t a more recent calculation of the subsidy that I am aware of.

Whoops. Turns out that we don’t know what Downtown costs. And yes, we are relying on a year’s old study to justify offsetting costs without know those very costs. Actually it might not even be a study. It could just be a guess, because we don’t know.

This answer is worse than it seems as it actually implies that the city has no idea what taxes we get from downtown and how those relate to what we spend to maintain and patrol said downtown. It also means that they don’t even know if there is or is not a subsidy and what it might be in [current year]. Heck, we could be throwing $xMil/year into downtown with police/fire costs (and the associated pensions) alone and not even know it. Or care to know it.

The city should know the costs of police, fire, maintenance and the potential lost business opportunities. Should.

What does Downtown Fullerton cost us as a city? We don’t have a clear idea.

Not a damn clue, actually. The city doesn’t know and hasn’t cared enough to find out in years. They’ll talk about taxes and selling capital assets and making plans to charge for parking and raising the noise levels – pretty much anything to benefit the bar scene, the very businesses that might be costing the city more money to maintain than they bring in in tax revenue. Why?

If you want to know why we have a structural deficit, why our roads suck, why our parks are often left to rot — This is why. We elect people who are too lazy to care about such basic government issues like costs and they in turn hire people who only care about costs or risks when it benefits the newest, shiniest 5 Year Plan they’re selling to that same council that hired them.

This is why things can’t get better until we stop letting council get away with polishing the brass on the Titanic while it sinks.

43 Replies to “What Does Downtown Cost?”

  1. There was a real report, although like everything else City hall touches or commissions it may well have been fucked up. I recall that the number was more like a $1.4 million budget black hole.

    Curiously, City Staff has continued to faithfully declare “downtown” to be a municipal asset although they never say why. And meantime they completely fail to enforce the fire code, nuisance ordinances and have let the cops govern city policy since the cops don’t give a rat’s ass who pays their overtime and just l-o-o-o-ve to haul in DUI suspects.

  2. I heard the Planning Director Ted White showed up at a court trial to be some sort of chsracter witness for Joe Florentine the sidewalk thief. Only in Fullerton where Fitzgerald and her pals have everybody else by the balls.

  3. Downtown Fullerton on Friday and Saturday nights after midnight is a ruckus!

    There are so many police calls for service, fire engines, people getting beat up, it’s a real shit show. The place is a mess, we need help .

  4. Want to know the real reason your streets look like shit?

    The City Council spends MILLIONS OF DOLLARS supporting downtown bars.

    Police, fire, jailers, transportation, puke washing, parking lot maintenance, trash subsidies, code (mis)enforcement, and the like.

    It gets so bad at times that every single cop available gets thrown into crowd control, meaning there is no one available to respond to domestic violence calls, robberies, burglaries, and the rampant car break-ins occuring nightly at 2AM.

    Had the Council done it’s job over the last ten years and stopped the mayhem downtown we’d have tens of millions put into roads, which would have prevented the runaway erosion we’re currently experiencing, which would have saved tens of millions more.

    Instead, we have a Clowncil that rewards their campaign donors with an endless supply of drunken coeds Thursday-Saturday night, WHICH WE ALL PAY FOR.

    I’ve had enough.

    1. If you’re so pissed off, tell it the “clowncil” at public comments. I love DTF on a Friday night. What do you want podunkville?

  5. Charge for parking in Downtown but let all Fullerton residents register one vehicle license plate that is entitled to free parking. Give parking attendants a scanner that allows free or paid parking if the license plate matches.

    So you’ll get revenue from visitors, and parking won’t be as difficult for residents just trying to go out to eat or use the train station.

    1. Validating and maintaining residency data is no joke. You will spend more than you make from out of town parking. Good luck, genius.

      1. “You will spend more than you make from out of town parking”

        Doesn’t sound like you have any idea what you’re talking about. Some of the project would be one time costs. There may be OTS systems out there to purchase. You would find out by doing an RFP.

        Technically, maintaining a mapping of addresses to license plate numbers and looking them up isn’t that hard. Proving you’re a resident isn’t that hard. What does it take, a utility bill?

        I’m a programmer. It’s really not that hard. If you want, charge a small fee to get registered the first time to cover the expense.

        If we listened to people like you where would we be?

        1. If we listened to people with objections, like anonymous, we probably wouldn’t be talking about handing over our parking in downtown for the sole reason of raising revenue to offset the costs CAUSED by the clientele of the bars in downtown. The same downtown that staff and council have been making worse for well over a decade with nothing but empty promises of enforcement.

          Your suggestion, which I actually don’t hate in premise, fails for me because now you want to add an RFP and an entire permitting system, most likely paid for (subsidized) by taxpayers, to benefit the bars.

          Let the bars pay for it. Let them study it.

          This is the same problem with the noise and and and and and and and and.

          How many carrots are going to be handed to the bar owners before somebody finally picks up the stick?

          1. The point is to have a steady revenue stream from downtown parking while not P’ing off the residents that feel entitled to free parking, the singluar cultural advantage of being an Orange County resident.

            It would work. It is politically feasible.

            Seems better somehow than ideas that won’t work and are not politically feasible.

            I have no problem with taxing the downtown bar owners directly. Can you overcome the political hurdles?

            If we’re in a footrace to get this done and the choice is between technical hurdles that people solve every day and cracking political nuts that no one has cracked so far, in a years running problem, I win.

        2. If we listened to people like you, we’d be millions in debt, have the worst roads in Orange County, all while bums roam our neighborhoods looking for things to steal to fund their next fix.

          Oh. Wait.

          Paying a Fullerton Cop $230,000 a year to run around downtown with a new light gun to scan licence plates sounds like exactly something we would do. Great job as always JH.

          1. “a new light gun”

            At least they won’t be able to kill anybody with it although Cyclops might give it a whirl.

          2. “Paying a Fullerton Cop $230,000 a year to run around downtown with a new light gun to scan licence plates sounds like exactly something we would do. Great job as always JH.”

            You can’t possibly be that stupid. You don’t hire a cop to do that, you use a parking attendant and you can at the entry to fenced off area of the lot.


            ” have the worst roads in Orange County”

            Um. The point of this is to get revenue. Which could be used for roads.
            And I’m one of those people that advocated for continuing the sales tax and fee hike, which because it was sustained is still being used for road maintenance.

            So don’t blame me. Like them or not, my solutions work.

            “all while bums roam our neighborhoods looking for things to steal to fund their next fix.”

            My recommended solution is permanent supportive housing. People in housing are by definition, no longer homeless. And people in PSH do not roam.

            There are solutions to all problems, except political ones. Let me guess, you’re a NIMBY so we can’t possibly build housing like that.

            1. No, I’m not that stupid.

              Yes, the city is that stupid. How many homeless liaison officers do we have? Over a cool million for badges, guns, and pensions to babysit the crazy.

              Little tip from someone who knows how to walk and chew gum at the same time… Your fees and taxes for road repair don’t actually fix or build any roads. Money is fungible.

              It funds the waste and stupidity endemic to government. In Fullerton, that means bar owners, police and fire pensions, millions each year in negligence lawsuit payouts, and the overall bureaucracy designed to shield everyone from any accountability to the public forever.

              Glad you feel you can pat yourself for sustainable solutions that do nothing more than enable the bad behavior that caused the problem in the first place.

              1. LOL. Seriously.

                Hogerhuis thinks the city would hire a person at a wage commensurate with the job being performed.

                We just hired a new city engineer who isn’t a city engineer at over $200k.

              2. “Your fees and taxes for road repair don’t actually fix or build any roads. Money is fungible. It funds the waste and stupidity anemic to government”

                It doesn’t fix roads and money is fungible and “the government” blah blah.

                Yet somehow a couple million dollars comes back to our community every year to spend on roads.

                If only you could erase the internet you could make people believe that the money for roads is not getting spent on roads.


                “solutions that do nothing more than enable the bad behavior”

                Oh give me a break. You either want to solve the problems or you don’t. You can’t successfully treat someone for substance abuse while they’re homeless.

                1. Wait wait wait ………

                  People who are invested in stealing money from taxpayers SAY tax dollars are being spent on roads and not something else?

                  OMG U JUST BLEW MY MIND.

                  Come on kid. Do better.

                2. Dear Mr. GTFO Hogerhuis,

                  I know it’s just a big conspiracy right? All lies.

                  If you can’t even admit factual information, there’s no point in discussing with you, “kid.” That and you’re in anonymous coward mode. Are you worried that the Fullerton PTB Cabal is going to come after you for the same nonsense every libertarian wingnut everywhere spews?

                3. No, no, we totally admit it. The Chamber of Commerce is factual information.

                  Nevermind that 83% of the gas taxes paid as part of SB1 by Fullerton residents aren’t spent in Fullerton.

                  I mean that’s just propaganda. Kinda like your name calling and sad little life.

                4. Great system. Everyone can post under anyone’s name.

                  And low integrity morons do.

                5. What difference does it make? John R Hogerhuis can’t possibly be a real name anyway.

        3. “I’m a programmer. It’s really not that hard.”

          The beginning sentence of any failed software development project.

          If I had a dollar for any time some dopey code monkey underestimated the amount of work involved in a government project, I’d be rich.

                1. No doubt. Sales and marketing guys make their money by getting the contract not delivering it.

                  A quick Google search shows multiple vendors of parking permit management systems including license plate recognition.

                  So it wouldn’t be a development effort, but integration and training.

                2. Just because something can be done doesn’t mean our government is smart enough to do it.

                  Basic math is beyond these idiots with their “balanced budget” horseshit.

                  As has been stated – let the bars study and pay for it. It’s their mess it’s meant to address. If they can bring a solid case and business plan forward then, and only then, should the city contemplate leasing the parking lots to the preferred entity.

          1. Sure thanks for the Anonymous Coward estimate.

            I’ve been doing this long enough to know what it would take. And I’m a professional programmer not a “code monkey”

        1. so what? downtown isn’t for residents living in Podunk anyway.

          it’s for college students. if you don’t like it you can leave.

              1. yeah I was opposed to that giveaway of public property.

                That area was better used for brawls.

  6. Fiscal conservative Bruce Whitaker has been complaining loudly about this fiasco for years.

    Wait. That isn’t right.

    1. Fisc… oh you mean “Republican.” Might as well be a Space Invader from Planet X.

      Maybe he went back to his planet.

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