A few weeks ago I published a post detailing how someone had requested on October 12th, through a Public Records Act Request, information on environmental testing along the abandoned Union Pacific right-of-way; and how the City on October 23, in response, replied with six document files they called a “full release” and that had nothing to do with any sort of testing at all.
Well, they’ve done it again.
Also on October 12th, the same person made a related request, specifically asking for a Phase 1 environmental report of the right-of-way. A Phase 1 environmental report surveys a property and its neighbors for historical usage in an attempt to identify potential environmental issues. On October 28th the City responded with the identical unresponsive documents as before, apparently digging a deeper hole for itself.
Whether this is sheer incompetence or just bullheaded arrogance, or a lot of both, remains to be seen.
As before, the proper response is not to share completely irrelevant and non-responsive documents, but, rather to simply state that there are no responsive documents.
Why the City refuses to obey the law suggests several things. First, as mentioned above, stupid incompetence and/or arrogance. Or maybe somebody down there thinks they can stonewall a possible, even likely truth – that there never was any environmental testing done along the right-of-way, a path that lies adjacent and likely right on top of toxic contamination and on which the City tried to build a recreation trail for $2,000,000.
You know, the more I have looked into the ill-fated “rec trail” that would have wasted $2,000,000 in public funds, the more I notice a trend of ignorant misstatements and misdirection; outright prevarication and a lot of hopeless wishful thinking.
Since it’s so hopeless, I can dispense with the wishful thinking (for now). The deliberate lies will be the theme of another post. This post will deal with the misstatements concerning the so-called “Phase I” of the Trail to Nowhere that City staff and trail supporters keep talking about as some sort of achievement. I really wonder if any of them have ever actually seen what they are talking about. I went there today, and I’m here to help.
First, here is a satellite image of “Phase I” that was put in place at the same time the Union Pacific Park was built. The black line is superimposed over the “trail” – a sidewalk running next to a decomposed granite path along which an horse railing was thoughtfully added, presumably for the equestrian enthusiasts in the barrio.
The trail, such as it is, doesn’t even start at the UP Park. It starts just west of it. It runs a few hundred feet and makes an abrupt 90 degree turn, crosses the paved alley about 50′ and then it makes another 90 turn to the left and eventually follows the descending grade of Highland Avenue where it stops at Walnut Avenue at the bottom of the railroad underpass.
Does any of this “trail” meet any sort of basic requirements? It sure looks like a design mess to me. And of course this “facility” has been completely neglected by City maintenance and is covered in weeds, broken railings and strewn with trash and vandalized by graffiti.
It’s perfectly obvious to anybody with a modicum of commonsense that this effort has no broader connectivity at the east end. It has no connection to the Transportation Center, Downtown Fullerton or parts east, as continuously claimed by promoters of the “Phase II” extension. It has no connection to anything except the fenced off UP Park. In fact, the thing is so obviously useless for its intended purpose that the City used the adjacent parking stalls for homeless car campers. Who would care? The route behind the Elephant Packing building smells like it’s been used for public urination. A lot of it.
The sad fact is that of course nobody uses this trail for recreation purposes, and for obvious reasons. It’s useless and it’s often dangerous.
The answer? Phase II of course! The problem with this little useless zig-zag is to connect it to Independence Park with a two million dollar extension, and the problem is solved.
Here’s the City’s plan:
But how is that supposed to work, exactly? If you look at the City’s proposal image above you can easily see that the Phase I part doesn’t even line up with the would-be Phase II to the west, indicated above by the arrow. But the asphalt alleyway does.
This would have meant that Phase I isn’t even finished and would require further modification, a scope of work not discussed by anybody, not shown on the plan above, not budgeted, and one that would mean the horror of a bike trail running alongside the existing paved road to get to Highland Avenue. And then of course there’s the problem of actually getting across Highland and traffic line of sight safety – another impediment to recreational fun.
While the questions of Phase I’s utility and connectivity to Phase II are now, fortunately, moot, it’s instructive to observe the design failure and the real truth: this would never have been a connection to any other part of eastern Fullerton or linkage to any regional trail plan as relentlessly cited by staff. The only way Phase I was useful was its availability to justify an extension. Unless you were to look at an actual map.
As might have been predicted, someone made a Public Records Act request on October 12th for information regarding soils and environmental testing on the abandoned Union Pacific right-of-way, purchased by the City of Fullerton in the 1990s.
Why is this request germane to FFFF? Because the blog has speculated about contamination along the UP right-of-way, in view of previously discovered toxicity that closed the UP Park and because it is known by the EPA, the Orange County Water District, and the City of Fullerton’s Engineering Department that the carcinogenic chemical trichloroethylene was discovered at 311 S. Highland Avenue, a heavy industrial property that lies along the proposed recreation trail on the UP right-of-way. It is also known that contamination is moving south and east from the aforementioned property.
Needless to say, none of this information was given to the Fullerton City Council when they considered approving the State Natural Resources grant that would have paid for most of the trail construction.
Here is the request:
Well, that’s a pretty simple request. And, as you can see, the City claims that it has complied by issuing a “full release” of documents. Here’s what they released:
Enjoy yourself reviewing these documents on the City Clerk’s website page. It won’t take you long. Of the 6 files listed none has anything to do with soils or environmental testing. From this response, such as it is, we may reasonably infer that no testing was done, or if it was, the documentation is lost. In either case the proper response should have been “no relevant documents exist.” Instead City staff posted completely irrelevant and non-responsive documents onto their website. Was it just an effort to look responsive, somehow? Did they even care?
If we grant that the City’s functionaries are somewhat honest as they go about their business then we have no choice but to conclude that no soils or environmental testing have ever been preformed by the City or its agents along the right-of-way and that this has led to an egregious omission of information to a City Council being asked to spend $2,000,000 building a trail and no one knows how much securing and maintaining it.
The other night I was watching our esteemed councilcreatures meet so I could check out the Associated Road conversation and I stuck around for the discussion on whether to hire a “consultant” to figure out the cost for Fullerton to ditch the Orange County Power Agency.
The OCPA was conceived as a way to provide “green energy” alternative electricity to people in orange County who wanted it. The idea was the brainchild of the City of Irvine who paid for the start up costs. Eventually Fullerton, Buena Park, Huntington Beach and the County signed on.
From the get go critics attacked the new agency for secrecy and incompetence and failure to deliver a competitive price. It was up to individuals who wanted out, to opt out, a backhanded way to get, and keep customers. Not a good start.
Flash forward to today.
The County has pulled out of the OCPA, Irvine has been talking about it, too. Last Tuesday the Huntington Beach council voted to do the same; on the very same night the Fullerton City, debated the merits of hiring a consultant to figure out what the financial ramifications might be for us get out, too, before Fullerton is left holding the proverbial bag.
I have no idea why City Hall doesn’t already know the consequences of leaving the agency and why the exact formula wasn’t know before we got into it. Anyhow, the discussion wasn’t all that clear.
Ahmad Zahra, one of the people who voted for Fullerton to join this agency wasn’t there to opine on it. Bruce Whitaker and Nick Dunlap both expressed reservations about the whole deal, but went along with Mayor Jung’s suggestion of having the City Manager ask the agency to tell them what it would cost to bolt, instead of hiring a consultant to do it. That makes sense of course, but begs the question of why this wasn’t done a long, long time ago. Like on Day One.
Shana Charles who comically described herself as a “cost analyst” was pushing hard to waste money hiring somebody to pry the information, somehow, out of the OCPA – no doubt a way to embarrass Jung who is now happens to be the Chair of the OCPA. Her motion died a very slow death.
So where will this all lead? The OCPA claims to have reformed itself, but has provided zero evidence to show it has. The board got rid of the first problematic CEO even as they showered him with praise. As far as I can see this shows that nobody there is serious about anything.
Getting out of OCPA may be expensive and may get more so as members drop out; nobody seems to know, and if they do, they ain’t a-talkin.’ And that’s not only embarrassing, it’s a dereliction of duty on the part of the people who got Fullerton into this mess.
I watched this little gem of a clip from Bill Maher’s cable show last night. Bill rails against the added cost laden on to stuff simply because people can get away with it it.
In particular Maher notes the exorbitant cost of government projects, namely housing for the homeless and infrastructure where the “soft costs” including the inevitable army of “consultants” and lobbyists drives up the cost to absurdly comical levels. For the cost of building an “affordable” housing unit you could easily buy some homeless dude a condominium.
For those of us paying attention in Fullerton we have seen this in spades:
Five million bucks for a couple of traction elevators at the depot. Two million bucks for some crappy, rickety wood stairs at Hillcrest Park. The better part of a million bucks for a decorative bridge over the muddy ditch known as Brea Creek. Etc, etc., etc. The fact that these vanity efforts were totally unnecessary just adds insult to the injurious price tag.
The fact is that government building projects are grossly over-managed. There are architects and engineers galore; there are construction managers; there are general contractor’s project managers and superintendents coming out of the woodwork. And then there are the government’s “project managers” who manage virtually nothing but have blanketed themselves with warm layers of external “expertise” to insulate themselves against the inevitable sideways momentum of their next disaster.
Meanwhile the politicians who are elected to watch out for our interests are too lazy, ignorant, indifferent, or self-interested to give a damn.
Ten weeks ago I took a break documenting the disastrous “elevators to nowhere” story, a history of confusion and ineptitude that had its genesis in Jones, Bankhead and McKinley era. This completely unnecessary $4,000,000 boondoggle was five-and-a-half years old and it was dead in the water.
As of May 10, 2017 work on this project had already been halted for quite some time. Now, two-and-a-half months later, work has still not resumed. It is probably useless to inquire to the City about the facts of this latest delay, given the total lack of transparency surrounding this project throughout its death march. The Public Works Department appears to be incapable of presenting an honest staff report about it, and our elected officials could pretty obviously not care less about the waste or the management problems connected to it.
One thing we may safely assume: the delay – if it is the responsibility of the City, as is highly likely – is going to cost us a lot in extended overhead for the contractor, Woodcliff Corporation; and the cost will be accompanied by the usual complete lack of accountability to the taxpayers of Fullerton.
In case you needed any more evidence of the slipshod way the “exercise stairs” at Hillcrest Park were built, I offer in evidence some images taken by the FFFF Construction Field Documentation Team (CFDT) that has been awfully busy lately examining the many failures at the “Pine Forest Stairs” to nowhere.
Here is what the foundations are supposed to look like:
Here is what happened at one location. The top of the caisson was too high and had to be broken out to accommodate a post or cross beam supporting the stair stringer. Unfortunately the rebar in the caisson has been exposed to rust away and eventually spall the concrete.
Here’s a location where a large chunk of the caisson has mysteriously broken off. Here there is no reinforcing steel in sight.
And finally, here’s an example of what can happen when you decide to sink a big 6″x 6″ wood post into concrete:
Apparently many of the caissons are already cracking just like this one. Are these structures even safe? Will our common seismic events cause serious problems? I’m not privy to those answers, but I can tell you that there’s no way I’m getting on those things.
And just for fun, note that the contractor reworked the top the caisson to get water to run off. This sloppy effort is going to flake off – exposing the post to a permanent puddle.
It’s hard to believe that “professionals” inside and outside of City Hall were extremely well paid to oversee this hodgepodge of construction horrors, but there you have it. $1.6 million dollars and this is the best Fullerton can do.
During our series on the ill-fated, $1.6 million dollar “exercise stairs” in Hillcrest Park, some of our Friends correctly noted the problem of the wood support posts that had been poured into the concrete caissons that hold the whole structure up. Obviously, something went wrong. Notice how none of the posts are centered on the caissons, and some are barely two inches from the outside of the concrete, leading me to wonder how they managed to fit a rebar reinforcement inside the caisson.
From the project drawings, here is how the caisson and post are supposed to be aligned. The post centers on the caisson with 4 rebars equally spaced around it. Please notice the 3″ minimum clearance from the rebar to the outside of the concrete.
Clearly the footings and posts were built incorrectly. Obviously the caissons holes were drilled in the wrong places – and the construction manager must have agreed to let this pass. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see what happens. If the footings crack them may have to be replaced – and they weren’t built to be replaced.
This whole mess made me wonder about why the posts were sunk into the concrete in the first place – a very odd situation given that the expansion and contraction of the posts, when wet, could lead to potential concrete cracking and spalling, especially when the post is near the outer rim of the caisson.
It turns out I wasn’t alone. Here is a string of e-mails from the contractor, construction manager, and the architect discussing the redesign of the caissons and posts to a hardware connection – a solution that would make the replacement of the posts significantly easier. The contractor was willing to do this and add the necessary cross bracing at no cost to the City.
I wonder what will happen when the concrete caissons crack, or when the posts rot out. The architect seems to think the posts will outlast the rest of the rickety framing. I wonder which will go first.