The Trail to Nowhere Grant Application. A Tissue of Lies

Oh, the potential!

As you might expect, the application form is boilerplate and gives the applicant the opportunity to pick questions that put its proposal in the best light. Reading it gives one the impression that the State doesn’t do a lot of particular investigation; takes applications at face value, assuming applicant to be honest; and doesn’t condescend to concern itself with real field investigations.

The application is replete with traffic and demographic data of the most useless sort. This tripe can be dismissed as bureaucratic string tying and gobbledegooking. The literary answers in it sounds like somebody describing the Yellow Brick Road leading to the fabulous Emerald City.

But there are specific questions on the application that are germane to effective spending of public money, and the answers elicited shed light into the mindset of our Parks Department personnel.

Let’s look at Lie Collection #1. The City is asked to describe boonful economic impacts of the Trail to Nowhere:

Visit local businesses? What the Hell? Like the back of industrial buildings and junk yards? Countless opportunities for economic renewal and growth? Name just one along this dismal “trail.” We now know the proposed “trail” doesn’t even line up with Phase I, a fact omitted in the project budget and description. We also know it doesn’t go east past the abandoned park and doesn’t reach the Transportation Center. An affordable way to travel? For whom, for God’s sake? And how much does it cost to walk to Independence Park, using safe streets? That’s right, nothing. The “trail” links no disadvantaged community with schools (there aren’t any), or local businesses, and of course the “trail” doesn’t get to the Transportation Center. It stops at Harbor Boulevard.

Here’s another packet of misinformation, Lie Collection #2. Get a load of this.

Somehow the author of this application “anticipates” 105,000 users annually, an astonishing 288 users each and every day – 24 every daytime hour. In order to get where? Why to the back parking lot in the northeast corner of Independence Park, that’s where. The statistics thrown into the mush to support this nonsense are of the most generic kind, and .prove nothing. Of course we already know that there is no physical linkage to the half-circle north of the tracks. Calling this strip an “active transportation corridor” is hysterically funny to anyone who has walked the abandoned right-of-way.

I included the paragraph above the c.2 in the snippet just to show the repetition of the lies and the nonsense that this “trail” would be used, miraculously, by bus and train riders. There are no points of connection from the “trail” to either service. And notice that the application includes the names of all sorts of disembodied parks that are nowhere near the “trail” and that are not remotely accessible to it.

Is it safe? Is it clean? Who cares? It’s a transportation corridor!

Now we arrive at Lie Collection #3. This is more of the same rubbish.

This block of lies is nothing but a bureaucratic word salad of nonsense and misinformation. It’s comical that the described location of Independence Park is actually where the large DMV facility is located. You’d think the Parks Department would know where their parks are, but this geographical illiteracy may explain how the “trail” proposal was cooked up in the first place. And we know the “trail” provides no access to Richman Park, and of course the Big Lie about connectivity to Downtown Fullerton, the High School and Fullerton College must be repeated, and repeated and repeated – ad nauseam.

A trail runs through it…

Lie Collection #4 is crucial to understanding how this grant was approved, rather than booted out the door with guffaws of laughter.

Whether this hot mess was really “shovel ready” as confidently asserted here is a matter of conjecture, based on the presence of carcinogenic toxins adjacent and below a significant part of the “trail.” But observe in the red box how the application writer avers that some sort of “Environmental Review process” was completed in 1998, and how no elements of the “trail” were found to require mitigation. There’s a body buried here and it’s toxic, too. We know this claim is a lie because the UP Park was acquired at the same time as the linear right-of-way, and was found to be contaminated much later – in the 2000s, demanding that we accept the idiocy that the “trail” was tested in 1998, but the park site was not. It’s an inescapable conclusion that no environmental “process” was undertaken by the City in 1998 at all. Furthermore, we know that two recent Public Records Act requests for specific information about testing on the “trail” returned no relevant documents. This means that if any documents for Environmental Phase I and Phase II research and testing were performed in 1998, the City is withholding that documentation. Or, alternatively, no documentation exists, meaning that the claim in the application couldn’t have been verified.

Finally, the application conveniently omits any mention of TCE contamination along part of it, and under it, a fact well-known in City Hall and by the State of California for decades.

Wow, this makes my lies about myself look like amateur stuff.

And that leads to a significant question: would the State ever have approved a grant based on this dodge about environmental assessment? I seriously doubt it.

Fortunately the question is moot so far as the future of the infamous Trail to Nowhere is concerned. That proverbial train pulled out of the station with the wise vote by Dunlap, Jung and Whitaker. That’s not what these series of posts have been about. They are about what goes on in City Hall, how decisions are made, or, as the case may be, not made; how there seems to be be little or no accountability for things that are done poorly, illegally, illogically, and untruthfully.

And that’s why FFFF is here.

The Trail to Nowhere Grant Application

The trail didn’t go anywhere, but it sure was short…

Curious Friends have been asking about the grant application the City of Fullerton submitted to the State of California Natural Resources Agency to build the now infamous “Trail to Nowhere.” Why? Because the plan, as conceived by parks employees as a make-work project, was so obviously useless, flawed and ill-considered. Reflect on these facts:

  1. Nobody ever used the allegedly successful “Phase I” except drug addicts and the homeless.
  2. The City has been unable or unwilling to maintain Phase I which is a trash-strewn, urine soaked disgrace, making the question of maintenance (below) perfectly reasonable.
  3. Phase I doesn’t even line up with the proposed “Phase II.”
  4. The scheme was going to cost Fullerton $300,000 to build; nobody would say what the running costs would be.
  5. The proposed “trail” was to run though an unsafe area of heavy industry, junk yards, a plating facility, an asphalt plant, parking lots and myriad used tire and auto repair places. It would have run parallel to the BNSF mainline track with no buffer for a third of its length.
  6. Carncinogenic trichlorethylene (TCE) had been identified years ago on an adjacent property by the EPA/Department of Toxic Substances Control that described an underground “plume” moving south across the path of the “trail.”
  7. Two requests for information regarding environmental investigation on the “trail” site, via the Public Records Act have been obviously stonewalled by the City of Fullerton.
  8. “Trail” advocates have been disseminating false information about connectivity to the Transportation Center and Downtown Fullerton, and positing future connections to the west that are completely implausible.
  9. And probably most importantly, no one could describe a potential “trail” user except by using generic data irrelevant to the actual site. The users would be the “community”

The grant application itself isn’t to be found in any City Council documentation, because they never approved the actual application, only allowed the application to be made behind the scenes on their behalf. But it turns out that copies of the document are available, possibly leaked by City Hall employees appalled at the whole mess.

Well FFFF has it.

Mario’s “Bump Out” Heist Subject of Litigation?

This item popped up on tonight’s City Council Closed Session Calendar.

Could this relate to the northwest corner of Commonwealth and Harbor? If so we are dealing with one Mr. Mario Marovic, who opened two bars on this property that he owns at this corner. Why anticipated litigation? What claim did he make against the City? Let’s review a bit of history, shall we?

Sit down and grab some sidewalk, fratello…

By now the Friends are well-familiar with the Saga of the Florentine Stolen Sidewalk, one of Fullerton City Hall’s more egregious and embarrassing fuck-ups, a high bar to clamber over, indeed.

Back in 2003 the Florentines purloined the public sidewalk on Commonwealth Avenue by putting a permanent structure on it without permission. The whitewash was that the City would now lease the land under the building addition to the Florentines. And the Florentines owned the addition, not the owner of the adjacent building to which the addition was attached! In the lease the Florentines were held responsible for removing the addition at the City’s discretion.

But the underlying problem of who owned what and who was responsible for what, never went away.

The comic opera took a new turn in 2020 when the Florentine Mob bugged out, abandoning their addition and their responsibilities for their sidewalk leasehold. Who owned the “bump out” as the encroachment was now charmingly referred to? Why, the people of Fullerton, of course. We assumed ownership, and responsibility. But this didn’t stop the owner of the attached building, Mario Marovic, from trespassing into the bump out and from beginning to modify it as he was remodeling the rest of the old Florentine establishments for his new bars.

Meet the new proprietor, same as the old proprietor…

What a mess, all predictable and all avoidable had the City staff and the City Council done the right thing back in 2003. Well, if the Queen had…never mind.

The most recent twist became public last fall when, behind the scenes, our feckless City Council made deal with Marovic. He could assume the Florentine ground lease, and open his new establishments; in return, he would be responsible for removing the encroaching structure from the City sidewalk, and all would be well with minor embarrassment to the City. Marovic’s deadline to start demolition was the last week of March 2023, to be complete by July.

Still crazy after all these years…

Well, March came and went. So did April, May, June, July, August, September, and now October; and nothing has started. Nada. Marovic has been in breach of the agreement for seven months, reaping revenue from his saloons and from our property, too.

I really hope this item about a claim made by Marovic because it will inevitably raise the issue of his delinquency, although if it is, and this being Fullerton after all, I suppose the Council will end up letting the scofflaw keep renting our bump out on our sidewalk and maybe even pay him for the honor. It would be yet another effort to keep the City from more institutional embarrassment. Can’t have that, can we?

Here’s what should happen since the City has inexplicably decided not to go after the Florentine Mob for damages. The City should suck it up: cancel the existing ground lease with Marovic, demolish the bump out once and for all, and replace the open wall with whatever was there before this whole damn thing started.

The Scam

Disillusioned Ex-Hippy has just written a nice piece about how the Voice of OC got conned into publishing a completely one-sided story on the defeated Trail to Nowhere, replete with the same falsehoods being printed by Saskia Kennedy and her mother, Sharon, who are responsible for the editorials of the Fullerton Observer.

The narrative is simple: poor, underserved Latinos are fighting City Hall to get “nice things.” Of course it was lapped up by Voice reporter Hosam Elattar who took the bait and the hook along with it. The whole thing is a genuine and popular uprising of hard working folk taking time away from their jobs, etc., etc.

But there’s a problem with this story, one that we already know about. And that is that the ongoing “protest,” such as it is, was ginned up by D5 councilman Ahmad Zahra to embarrass his political opponents on the Fullerton City Council. And this little scheme has been aided and abetted by the Kennedy clan every step of the way.

So get this.

On October 4th the Fullerton Observer is inviting people to show up at Independence Park that afternoon to talk about ways to improve Fullerton. No mention is made of protest signs and walks along the railroad tracks with narration provided by one Egleth Nunnci, Zahra’s loyal, go-to Latina foot soldier. Anyone seeing this message might believe they were going to discuss improving Independence Park and would hardly expect to hear the propaganda that has nothing to do with Independence Park. Neither would they expect a photojournalist (and maybe even a reporter) to be in attendance to report on a political protest, with signs handed out for fun.

What a sad, albeit sort of funny little scam, but just the sort of small-scale chisel Zahra watchers have come to expect. Now, it’s likely that nobody seeing that message even showed up, and that the trail hikers were all Zahra brand crisis actors. Nevertheless, the willingness to deliberately mislead citizens like this is pretty reprehensible even for the self-important and self-righteous Kennedy family.

Part II: Is the “Trail to Nowhere” Poisoned?

It could be. Last post I described how the the UP Park was contaminated and shut down for remediation just after $2 million were sunk into building a park. Nobody in the City bothered to do an Environmental Analysis.

I asked, rhetorically, whether the rest of the long UP right-of-way had been subsequently tested for toxins in light of the fact that trichloroethylene (TCE) had been detected on the property at 311 South Highland Avenue, a property adjacent to the proposed Trail to Nowhere. It seems that some years ago the Hughes Corporation used the solvent to clean up the circuit boards they made at this location, and the EPA still regards it as an active site.

A trail runs through it…

A little digging uncovered the fact that ground zero seems to be the west end of the property where testing has been periodically done in the area of a likely dump site for the nasty TCE toxin. Apparently there are several monitoring wells located in the yellow areas circled in red in the image below.

Please note the proximity to the Trail to Nowhere of the wells in the lower left. 15 feet? 10 feet? 5ft? Surely somebody in the Parks or Engineering Departments gave thought to this when the Trail to Nowhere concept was developed; when the grant application was made; even when the proposed project budget was laid out. No? If not, why not? How could they not have known? The EPA has recognized this as a site of TCE ground water contamination where a toxic plume is heading southward – under the proposed trail.

At this point questions are starting to pile up. Questions that may have uncomfortable answers.

We are fortunate that Messrs. Dunlap, Jung and Whitaker have put the kibosh on the silly and wasteful Trail to Nowhere proposal for other common sensical reasons. And yet there remains the problem about lack of disclosure to our elected officials in their decision making process, and perhaps even in the grant application itself.

The Poison Trail to Nowhere?

Is it safe? Is it clean?

Is the ground under the now deceased Trail To Nowhere polluted with a toxin that nobody bothered to tell our City Council about?

I don’t know. But I do know that the question came up the other day and has the ring of truth to it.

In the last FFFF post about a bike trail that runs parallel to the now dead Trail to Nowhere, one of our Friends by the name of Observer pointed out the existence of trichloroethylene contamination at 311 South Highland Avenue and provided a handy link to a government website that indicates polluted sites.

Sure enough, 311 S. Highland Avenue is indicated on the map, and this address runs adjacent to the proposed trail west of Highland Avenue. The blue square represents an active contaminated address.

A trail runs through it…

Trichloroethylene (TCE) is used as a solvent for degreasing metal parts during the manufacture of a variety of products. This is really nasty stuff, and was used by manufacturers of circuit boards to clean stray solder and other unwanted material off the boards. Guess what? Hughes used to make circuit boards on this property several decades ago.

Did our crack city staff know about this situation? If they did, they sure weren’t talking. We know that 20 years ago the same folks bought the former UP property without doing any due diligence – which is why the UP Park had to be closed right after construction for remediation of toxins and gained the moniker “Poisoned Park.” Did anybody in City Hall learn anything from that previous disaster?

The test of that question is whether anyone commissioned a so-called Phase I Environmental Study, used to assess potential environmental issues on a given property, in this case, the long, skinny trail site. If they had they surely would have discovered the history of 311 S. Highland, and that it was long ago identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as contaminated. At that point a Phase II study should have been conducted to determine if indeed, the long UP right-of-way was contaminated like the eastern end of the UP property was.

Of course, none of this was discussed at the City Council meetings pertaining to the State grant or the trail design; fortunately Dunlap, Whitaker and Jung made the right decision without knowing any of the back story about the proposed trail’s neighbors.

Tanned, rested, and ready.

There is more to be learned about what happened, or, to be more precise, what didn’t happen in this process. Rest assured, our crack team of investigators will be pursuing this issue, and as we learn more we’ll be reporting what we know with the Friends.

What They Didn’t Tell Anybody

The City of Fullerton Parks Department wanted a bike trail from The abandoned UP Park to Independence Park – a mere three quarters of a mile a way. They had an ally in D5 councilmember Ahmad Zahra who was desperate to be seen giving something to his “poor,” Latino constituents; whether they wanted it or not was irrelevant. And of course we now know that the Fullerton Observer, an operation that pretends to be a news outlet was (and still is) busy stirring up support for the silly and expensive idea, even after the council majority voted it down.

All of these bad actors had reasons for wasting $2,000,000, and none of them were good.

Nobody noticed…

Thanks to good Friend D. Johnson, we also now know something else: that none of these self-interested people – disingenuous or just plain ignorant – told anybody is that there already is a designated bicycle route from the south side of the Santa Fe railroad tracks at the Depot that follows Walnut Avenue and turns south on Richman to Valencia Avenue, and that this bike route, should anybody want to use it, goes to the front of Independence park, not the hidden back corner.

What is that strange, totemic symbol on the asphalt?

Hard to believe that the existence of this bike route was never mentioned by anybody, but we’re talking about the Fullerton Parks Department that has a long history of deliberately omitting facts, misleading the council and the public, and has resorted to outright peddling of lies to get what it wants from our feckless councils. It was this department (in conjunction with the Planning Department) that ignored the council’s request for a broader vision for the land adjacent to the UP right-of-way.

More bike…

It would be more than a bit embarrassing to acknowledge an existing bike route just 200 feet or so from their proposal and running parallel to it! So of course they didn’t.

Connectivity. For free!

And the existing route – with a little paint striping – can be easily upgraded and the people of California will be $1,780,000 better off; and the people of Fullerton will be $300,000 better off in capital costs plus who knows how much in maintenance and water costs. And any and all bike riders who wish to make the tour through this industrial neighborhood can do so at their convenience and leisure.

Which brings me to the conclusion of this story by noting that people who work along the Walnut/Richman route inform me me that they don’t recall seeing a lot, if any bicyclists along this route. And this may very well be because nobody wants to go that way – despite its connectivity to the bike route on Valencia. There is a mind-set among top-down liberal circles that if you build something for the underserved, people will, must use it, despite decades of evidence to the contrary. The idea that demand might well encourage supply is a completely alien notion to them.

This Has Been a Zahra Production

Ahmad is a film producer, we’ve been led to believe – by Zahra himself – although the body of work is a bit thin. So thin, in fact, as to be transparent. But last Tuesday he gave every indication that a Zahra production need not be a moving picture.

The casting call went out to gullible kids and even those of advanced age who should know better: a protest is needed. The underserved, bikes, trees, arbols, clean air, chubby kids finding health and happiness, all in jeopardy; in other words the ludicrous Trail to Nowhere, a $2,000,000 boondoggle vanity project whose only function was to make an appearance on a future Ahmad Zahra campaign mailer. Streetside they presented a pretty thin line whose handmade signs revealed the lack of imagine one associates with Fullerton Observers.

The protesters spoke, too, wasting lots of the council’s time, repeating the same nonsense previously scripted by Zahra

The Chief said I could have this neat shirt if I joined his team…

Zahra’s acolyte named Egleth Nunccio actually tried to get 18 minutes of talking time by taking the time allotted to five women standing behind her. Some of those responding to the casting call gave indication that they were nothing other than paid crisis actors employed to bulk up the chorus. Some make a sad presentation and sure didn’t look like rec trail advocates.

Will protest for a sandwich and a smoke…

So the production came and the production went off. The protesters had been told by their handlers that there was a chance the rejected State grant could somehow be clawed back from the brink of termination by a council suddenly enlightened or frightened by the Zahra music-less comedy. It can’t. Surely, Zahra knew this even as his little band wasted everybody’s time. His real goal was once again to look like he was accomplishing something. And more importantly, the petulant Zahra wanted to embarrass his colleagues.

And there are people in Fullerton who still wonder why Zahra can’t get himself chosen Mayor by his fellow councilmembers.

Ground Zero for Inertia

My latest essay detailed the problem of corporate inertia and described how Fullerton’s government as a corporate body displays all the problems associated with stagnation, ossification and an inability do things any differently. And then of course, there’s the arrogance and secretiveness.

Here’s a prime example of a culture that is in need of electric shock therapy.

Last April I wrote a post about how the the City and property owner Mr. Mario Marovic had come to an agreement in the fall of 2022 about the latter’s removal of the infamous Florentine hijack of the sidewalk on Commonwealth Avenue. In return, Marovic got to open his two new saloons on the corner.

We now know what a foolish bargain it was for the City.

Marovic was supposed to start demolition the last week in March. That was five and a half months ago. As of mid-September this has not started, and there is no sign that it will ever start. Why not?

Cheers!

Some people may suspect that Mr. Marovic has cast his bread upon the City Council water, so to speak, either above or below the table. But there is also a more likely scenario: the City is simply continuing to cover up its own incompetence in the long, sad history of the sidewalk theft.

No, I wasn’t asleep. I was praying…

And at the center of this tale? City Attorney Dick Jones, who is the only player who has been involved in this mess from the proverbial Day One, and who continues, no doubt, to dispense his legal wisdom that has been so disastrous, and has included turning a blind eye to his own conflict of interest, and justifying forgery of an official City application.

There’s also a bigger picture.

The government of Fullerton has developed a noxious habit of ignoring its own rules and regulations in the downtown area; it has systematically ignored the scofflaws who own the bars, and in fact has coddled and pampered them. Both bureaucrats and elected have continued to portray downtown Fullerton as an achievement, a great success, a municipal asset, when in fact, the saloon culture has never been anything but an annual $1.5 million drain on the City’s budget.

Of course the pages of FFFF are full of stories that confirm the nature of the stasis that defines our city’s governance. What is the solution? That’s the theme of a future post.

The Culture War

They were large and slow with a mean streak.

You know, we hear a lot about the “brain drain” a situation in which some corporate entity or other suffers from an exodus of its senior managers, generals, archbishops, or whatever titles fit the type of organization.

The same thing pertains to government corporate bodies, too: when department heads head for the hills we hear of the loss of senior talent and expertise that bodes ill for whatever the agency’s mission might be. Lamentations are cried about the loss of “institutional memory” a sad situation in which the accumulated wisdom of the agency is undermined, sapped, or otherwise depleted.

But is this a bad thing?

Let’s reflect on the very nature of corporate behavior. Sure, the mission remains: enrich the shareholders, protect the nation, pass on spiritual uplift, fix the potholes in the road. But of course there’s more. The corporate mindset leads to gigantism, arrogance, defensiveness, self-righteousness and above all avoidance of outside scrutiny.

In effect, the mission of corporations becomes encrusted with the dead weight of the various pathologies that they engender. The consequence is not accumulated wisdom, but rather a culture of ossification that is static, slow, non-responsive and self-satisfied. They lose flexibility, agility and effectiveness.

If we consider Fullerton’s history over the past 30 years it becomes fairly evident that the culture of our government demonstrates the symptoms of ossification. The same types of issues are dealt with in the same kinds of way: bureaucrats display the same kinds of attitudes and behaviors; our elected representatives are replaced and yet never seem to change in their understanding of their jobs. The emphasis in City Hall is as much directed toward self-preservation of the status quo as of taking care of municipal problems; avoiding accountability is more important than fixing the streets. Avoiding loss of control and scrutiny by the public have been, and are the key goals, it seems, of the people we elect and the people we pay to work for us. And protecting the corporate culture is always of paramount importance.

The pages of FFFF are replete with examples over the past 30 years that will amply support my thesis. In my next post I’m going to share one of these examples: a problem that was created by the City over 20 years ago, and which lingers today.