The City is Violating Its Own Law in Hillcrest Park


If you’ve driven along Brea Boulevard lately you will have noticed that the north hill side of Hillcrest Park has been completely scraped as part of the so-called Lions Field improvements. Well, the hillside was suffering from total (and I mean complete) negligence on the part of the City for decades. What is being built, are large retaining structures to “stabilize” the slope. The only problem is that what the slope needed to stabilize it was appropriate landscaping – a solution that the parks Department ignored for years.

The addition of retaining structures in the park is inappropriate. More than that, it’s illegal. Hillcrest Park is a designated Fullerton Landmark (#6) and as such the types of alteration being proposed  should have been reviewed in a public hearing by the Landmarks Commission. This never happened. It’s true that Hillcrest Park doesn’t fit into any of the categories included in the watered-down version of the Landmarks Ordinance passed by the City about 12 years ago. But adherence to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards is one key. Another issue is that of demolition and replacement of historic elements. Even the watered down code has a spirit that has not been observed.

Once again the City has ignored its own laws, laws that you or I would be expected to follow. It has specifically ignored the Landmark Ordinance once again, a part of the Zoning Code that the City has habitually and serially abused over the years (if you want I’ll make a list).

For years the City has turned over the park to pervs and low-lifes while ignoring the historic built environment. And now it seems they are embarked on another form of abuse of an historic resource.

The North Platform Fiasco – Allegro Molto e Vivace

Loyal and Patient Friends, our sad narrative of The Great North Platform Disaster now draws to a merciful conclusion. We have shared all the dismal failures of the landscape architect, Steve Rose, the Redevelopment manager in charge, Terry Galvin, and Design Review Committee members that were evidently incompetent or unqualified.

Trees and planters block the platform; staff obstruction was almost as bad.
Trees and planters block the platform; staff obstruction was almost as bad.

The design failure was complete and palpable. Yet as diverse groups of citizens displayed their unhappiness with the ludicrous and costly elements of the project, the City Staff dug in their heels in a rear guard action to deflect blame by ignoring the obvious and fighting to keep the mess they had created. Newly minted City Manager Jim Armstrong led the effort to defend the indefensible. He went so far as to accuse one of the leading critics of the design mess of  “making the City look like shit.”

Former Fullerton City Manager Jim Armstrong shovelling hard.
Former Fullerton City Manager Jim Armstrong doing what he did best: shovelling hard.

The City Council, to its credit, would have none of it. They ordered construction halted. Even the Fullerton Observer demanded to know who was in charge. In what may have been the last show of independence by a Fullerton City Council, the majority demanded that the incongruous and useless elements be removed. The lone dissenting vote was that of Molly McClanahan, the eternal staff suck-up, who as Mayor tried backdoor sabotage with the State – which was also providing funding for the project. City staff was going into attack mode behind the scenes.

well fed and ready to attack...
Honest citizen tastes like chicken?

In the end the Council (with the sole exception of Chris Norby) lost its collective nerve and settled on a partial removal of the worst offending aspects of the project. The huge planter was split into pieces, allowing platform access through the middle.

Well, that's better than it was...
Well, that's better than it was...

The miserable trees were completely removed.

Look ma, no trees...
The urban forest retreats. Civilization on the march...

The canopies were salvaged though the construction of alcoves cut out of the still useless block bulkhead wall.

Fullerton platform "alcove" designed by our City Council...
Fullerton platform "alcove" designed by our City Council...

The wretched benches and comical little trash cylinders remain to this day. Go to the depot. You can check it out for yourselves.

It was never disclosed whether Steve Rose was back-charged for the cost of all the changes that had to be made, or whether he actually billed the City for remedial design work. Thousands upon thousands of dollars were wasted on building useless construction and then having to remove it. And what happened to the parties responsible for this complete fiasco? You mean you can’t guess by now?

We'll be hanging on to this card...
Oh, we'll be hanging on to this...

Nothing, of course. The proponents of sensible and functional design were blamed by staff for making the City look bad; the whistle blowers were turned into the villains of the melodrama. Chalk up another big win for the escape artists at the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency.

The North Platform Fiasco – Adagio Molto

Useless walls and canopies, obstructive planters, and trees on the platform: The Great North Platform Disaster was shaping up to be one of the jewels in Redevelopment manager Terry Galvin’s cockeyed crown. Local landscape architect Steve Rose had outdone himself in a seeming effort to waste money and to foist comical design elements onto the public and the taxpayers of Fullerton. But, there’s more.

Ah, historical bench! Quick, put it in a museum. Or a landfill.
Ah, historical bench! Quick, put it in a museum. Or a landfill.

The historic benches on the platform were  jettisoned; they were to be replaced by “street furniture” that was comprised of modernistic plastic coated wire chairs, and undersized waste receptacles, and that had nothing to do with the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture of the depot. It was later realized that ash trays had been omitted.

What is this, an episode of the Jetsons?
What is this, an episode of the Jetsons?
Can anyone say "overflow?"
Looks a bit like a robot. Can anyone say "overflow?"

It just didn’t seem possible that the design choice could have been any more inappropriate or comical. And yet there it was, the final insult added to injury. What would the public reaction be? What would Fullerton’s City Council do? What would City staff do to put a happy face on the disaster?

You’ll find out tomorrow!

The North Platform Fiasco – Scherzo

Dear Friends, in our painful relation of the The Great North Platform Disaster of 1993, we have already narrated the construction of a useless wall, non-functional canopies, and positively detrimental block planters on the passenger platform. And now we turn our attention to perhaps the most ludicrous aspect of the new additions. In musical tempo description “scherzo” means joke.

A group of four trees was planted on the platform, adding more obstacles for hurried commuters to negotiate. Trees. On a train platform.

An unwelcome addition to the urban forest.
A most unwelcome addition to the urban forest.

It seemed to observers almost as if the “designer,” local well-connected landscape architect Steve Rose, was intentionally trying to harass commuters by throwing up barriers in their path, not to mention obscuring the great southern elevation of a National Register structure.

Steve: I know. let's hide that historic structure! Terry: sure, why not?
Steve: I know. Let's hide that historic building behind some nice trees! Terry: well, okay, if you say so, Steve.

Well, Steve Rose wasn’t finished, and neither are we. So stay tuned, Friends…

The North Platform Fiasco – Trio & Menuetto

Ah, Friends! Would that we could end this sorrowful tale of the Fullerton train station north platform without taxing your delicate sensibilities further. Yet, alas, we cannot. We have already detailed the story of the useless block wall that was built right in front of an existing wall, as well as the comically useless canopies built therein. But the “designer” was far from finished with the addition of masonry!

When you're late for your train there's just nothing quite as exhilarating as leaping over a block planter!
When you're late for your train there's just nothing quite as exhilarating as leaping over a block planter!

A huge block planter was placed in the middle of the platform – blocking direct access to the trains; a smaller one was inconceivably built on the footprint of the future elevator tower without anyone noticing. The idea of placing this practical barrier right between passengers and their destination seems odd to us non-professionals, but not, apparently to landscape architect Steve Rose who drew it there on his plans, nor to Redevelopment’s in-house Master of Disaster “manager” Terry Galvin, whose job it was to review the plans; nor even to the Design Review Committee which at that time included two interior decorators.

A pallisade of block on a train platform! What were they thinking?
A pallisade of block on a train platform! What were they thinking?
Good Lord! it looks even stupider from up here!
Good Lord! It looks even stupider from up here!

Well, Loyal Friends, in case you thought that things couldn’t get much worse, you would be wrong. Stay tuned as we continue the lachrymal tale of The Great North Platform Disaster!

Fullerton Redevelopment History, The Gift That Keeps on Giving; The North Platform Fiasco – Introduction & Allegro

Before Redevelopment got a hold of it...
Before Redevelopment got a hold of it...

A few months ago when we were running our award eligible series on the manifold history of Fullerton Redevelopment boondogglery, we promised our Friends that we would relate the biggest mess of the whole kit and caboodle. We have been a bit dilatory about this and so we apologize for being remiss. But now the time has come to tell the tale of The Great North Platform Disaster.

Way back in late 1992 and early 1993 the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency, under the management of Terry Galvin and the direction of brand spanking new Director Gary Chalupsky, began construction on the north platform at the Santa Fe train depot. The work was “designed” by one Steve Rose, a well-connected local landscape architect, and was intended to “improve” the platform area for the increasing number of train commuters. The design passed through the process of staff review by Galvin as well as the scrutiny of the Fullerton Redevelopment Design Review Committee. The budget for construction was in the neighborhood of a million bucks.

The project was bid, the contract was awarded. But as construction proceeded it became very apparent that something had gone wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.

Barbara Giasone Puff Piece Ignores Historic Resource

We really like architecture like this...
We really like architecture like this...

We are finally getting around to writing about an item our dear, squishy-soft Barbara Giasone scribbled out last week about the Grace Ministries sanctuary – a god-awful looking, overbearing monstrosity click here to enjoy Barbara’s pabulum . In her journalistic valentine, Babs passed along the grandiosity of the church (larger than Crystal Cathedral, oh joy!) but omitted mention that the Administration Building and “the gardens” were designed by world-famous architect William Pereira and are part of a larger original complex that includes the Hunt Library and the hideous “bark park” (more on that in another post!).

It’s not that we expect Giasone to know or even care about such things, but we really want to heighten Fullertonians’ awareness of this amazing architectural resource in their midst. The City has done very little to protect this resource as they handed out entitlements to the massive church that, we assume, pays no property tax. The filled-in reflecting pond is pretty symbolic of the disregard to this complex; the City’s bark park adds insult to injury.

Everything must go!
Fullerton Fire Sale: Everything must go!

We Design our Buildings, Thereafter They Define Us


An old gas station was recently remodeled with a small addition along Harbor Blvd. And I might say it’s one of the most creative adaptive reuse projects we’ve seen in Fullerton for many years, and it’s very pleasant to look at. It has no fake columns, no fake second floors, no tile roof, it’s very simple and honest. Frank Webb Architects is the owner, designer and occupant of this very cool building located just north of Berkley on Harbor.  This project had no redevelopment dollars and no subsidy. Friends for Fullerton’s Future welcomes Frank Webb, his partners and his employees to Fullerton.


inside 2DSC00088

Lost In The Fun House

Feeling dizzy? We'll hold your wallet for you.
Feeling dizzy? We'll hold your wallet for you.

A while back we made reference in a post to a type of architecture called “HAVE FUN DAMMIT Post Modernism.” See comment #13

Several of you Dedicated Friends had questions about our nomenclature, and rather than inch out any farther onto the thin ice of architectural taxonomy, we have decided to turn the task over to an expert. And so, once again, we rely upon the kind offices of Dr. Ralph E. Haldemann, Professor of Art History (Emeritus) at Otterbein College, Ohio, our Adjunct Arts and Architecture Editor.

Ralph E. Haldemann, Ph.D, Speaks...
Ralph E. Haldemann, Ph.D, speaks, we listen...

Writes Dr. Haldemann:

You have astutely identified a stylistic trend in government subsidized commercial architecture. The outward trappings are meant to induce retail sales through the medium of bright colors, unexpected or weird angles, ostensibly playful and upbeat features and signage; all in an effort to promote a festive, even amusement park-like atmosphere. This mood of jollity is meant to help pry loose disposable income from the local proletarians and thus support a city’s sales tax base. Some of the elements are congruent with the coeval deconstructivism of Post-modern architecture, although any disorientation produced by the former is generally intended to foster a suspension in fiscal responsibility.

Cerritos. Didn't they forget the distortion mirrors?
Cerritos. Why did they leave out the distortion mirrors?
This theme sprang up in the 1980s as urban renewal moved into the suburbs; serious students of architectural history have labeled the approach both “Clown” and “Circus” architecture, not so much in disparagement, but as an indicator of a hoped-for carnival mood on the part of the consumer by the financing public agency.

Anaheim. The Anaheim Plaza resembles an inverted circus tent. Send in the clowns.
Anaheim, California. The Anaheim Plaza seems to symbolize an inverted circus tent. We're ready: send in the clowns.

Since the have-fun-at-all-cost approach necessarily requires a “hard sell” many have recognized a cruel irony in the attempt to force feed fun, especially in economically distressed areas.

Fullerton, California. The Soco Arch. Redevelopment Warning! Fun Zone Ahead. Be Prepared to Have a Good Time!
Fullerton, California. The Soco Arch. Redevelopment Warning! Fun Zone Ahead. Be Prepared to Have a Good Time!

The Have Fun Hard Sell Devours all disposable income
Melbourne, Australia. A real amusement park beckons disposable income to the Zone of Fun.

Since many of these structures and complexes have predictably refused to age with any sort of dignity, critics find solace with the prospect that these buildings will soon be “redeveloped” by the same suburban renewal urges that created them in the first place.

This stuff sure gets old in a hurry...
Fullerton, California. A late 1980s watered-down version. This stuff sure gets old in a hurry...

Finally, I note that many of the themes of this style have sloshed over in to other non-commercial municipal enterprises with fairly appalling consequences.

Cerritos, again. Circus tent rigidified. What were they thinking?
Cerritos, again. Circus tent rigidified into a performing arts center. What were they thinking?

Thanks, Dr. Haldemann, for another lucid and enlightening exposition. Your FFFF check is in the mail, but please don’t cash it ’til the end of the month.