OCFA’s Bait and Deceive

Several months back, the Fullerton Firefighters’ Association stormed City Hall and demanded the City Council solicit proposals from the Orange County Fire Authority. Perpetually greedy and feeling entitled to more and more, the union knows OCFA has deeper pockets than Fullerton will ever have.

Details of that proposal are now available:

OCFA_Fullerton

https://www.fullertonsfuture.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/OCFA_Fullerton.pdf

True to form, OCFA wasted no time in being the slimy car salesman promising more for less. In the smallest typeface they could possibly use, they say it “Excludes one-time startup costs and City’s Annual UAAL Payment to PERS.”

This means the nearly $5.8 million in “savings” to Fullerton is not real. Fullerton will remain on the hook for millions of dollars in unfunded UAAL pension liability each and every year AFTER the firefighters have left and joined OCFA.

So what did they promise Fullerton?

The conversion of Truck 6 to a paramedic truck, and the conversion of Engine 3 to a Paramedic Truck 3. The latter is somewhat comical because Fullerton doesn’t have a Truck that will fit inside Station 3. Fullerton already tried putting their lone Truck at Station 3 and had to store it outdoors. Whether OCFA would bring in a smaller Truck or force Fullerton to remodel Station 3 is unknown.

These things don’t really matter because OCFA has likely underestimated the true cost to the tune of seven figures. The sad and scary part is the likes of Silva and Zahra on the City Council will probably fall for this proposal hook, line and sinker.

Dude, Where’s My Carport?

Imagine there’s no parking, it isn’t hard to do.

Parking in Cal State Fullerton is a mess, and it seems that even efforts to alleviate it (like the opening of two parking garages) only makes the situation  worse.

Back in 2016, when the City was busy pushing College Town, the promise of addressing the parking problem was the method the city used to try to overcome local resistance (even if their plan amounted to nothing more than the creation of a “Parking Management Plan”, that is, a plan to plan to deal with the problem). Even in the fall of 2021, with reduced attendance on campus due to COVID 19, the campus is offering free parking as an incentive for people to get vaccinated. And when the pandemic finally ends, we will likely see the return of off campus student parking as far south as Orangethorpe and as far East as Raymond.

With the massive parking shortfall, the idea of approving a high density development with almost no parking would be an absolute non-starter. Or, at least, it would be in a sane world.

On September 29, 2021, the Fullerton Planning Commission approved, on a 3-2 vote, the application of Core Spaces to re-zone the property at 2601-2751 East Chapman Avenue (the portion of Chapman running East of Commonwealth to the 57 Freeway) and a allow for the development of a mixed use 420 unit, apartment complex consisting of studio and one through four bedroom units.

All told, there will be an anticipated 1,251 new residents in the City of Fullerton once approved and built. The total number of parking spaces for those new residents is just 273 (with additional spaces for guest parking and the ground floor mixed use). And, no, I did not forget to add a zero.

This isn’t even remotely close to the parking requirements set forth in Table 15.17.070.H of the Fullerton Municipal Code, which requires 1 ¾ spaces for each studio apartment, 2 for each one bedroom, 2 ½ for each two bedroom and 3 for each 3 bedroom apartment. The total required parking spaces should be in excess of one thousand, and its not even a third of that.

Given the absolutely massive shortfall in available spaces, the Planning Commission should have had an extremely solid rationale for their decision. Unfortunately, the decision amounts to little more than the claim that caring about parking spaces is “boomer” thinking, and totally, like, not with it, man:

The notion that the driving a car is a thing of the past will come as a surprise to most of the residents of Fullerton near the Cal State Fullerton campus (myself included), not to mention the students at Cal State Fullerton themselves, who are still clogging up the streets near campus even with the temporary reduction in in-person attendance due to COVID protocols


Pictured: The cars that today’s College Students totally don’t drive.

Currently, over 70% of college age Americans hold a driver’s license and, while that number is lower than in decades past, it still amounts to far more students who will want to drive than parking spaces being offered. In fact, if just half of the licensed students in the Core Communities project choose to drive on campus (a generously low assumption), the proposed parking structure is still about 250 parking spaces below what would be needed, and that’s just for the residents; the available space for the lower level commercial development is grossly underutilized and pretty much destined to failure, as the number of spaces are less than the property across the street owned by Cameron Irons. Incidentally, Mr. Irons was present at the Planning Commission meeting and he insisted the number of parking spaces was perfectly adequate for this development even while acknowledging the same amount of commercial spaces for his own venture doomed the restaurants in his building to failure.

Core Communities insists that they would not be proposing such a low number of spaces if they didn’t believe it would work, but their optimistic appraisals are contradicted by their own prior developments. For example, their facebook page for the Hub at Tuscon basically advises students to not even bother asking for a lease for a parking space as they are all booked and have been for years. Students at the Hub at East Lansing have also complained about the lack of parking (among other issues). And both of those complexes were built in neighborhoods with very high walkability scores. East Fullerton is still highly car dependent, there’s no bars, minimal shopping options, and not nearly enough restaurants to accommodate the students during meal hours.

The Planning Commissioners seem to be aware of this but insist that this is fine, the creation of this development without adequate spaces is a good thing because it will force kids to leave their cars at home.

And there you have it. This Hub project is nothing more than enforced social engineering masquerading as free enterprise. Creation of this development without adequate parking isn’t fair to the students who need the spaces, nor is it fair to the resident who will be forced to deal with the additional vehicles. And it is contrary to the law, meaning the exception being created is not fair to every other apartment complex builder in this City (hell, even Red Oak, which itself had fewer spaces than required by law, is a virtual parking lot compared to this development). This project benefits nobody except the people who intend to build it and it should be rejected by the City Council on November 2.

Housing Scam Averted

Here at FFFF we like to praise our City Council when they do something smart; when they don’t we smack them on the snout with a rolled-up copy of the yellowing Fullerton Observer.

Movin’ on up…

Well, Lo and Behold! On Tuesday, last, the Council voted 3-2 to shitcan a horrible scam cooked up by California’s houseocrats to reward developers and speculators by taking over market rate housing at The Aspect apartment project and control rents – for people who make between $102,000 and $123,000. Yes, you read that rightly, Friends. According to our experts, if you make more than that, by definition, your housing is “market rate.” The perniciousness of this scam cannot be overemphasized. A new term has been cooked up to describe these unfortunate six-figure po’ folks: the Missing Middle.

The way this scheme works is that the City cuts a deal with the California Statewide Community Development Authority – a perfectly opaque agency, to be sure. The CSCDA floats a bond, the proceeds of which will buy out the existing owner, rewards up-front the agents and speculators who put the rancid deal together; management will be left in the hands of other parasites who are in on the deal, too. Did I mention that the sale price may well exceed market appraisal? Well, why not?

A little luxury for the “workforce.”

The funniest part of this may have been the revelation that the complex has a 98% occupancy rate – an astounding number – people who can ALREADY afford to live there! And these good folks will be the recipients of the small lowering of rents – or be forced to move out if they don’t have a long-term lease..

A reasonable person may well wonder why ANY of this is necessary, and the answer from the government Wohnungen uber alles crowd will be so crammed with feel-good bullshit that you know right away it’s a scam.

One of the problems is that because the apartment project is now owned by the government the property owner (CSCDA) pays no property tax; in order to sweeten the deal on The Aspect, the promoters promised a “Host City Fee,” essentially an annual tribute to the City. Meanwhile other entities are just shit-out-of-luck.

The enormity of this nonsense is pretty significant; all one has to do is look to Anaheim – a pay to play town where the City has spent gargantuan amounts buying up big apartment projects and rewarding the lobbyists like Curt Pringle, who skim right off the top of this sort of crap.

Well, finally, back to council meeting. Councilmembers Whitaker, Dunlap and Jung were adamantly opposed to this, to their credit. Not surprisingly, Zahra and Quirk-Silva who petitioned to put this item on the agenda were all-in for it, babbling phrases like “outside the box” and “innovative thinking” and brushing aside concerns about unknown details full of devils.

Thanks to Jung, Dunlap and Whitaker, and of course shame on Zahra and Quirk-Silva who were very clearly in the pocket of whichever lobbyist was promoting this idiocy.

Heroes Deserve

So what’s really going on with our Fire Heroes? FFFF published a story recently about an agenda item on tonight’s (9/21/21) agenda. David Curlee brought our attention to a mysterious item about the City revoking it’s automatic aid provision aid agreement with next door Placentia and negotiating a new one.

How come? We really don’t know, except that our Chief, a guy named Adam Loeser says it needs to be done. He hints at some deficiency in Placentia’s program.

Now the Fire Union has made it abundantly clear that Placentia’s cost savings move to privatize the paramedic service was bad. Real bad. And fearful that the contagion of cost effective and efficient service might spread to Fullerton, the union has been putting pressure on our city council to nip this potential epidemic in the bud. To me it looks like the Chief is just passing along his employees lust for our largess.

But what really is the problem with Placentia?

According to a Placentia city report, their new arrangement has been an unalloyed success. Here’s the report. Be sure to peruse the response statistics.

wp-1632236472391

As usual, there is more to the story. Quite a bit more – that City Hall isn’t Fullerton isn’t telling us. How do I know? Because a source in Placentia told us, and the information has the ring of truth.

According to this source the staff report prepared by Chief Loeser is very misleading in terms of why Fullerton wants to terminate the auto aid provision.  Shortly after Fullerton approved the agreement last year, the Fullerton Fire Union filed a complaint with the Public Employees Relations Board stating that entering into an automatic aid agreement with another City requires a meet and confer with the union.  Incredibly, PERB agreed with the union and Fullerton decided rather than fighting the ruling that the agreement would be retooled into a mutual aid agreement instead.

Unfortunately, our source continues, Loeser lied to the public on an official City Council agenda report by stating Placentia did not meet the requirements outlined in the original agreement.  The real reason behind this change is because of this PERB ruling in favor of the union to the detriment of the public’s safety.

And so, Friends, there you have it. The union, with the apparent approbation of the Fire Chief, is using a feeble labor relations technicality to try to keep applying pressure to the City Council and the bureaucracy to reconsider it’s arrangement with the diseased and contagious Placentia Fire Department. This is the kind of government we get in Fullerton: opaque, self-serving, and duplicitous. Of course our council has been briefed about this, but the public hasn’t. And our city government likes it that way.

The Poison Park Redux

Don’t go there…

Yes, Friends, the Union Pacific Park (also known in Fullerton as the Poison Park) the project cynically foisted on the residents of the Truslow Avenue neighborhood by City Hall, is still in the news.

Some of our City Council wants you to overlook the 20-year history of dangerous incompetence, indifference and insulting condescension this dead patch of land symbolizes. Instead they want to pretend to give a damn about the residents and their wants and needs; and they want us to believe they are sincere.

They aren’t.

Zahra-Busted
The smile was wearing thin…

In the latest go-round 5th District Councilman Ahmad Zahra agendized, with the concurrence of 3rd District Councilman Jesus Silva, the topic of holding community meetings to discuss with la communidad what to do about the park. This was very strange, very illogical and very disingenuous of these two twits, given the fact that the two of them only a couple of months ago tried to cram a gated private events center, masquerading as an aquaponics farm on the site. These two worthy gentlemen never bothered asking anybody about the impact of this idea from noise to parking issues on Truslow, so it’s reasonable to conclude that Zahra and Quirk-Silva don’t give a shit about the people in the neighborhood and were just playing games.

1st District Councilman Fred Jung interceded, suggesting that an ad hoc committee be set up to talk about ideas for the park; and this is a blessing. The idea of letting parks staff, the same incompetent boobs who have made an embarrassing mess out of this site, guide sham meetings is appalling. The rest of the Council with the predictable exception of the hypocritical Zahra, agreed to Jung’s motion.

Well, here’s some advice to this committee, when, and if it is actually appointed and meets: let somebody who has real ideas and who can put this site into the larger context of surrounding industrial land take a swing at this disaster zone. Fullerton Parks staff will only condemn the Poison Park to another 20 years of abandonment and decay.

The Missing Monica F.

Zahra-Busted
The smile was wearing thin…

Back on September 20, 2020 Fullerton 5th District Councilman Ahmad Zahra was arrested by his own cops. Subsequently, the DA, Todd Spitzer, charged Zahra with battery and vandalism.

This spring it seems that all traces of the case vanished into the ether. At a council meeting, Zahra said the charges were dropped by Spitzer and that he was exonerated, and that he and his mother were themselves somehow victimized. Then a story from a DA employee leaked; and the tale was not one of exoneration, but of a guilty plea, some community service and a petition by Zahra and accepted by the court, to expunge the record of his malfeasance completely.

Enter “Monica F.” Or to be precise, re-enter.

This woman was named in the original charges of both the battery and vandalism ascribed to Zahra. Zahra claimed at the council meeting he had never met this person who showed up at his mother’s abode scaring the poor woman. And that’s it, a half story that may contain some elements accuracy, but that may also be irrelevant to the charges, per se.

The other day FFFF noticed that somebody had anonymously requested records relating to Zahra and a specific address on Foxborough Place on 9/2/20. The City responded with the precise language they used to blow off a FFFF PRA request on the same case. So the City acknowledges that the address in question is related to the charges filed by the DA. Oops.

Sure enough, a quick internet search revealed the house on Foxborough Place as the home of the Farias family, one of whom is named Monica. A coincidence? Well, maybe, but that would be pretty hard to invest any credulity in at all.

What is Monica F’s relationship to Zahra and/or his former husband? Who knows? But when the cops on are called and somebody is charged with crimes by the District Attorney, everybody has embarked on a serious path. And the public has the right to know what the hell is going on, especially when that somebody charged with crimes is an elected representative of the people.

So What Happened At Foxborough Place?

Zahra-Busted
Why is this man smiling?

While scanning the City of Fullerton public records requests the other day, I came across this interesting tidbit, requester, not yet known:

We already know that was the day our Councilman Ahmad Zahra was arrested, somewhere, somehow, for something. All the records for that case are locked up tighter than… well, real tight.

And the fact that this particular request is related to our bad boy’s bad day is reflected in the City’s perfunctory response:

2671 Foxborough Place. Why is this address of significance to the events of that day? Is this house the home of any of the principals in the Zahra battery and vandalism case? I don’t know for sure, but somebody thinks it’s relevant, and of course it’s all a big secret as far as our city government is concerned.

C’mon Zahra. Time to Come Clean

Zahra-Busted
Why is this man smiling?

The Strange Case of Ahmad Zahra’s Disappearing Case is starting to come into focus. Zahra, the arrogant and pontificating council representative from District 5 says he has been exonerated by the justice system for charges of battery and vandalism levelled by DA Todd Spizter. But another, well-placed source claims there was no exoneration; that Zahra pled guilty, did some sort of community service and that the Court was petitioned to seal the case and wipe the slate clean.

If you listened to Zahra’s victimized account of events at the City Council meeting a couple weeks ago you would have heard his side of the original event. He claimed that the people involved – his ex-husband and a female – showed up where he was living with mom; that they were behaving in such as way as to frightened his dear mother; that she then called him: that when he arrived the cops (called by who knows who) were already there; that he knew nothing of the woman at the scene, etc.

Well this tale could be true. And it could also be a web of lies meant to make the Zahras, mere et fils, look like the victims. Since the case is sealed up like a pharaoh’s tomb, we are forced to consider the alternative scenarios with their likely stark difference in facts.

Fortunately there is one person who can clear this matter up in a heartbeat. And that’s Zahra himself. Whatever happened, he can produce correspondence from justice officialdom informing him that the case is being dropped because…whatever. Personally I think that is highly unlikely to happen since it must have been Zahra himself who petitioned the court to wrap up the case like a mummy, indicating that he was more interested in hiding the facts than in advertising his innocence.

If Mr. Zahra thinks he can ride this out, he is mistaken. His demeanor on the council has not made him any friends and pretty soon this issue is bound to get traction despite local media indifference to such things.

City Dumps Poison Park on Latino Community

Yes, Friends you heard that right. In the long history of official misfeasance regarding the ill-fated “Union Pacific Park” we’ve seen stupidity, indifference, lack of accountability waste, more stupidity. A project that nobody in the community wanted, but that a fun thing for Parks Director Susan Hunt to play with, and for Redevelopment Monopoly bucks to buy, has been a humiliation for everybody involved; or should be, except that bureuacrats in Fullerton have no shame and no rear-view mirror.

But now we discover, courtesy of a 19 year-old document, something a lot more nefarious than just the usual City Hall incompetence. Consider the following letter written to local property owner Tony Bushala, from then Redevelopment flunky, Ken O’Leary.

Oops.

Here’s a smoking gun. The City had already purchased contaminated property, not bothering to employ a Phase 2 environmental assessment. And they knew that the perp was already cleaning up contamination “in the vicinity.” And yet the City proceeded building a park knowing that soils contamination was an issue surrounding the park, and evidently not giving damn whether their own soil was contaminated. So the park was built for well over a million bucks, then Lo and Behold – the park, by now renamed “Union Pacific Park,” was contaminated too. It was fenced off from the junkies and homeless and borachos that haunted it.

Naturally O’Leary is long gone, as is his boss, the ever-hapless Gary Chalupsky. Gone too are bungling bureaucrats Hunt, F. Paul Dudley, Bob Hodson, and former City Manager, Jim Armstrong, all enjoying six-figure pensions courtesy of you, me, and the people of the communidad who never wanted a park at all.

And now it seems the death march is to continue. Only recently City staff cooked up a lame scheme to put a private event center on the site, masquerading as an “educational” aquaponics farm. This hare-brained idea was ardently supported by Jesus Quirk Silva and Ahmad Zahra, two councilmen immune to common sense; and these two now, all of a sudden, want to start a whole new process to find out what the “community” wants, just like Susan Hunt did over 20 years ago. 

“Boutique” Hotel Lumbers Along

Enhanced with genuine brick veneer!

An item on last week’s Closed Session council meeting just caught my eye. The item identified the southeast corner of Pomona Avenue and Santa Fe, location of the previously discussed “boutique” hotel proposal. I last reported it here, when the Council voted 4-1 to let the unsolicited, single proposal issue get a time extension. As usual the lone no vote came from Bruce Whitaker. The July 6th item just says “terms and price” so that it can be hidden behind the Brown Act exemption.

Huh?

When the City Attorney emerged he declared that this harebrained idea was moving ahead on a 3-2 vote to authorize a Letter of Intent to approve a development agreement. Hmm. We know that Jesus Quirk Silva would go for it. After all, he already changed his vote once to move this along – way back in December of 2018 as a parting gift to Doug “Bud” Chaffee. And Ahmad Zahra is always a reliable vote to support some stupid government giveaway or overreach.

Dunlap-Jung
One of them?

So that leaves councilmen Nick Dunlap, Fred Jung and the aforementioned Whitaker. It is really hard to believe that Whitaker would suddenly change course 180 degrees from a previous commonsense, conservative position. Dunlap and Jung have so far shown unusual sales resistance when it comes to ridiculous bullshit so it’s hard to see either one going for this. But obviously, one of the three did. Who was it, and why? We were not told by the City Attorney and the minutes do not include such potentially embarrassing things.

And this will be a giveaway. You and I own that parcel of land that is currently providing popular parking for Transportation Center commuters. What is the land truly worth? If the Council continues on this reckless course to support a massive public subsidy to for an idea that has no basis in market demand, we may never know.

The days of the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency writing checks to fly-by-night developers, scammers, and other corporate welfare queens is over; but the so-called Successor Agency is perfectly capable of handing over real estate and getting nothing in return. And that looks likely to happen as the story of Fullerton’s unsolicited boutique hotel lurches forward.