The Trail to Nowhere Complaint

It’s a total waste of money, but it sure is short…

As has been predicted, a concerned Fullerton Friend has decided that the dismal Trail to Nowhere was such an insult to California’s taxpayers and to any commonsensical Fullerton resident that he was going to do something about it.

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So he wrote a letter to the State of California Natural Resources Agency and addressed it to the Agency’s boss, Mr. Wade Crowfoot. I understand that the letter was sent by registered mail so it may be hard for Mr. Crowfoot to claim he didn’t get it.

Well, well, well…

Cynics will say that the California bureaucrats at these agencies don’t care how their grants are spent, or in this case, misspent. Their jobs are to dole out the dough without a backward glance. In this case there was no real forward glance either; judging by the initial approval, they swallowed Fullerton’s tale by the proverbial hook, line, and sinker.

Anyway, it’s a good synopsis of the various inaccuracies and falsehoods in Fullerton’s grant application. Here is the text of the letter, forwarded to us by its author:

Mr. Wade Crowfoot
Secretary for Natural Resources
California Natural Resources Agency
715 P. Street, 20th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Mr. Crowfoot,
I am writing to you as a concerned citizen of the City of Fullerton, to inform you of irregularities in a
Grant Application made by the City of Fullerton to your agency which resulted in the award of a Urban
Greening Grant to build a recreational trail on an abandoned section of the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way.
This is a 2022 grant for $1,777,200.00, under Grant Agreement U29194-0 which itself was authorized by
Senate Bill 859.
The irregularities in the Grant Application falls into two categories: first, omission of pertinent
information required by the application; second, outright falsehoods about the projected positive
aspects of the project.
The application failed to alert the State that one of the adjacent properties to the proposed trail is
contaminated by trichloroethylene (TCE), a known carcinogen. The property (311 South Highland
Avenue) is identified by the EPA and the State of California Department of Toxic Substances Control
(DTSC). Reports have indicated a TCE plume emanating from 311 South Highland in a southerly direction, precisely under the proposed trail site. There are currently 10 Monitoring test wells along the proposed trail site and several others in adjacent properties.
The proposed project budget does not include any cost for additional testing, remediation, and/or
export. There is no inclusion of the need to rework or replace the existing test wells.
Beyond the unmitigated environmental concerns, the City of Fullerton Grant Application asserts
“connectivity” as a positive feature of the proposed trail. These assertions are demonstrably false. The
proposed trail does not connect to any businesses; it does not connect to Downtown Fullerton; it does
not create connections between parks and schools; it does not connect different parts of the City and is
actually contained within the same compact area. In fact, the proposal for Phase II does not even
connect to its predecessor, Phase I, which itself was a selling point in the Grant Application.
In truth, the proposed trail is a disembodied half-mile length of property that starts and stops without
reference to any other transportation corridors.
To the West, Phase II terminates with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe right-of-way at the back corner
of Independence Park, a park so poorly maintained that the playground, courts, and gymnasium have
been closed off to the public for several years. On the East, Phase II abruptly ends at a sidewalk adjacent to Highland Avenue, a North-South thoroughfare serving approximately 11,500 vehicles daily, per the City’s own traffic study in 2019.
Even if Phase II connected to Phase I, which it does not, Phase I itself stops at the back of the abandoned
Union Pacific Park which was closed due to contamination 15 years ago. There is no practical extension
in either direction.
Despite these facts, the City of Fullerton’s Grant Application included a projected 105,000 annual users, a number that is simply preposterous on its face.
The proposed trail does not pass through a residential neighborhood, but rather a blighted industrial
strip situated between two dilapidated, neglected, and run-down parks. In short, it doesn’t go where
anyone with common sense would want to go.
The existing abandoned right-of way has provided plenty of evidence of being unsafe. There is rampant
drug use, homeless encampments and two violent deaths over just the past few years.
The City of Fullerton cannot afford to maintain the proposed facility, as is clearly witnessed in the
condition of the trash strewn, dilapidated, weed-infested Phase I, a condition deliberately omitted from
the grant application. The idea that this area has been so poorly maintained but somehow the City will
be able to be good stewards of the area only AFTER the State grants it nearly $2 million more, is
insulting.

The $1.77 million grant represents resources that could, and should, be used elsewhere.
Fullerton’s Application was disingenuous, at best. At worst it included falsehoods dressed up in words
echoed back from the stated objectives of the Application Form in order to defraud the State.
In writing this I am hoping that your Agency will reevaluate this project, rescind the funding, and find a
better use of this valuable Grant money.
Thank you for consideration of this matter.

A Walk on the Wild Side: The Sights and Sounds and Smells of the Trail to Nowhere

So, the other day I decided to take a trip along the Trail to Nowhere, the second phase of a supposed recreation trail that doesn’t even line up with the disastrous failure known as Phase I.

FFFF has shared lots of images of the proposed trail, yet hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface of the, er, ahem, colorful neighborhood through which it passes. Well, “neighborhood” isn’t quite the right word to use, because except for a couple of Truslow Avenue house backyards it is bordered on both sides by land zoned for industry with all of the sorts of uses, legal and non-permitted, one might expect.

Of course we’ve read all about the ill-designed and ill-conceived Phase I, ballyhooed by City staff as the predecessor that makes Phase II inevitable. Well, plausible, anyway. Phase I is a repository of graffiti, garbage, and occasional residents. The start of this alleged trail is on the old UP bridge over Harbor Boulevard. FFFF readers may remember this site as the nocturnal murder of a gentleman.

Murderer’s Row…
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure…

The complete lack of maintenance on Phase I ought to have been a warning to our City Council. But it hasn’t even been noticed. The pungent smell of human urine permeates the weeds behind the Elephant Packing House. But, so what? It’s trail-ish.

Phase I’s inauspicious beginning. It gets worse.

The view looking westward from Phase I isn’t promising. Here you see that Phase I doesn’t even line up with the proposed Phase II corridor; and the slope of Highland Avenue as it dips down to its railroad underpass makes the cross-slope ADA non-compliant.

The Phase I trail has disappeared.

Crossing Highland (damn, watch out for traffic!), we get to Phase II. FFFF has already shared multiple posts about soils contamination in this location. There are lots of testing wells for carcinogenic Trichlorethylene (TCE), but nobody in City Hall seems to be concerned about moving and exporting, or alternatively, remediating these soils. It certainly isn’t in the project budget submitted in the grant application to the State.

Well, well, well…

The folks who frequent the Trail to Nowhere habitually leave evidence of their presence.

Further west we get a glimpse back eastward of the long, blank backsides of old industrial buildings, a view not likely to cause cries of elation among the brainwashed green grass/blue skies crowd.

Is it safe? Is it clean?

Across Richman Ave in our westward trek is where things really get fun. Razor wire seems to be the decoration of choice among the junkyards in this segment of the Trail to Nowhere.

Small auto/tire use is prevalent along the trail, of course. And more backsides of buildings.

The trees won’t block the view…
You mean there’s more?

As we press onward we see the view of more businesses that we would enjoy if we were recreating on the trail.

Bring on the niños.

There’s a metal coating business along the route, and even an asphalt plant! The odors are unmistakable, and the industrial education value is priceless!

Smell that smell, bike riders.

We would be remiss if, at this point, we didn’t pause to pay our respects to Emmanuel Perez, fate still unknown.

RIP

A bit later we come across a long masonry wall on which some talented young urban artists have left their mark for aesthetic posterity.

Sure is colorful…
Garbage in, garbage out. Indeed.

The final four or five hundred yards of our journey run parallel to the Burlington Northern/ Santa Fe main line tracks that run about 50 feet away, and about 3 feet higher than the “walking and bike” trail. I leave it to each reader to judge the propriety of this strip as a positive recreational opportunity. But see below for the “sound” part of the program.

Over there is run and play and enjoy… (Photo by Julie Leopo/Voice of OC)

Now, finally, we arrive at our all-important destination. The back corner of an empty Independence Park parking lot. This is a park you might want to go to if you lived in this part of Fullerton; but really, what soft-headed urban adventurer would choose this route?

You have arrived at your destination.

Finally I offer a sample of the auditory delights awaiting the hopeful recreation enthusiast on the Trail to Nowhere – apart from the sounds of auto repair, metal work, spray painting and tire changing. The BNSF mainline freight trains rumble alongside our trail, and are not shy in expressing their presence. You can barely hear yourself think. These trains are often a mile long.

Now Gentle Friends, my photo essay is over, and my duty to show Fullertonions the ambiance adjacent to the proposed Trail to Nowhere is fulfilled. Most people, when asked, would say an old railroad right-of-way conversion to a rec trail is good, because it is good – in principle. But folks perusing these images would be well-advised to traverse the strip themselves, perhaps with police escort; and, after enjoying the sights and sounds and smells, consider whether or not the Trail to Nowhere should be redeveloped with the area, in a thoughtful broader plan, instead of the way it proposed now; and, whether the State grant money might be better spent elsewhere.

Who Was Emmanuel Perez?

While I was strolling along the ill-fated Trail to Nowhere the other day, I came across a small shrine-like set-up just where the UP right-of way starts its parallel run with the BNSF mainline.

This is what I saw.

This small memorial is dedicated to somebody called Emmanuel Perez who died at 28 years of age, six years ago. I did some quick searching and found no news references to anybody dying here, whether by foul play or by train accident. But Fullerton has a history of keeping bad news out of the news.

Naturally, Voice of OC “photojournalist” Julie Leopo failed to publish this image after she took her guided tour of the area, helpfully provided by “journalist” Skaskia Kennedy. That would not have been good for the pre-arranged narrative.

Death on the Trail to Nowhere is not new, but this is one I hadn’t heard of. If anybody can shed some light on the life and death of Emmanuel Perez, let FFFF know.

Where Are They?

The trail wasn’t useful, but it sure was short…

On FFFF’s last post we got some comments from a frequent FFFF critic who was trying desperately to justify the idiotic Trail to Nowhere, the disembodied, half-mile, $2,000,000 taxpayer funded boondoggle that serves no apparent useful purpose. One sentence in the one of this person’s comments is worth posting about because it so clearly points to a complete failure of the Trail to Nowhere to be a facility that anybody would use.

The inability of its advocates to describe real persons, any real persons who might want to use this trail has been one of FFFF’s most frequent criticisms of it. Instead we have been presented with the same generalities and clichés over and over and over and over again. Trails good. Healthy children good. Poor need services. Trees good. Fresh air. Blue sky. Cars bad. Bikes good. Good things for south Fullerton. Right-of-way conversion good.

But back to our visitor. Here’s the quotation:

So say you lived in a home near UP Park and wanted to ride a bicycle to the DMV.

In and of itself this comment is just an absurd disconnect from reality in so many ways; but it points to the inability of Trail to Nowhere boosters to describe real users of the proposed project that could justify its cost; and it’s the reason they stick to useless generalities.

Over there is run and play and enjoy… (Photo by Julie Leopo/Voice of OC)

The grant application for the Trail to Nowhere is full of useless general statistics of an area with absolutely no connection to the specific land use of the immediately surrounding area – present or future. From these general numbers (half of which are north of the BNSF tracks and not even germane) our City staff educed all sorts of things that aren’t remotely true. Things like connectivity to businesses, to Downtown Fullerton; connectivity between east and west Fullerton, and between schools, etc. In one of the most breathtaking of outright lies, the creators of the application claim to the State of California that they project annual users at 105,000.

Suddenly, users appeared out of the cornfield…

Others, like our visitor, have even relied on the dearest hope of all bureaucrats looking for make-work stuff they can’t justify: if you build it “they” (somebody, somehow, somewhere) will come. Of course there is no accountability when something fails. Suddenly, no one is around anymore to take the rap, even if government culture had a rear view mirror (it doesn’t).

Hugo and Alice. The radioactivity was undeniable…

The Trail to Nowhere is the brain child of the long gone, $100,000 per-year pensioner, Susan Hunt. More recently it was shepherded along by Hugo Curiel and the egregious Alice Loya; the former was fired and the latter just retired. Six City Managers have presided over this incompetence from soup to nuts, and the latest can blame the other five if he needs to.

Only in this environment of unaccountability could anybody propose a project without being able to give a specific and credible analysis of who would actually use the facility.

Another Concept

FFFF has been diligent chronicling the fate of the so-called Trail to Nowhere since last summer when City staff began a selective process of pushing for approval and acceptance of the State Natural Resources Agency grant.

Previously the City Council had directed staff to explore an option for the UP right-of-way that would be multi-modal option planned in conjunction with a wider area. This option became the step-child of City Hall, virtually ignored as staff brought back the original plan and worked an approval from the clueless Parks Commissioners.

Hugo and Alice. The radioactivity was undeniable…

In this way Parks employees ginned up their own special brand of momentum in which the ludicrous becomes the unavoidable.

Except the City Council disagreed and voted to reject the grant unless it could be spent on something useful to somebody, somewhere else in Fullerton.

But let’s think about it for a bit.

Why doesn’t the multi-modal paradigm that became known as Option 2, work? Running a motor viaduct between Highland Avenue westward alongside a green belt makes sense if there must be a bike path.

Phase 1. Asphalt street and parallel trail. The Horror!

Such a design could easily be incorporated into the 50 ft+ easement width. In fact, the exact same thing was already done in the City’s much vaunted Phase 1. The additional flexibility would be of tremendous benefit in the future development of the adjacent 30 acre area, where in-fill development is inevitable, given recent land planning requirements.

A roadway passing through the right-of-way could open up properties on both Truslow Avenue and Walnut Avenue to new configurations and provide commercial opportunities. Ultimately, the numerous deep properties on Valencia Avenue could have access to the new roadway as well.

Meantime, a Class 1 or a Class IV bikeway could built to the desired 10′ wide standard for a 2-way path with a 5′ DG path alongside, with plenty of room to spare. This configuration happens all the time. CalTRANS shares a design image:

As an aside, it’s kind of ironic that all the Trail to Nowhere advocates seem to think it’s a travesty to have a bike path running alongside what would essentially be a paved alley, but they never seem to mention the issue of their beloved bucolic facility running immediately adjacent to the busiest rail corridor in Sothern California.

Kids love choo-choo trains… (Photo by Julie Leopo/Voice of OC)

Oh well. We cant’s expect consistency from those guided by compete ignorance and political animus.

We the People, An Essay

Intelligent commentary was not forthcoming…

You’ve got to hand it to some of Fullerton’s lefties. Their blind devotion to abstractions, knee-jerk reaction to anything threatening their cherished causes, and blindered view of a world of injustices perpetrated on the “underserved” is pretty impressive. One way or another.

Let me be your guide! (Photo by Julie Leopo/Voice of OC)

But one thing that has really struck me lately is the way in which these folk identify themselves with the biggest thing in a democratic republic: the people.

It must be part of human nature to think that what you hold dear must be what everybody should want. But in some, the misidentification takes on a delusional quality – it is what everybody wants.

The people have spoken…

I’m referring to the recent hubbub about the ridiculous “Trail to Nowhere,” in which a tiny Ahmad Zahra claque have bi-monthly wasted hours and hours and hours talking about how their desire is the will of “the people,” and how the City Council majority is not listening to “the people.”

Why repeat the numerous reasons why the proposed trail was idiotic? FFFF has already done that convincingly. Instead, let’s look at the nature of the chatter.

Children at play…

Such talk could easily be dismissed as just meaningless political rhetoric, but these people seem to actually believe they do speak for everybody, obviously, because they are so right. It’s hard to understand where such a blind self-righteousness comes from, but I suspect it comes from decades of educational indoctrination into certain ways of thinking.

But, consider the reality.

Intrepid reporter/newsmaker, S. Kennedy, top left.

A dozen or so speakers nattering on about something they stubbornly refuse to actually understand, but believing that they speak for the citizens of a mid-size city of 145,000 people is preposterous.

All clear, fire away!

The vast majority of Fullerton’s residents don’t know anything about the Trail to Nowhere and, if presented all the facts instead of weepy and outraged propaganda of the Fullerton Observer, might possibly conclude that the Council majority acted in their interest.

The Poisoned Trail to Nowhere?

The subject of trichlorethylene (TCE) contamination along the proposed Trail to Nowhere has been the subject of discussion on this blog. The adjacent factory at 311 South Highland Avenue was the site of TCE spills for years and has been identified as such by the State Department of Toxic Substance Control and the federal EPA. The agencies identified a southerly moving plume off the property and directly under the trail site.

The contamination was included in a lawsuit brought by the Orange County Water District, but has not been remediated.

In previous posts FFFF identified old test wells on property to the west of 311 S. Highland.

It turns out there are new ones, too. Six of them, in fact, that were actually drilled on the trail site strung out along several hundred feet.

There are also new test wells that have been placed very recently even farther south – in the west 100 block of Truslow Avenue.

These test wells have been placed without any notification to the residents of District 5, so they told me when I traversed the area today; but, obviously the City is aware of these installations since encroachment permits are required to do this sort of work on public property.

So the question remains: what is the level of toxicity in the area – and not just on the impact to ground water, but to surface soils that might need to be excavated, treated, and removed. There is no budget to do toxic soils remediation, either in the Trail to Nowhere grant application, or in the City’s budget.

Maybe the soils along the Trail to Nowhere are clean, or at least of a level of toxicity that is not considered hazardous. Maybe not. Maybe it’s time to find out.

The Trail to Nowhere, Redux

Just in case you missed last night’s City Council meeting I am thoughtfully presenting a recap of Trail to Nowhere item.

Informed commentary was not forthcoming…

Public comments kicked off the fun-filled evening with the usual Ahmad Zahra puppets berating the Council majority for their many deficiencies.

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

And then followed, once again, an re-examination of the corpse of the Trail to Nowhere, a topic that had somehow made it back onto the agenda courtesy of Zahra and a compliant City Manager and City Attorney. Bruce Whitaker immediately stated his opposition to this move and motioned to take up the discussion in January. This was seconded by Nick Dunlap.

Let slip the dogs of law…

Howls of outrage filled the chamber from the usual brigade of uninformed Zahra followers who were told that they could only discuss the motion to continue the matter, and not sing their usual hosannas for a complete waste of $2,000,000. True, this was weird. City Attorney Dick Jones of the “I Can’t Believe It’s a Law Firm” blessed this process, which of course made absolutely no sense. Since when can the public give comment on an individual motion of the Council? See the problem? I got the distinct impression that Jones was trying to redeem himself for letting the thing on the agenda in the first place.

dick-jones
Staying awake long enough to break the law…

I’m going to write a separate post on why it’s time, way, way past time to shit-can Dick Jones and his crew of incompetent lawyers once and for all.

Anyway, public comments did proceed with speakers accusing the council majority of Whitaker, Jung and Dunlap of wasting their time and trying to kill the Trail to Nowhere by stalling it to death. None of these worthies seemed to get the irony that it was their hero, Ahmad Zahra, who was stringing the thing out by putting a dead issue on the agenda. And he was doing it solely for the purpose of embarrassing the Council majority. Some wanted the matter decided then and there, a pretty reasonable demand if you think about it, and one that really would have laid the matter to rest.

If I knew what I was talking about this wouldn’t be Fullerton!

Councilwoman Charles phoned in her nonsensical two cents by claiming that “new information” rendered the August decision open for discussion because it didn’t look like the State was going to allow a repurposing of their grant. Of course that was a misstatement of the Council decision which was clear: turn down the grant unless it could be used elsewhere. She also added that changes had been made to the plans – a completely false statement.

I know what’s best. Trust me.

After more Zahra pontification about his neglected district, yadda, yadda, the Council voted to continue the matter until January 17th, 2024, a move that unfortunately validates the improper move by Zahra to agendize the matter in the first place.

The only interesting thing that emerged from the issue was that Ahmad Zahra had gone directly to the State Natural Resources Agency behind everybody else’s back, and Fred Jung found out about it. What this communication entailed is unknown – Jung wants to get to the bottom of it – but I have the sneaking suspicion that Zahra was trying on his own to undermine diversion of the State funds to something useful – again, to simply to embarrass his colleagues. According to our lackluster City Manager, Eric Leavitt they are planning another meeting with the State.

The Thing That Wouldn’t Die

It’s Fullerton. There’s always a backdoor!

Fullerton City Hall watchers know one thing for certain. If the bureaucrats want something, it will never die. The issue may be voted down by a majority of the City Council, but rest assured, the item will sooner or later be back. The history of this sad fact is undeniable and goes back decades and decades.

And so the ridiculous Trail to Nowhere has been agendized for reconsideration on Tuesday almost four months after it was sensibly rejected way back in August.

How did this get on the agenda? It’s hard to believe that Jung, Whitaker or Dunlap asked to put it in on, but maybe the incoherent yammering of Ahmad Zahra’s gaggle of followers over the past fifteen weeks got to one of them to go along with Zahra and Shana Charles to put this on the agenda. I said maybe. Because it is also possible that the City staff did this on their own for reasons unknown. We’ve seen that happen before, too, when some non-existent legal pretext was drummed up by the I Can’t Believe it’s A Law Firm© of Jones and Mayer, or the equally maleficent firm of Rutan, formerly Rutan and Tucker, who defended the indefensible for years.

Because this is Fullerton, how this idiocy became officially resurrected will probably never be known. What hasn’t changed are the excellent reasons to reject the State grant. Again.

I guess the locals do use Phase I…

Here is a list, thoughtfully provided by the diligent FFFF research team:

  1. Not safe – look at “Phase 1” Gangs and drugs
  2. No identified users
  3. No environmental testing done
  4. Adjacent contaminated property – TCE
  5. Numerous possible polluters up and down trail
  6. Application contains false information about environmental testing
  7. Doesn’t line up with “Phase 1”
  8. No budget to modify “Phase 1”
  9. “Phase 1” is deficient – 90 degree angles
  10. “Phase 1” HAS NOT BEEN MAINTAINED. Maintenance is an issue
  11. No connectivity to the east – blocked by SoCo Walk
  12. Does NOT go to the Transportation Center
  13. No connectivity to the West – BNSF ownership; possible High Speed Rail in right of way

We’ve had some fun here making fun of the complete waste of $3,000,000 on the Trail to Nowhere, but there is something else going on here – the reintroduction of something already decided. The issue should be dead and arguments about it, moot. But this is Fullerton, and it’s never over until City staff say it’s over.

The Trail to Nowhere Connectivity Would Be Doomed by HSR

The good people at California’s High Speed Rail Authority, who just can’t waste our money fast enough, are moving toward a revised track alignment between Los Angeles and Anaheim. What does this mean? It means a massive boondoggle of course, spending billions to bring a “bullet train” to Orange County that won’t be any faster than the Metrolink line that covers the same distance in the same amount of time.

The new configuration would share existing tracks along the current three-track mainline, and would a add a fourth, dedicated line. And where would the fourth track alignment go? In Fullerton it would have to go on the south side of the main line tracks because there isn’t any room on the northside where the BNSF Railroad currently has two sidings right up to the edge of their right-of-way. The south side of the tracks, however do have room from the Commonwealth underpass as far as Harbor Boulevard.

Of course this would mean using the property that the Parks Department and the Friends of the Trail to Nowhere say is feasible (later on) to take their amenity to the Hunt Branch Library, and beyond. The question of how the trail could get past the BNSF mainline tracks would become moot. The trail would require a prohibitively expensive bridge with elevators; either that or a bridge a quarter mile long, or more. And there goes the alleged connectivity that the Trail to Nowhere boosters keep talking about, even if the BNSF were willing on some distant day to sell to the City.

The trail folks can pick their poison. Useless transit or useless bike trail. Of course they would have to educamate themselves first, and that’s just not going to happen in the Education Community.