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.

Weeds, Weeds and More Weeds

A Friend sent in a copy of a letter from Daniel S. Franco of the City of Fullerton, requesting/demanding weed abatement per the Municipal Code. Supposedly the letter was instigated by a complaint. That may be a true story; or not. Here’s the letter:

Now, this isn’t all that unusual except that the irony of the City making a private citizen do what it will not is pretty rich. What am I referring to? Why, the Trail to Nowhere, of course, the City-owned former UP right-of-way where lately a handful of people, offensively masquerading as “the community” demanded a recreation trial. A quick look at the current situation along the abandoned strip reveals the City in severe breach of the rules it feels compelled to apply to the populace.

Oops.

Oops, again.

It’s pretty apparent that the City of Fullerton can’t take care of its own property. Or maybe by neglecting this property the City is offering up a big FU to the “community” it pretends to care so much about.

In any case the question of our town’s ability to maintain its property brings into focus the question of maintenance costs for new facilities – like the sad proposal of the Trail to Nowhere.

Another Tough Trail Truth

During the recent Trail to Nowhere kerfuffle one of the big problems the limo liberals had was bending their brains around the possibility of a multi-modal facility that might improve circulation and offer development flexibility, particularly in light of the massive development the City staff is going to try to cram into the 30 acres adjacent to the UP right-of-way.

Bikes and traffic don’t mix, came the anguished cry of people like Egleth Nucci and Shana Charles who would have never ridden a bike, or even ambled a long the Trail to Nowhere, and ignoring a world full of urban examples where bicycles and cars get along just fine.

These same self-appointed “experts” seemed unconcerned that their beloved trail would have to negotiate intersections at both Highland and Richman Avenues.

To find and example of a space shared by trail and car lane, all these Option 1/trail-only people had to do was look across Highland to their much bragged about “Phase I.” Here’s a satellite image:

Please note that the Phase I portion accommodates both a roadway and a recreation trail! Land o’ Goshen! Is it really possible? Well, of course it is. The trails cult has already built, and often described this existing configuration between the closed UP Park and Highland Avenue as the inevitable prelude to Phase II; but now for some reason, a paved portion west of Highland is verboten.

Oh, well, one thing we can expect in Fullerton, and that is a complete lack of reason and intelligence when it comes to this sort of thing. It’s more important that the so-called professionals do what they want, and there will always be enough dopes in the City to go along and to even be a called a “community.” And then there are those politicians like Ahmad Zahra who decide to score cheap points patronizing their constituents by giving them “nice things” that aren’t nice at all.

Trail to Nowhere Goes Nowhere

Oh, the potential!

On Tuesday night the Fullerton City Council again shit-canned the moronic recreation trail proposed on the old Union Pacific right-of-way.

Councilmen Bruce Whitaker and Nick Dunlap both presented compelling reasons; that the proposal failed to address requests from the Council in 2021 that the area be addressed wholly, not by piecemeal projects. Mayor Fred Jung joined them in voting to turn back the grant money.

Looking down from above…

Naturally, Ahmad Zahra championed the wasteful project, pretending to be offended by Dunlap’s observation that maintenance was issue since Fullerton can’t take care of the parks we already have. It didn’t seem to occur to him that his position was grossly patronizing to his own constituency who must be separated from the hard truths of fiscal realty. He was joined in his profligacy by Shana Charles who giggly gushed over the opportunidad to bestow a top-down gift to the community – and after all, it was free money and wasn’t going to cost anything.

A gaggle of speakers showed up to defend Option 1 – a bike trail that would pass through some of the worst, least safe parts of Fullerton. A couple opined that a useless trail was desperately needed. A few Spanish-speaking women appeared to regurgitate the talking points of Zahra, but as usual displayed a complete factual deficit. Their job was to bad-mouth Option 2 that could have include an auto passage along the trail, and again to babble about “the children.”

Jane Rands. Commonsense prevailed…

One speaker named Jane Rands actually provided intelligent and pertinent points, to wit: the City staff had not developed a general concept for the redevelopment of the area, and that the trail has no connectivity to anything else in the trail system, a point lost on the thoughtless Zaharites.

So in the end the council majority voted on Option 3 – give the money back to the opaque agency that took it from the taxpayers and doled it out in the first place. In a fun twist, Jung added a caveat to his Option 3 support: that the Up Park be re-opened ASAP.

After the vote was taken, one of Zahra’s lunatic followers began screaming at the Council about being racists and insensitive beasts, etc., and had to be removed from the chamber by the pit-sitting cop. And Zahra could be heard muttering under his breath into the open mike: “Bushala.”

Economic Development 101

In my last post I introduced the topic of Fullerton’s latest foray into “Economic Development” a term that really refers to the idea that a city can generate more sales tax revenue through its ministerial efforts so that it can hire more people and pay them more money.

This is the old California Redevelopment mantra that was used by cities across California for decades to hand out land, cash, and favors to chosen developers and retailers. Nowadays, there’s really only land to give away as we saw in Fullerton with the abysmal “Tracks at the Tracks” project that ironically handed away millions of dollars in potential up-front revenue that might have balanced our budget in 2025 all by itself.

I thought I would spend some time reviewing the Kosmont Companies report and watching our esteemed City Council’s review of said “Retail Market Strategy.” To say that I was underwhelmed would be an understatement.

The report is 90 pages long. 95% of it is data mined from some source which tells us nothing an ordinary person couldn’t fathom all by himself – like on-line shopping is a big problem – and which seems almost disconnected from the recommendations on pages 11-13.

I have to wonder about the source of all this tsunami of numbers and even their validity. One side-by-side pair of graphs was particularly dubious.

Huh?

Somehow triple net rents in Fullerton spiked, even as vacancies soared. Meanwhile in the broader areas of Orange County, including neighboring towns, vacancies somehow dropped during the worst of the Covid pandemic. And in Fullerton the graph shows, rents stabilized, even dipped in ’21-’22 even though demand apparently skyrocketed. I’m not an economist but this sure looks like pure nonsenso-data to me.

Anyway, the recommendations are just a boilerplate laundry list of ways to spend money, and a lot of it, to hopefully make money. I’m sure Kosmont uses them over and over again in every “study” they perform. Here they are. Enjoy:

What a load of consultant bullshit-jargon leading to the inevitable conclusion that Fullerton needs to hire more people in order to pay for the ones we already have. If we look at these recommendation we see the old Redevelopment lingo writ anew – collaborations, outreach, improvement districts, fa├žade improvements, “thematic” sidewalks, way-finding, public art. Don’t forget enhanced customer service! And of course collecting data (probably through the kindly and expensive offices of Kosmont itself). But is there a single mention of a public accountability program by which the people of Fullerton and their elected representatives can determine if money blown on this nonsense even paid for itself? Nuh-uh.

And of course Kosmont’s “study” diplomatically avoided mentioning Downtown Fullerton’s million dollar budgetary sinkhole, supporting the myth that it is an asset instead of a decades-old liability. Maybe they think thematic sidewalks will clean up the clientele.

The Council’s reaction to this consulto-gibberish was utterly predictable. Ahmad Zahra, who must have peed himself in excitement over Action Item 12 was completely on board and vocally supported the need to increase “staffing levels” to accomplish this laundry list of pabulum. He believes that art tourism, and all of Fullerton’s museums can pave the way to success. His accomplice in stupidity, Shana Charles was all giddy, too, and pointed out the inescapable link between economic development and Fullerton’s “urban forest” whatever that may mean.

Silence is golden…

Bruce Whitaker mentioned that he was a follower of somebody named Jane Jacobs and supported organic economic development. A wise position, but one completely at odds with his recent approval of the idiotic City-driven apartment/hotel boondoggle that flushed millions and millions right down the municipal commode.

In the end nothing specific was decided and the Council moved on, no one having bothered to find out, presumably because they didn’t care, what this 90 page report cost the taxpayers of Fullerton.

The Mantra of Economic Development

No news is good news…

A Friend just forwarded an article in the Yellowing Fullerton Observer about the City’s latest foray into something called economic development – an effort to create more tax revenue, somewhere, somehow, sometime. The good folk in City Hall are alarmed at the looming budget deficit they forecast in the next few years. And they know full well that another attempt at a sales tax like the ill-fated Measure S promoted by Ahmad Zahra and Jesus Quirk-Silva would be a shaky proposition.

According to the Observer the City hired an entity called Kosmont Companies to assay Fullerton’s future and determine where tax generating opportunities may lay. At the June 20th meeting of the City Council a report by Kosmont was submitted for general perusal.

Exhausting all options…

I note that Kosmont Companies is an operation whose sole raison d’etre these days is to work for Redevelopment Successor agencies and municipalities trying to gin up revenue to support the bureaucratic establishment. According to the staff report Kosmont was employed by “the City” in February 2023; since no agenda report exists for this contract, it must have been executed out of the public eye by our esteemed City Manager, Eric Levitt. I’ll address the report itself and the Council’s reaction in another post.

I often wonder why anybody thinks local government have any business promoting these types of endeavors. Government employees know little about business operations, nothing about the concept enterprise; they know defined benefit pensions, their union agreements and petty, make-work bureaucratic stuff. These same chuckleheads just up-zoned and entitled a massive apartment project on land they sold to the developer for 10% of its new value. As far as the unknown amount paid to the “consultant” I wonder if even that expense will be recouped by their own work product.

Just as bad, the economic development concept is created and run, for and by, the same people who stand to benefit from it – it it were to even work at all. And of course there is never any accountability for public resources expended in the pursuit of this talisman.

Shana Charles. Liar?

Yes, apparently so, at least according to the Gingerwood Homeowners Association.

It’s only a lie if you get caught…

The topic of this alleged prevarication is the proposed reconfiguration of Associated Road that would remove a lane of auto traffic and permit on-street parking. I’ll be writing about the details of this “project” in a bit.

This proposal seems to have germinated within the walls of City Hall and was presented to affected parties along the road. One of them is the Gingerwood community HOA that wasn’t real pleased with comments made by their councilmember, Shana Charles.

Uh, oh. It appears the good doctor has been telling stories in order to pedal this project past wary homeowners who don’t want cars blocking their sight lines when they emerge onto the fast traffic of Associated.

Lying to constituents to push a project you like but they don’t suggests a moral and ethical vacuum.

Track the Tracks. It’s all Based On a Con Job

The plan had problems…

So last time I resurrected the disaster of the proposed “boutique” hotel at the Transportation Center and noted that the land had already been sold – even before the so-called entitlements were in place. It was all crammed into the end of the year to avoid compliance with the new State requirements for getting rid of “surplus” land. The fact that the land in question is not surplus – it provides much needed parking for commuters and our esteemed downtown revelers – doesn’t seem to have entered any decision makers’ noggin. Common sense be damned, this is The Tracks at Fullerton Station.

Yes. I could do that job.

But I discovered the real travesty while watching the Planning Commission hearing on the proposed site plan and conditions for a hotel use.

See, the hotel concept somehow metastasized over the past five years to include a standard, massive housing block – yet another cliff dwelling – giving indication that not only was the new developer trying to cram his pockets with all he could get, but that that this new element may have been needed to ensure success for the whole endeavor.

And here’s where the swindle comes in. The density of the apartment block was developed using the entire site area. So our sharp planners took the 1.7 acre site and multiplied it by the Transportation Center Specific Plan limit of 60 units per acre. That’s 99 units. Then, because the developer was proposing 13 “low to very low” units he got a “density bonus” of another 42 units, per State law. If you’re counting, that’s 141 units.

But wait! Those 141 units sit on only 60% of the property, the other 40% being dedicated to the hotel.

Think about that. The whole site is being used to justify the massive density on only a portion of the site. Meantime the hotel proposal has an additional 118 rooms on its part of the site. Friends, let’s do some math. 118 plus 141 equals 259 units for the entire site, or a jaw-droppingly massive 152 units an acre, 2.5 times the density allowed in the Transportation Center Specific Plan!

How do I know the percentage of use for hotel and apartment block? Because the developer is asking for, and getting, a legal parcel division that shows separate parcels for the hotel and apartment. And here’s the Tentative Parcel Map submitted to the Planning Commission:

Based on the developers own Tentative Parcel Map, the land underneath the apartment component amounts to 42,684 square feet, which is 98% of an acre. This entitles him to only 59 units per the Specific Plan. Adding the State density bonus of 40% brings the allowable total to 83. But he’s getting 141. And a hotel with another 118 rooms on the same 1.7 acres.

Finally, I have to point out that the City Council itself – specifically Zahra, Charles and Whitaker already approved a Mitigated Negative Declaration for this half-baked obscenity in December, even though it clearly violates the Specific Plan that all the planners kept nattering about. That isn’t legal, although this, is Fullerton, meaning that nobody gives a damn.

I would like to report that the Planning Commission was all over this scam and was outraged. But of course I can’t. Instead the 5 commissioned turnips quibbled over electric car charging stations and other gnats on their way to swallowing this camel whole. Honestly, you could take five average people off Harbor Boulevard and you would end up with a more intelligent and sensible commission.

Well, that’s enough of that. My next post is going to be about the idiotic solution to a made-up bus station problem.

Another Zahra Shakedown

Another day, another shakedown…

Another day, another little act of extortion on the part of Ahmad Zahra, the transactional incumbent in Fullerton’s District 5.

The latest comes to us from downtown business owner James Ko, who relates the tale of how, when he told Zahra to remove his name from Zahra’s his list of endorsers, the latter said he couldn’t because, ya know, the website could only be changed at great expense.

So according to Ko, Zahra demanded a $500 campaign donation to pay for the removal of Mr. Ko’s name!

Ko, acquiesced in this outrageous demand and paid the ridiculous extortion money, but has subsequently made a demand of his own, in writing: namely, that the ill-gotten loot be returned, post haste.

Will Zahra give it back? I’m betting no.

And of course this isn’t the first instance of a Zahra shakedown that FFFF has mentioned, and I wonder how many other unwilling contributions have been made to this one-man mob.