Fullerton Gov’t Hates Property Rights – and Kids on Bikes

What’s going on in Fullerton? Many city officials seem intent on “redeveloping” a city that has no blight — even as they have wasted $20,000 in bureaucratic expenses to make sure kids don’t ride their bikes in a vacant lot. As the economy worsens for everyone, the city just can’t get its priorities straight.

First, the redevelopment absurdity. The city claims West Fullerton’s commercial areas and East Fullerton industrial areas are “blighted” and wants to redevelop them. This could mean using “eminent domain” to forcibly take property from its rightful owners, then give it to other private owners for a supposedly “better” use. And it could mean using our hard-earned tax dollars to “help” the new owners redevelop the property.

At a recent City Council meeting, City Councilman Shawn Nelson ripped the redevelopment “argument” to shreds. “Clearly, the data has been manipulated, and it’s been manipulated for a purpose,” he said, referring to a report that supposedly proved the areas were “blighted.” He added, “This is not an objective report…. I don’t think that any… objective report would have reached the conclusion that there’s blight.” He pointed out that the supposed “blight” in Fullerton “doesn’t come anywhere near” the threshold set by the California Court of Appeal for imposing eminent domain. Click here for the YouTube of Shawn’s comments:

Second, the Fullerton Code Enforcement Department spent $20,000 and countless hours of staff and attorney time prosecuting local businessman Tony Bushala (admin) for allowing his sons and their friends to ride bicycles on three acres of vacant land he owns behind the Brea Dam. The bureaucrats grandiosely called the vacant lot “outdoor recreational facilities.” Will they next also call every home driveway in the city “outdoor recreational facilities” — and ban kids from using driveways to ride up to park their bikes in the home garage?

How silly. Isn’t it better to have kids riding their bikes on private property owned by one kid’s dad, than to have them hanging out somewhere else, possibly getting into mischief? And that $20,000 in wasted tax money could have meant half a year of work for someone in the private sector — instead of staying in an unemployment line in this severe recession.

After various bureaucratic wranglings, the Appeals Board found that “no nuisance exists.” But the bike incident produced an incredible 47 pages of documents. What a waste.

These are serious economic times. The go-go days are over. We need to save our money, both private and public. The city needs to stop attacking the private-property rights of citizens, whether by threatening to take their property through eminent domain, or by stopping kids from having innocent fun on family property.

Leave us alone!

In the City of Galvin

When we heard Mr. Frisbee mention former Redevelopment employee Terry Galvin’s  name at the recent Council meeting regarding the McDonald’s boondoggle, we started to reflect on the span of his career.

Even though he has been retired for several years, Galvin’s influence still pervades almost every downtown debacle and disaster – including the ongoing McDonald’s relocation and the disgrace of the poisoned UP Park.

We though it might be fun to trace some of the highlights of Terry’s 25 year Redevelopment career to illustrate the influence one person can have over the lives and wealth of so many:

  1. Harbor Blvd. Removal of parking
  2. Construction and removal of concrete trestles along Harbor
  3. Pansy Law subsidy
  4. Bank of Italy demolition/acquisition
  5. Knowlwood Corner fiasco
  6. Depot North platform design failure and cover-up
  7. Allen Hotel blight-to-blight fiasco
  8. Permanent disfigurement and illegal remodel of original Masonic Temple building
  9. SRO catastrophe
  10. Eminent domain for now long-gone Toyota dealership
  11. Acqusition of UP (aka Paseo) park property & right-of-way
  12. Brick veneer and stucco on dozens of significant buildings
  13. Conversion of downtown Fullerton from commercial to high density residential
  14. Slotsy’s Depot platform embarrassment and cover-up
  15. Interference in contract @ Dean Block bld.
  16. The Depot ceiling screwup

To us the most interesting question about Galvin’s reign of error was how he managed to avoid discipline, let alone termination for his string of disasters that adorn Fullerton’s downtown like a string of cheap beads. It could only have happened in an environment free of accountability, and with the complicity of elected officials who not only tolerated this failure, but were also complicit in it.

And that, Dear Friends is why city councilmembers actually keep bragging about what has been “accomplished” in downtown Fullerton; and why, rather than disbanding the Agency, they prefer to expand it!

The “Paseo Park” Chronicles: The Park That Never Was. Or Is. Part 3

So far we have chronicled the story of a city park that nobody needed, with a proposed name no one wanted. Once construction was done, what had heretofore been a waste of time and money was soon to take a new twist.

No, not that kind of Twist, Chubby.

It was discovered that a flume of toxic material contaminated the west half of the park.

Oops. They're all empty. Now that's not very good, is it?
Oops. They're empty. Now that's not very good, is it?

Nobody in City Hall had bothered to do an environmental assessment before buying an old piece of industrial zoned property: not Gary Chalupsky the Redevelopment Director; not Susan Hunt the Community Services Director; not Bob Hodson the Engineering Director. All these Directors and nobody was directing anything. Perched atop of this shaky pyramid of incompetence sat Jim Armstrong, just waiting to bug out for the soonest better deal that offered itself. By the time the park was built Armstrong was gone, and his protege Chris Meyers was in charge – and probably damn glad this was Fullerton, where nobody was ever held accountable for anything.

This'll come in handy...
This'll come in handy...

Since 2003 a fence has been set up around the contaminated half of  the park. Meanwhile the City has been wrangling with the Gas Company over clean-up costs. This is now 6 years of embarrassing closure, and counting.  Half the park has been fenced off.

Not much of a park, is it?
A lot of chainlink fence and dead grass. Not much of a park, is it?

Meanwhile, too, the few Fullertonians who were actually paying attention found out how little park $1,500,000 in land and $1,900,000 in construction gets you nowadays: a prefabricated toilet building, among other things. And the City continued its tradition of ludicrous design, for instance a monument sign with its own little roof! How precious!

What kind of genius would put a tile roof on a sign? And how come the tiles are broken?
What kind of genius would put a tile roof on a sign? And how come the tiles are broken?

And as predicted, the half-park attracted just the sort of element you don’t want hanging around your parks and your kids – gang taggers, cholos, and neighborhood borrachos. Fortunately few kids seem interested in playing there anyway.

In the proposed Redevelopment expansion this would be proof of blight!
In the proposed Redevelopment expansion this would be proof of blight!

As this park degenerates we wonder how long it will be and how many consultants hired and studies performed to recommend the re-Redevelopment of this park; or to pave it over for Metrolink parking! Since we know that the City doesn’t like to part with territory once they acquire it, we can only speculate about future foibles in the Never Ending Story.

Read the rest of the Paseo Park Chronicles – Part 1Part 2 – Part 3

Norby’s Got Real Competition in 2010 For County Clerk

A Nineteenth Century Job
The very job title shouts out: "Nineteenth Century!"

H/T to Art Pedroza over at The Orange Juice Blog for this. Apparently our fellow blogger 4th District Supervisor, Chris Norby has a real-life opponent in his 2010 bid to be Clerk-Recorder (say, why is that job elected, anyway?). “Hugh” Nguyen who used to work as a functionary in the Clerk-Recorder’s office is not only running, he’s hired a top-level GOP campaign consultant – Scott Hart and is even having a fund raiser. Hmm.


UPDATE: We are republishing this wonderful post by Fred Olmstead originally posted on February 21, 2009. We do so in order to highlight the fact that the park – suffering from real blight – is in the Redevelopment project area, and stands as yet another testament to the failure of Redevelopment. Sharon Quirk, are you reading this?

– The Fullerton Shadow


Loyal Friends of Fullerton’s Future, gather ‘round the cool glow of your computer terminals and follow a sad saga of miserable municipal negligence.

Located in the center of Fullerton is a resource of inestimable value, overlooked by almost everybody in and outside of City Hall: Hillcrest Park. Included in an early vision of the city it followed upon the City Beautiful, and natural urban park elements of the Progressive movement; and coincided nicely with the new auto culture of the 1920s, positioned as it was, along the original Highway 1.

Developed fully during the Depression in a rustic mode, the park soon after began a long decline into municipal irrelevance, and if anything, seemed to be perceived by many as a liability rather than a great asset.   This tragic trajectory is a shameful blot on Fullerton’s history and is akin to placing your eighty-five year old mother in a criminally negligent nursing home.

After Don Bankhead and Fullerton’s Finest chased out the acid-dropping hippies in the 1960s, the park became a haven for perverts; trees began to die and were not replaced; erosion claimed many of the north and west facing slopes and was not arrested; as the infrastructure crumbled it was replaced by City Engineer Hugh Berry with incongruous cinder block walls and concrete light poles.

In the mid-1990s Redevelopment Director Gary Chalupsky, in a philanthropic mood, decided that Redevelopment funds could be used to address Hillcrest Park issues – the first official over-the-shoulder glance toward the park in years.

And here, dear Friends, the story turns from a chronicle of benign neglect to one of outright incompetence and, one might plausibly argue, a form of bureaucratic malevolence.

In 1996 the usual scoping/charette pantomime was performed with an historic park landscape architect, specially imported from Riverside. An odd thing happened: every time the consultant prepared a list of priorities for the park, the Community Services Department’s wishes kept getting pushed to the top. The Director of Community Services was Susan Hunt, a woman long known for her mindless turf battles with her constituents – (including the Isaak Walton Cabin in Hillcrest). Hunt was determined to hijack the process and divert resources from where they were needed to facilities that she and her department could control and perhaps even profit from.

Hunt was successful. The consultant, knowing whom it was important to please, seemed only too happy to abet the fraud that was perpetrated. The city council (including current Jurassic members Bankhead and Jones) went along. Chris Norby was there, too. Now he’s in charge of the County’s parks.

A new playground replaced the old one in the Lemon parking area even though no one had complained about the existing one that parents seemed to like. More egregious still, a new facility (known as Hillcrest Terrace) was built behind the Veteran’s building that could be rented out for social functions. But the real needs of the park – slope stabilization, plant cataloguing and replacement, the removal of inappropriate elements – went unaddressed – and the problems have continued unabated to this day, ten years later, as interest in the park waned again.

Last fall the City once again roused itself from its somnolence and created an ad hoc committee to consider issues related to Hillcrest Park. The time is, perhaps, propitious. Susan Hunt has disappeared into an overdue and well-compensated retirement, current Director Joe Felz is much more amenable to citizen input. It’s time to reclaim this park.

Hillcrest is still in the Redevelopment Area and remains affected by indisputable blight. This should become a priority for Redevelopment Director Rob Zur Schmied.

While we wonder if the Hillcrest Park committee will actually display the necessary independence from staff manipulation, and that they possess the necessary technical abilities, we wish them well. And we encourage citizens to make sure that this time any assessment of Hillcrest will objectively address the needs of the park and report directly to the City Council. Recommendations should be included in the City’s Capital Budget.

Hillcrest Park can and must return to being the crown jewel of Fullerton’s parks.

Fullerton’s City Lights – FUBAR From The Word Go – Tod Und Verklarung – An Epilogue

Thank you Forebearing Friends, for following this pathetic revelation to its conclusion. The unwinding of this concatenation of miscreance and misfeasance must be as hard to read as it has been to write. And yet now the conclusion is finally at hand!

By May 1997 the SRO deal was done. The final meeting was a mere formality. Everybody who was paying attention knew that Dick Jones – yes, all hat and no cattle Dick Jones – was going to eat up the tasty morsel that his own staff and collegues had put in front of him.

No. I'm Not Eating That...
Hmmm. Maybe some ketchup would help...

Terrified of personal loss, and with apparrently no confidence in City indemnification, he caved in to the ridiculous threats to protect his own pelt. All of his brave words of March were just so much verbal gas.

It's Mostly Just Hot Air
It's Mostly Just Hot Air

The meeting came and went. The project moved ahead and was ever so slowly built. Two years later the Fullerton City Lights was added to the Downtown scene. The city bureaucrats congratulated themselves on another job well-done: 7 years and several million dollars of public funds in the making  – a large stucco box.  The erection wasn’t much to write home about.

Well, It Could Have Beeen Worse
Well, It Could Have Beeen Worse

Perhaps the sorriest part of this saga was the behavior of Dick Jones – during and after the sad episode. He had eaten his crow – the feathers were still there on his bib for everybody to see. And councilwatchers were wondering if his former fulminations would now be directed at the staff and fellow councilmembers who had placed him in his embarrassing predicament. The answer came quickly. No accountability, no responsibility – nothing. Nothing but loud and consistent praise and support for the bureaucrats who had orchestrated his humiliation; he soon became notorious for his knee-jerk and unquestioning support of almost everything put in front of him by the City staff.

We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us
We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us

All that remained was the peridoc bluster: homespun nonsense, loud, rambling and often incoherent perorations. Deep-fried bloviations, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.


Read the rest of “Fullerton’s City Lights”: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 – Epilogue

Fullerton’s City Lights – FUBAR From The Word Go – Act III

A New Team Was Brought in To Finish The Job
A New Team Was Brought in To Finish The Job

Loyal Friends, when we left off our last post the City’s chosen SRO “developer,” Caleb Nelson” was gone: whether he left voluntarily or was shoved aside is a moot point. He left behind an unstarted project, a history of City bungling, and an embarrassing hole in the cityscape. Sometime in 1996 Redevelopment  Director Gary Chalupsky discovered a replacement. Apparently on his own authority he chose Agit Mithawalla to take over the project. No public hearing, no RFP, no prequalifications, no City Council approval. Behind closed doors a new deal was hatching.

Don't Ask Don't Tell!

And the City Council had changed. And changed again in the fall of 1996. Jan Flory was now on the Council since 1994, trying to rewrite Recall history and a sure bet to cover up any staff misfeasance. But the newly minted councilman Dick Jones was on the dais. He had run as the voice of conservatism in Fullerton and it was known that his pals in the Chamber were dead set against an SRO across the street. Public housing – the horror!

Across the street from us! No freakin' Way, Man
Across the street from us? No freakin' Way, Man

When the final agreements with Mithawalla finally reached the Council for approval in March 1997 a showdown was prepared by irate citizens who opposed the SRO project for one reason or another. Some cited inflated construction costs; some objected to deal for financial reasons; other attacked Mithawalla’s record of shoddy building in LA. When the vote came down the agreement was voted down 3-2. Bankhead and Flory, predictably, backed up the staff mess completely; Chris Norby rallied Jones and Julie Sa to oppose. Dick Jones gave the very first of his corn pone diatribes, in which he hurled invective against the project, its likely denizens, and the methadone clinic next door.

When Councilmen Attack!
When Councilmen Attack!

He was Big. He was Brave. He would soon come to regret giving voice to his peculiar worldview…

Read the rest of “Fullerton’s City Lights”: Part 1Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4Epilogue

Fullerton’s City Lights – FUBAR From The Word Go – Part Deux

Gentle Friends of Fullerton, we left off our sad narrative with one Caleb Nelson, fly-by-night promoter, in possession of  a multi-million dollar City subsidized “affordable” housing project on Commonwealth Avenue; a project that he had as much ability to undertake as a ling cod. Our “expert” City staff had chosen this dubious individual to build a multi-million dollar “SRO’ although they must have known he didn’t have the wherewithal to build a birdhouse. They had rejected a reknowned architect; they had helped destroy an historic building; and they were just getting warmed up.

We Know What We're Doing
We're the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency. We Know What We're Doing

As this venture entered its third year (1995) the Redevelopment staff had finally seen enough. Director Gary Chalupsky, who ostensibly joined the city in 1992 as an independent agent of change, but who, by this time, had lost most of his rigid members, acted. Caleb Nelson was shown the door, and in his place Chalupsky unearthed a low-income housing developer from LA by the name of Agit Mithawala.

Aw c'mon. You didn't expect accountability, did you?
Aw c'mon. You didn't expect accountability, did you?

The only difficulty was that Mr. Chalupsky had been given no authority to re-assign the development rights conferred upon Caleb Nelson to anybody.  He did it all by himself. And he had to get the City Council help him cover his tracks…

Geez, what happened to the footprints?
Geez, what happened to the footprints?

By this time a politcal revolution had come and gone in Fullerton. Molly McClanahan and Buck Catlin were long gone, replaced by Jan Flory and, in 1996, F. Richard Jones. Fullerton was about to witness one of the most inglorious retreats in its history. Stay tuned for more…

Well if I hadn't shot off my big mouth...
It's all mind over matter, boys...

Read the rest of “Fullerton’s City Lights”: Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3Part 4Epilogue

Fullerton’s City Lights – FUBAR From the Word Go – Part I

We're From The Fullerton RDA And We're Here to Help!
We're From The Fullerton RDA And We're Here to Help!

Damn. Another Fullerton Redevelopment Agency saga of screw up. This one is a bit long and I bring it to you Dear Friends of Fullerton in serial form.

Way, way back in the early 90s the Redevelopment Agency was still trying to figure out how to buy down the ever-increasing affordable housing set-aside monies it had illegally accumulated over the years, and which a lawsuit had forced it into spending. One type of project that was acquiring some cachet at the time was the SRO – Single Room Occupancy – a long term hotel-type rental for people in fairly marginal economic circumstances. The County had pledged a million bucks of its own to sweeten the deal.

The City solicited proposals. One came from the Bushala family for a site they already owned at Harbor and Truslow. Their partners were to be Baronne-Galasso who had done numerous similar efforts in San Diego, and their architect, the well-published Rob Quigley. http://www.robquigley.com/

The City entertained a second proposal from a gent named Caleb Nelson who seemed to be living out of his truck, along with the very silent “San Gabriel Partners” whom the public never saw. The City staff went so far as to select a site for Mr. Nelson since he owned nothing and couldn’t find City Hall without a map. Unfortunately, the chosen site on Commonwealth Avenue, included the historic Grimshaw House, a Victorian stick-style house c. 1894 that had mysteriously been left out of the 1979 historic survey – maybe because a block building then housing a thrift store had been plunked down in front of it and it was easier just to ignore.

The Grimshaw House, c. 1894, formerly on Commonwealth Avenue
The Grimshaw House, c. 1894, formerly on Commonwealth Avenue

For reasons too complicated to explain here, there was no way the City staff was going to do business with the Bushalas. Some bad blood there!  So behind the scenes an ambush was orchestrated by a couple of city council members, senior staff, and an enterprising housing tax-credit entrepreneur, Doug Chaffee, to undermine both the Bushalas as slumlords, and Baronne-Galasso as bankrupts at the final hearing.  On a 4 to 1 vote the SRO project was awarded to Caleb Nelson in the Spring of 1993. An opportunity for forward-looking architecture had been deliberately squandered.

Once the deal was done Redevelopment moved in to vacate the property. The historic Grimshaw House, intentionally put in harm’s way by the City, became an attractive target and was set on fire – twice – by an arsonist.

Oh, well.
Oh, well.

It was finally razed. A rare Nineteenth Century house, the oldest remaining structure in Downtown Fullerton, and connected to one of the early pioneer families of the County was gone – with nothing but sighs of relief from the good folks at the City.

Things Are Going Just Great!
Things Are Going Just Great! Have A Sucker!

Years passed. 1993 rolled into 1994, and 1994 into 1995 with nothing happening on the site. Despite the City’s attempt to portray him as a sound individual, it was becoming increasingly difficult to hide the truth about Mr. Nelson  and what he might be able to build, given the resources at his disposal.

Does It Come With A Balcony?
A Room With A View - And A Balcony

And this where the story gets really interesting…

Read the rest of “Fullerton’s City Lights”: Part 1 – Part 2Part 3Part 4Epilogue

The Morgan Group Adds Its Indelible Signature to Downtown Fullerton

What happened to Whiting Ave.
The monster that swallowed Whiting Ave.

Almost ten years ago the Morgan Group developers contributed this gem to downtown Fullerton’s inventory of beautiful buildings. For some reason Fullerton’s leaders thought the idea of another faux-Renaissance palazzo built of wood studs, stucco, and styrofoam details was just what the doctor ordered.

Well maybe the doctor did order it. Sometime check out the contributions made by partners of the Morgan group to Dick Jones’ 2000 city council campaign. Hmmm.

Well, we got more high-density, crappy architecture,  more traffic on an already deficient intersection, the aesthetic engulfment of the beautiful and historic church next door, etc., etc.

A picture is better than a thousand words
A picture is better than a thousand words

What did The Morgan Group get? Free land, plus a gift of a public street (the 100 E. block of Whiting – an original street from the 1886 town site grid) and who knows what else. Who approved this disgrace? Let’s have a looksee:

Don Bankhead (current Councilmember)

Dick Jones (current Councilmember)

Jan Flory (former Councilmember)

Chris Norby (former Councilmember and current County Supervisor)

Julie Sa (twice elected former unintelligible Councilmember, current whereabouts unknown)