An Unhappy Anniversary

And what anniversary might that be, Friends may be asking.

Not gone, but almost forgotten…

This Wednesday, March 27th, marks the one-year anniversary of a deadline date agreed to by the City of Fullerton and one Mario Marovic, a downtown bar owner. Not much of a deadline, huh?

Hey, that’s not yours!

By March 27th, 2023, Mr. Marovic was required to have started demolition of the so-called “bump out,” an illegally constructed room addition built by the Florentine Mob two decades ago on City property. Marovic had gotten rid of the Florentines, finally, but decided that the leasehold on the room addition was somehow ripe for the encroaching. So he began remodel work on the leasehold right along with the rest of the building that he does own.

Busted.

Meet the new proprietor, same as the old proprietor…

But Fullerton being Fullerton, where nothing seems to be done right in City Hall, and where downtown scofflaw saloon owners do whatever the Hell they please, Marovic seems to have decided that the deadline meant, and means, nothing. And why should he believe otherwise? He has seen firsthand how the City bureaucracy and the City Attorney bent all the way over for the Florentines – instead of making them obey the law.

Well, the Earth has made an entire revolution of the Sun.

The City Council may occasionally talk about this in their hush-hush, top secret “Closed Session” meetings, but the public is not to know what is happening, even as our money and property are being frittered away. We do know that Marovic has threatened a claim against the City, but so what? Why would that be cause for the City to ignore Marovic’s breech of contract and seize the public property that Marovic encroached on illegally?

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

The reason could be that our esteemed lawyer, Dick Jones of The I Can’t Believe It’s a Law Firm, believes upholding agreements is not a winning strategy. Of course this third rate pettifogger has won so few cases for us, and has lost so many that we may feel confident questioning his judgment.

Or, it could be that the feckless and spineless City Council has been individually persuaded by Marovic that it’s in their best interest to ignore the deal, and that they should just let Marovic keep raking in the bucks thanks to a Conditional Use Permit that was contingent upon the removal of the room addition.

Suffering The Stolen Sidewalk Saga

Gone, but not quite forgotten…

Two months ago I reminded the Friends that the never-ending story of the stolen Commonwealth public sidewalk was alive and well. The provocation was a closed session agenda item listed as “significant exposure to litigation” between the City of Fullerton and Mr. Mario Marovic, the owner of the building at the northeast corner of Harbor and Commonwealth. Marovic had submitted some sort of claim against the good folk of Fullerton, often an aggressive gambit to stall and temporize.

Meet the new proprietor, same as the old proprietor…

A quick rehash of the facts: Marovic took over the space from the decamped Florentine crime family and immediately gained access to the “bump out” on the sidewalk; and he then began remodeling it along with the rest of the first floor space for his new bars. He had no authority to do so because, of course, the City acquired responsibility to dispose of the building add-on after the Florentine’s bugged out on their lease with the City. In his application for CUPs for the new bars Marovic even included the City owned space as his own.

In the late summer of 2022 Marovic was well-along with his remodel even though his CUP hadn’t been approved, but the issue of the egregious bump out resurfaced, thanks to FFFF. In September, 2022 the City and Marovic reached an agreement that was signed by Eric Leavitt, our esteemed City Manager, and not the Mayor at the time, Fred Jung.

The terms of the agreement were simple enough, and FFFF has shared them before. The thrust of the deal was that Marovic could open his new bars (including the bump out) and he would then undertake to remove the bump out and restore the public sidewalk. Here is the actual clause describing terms and deadlines of the deal:

As you can see, demolition was to have begun at the end of March, 2023 – almost ten months ago – and be the rework complete by July, 2023 – five months ago. Marovic opened his businesses, alright, but never started demolition, and probably didn’t meet any of the other deadlines, either.

A little late, Kimberly…

So when is an agreement not an agreement? Apparently, when it’s written and approved as to form and content by Kimberly Hall Barlow, the obnoxious member of Dick Joneses “I Can’t Believe It’s A Law Firm” crew.

I almost know what I’m doing…

It’s interesting to note that Barlow didn’t approve the six month old agreement until March, 2023 – 4 days before demolition was to supposed to have started.

Of course Dick Jones and his fine stable of attorneys have been bungling the case of the stolen sidewalk from the very beginning, including personal conflict of interest, embracing ludicrous legal rationale at the behest of the Florentines, and even countenancing forgery on an official City document by Joe Florentine.

Still, one has to wonder what our elected officials themselves have done about this. Clearly the unwillingness of the City to enforce a legal agreement, signed by Marovic stems from fear of legal action. But Marovic is undeniably in breach of the contract he voluntarily signed, even though there is zero evidence that it was signed in good faith.

The City can and should begin the process of revoking Marovic’s CUP, the permit that has allowed him to make a lot of money over the last 10 months while failing to live up to his side of the bargain. As owner of the bump out the City has every right, at least, to revoke the CUP that covers its own property, as gotten fraudulently.

The City can also notify Marovic that it intends to remove the building addition itself, since he won’t do it, and bill the scofflaw for the cost.

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

Of course neither of these remedies will take place, because this is Fullerton, where the elected officials are feckless and beholden to the Downtown Liquor Cartel; and because they insist on, decade after decade, following the dismal advice of Dick Jones.

The Trail to Nowhere Grant Application

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

Curious Friends have been asking about the grant application the City of Fullerton submitted to the State of California Natural Resources Agency to build the now infamous “Trail to Nowhere.” Why? Because the plan, as conceived by parks employees as a make-work project, was so obviously useless, flawed and ill-considered. Reflect on these facts:

  1. Nobody ever used the allegedly successful “Phase I” except drug addicts and the homeless.
  2. The City has been unable or unwilling to maintain Phase I which is a trash-strewn, urine soaked disgrace, making the question of maintenance (below) perfectly reasonable.
  3. Phase I doesn’t even line up with the proposed “Phase II.”
  4. The scheme was going to cost Fullerton $300,000 to build; nobody would say what the running costs would be.
  5. The proposed “trail” was to run though an unsafe area of heavy industry, junk yards, a plating facility, an asphalt plant, parking lots and myriad used tire and auto repair places. It would have run parallel to the BNSF mainline track with no buffer for a third of its length.
  6. Carncinogenic trichlorethylene (TCE) had been identified years ago on an adjacent property by the EPA/Department of Toxic Substances Control that described an underground “plume” moving south across the path of the “trail.”
  7. Two requests for information regarding environmental investigation on the “trail” site, via the Public Records Act have been obviously stonewalled by the City of Fullerton.
  8. “Trail” advocates have been disseminating false information about connectivity to the Transportation Center and Downtown Fullerton, and positing future connections to the west that are completely implausible.
  9. And probably most importantly, no one could describe a potential “trail” user except by using generic data irrelevant to the actual site. The users would be the “community”

The grant application itself isn’t to be found in any City Council documentation, because they never approved the actual application, only allowed the application to be made behind the scenes on their behalf. But it turns out that copies of the document are available, possibly leaked by City Hall employees appalled at the whole mess.

Well FFFF has it.

The Scam

Disillusioned Ex-Hippy has just written a nice piece about how the Voice of OC got conned into publishing a completely one-sided story on the defeated Trail to Nowhere, replete with the same falsehoods being printed by Saskia Kennedy and her mother, Sharon, who are responsible for the editorials of the Fullerton Observer.

The narrative is simple: poor, underserved Latinos are fighting City Hall to get “nice things.” Of course it was lapped up by Voice reporter Hosam Elattar who took the bait and the hook along with it. The whole thing is a genuine and popular uprising of hard working folk taking time away from their jobs, etc., etc.

But there’s a problem with this story, one that we already know about. And that is that the ongoing “protest,” such as it is, was ginned up by D5 councilman Ahmad Zahra to embarrass his political opponents on the Fullerton City Council. And this little scheme has been aided and abetted by the Kennedy clan every step of the way.

So get this.

On October 4th the Fullerton Observer is inviting people to show up at Independence Park that afternoon to talk about ways to improve Fullerton. No mention is made of protest signs and walks along the railroad tracks with narration provided by one Egleth Nunnci, Zahra’s loyal, go-to Latina foot soldier. Anyone seeing this message might believe they were going to discuss improving Independence Park and would hardly expect to hear the propaganda that has nothing to do with Independence Park. Neither would they expect a photojournalist (and maybe even a reporter) to be in attendance to report on a political protest, with signs handed out for fun.

What a sad, albeit sort of funny little scam, but just the sort of small-scale chisel Zahra watchers have come to expect. Now, it’s likely that nobody seeing that message even showed up, and that the trail hikers were all Zahra brand crisis actors. Nevertheless, the willingness to deliberately mislead citizens like this is pretty reprehensible even for the self-important and self-righteous Kennedy family.

Ground Zero for Inertia

My latest essay detailed the problem of corporate inertia and described how Fullerton’s government as a corporate body displays all the problems associated with stagnation, ossification and an inability do things any differently. And then of course, there’s the arrogance and secretiveness.

Here’s a prime example of a culture that is in need of electric shock therapy.

Last April I wrote a post about how the the City and property owner Mr. Mario Marovic had come to an agreement in the fall of 2022 about the latter’s removal of the infamous Florentine hijack of the sidewalk on Commonwealth Avenue. In return, Marovic got to open his two new saloons on the corner.

We now know what a foolish bargain it was for the City.

Marovic was supposed to start demolition the last week in March. That was five and a half months ago. As of mid-September this has not started, and there is no sign that it will ever start. Why not?

Cheers!

Some people may suspect that Mr. Marovic has cast his bread upon the City Council water, so to speak, either above or below the table. But there is also a more likely scenario: the City is simply continuing to cover up its own incompetence in the long, sad history of the sidewalk theft.

No, I wasn’t asleep. I was praying…

And at the center of this tale? City Attorney Dick Jones, who is the only player who has been involved in this mess from the proverbial Day One, and who continues, no doubt, to dispense his legal wisdom that has been so disastrous, and has included turning a blind eye to his own conflict of interest, and justifying forgery of an official City application.

There’s also a bigger picture.

The government of Fullerton has developed a noxious habit of ignoring its own rules and regulations in the downtown area; it has systematically ignored the scofflaws who own the bars, and in fact has coddled and pampered them. Both bureaucrats and elected have continued to portray downtown Fullerton as an achievement, a great success, a municipal asset, when in fact, the saloon culture has never been anything but an annual $1.5 million drain on the City’s budget.

Of course the pages of FFFF are full of stories that confirm the nature of the stasis that defines our city’s governance. What is the solution? That’s the theme of a future post.

Bang Bang, You’re Dead

Mostly predictable banality and stupidity mark events in Fullerton political opinion, but every now and then something unexpected happens. In this case an opinion piece in the Fullerton Observer that takes the police department to task for its hyperventilation rap-riddled recruiting video that begins with loud, dramatic music accompanying a fake chase scene through downtown Fullerton that ends with a canine grabbing hold of the bad guy. The author complains (rightly) that the video obviously sends the wrong message to potential recruits who may be more interested in violent video games than in community policing.

Now juxtapose this video (especially the dog part) with the recent news out of the City Council closed session that announced a $8,600,000 settlement with the family of Hector Hernandez, who was shot a few years ago by Jonathan Ferrell of the FPD for defending himself against one of their attack dogs.

To all appearances it looked a lot like a gang.

For years FFFF has been letting folks know that the Fullerton Police Department never reformed itself in the wake of the Chief “Patdown” Pat McKinley’s reign of error that culminated in the murder of Kelly Thomas. New Chief Mike Sellers took a vacation during the Kelly Thomas protests and bugged out on a stress leave and (tax free) disability retirement. The next Chief, Danny “Gallahad” Hughes – who was neck-deep in the Thomas killing cover-up – said we were misinformed, even as his boys gave drunk-driving City Manager Joe Felz a ride home, warm milk and a cookie. His successor, David Hendricks was arrested in Irvine for assaulting a paramedic and had to hit the road.

Cop coverup artist, drug warrior, IT wizard, this talented cat can do it all…

The current occupant of the Chief job, Bob Dunn, was the former spokesman for the Anaheim PD during the spate of cop shootings that incited riots. He’s the guy responsible for the recruiting video and its awful message to prospective, young Fullerton coplets. Dunn, too will be leaving soon after a short tenure – just like his immediate predecessors. Hopefully the new Chief will be more inclined to de-emphasize confrontation and escalation, armored vehicles and SWAT deployment as policing strategies.

A Massive Gift of Public Money

In December, as the Friends will remember, the City of Fullerton sold a public parking lot to a so-called developer for $1,400,000. The “developer” had the task of building a boutique hotel and an apartment block. FFFF has already documented the ridiculous density the City has bestowed upon the project. So let’s revisit the topic of land value, a calculation based on the number of residential units a developer can cram onto a parcel of land.

Look, it even has the café the bureaucrats demanded!

In this case we know precisely how many units are proposed because the development agreement tells us. There are going to be 141 apartment units and 118 hotel rooms – rooms that will undoubtedly be converted to low income housing when the hotel concept fails. Dividing 259 units by $1.4 million gives us $5400 per “door” as they say in the biz.

Does that number seem low? I didn’t really know, so I contacted some pros at Land Advisors who informed me that a more typical number is in the range of $60,000 to $65,000 per unit in these parts, which produces a land value of about $15.5 million and above.

So the “economic development” geniuses in City Hall got the City Council to agree to a massive reduction in value for the sale of the land, a reduction that could be in the neighborhood of $14,000,000.

Now we all know that government and its agents shield themselves (or try very hard to) from accountability for this type of incredible giveaway. It’s not a crime to be stupid, and so there the issue of legal malfeasance can be fuzzy without proof of corruption. But here there is the issue of misfeasance that in this case justifies the initiation of a recall of the elected representatives who voted for this evident gift of public funds.

Mother’s milk…

And those three representatives are Ahmad Zahra, Shana Charles and Bruce Whitaker.

Now, undoubtedly, these three politicos would argue that they had great reasons for “subsidizing” this boondoggle, and that those excellent reasons are well-worth the $14,000,000 they happily pitched at the developer, an individual, we must remember, who brought this unsolicited proposal to the City. But the City, remember, never did its due diligence by opening up this concept (or any other) for a submission of qualifications by those who might have been interested. No. Not even after several years had gone by and the proposer had been granted several extensions of a Exclusive Negotiating Agreement and the proposal kept metastasizing.

Are a “boutique” hotel at the train tracks and yet another overbearing apartment block so important that they justify the $14,000,000 giveaway? Well, I would challenge Charles, Whitaker and Zahra to prove it to voters in their districts.

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.

Old News Better Than No News

The trouble with being away so much last summer and fall was that I missed all sorts of Fullerton-related stuff. And one of those things was the separation of Tony Florentine from his Earthly cares.

Addio, Tony!

The Florentine paterfamilias, bar owner and restaurateur passed on to his reward back in July of 2022.

FFFF has been diligently following the activities of Tony and his offspring, Joe, in a series of posts going back well over ten years.

Good luck with that!

We documented how in 2012, Tony loudly inserted himself into the anti-Recall campaign as a staunch supporter of Fullerton’s incompetent Old Guard councilmembers Jones, Bankhead and McKinley, parroting the nonsense peddled by his old Rotary pal, Dick Ackerman. He had lots of good reasons for defending the boobs as they let him run illegal entertainment in his business establishment, and as he and his son did everything they could to dodge the City-ordained -and not enforced – conditions of approval for use permits.

Gone, but not quite forgotten…

But the history went farther back. In 2003 Tony got the City to look the other way as he purloined a public sidewalk and got away with it, creating a legal headache that still hasn’t gone away. The Florentines pulled out in 2020 and left the City as landlords of a building extension that the co-joined building owner didn’t own.

Years before that, if we can believe a former associate, in 1989 Tony took a torch to his business, The Melody Inn, that also destroyed one of the oldest buildings in Fullerton and began an embarrassing Redevelopment boondoggle.

Whether or not Tony once drove a copper spike into a street tree because it was blocking his sign is a matter of conjecture, but that’s the tale told by some old Fullertonions.

Joe Florentine was happy to follow in dad’s footsteps as he continued to dodge installing required fire sprinklers in the Tuscany Club and even went so far as forging an official City planning document granting himself use authority over the building he rented because he had a lease there. That fiasco cost us $25,000, not counting legal eagle Dick Jones’s time. The Florentines just seemed to think that laws and rules were nothing but inconveniences to avoid.

So belatedly FFFF says farewell to Mr. Florentine – who brought a little Jersey color to our drab town. In parting it has to be said that neither he or his kid are that important in and of themselves, but they symbolize a governmental culture of incompetence, and a willingness in City Hall to tolerate scofflaws that have become synonymous with Fullerton.