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.
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 misfeasancethat in this case justifiesthe initiation of a recall of the elected representatives who voted for this evident gift of public funds.
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.
Narcissists lie. Their entire performative existence is all about self-aggrandizement and shoring up lack of real accomplishment by spinning constant yarns about their achievements and abilities. And so I present a clinical case: District 5 Councilman Ahmad Zahra.
The Fullerton Observer/Heathy Community Mafia Forum took place last week and Zahra found another occasion to keep spinning the same myriad lies that he has told so often he may actually have come to believe some of them.
Here are a few to chew on:
Lie #1: Zahra repeated his origin story that he’s lived in the District 5 for the last 21 years.
TRUTH: Zahra’s voter registration clearly shows he has only lived in the District for the last 16. The supposition being if you tell the lie often enough, even you begin to believe your own BS.
TRUTH: Zahra had the crutch of masking his Hispanic street cred in 2018 because he has his Hispanic partner who he opportunistically paraded in front of Hispanic District 5 residents. Without the benefit of his plus one to hide behind, he is now resorted to fabricating a deep understanding of complex issues. Parking issues? Ahmad created parking issues when he mysteriously voted to extend RV parking so nonoperational trailers and motorhomes highjacked streets in District 5.
Lie #2: “I share many experiences of our residents from parking issues, to rent, to housing affordability.”
TRUTH: Zahra is just a typical limousine liberal without the limousine. Your political life is tied to patronizing, top-down government. You are an bald-faced opportunist trying to scam people with your “caring” not you accomplishments of which there aren’t any.
Lie #3: “We have a shelter with good services right here in Fullerton.”
TRUTH: Zahra sold residents on the Navigation Center, which was funded and built for Fullerton homeless. That shelter has only 3 beds dedicated to homeless right now and none of them are from Fullerton. Zahra has done nothing to help Fullerton homeless or the homeless situation in Fullerton. There is a huge encampment of homeless under the 91 freeway at Euclid that has been there for weeks on in and Zahra did nothing to get it cleaned up because he cares so much about homeless.
Lie #4: “We created a safe parking program for residents who are sleeping in their cars.”
TRUTH: The program cost over $150,000 and only a handful of cars participated in the safe parking program because of the security restrictions around it. It was by all accounts an unmitigated disaster and a giant waste of taxpayer money. But a year and a half after it was mercifully ended by the remaining members of the Council, Zahra appears at this forum taking false credit for its imaginary success.
Lie #5: “Making sure our housing element has affordable housing.”
TRUTH: Does Zahra mean the housing element that is so late in development and approval that the City of Fullerton under your watch Ahmad is getting sued over it? Zahra is taking credit for aiding in Fullerton again wasting taxpayer dollars on defending or being a plaintiff in another dumb lawsuit.
Lie #6: “I’ve been working on traffic safety since the beginning.”
TRUTH: The beginning of what? The beginning of your tumultuous and ineffective Council career? The beginning of time? Since the birth of Christ? Considering more people have died crossing Orangethorpe and Lemon during his four year term, perhaps he means beginning after this forum.
Lie #7: “I installed a crossing guard.”
TRUTH: Hold on Skippy! The Fullerton School District pays for and authorizes school crossing guards. It has nothing to do with the City of Fullerton and even less to do with Zahra. But he’ll take false credit for it. The morons who believe Zahra’s lies will believe anything nonsense he says. But others, smarter, will show their contempt for his paltry efforts at the polls.
Lie #8: “We need to take pride in our parks and reclaim our parks.”
TRUTH: Is that right? Pride in Union Pacific Park in the heart of your district, Ahmad? The park that has remained closed for his entire Council tenure? The park that you tried to give away to a private event planner with no parking solutions, until the majority of Council stopped your terrible giveaway of public parkland.
Lie #9: “We need to increase staffing levels.”
TRUTH: Zahra sat idly by and supported the incompetent City Manager Ken Domer, who cut the Parks and Recreation staff to levels unseen in Fullerton’s history. Zahra supported the now former City Manager as he gutted the parks system and here you are taking credit for caring.
Lie #10: “On my two years on the water district, I was the person who advocated the most to create treatment plans.”
TRUTH: No, Zahra received $4000 a month pay for play appointment via Jennifer Fitzgerald and Jan Flory to get appointed to the district; and his also submitted completely plagiarized water articles to the Fullerton Observer and falsely put his name in the byline, which FFFF exposed. During Zahra’s brief time on the Orange County Water District, he did not advocate for a treatment plant. But he did try (and failed miserably) to grab a leadership position on the water district Board of Directors – alienating the entire Board.
Lie #11: Regarding parking issues in Fullerton, “I have been working with Community Development to not negatively impact neighborhoods.”
TRUTH: Zahra and his quitter Planning Commissioner appointee, Elizabeth Hansburg, have underparked every single development that they have approved.To add insult to injury, Zahra gave away street parking to homeless from other states to park their broken down RVs on neighborhood streets. Real champion of the people Ahmad.
Lie #12: Ahmad asserts himself as the reinvented fighter for weed enforcement. That somehow he is a pro-regulation candidate.
TRUTH: Zahra voted for a retail cannibas ordinance that a miniscule measurable buffer zone from homes and schools and has done nothing to get rid of illegal dispensaries, all or most of which are in his district (wonder why?). He keeps telling his gullible supporters that he fights the good fight when in reality he is in the pocket of the weed lobby.
Lie #13: “Driving food to people in my own car.”
TRUTH: Zahra had some community service to work off as part of his criminal plea deal. Zahra makes his court requirement a part of his hollow altruism brand.
There are so many more lies. Ahmad lies so effortlessly, he is one thing for sure: a sociopath.
And one final observation that does not require a TRUTH rebuttal. Look at Zahra’s facial expressions each and every time the Spanish language translator interrupts him to translate his words to constituents in his community since he does not speak Spanish. Distain. Utter distain. What a hypocrite! He doesn’t care of his community. He cares about himself.
It’s sort of fun to watch this mob enjoy a brief bout of fisticuffs between two of their own, especially when one of the pugilists gets cold-cocked and further beaten while lying helpless on the ground. What simian fun!!
Look familiar? This crap has been going on for almost 20 years thanks to our craven politicians who were bought and paid for by bar owners.
Speaking of bar owners the fight scene above (not apes) takes place in the fight ring/parking lot behind the Matador bar, whose owner, Mario Marovic is opening two new saloons on the corner of Harbor and Commonwealth, and who still hasn’t give back the sidewalk fraudulently acquired by the Florentines way back in 2002.
We here at FFFF have never thought of Jesus Quirk Silva as a very bright fellow, but he seems to have learned at least one thing on the Fullerton City Council. And that lesson came courtesy of former councilwoman-for-hire, Jennifer Fitzgerald.
That lesson is simple: it’s more fun to try to peddle influence based on your elected position than it is to hold down a day job.
And so Mr. Quirk Silva has embarked on a new potential career path – away from teaching multiplication to slack-jawed pre-pubescents, and into the exiting realm of lobbying local governments.
Quirk Silva’s “employer” is Adan Ortega, of Ortega Associates, who you may remember as the desperate Fullerton MWD director who was replaced by Fred Jung, and who then tried to get appointed as a representative from the city of San Fernando.
I fully expect Quirk-Silva to attempt to follow in the footsteps of Fitzgerald, although he can barely utter a coherent sentence.
Now why does any of this matter, really? Because government ought to be about governing, not about being a bagman between special interests, other lobbyists, developers, and your colleagues on local boards and councils.
As a Fullerton Councilman, Quirk Silva doesn’t have that much juice, but he could be pulled and persuaded very easily. More importantly, his wife, Sharon Quirk Silva, is a state Assemblywoman, and as such actually does command respect for how she might be able to move something along in Sacramento.
And now back to Ortega. FFFF sources have indicated that he was attempting to break into the legalized marijuana biz here in Fullerton as a lobbyist, but got caught up in the interminable incompetence of the last city council, and the reluctance of the new council to go down the happy MJ trail. The same sources suggest that a cartel of cannabis interests from Long Beach is still very interested in reviving the issue in Fullerton.
The Jesus has been a long-time, big-time cheerleader for legalized dispensaries in Fullerton, so there are several loose strings as yet not quite tied together.
You have to hand it to government bureaucracies. They never give up on stupid ideas. But why should they? With all the time in world, huge amounts of money given to them by others, and with zero accountability, what is there for them to lose?
Specifically, I am talking about an item on the May 4th Agenda, dutifully approved by the City Council, to take $1.8 million in State grant money and $330,000 in Fullerton park money to design and build what they are pleased to call The Union Pacific Trail, Phase II.
Of course we all know that Phase I was a total waste of money – a weird “equestrian trail” (complete with pony railing) that has never seen a horse, that was attached to the poisoned and fenced off UP Park that dies a merciful death at Highland Avenue.
Our crack Deputy Parks Director, some person named Alice Loya pitched the item to a less than bedazzled Council, making sure to point out that the area was disadvantaged, an irony certainly lost on City bureaucrats whose job it has been to un-disadvantage this neighborhood over the past 50 years.
Let me share a paragraph from the staff report, that, as usual, is so full of lies to rationalize the scheme that one wonders if the City staff would ever pursue this nonsense if they had to use City funds to pay for it:
The proposed project will transform an existing 50 to 80 foot wide, blighted corridor into a greenbelt trail providing alternate transportation, linking the Transportation Center and several parks, including Independence Park at its terminus. This proposed trail aligns with the Hunt Branch Library to the west, providing potential future linkages. The total cost of the project is estimated at $2.1 million.
Lie Number One: Alternative transportation? What the Hell does that even mean? Walking?
Lie Number Two: the trail would not link anything to the Transportation Center since it would terminate at a narrow sidewalk behind the Ice House that includes a 90 degree turn. And of course just a week ago, or so, our very same staff tried to sneak through an idiot scheme to cut off the UP right-of-way completely with their private event center on the Poisoned Park site.
Lie Number Three: the proposed extension does not link “several” parks. It would indeed terminate at the Independence Park parking lot but the only other “park” it would touch is the fenced off Poisoned Park that nobody even wants.
Almost as good as a lie Number Four: the proposed trail would be virtually impossible to link to the “aligned” Hunt Branch Library, nearly a mile away, because gosh darn it, the rail siding is still being used by…the railroad. But what the Hell let’s throw out the chimera of “connectivity” to fool the dopes on the City Council, right? It’s always worked just fine in the past.
Almost as good as a lie Number Five: when has the City ever built anything on time and on budget? That proposed cost would sky rocket, of course, as Fullerton’s army of staff, consultants, and design professionals hump the “greenbelt” into submission. Remember the wooden steps at Hillcrest Park and the elevator-from-Hell at the Depot?
But what wasn’t said was much more important than the propaganda ink spilled to promote this idiocy:nobody will use this “trail” since it passes through sketchy industrial zoned property, completely empty at night, and would remain, just like it is now, an attractive nuisance that the taxpayers will be on the hook to maintain out of the General Fund.
On the bright side, members of the new Council commonsense majority pointed out that Staff was already devising a top-secret Specific Plan for the area, and gee, wouldn’t it make sense not to piecemeal things like Planning Director Matt Foulkes tried to do on the ill-fated aquaponic farm/event center? They did treat the item as still very provisional, but FFFF knows better – we know that government money once available, will be spent, most likely on something nobody outside City Hall wants.
Naturally, Councilman-in-search-of-camera-opportunity, Ahmad Zahra scrounged up some of his usual misguided acolytes to beat the drum for this utter waste of $2.1 million bucks. After all, this project would be mostly paid for with “free money” of the sort “progressives” love to accept, then waste. We need look no further than the $1,000000 Core and Corridors Specific Plan, paid for by the State Sustainability Commission, that was quietly abandoned, never to see the light of day. And ironically, the old UP Right of Way passes right through the middle of two of the C&C Specific Plan Areas, suggesting to me, at lest, that the City is not, and never has been interested in the well-being of the part of Fullerton accept as something to play with.
Some recent commenters on our humble blog have wondered aloud who outgoing Mayor-for-Hire, Jennifer Fitzgerald was going to pick to be her choice for successor. Now we know.
Today a Friend forwarded some sort of statement (an English version) from a fellow by the name of Andrew Cho. Who is this person? Nobody I’ve asked today has ever heard of the guy; but, one thing is certain: he was chosen to be a reliable vote for all the things the Curt Pringle lobbyist Fitzgerald holds near and dear. I’d rather not slam the guy right out of the chute, but, hell, just look at who this mysterious person reports as his endorsers.
First, of course is the utterly unspeakable Fitzgerald.
If that weren’t bad enough, number two (and I really mean number two), the completely corrupt Dick Ackerman whose record running a fake non-profit to pay his wife, creating a fake address so she could run for the legislature in our district, and illegally participating as a lobbyist to promote the 2008 OC Fair swindle, have been well-documented on these pages.
Next we discover Ling Ling Chang, our current State Senator who originally ran for office pretending to own a business and attending Harvard. Both were lies, but that mendacity didn’t seem to put a dent in her armor of shamelessness.
Then there’s the support of Young Kim, the bubbleheaded perpetual candidate and her slimy husband Charles, who foisted the incomprehhensible nitwit Julie Sa on Fullerton way back in 1992.
Of course poor Cho must not have a clue that these endorsements will do a lot more harm than good, and if he doesn’t yet, he soon will.
If someone takes the time to review the history of Fullerton over the past forty years, one thing becomes shockingly clear: when it comes to building things, maintaining things and planning for things, the City government just can’t do much of anything right. And yet over this long history, the City and the public seem to have the shortest of memories.
For the denizens of City Hall, the fact that the jalopy has no rear view mirror makes perfect sense. After all, if you’re pulling down well over a hundred Gs, with a trampoline retirement coming your way, why spoil things with strange notions like accountability and responsibility? It’s so much easier to pretend nothing bad has happened.
The people who live here on the other hand, have no such incentive; quite the reverse, in fact. So how come constant repetition of the disastrous lessons from the past are tolerated? Is it easier to just ignore the millions upon millions wasted in foolish vanity projects, make-work comedies, and deteriorating infrastructure? Maybe.
But I hope that by continuing the drumbeat started on this brave blog 11 years ago, sooner or later the populace will wake up to the ineptitude and dissimulation by its highly paid, and so far untouchable masters of disaster.
And so join me Friends as I take you on trip down memory lane, Fullerton style.
Today almost nobody remembers the comical City endeavor to transform Harbor Boulevard in the early 80s by removing on-street parking, adding medians, spike-laden, pod-dropping floss silk trees, and bizarre concrete peristyles along the sidewalks. Comical, did I say? It would have been funny except that it doomed the businesses along Harbor to slow entropy. The ridiculous peristyles were soon removed but the rest of the mess lasted for decades and many of the hideous trees and broken sidewalks are still there as a reminder that the City is perfectly willing to waste millions on hare-brained, concept-of-the-day tomfoolery that gives them something to do.
The Allen Hotel, was Fullerton’s first foray into “affordable” housing back in the late 80s. It was a slum, alright and thirty years after the City’s bungling acquisition, the site is just begging for more “redevelopment.” Will it get it?
The CSUF Stadium & Fundraising Fiasco of 1990 ought to give plenty of pause to those contemplating Big Projects with public money. The brainchild of slimy City Councilman and later slimy State Senator, Dick Ackerman, the idea was to build a permanent home for the CSUF football team. Only trouble was that the $15,000,000 stadium was completed the same year the plug was pulled on a dismal gridiron program. In typical fashion, the City invested in a fundraising plan in which a company was hired at a cost of several hundred thou to raise money, and didn’t. Oops!
The horror story “Knowlwood Corner” is a veritable textbook case of government bureaucratic misfeasance, from start to finish. The story started in the early 90s and dragged on for years and years; when the signature building was finally built, the missing second floor became a perfect symbol for this misadventure. From stupid economic micromanagement to horrible architecture, this one touched all the bases – and it took seven years to do so.
The Bank of Italy Building was another disaster from the early 90s, but one that actually gutted an historic building. Millions in public money were wasted to pay for something that never should have been undertaken in the first place.
The North Platform remodel of 1992-93 proved that no matter how bungled things were in Fullerton, it could always get worse. A landscape architect was hired to place as many impediments between passengers and trains as was humanly possible. Some of the citizens got wise, and half the crap was ripped out. Heads rolled in City Hall. Oh, wait, no they didn’t.
Few folks now remember the Fairway Toyota dealership expansion fiasco from the mid-90s that required threatening an old lady with eminent domain and then closing off Elm Avenue forever. The City’s investment disappeared like an early summer morning’s dew when the dealership took off for Anaheim a few years later. After years of housing a used car dealership, the City permitted the development of another massive cliff dwelling along Harbor Boulevard. The losses were never accounted for but at least the neighbors got a nice view and early shade.
Fullerton’s Corporate Yard expansion was a mid-nineties project that left the City gasping for air. Despite hiring an outside construction manager and paying him a couple hundred grand, the project dissolved into a litigation mess that only escaped public embarrassment because nobody on the City Council gave a damn. Settlement details vanished into the haze.
The so-called Poison Park on Truslow Avenue may set the standard for Fullerton incompetence, although admittedly, the competition is fierce. In the late 90s, the City had Redevelopment money to burn and just couldn’t wait to do so. So they bought a piece of industrial property and built a park that nobody outside City Hall wanted. Cost? $3,000,000. Of course the site attracted gang members and drug dealers as predicted. Worse still, the land was contaminated and the “park” fenced off. It’s been like that for almost 15 years. And Counting.
No story of Fullerton calamities would be complete without once again sharing the tale of the Florentine Sidewalk Hijacking, in which a permit for “outside dining” was transformed one day by the Florentine Mob into a permanent building blocking half a public sidewalk. The Big City Planner, Paul Dudley, said everything was peachy. He was lying, of course, but did anybody really care?
Some people might conclude that the majority of Fullerton’s disasters can be laid at the feet of the Redevelopment Agency (really just the City Council) and well-pensioned, inept managers like Terry Galvin and Gary Chaplusky. When they weren’t slapping brick veneer on anything that didn’t move, they were screwing everything else up, too. But when we regard the history of Laguna Lake we enter into the realm of Fullerton’s Parks and Engineering mamalukes. After spending a small fortune on renovating the lake, the thing leaked like a sieve. Hundreds of millions of premium MWD gallons were pumped into the thing to keep it full. The public and council were left in the dark, even as citizens were told to conserve water in their homes. Did anyone in charge give a damn? Did anyone ask how much money and water were squandered over the years? Of course not. This is Fullerton. We could ask Engineering Director Don Hoppe for details, except that he is now comfortably retired and pulling down a massive pension.
Our professional planners, have been knee deep in Fullerton’s morass. Over-development (see example, above) has been fostered and nowhere was this better seen than in the Core and Corridors Specific Plan. This idiotic plan wasted a million bucks of State money without a backward glance after the whole thing was finally dumped on the QT – too stupid even for Fullerton. Did anybody ask for their money back? Nope. And yet a link to a blank web page titled Core and Corridors still exists! Hope springs eternal.
The 2000s proved that nobody in City Hall or out, was learning anything, even after the expensive failures of the 90s. The “West Harbor Improvement” project in 2009, was an endeavor so unnecessary that it could only be proposed in Fullerton, where government “place making” has never succeeded. The alley is a barf zone behind a bunch of bars that only needs hosing down every Sunday morning.
This litany of disasters, follies and debacles brings us to the Pinewood Stairs at Hillcrest Park which put on display the incompetence of the designer, the city staff, the construction manager, and a contractor who couldn’t build a sand box to code. Wasting $1.6 million is bad enough; permitting the code violations and construction deficiencies go unfixed is even worse. Barely two years old, the ramshackle structure moves more than the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
And over all these years Fullerton’s “leaders have neglected our aging infrastructure and permitted zone changes allowing for massive new development that has lined the pockets of developers and political campaign coffers, and left the rest of us with even more traffic and more burden on our roads and pipes.
Friends for Fullerton’s Future just received a disturbing story accompanied by a photograph that seems to encapsulate the Downtown Fullerton experience:
Hey, FFFF, I wanted to send along a story about what happened to me a few weeks ago. About 2 am a friend and I were walking along the north side of Commonwealth. Across the street we could see some kind of free-for-all going on. Then the crowd ran off leaving two people lying on the ground. By the time we crossed over to see what the damage was, the Fullerton police had arrived. The two people, a guy and a woman, were bloodied and obviously beaten. One of the cops saw me observing the scene and asked if I wanted to be arrested.
Rather than provide information about what we had seen, we decided to move on. But before we left I turned around and took this picture showing the woman pleading with four cops who appeared indifferent to whatever physical abuse she had suffered.
Yes, Friend, it is sad. Our “leaders” have created, nurtured, and encouraged a culture of mayhem where sometimes it’s hard to tell the victim from the perpetrator and where the cops are seemingly anesthetized to the weekly blood bath.
A couple of weeks ago Jeremy Popoff’s Slidebar employees and clientele provided more examples of the sort of high class behavior favored by our city council and particularly our lobbyist/councilcreature Jennifer Fitzgerald who has been running cover for Popoff for years and years. You may recall that Slidebar has never gotten the required CUP even as city officials like Fitzgerald, Bruce Whitaker and Party Planner Ted White have schmoozed and petted its miscreant owner.
Everybody seems to be ignoring Slidebar’s violation of planning and nuisance laws until the laws can be watered down so much even a professional douchebag can slime by without comment.
The City has been telling us for years that we’re poor — we need paid parking to maintain the downtown, we need a city sales tax to pay for infrastructure repair, we need higher fees to offset higher pension costs, yada yada yada.
That’s an interesting plea given the inordinate waste that is funded by the City’s General Fund.
When it comes to essential services like investigating crimes, approving building plans, or scheduling a fire inspection — we are told they are short-staffed, and the City can’t afford extra manpower — yet there’s plenty of cash for stuff like what you see below:
$600 of our tax dollars to a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization