The Fullerton City Council And It’s Trail of Tears to Nowhere

It's a long wretched journey, but is sure isn't worth it when you get there...
It's a long wretched journey, but it sure isn't worth it when you get there...

We have almost exhausted ourselves relating the long and troubling story of the Poisoned Park, AKA the Union Pacific Park, a perfect case study in local government overreach, squandered millions, and zero accountability from our “very, very good” City Manager or anybody else for that matter.

with a spring in his step...
with a spring in his step...

First the Redevelopment Agency interfered in a private sector transaction; then they unwittingly acquired contaminated property. Then they built a park that nobody but cholos and borrachos used (good thing half of it was fenced off!). Several million bucks later city staff sat on an embarrassing disaster whose magnitude could only be minimized by comparing it to other historical Redevelopment fiascoes.

But now to the point of this post. On Tuesday, the council voted to apply for grant  funds to continue the “trail” westward from Highland, even though they had been informed of a toxic plume under the property. More millions spent on more contaminated property! And still no explanation about the fact that this idiotic “trail” has no provision to take pedestrians, cyclists (or horses, yee haw!) over the at-grade crossings at Highland and Richman; and no coherent vision about how this thing is supposed to function at all.

When the issue of contamination popped up, City Engineer Don Hoppe made some noise about how they had looked into the issue (yeah, sure Don); ever helpful City Attorney Jones suggested that the application be made anyway while some sort of site check up be performed.

Huh? Once again nobody seemed real curious about how the City got stuck with contaminated property (no doubt mistakes were made and hindsight is 20/20). Instead of accountability they seem more more interested in chucking more good money after bad.

Like chickens with their heads left on
Like chickens with their heads left on

And of course it didn’t really seem to bother anybody that the City’s previous efforts on the Union Pacific right-of-way have been a titanic debacle from start to…well, there will probably never be a finish.

Now that's not very good, is it?
Now that's not very good, is it?

The thought process behind the original, ill-conceived acquisition still seems to be driving things along: it’s there, we’re the City, and there is an opportunity to own property, play park designer and trail manager, not to mention playing around with millions of dollars of somebody else’s dough.

Ground Zero of Fullerton Redevelopment Failure

For dyed-in-the-wool government apologists like Dick Jones, Jan Flory, Dick Ackerman, Sharon Kennedy, Don Bankhead, et al., Redevelopment blunders are conveniently overlooked, when possible; when not possible, some lame defense is mounted, such as: mistakes were made (passive voice obligatory) but we learned and moved on; hindsight is 20/20 (Molly McClanahan’s motto vivendi); the problem was not too much Redevelopment, but too little!

But when any reasonable person contemplates the collection of Redevelopment disasters along Harbor Blvd. between Valencia Drive and the old Union Pacific overpass, the only conclusion he or she could draw is that the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency should have been shuttered years ago, and the perpetrators of the manifest failures crowded onto a small raft and set adrift with the Japanese Current.

We have already described in nauseating detail the “Paseo Park” debacle; and the Allen Hotel fiasco; we haven’t yet had time to talk about the “El Sombrero” pocket park give away (we will).

But instead of wasting too many perfectly good words, we will share with you Friends a Redevelopment pictorial essay with just a little piquant commentary.

First there’s the strip center known as Gregg’s Plaza. Brick veneer, of course. Even the veneer is so disgusted it’s trying to jump off the building.

The standards of the RDRC were established early.
The standards of the RDRC were established early.
Pop goes the brick veneer...
Pop goes the brick veneer...

Across the street is the Allen Furniture Store. When they got their rehab loan somebody forgot to tell them that a storefront is a storefront – not a jailhouse. So why are there bars on the dinky little windows? And pink stucco?

Stone walls do not a prison make; nor iron bars a cage...
Stone walls do not a prison make; nor iron bars a cage...

Jumping back across the street we re-introduce ourselves to the egregious Allen Hotel, perhaps the biggest Redevelopment boondoggle of all, a mess that we have already admirably documented, here. As we noted then, the add-on was unspeakably awful (and expensive). The front is, well, pretty awful, too.

The once and present tenement...
The once and present tenement...
It could have been worse. Well, no, it couldn't...
It could have been worse. Well, no, it couldn't...

What was sold, in part, as an “historic preservation” project ended up violating just about every standard in the book. The original windows were ripped out and replaced with vinyl sashes; the transoms were destroyed and replaced with sheets of plastic and surface applied strips supposed to simulate leaded glass.

Just say something. They'll believe anything...
Just say something. They'll believe anything...

Across Harbor we discover the “El Sombrero Plaza,” another sock in the face to any Fullerton windshield tourist. Forget the stupidity of the sideways orientation and the Mission Revival On Acid stylings (which attain a kind of crazy Mariachi deliciousness); this development included the give away of part the adjacent public green space so they have parking for a restaurant. The owner never did develop a restaurant, of course (more on that story later).

Ay, caramba!
Ay, caramba!
The extra parking that was supposed to be for a restaurant is now used for a storage container!
The extra parking that was supposed to be for a restaurant is now used for a storage container!

And finally we come to exhausted collapse at another one of the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency’s low points. And by low point we mean the complete, unmitigated disaster of the Union Pacific Park, ably chronicled here; and in a whole series here, here, and here.

Maybe the less said, the better...
Maybe the less said, the better...

The poisoned park: dead as a doornail. An aesthetic, pratical, and policy disaster. And no one has ever stood up to take responsibility for the total waste of millions of dollars.

Embarrassing from the beginning. How many $100,000 pensioneers had their fingers in this pie?
Embarrassing from the beginning. How many $100,000 pensioners had their fingers in this pie?

Well, there you have it, Friends. Redevelopment in action; Redevelopment creating blight, not eradicating it. No accountability. None. Zero. Zilch. And some people wonder why FFFF has sued to keep Redevelopment from expanding.

Amid Sex Scandal Ackerman Launches Beer Ad

We have long know about Dick Ackerman’s arrogance, but really, is it a good idea to brush off a reporter on the trail of a sex scandal story by swigging a beer right in his face?

Or maybe Ackerman has decided to peddle Corona Light in his copious spare time and saw some free air time.

Check out the clip below and watch Dick and Dave square off; but Dave is not daunted and pursues his deer-in-the-headlights prey.

DZ this caption is waiting for you
Nothing says "screw you" quite like a bottle of beer in the face!

Proof That Dick Ackerman is a Liar; Or Has a Real, Real Bad Memory

I decide what actually happened...
Okay, I make shit up. So sue me.

The Fullerton Harpoon did a post yesterday about an article that the Register’s Frank Mickadeit did about the Ackerman/Norby feud. Frank didn’t bother to tell his readers that he pals around with the Ackermans socially – just like he did with Mike Carona. But we know. Mickadeit proceeded to pass along a truck load of horseshit peddled by Dick Ackerman, including 25 year-old recollections about Norby as a sexual harasser that he suddenly just remembers. Of course his corroborating witness is dead as a doornail.

Well, yesterday afternoon the Harpoon re-read the Mickadeit piece and a light bulb snapped on. As the helpful Frank tells it:

Ackerman says the two had a friendly beer at Elmer’s after Norby won. “I said, ‘Hey, things are going to be good. We’ve got five conservatives.’ But the votes kept coming out 4-1,” with Norby dissenting.

In a post update the Harpoon unloads:


So what are we left with? A man whose honesty or memory is rotten. His whole interview with Mickadeit is discredited, and  is  just typical of everything else in the Linda Ackerman 72nd Assembly campaign: her fake residency, her phony self-description as a business woman, and her contention that people in the 72nd asked her to run. It’s all a tissue of falsehoods – as bogus as her staged photos.

Dick Ackerman’s Legacy: a Hideous Monster

Oh my God! Kill it!
Oh my God! Kill it before it reproduces!


Some observant folks might inquire as to why a map of the 33rd State Senate District is such an ungainly looking thing. Why is Fullerton attached to the rest of it by the narrowest of territorial filaments?  Who thinks that the constituents of Fullerton should or want to be represented in the State Senate by the same person representing people who live in Laguna Niguel and Ladera; or vice versa, for that matter? Our old friend Dick Ackerman, that’s who.

Wikipedia diplomatically describes the cause of the 33rd’s odd shape as redistricting – driven by “population growth” in South Orange County. Frankly, this description is just too idiotic to contemplate. The entry omits the key member of that southward population growth – Dick Ackerman – former Fullerton Councilman and State Assemblyman, who ran for the old 33rd senate seat in 2000 after he had already moved out of Fullerton. Can anybody believe the inclusion of Ackerman’s old Fullerton stomping grounds in what is otherwise an eastern and southern county district, is the result of an objective redistricting? Or could it be that a lot of deal making was going on in the cut and paste creation of AB632 that established the new senate districts?

He looks a little better with soft lighting...
Dick's district looks a little better with soft lighting...

Also of note is that upside down wedge of the 34th District that intrudes north of the 91 with an odd little projection that stretches up to Raymond and Chapman. A coincidence? Maybe, if you believe in such fantasies as tooth fairies and political coincidences. Here’s a map you Friends can zoom in on:

Live and learn.

Interestingly enough, if Dick A sought to warn off challengers through these district boundaries, he needn’t have bothered. He won election in 2000 with about 65% of the vote; in 2004 he got 69%. We got fellow district denizens in the Capistrano Valley. Well, maybe Dick just liked visiting his old pals in Fullerton while toting an impressive job title. Who knows? The upshot is that we are now represented by one Mimi Walters who hails from South County.

By the way, Loyal Friends, here’s how the pros did it in the old days:

The original gerry.mander
The original gerrymander. Are you our daddy?

Chamber Star Speaks Out: Our Leaders Deserve Our Respect

We recently received an e-mail from our Loyal Commenter Chamber Star, who takes us over his/her knee for undermining the respect due to political officeholders. He/she suggests an alternative approach in a short essay that we reproduce below:


The Friends of Fullerton’s Future has brought up a lot of issues over the last few months and can take satisfaction that many people in town visit the FFFF blog. But I cannot help but think some real damage is being done. Why? Because the blog continually criticizes our elected leaders and does so in a manner that is really just disrespectful. Humor has its place in life but the business of leading government, especially for the betterment of business, is not one of them.

Our elected City Council and School Boards were chosen for their experience and their wisdom, and that is Democracy in Action. Just because you don’t like someone that the majority has chosen, or you disagree with their policies doesn’t mean that they are fair game for ridicule and insult. Why not? because that undermines the very confidence that everyone must have in a system that is so important to maintaining our way of life.

Our leaders have shown their mettle first in getting elected and then at every meeting dealing with issues that would just baffle the rest of us. Their broad experience and wisdom should not be subjected to the rude slapstick of a blog “sound bite” or attempts at witticisms by those who only see the small picture – not the broad and deep policy implications. They deserve our respect, not ridicule.

I am not saying that our leaders are perfect. But they are among the best and the brightest, that’s for sure. Rather than being attacked from the safety of a blog, they deserve a private phone call, or an e-mail, or even a cup of coffee at Starbuck’s as you explain what you think about this or that decision, or upcoming agenda item. They will always meet with you and will always refer you to the appropriate staff member who can explain things satisfactorily.

The City of Fullerton is comprised of a lot of Positive People who want to pull in the same direction to get things done. That is why our Chamber of Commerce is so effective in working with the City for the betterment of the business environment. The Chamber leadership knows that without the City’s help there will be no advancement of the conditions necessary for the very success of businesses throughout Fullerton. With business success comes the sales and property tax revenue we desperately need to hire the very best staff in the State of California.

So it’s time to rethink the negativity and the satire. In the end it will only hamper people from coming together for the common good. I believe we all love our town. Let’s get on the same team, and let’s move forward!

Another Ackerman For Fullerton?

You people remember my husband, right?

Martin Wisckol over at the Register wrote about the possibility of Mrs. Linda Ackerman, wife of  former State Senator, Assemblyman, Fullerton Councilman, and gerrymanderer par excellence , running in a special election to replace disgraced Mike “the Big Dripper” Duvall in Sacto. You can read about it right here .

Several thoughts spring immediately to mind. First, Wisckol reached Mrs. Ackerman while she and Dick were vacationing in France at the home of the Marquis de Sade. We’ll just let that one go except to add that that’s a pretty apt place to announce you’re might just replace Mike “Spanky” Duvall.

Second, Mrs. Ackerman doesn’t live in the district. She and Dick decamped a while back when his field of operations permitted him to move south. We don’t care for carpetbaggers even if they used to live here and we care even less for the spouses of politicos who trade on their mates political connections. Mrs. Ackerman’s political star has ascended in a not-so-curious trajectory, as her husband’s career wound down. She’s on the MWD board and that gives one cause to pause lately.

Third is the great irony of immediately placing yourself in the discussion about replacing a degenerate that was handpicked for office in the first place by your hubby and his “in crowd” GOP hacklings. Look how that one turned out!

Come on over to my ranch, and I'll tell you about the time I got famous.
Come on over to my ranch, and I'll tell you about the time I got famous.

Fourth, we read in Wisckol that Mrs. Ackerman claims she is conservative, but does not share Chris Norby’s anti-Redevelopment stance. In other words, she likes government intruding into local development and business, she likes affordable housing set-asides, she digs corporate subsidies, and she admires all the other big-government baggage that Redevelopment brings with it; hardly conservative at all, really. Well, hooray! Now we know what the Ackermans mean when they use the term conservative.

Finally, we note the possibility of a Norby-Ackerman rematch of the 1995 assembly election between Chris and Mrs. Ackerman’s husband, a spectacle in which Dick proved just how low he could go. Ackerman loathes Norby with a undisguised passion that has long since crossed over the threshold of obsession. Although the match would be highly entertaining, fulfilling a brain-dead family vendetta is a poor reason to do much of anything, let alone run for public office. Mrs. Ackerman should stay in Irvine.

The City is Violating Its Own Law in Hillcrest Park


If you’ve driven along Brea Boulevard lately you will have noticed that the north hill side of Hillcrest Park has been completely scraped as part of the so-called Lions Field improvements. Well, the hillside was suffering from total (and I mean complete) negligence on the part of the City for decades. What is being built, are large retaining structures to “stabilize” the slope. The only problem is that what the slope needed to stabilize it was appropriate landscaping – a solution that the parks Department ignored for years.

The addition of retaining structures in the park is inappropriate. More than that, it’s illegal. Hillcrest Park is a designated Fullerton Landmark (#6) and as such the types of alteration being proposed  should have been reviewed in a public hearing by the Landmarks Commission. This never happened. It’s true that Hillcrest Park doesn’t fit into any of the categories included in the watered-down version of the Landmarks Ordinance passed by the City about 12 years ago. But adherence to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards is one key. Another issue is that of demolition and replacement of historic elements. Even the watered down code has a spirit that has not been observed.

Once again the City has ignored its own laws, laws that you or I would be expected to follow. It has specifically ignored the Landmark Ordinance once again, a part of the Zoning Code that the City has habitually and serially abused over the years (if you want I’ll make a list).

For years the City has turned over the park to pervs and low-lifes while ignoring the historic built environment. And now it seems they are embarked on another form of abuse of an historic resource.

The North Platform Fiasco – Allegro Molto e Vivace

Loyal and Patient Friends, our sad narrative of The Great North Platform Disaster now draws to a merciful conclusion. We have shared all the dismal failures of the landscape architect, Steve Rose, the Redevelopment manager in charge, Terry Galvin, and Design Review Committee members that were evidently incompetent or unqualified.

Trees and planters block the platform; staff obstruction was almost as bad.
Trees and planters block the platform; staff obstruction was almost as bad.

The design failure was complete and palpable. Yet as diverse groups of citizens displayed their unhappiness with the ludicrous and costly elements of the project, the City Staff dug in their heels in a rear guard action to deflect blame by ignoring the obvious and fighting to keep the mess they had created. Newly minted City Manager Jim Armstrong led the effort to defend the indefensible. He went so far as to accuse one of the leading critics of the design mess of  “making the City look like shit.”

Former Fullerton City Manager Jim Armstrong shovelling hard.
Former Fullerton City Manager Jim Armstrong doing what he did best: shovelling hard.

The City Council, to its credit, would have none of it. They ordered construction halted. Even the Fullerton Observer demanded to know who was in charge. In what may have been the last show of independence by a Fullerton City Council, the majority demanded that the incongruous and useless elements be removed. The lone dissenting vote was that of Molly McClanahan, the eternal staff suck-up, who as Mayor tried backdoor sabotage with the State – which was also providing funding for the project. City staff was going into attack mode behind the scenes.

well fed and ready to attack...
Honest citizen tastes like chicken?

In the end the Council (with the sole exception of Chris Norby) lost its collective nerve and settled on a partial removal of the worst offending aspects of the project. The huge planter was split into pieces, allowing platform access through the middle.

Well, that's better than it was...
Well, that's better than it was...

The miserable trees were completely removed.

Look ma, no trees...
The urban forest retreats. Civilization on the march...

The canopies were salvaged though the construction of alcoves cut out of the still useless block bulkhead wall.

Fullerton platform "alcove" designed by our City Council...
Fullerton platform "alcove" designed by our City Council...

The wretched benches and comical little trash cylinders remain to this day. Go to the depot. You can check it out for yourselves.

It was never disclosed whether Steve Rose was back-charged for the cost of all the changes that had to be made, or whether he actually billed the City for remedial design work. Thousands upon thousands of dollars were wasted on building useless construction and then having to remove it. And what happened to the parties responsible for this complete fiasco? You mean you can’t guess by now?

We'll be hanging on to this card...
Oh, we'll be hanging on to this...

Nothing, of course. The proponents of sensible and functional design were blamed by staff for making the City look bad; the whistle blowers were turned into the villains of the melodrama. Chalk up another big win for the escape artists at the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency.