Category Archives: Fullerton’s Design Standards

Stucco, stucco, and stucco, Fullerton likes a da stucco and brick veneer

Erection Dysfunction

 

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.

A little Jack Daniels gets you through the morning.

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 stupid that men do lives after them…

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 once and present tenement…

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!

Oh, boy, the other football!

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.

There is no second floor. Other than that it’s a 2 story building

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.

Deception, Incompetence and Damn Proud of It

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.

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

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.

So bad he had to pull over and barf…

 

For those who can remember the Fullerton SRO debacle – a history filled with so much doubling down on stupidity that it strains credulity – it remains one of Fullerton’s saddest tales. Years and millions were burned on fly-by-night developers, one of whom turned out to be impecunious, and the other a flim-flam artist.

Fort Mithawalla, AKA, the Bum Box…

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.

Maybe the less said, the better…

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?

Caution – ethical behavior narrows ahead…

In a great example of the tail wagging the dog, the Fox Theater has been used to justify all kinds of nonsense, including moving a McDonald’s  a 150 feet to the east and later proposing development of perhaps the greatest architectural monstrosity anybody has ever seen. This saga is still going on, believe it or not, after two decades or more. No one knows how much has been wasted going nowhere on this rolling disaster, and no one seems the least bit interested in finding out.

Egad. What a freaking mess…

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.

Water in, water out…

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.

What can we do with it ? Or to it?

We’ve already covered in detail the multi-million dollar death march of the new elevators at the depot, an unnecessary project that was only pursued because “other people’s money” was paying for it – that is until the project burned into its seventh year. And then City money had to pay to keep the disaster on life support. Aggravating this complete folly and waste is the fact that the existing elevators tower stairs are slowly rusting away and the glass is graffiti marred.

Let the groundbreaking begin. No point in waiting to waste other people’s money, right?

 

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.

A light post not even fit for a drunk to lean on…

And finally, let us not forget the completely useless $725,000 “ceremonial” bridge over Brea Creek at Hillcrest Park. Of course it’s just there to make some sort of statement, not to be used. The only statement that occurs to me is one of conspicuous consumption by a city that is just rolling in dough.

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.

Water, water everywhere. Except where it’s supposed to be…

 

It could be worse. No it couldn’t.

The end.

 

Clean and Green: Recycling Bad Ideas

On Tuesday (August 1), the City Council will be voting on the “Clean and Green” initiative, which calls for an affirmation of the City of Fullerton’s Climate Action Plan (available here).

Get ready.

What is the Climate Action Plan, you ask? Well, it was a report prepared in February 2012 to make sure Fullerton does its part to stop  “sea level rise, changes in the amount of water supply available, wildfires and other extreme weather events.” Good thing too, because Fullerton’s 130,000 or so residents make up a whopping two thousandths of one percent of the population on Earth (0.02%), so Fullerton clearly needs to spent valuable staff time and expenses combating this threat.

Putting together an Unfunded Liability Action Plan? No way, that’s crazy talk!

Continue reading

The Pinewood Stairs Pintrest Fail

Readers here will be familiar with the Pine Wood… excuse me, the Exercise Stairs, that were thrown up at Hillcrest Park recently for the low-low price of over $1.6Million.

Let us take a tour of these stairs:

After walking the stairs here’s the first thing that came to mind: Continue reading

Desperate to Celebrate Mediocrity

This Saturday, 06 May 2017 at 10:00 the city of Fullerton is having a Grand Opening for the new “Pine Wood Stairs” at Hillcrest Park. To which the natural response should be something along the lines of “They’re stairs. Why do you need a ‘Grand Opening’ for a set of stairs?”.

Why? Because politicians and bureaucrats love to celebrate anything that can result in a photo-op, self-congratulatory award or chance to pretend to care about their jobs or city. In this case that celebratory nature has taken on the smell of desperation only slightly masked by Pine.

David has already posted a great piece explaining some of the many problems with Fullerton’s new Stairs to Nowhere, or in city parlance “The Pine Wood Stairs”. I decided to check them out myself and see what was what and I was, shall we say, less than thrilled with the experience.

All of my hilarious ranting aside there is one major thing that needs to be pointed out. Does THIS:

“Pine Wood Stairs” concept.

Look like THIS:

The Actual “Pine Wood Stairs”.

Different angles. Yadda, Yadda. Look at the design and construction. Except for both the drawing and the actual project having wood planks is anything the same? Or were we, once again, sold a lie? Celebrate! Cut a Ribbon even! Yay!

And before some bureaucratic bootlickers come on here to try and justify this misdirection and waste of funds, I’m looking at your Mrs. “We Held Oh So Many Meetings”, let me point out THIS:

Fitness Stairs?

That’s currently going around on Facebook announcing the “Grand Opening” to these stairs. Currently. As in the stairs already exist and people are still being sold the concept drawing and not what was actually built.

I like that there is a “FREE Intro Stairs Exercise Class” because nobody knows how to use stairs. At least they found a selling point for the stairs to nowhere – exercise! You too can get in shape after fighting for parking in order to use our stairs to nowhere. It’s a good thing we’ve cornered the market on poorly built stairs in a park we don’t maintain (and won’t maintain), otherwise people might want to exercise somewhere convenient and then how would we justify these stairs? I mean we had to spend the Park Dwelling money on something other than buying land in Coyote Hills or just maintaining our current parks. So Exercise Stairs. Pine Wood Exercise Stairs. To Nowhere.

Oy.

Fullerton’s Most Useless Bridge

Yesterday, I wrote about the hideous stairs at Hillcrest Park and alluded to the City Council being asked to spend another $5.7 million on Hillcrest Park improvements.  This is Park Dwelling Fund money — an important distinction I will get to in a minute.  You can read the full Agenda Letter here.

A portion of that $5.7 million is slated for the construction of what would become Fullerton’s most useless bridge, if funding is approved next Tuesday night.  No, it won’t be painted orange, and I don’t know the exact type of bridge.

This is just a crude rendering of where the bridge would sit, scaled as best as possible using the City’s drawings.

Here’s the official drawing from the City.  The bridge across the creek is clearly visible below:

I keep scratching my head as to who would ever use this bridge.  It doesn’t align with any current or proposed trail, nor does it connect the park to crowds of people just dying to enter the “Great Lawn” as they want to call it.  The nearest City parking is FOUR spaces at Harbor and Valley View, 425 feet away.

Why would someone opt to walk another 425 feet, over the bridge, to access the “Great Lawn” when it’s right in front of their parking space?

When these parking spaces fill up, the few people desiring to use the bridge will probably just leave their cars at Ralph’s or Chase Bank — or just not bother using the bridge at all.   The next closest City parking lot at Hillcrest Park is 900 feet away on Valley View.  Either way, taking the bridge is the least convenient route to the lawn.

Second closest is the combined Hillcrest/Lions Field parking lot along Brea Blvd.  That measures out to 950 feet away on Google Earth, if, and that’s a big if, you can find parking there at all.  On the weekends, that lot is jammed full of cars with youth sports in session at Lions Field.  During the week, Parks and Recreation has the bright idea to lease parking spaces to St. Jude Hospital for employee use.  They also want to lease Lions Field to Hope International University, presumably during the week as well.  While your chances of finding parking there are questionable at this point, let’s just say you succeed.  From that parking lot, there is direct access to the “Great Lawn” without needing to use a bridge, cross the creek, or walk alongside Harbor Blvd.  A park road already exists.

As an aside, do you think it’s fair for park users to siphon parking spaces away from Ralph’s or Chase Bank and the other businesses there?  I sure don’t.

Park Dwelling Money

All of the proposed Hillcrest Park improvements are scheduled to use cash from the Park Dwelling Fund.  This is the fee charged to developers for every dwelling unit they build.

But wait a minute?  Can’t the Park Dwelling money be used for other, more reasonable purposes, besides a useless bridge?

YES.

Chapter 21.12 of the Fullerton Municipal Code covers this.

21.12.040   Use of funds.
All money collected as fees imposed by this chapter shall be deposited in the park dwelling fund and shall be used solely for the acquisition, development, improvement, and maintenance of public parks and recreational facilities in the City, as proposed by the City’s Five Year Capital Improvement Program.

 

Translation:  The $5.7 million could be used on things people actually want, such as acquiring land within Coyote Hills.

Really, people.  If you think this is a stupid use of funds, this is the LAST chance to do something about it.  The project itself has already been approved, but not the funding.  That’s what they’re seeking approval for Tuesday night.

Send the City Council an email:  [email protected] or attend the meeting on Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 6:30pm and plan to speak during public comments.

Big Downtown Developer (Me) Finishes Historic Project

After many years, and many splinters, my brother George and I recently finished our latest project.

For those that bought into the anti-recall propaganda that I’m some sort big-time developer, well here you go: I moved a 375 sq.ft. house about 200 feet and restored it!

To read more about my big downtown development project please read the article by The OC Weekly’s Brandon Ferguson, here.

A 4F Record Year

Well, Friends, 2011 was a record year for our humble little blog. We’ve had 2,013,945 visitors, and counting. I wonder what next year will bring for a blog that all began here, the day I questioned the ridiculous and deteriorating Redevelopment Styrofoam light fixtures at the downtown plaza.

See what I mean?

Styrofoam, the Redevelopment material of choice...

That was just three short years ago, and since then we’ve taken on every Sacred Cow of Fullerton’s reactionary old guard – from ridiculous Redevelopment boondogglery to a police department stewed in rampant corruption. And we’re not done yet, not by a long shot.

Stick around as we continue to poniard the pompous and demand accountability from the unaccountable. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll experience a whole range of emotions. We promise.

Contrasts in Architecture Are Rare in Fullerton

Last month I was walking Independence Mall in Philadelphia and admiring the history and reflecting on what it would have been like in 1776.  As I crossed Market Street to go look at the Liberty Bell I looked left and right scanning the streets.  Then something caught my eye.  The antique cityscape had something shiny and new nestled in between two pieces of historic-looking buildings.

The structure has jutting polished metal forming right angles and contrasts sharply against the backdrop of American history.  The building’s unusual placement on the historic Mall speaks volumes of its purpose, though no billboards announce what that may be.

As I circle the Mall admiring the formation of our Country, my mind and camera wander back to the building, now more striking than when I saw it just moments ago. Seeing the building on the Mall and recognizing the unusual beauty of its presence in that location has caused me to question the direction the City of Fullerton has traveled for decades.

A recent FFFF post brought to light the Redevelopment Design Review Committee’s selections of less than inspiring architecture.

I used to have the strong opinion that modern designs just would not work in our downtown.  After long debates and discussions with friends and my visit to Philadelphia I am confident that it can work well.

Entrepreneurs looking to raise the bar and make their place in Fullerton should look to innovative designs which will stand in contrast to our old and confused architecture.  More importantly, when every other building is a bar or tattoo parlor, business owners need to look at ways of setting their establishment apart from the rest of the herd.

ABOLISH THE RDRC!

Update from admin: It’s 2011 and we’re still still catching stanky wiffs rising from the bog of mediocrity known as the RDRC. Yep, they’re still slowing and stalling residential additions,  nitpicking the architectural details of private projects and using the know-nothing force of government to bear down on hapless homeowners trying to improve buildings that aren’t even visible from the public street. And so again we say…

The Fullerton Redevelopment Design Review Committee (RDRC) must be abolished. The committee was created in the 1970’s along with the Redevelopment Project Areas with the goal of fostering good architectural designs within them.

The trial run period is over. The RDRC and its associated bureaucratic process has failed – failed to improve design in either the project areas themselves, or in the ever growing number of projects in which city staff has required RDRC review. Actually the reverse is true. The failure has been spectacular.

who says affordable housing has to look ugly?

Who says affordable housing has to look good?

The pages of this blog has been nauseatingly filled with examples of RDRC failure-projects dutifully approved by a compliant and complacent RDRC. Rather than promoting innovative and creative work-excellence, in fact, the RDRC has enabled city staff penchant for the phony, stucco, and brick veneered banalities intended to comfort the worst of middle brow aesthetic preferences.

hc1

Over the weary years the RDRC has been the precinct of local architects looking to promote their own interests within the city. Numerous examples of conflicts of interest were exposed in the 1990’s. And the city council keeps appointing to the RDRC dingbats, talent-free Pecksniffs, and interior decorators, to whom you wouldn’t entrust the design of a birdhouse. The existence of this committee provides the city council with a little political cover on potentially controversial projects, but accomplishes very little else.

it didn't look so bad on paper

And so we say: Abolish the RDRC! People developing their own property without subsidy or without legislative action by the City should be able to design their projects without city oversight; those receiving subsidy or significant zone changes should be required to use architects who have been published in reputable professional journals. Maybe when this happens we can have increased freedom for private owners and design excellence for City sponsored projects. Presently we have very little of either.

And The Winner Is…

Effervescent Emancipator! Dinosaurs, brick veneer, burning money? Yes, Friends, it’s outta here! Touch ’em all!

Congratulations to the Fullerton Savage for the winning entry in our city seal contest. Fullerton truly has much to be proud of.

Savage, your new Nancy Sanchez CD is on the way.