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.

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.

Fullerton Transit Center: Amerige Court on Steroids?

We just received the following notice from Friends for a Livable Fullerton:

The Fullerton Transportation Center “Specific Plan” is an approximately 40 acre project at the southeast corner of Harbor and Commonwealth. Built over the next few decades, it will take up over 6 full city blocks at one of our prime city intersections and will have a huge effect on our historic downtown and on alternative transportation for years to come. Maximum buildout would be about 2 dozen (!) 3- to 9-story buildings:

1,560 multi-family residential units
100,000 square feet of retail
100,000 sf office space
120-room, 120,000 sf hotel

Note the density and scale compared to the surrounding area:


While the plan doesn’t yet have specific building designs, the approval of this Plan and its 2,290 EIR will allow it to proceed.

City Admits Many Unavoidable Impacts

An unusual aspect of this plan is the large number of City–admitted significant environmental impacts the City Council will be called upon to “override” due to the project benefits outweighing the impacts:

(more…)

“Would you support our efforts to make our neighborhood historic?”

I received this post from a Friend who wishes to remain anonymous for reasons that you may understand after you read this post.

Think historic neighborhoods. Immediately, one’s mind goes to such places such as Bungalow Heaven in Pasadena, Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia and others where houses, landscape, and layout reflect a distinct architectural coherence.

What we don’t think of is the hodgepodge of homes built over a span of more than fifty years within the boundaries of Skyline, Frances, Luanne, Canon and Lemon here in Fullerton. True, the neighborhood has a sort of charm. But this four block area (oddly denuded of trees) doesn’t fit the definition as historic.

Yet, for over twenty years, this neighborhood has been besieged by a small but persistent group to designate itself as such. The original movement came about when a neighbor (who has since moved away) decided the mix of 60’s ranch homes, 30’s Spanish Mediterranean  and 80’s boxes needed to be protected.

Why? Because the empty lot behind her house, which she had enjoyed as her own personal open space, was going to have a house built upon it.  This led to a movement asking for historical designation, with one very vociferous neighbor putting out a letter decrying such crimes as pink flamingos in yards. It ended when a flock of roving pink flamingos went from yard to yard, to rebuke this snobbishness. It was clear then, as it is now, that the historic designation is more to control everything from the color of homes, the installation of skylights, solar panels, to pink flamingos in yards.

In more recent years, the issue was raised again when a member of the Fullerton Heritage group moved into the neighborhood.  This woman could often be seen taking photographs of her neighbor’s homes. She personally crossed the boundaries of neighborliness by posting a photo of one on their website as an example of “muddled and conflicted” architecture. Battle axes were raised when during a neighborhood meeting, an argument ensued. This busybody sat in the back, mute –rendering herself all but invisible. At no point did she offer any explanation why this issue meant so much to her that she was willing to pit neighbor against neighbor.

The reasons for not wanting this ridiculous designation are simple.

1.     There’s no consistent architectural coherence in the boundaries of Lemon, Skyline, Frances, Luanne and Canon. While there are individual examples of historically significant architectural styles, as a neighborhood – it lacks consistency and coherence.

2. It would give Fullerton Heritage – and the City Planning Department far too much power over our neighborhood. Note, they already have ultimate veto power over designs submitted to the city for everything from new development to remodeling in other neighborhoods designated as a historical zone. In one neighborhood, they vetoed the homeowner’s request to install a skylight. Such oversight is petty, and subject to the changing whims of the board.

3. This will lead to more “fake old” McSpanish architecture. Another uninformed member of the Fullerton Heritage group noted at a meeting at Hillcrest Park that she thought the predominant style in the neighborhood should be “Spanish Mediterranean,” whatever that means.

4.     The $1000 fee for the designation doesn’t even begin to cover the costs of actual staff time. In addition, this doesn’t cover the costs of ordered revisions by the owner’s architects or engineers. Fees like this are never gotten rid of, rather, the fee could be raised and the neighborhood would have no control over the amount they have to pay.

5.     The city of Fullerton has a permit process already in place. This is an added layer of bureaucracy with not only more additional staff time needed, but oversight from an outside organization (Fullerton Heritage).

6.     A small cadre of neighbors has already been vociferous to the point of rudeness about things they don’t like: the color of a neighbor’s home, plantings, flamingos, and more. Worse, their gossip has hit people in ways that have become personal. While we realize they are voicing their opinion, we’d hate to give them permission to authorize or disapprove on any official level.

At some point one must work with and trust the neighbors.  Most of the neighbors who support this notion have lived in the area for 40 years without the intervention of the city. Why they think they should leave future generations with a law to be enforced long after they have enjoyed their own latitude –is for reasons of ego.  While the notion of a historic neighborhood seems appealing, in reality it is cumbersome, vague and will leave future homeowner’s with no choice but to deal with more government and bureaucracy. It was clear twenty years ago as it is now:  these people need to get a life.

All we can do is work with one another, and be neighborly but not meddlesome.