The Sound and the Fury

A couple weeks back I posted that once again the issue of nuisance noise was coming to the City Council for yet another stab at, well, just another stab.

Just kidding…

In December the proposed ordinance was deemed lacking by Mayor Dunlap who asked that it come back in February; what that delay was supposed to accomplish is unclear, but return the item did. It resurfaced on Tuesday, and once again was half-heartedly examined and pushed away by the Council. This time they sent the matter back to the Planning Commission, that had already approved the existing proposal in November, 2023. This stall seems even more pointless than the last one. Fullerton.

The staff report was virtually unintelligible. It was nothing but a disjointed litany of actions taken (or, to be more precise, not taken) over the past 15 years to avoid doing anything and letting the scofflaw bar owners continue to scoff at the law. It didn’t say that, of course, but such was the unmistakable implication. A common thread seemed to be the difficultly in enforcing anything, which was just an excuse for not trying.

More Orwellian language…

The thrust of the revised ordinance is to raise the legal noise threshold in Downtown Fullerton. In fact the only thing the Council was considering, according to the oral staff presentation was this commercial aspect, although you’d have a hard time knowing that fact based on the material presented to the public.

The ordinance itself has baked-in failure written between every line, most notably in the increase in decibel level at 50 feet from the sources, combined with the issue of “ambient noise,” a loophole our fine Downtown club operators would be sure to drive a diesel semi through.

Joshua Ferguson made an appearance to show the nonsense of the 50 ft from property line part and noted, correctly that the the thresholds could actually create OSHA violating conditions within buildings themselves. He succinctly pointed out that the City (despite the self-congratulatory recitation of its recent enforcement efforts) wasn’t really enforcing anything at all, and showed that scofflaws were rarely even punished per the Municipal Code.

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

The proposed ordinance language seems to have been written by a staff member. But nowhere can one find evidence that any of this was approved as to form by Dick Jones, Esq. of The I Can’t believe It’s A Law Firm. What’s the point of having a lawyer if their job doesn’t include reviewing a potential law before it’s passed?

Suffering The Stolen Sidewalk Saga

Gone, but not quite forgotten…

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

Meet the new proprietor, same as the old proprietor…

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

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

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

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

A little late, Kimberly…

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

I almost know what I’m doing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Walk on the Wild Side: The Sights and Sounds and Smells of the Trail to Nowhere

So, the other day I decided to take a trip along the Trail to Nowhere, the second phase of a supposed recreation trail that doesn’t even line up with the disastrous failure known as Phase I.

FFFF has shared lots of images of the proposed trail, yet hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface of the, er, ahem, colorful neighborhood through which it passes. Well, “neighborhood” isn’t quite the right word to use, because except for a couple of Truslow Avenue house backyards it is bordered on both sides by land zoned for industry with all of the sorts of uses, legal and non-permitted, one might expect.

Of course we’ve read all about the ill-designed and ill-conceived Phase I, ballyhooed by City staff as the predecessor that makes Phase II inevitable. Well, plausible, anyway. Phase I is a repository of graffiti, garbage, and occasional residents. The start of this alleged trail is on the old UP bridge over Harbor Boulevard. FFFF readers may remember this site as the nocturnal murder of a gentleman.

Murderer’s Row…
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure…

The complete lack of maintenance on Phase I ought to have been a warning to our City Council. But it hasn’t even been noticed. The pungent smell of human urine permeates the weeds behind the Elephant Packing House. But, so what? It’s trail-ish.

Phase I’s inauspicious beginning. It gets worse.

The view looking westward from Phase I isn’t promising. Here you see that Phase I doesn’t even line up with the proposed Phase II corridor; and the slope of Highland Avenue as it dips down to its railroad underpass makes the cross-slope ADA non-compliant.

The Phase I trail has disappeared.

Crossing Highland (damn, watch out for traffic!), we get to Phase II. FFFF has already shared multiple posts about soils contamination in this location. There are lots of testing wells for carcinogenic Trichlorethylene (TCE), but nobody in City Hall seems to be concerned about moving and exporting, or alternatively, remediating these soils. It certainly isn’t in the project budget submitted in the grant application to the State.

Well, well, well…

The folks who frequent the Trail to Nowhere habitually leave evidence of their presence.

Further west we get a glimpse back eastward of the long, blank backsides of old industrial buildings, a view not likely to cause cries of elation among the brainwashed green grass/blue skies crowd.

Is it safe? Is it clean?

Across Richman Ave in our westward trek is where things really get fun. Razor wire seems to be the decoration of choice among the junkyards in this segment of the Trail to Nowhere.

Small auto/tire use is prevalent along the trail, of course. And more backsides of buildings.

The trees won’t block the view…
You mean there’s more?

As we press onward we see the view of more businesses that we would enjoy if we were recreating on the trail.

Bring on the niños.

There’s a metal coating business along the route, and even an asphalt plant! The odors are unmistakable, and the industrial education value is priceless!

Smell that smell, bike riders.

We would be remiss if, at this point, we didn’t pause to pay our respects to Emmanuel Perez, fate still unknown.

RIP

A bit later we come across a long masonry wall on which some talented young urban artists have left their mark for aesthetic posterity.

Sure is colorful…
Garbage in, garbage out. Indeed.

The final four or five hundred yards of our journey run parallel to the Burlington Northern/ Santa Fe main line tracks that run about 50 feet away, and about 3 feet higher than the “walking and bike” trail. I leave it to each reader to judge the propriety of this strip as a positive recreational opportunity. But see below for the “sound” part of the program.

Over there is run and play and enjoy… (Photo by Julie Leopo/Voice of OC)

Now, finally, we arrive at our all-important destination. The back corner of an empty Independence Park parking lot. This is a park you might want to go to if you lived in this part of Fullerton; but really, what soft-headed urban adventurer would choose this route?

You have arrived at your destination.

Finally I offer a sample of the auditory delights awaiting the hopeful recreation enthusiast on the Trail to Nowhere – apart from the sounds of auto repair, metal work, spray painting and tire changing. The BNSF mainline freight trains rumble alongside our trail, and are not shy in expressing their presence. You can barely hear yourself think. These trains are often a mile long.

Now Gentle Friends, my photo essay is over, and my duty to show Fullertonions the ambiance adjacent to the proposed Trail to Nowhere is fulfilled. Most people, when asked, would say an old railroad right-of-way conversion to a rec trail is good, because it is good – in principle. But folks perusing these images would be well-advised to traverse the strip themselves, perhaps with police escort; and, after enjoying the sights and sounds and smells, consider whether or not the Trail to Nowhere should be redeveloped with the area, in a thoughtful broader plan, instead of the way it proposed now; and, whether the State grant money might be better spent elsewhere.

The Cost of Calamity

The trail was expensive, but it sure was short…

Something that nobody has talked about when discussion of the controversial “Trail to Nowhere” occurs, is the inflation of construction cost in the 5 years since the grant application was submitted.

what’d that scary man say?

ENR cost indicies show a construction cost increase of 27% percent since December, 2019. It’s very fair to apply the same percentage for soft costs as they tend to closely follow the trajectory of hard construction cost. Ditto the cost that in-house “contract management” add to the budget, since that is a fixed percentage. This means a likely cost increase of $540,000 on the original estimate of $2,000,000 for the Trail to Nowhere, give or take.

Off we go, into the Wild Blue Yonder…

And the project still requires detailed working drawings and all the necessary permits. Then the mess has to be let out to bid, undergo bid review and contract award. Of course, if the bids blow the budget out of the water, more delay will ensue.

Abandon Ship!

Since the State Resources Agency grant allocation can be assumed to be fixed, this means that the City of Fullerton’s Park Dwelling Fund will be on the hook for over $800,000, with a concomitant hit to other, real park facility construction/improvements. And of course these numbers presuppose an accurate project budget to begin with, a presupposition I wouldn’t place a bet on.

Children at play…

Our City Council doesn’t seem to take this sort of thing into their thinking about the silly trail that no one will use, but it’s the kind of thing that should be ever-present in their minds. The problem is not only maintaining the linear park strip (as the City has proved completely incapable of on Phase I), but now of building Phase II at all.

Who Was Emmanuel Perez?

While I was strolling along the ill-fated Trail to Nowhere the other day, I came across a small shrine-like set-up just where the UP right-of way starts its parallel run with the BNSF mainline.

This is what I saw.

This small memorial is dedicated to somebody called Emmanuel Perez who died at 28 years of age, six years ago. I did some quick searching and found no news references to anybody dying here, whether by foul play or by train accident. But Fullerton has a history of keeping bad news out of the news.

Naturally, Voice of OC “photojournalist” Julie Leopo failed to publish this image after she took her guided tour of the area, helpfully provided by “journalist” Skaskia Kennedy. That would not have been good for the pre-arranged narrative.

Death on the Trail to Nowhere is not new, but this is one I hadn’t heard of. If anybody can shed some light on the life and death of Emmanuel Perez, let FFFF know.

Mr. Average Gets A Raise

What do you do when your City Manager is spectacularly unspectacular? If it’s Fullerton you give him a raise.

I’ll drink to that!

See, in Fullerton if you’re a City Manager who avoids getting drunk and driving over a tree before trying to evade the law, you’re doing pretty darn good.

Don’t let the amorphous shape fool you. Oh, wait…

And so Mr. Eric Levitt, who has been City Manager for less than 2 years is getting an 8% raise from $250,000 to $270,000. This gentleman is hardly any different than the two temps who preceded him and gives precisely the same deference to an incompetent collection of underlings. In the past 20 months he hasn’t shown any interests in establishing a corps of excellence – just the opposite in fact, and this must be cause for comfort for a City Council that thrives in a culture of not bad is outstanding – just try not to let us make ourselves look too bad.

Last year, the City Manager predicted dire economic issues ahead for Fullerton, massive deficits, of course; and by the end of 2023 Levitt had already started paving his own path of least resistance by hiring a public opinion pollster to drum up support for a general sales tax. This year’s mission will be to revive the ill-fated Measure S, give it a new letter from the alphabet, and let the cops and emergency medics pitch it to the public.

What a performance.

The Walk on Wilshire

Closed but not forgotten…

The Voice of OC did a story yesterday on the future of outdoor dining in Orange County. Featured in the piece was Fullerton’s own “Walk on Wilshire,” a pandemic-related action that let a few restaurants in the 100 Block of West Wilshire Avenue avail themselves of outdoor tables by closing the street to through traffic.

By 2021, the program had become a full-fledged bureaucratic effort in City Hall with signage, barrier squabbling, permanent bollards in the street and rent schedules; and even new lingo was trotted out, as the heretofore unheard of term “parklet” was applied – a meaningless designation, but one clearly calculated to inspire the notion that some sort of public recreation was going on.

Like all bureaucratic operations, Walk on Wilshire had taken on a life of its own. Most recently the “program” (for indeed, a program it had metastasized into) was extended until mid-2024. No one in Fullerton should have been surprised by this calcification, especially Councilman Bruce Whitaker who has been supporting the road closure. We’ve seen this sort of silliness before.

It’s Redevelopment lite. The mountains of play money are gone, but the completely misplaced can-do confidence of City Hall lingers on.

And almost nobody has showed much concern for traffic circulation or the impacts on businesses to the rest of the downtown area. The Voice piece did the usual interviews with government employees masquerading as experts in “economic development,” the folks who couldn’t prove that their efforts even pay for their own cost to the taxpayers. Of course they were touting hard.

Put it back the way it was…

Coincidentally, a recent letter from Wilshire property owner Tony Bushala put the City on notice that the road closure had a negative impact on his business and he wanted the street closure removed. This missive was immediately leaked by Councilman Ahmad Zahra to the Fullerton Observer, where apparently a couple of the zanies broke into high hosannas about what a wonderful thing “WoW” is with its splendid parklets and bike passage. But is it widely regarded as such a civic amenity?

According to downtown sources, many of the businesses there are unhappy with the road closure as they see it benefitting just a few restaurants (and government rent collectors) at the expense of the greater good. So far none of these business operators have coalesced into a united group, but if they do we may hear a loud voice in opposition to parklets, barricades, and tables in the middle of a public roadway.

If there is action by the City Council to continue this program, the sailing may not be as smooth the parklet promoters hope.

Where Are They?

The trail wasn’t useful, but it sure was short…

On FFFF’s last post we got some comments from a frequent FFFF critic who was trying desperately to justify the idiotic Trail to Nowhere, the disembodied, half-mile, $2,000,000 taxpayer funded boondoggle that serves no apparent useful purpose. One sentence in the one of this person’s comments is worth posting about because it so clearly points to a complete failure of the Trail to Nowhere to be a facility that anybody would use.

The inability of its advocates to describe real persons, any real persons who might want to use this trail has been one of FFFF’s most frequent criticisms of it. Instead we have been presented with the same generalities and clichés over and over and over and over again. Trails good. Healthy children good. Poor need services. Trees good. Fresh air. Blue sky. Cars bad. Bikes good. Good things for south Fullerton. Right-of-way conversion good.

But back to our visitor. Here’s the quotation:

So say you lived in a home near UP Park and wanted to ride a bicycle to the DMV.

In and of itself this comment is just an absurd disconnect from reality in so many ways; but it points to the inability of Trail to Nowhere boosters to describe real users of the proposed project that could justify its cost; and it’s the reason they stick to useless generalities.

Over there is run and play and enjoy… (Photo by Julie Leopo/Voice of OC)

The grant application for the Trail to Nowhere is full of useless general statistics of an area with absolutely no connection to the specific land use of the immediately surrounding area – present or future. From these general numbers (half of which are north of the BNSF tracks and not even germane) our City staff educed all sorts of things that aren’t remotely true. Things like connectivity to businesses, to Downtown Fullerton; connectivity between east and west Fullerton, and between schools, etc. In one of the most breathtaking of outright lies, the creators of the application claim to the State of California that they project annual users at 105,000.

Suddenly, users appeared out of the cornfield…

Others, like our visitor, have even relied on the dearest hope of all bureaucrats looking for make-work stuff they can’t justify: if you build it “they” (somebody, somehow, somewhere) will come. Of course there is no accountability when something fails. Suddenly, no one is around anymore to take the rap, even if government culture had a rear view mirror (it doesn’t).

Hugo and Alice. The radioactivity was undeniable…

The Trail to Nowhere is the brain child of the long gone, $100,000 per-year pensioner, Susan Hunt. More recently it was shepherded along by Hugo Curiel and the egregious Alice Loya; the former was fired and the latter just retired. Six City Managers have presided over this incompetence from soup to nuts, and the latest can blame the other five if he needs to.

Only in this environment of unaccountability could anybody propose a project without being able to give a specific and credible analysis of who would actually use the facility.

Mayor Nick Dunlap

On Tuesday Nick Dunlap was appointed Mayor of Fullerton by the City Council.

That’s “Mayor Dunlap” to you…

Dunlap seems like a decent fellow. He’s been courteous and collegial and always seems to be engaged in meetings. Congratulations to him. Apparently he’s turned down the job in the past, maybe because he’s got a couple of young kids.

I’m not voting for Zahra and you can’t make me…

Fred Jung, the outgoing Mayor was chosen as Mayor Pro Tem, the person who runs meetings if the Mayor is indisposed.

The real story here is that once again Ahmad Zahra was passed over. Oh, the humanity.

Intelligent commentary was not forthcoming…

His band of followers spoke emotionally for him. Why, you’d think he was the incarnation of St. Joan, St. Francis, Albert Schweitzer, Tiny Tim and Mighty Mouse, all rolled into one. Of course that little cavalcade was also the same group of folks who show up every week to challenge the ethics and honesty of the Council majority – at Zahra’s behest.

The system of rotation must be upheld they cried passionately. Fairness, they wailed. One guy got himself so wound up he looked ready to take punches at the air. The agitation. The furor! District 5 will have no Mayor some of the underserved proclaimed. The wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Too much scotch, not enough water…

Even former Councilcreature Jan Flory hauled herself out of inebriate haze to deliver comments whose sole purpose was one last attack on Bruce Whitaker, challenging him to put aside his ill-humor and do the right thing by Zahra, hilariously neglecting to observe her own 30-year old, still unsatisfied vendetta against Whitaker. Clearly the stick up her backside remains firmly in place.

And this was before the vote.

I know what’s best. Trust me.

But none of the offended folk seem to have reflected that there must be an excellent reason for Whitaker, Dunlap, and Jung to deny Zahra “his turn.” Those three obviously don’t like Zahra and don’t trust him. His penchant for self-promotion and his demeaning attitude toward them, so typical of the left-leaning know-it-all, has probably worn very thin. They know it is Zahra who has been orchestrating the ongoing harassment of them through his collection of oddball minions.

Zahra has been said to have filed a complaint to the police against Fred Jung for being a meanie of some sort, a claim that was refuted by everybody present. Zahra lied about being exonerated for a crime to which he pleaded guilty to have his record expunged. These aren’t good ways to earn trust and respect among your colleagues. And then there’s his ties to Melahat Rafiei the dope lobbyist and bribery queen who was just rung up by the US Justice Department.

Then, that very night, the public discovered that Zahra had gone behind the Council and City Manager’s back to talk to a State agency all by himself.

And who knows how many other shenanigans have been played by this unemployed, self-righteous, utterly transactional individual; and who knows what other skeletons might be inclined to tumble out of his closet?

And the end of the meeting Zahra was brought to tears by the injustice, choked up like a little child who wasn’t allowed to play on the monkey bars. The pathos was so thick it brought Zahra’s remaining followers in attendance to weep right along with the object of their affection.

The Trail to Nowhere, Redux

Just in case you missed last night’s City Council meeting I am thoughtfully presenting a recap of Trail to Nowhere item.

Informed commentary was not forthcoming…

Public comments kicked off the fun-filled evening with the usual Ahmad Zahra puppets berating the Council majority for their many deficiencies.

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

And then followed, once again, an re-examination of the corpse of the Trail to Nowhere, a topic that had somehow made it back onto the agenda courtesy of Zahra and a compliant City Manager and City Attorney. Bruce Whitaker immediately stated his opposition to this move and motioned to take up the discussion in January. This was seconded by Nick Dunlap.

Let slip the dogs of law…

Howls of outrage filled the chamber from the usual brigade of uninformed Zahra followers who were told that they could only discuss the motion to continue the matter, and not sing their usual hosannas for a complete waste of $2,000,000. True, this was weird. City Attorney Dick Jones of the “I Can’t Believe It’s a Law Firm” blessed this process, which of course made absolutely no sense. Since when can the public give comment on an individual motion of the Council? See the problem? I got the distinct impression that Jones was trying to redeem himself for letting the thing on the agenda in the first place.

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

I’m going to write a separate post on why it’s time, way, way past time to shit-can Dick Jones and his crew of incompetent lawyers once and for all.

Anyway, public comments did proceed with speakers accusing the council majority of Whitaker, Jung and Dunlap of wasting their time and trying to kill the Trail to Nowhere by stalling it to death. None of these worthies seemed to get the irony that it was their hero, Ahmad Zahra, who was stringing the thing out by putting a dead issue on the agenda. And he was doing it solely for the purpose of embarrassing the Council majority. Some wanted the matter decided then and there, a pretty reasonable demand if you think about it, and one that really would have laid the matter to rest.

If I knew what I was talking about this wouldn’t be Fullerton!

Councilwoman Charles phoned in her nonsensical two cents by claiming that “new information” rendered the August decision open for discussion because it didn’t look like the State was going to allow a repurposing of their grant. Of course that was a misstatement of the Council decision which was clear: turn down the grant unless it could be used elsewhere. She also added that changes had been made to the plans – a completely false statement.

I know what’s best. Trust me.

After more Zahra pontification about his neglected district, yadda, yadda, the Council voted to continue the matter until January 17th, 2024, a move that unfortunately validates the improper move by Zahra to agendize the matter in the first place.

The only interesting thing that emerged from the issue was that Ahmad Zahra had gone directly to the State Natural Resources Agency behind everybody else’s back, and Fred Jung found out about it. What this communication entailed is unknown – Jung wants to get to the bottom of it – but I have the sneaking suspicion that Zahra was trying on his own to undermine diversion of the State funds to something useful – again, to simply to embarrass his colleagues. According to our lackluster City Manager, Eric Leavitt they are planning another meeting with the State.