The Trail to Nowhere Complaint

It’s a total waste of money, but it sure is short…

As has been predicted, a concerned Fullerton Friend has decided that the dismal Trail to Nowhere was such an insult to California’s taxpayers and to any commonsensical Fullerton resident that he was going to do something about it.

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So he wrote a letter to the State of California Natural Resources Agency and addressed it to the Agency’s boss, Mr. Wade Crowfoot. I understand that the letter was sent by registered mail so it may be hard for Mr. Crowfoot to claim he didn’t get it.

Well, well, well…

Cynics will say that the California bureaucrats at these agencies don’t care how their grants are spent, or in this case, misspent. Their jobs are to dole out the dough without a backward glance. In this case there was no real forward glance either; judging by the initial approval, they swallowed Fullerton’s tale by the proverbial hook, line, and sinker.

Anyway, it’s a good synopsis of the various inaccuracies and falsehoods in Fullerton’s grant application. Here is the text of the letter, forwarded to us by its author:

Mr. Wade Crowfoot
Secretary for Natural Resources
California Natural Resources Agency
715 P. Street, 20th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Mr. Crowfoot,
I am writing to you as a concerned citizen of the City of Fullerton, to inform you of irregularities in a
Grant Application made by the City of Fullerton to your agency which resulted in the award of a Urban
Greening Grant to build a recreational trail on an abandoned section of the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way.
This is a 2022 grant for $1,777,200.00, under Grant Agreement U29194-0 which itself was authorized by
Senate Bill 859.
The irregularities in the Grant Application falls into two categories: first, omission of pertinent
information required by the application; second, outright falsehoods about the projected positive
aspects of the project.
The application failed to alert the State that one of the adjacent properties to the proposed trail is
contaminated by trichloroethylene (TCE), a known carcinogen. The property (311 South Highland
Avenue) is identified by the EPA and the State of California Department of Toxic Substances Control
(DTSC). Reports have indicated a TCE plume emanating from 311 South Highland in a southerly direction, precisely under the proposed trail site. There are currently 10 Monitoring test wells along the proposed trail site and several others in adjacent properties.
The proposed project budget does not include any cost for additional testing, remediation, and/or
export. There is no inclusion of the need to rework or replace the existing test wells.
Beyond the unmitigated environmental concerns, the City of Fullerton Grant Application asserts
“connectivity” as a positive feature of the proposed trail. These assertions are demonstrably false. The
proposed trail does not connect to any businesses; it does not connect to Downtown Fullerton; it does
not create connections between parks and schools; it does not connect different parts of the City and is
actually contained within the same compact area. In fact, the proposal for Phase II does not even
connect to its predecessor, Phase I, which itself was a selling point in the Grant Application.
In truth, the proposed trail is a disembodied half-mile length of property that starts and stops without
reference to any other transportation corridors.
To the West, Phase II terminates with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe right-of-way at the back corner
of Independence Park, a park so poorly maintained that the playground, courts, and gymnasium have
been closed off to the public for several years. On the East, Phase II abruptly ends at a sidewalk adjacent to Highland Avenue, a North-South thoroughfare serving approximately 11,500 vehicles daily, per the City’s own traffic study in 2019.
Even if Phase II connected to Phase I, which it does not, Phase I itself stops at the back of the abandoned
Union Pacific Park which was closed due to contamination 15 years ago. There is no practical extension
in either direction.
Despite these facts, the City of Fullerton’s Grant Application included a projected 105,000 annual users, a number that is simply preposterous on its face.
The proposed trail does not pass through a residential neighborhood, but rather a blighted industrial
strip situated between two dilapidated, neglected, and run-down parks. In short, it doesn’t go where
anyone with common sense would want to go.
The existing abandoned right-of way has provided plenty of evidence of being unsafe. There is rampant
drug use, homeless encampments and two violent deaths over just the past few years.
The City of Fullerton cannot afford to maintain the proposed facility, as is clearly witnessed in the
condition of the trash strewn, dilapidated, weed-infested Phase I, a condition deliberately omitted from
the grant application. The idea that this area has been so poorly maintained but somehow the City will
be able to be good stewards of the area only AFTER the State grants it nearly $2 million more, is
insulting.

The $1.77 million grant represents resources that could, and should, be used elsewhere.
Fullerton’s Application was disingenuous, at best. At worst it included falsehoods dressed up in words
echoed back from the stated objectives of the Application Form in order to defraud the State.
In writing this I am hoping that your Agency will reevaluate this project, rescind the funding, and find a
better use of this valuable Grant money.
Thank you for consideration of this matter.

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.

The Trail to Nowhere Penalty

Although its advocates keep whacking it like the proverbial dead horse, the near-disaster known as the Trail to Nowhere isn’t happening. We can thank Fullerton City Council members Dunlap, Jung, and Whitaker for pulling the plug on “Phase II” of the so-called Union Pacific Trail back in August. The proposal made no sense: it had few, if any potential users, ran through an area of heavy industry, was and would never be connected to anything else, cost nobody knew how much to maintain, didn’t even line up with its alleged Phase I, and cost $2,000,000 to build (if you can trust a City budget).

Perhaps most importantly, the council majority had previously requested that various trail options be considered in the context of a wider area plan. City staff essentially ignored that request and began a behind the scenes effort to drum up support for the original plan – an act of insubordination, really.

At the time no one told the three councilmembers that there was adjacent property with trichlorethylene contamination in the 300 block of Highland Avenue and plumes had drifted south, even though this information had been in the City’s possession for decades. Fortunately, Messrs. Dunlap, Whitaker and Jung had plenty of other excellent reasons to deny the grant funding for its intended purpose.

Another thing the City Council didn’t know was that if the grant application contained “false representations” – either intentionally, or through lack of reasonable effort – the grant could be rescinded and the State could demand whatever of its money had been spent. Here’s the relevant paragraph in the grant acceptance agreement:

In other words, had contaminated soils been detected on the “trail” the State may well have been inclined to demand whatever had been spent, particularly in light of the fact that the grant application falsely stated that environmental testing had been performed in 1998 and was not an issue.

We know this isn’t true because in the early 2000s the UP Park (after construction) was found to be contaminated, requiring mitigation; there is no way that the “trail” was somehow tested, but not the park site. We also know that very recent PRA requests identifying this specific issue returned no relevant documents.

Of course the State could have revoked the grant on the basis of the fraudulent application alone, had they discovered the misinformation, a municipal embarrassment, to be sure.

Fortunately, for the City employees who manufactured the grant application and snuck it past an incurious City manager, there will be no repercussion, not even a mild “talking to.” And fortunately for the rest of us, the City won’t be saddled with a stupid white elephant of Phase II that would have ended up looking an awful lot like Phase I.

Phase I’s inauspicious beginning. It gets worse.

So everybody should be happy, right?

Stupid Observer

A guy named Mike Ritto writes a periodic column for our Friends at the Fullerton Observer called The DOWNTOWN Report that ostensibly deals with happenings in our economic sinkhole known as Downtown Fullerton, or DTF, for short.

The story no one wanted to talk about.

In his latest piece Mr. Ritto promises A Brief History of Union Pacific Park. Hmm. This might be interesting, I thought. And so it is, but not for what it says, but for what it intentionally leaves out. It begins talking about the Union Pacific RR, the Santa Fe and even the Pacific Electric. Ritto eventually gets around to the park itself:

“…remnants of that UP line are the fenced-off, such as Union Pacific Park just to the West of the former station, where the tracks used to run.

That neighborhood needs a park, and as the residents look through the chain links and see, finally, grading and other preliminary work that is taking place right now, they know it is on the way. Approval of the park revitalization was covered in our August 7 issue. In addition, we are following developments in the proposed Union Pacific Trail, which would be an open space trail between this new park and Independence Park to the West.”

Somehow the UP Park history has become no history at all, just a mysterious space with a fence around it.

Children at play…

Of course Ritto omits mention that the UP Park was a park on which the City spent several million dollars in land acquisition and construction, and that the City closed down first because of toxic contamination, and then because of abundant crime. This latter fact gets no mention because Ritto is insistent that “the neighborhood needs a park” and remembering that the last effort failed would be extremely awkward – so let’s just forget it. Like his Observer pals he repeats the nonsense that the Trail to Nowhere is still a real thing.

To perpetuate the propensity for misinformation of which the Observer is (in)famous, Ritto remarks that approval of park revitalization has occurred, as reported in the Observer on August 7th. What really happened was the Parks Commission voted to recommend the the Trail to Nowhere to the City Council. The article itself, despite the erroneous headline, is really just a propaganda piece for the now dead Trail to Nowhere and has nothing to do with the UP Park site.

Fullerton Observer readers are often told that the effort is an all-volunteer affair, as a sort of apology for bad reporting, opinion masquerading as news, factual misrepresentation and basic spelling mistakes. The Kennedy clan has been doing this for forty years or more and there’s no likelihood that this will change.

The Trail to Nowhere Grant Application. A Tissue of Lies

Oh, the potential!

As you might expect, the application form is boilerplate and gives the applicant the opportunity to pick questions that put its proposal in the best light. Reading it gives one the impression that the State doesn’t do a lot of particular investigation; takes applications at face value, assuming applicant to be honest; and doesn’t condescend to concern itself with real field investigations.

The application is replete with traffic and demographic data of the most useless sort. This tripe can be dismissed as bureaucratic string tying and gobbledegooking. The literary answers in it sounds like somebody describing the Yellow Brick Road leading to the fabulous Emerald City.

But there are specific questions on the application that are germane to effective spending of public money, and the answers elicited shed light into the mindset of our Parks Department personnel.

Let’s look at Lie Collection #1. The City is asked to describe boonful economic impacts of the Trail to Nowhere:

Visit local businesses? What the Hell? Like the back of industrial buildings and junk yards? Countless opportunities for economic renewal and growth? Name just one along this dismal “trail.” We now know the proposed “trail” doesn’t even line up with Phase I, a fact omitted in the project budget and description. We also know it doesn’t go east past the abandoned park and doesn’t reach the Transportation Center. An affordable way to travel? For whom, for God’s sake? And how much does it cost to walk to Independence Park, using safe streets? That’s right, nothing. The “trail” links no disadvantaged community with schools (there aren’t any), or local businesses, and of course the “trail” doesn’t get to the Transportation Center. It stops at Harbor Boulevard.

Here’s another packet of misinformation, Lie Collection #2. Get a load of this.

Somehow the author of this application “anticipates” 105,000 users annually, an astonishing 288 users each and every day – 24 every daytime hour. In order to get where? Why to the back parking lot in the northeast corner of Independence Park, that’s where. The statistics thrown into the mush to support this nonsense are of the most generic kind, and .prove nothing. Of course we already know that there is no physical linkage to the half-circle north of the tracks. Calling this strip an “active transportation corridor” is hysterically funny to anyone who has walked the abandoned right-of-way.

I included the paragraph above the c.2 in the snippet just to show the repetition of the lies and the nonsense that this “trail” would be used, miraculously, by bus and train riders. There are no points of connection from the “trail” to either service. And notice that the application includes the names of all sorts of disembodied parks that are nowhere near the “trail” and that are not remotely accessible to it.

Is it safe? Is it clean? Who cares? It’s a transportation corridor!

Now we arrive at Lie Collection #3. This is more of the same rubbish.

This block of lies is nothing but a bureaucratic word salad of nonsense and misinformation. It’s comical that the described location of Independence Park is actually where the large DMV facility is located. You’d think the Parks Department would know where their parks are, but this geographical illiteracy may explain how the “trail” proposal was cooked up in the first place. And we know the “trail” provides no access to Richman Park, and of course the Big Lie about connectivity to Downtown Fullerton, the High School and Fullerton College must be repeated, and repeated and repeated – ad nauseam.

A trail runs through it…

Lie Collection #4 is crucial to understanding how this grant was approved, rather than booted out the door with guffaws of laughter.

Whether this hot mess was really “shovel ready” as confidently asserted here is a matter of conjecture, based on the presence of carcinogenic toxins adjacent and below a significant part of the “trail.” But observe in the red box how the application writer avers that some sort of “Environmental Review process” was completed in 1998, and how no elements of the “trail” were found to require mitigation. There’s a body buried here and it’s toxic, too. We know this claim is a lie because the UP Park was acquired at the same time as the linear right-of-way, and was found to be contaminated much later – in the 2000s, demanding that we accept the idiocy that the “trail” was tested in 1998, but the park site was not. It’s an inescapable conclusion that no environmental “process” was undertaken by the City in 1998 at all. Furthermore, we know that two recent Public Records Act requests for specific information about testing on the “trail” returned no relevant documents. This means that if any documents for Environmental Phase I and Phase II research and testing were performed in 1998, the City is withholding that documentation. Or, alternatively, no documentation exists, meaning that the claim in the application couldn’t have been verified.

Finally, the application conveniently omits any mention of TCE contamination along part of it, and under it, a fact well-known in City Hall and by the State of California for decades.

Wow, this makes my lies about myself look like amateur stuff.

And that leads to a significant question: would the State ever have approved a grant based on this dodge about environmental assessment? I seriously doubt it.

Fortunately the question is moot so far as the future of the infamous Trail to Nowhere is concerned. That proverbial train pulled out of the station with the wise vote by Dunlap, Jung and Whitaker. That’s not what these series of posts have been about. They are about what goes on in City Hall, how decisions are made, or, as the case may be, not made; how there seems to be be little or no accountability for things that are done poorly, illegally, illogically, and untruthfully.

And that’s why FFFF is here.

Away From Home Alone

It used to be you could show up in another town and make up all sorts of stuff about yourself. That’s was the basis of the con man’s profession. Now, it’s not so easy.

Back in August D5 Councilman Ahmad Zahra, know locally for his, ahem, creative narratives about himself, seems to have put in an appearance at some sort press conference held by EOPAMERICA. That stands for Elected Officials to Protect America. Ever hear of it? Me neither. Maybe that’s because this imposing name belongs to some group located in tiny Rockland, Maine. Sounds a bit made up – like the guys got together in some one’s basement.

Rockland is not the sort of place you’d expect for an organization with such a bombastic title. But the lobster might be pretty good.

Anyway, Fullerton’s own bright light Zahra got his picture in the paper, so to speak, along with an almost incomprehensible quotation.

Tools of investment? This bozo can’t even build a rec trail with somebody else’s money! Now check out that statement a little more closely. Mayor of Fullerton? Since when, Ahmad? Another fiction passed along to any dopes credulous enough to believe this con artist?

Who was he speaking for and why did they give him a title he can’t get? Why does he think printing money is going to reduce inflation? You could try asking Zahra. Good luck getting an answer.

The Associated Road Saga. An Unnecessary Conflict

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

Yesterday I posted a letter from the Gingerwood HOA claiming that District 3 councilperson Shana Charles lied at a public workshop about having consulted them about the proposed re-alignments on Associated Road that are being proposed by Fullerton’s Engineering Department. That’s a pretty bad look for a novice politician.

So now, Friends, let’s explore what’s being proposed. It’s one of those ankle bone-connected-to-the leg-bone kind of things.

First, the City is proposing a sewer and water line improvements in Associated Road between Bastanchury and Imperial. When this is complete, our engineers reckon, it would be an excellent time to repave the street. And then, why not reconfigure the roadway and reduce the lanes from four to two, and add street parking that will act as a physical barrier for a “Class IV” bikeway. Here’s an example of what it would look like, courtesy of Caltrans:

They did what, now?

The City reasons that the reconfiguration is justified because the traffic “warrants” are low enough to re-designate this stretch of Associated Road to a mere “local collector” in traffic engineering terms.

The folks who live in the various condo projects along Associated, like Gingerwood, are up in arms about this, and who can blame them? They reason, among other things, that turning out into the one lane of traffic would become more hazardous as their lines of sight will be blocked by parked cars. They will also have to slow way down, in traffic, to turn into their entries. Then there’s the issue of strangers parking in their neighborhoods – overflow from nearby apartment inhabitants and visitors to Craig Park.

This entire situation smacks of social engineering on a small scale. I have no idea how many bikers use the existing bike path and if the new configuration is even safer using parked cars as a barrier. But this seems like an unnecessary battle for City Hall to fight against its citizens.

I can’t think of a convincing reason not to restripe the street the way it is and move on.

Anyhow, the discussion of this matter is on the City Council this week (Item #14) where we can expect a lively confrontation between the irate neighbors and the people, like Shana Charles, who are behind this.

Meet the Zahras

One of our correspondents in Fullerton’s District 5 received a piece of political junk mail from Ahmad Zahra the other day. It was full of the usual Zahra bullshit about all he has accomplished – which in reality has been nothing much more than photobombing events organized by other people.

But we are interested in one photo on the mailer, a nice family photo I share, below.

How precious…right out of central casting.

So c’mon, Zahra. How sad and cheap. Insta-family. Everybody knows you’re a divorced gay man, and there is no wife and no kids in your brand narrative. This just smacks of desperate cynicism. But from a compulsive liar and malignant narcissist, not surprising. “Dad.”