Fullerton’s Observers Still Up In Arms

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

The intelligent decision by Fullerton City Councilmembers Whitaker, Dunlap and Jung not to waste public money on the abysmal “Trail to Nowhere” has resulted in high dudgeon and angst among Fullerton’s unthinking Observers. They have stirred up uniformed kids (interns they call ’em) to include it in a video about Fullerton’s crumbling infrastructure – missing the rich irony of a city unable to take care of the infrastructure it already has. They have instigated other kids to create a group calling itself “People Above Things” who will bring protest to the City Council meeting because somehow a useless trail is people and not a useless thing.

Here’s a fun anonymous essay that appeared in the latest paper version of the Fullerton Observer full of sturm und drang, confusion and all het up emotion:

What a silly mish-mash of unintelligible nonsense. I notice the reference to “Jane” by which I believe the author refers to a Jane Rands, who stood up and gave a very commonsensical address to the Council, but commonsense is not a highly respected commodity among Observers. What is “Hart?” Who is “Tony?” What on earth is the connection with Associated Road on the other side of town?

I can’t blame the author of this illiterate screed for wanting to remain anonymous, but she didn’t remain anonymous for long. On the Observer blog the author revealed herself: Sharon Kennedy, the long-time proprietess for the Observer whose “news” efforts never failed to read as confused editorial gobbledygook.

It’s clear that the Observers, Yellowing and Pink, will cling to this issue and try to nurture it despite the fact that it’s over and done with and the public at large, if properly informed of all the facts, would overwhelmingly applaud the wise decision of the Council. Facts are the perpetual bogeyman of the Fullerton Observers who peddle emotion, not reason, and promote waste, just so long as the goal satisfies their drive to support patronizing the lower classes, whom they believe depend upon their philanthropic gestures with everybody else’s money.

The Curse of Other People’s Money

It’s a sad fact that local politicians usually have no qualms about spending money from off-budget sources – like State and Federal grants to do this or that uber-important thing. And these things don’t really undergo much scrutiny at all because the money the locality gets, if it finds itself awarded such a grant, isn’t competing with other municipal needs. And, better still, the awarding agency very often has no interest in seeing how successful the grant actually was. See, this requires a rear-view mirror, which the government go-carts just don’t have.

It might work…

This topic came to light during discussion of the ill-fated “Trail to Nowhere” that was going to built with almost $2,000,000 bucks raised from some State of California bond rip-off or other. We heard from the drummed up “community” that the money had been awarded, so better take it; these people being not at all concerned that just maybe the money could be better spent on a project elsewhere. And let’s not worry about the fact that nobody will be responsible for the failure of the scheme.

Phase 1 was a complete failure so Phase 2 is bound to work!

Which brings me to Fullerton’s history of grant money, utterly wasted, and with absolutely no accountability. Specifically I am referring to the long-lost Core and Corridors Specific Plan. I wrote about it seven years ago, here.

I’ll drink to that!

Back in 2013 or so, the City of Fullerton received a million dollars from Jerry Brown’s half-baked Strategic Growth Council to develop a specific plan that would sprawl over a lot of Fullerton, offering by-right development for high-density housing along Fullerton’s main streets – a social engineering plan that would have drastically changed the character of the city. The reasons for the entire project’s eventual disappearance off the face of the Earth are not really important anymore. What is important is that the grant money – coming from Proposition 84 (a water-related referendum!) was completely and utterly wasted.

A page on the City’s website dedicated to the Core and Corridors Specific Plan had quietly vanished by 2017, never to be heard of again.

It doesn’t matter how it turns out. It’s the gesture that counts.

The lesson, of course is that Other People’s Money causes public officials – the elected and the bureaucratic – to take a whole other attitude toward spending on stuff than it does if the proposed projects were competing with General Fund-related costs – like the all-important salaries and benefits; or competing for Capital Improvement Fund projects that people actually expect a city to pursue. And it’s very rare indeed for a city council, like ours, to realize that grant money can be misused and actually wasted.

And so I salute Messrs. Dunlap, Whitaker and Jung for voting to return the Trail to Nowhere grant money – an act of true fiscal and moral responsibility.

Weeds, Weeds and More Weeds

A Friend sent in a copy of a letter from Daniel S. Franco of the City of Fullerton, requesting/demanding weed abatement per the Municipal Code. Supposedly the letter was instigated by a complaint. That may be a true story; or not. Here’s the letter:

Now, this isn’t all that unusual except that the irony of the City making a private citizen do what it will not is pretty rich. What am I referring to? Why, the Trail to Nowhere, of course, the City-owned former UP right-of-way where lately a handful of people, offensively masquerading as “the community” demanded a recreation trial. A quick look at the current situation along the abandoned strip reveals the City in severe breach of the rules it feels compelled to apply to the populace.

Oops.

Oops, again.

It’s pretty apparent that the City of Fullerton can’t take care of its own property. Or maybe by neglecting this property the City is offering up a big FU to the “community” it pretends to care so much about.

In any case the question of our town’s ability to maintain its property brings into focus the question of maintenance costs for new facilities – like the sad proposal of the Trail to Nowhere.

Another Tough Trail Truth

During the recent Trail to Nowhere kerfuffle one of the big problems the limo liberals had was bending their brains around the possibility of a multi-modal facility that might improve circulation and offer development flexibility, particularly in light of the massive development the City staff is going to try to cram into the 30 acres adjacent to the UP right-of-way.

Bikes and traffic don’t mix, came the anguished cry of people like Egleth Nucci and Shana Charles who would have never ridden a bike, or even ambled a long the Trail to Nowhere, and ignoring a world full of urban examples where bicycles and cars get along just fine.

These same self-appointed “experts” seemed unconcerned that their beloved trail would have to negotiate intersections at both Highland and Richman Avenues.

To find and example of a space shared by trail and car lane, all these Option 1/trail-only people had to do was look across Highland to their much bragged about “Phase I.” Here’s a satellite image:

Please note that the Phase I portion accommodates both a roadway and a recreation trail! Land o’ Goshen! Is it really possible? Well, of course it is. The trails cult has already built, and often described this existing configuration between the closed UP Park and Highland Avenue as the inevitable prelude to Phase II; but now for some reason, a paved portion west of Highland is verboten.

Oh, well, one thing we can expect in Fullerton, and that is a complete lack of reason and intelligence when it comes to this sort of thing. It’s more important that the so-called professionals do what they want, and there will always be enough dopes in the City to go along and to even be a called a “community.” And then there are those politicians like Ahmad Zahra who decide to score cheap points patronizing their constituents by giving them “nice things” that aren’t nice at all.

Union Pacific Park to Reopen!

The humiliating story no one wanted to talk about.

After years of being fenced off by the Parks and Rec. Department, the Fullerton City Council voted to reopen the Union Pacific Park in the 100 W. Block of Truslow Avenue. The park, brainchild of former Parks Director Susan B. A. Hunt, cost several million dollars to be acquired and built in the early 2000s but was almost immediately shut down due to soils contamination. The City failed to perform its due diligence in purchasing polluted property and building a park on it. Adding insult to injury, the park became a magnet for anti-social behavior. So the fence stayed up.

And up. For almost 20 years.

A sign with its own tile roof? And why are they all broken?

And yet somehow this long-running civic embarrassment became the all-important anchor for the foolish trail project that City staff kept promoting. While the trail screamers were lamenting south Fullerton’s park poorness (more on that later) they never bothered to reflect on the City’s shameful history of incompetence delivering open space at the UP Park.

Mayor Fred Jung decided enough was enough and at the last City Council meeting suggested that the the fence around the park be removed and the park opened for a neighborhood whose patronizing patrons say is “desperately needed.” Well, good. More open space for the community to desperately enjoy while the UP Park ad hoc Committee, the same committee that was ignored during the trail propaganda saga, can figure out what its future is. Councilmen Nick Dunlap and Bruce Whitaker agreed and the motion was approved 3-2.

It will be interesting to see if Ahmad Zahra will give up on keeping this park fenced off. Remember, he was the one who desperately wanted to illegally rent it out as a private, fenced and gated events center. And remember too, that to him, even to question park maintenance costs in his district is “offensive.”

Trail to Nowhere Goes Nowhere

Oh, the potential!

On Tuesday night the Fullerton City Council again shit-canned the moronic recreation trail proposed on the old Union Pacific right-of-way.

Councilmen Bruce Whitaker and Nick Dunlap both presented compelling reasons; that the proposal failed to address requests from the Council in 2021 that the area be addressed wholly, not by piecemeal projects. Mayor Fred Jung joined them in voting to turn back the grant money.

Looking down from above…

Naturally, Ahmad Zahra championed the wasteful project, pretending to be offended by Dunlap’s observation that maintenance was issue since Fullerton can’t take care of the parks we already have. It didn’t seem to occur to him that his position was grossly patronizing to his own constituency who must be separated from the hard truths of fiscal realty. He was joined in his profligacy by Shana Charles who giggly gushed over the opportunidad to bestow a top-down gift to the community – and after all, it was free money and wasn’t going to cost anything.

A gaggle of speakers showed up to defend Option 1 – a bike trail that would pass through some of the worst, least safe parts of Fullerton. A couple opined that a useless trail was desperately needed. A few Spanish-speaking women appeared to regurgitate the talking points of Zahra, but as usual displayed a complete factual deficit. Their job was to bad-mouth Option 2 that could have include an auto passage along the trail, and again to babble about “the children.”

Jane Rands. Commonsense prevailed…

One speaker named Jane Rands actually provided intelligent and pertinent points, to wit: the City staff had not developed a general concept for the redevelopment of the area, and that the trail has no connectivity to anything else in the trail system, a point lost on the thoughtless Zaharites.

So in the end the council majority voted on Option 3 – give the money back to the opaque agency that took it from the taxpayers and doled it out in the first place. In a fun twist, Jung added a caveat to his Option 3 support: that the Up Park be re-opened ASAP.

After the vote was taken, one of Zahra’s lunatic followers began screaming at the Council about being racists and insensitive beasts, etc., and had to be removed from the chamber by the pit-sitting cop. And Zahra could be heard muttering under his breath into the open mike: “Bushala.”

Say, Who’s In Charge Over There?

I know, lets get some running exercise. Before they catch us!

The other day I learned that Fullerton’s nonsensical trail to nowhere has been magically resurrected, again, it seems, the beneficiary of some wasteful State grant meant to make people feel good about themselves. How do I know it’s wasteful and all about virtue signaling? Easy. Just consider the “Trail To Nowhere.”

Time to recreate.

City staff is no longer even pretending that the the proposed “trail” goes to the Transportation Center, or that it could ever make its way to the Hunt Branch and points northwest. At least those lies have been dispensed with. Now it’s all about connecting a refurbished UP Park and Independence Park, a connection that means nothing to anybody outside the hallowed halls of City Hall. The proponents of this absurdity still can’t identify a single likely user, nor can they spit out the cost of maintaining this trail. They don’t know and don’t care. Build something and someone’s bound to use it, despite the fact that it runs through a dangerous, dilapidated, and dismal industrial zone of junkyards, used tire shops, asphalt plants and metal plating operations. The gesture is what counts, not the aftermath!

But I have already digressed.

The real point of this post is to ask how this miserable idea sprang back to life after the City Council expressed their displeasure with the bureaucratic piecemeal planning of this area, questioned the wisdom of the proposal and said they wanted to see alternatives that might actually help innovative development in the area. They got none of that.

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

It’s true that Fullerton has had four City Managers in the past three years or so; it’s pretty easy to spot the vacuum here. Plus the new guy, Eric Levitt, seems to have the backbone of a jelly donut when it comes to saying no to his staff. He appears to be cruising for a pension spike and an imminent decampment.

The idea may have been bad, but it sure was old.

Who was it that organized the happy field trip to explore the potential wonders of the trail? How come nobody knew about it except select invitees? How did the Parks Commission come to be presented with a choice that was no choice and how on Earth did this get on the City Council agenda? Obviously there has been a conspiracy to revive this idea and Mr. Levitt is all on board. Why? And why has the City Council permitted the same proposal it rejected last time, to reappear in the same form? These are rhetorical questions only.

The fact that D5 Councilmember Ahmad Zahra and his minions wanted this so badly last time – a gesture, (no matter how expensive and hollow) to the communidad – leads me to suspect this thing has been orchestrated by him and Parks staff to embarrass his colleagues into going along with the scheme this time.

Economic Development 101

In my last post I introduced the topic of Fullerton’s latest foray into “Economic Development” a term that really refers to the idea that a city can generate more sales tax revenue through its ministerial efforts so that it can hire more people and pay them more money.

This is the old California Redevelopment mantra that was used by cities across California for decades to hand out land, cash, and favors to chosen developers and retailers. Nowadays, there’s really only land to give away as we saw in Fullerton with the abysmal “Tracks at the Tracks” project that ironically handed away millions of dollars in potential up-front revenue that might have balanced our budget in 2025 all by itself.

I thought I would spend some time reviewing the Kosmont Companies report and watching our esteemed City Council’s review of said “Retail Market Strategy.” To say that I was underwhelmed would be an understatement.

The report is 90 pages long. 95% of it is data mined from some source which tells us nothing an ordinary person couldn’t fathom all by himself – like on-line shopping is a big problem – and which seems almost disconnected from the recommendations on pages 11-13.

I have to wonder about the source of all this tsunami of numbers and even their validity. One side-by-side pair of graphs was particularly dubious.

Huh?

Somehow triple net rents in Fullerton spiked, even as vacancies soared. Meanwhile in the broader areas of Orange County, including neighboring towns, vacancies somehow dropped during the worst of the Covid pandemic. And in Fullerton the graph shows, rents stabilized, even dipped in ’21-’22 even though demand apparently skyrocketed. I’m not an economist but this sure looks like pure nonsenso-data to me.

Anyway, the recommendations are just a boilerplate laundry list of ways to spend money, and a lot of it, to hopefully make money. I’m sure Kosmont uses them over and over again in every “study” they perform. Here they are. Enjoy:

What a load of consultant bullshit-jargon leading to the inevitable conclusion that Fullerton needs to hire more people in order to pay for the ones we already have. If we look at these recommendation we see the old Redevelopment lingo writ anew – collaborations, outreach, improvement districts, fa├žade improvements, “thematic” sidewalks, way-finding, public art. Don’t forget enhanced customer service! And of course collecting data (probably through the kindly and expensive offices of Kosmont itself). But is there a single mention of a public accountability program by which the people of Fullerton and their elected representatives can determine if money blown on this nonsense even paid for itself? Nuh-uh.

And of course Kosmont’s “study” diplomatically avoided mentioning Downtown Fullerton’s million dollar budgetary sinkhole, supporting the myth that it is an asset instead of a decades-old liability. Maybe they think thematic sidewalks will clean up the clientele.

The Council’s reaction to this consulto-gibberish was utterly predictable. Ahmad Zahra, who must have peed himself in excitement over Action Item 12 was completely on board and vocally supported the need to increase “staffing levels” to accomplish this laundry list of pabulum. He believes that art tourism, and all of Fullerton’s museums can pave the way to success. His accomplice in stupidity, Shana Charles was all giddy, too, and pointed out the inescapable link between economic development and Fullerton’s “urban forest” whatever that may mean.

Silence is golden…

Bruce Whitaker mentioned that he was a follower of somebody named Jane Jacobs and supported organic economic development. A wise position, but one completely at odds with his recent approval of the idiotic City-driven apartment/hotel boondoggle that flushed millions and millions right down the municipal commode.

In the end nothing specific was decided and the Council moved on, no one having bothered to find out, presumably because they didn’t care, what this 90 page report cost the taxpayers of Fullerton.

The Mantra of Economic Development

No news is good news…

A Friend just forwarded an article in the Yellowing Fullerton Observer about the City’s latest foray into something called economic development – an effort to create more tax revenue, somewhere, somehow, sometime. The good folk in City Hall are alarmed at the looming budget deficit they forecast in the next few years. And they know full well that another attempt at a sales tax like the ill-fated Measure S promoted by Ahmad Zahra and Jesus Quirk-Silva would be a shaky proposition.

According to the Observer the City hired an entity called Kosmont Companies to assay Fullerton’s future and determine where tax generating opportunities may lay. At the June 20th meeting of the City Council a report by Kosmont was submitted for general perusal.

Exhausting all options…

I note that Kosmont Companies is an operation whose sole raison d’etre these days is to work for Redevelopment Successor agencies and municipalities trying to gin up revenue to support the bureaucratic establishment. According to the staff report Kosmont was employed by “the City” in February 2023; since no agenda report exists for this contract, it must have been executed out of the public eye by our esteemed City Manager, Eric Levitt. I’ll address the report itself and the Council’s reaction in another post.

I often wonder why anybody thinks local government have any business promoting these types of endeavors. Government employees know little about business operations, nothing about the concept enterprise; they know defined benefit pensions, their union agreements and petty, make-work bureaucratic stuff. These same chuckleheads just up-zoned and entitled a massive apartment project on land they sold to the developer for 10% of its new value. As far as the unknown amount paid to the “consultant” I wonder if even that expense will be recouped by their own work product.

Just as bad, the economic development concept is created and run, for and by, the same people who stand to benefit from it – it it were to even work at all. And of course there is never any accountability for public resources expended in the pursuit of this talisman.

The Associated Road War of Attrition

Reinforcements are on the way…

So characterized by Councilman Nick Dunlap is the no-longer ongoing attempt by City staff and liberal virtue signalers who were working hard to put Associated Road on a “diet.”

Mr. Dunlap seems well aware of how things that the bureaucrats want never seem to expire, and that meeting upon meeting are sometimes used to thin the herd of opposition until just about everybody has given up.

This seems to be what was going on with the rather unnecessary attempt to modify Associated by adding parking as a buffer for bike riders, along with the elimination of two vehicular traffic lanes. Meeting upon meeting were held to shore up support for the plan to get rid of two traffic lanes on Associated Road.

Here’s what happened at the council meeting study session on Tuesday. The City’s traffic guy announced that he had given up on the proposed new on-street parking, used to create a Class IV bikeway. Even staff could see the handwriting on the wall. The few citizens who were present (see herd thinning, above) still commented on the parking, but also remarked on the need for 4 traffic lanes. Those in favor of the project were all about big picture ideas that, in the context of this short stretch of road, seem sort of comical.

Dunlap says no…

When the council finally started chatting about the project, Nick Dunlap almost immediately made a motion to leave the damn thing the way it is – tabling the item for good. Shana Charles fought a losing rear-guard action as she tried to waste more time and effort on this scheme. Bruce Whitaker wisely pointed out that the total daily traffic counts don’t reflect peak hour traffic when having four lanes might actually be useful. Finally, with the dubious assistance of lawyer Dick Jones of the I Can’t Believe It’s a Law Firm, the council finally just gave staff the direction to proceed with the planned repaving and to reproduce the existing lane and bikeway striping. And so without a decisive action by the City Council, the Associated plan in social engineering sputtered to an unceremonious demise, Whitaker, Dunlap and Jung seeming to agree to a collective adios.

They never go willingly…

Will this plan really die, despite the seeming death blow? This is Fullerton, where no idea, no matter how bad, really dies if staff really wants it to live.