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.
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.
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.
A few weeks ago the Daily Titan published an article about how, in a few years, Fullerton is going to be running in the red. Deep red. City projections point to being upside down $19 million between 2024 and 2028. Now that’s not very good, is it?
Here’s the grim forecast:
Naturally, the article quickly devolved into a vehicle for advocating the hiring of more people and paying them more, replete with completely fraudulent comparative pay statistics. On hand were Ahmad Zahra and his helper Shana Charles to bleat about unfilled positions and service deficits, always the first opening salvo in a new tax proposal – like the one Zahra pushed hard in 2020.
Doug Chaffee, the senile Fourth District Supervisor of Orange County and a former Fullerton mayor contributed this gem to the conversation: “I think I would have been a little heavier on keeping our staff because they are the lifeblood of the city. They do the work.” Uh, huh. He failed to mention his own inept culpability in mismanaging Fullerton’s budget for years.
Hilariously, Zahra seems to think the phrase “economic development” has some sort of talismanic quality, as if there were anything City Hall could do to produce it. It never worked during the heyday of Redevelopment and it won’t do anything now. It’s just a shiny distraction that can’t even pay for the bumblers who are paid, and paid very well, to pursue it.
What economic development really means is a focus on increasing tax revenue to pay for the salaries and benefits of public employees and their bloated, guaranteed pensions. It would be refreshing if just once elected folks thought about less about raising revenue and more about living within budgetary constraints.
Mayor Fred Jung calmly opined that Fullerton has adequate reserves to handle the tsunami of red ink coming his way, but this is not reassuring. Fullerton went through the same crimson bath during the Fitzgerald/Chaffee/Quirk-Silva/Flory/Zahra regime, and anybody who thinks Fullerton is better off for the deficit spending it is a damn fool.
In December, as the Friends will remember, the City of Fullerton sold a public parking lot to a so-called developer for $1,400,000. The “developer” had the task of building a boutique hotel and an apartment block. FFFF has already documented the ridiculous density the City has bestowed upon the project. So let’s revisit the topic of land value, a calculation based on the number of residential units a developer can cram onto a parcel of land.
In this case we know precisely how many units are proposed because the development agreement tells us. There are going to be 141 apartment units and 118 hotel rooms – rooms that will undoubtedly be converted to low income housing when the hotel concept fails. Dividing 259 units by $1.4 million gives us $5400 per “door” as they say in the biz.
Does that number seem low? I didn’t really know, so I contacted some pros at Land Advisors who informed me that a more typical number is in the range of $60,000 to $65,000 per unit in these parts, which produces a land value of about $15.5 million and above.
So the “economic development” geniuses in City Hall got the City Council to agree to a massive reduction in value for the sale of the land, a reduction that could be in the neighborhood of $14,000,000.
Now we all know that government and its agents shield themselves (or try very hard to) from accountability for this type of incredible giveaway. It’s not a crime to be stupid, and so there the issue of legal malfeasance can be fuzzy without proof of corruption. But here there is the issue of misfeasancethat in this case justifiesthe initiation of a recall of the elected representatives who voted for this evident gift of public funds.
And those three representatives are Ahmad Zahra, Shana Charles and Bruce Whitaker.
Now, undoubtedly, these three politicos would argue that they had great reasons for “subsidizing” this boondoggle, and that those excellent reasons are well-worth the $14,000,000 they happily pitched at the developer, an individual, we must remember, who brought this unsolicited proposal to the City. But the City, remember, never did its due diligence by opening up this concept (or any other) for a submission of qualifications by those who might have been interested. No. Not even after several years had gone by and the proposer had been granted several extensions of a Exclusive Negotiating Agreement and the proposal kept metastasizing.
Are a “boutique” hotel at the train tracks and yet another overbearing apartment block so important that they justify the $14,000,000 giveaway? Well, I would challenge Charles, Whitaker and Zahra to prove it to voters in their districts.
Yes, apparently so, at least according to the Gingerwood Homeowners Association.
The topic of this alleged prevarication is the proposed reconfiguration of Associated Road that would remove a lane of auto traffic and permit on-street parking. I’ll be writing about the details of this “project” in a bit.
This proposal seems to have germinated within the walls of City Hall and was presented to affected parties along the road. One of them is the Gingerwood community HOA that wasn’t real pleased with comments made by their councilmember, Shana Charles.
Uh, oh. It appears the good doctor has been telling stories in order to pedal this project past wary homeowners who don’t want cars blocking their sight lines when they emerge onto the fast traffic of Associated.
Lying to constituents to push a project you like but they don’t suggests a moral and ethical vacuum.
So last time I resurrected the disaster of the proposed “boutique” hotel at the Transportation Center and noted that the land had already been sold – even before the so-called entitlements were in place. It was all crammed into the end of the year to avoid compliance with the new State requirements for getting rid of “surplus” land. The fact that the land in question is not surplus – it provides much needed parking for commuters and our esteemed downtown revelers – doesn’t seem to have entered any decision makers’ noggin. Common sense be damned, this is The Tracks at Fullerton Station.
But I discovered the real travesty while watching the Planning Commission hearing on the proposed site plan and conditions for a hotel use.
See, the hotel concept somehow metastasized over the past five years to include a standard, massive housing block – yet another cliff dwelling – giving indication that not only was the new developer trying to cram his pockets with all he could get, but that that this new element may have been needed to ensure success for the whole endeavor.
And here’s where the swindle comes in. The density of the apartment block was developed using the entire site area. So our sharp planners took the 1.7 acre site and multiplied it by the Transportation Center Specific Plan limit of 60 units per acre. That’s 99 units. Then, because the developer was proposing 13 “low to very low” units he got a “density bonus” of another 42 units, per State law. If you’re counting, that’s 141 units.
But wait! Those 141 units sit on only 60% of the property, the other 40% being dedicated to the hotel.
Think about that. The whole site is being used to justify the massive density on only a portion of the site. Meantime the hotel proposal has an additional 118 rooms on its part of the site. Friends, let’s do some math. 118 plus 141 equals 259 units for the entire site, or a jaw-droppingly massive 152 units an acre, 2.5 times the density allowed in the Transportation Center Specific Plan!
How do I know the percentage of use for hotel and apartment block? Because the developer is asking for, and getting, a legal parcel division that shows separate parcels for the hotel and apartment. And here’s the Tentative Parcel Map submitted to the Planning Commission:
Based on the developers own Tentative Parcel Map, the land underneath the apartment component amounts to 42,684 square feet, which is 98% of an acre. This entitles him to only 59 units per the Specific Plan. Adding the State density bonus of 40% brings the allowable total to 83. But he’s getting 141. And a hotel with another 118 roomson the same 1.7 acres.
Finally, I have to point out that the City Council itself – specifically Zahra, Charles and Whitaker already approved a Mitigated Negative Declaration for this half-baked obscenity in December, even though it clearly violates the Specific Plan that all the planners kept nattering about. That isn’t legal, although this, is Fullerton, meaning that nobody gives a damn.
I would like to report that the Planning Commission was all over this scam and was outraged. But of course I can’t. Instead the 5 commissioned turnips quibbled over electric car charging stations and other gnats on their way to swallowing this camel whole. Honestly, you could take five average people off Harbor Boulevard and you would end up with a more intelligent and sensible commission.
Well, that’s enough of that. My next post is going to be about the idiotic solution to a made-up bus station problem.
The trouble with being away so much last summer and fall was that I missed all sorts of Fullerton-related stuff. And one of those things was the separation of Tony Florentine from his Earthly cares.
The Florentine paterfamilias, bar owner and restaurateur passed on to his reward back in July of 2022.
FFFF has been diligently following the activities of Tony and his offspring, Joe, in a series of posts going back well over ten years.
We documented how in 2012, Tony loudly inserted himself into the anti-Recall campaign as a staunch supporter of Fullerton’s incompetent Old Guard councilmembers Jones, Bankhead and McKinley, parroting the nonsense peddled by his old Rotary pal, Dick Ackerman. He had lots of good reasons for defending the boobs as they let him run illegal entertainment in his business establishment, and as he and his son did everything they could to dodge the City-ordained -and not enforced – conditions of approval for use permits.
But the history went farther back. In 2003 Tony got the City to look the other way as he purloined a public sidewalk and got away with it, creating a legal headache that still hasn’t gone away. The Florentines pulled out in 2020 and left the City as landlords of a building extension that the co-joined building owner didn’t own.
Years before that, if we can believe a former associate, in 1989 Tony took a torch to his business, The Melody Inn, that also destroyed one of the oldest buildings in Fullerton and began an embarrassing Redevelopment boondoggle.
Whether or not Tony once drove a copper spike into a street tree because it was blocking his sign is a matter of conjecture, but that’s the tale told by some old Fullertonions.
So belatedly FFFF says farewell to Mr. Florentine – who brought a little Jersey color to our drab town. In parting it has to be said that neither he or his kid are that important in and of themselves, but they symbolize a governmental culture of incompetence, and a willingness in City Hall to tolerate scofflaws that have become synonymous with Fullerton.
I was perusing old drafts of posts and came across one that needed to be published. The issue itself is bad enough – the virtual surrender of useful public land to build a “boutique” hotel. The fact that the “developer” had no experience and no track record was bad enough; but the idea that any hotel patron would want to spend the night next to the train tracks or in the vicinity of the downtown Fullerton week-end train wreck was laughable. What was even worse was the dumb rationale our council used to keep this metastasizing idiocy alive.
Over several years the dream of our former lobbyist councilperson-for-sale, Jennifer Fitzgerald – a boutique hotel – refused to die, even after Fitzgerald finally bolted from Fullerton. It’s last iteration in December ’22 was approved by our typically befuddled city council.
Which brings me to the point of this post. In her first meeting as the councilperson representing District 3, Shana Charles voted on this embarrassment. She spent that opportunity to display the critical thinking one would expect of a PhD, but demonstrated just the opposite. Listen:
It’s real nice that Ms. Charles felt obliged to share her “thought process” with her constituents. But whatever that process was, the result was comical. The the good doctor believed that such a boutique hotel will support “County functions” and “event and community centers” in DTF, but she didn’t elaborate on what those events and centers are. Why not? Because there aren’t any, unless you think of the Fullerton Community Center across the street from City Hall to be the sort of place out-of-towners will be so keen to visit that they’ll book a room at the Shana Charles Hotel.
It transpires that phony 5th District candidate, Tony Castro – the boob set up by the OC Democratic Party to siphon votes away from Oscar Valadez to help Ahmad Zahra – got into a wee bit of trouble last year.
What sort of trouble? Well, here’s the court Case Summary:
Warrant. Fugitive. Complaint. Falsely reporting planting of a bomb. Falsely reporting an emergency. And my favorite – Telephone calls w/intent to annoy. Of course there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation, I’m sure.
Tony stopped by our blog a few weeks back and left a hundred fake comments that really suggested the pathos of his campaign – and his life.
Here at FFFF HQ we always leave the door open for Fullerton citizens to share their issues. This instance is a little different. We received (anonymously) a statement that purports to be by a 5th District resident. I don’t know who wrote it, or in what context it was written. I don’t need to know. It is a well-written, eloquent, and damning indictment of Ahmad Zahra’s weepy, sleezy, self-serving 4 year tenure on the Fullerton City Council.And it’s all true.
Here’s the statement as we received it:
“1. Mr. Zahra denied the voters of Fullerton the opportunity to elect a member to a half term on the Fullerton City Council. Although he at first vocally supported an election to fill the at-large seat vacated by Jesus Silva on the Fullerton City Council, Mr. Zahra ultimately voted to appoint someone to the two year remainder of this term despite dozens of public speakers from all backgrounds pleading for a special election. Mr. Zahra argued that a special election would be too expensive, but went on to support at least one other questionable expenditure far in excess of the estimated cost of such an election.
“2. Following the appointment of Jan Flory to the aforementioned two year seat on the city council, she joined council member Jennifer Fitzgerald and Mr. Zahra himself in appointing Mr. Zahra to a paid seat on the Board of the Orange County Water District, supplanting the city’s then current representative, whose term had not yet expired. The vote gave the appearance of an obvious quid pro quo, wherein Mr. Zahra supported appointing Ms. Flory to the council in exchange for her support in appointing him as Fullerton’s representative to the OCWD.
“3. Mr. Zahra consistently voted to support spending over a million dollars on legal fees to sue two writers from the Friends for Fullerton’s Future blog who downloaded private files from an unguarded and publicly available folder on the city’s website— a folder to which the city itself had directed the bloggers. The blog’s publication of of at least some of these files revealed incompetence and malfeasance on the part of the city’s administration and police department. In addition to being an enormous waste of public funds on a suit the city was unlikely to win, this lawsuit represented a serious attack on freedom of the press, on par with legal actions taken against the publication of the Pentagon Papers fifty years ago—that is, an attempt by government to suppress publication of materials embarrassing to it and to punish news outlets who would do so. Council member Zahra’s support of this lawsuit alone should be reason for any news organization to decline to endorse him for public office.
“4. Mr. Zahra participated in a council subcommittee consisting of himself and then Council member Jennifer Fitzgerald. This economic development subcommittee held meetings behind closed doors with no publicly available agendas, no publicized meetings times or places, and no subsequent public notes. The public were not invited to attend. No one knows what was discussed in these meetings.
“5. No notes were ever made available from the aforementioned subcommittee meetings, but Mr. Zahra subsequently supported, with great enthusiasm, the development of the former Kimberly Clark property into a massive warehouse distribution site for Goodman Logistics, a frequent host of Amazon delivery services. It is no exaggeration to state that Goodman subsequently stripped the site of every living tree, including a perimeter of large, mature pine trees and groves of fruit trees that included the last orange tree orchard in Fullerton.
“6. Mr. Zahra falsely claimed authorship of a story about the Orange County Water District submitted for publication and ultimately published by The Fullerton Observer. Subsequent discovery that the article was actually authored by OCWD staff caused public embarrassment to the Observer and revealed that Mr. Zahra was willing to uncritically and deceptively pass along an agency’s public relations material to The Fullerton Observer as his own writing, casting clear doubt about the independence of his representation of Fullerton on the Board of this agency as well as his trustworthiness as a public official.
“7. Mr. Zahra has refused to reveal the ultimate disposition of criminal charges brought against him while serving on the council. Although the charges were reported by the Observer to have been dismissed, court records were sealed, denying the public the right to know what actually happened in the case of a public official accused of assault and vandalism. Whether or not the charges were judged to be justified, Mr. Zahra should have revealed exactly how this case proceeded and how it was ultimately concluded to dispel any doubt in the minds of his constituents.
“8. Mr. Zahra appointed to the Planning Commission, arguably the most important and powerful committee or commission in the city, a representative for a pro-development organization Her role as director of this organization represented a clear conflict of interest between her profession and her public service. She ultimately resigned from the Commission part way through her term with no prior notice during one of its meetings, leaving before the meeting has been concluded the the evening. Such an appointment, in my opinion, calls into question Mr. Zahra’s judgement.
“Additionally, we should remember that the 5th District was created to accommodate representation by the area’s largely Latinx population—the only such district in the city. Endorsing the only non-Latino in this contest would not seem to advance this goal.”
Here’s something for Latino voters to contemplate: their current representative in District 5, Ahmad Zahra. Dope near schools. What a piss-poor idea. Well in Zahra’s orbit, marijuana money talks. Loudly. Zahra is always bleating some “progressive” platitude or other to manage his little social media coterie, but the fact is he is in deep with the weed lobby despite the Latina opposition that spurred a recall attempt.
Here’s the front of a mailer we just received:
And of course there’s a backside.
No, Zahra isn’t working for D5. In fact he isn’t working for anybody. He’s unemployed. But he is looking for work – with the Long Beach Cannabis Cartel that’s just dying to make inroads into Fullerton.