A Trip Up and Down Memory Lane…AKA The Pine Wood Stairs.

“Pine Wood Stairs” looked a lot better in concept than in reality…

Back in May, FFFF documented the lamentable construction disaster of the Pinewood Stairs, a $1.6 million boondoggle created by City staff, whose construction defects were so bad and so plentiful that a reasonable person might even inquire about how we could get our money back. In fact, City Councilman Sebourn mumbled something about getting our money back, then said he was just kidding. Bruce Whitaker said nothing at all. On Facebook City Hall bureaucracy advocate Gretchen Cox cooked up a story about some alleged City “report” that exonerated all concerned.

Nine months have passed and I thought it might be interesting to revisit the site of the fiasco and share a visual tour to take another look.

Here’s a typical example of a project with nobody in charge and nobody who knows what they’re doing.

The caisson footings with the wood posts are almost all cracked; some of the posts aren’t even vertical. Some of the caissons are out of plumb, too.

Aspects of the construction reveal building that was cobbled together to make the contraption fit together.

 

Now, as then, the wooden rails are extremely rough and splintiferous.

Rough cut

The lack of quality workmanship, structural and cosmetic remains in evidence. And those fraying cable ends? Why, they’ve been taped! Of course the tape is falling off.

Simple things – like removing the cardboard tube form from the caissons seem to have eluded the City’s crack inspection team. Crack. Get it?

Basic design oversight problems were jerryrigged and never addressed properly at all.

Weird features that are nothing but potential for risk management headaches and taxpayer payouts are still much in evidence – like this trip hazard. Shrug, indeed.

Loose cables. Down the hill goes the toddler.

As usual, maintenance of  public property remains a challenge for the City. Loose ends are not their specialty.

How hard is it to keep a tree alive? Don’t bother asking. You won’t get an answer.

The effects of the inevitable pedestrian shortcuts betray both design and maintenance failure. It looked better on paper.

We have been assured by people who don’t know what they are talking about that everything was just grand about this grand failure; but, the evidence did and still does point to the exact opposite: a project that suffered from fundamental design shortcomings, incompetent and careless construction, a construction manager whose only function seems to have been to cash our check, and inspectors who were (and probably still are) a disgrace to their profession.

As you can see driving up Harbor, the City is now building its splendid new entry to the park – including a bridge – costing millions and accomplishing nothing but wasting park construction resources. Apart from the obvious uselessness of the project I have to wonder if it will suffer from the same dereliction that informs the so-called “Pinewood Stairs.” Nothing leads me to hope for the contrary.

Good Bye and Good Riddance

Ed Royce, holding forth to a mesmerized audience. (Image pilfered from Voice of OC)

The Voice of OC is reporting that our congresscritter, Ed Royce has had enough congresscrittering and is quitting his seat next January. This will be seen a great news for the Democrats who were targeting this seat due to a recent increase in their own party’s registration, and who believe that the S.S. Trumptanic vortex will suck all sorts of Republicans down to Davey Jones’ Locker.

I don’t know about that, but I do know it will be wonderful to get shed of Ed. Set aside Royce’s dutiful loyalty to our new, budget-busting  security state and his willingness to vote for tax bills he hadn’t read. Instead let’s focus on his dismal record meddling in the local political affairs of Fullerton.

For almost 25 years he has backed city council (and Legislature) candidates of the worst Republican stripe – dimwitted and vapid RINOs like Pat McKinley Leland Wilson, Julie Sa and Mike Clesceri; creepy slouches like Larry Bennett; sleepy nincompoops like Don Bankhead; a useless carpetbagtress like Linda Ackerman;  and let’s never forget: Dick Jones, Doc HeeHaw, the clownish donkey from Galveston who seemed to take joy in bullying his constituents and braying utter nonsense. Royce could not have cared less about sticking us with this parade of non-entities. He obviously didn’t care if Fullerton developed no new generation of real conservative leadership. What mattered was to elect hollow shelled Republicans that posed no threat to him, and to keep potential Democrat challengers from becoming potential in the first place.

Well, so long, Ed.

Say, Whatever Happened to Fullerton’s Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan and the $1,000,000 in State Money that Paid for It?

Most government projects have three things in common: they are bad ideas promoted by bureaucrats, they are obscenely expensive, and there is no accountability attached to them.

In Fullerton we have lots of examples over the years that touch all three bases. But if ever one needed a veritable poster child for government fiascoes, the ill-conceived “Downtown Core and Corridors” Specific Plan would be it.

 

Back in 2010, the City of Fullerton put in an application for a “project” to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s  “Strategic Growth Council” an assemblage of bureaucrats and political appointees selected by the governor to promote sustainability and responsibility in urban (and suburban planning). On the face of it, the idea was to promote development that would be eco-friendly – somehow, someway. Lo and Behold! Fullerton received a $1,000,000 grant to create the Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan, a massive overlay zone. In 2013  a committee was appointed to make this look like a community driven enterprise, but as so often happens the committee was led along by the consultants and staff who were being paid, and paid well, out of the grant money. Some members of this committee only went to one meeting, the last one, in May 2014, a meeting consumed by passing out certificates of participation to committee members for all their hard work.

In the meantime, the intent of the creators of the specific plan became crystal clear: opportunity for massive new housing projects along Fullerton’s busiest streets, development that would not even have to undergo the scrutiny facing normal projects so long as the permissive guidelines of the specific plan were met. Naturally, lots of people objected to the continued over-development of Fullerton, and the utter disconnect with what the Strategic Growth Council was ostensibly promoting. Perhaps the most obnoxious thing about the specific plan proposal was the way it was being used, unapproved by any policy maker, to promote other massive apartment projects already in the entitlement process.

And then a funny thing happened. The Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan vanished into thin air. Although recommended by the Planning Commission in August of 2014, the plan and its Environmental Impact Report never went to the city council for approval. 2015 passed; and so did 2016 without the plan being approved. Even modifications rumored to have been proposed by the now-departed Planning Director Karen Haluza never materialized for council review or approval.

I’ll drink to that!

Some cynical people believe the plan was postponed in 2014 because of the council election, an election that returned development uber alles councilmembers Greg Sebourn and Bud Chaffee. And they believe that the subsequent attempt to erase the plan from the municipal memory was perpetrated by none other than the hapless city manager, Joe Felz and lobbyist councilperson Jennifer Fitzgerald, (so the story goes) two individuals who had every incentive to shake down potential developers one by one, rather than granting a broad entitlement for new and gargantuan development. Felz had a massive budget deficit to fill, and Fitzgerald had massive lobbying opportunities from potential Pringle and Associate clients.

A chemical bond

What is undeniable is that three long years have passed and no action has been taken to either approve or deny the specific plan. The grant money approved by the State has been a complete waste – a travesty so embarrassing to everybody concerned that no one seems to want to demand an explanation for this fiasco. Neither the city bureaucrats or council, nor the State has any incentive to advertise this disaster, and you can bet there never will be an accounting.

 

 

Prioritizing Park Dwelling Fees

Taken 27 April. Same Status to Date.

At the last City Council meeting it was asked by the public and re-asked by Council member Sebourn why Park Dwelling Fees cannot be utilized for maintenance in existing parks. At approximately the 3:41:00 mark in said meeting Parks Director Curiel stated it was owing to an ordinance and Interim City Manager Roeder specified that it was State Law which is where the conversation ended.

I would like to set the record straight from my layman’s perspective.

First and foremost let us explain Park Dwelling Fees. They are fees that developers have to pay the city in order to build new places for people to live within the city. $X/Room. That money is then used for Bridges to Nowhere and temporary stairs that cannot be repaired. What it is not used for is maintenance on our existing parks.

This is especially problematic as salaries and benefits eat up ever more of our general fund and we find ourselves with unsafe parks and deferred maintenance. We put plywood up over damage (nearly 6-weeks later and counting), or worse, while our $6-figure employees tell us we don’t have the budget to keep our kids safe. It’s infuriating. (more…)

A Rude, Reckless Cop

If you were worried that Fullerton police officers were beginning to shed their reputation as some of the most boorish and careless cops in Orange County, don’t be.

Here’s a story about a well-regarded Fullerton businessman who was recently provoked into becoming a national bicycle advocate. He even decided to travel to Washington DC to lobby for bicycle safety on behalf of Fullerton’s cyclists. What drove Mr. Joel Maus to take on this cause?

Three months ago he was riding downtown on a street without a bike lane. As he rode the slight downhill of a railroad undercrossing he noticed a metal drainage grate directly in his path. To avoid it, he looked over his shoulder and took the lane to make sure no one tried to pass him dangerously. Then he heard a loud “honk” and the crescendo of an engine behind him as someone swerved into the other lane and went around him.

Someone wasn’t happy to see Joel riding in the lane. And that someone was a Fullerton police officer.

Joel was riding legally and safely. The officer was rude and reckless. Frustrated and determined to do something about it; that night he went home, created a simple logo, and made his first post on the Bike Fullerton Instagram account.

Beep Beep

All of city hall’s feeble and self-serving efforts to project itself as some sort of promoter of bicycling were nearly undone by one imprudent cop who doesn’t seem to care much at all about the risk of smearing Mr. Maus all over the road. Of course this behavior continues to be tolerated by our neglectful city management and a spineless, self-interested city council.

Dick Jones the Developer?

Late last year three downtown properties along E. Amerige Ave. were purchased for $1.3 million by a trust named after one Richard Jones and what is presumably his wife. Hey, that’s the same name as Fullerton’s long-time city attorney of the firm Jones and Mayer.

New homeowner

Yes, it’s the same guy. He bought these three lots for $1,300,000 last last year. That’s a $100 per sq ft, which is kind of pricey for bare dirt. Fortunately the property also contained two old homes. Which one is Dick moving in to?

He never had a chance. Last week a Friend noticed that the two homes had quietly been bulldozed and the 1/3 acre lot stood bare. In preparation for what, we don’t know.


What we do know is that Attorney Jones has been hankering to build some high density commercial property somewhere near downtown. We also know that these properties are in several special parking districts, which means that Dick may be able to erect a structure that forces the burden of parking onto his neighbors or on to public lots and streets, exacerbating Fullerton’s parking problems.

Now that Dick is ready to build up, will years of swapping favors for city staff and kicking up dust to camouflage the city council’s failures finally pay off? We already know that he has no problem ripping off his clients for millions of dollars in unearned pensions. Are there any more ethical lapses or conflicts of interest looming alongside Dick’s road to riches? We’ll find out.

Fullerton’s Leadership Void

Fullerton has a serious leadership void. No, I am not talking about our electeds telling us our budgets are balanced when they clearly aren’t and I don’t mean that we have a culture of corruption/cover-up with different rules for different people.

Those are well documented issues which will continue to be explored. No, today I’m talking about our actual leadership void.

Since last year Fullerton has lost City Manager Joe Felz, Police Chief Danny Hughes, Library Director Maureen Gebelein and now according to public 700 disclosure forms our Deputy Fire Chief Julie Kunze as well as Museum Director Dannielle Mauk.

That leaves a yearly compensation package of $1,245,302.21 on the table for those 5 positions so get your resumes ready.

It’s Official. Fullerton has the Worst Roads in Orange County

Not bad.

Well done, Fullerton.

A recent report from the OCTA lists OC cities’ “pavement condition indexes” and Fullerton shows up at the very bottom.

And the projected future conditions look even worse.

But that doesn’t stop councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald from shamelessly touting the “success” of her road repair efforts in her campaign material.

Here’s a video of councilmembers Fitzgerald, Flory, Chaffee and Popoff making excuses for the sad condition of our asphalt.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRIfK4HbC18&t=48s

 

Fullerton Flashback: A Beer with the Boys

A Lit roadie recently shared this image on social media and an observant friend passed it along. Can FFFF readers identify any of these distinguished gentlemen?

Here’s a hint. The photo contains at least one budding lobbyist, a Fullerton police union president, a planning commissioner and a soon-to-be bar owner/nuisance generator.