The Parks & Rec Manipulation of Public Comments

Readers of this blog know good and well the many failures of the Pine Forest Stairs at Hillcrest Park, not to mention the $724,000 bridge to nowhere that will soon become reality.

What you probably don’t know about are the shenanigans used by City Hall to influence the City Council vote.

Funding for the bridge, fountain, and “Great Lawn” improvements was approved on a 3-2 vote (Whitaker and Sebourn: No) at the May 16 City Council meeting.  A couple weeks earlier, I made a records request for documentation on Hillcrest Park.

Jennifer Fitzgerald’s appointee to the Parks and Recreation Commission, Gretchen Cox, made public comments in support of the project.  Having skimmed through the e-mails provided by City Hall the day before, I thought to myself, wait a minute, portions of her comments sounded awfully familiar.

As it turns out, my suspicions were correct.  A week prior, Parks & Recreation Director Hugo Curiel had one of his employees, Doug Pickard, e-mail Gretchen Cox a list of “talking points” to assist her in making attacks on Councilmembers Sebourn and Silva:

Portions of the e-mail were in fact used by Gretchen Cox during public comments.  Let’s go back and compare the e-mail to what she actually said.  This ought to be fun! (more…)

The Grand Opening of the Stairs

The grand opening of the “Pine Forest Stairs” connecting Lions Field to Hillcrest Park was this morning.  I didn’t count but I’m guessing 30 people in attendance, about a third of which were City staff or elected/appointed folks.

A short 10-minute ceremony marked the grand opening:

Those of you strapped for time should watch this excerpt featuring Jennifer Fitzgerald.  Listen very carefully as she avoids using the word “bridge” when referring to the Great Lawn.  She’s so excited!

No other councilmembers besides Chaffee and Fitzgerald were in attendance, though former councilwoman Jan Flory joined them.

The event was somewhat unusual in that a number of people who probably see me as a City Hall adversary took it upon themselves to strike up a conversation, which was nice for a change.  Doug Chaffee and his wife Paulette Marshall were very friendly, as was Gretchen Cox, Parks and Recreation Commissioner.  From the City staff, John Clements and Don Hoppe were nice as well.

After everyone took a trip up the stairs, can you guess which councilmember found a reason to be nasty to me?  This isn’t a difficult question.

Desperate to Celebrate Mediocrity

This Saturday, 06 May 2017 at 10:00 the city of Fullerton is having a Grand Opening for the new “Pine Wood Stairs” at Hillcrest Park. To which the natural response should be something along the lines of “They’re stairs. Why do you need a ‘Grand Opening’ for a set of stairs?”.

Why? Because politicians and bureaucrats love to celebrate anything that can result in a photo-op, self-congratulatory award or chance to pretend to care about their jobs or city. In this case that celebratory nature has taken on the smell of desperation only slightly masked by Pine.

David has already posted a great piece explaining some of the many problems with Fullerton’s new Stairs to Nowhere, or in city parlance “The Pine Wood Stairs”. I decided to check them out myself and see what was what and I was, shall we say, less than thrilled with the experience.

All of my hilarious ranting aside there is one major thing that needs to be pointed out. Does THIS:

“Pine Wood Stairs” concept.
Look like THIS:

The Actual “Pine Wood Stairs”.
Different angles. Yadda, Yadda. Look at the design and construction. Except for both the drawing and the actual project having wood planks is anything the same? Or were we, once again, sold a lie? Celebrate! Cut a Ribbon even! Yay!

And before some bureaucratic bootlickers come on here to try and justify this misdirection and waste of funds, I’m looking at your Mrs. “We Held Oh So Many Meetings”, let me point out THIS:

Fitness Stairs?
That’s currently going around on Facebook announcing the “Grand Opening” to these stairs. Currently. As in the stairs already exist and people are still being sold the concept drawing and not what was actually built.

I like that there is a “FREE Intro Stairs Exercise Class” because nobody knows how to use stairs. At least they found a selling point for the stairs to nowhere – exercise! You too can get in shape after fighting for parking in order to use our stairs to nowhere. It’s a good thing we’ve cornered the market on poorly built stairs in a park we don’t maintain (and won’t maintain), otherwise people might want to exercise somewhere convenient and then how would we justify these stairs? I mean we had to spend the Park Dwelling money on something other than buying land in Coyote Hills or just maintaining our current parks. So Exercise Stairs. Pine Wood Exercise Stairs. To Nowhere.

Oy.

Fullerton’s Most Useless Bridge

Yesterday, I wrote about the hideous stairs at Hillcrest Park and alluded to the City Council being asked to spend another $5.7 million on Hillcrest Park improvements.  This is Park Dwelling Fund money — an important distinction I will get to in a minute.  You can read the full Agenda Letter here.

A portion of that $5.7 million is slated for the construction of what would become Fullerton’s most useless bridge, if funding is approved next Tuesday night.  No, it won’t be painted orange, and I don’t know the exact type of bridge.

This is just a crude rendering of where the bridge would sit, scaled as best as possible using the City’s drawings.

Here’s the official drawing from the City.  The bridge across the creek is clearly visible below:

I keep scratching my head as to who would ever use this bridge.  It doesn’t align with any current or proposed trail, nor does it connect the park to crowds of people just dying to enter the “Great Lawn” as they want to call it.  The nearest City parking is FOUR spaces at Harbor and Valley View, 425 feet away.

Why would someone opt to walk another 425 feet, over the bridge, to access the “Great Lawn” when it’s right in front of their parking space?

When these parking spaces fill up, the few people desiring to use the bridge will probably just leave their cars at Ralph’s or Chase Bank — or just not bother using the bridge at all.   The next closest City parking lot at Hillcrest Park is 900 feet away on Valley View.  Either way, taking the bridge is the least convenient route to the lawn.

Second closest is the combined Hillcrest/Lions Field parking lot along Brea Blvd.  That measures out to 950 feet away on Google Earth, if, and that’s a big if, you can find parking there at all.  On the weekends, that lot is jammed full of cars with youth sports in session at Lions Field.  During the week, Parks and Recreation has the bright idea to lease parking spaces to St. Jude Hospital for employee use.  They also want to lease Lions Field to Hope International University, presumably during the week as well.  While your chances of finding parking there are questionable at this point, let’s just say you succeed.  From that parking lot, there is direct access to the “Great Lawn” without needing to use a bridge, cross the creek, or walk alongside Harbor Blvd.  A park road already exists.

As an aside, do you think it’s fair for park users to siphon parking spaces away from Ralph’s or Chase Bank and the other businesses there?  I sure don’t.

Park Dwelling Money

All of the proposed Hillcrest Park improvements are scheduled to use cash from the Park Dwelling Fund.  This is the fee charged to developers for every dwelling unit they build.

But wait a minute?  Can’t the Park Dwelling money be used for other, more reasonable purposes, besides a useless bridge?

YES.

Chapter 21.12 of the Fullerton Municipal Code covers this.

21.12.040   Use of funds.
All money collected as fees imposed by this chapter shall be deposited in the park dwelling fund and shall be used solely for the acquisition, development, improvement, and maintenance of public parks and recreational facilities in the City, as proposed by the City’s Five Year Capital Improvement Program.

 

Translation:  The $5.7 million could be used on things people actually want, such as acquiring land within Coyote Hills.

Really, people.  If you think this is a stupid use of funds, this is the LAST chance to do something about it.  The project itself has already been approved, but not the funding.  That’s what they’re seeking approval for Tuesday night.

Send the City Council an email:  [email protected] or attend the meeting on Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 6:30pm and plan to speak during public comments.

Park Barrel Spending … Literally

I’d rather be filled with pork.

Further review of the budget document dump offers lots of worthy material.  Why not examine the “15” Parks and Recreation Fund, shall we?

The only justification they can provide for $15,000 of Landscape Maintenance Supplies is “Substantially increased use of trash can liners in several parks“.  Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Not long ago, I wrote about their brainstorm to launch fireworks from the top of Hillcrest Park on the Fourth of July.  Included in that proposal was an idea to use Lions Field for Fourth of July festivities.

When youth sports are in session (i.e. most of the year), your chance of finding a parking spot at Lions Field in the evenings and on weekends is nearly impossible.  Parking along Brea Blvd. is also used up for the same reason.

That’s okay, when Joe Felz’ Hillcrest Park stairs to nowhere are open — and the kids aren’t playing ball — people can park their cars at Lions Field and climb the hideous stairs when nobody is around, right?  Wrong.

Under this proposal, parking at Lions Field during the day, everyday, will be scarce, if not completely unavailable.

That’s because the footer of the Parks & Rec Proposal offers this wonderful idea:

  1.  Lease the Lions Field to Hope International University, most likely during the day, since youth sports already use it on the nights/weekends.
  2.  Lease the Lions Field parking lot to St. Jude for employee parking use. 

Just as the stairs are a terrible waste of money and devoid of any logic, so too is the idea to lease parking spaces to St. Jude for profit.  This is how Parks & Recreation operates:  (1) waste a ton of money on something completely unnecessary that benefits less than 1% of Fullerton residents, (2) realize there isn’t enough money to support it, (3) come up with some scheme to siphon money away from the end user.

Leasing the Lions Field parking lot creates yet another reason for Fullerton residents not to use the stairs.

Oh, and by the way, the Park Dwelling Fee is slated to increase from $11,700 to $12,015 per unit.

I think the time has come to reduce — or even eliminate — the Park Dwelling Fee so that nonsense like the stairs isn’t affordable anymore.  The $12,015 per unit would be far greater used to fix Fullerton’s streets, water mains, and sewers.

Burn Down Hillcrest Park?


Another City Council agenda, another questionable proposal by Parks & Recreation.

Next Tuesday, the City Council will consider a new location for the Fourth of July fireworks and celebration.  The Fullerton Union High School stadium is no longer available for such purposes.  News of the impending change has been known for some time, yet Parks & Rec waited until 2½ months before July 4th to bring this to the council for a vote.  Great planning!

Have a look at the agenda letter:

“Although considered, some of the these venues don’t have the sufficient capacity to hold the expected crowds and comply with Fire Department’s ingress / egress requirements; adequate firework firing zones / fall-out zones; or are too costly.”

Say what?  Three sentences later, they propose to use Hillcrest Park as a fireworks launch area.  Yes, the same Hillcrest Park identified by the State of California as being within a “Moderate” Fire Hazard Severity Zone (FHSZ).  The same Hillcrest Park that lost many trees during the multi-year drought.  The same Hillcrest Park that had 50 to 75 trees planted on Arbor Day to replace what was lost during the drought.  I think you get the idea.

No mention is made whether the Fire Department approves of this idea, only that the City’s “pyrotechnic consultant” gave the green light.   One would think if the Fire Department expressed concerns about hazards at CSUF, Amerige Field, or the softball fields at FUHS, they would be just as concerned about mature trees at Hillcrest Park going up in flames.

Lions Field

For the sake of discussion, assume fireworks launched from Hillcrest Park will be deemed “safe”.   How prudent is it to have festivities at Lions Field?  The City spent an extra $1.7 million to install synthetic turf there in 2010.  With extra foot traffic and “vendors, attractions, main stage, VIP and staff area…” using the field, preventing turf damage will be nearly impossible.  Have they taken this into consideration?  Probably not.

The agenda letter suggests “ample capacity” for necessities like parking.  Lions Field and the lower Hillcrest parking lot have about 170 parking spaces.   Everybody else will have to park their cars at North Court (like in previous years), the Elks Lodge, along Brea Blvd, at private businesses, or in adjacent neighborhoods.  Parking problems will be an issue no matter where the festivities are held, unless, of course, CSUF could be used, which leads me to ask…

  • Why is CSUF not a viable location?  The agenda letter makes reference to another site being “too costly” but is devoid of specifics.  I can only assume the location being referred to is CSUF.  How much would it cost?  Has the City approached CSUF for leniency on fees?  What did they say?
  • What about Fullerton College?  Did the City approach NOCCCD about hosting the event there?  What did they say?
  • What about the Parks and Recreation Commission?  How did they vote on moving the venue to Hillcrest/Lions Field?  Oh, wait, the matter was never brought before the commission for a discussion and vote.   Had the meeting not been cancelled, this would have made for a timely discussion at the March 13, 2017 Parks & Rec meeting.

This type of nonsense has, embarrassingly, become business as usual for the Parks & Recreation Department.  The commission is regularly bypassed on important issues. When those issues are presented to the City Council for a final vote, the department does so on an absolute last-minute basis — often with erroneous or incomplete information — leaving no time for a continuance, or for other options to be explored.

The residents of Fullerton deserve a lot better.  I wish the City Council and City Manager would put their foot down and say enough is enough.

$1.6 Million Stairs to Nowhere

Comically happy rendering by overpriced design “consultant”

The City’s budget is a total disaster and so are our streets. But Fullerton’s Parks and Rec visionaries would like us to know that construction is underway on a brand new set of 3 stairs. From Lion’s Field to Hillcrest Park. The cost is $1.6 million worth of small change that fell into the cushions of Joe Felz’s municipal couch, and that interim City manager  Allan Roeder will no doubt tell us isn’t worth worrying about.

Not Roeder’s first rodeo…

Here’s a PR article in the Register.

A typical bureaucracy driven idea that nobody wanted – a very familiar tale indeed for poor, neglected Hillcrest Park. The most idiotic part of the story is a quotation from Hugo Curiel, the drone in charge of the City’s parks:

“They can use (the stairs) leisurely, also for exercise, in a positive way. The stairs will open the floodgates from Lions Field into Hillcrest Park.” 

Apart from the hilarious malaprop (floodgates don’t open to release anything uphill!) the idea that there is a line of people waiting to somehow access Hillcrest Park from the fake turf playing fields of Lions Field is ridiculous.

But if you read the article you will find something a bit more sinister: city staff blaming the state of Hillcrest Park’s botany on the drought. That is an outright lie. The park’s dying plant life and the resultant erosion on the north and west flanks of the hillsides have been going on since the 1980s –  even as the City under the “guidance” of Susan Hunt and Joe Felz wasted all sorts of money on “studies” and an event center and other useless projects.

A pile of dirt symbolized the effort.

A moronic stair way from Lion’s Field that nobody is going to use is the last thing Hillcrest park needs. Are you reassured by the fact that our visionary  “leaders” believe we have $1.6 million lying around to pay for this nonsense?

Parks and Wreck

Sometimes what our City Hall doesn’t say can be almost as illuminating as their press releases.

On Wednesday, November 16 at about 9:00 PM, a Fullerton Parks and Recreation vehicle collided with another car at the intersection of Highland and Chapman. Ouch.

Sure looks like somebody ran a red light, then blammo!

What’s odd about this unfortunate accident is that the City never said a word to the public about the horrible-looking incident. Who was involved? Was anyone badly hurt? Who caused the accident? Why was a Parks and Rec employee driving around late at night? So many questions, and no answers.

What’s the big secret? Maybe there’s a reason for the radio silence.

It makes one wonder if this accident might not be the fault of a government employee, perhaps even driving a city-owned vehicle after hours. If so, look for big damages coming our way.