Category Archives: Parks and Trails

Fullerton has many parks and trails. They are often ignored and neglected by our government.

Return to the Pinewood Stairs

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

Follow us back, gentle Friends, as we revisit the construction horror show known as The Pinewood Stairs. It’s been a year-and-a-half since we frightened you with the design and construction fiasco of the Pinewood Stairs at Hillcrest Park.

FFFF photo documented the sorry project even before the embarrassing party the city threw for itself since the contractor had failed to secure the contruction site – even though there were obvious safety issues.

In that sad saga we showed images of the many deficiencies and manifest failures by a small army of designers, city staff, contract construction managers, contractors, city inspectors, and of course, a city council woefully derelict in its duty to the public. We also shared the attempts by City Hall and its amen choir in the community to pretend that everything was just peachy.

And so we ventured out on a proactive foot patrol to see what effect the intervening eighteen months may have had on this dismal boondoggle. What we found was not shocking, for our sense of shock at the ineptitude of our City’s park and engineering departments dissipated years ago.

The structure is noticeably creaking, treads are wobbly and handrails are coming loose. This barely two-year old ramshackle pile of lumber is showing unmistakable signs of decrepitude and neglect. Its creators have moved on to new ventures.

What did we find?

Uncorrected code violations like tread width? Check.

The top of the stairs is a bad place for a code violation…

Failed irrigation? Check.

The hills are alive with…no, they aren’t…

Uncontrolled erosion? Check.

Erosion is an all natural process…

Risk management potential? Check.

A trip and a lawsuit are coming…

No correction of substandard design and construction? Check.

Close enough for Fullerton government work…

New maintenance problems? Check.

Two years old. Happy birthday Pinewood Stairs!

And this:

Handrail, meet bracket. Aw, close enough…

And of course:

It wants to reach out and grab ya…

Of course it isn’t straight. Griffin Structures specialty…

All askew:

A light post not even fit for a drunk…

Parks Employee Cost Fullerton 40K

We finally know more of the story of that overturned Parks and Recreation vehicle from 2016 that the city has been so suspiciously tightlipped about.

Turns out the Parks & Rec employee driving the vehicle was at fault and it cost the city at least $43,000 in claims.

Parks and Wreck Claim

Parks and Wreck Fault

The city has never, not once, commented on this story or what happened nor how much it has cost the taxpayers. As far as we know the employee(s) at fault are still on the job.

The Rape of the Fullerton Arboretum

No one knew how much would be left…

What’s going on over at the Fullerton Arboretum? Well, it’s pretty clear: a bunch of State educrats and planners have their eyes on expanding the CSUF campus into the Arboretum grounds. Why? Because they can.

At April 10, 2019 open houses, these worthies finally unveiled their “concepts,” “placeholders” and other thin end of the wedge lingo that means construction of some sort is coming. The on-line story in The Fullerton Observer by Jesse Latour gives an excellent summary of what happened – along with the recital of the poor planning effort the planners put in to holding their own meeting. The staff drones and their flunky “consultant” obviously didn’t count on the horde that showed up to almost unanimously oppose any encroachment on the Arboretum grounds, and to point out, correctly, that the place had been overwhelmingly described as people’s favorite place at the university.

Pay no attention to the people in front of the curtain, especially the ones sitting on the floor…(image shamelessly boosted from Fullerton Observer)

 

As might have been expected, lie and dissimulation, and outright refusal to answer straight questions were piled one on top of one another into a classic bureaucratic dung heap. But one thing emerged in pellucid light: the people that run the university want to build something, maybe anything, within the confines of the existing Arboretum. All three “conceptual” scenarios include new buildings on the grounds that are not wanted or needed by the people who run the Arboretum. And those of us who know how these incremental approvals work know that the die is already cast.

Unfortunately, the good folk who showed up for this phony pow-wow don’t understand that as local citizens they have virtually no power to effect a stop to whatever the Cal State University system and its Chancellor in Long Beach authorize. This is particularly true since Fullerton’s Redevelopment Successor Agency seems to be pulling out of its long-standing cooperative agreement with the university. Back in the late 70s, the City actually paid to help establish the Arboretum. Does anybody in City Hall care? There is certainly no revenue to be squeezed from it.

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.

Faux Cost Reductions

The City Council was warned earlier this year that (long overdue) changes at CalPERS to tackle pension debts would spell fiscal disaster for Fullerton.  This problem is very much real and will be quite painful in the years to come.

What isn’t real was the feigned appearance of City Hall trying to cut expenses.  Truth be told, nobody at the City seems to care.

Remember the Hillcrest Park ‘Pine Forest Stairs’ ceremony, which lasted maybe 30 minutes, and was attended by forty or fifty people?

The balloons you see above cost the taxpayers $776.51.  Were they necessary?  Of course not.

Meanwhile, at other locations across town, the never-ending waste from Parks and Recreation continues unabated.  $350 for two hours of face painting and a clown to blow up balloons.

Another $450 down the drain for a game of Human Foosball.

These aren’t unusual expenditures — this stuff goes on all the time.

So this is the cue for [new City Manager] Ken Domer to step up and make this nonsense go away.  It’s also a cue for the City Council to hold him accountable in that regard.

Reading 101.1.1

How well can you read?  Good enough?  Somebody at City Hall desperately needs your help.

These obnoxious signs were installed at the train station last week.  Not only are they ugly and obtrusive, parts of the text are a lie.  Apparently City staff expects nobody to double-check their work.

“NO Loitering” — Hello?  This is a train station where people are encouraged to loiter while waiting for their train.  What’s worse is the code citation, FMC 17.105.020, is completely bogus because Title 17 doesn’t exist in the municipal code.  The City doesn’t even have a “no loitering” ordinance that would apply here.  Somebody made this up!

“NO Handbills” — They cite FMC 7.30.030.  Funny, the title of Chapter 7.30 clearly says this part applies to “Private Residential Property” (see below) which the train station obviously is not.

“NO Soliciting” — Here’s what the code says:

7.106.030   Solicitation.

   No person shall accost any other person in, or on, any public place, or in, or on, any place open to the public for the purpose of begging or soliciting alms or soliciting donations in exchange for a token service that has been provided or promised.

This section shall only apply to areas within fifty feet of a business establishment
, unless such area is located in a shopping mall or center, in which case this section shall also apply to the parking and common areas of that shopping mall or center…

I took the liberty of drawing circles with a radius of 50 feet from the Amtrak office, Spaghetti Factory, and Santa Fe Express Cafe.  Good news for solicitors, despite the new signs posted all over the place, about 75 percent of the train station is still fair game!

Last, but not least, don’t feed the birds!

A real shocker, I know, but FMC 9.12.208 on the sign only applies to Parks and is worded for the protection of waterfowl.  This isn’t enforceable at the train station.

9.12.208

     1.   “Waterfowl” means and refers to any ducks, geese, or other birds which can be found in a restricted area, which have used a restricted area as a habitat, or are reasonably capable of using a restricted area as a habitat.    2.   “Restricted area” means and refers to any publicly owned lake, pond, stream, creek, fountain, or body of water in the City of Fullerton, including, but not limited to, Laguna Lake.

What’s the point of this exercise?  To prove just because the City makes a sign, or assures us something is true and correct — that more often than not — they are wrong.

I know you’re reading this [new City Manager] Ken Domer.  Now would be a great time to take a stand against the perpetual incompetence that emanates from all levels of City government. Your predecessor, Joe Felz, had no problem doing things poorly.  Will your tenure be marked by more of the same?

Should the state use eminent domain to take Coyote Hills?

Newman has been handed yet another bill to pass off as his own in his race against the recall – SB714. It allows the state to use eminent domain to take Coyote Hills by force, turning it over to something called the “State Coastal Conservancy” at great expense to California taxpayers. Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva has put up a matching bill that provides taxpayer funding for some of the takings.

Fullerton property rights advocates are warning about the loss of local control and lamenting the potential undoing of 40 years of development compromises (sunk costs, perhaps).

On the other hand, preserve purists like the folks at Save Coyote Hills love the bill, which has the potential to take land from a developer and use it to expand the Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve.

Whatever your take, this warning applies – A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything that you have. Handing this issue over to Sacramento bureaucrats may not get you what you want.

What’s a Million Dollars Between Friends?


Our lobbyist Councilperson Jennifer Fitzgerald has asked her supporters on Facebook to show up at tonight’s Council Meeting to support the purchase of land on Pearl Drive to be used as a park.

Our friend David already went over some of the ridiculousness of this purchase in a previous post but it bears getting a little more attention.

The first point to be made is that this item is on the Consent Calendar tonight. Consent Calendar items are items during a meeting that get no separate discussion and are voted on together unless specifically pulled for comment by a member of the public or council. A typical Consent Calendar item would be the minutes to a previous meeting or perhaps a legislative ordinance change forced upon us by Sacramento.

A typical definition of a consent calendar would be as follows:

Under parliamentary rules governing City Council meetings, Consent Calendar items are reserved for items that are deemed to be non-controversial. They allow a City Council to save the bulk of it’s meeting time for issues in which there is a need for a serious public debate.

Often though the items end up being things that the city doesn’t want to discuss or scrutinize in detail. Tonight’s meeting has 12 consent calendar items with this purchase being the 10th.

The Consent Calendar is hardly the proper place to drop a $1.2Million+ project and it’s more amusing given that councilwoman Fitzgerald is asking for support on an item that is scheduled to take no public comments. It’s somewhat infuriating that the city of Fullerton is so free with money that it doesn’t feel the need to openly discuss an expenditure that is over 18x the median household income of our residents. Worse still when basic details of the deal are lacking from public view.

The parcel in question is slated for purchase with a whopping price tag of $755,500 based on a use assumption that is faulty at best (see David’s post). Then we have $148,000 for an unexplained “administrative settlement”. Then $300,000 for “improvement costs” that will of course be more than $300K owing to the additional paragraph stating that “An updated estimate will be established upon completion of the community meetings.”

What attachments or reference points do we have so we as a city can analyze this project? None. There is no explanation because a properly scanned, searchable PDF is too much work to manage at City Hall despite numerous requests over the years. I’m sure somebody will sound off that there have been “community meetings” that were announced on Nextdoor or some such nonsense so as to suggest the lack of need for the city to do it’s due diligence on transparency. This will likely come from the same people who complain about Public Records Requests from the public in a city known for a culture of corruption and abject secrecy.

Despite being an ongoing project, per the item’s own sparse agenda attachments, since 2002-2003 and we don’t have a breakdown of costs? A thorough estimate? A reason for the administrative settlement? A list of code enforcement violations?

Even the details we do get don’t tell the whole story.

“The amenities required being demolished”? How about we mention that the city paid over $19,000 for part of that very demolition? It seems that just about every pertinent detail has been washed from this item which maybe explains why it was on the consent calendar in the first place. You do have to the give the city credit for their optimism in hoping they could sneak this through the consent calendar knowing full well that we malcontents are always willing to call them on their shenanigans.

I reckon the only thing more infuriating than a bureaucrat putting forth this kind of lazy and shoddy work is a legislative body so uninterested in demanding real data and accountability that those bureaucrats know they can get away with this nonsense.

The old adage “Trust but verify” is absolutely foreign to the Fullerton City Council.

Fullerton’s Most Expensive Park?

Just when you thought the Parks and Recreation Department might get their act together comes another gem on next week’s agenda.  This time, it’s a $903,500 land purchase for a new park at 3001 Pearl Drive.

The vacant lot used to be home to a swimming pool and clubhouse for the adjacent apartment complexes, which the 33 property owners failed to maintain.  Those same property owners now want the City to build a park contingent on the City forking over cash to buy the land.

So what is the land worth?  $740,000 according to the appraiser, who notes that an “extraordinary assumption” to build  high-density housing was used.  Translation:  The $740,000 estimate could be totally worthless and the appraiser admits it.  Nothing more is divulged about the appraised value because Hugo Curiel only included two pages from the appraisal report.   Page One and Page Two

And it gets worse.  Hugo wants an additional 20 percent of the appraised value ($148,000) for an administrative settlement to be paid out to the property owners.  Once again, Hugo fails to provide any sort of written justification for this:

The parcel is 0.398 acres in size.  At that price, it is equivalent to $2.27 million per acre which is more than double the price Chevron is asking for Coyote Hills land.  This would be the most expensive land ever purchased for a Fullerton park.

I have a question. Why should we pay the property owners a premium price when it was their own negligence that created this situation?  In fact, why pay them anything at all, provided the City agrees to build a park?

Makes you wonder if the property owners are more interested in a cash payout for themselves, or a park for the neighborhood’s benefit.