‘Tree City’ Decapitates Trees

Todd Warden wrote in to tell us how the unsightly drainage ditch along Malvern/Chapman avenues is becoming further uglified by the city without regard for the surrounding neighborhood or the health of the landscaping.

He awoke one morning to find that the city had ordered the 30 foot tall trees hacked down to about 6 feet, while randomly selected shrubs were cut to the stump. The fully developed trees had been shielding motorists view of the ugly flood control channel and it’s rusty chain link fence for years.

Just a little off the top.

“In the past they have always just trimmed the trees back and kept the height leaving a swell green belt and noise buffer in contrast to other areas of the Malvern/Chapman eyesore,” wrote Todd. The city told him that they had no money to replant new trees and shrubs, but the mature trees were taken out anyway.

I’m no arborist, but hacking a 30ft tree by 80% seems like a great way to kill it. If the city doesn’t have the funds to replace prominent landscaping features, they ought to just leave them alone or trim them as reasonably necessary. Together, Malvern and Chapman form one of Fullerton’s main east/west arteries, and it’s a disgrace for our city to destroy what little aesthetics it has left.

A fresh view from the beautiful grounds of The Muck.

It’s worth nothing that Fullerton frequently boasts about its 29-year title of “Tree City USA” as bestowed by the Arbor Day Foundation.

That's not very good either.

As for the future of the flood control channel, Todd has some ideas:

“What about replanting the entire strip of the canal that literally splits the entire city from Buena Park to Harbor Blvd. Tall palms or low water use flowering hedges would beautify the city for residents and visitors that use the artery. Another idea would be to cover the ditch for a bike path that would allow residents and visitors to reach downtown and the Buena Park Metrolink station.”

Where’s Our Park?

Hey, man, where's the park?

The north part of Orange County has a notorious lack of parks and open space. And while the County of Orange spends millions on its park system annually, including vast tracts of parkland in south county, and even on the Harbor Patrol in the wealthy enclave of Newport Beach, us taxpayers up north get almost nothing. We have Craig Park and Clark Park which total about 130 acres; meanwhile the County controls around 60,000 acres of park and open space counting the new Irvine Company “gift.” Now that’s just wrong.

Former 4th District Supervisor Chris Norby kept talking about this unfairness, but he never actually accomplished anything to fix the inequity. Norby’s successor Shawn Nelson also made this topic a campaign issue. Will he be able to succeed where his predecessor tapped out? Let’s hope so. The opportunity for additional parkland, and even bike trails in utility rights-of-way are there. It may not be easy, but some of us voters expect elected folks to do the hard stuff.

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News Flash From Hillcrest Park Pals

On Saturday morning from 9:00 to noon, the City of Fullerton and landscape architect Mia Leher will present two alternative master plans for the restoration/preservation of Hillcrest Park. The meeting is open to the public and will be held at the picnic pavilion near the recreation center.

Mia Lehrer

Recently the north hill of Hillcrest Park was raped of it’s natural grade and historic landscape. For those of you that don’t know, the city of Fullerton Landmarks Commission is required by law to review and approve (or disapprove) of any changes to local and/or National Historic Landmarks. Hillcrest Park is both. To this day, the Fullerton Landmarks Commission has never addressed the issue of the Lyons Field renovation which included the north hill of Hillcrest Park.

This may be the last chance for real public input. If you want to be heard, the time is NOW. Please show up at the meeting on Saturday. If you can’t make it, you can still join Hillcrest Park Pals by sending an email to: [email protected].

One Big Happy $23 Million Community Center

Last week, before all of the excitement about Coyote Hills and the one term history of Pam Keller, the Fullerton City Council approved the conceptual plan for a new community center.  This eighth wonder of the world is to be built right across the street from city hall and the main library.  The existing Boys and Girls Club and the Senior Center will be demolished to make room for it.

This $23 million mostly redevelopment funded project is supposed to be necessary because half of the city’s Parks and Rec programs are farmed out to other cities, and it would be so much nicer to have them under one new roof right downtown, near the new lingerie shop.  The fifty plus year old B & G Club is considered to be beyond repair and the senior center, which isn’t really that old in the grand scheme of things is somehow inadequate.  OK, so neither is an architectural masterpiece, but is it really necessary to tear them both down for this new combined community center?

The idea seems to have been to somehow “activate” the corner of Commonwealth and Highland, making it more a part of the library/city hall/police station/baseball field district.  To that end, the architect has included one of those pretty, and pretty useless medians down the center of Commonwealth, and a little welcoming plaza on the north side.  Placing the huge double gymnasium right up against Commonwealth doesn’t do much to activate the corner, however.

The kids, seniors and everyone in between can all interact as part of one big happy community, except that they still have their own buildings, just closer together than the current ones are, for more togetherness, I guess.  There is a third building they do get to share, just to teach them all a lesson.  You see, it’s a “multigenerational facility”, except that not everyone wants to be so together.

Several seniors have expressed concerns about having to be so close to boisterous young people while they are busy trying to relax with people of their own age group.  As far as I know, no youngsters have yet complained about having to be close to old people, but who knows if anyone asked them during the long, long planning process.

Kids enter from the Commonwealth entrance while seniors use an entrance from the larger, southern parking lot adjacent to the senior center.  This arrangement makes sense if no old people have to ride the bus to get there.  You see, the bus stop is way out on Commonwealth, so seniors would have to walk through crowds of kids all the way down the central axis of the project, to get to the safety of the senior center, which is closest to the railroad tracks.

A seventy-five year old man at the hearing asked why the noisy gym and swimming pool weren’t placed nearest the railroad tracks instead of a facility used by the aged.  The ever helpful and certainly senior Dr. Dick Jones suggested that seniors were hard of hearing anyway before voting to approve the plan.  Not to be outdone, even more senior Don Bankhead addressed a concern about the new Commonwealth median restricting bicycle traffic by asserting that it is perfectly legal to ride on the sidewalk in Fullerton —presumably right through seniors exiting a bus.

On the Agenda – January 19th, 2009

In a closed session King Rob Zur Schmiede will attempt to beat up a few property owners in his relentless quest to spend your money and expand his kingdom. Tuesday, he will be targeting several properties along West Avenue and Ford Avenue.

The municipal code change for commission appointments is to be approved. Hopefully, we don’t have another scene like we did at the last meeting where all the old guys go nuts. (Item 2)

There is a change in regulations for taxi operators… (Item 3)

Item 4 will be the financial statements for October and November of 2009. Let’s see just how badly we pissed away our kids’ future.

The Engineering Department hopes to protect their investment with an agreement outlined in Item 5. It makes sense…sort of.

There are several sewer projects on the table, which, if managed correctly, will allow for fecal matter to continue to roll down the hill to the sanitation district. It’s a lot of money but probably necessary considering how poorly we have maintained our infrastructure for the last 40-plus years.

The council is being asked to approve a public alley abandonment. Not surprising, this is related to the King Rob stuff in closed session. (Item 9)

There are a few airport items which you pilots might review. (Items 10 & 11)

Item 12 caught my eye. It appears the James Wernke’s family (for those living in a cave somewhere far away, Wernke was the young man who lost his life this past December) would like to name a trail after their son/brother. But the Parks Department scratched their head and are now asking for the council to direct the Parks commission to look at a policy for naming trails. I suggest the council by-pass the commission and just name a portion of a trail after him. Designate a section of trail in the Brea Damn Recreation area as the James Wernke Memorial Trail. Done. Fire the Parks Director and get a leader..

Item 13 is an amendment to the City’s municipal code relating to permitted parking. As I recall, this has to do with the overflow of students parking on public street and residents not being too happy.

Items 14 and 15 fall under the heading of REGULAR BUSINESS. 14 covers moving our money hither and dither in a shell game related to trails. 15 discusses a Budget Review Process.

The Fullerton City Council And It’s Trail of Tears to Nowhere

It's a long wretched journey, but is sure isn't worth it when you get there...
It's a long wretched journey, but it sure isn't worth it when you get there...

We have almost exhausted ourselves relating the long and troubling story of the Poisoned Park, AKA the Union Pacific Park, a perfect case study in local government overreach, squandered millions, and zero accountability from our “very, very good” City Manager or anybody else for that matter.

with a spring in his step...
with a spring in his step...

First the Redevelopment Agency interfered in a private sector transaction; then they unwittingly acquired contaminated property. Then they built a park that nobody but cholos and borrachos used (good thing half of it was fenced off!). Several million bucks later city staff sat on an embarrassing disaster whose magnitude could only be minimized by comparing it to other historical Redevelopment fiascoes.

But now to the point of this post. On Tuesday, the council voted to apply for grant  funds to continue the “trail” westward from Highland, even though they had been informed of a toxic plume under the property. More millions spent on more contaminated property! And still no explanation about the fact that this idiotic “trail” has no provision to take pedestrians, cyclists (or horses, yee haw!) over the at-grade crossings at Highland and Richman; and no coherent vision about how this thing is supposed to function at all.

When the issue of contamination popped up, City Engineer Don Hoppe made some noise about how they had looked into the issue (yeah, sure Don); ever helpful City Attorney Jones suggested that the application be made anyway while some sort of site check up be performed.

Huh? Once again nobody seemed real curious about how the City got stuck with contaminated property (no doubt mistakes were made and hindsight is 20/20). Instead of accountability they seem more more interested in chucking more good money after bad.

Like chickens with their heads left on
Like chickens with their heads left on

And of course it didn’t really seem to bother anybody that the City’s previous efforts on the Union Pacific right-of-way have been a titanic debacle from start to…well, there will probably never be a finish.

Now that's not very good, is it?
Now that's not very good, is it?

The thought process behind the original, ill-conceived acquisition still seems to be driving things along: it’s there, we’re the City, and there is an opportunity to own property, play park designer and trail manager, not to mention playing around with millions of dollars of somebody else’s dough.

Placentia One-Ups Fullerton: Drives Lawnmower Into Lake

Today in a brazen attempt to escalate an ongoing feud of municipal clumsiness between the two cities, a Placentia city Parks and Rec contractor piloted his lawnmower into the lake at Tri-City Park. Witness below a photo of the crew in action during the extraction process, taken earlier today by an observant FFFF fan.

tri-city-mower

Scorekeepers should note that Placentia has been giving Fullerton a run for it’s money in this race to the bottom ever since the early days of the OnTrac debacle.

The City is Violating Its Own Law in Hillcrest Park

hillcrest3837792771_0217528a41

If you’ve driven along Brea Boulevard lately you will have noticed that the north hill side of Hillcrest Park has been completely scraped as part of the so-called Lions Field improvements. Well, the hillside was suffering from total (and I mean complete) negligence on the part of the City for decades. What is being built, are large retaining structures to “stabilize” the slope. The only problem is that what the slope needed to stabilize it was appropriate landscaping – a solution that the parks Department ignored for years.

The addition of retaining structures in the park is inappropriate. More than that, it’s illegal. Hillcrest Park is a designated Fullerton Landmark (#6) and as such the types of alteration being proposed  should have been reviewed in a public hearing by the Landmarks Commission. This never happened. It’s true that Hillcrest Park doesn’t fit into any of the categories included in the watered-down version of the Landmarks Ordinance passed by the City about 12 years ago. But adherence to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards is one key. Another issue is that of demolition and replacement of historic elements. Even the watered down code has a spirit that has not been observed.

Once again the City has ignored its own laws, laws that you or I would be expected to follow. It has specifically ignored the Landmark Ordinance once again, a part of the Zoning Code that the City has habitually and serially abused over the years (if you want I’ll make a list).

For years the City has turned over the park to pervs and low-lifes while ignoring the historic built environment. And now it seems they are embarked on another form of abuse of an historic resource.

Poor Arguments Abound in Bicycle Link Battle

The battle of the Puente Street bicycle path will intensify tonight at a special Parks and Rec commission meeting, giving us an opportunity to examine the silly exaggerations and misdirections shouted from both ends of the table. There are probably dozens of excellent arguments both for and against the 1/4 mile section of bike path that will connect Brea and Fullerton neighborhoods, but sometimes it’s more fun to point out the sillier arguments thrown between the NIMBY’s and the two-wheeled maniacs.

  1. In a (properly labeled) Observer editorial, Barbara Rothbart warns that bicycle users on the bridge will not be protected from flying golf balls while crossing the bridge, as if they were more dangerous than sending bicycle riders onto busy arterial streets.
  2. Heads up!
    Heads up!
  3. Members of the bicycle users subcommittee counter by claiming that there are 40,000+ bicycle riders in Fullerton. While there may be that many bikes stored in Fullerton garages, that number probably has no relation to the expected use of the proposed bridge.

    40,001 - every bike counts.
    40,001 - every bike counts.
  4. Local homeowners are suddenly afraid that we might slip and fall if the city were to pave the 17.7% grade, keenly ignoring the fact that this grade is already open to the public and covered in loose gravel.

    Bike riders, we care about you. We really do.
    Bike riders, we care about you. We really do.
  5. Vince Buck calls the pre-fabricated bridge a “local stimulus project”, though it is unlikely that the bridge will be pre-fabbed anywhere near Fullerton nor installed by Fullerton contractors.

    Not quite the pork we were hoping for
    Not quite the pork we were hoping for

We could go on and on, but you get the point.  Bike path debaters, please don’t marginalize the argument with this superfluous stuff. If you have a legitimate, sane comment about the proposed bike path, you may want to show up at tonight’s meeting.

THE STRANGE & TRAGIC TALE OF HILLCREST PARK

UPDATE: We are republishing this wonderful post by Fred Olmstead originally posted on February 21, 2009. We do so in order to highlight the fact that the park – suffering from real blight – is in the Redevelopment project area, and stands as yet another testament to the failure of Redevelopment. Sharon Quirk, are you reading this?

– The Fullerton Shadow

 

Loyal Friends of Fullerton’s Future, gather ‘round the cool glow of your computer terminals and follow a sad saga of miserable municipal negligence.

Located in the center of Fullerton is a resource of inestimable value, overlooked by almost everybody in and outside of City Hall: Hillcrest Park. Included in an early vision of the city it followed upon the City Beautiful, and natural urban park elements of the Progressive movement; and coincided nicely with the new auto culture of the 1920s, positioned as it was, along the original Highway 1.

Developed fully during the Depression in a rustic mode, the park soon after began a long decline into municipal irrelevance, and if anything, seemed to be perceived by many as a liability rather than a great asset.   This tragic trajectory is a shameful blot on Fullerton’s history and is akin to placing your eighty-five year old mother in a criminally negligent nursing home.

After Don Bankhead and Fullerton’s Finest chased out the acid-dropping hippies in the 1960s, the park became a haven for perverts; trees began to die and were not replaced; erosion claimed many of the north and west facing slopes and was not arrested; as the infrastructure crumbled it was replaced by City Engineer Hugh Berry with incongruous cinder block walls and concrete light poles.

In the mid-1990s Redevelopment Director Gary Chalupsky, in a philanthropic mood, decided that Redevelopment funds could be used to address Hillcrest Park issues – the first official over-the-shoulder glance toward the park in years.

And here, dear Friends, the story turns from a chronicle of benign neglect to one of outright incompetence and, one might plausibly argue, a form of bureaucratic malevolence.

In 1996 the usual scoping/charette pantomime was performed with an historic park landscape architect, specially imported from Riverside. An odd thing happened: every time the consultant prepared a list of priorities for the park, the Community Services Department’s wishes kept getting pushed to the top. The Director of Community Services was Susan Hunt, a woman long known for her mindless turf battles with her constituents – (including the Isaak Walton Cabin in Hillcrest). Hunt was determined to hijack the process and divert resources from where they were needed to facilities that she and her department could control and perhaps even profit from.

Hunt was successful. The consultant, knowing whom it was important to please, seemed only too happy to abet the fraud that was perpetrated. The city council (including current Jurassic members Bankhead and Jones) went along. Chris Norby was there, too. Now he’s in charge of the County’s parks.

A new playground replaced the old one in the Lemon parking area even though no one had complained about the existing one that parents seemed to like. More egregious still, a new facility (known as Hillcrest Terrace) was built behind the Veteran’s building that could be rented out for social functions. But the real needs of the park – slope stabilization, plant cataloguing and replacement, the removal of inappropriate elements – went unaddressed – and the problems have continued unabated to this day, ten years later, as interest in the park waned again.

Last fall the City once again roused itself from its somnolence and created an ad hoc committee to consider issues related to Hillcrest Park. The time is, perhaps, propitious. Susan Hunt has disappeared into an overdue and well-compensated retirement, current Director Joe Felz is much more amenable to citizen input. It’s time to reclaim this park.

Hillcrest is still in the Redevelopment Area and remains affected by indisputable blight. This should become a priority for Redevelopment Director Rob Zur Schmied.

While we wonder if the Hillcrest Park committee will actually display the necessary independence from staff manipulation, and that they possess the necessary technical abilities, we wish them well. And we encourage citizens to make sure that this time any assessment of Hillcrest will objectively address the needs of the park and report directly to the City Council. Recommendations should be included in the City’s Capital Budget.

Hillcrest Park can and must return to being the crown jewel of Fullerton’s parks.