The Cost of The Florentine Sidewalk Scam

Gone, but not quite forgotten…

Of course everybody is now familiar with how, in 2003, the Florentine Mob successfully put a permanent building on an area that only had an “outside dining” encroachment agreement. The details of the case reveal an incompetence and misfeasance on the part of city staff that is truly mind-numbing, the principle party being F. Paul Dudley, Planning Director, who “approved” the illegal permanent structure as it was being built in June, 2003. He also  seems to have personally approved a loan to the Florentine crew, and rental terms on the space that weren’t approved by the City Council.

dick-jones
Staying awake long enough to break the law…

Of course it wouldn’t be Fullerton unless our legal-eagle Dick Jones also played a part in the fiasco, and in the inevitable cover-up. He actually put his signature on a completely different agreement in August, 2003 – two months after Dudley did his sleazy back-room deal. How’s that for staggering incompetence?

The gun was smoking badly…

Note that “for some reason” the agreement was not formally executed until August. For some reason? Jesus H., Jones, did you even bother to ask why you signed something that was obsolete, or why in Hell you were signing it?

So the embarrassing enclosure was allowed to continue in July, 2003 even though the furor continued for months, and the deal was finally buried in 2004 whereby the parties involved, Shawn Nelson, Don Bankhead, Dick Jones, Mike Clesceri and Leland Wilson surely hoped it was forever interred.

Well, now it’s 2020. The legal party responsible to remove and restore the encroachment area has fled the scene, and the embarrassment of the Florentine addition that squats on public property, remains.

The owner of the rest of the building, Mr. Mario Marivic is apparently embroiled in a legal fight with the FloMob, and good luck to him. But good luck to us, too. Because we, the citizens of Fullerton, have an unowned room addition on our right-of-way, and the people on the hook for its possible removal are gone. Mr. Marovic is under no obligation to remove the structure, and he is not even under any obligation to pay the measly 25 cents per foot that the egregious F. Paul Dudley “negotiated” with the Florentines. The City’s options are limited: it can terminate the encroachment and pay to remove the building addition itself, or it can negotiate a new lease agreement with Marovic, and the sidewalk stays as is. Either way, the public loses.

So this Ghost of Incompetence Past continues to haunt us almost 20 years after the con was consummated. Mr. Dudley has been six-figure pensioned, and the inept councilmen who were indifferent to the notion of government accountability are dead or moved on. But Attorney Dick Jones is still around, profiting off of the gullibility, incompetence and militant ignorance of our “leaders.”

Erection Dysfunction

 

If someone takes the time to review the history of Fullerton over the past forty years, one thing becomes shockingly clear: when it comes to building things, maintaining things and planning for things, the City government just can’t do much of anything right. And yet over this long history, the City and the public seem to have the shortest of memories.

For the denizens of City Hall, the fact that the jalopy has no rear view mirror makes perfect sense. After all, if you’re pulling down well over a hundred Gs, with a trampoline retirement coming your way, why spoil things with strange notions like accountability and responsibility? It’s so much easier to pretend nothing bad has happened.

A little Jack Daniels gets you through the morning.

The people who live here on the other hand, have no such incentive; quite the reverse, in fact. So how come constant repetition of the disastrous lessons from the past are tolerated? Is it easier to just ignore the millions upon millions wasted in foolish vanity projects, make-work comedies, and deteriorating infrastructure? Maybe.

But I hope that by continuing the drumbeat started on this brave blog 11 years ago, sooner or later the populace will wake up to the ineptitude and dissimulation by its highly paid, and so far untouchable masters of disaster.

And so join me Friends as I take you on trip down memory lane, Fullerton style.

Today almost nobody remembers the comical City endeavor to transform Harbor Boulevard in the early 80s by removing on-street parking, adding medians, spike-laden, pod-dropping floss silk trees, and bizarre concrete peristyles along the sidewalks. Comical, did I say? It would have been funny except that it doomed the businesses along Harbor to slow entropy. The ridiculous peristyles were soon removed but the rest of the mess lasted for decades and many of the hideous trees and broken sidewalks are still there as a reminder that the City is perfectly willing to waste millions on hare-brained, concept-of-the-day tomfoolery that gives them something to do.

The stupid that men do lives after them…

The Allen Hotel, was Fullerton’s first foray into “affordable” housing back in the late 80s. It was a slum, alright and thirty years after the City’s bungling acquisition, the site is just begging for more “redevelopment.” Will it get it?

The once and present tenement…

The CSUF Stadium & Fundraising Fiasco of 1990 ought to give plenty of pause to those contemplating Big Projects with public money. The brainchild of slimy City Councilman and later slimy State Senator, Dick Ackerman, the idea was to build a permanent home for the CSUF football team. Only trouble was that the $15,000,000 stadium was completed the same year the plug was pulled on a dismal gridiron program. In typical fashion, the City invested in a fundraising plan in which a company was hired at a cost of several hundred thou to raise money, and didn’t. Oops!

Oh, boy, the other football!

The horror story “Knowlwood Corner” is a veritable textbook case of government bureaucratic misfeasance, from start to finish. The story started in the early 90s and dragged on for years and years; when the signature building was finally built, the missing second floor became a perfect symbol for this misadventure. From stupid economic micromanagement to horrible architecture, this one touched all the bases – and it took seven years to do so.

There is no second floor. Other than that it’s a 2 story building

The Bank of Italy Building was another disaster from the early 90s, but one that actually gutted an historic building. Millions in public money were wasted to pay for something that never should have been undertaken in the first place.

Deception, Incompetence and Damn Proud of It

The North Platform remodel of 1992-93 proved that no matter how bungled things were in Fullerton, it could always get worse. A landscape architect was hired to place as many impediments between passengers and trains as was humanly possible. Some of the citizens got wise, and half the crap was ripped out. Heads rolled in City Hall. Oh, wait, no they didn’t.

Trees and planters block the platform; staff obstruction was almost as bad.

Few folks now remember the Fairway Toyota dealership expansion fiasco from the mid-90s that required threatening an old lady with eminent domain and then closing off Elm Avenue forever. The City’s investment disappeared like an early summer morning’s dew when the dealership took off for Anaheim a few years later. After years of housing a used car dealership, the City permitted the development of another massive cliff dwelling along Harbor Boulevard. The losses were never accounted for but at least the neighbors got a nice view and early shade.

So bad he had to pull over and barf…

 

For those who can remember the Fullerton SRO debacle – a history filled with so much doubling down on stupidity that it strains credulity – it remains one of Fullerton’s saddest tales. Years and millions were burned on fly-by-night developers, one of whom turned out to be impecunious, and the other a flim-flam artist.

Fort Mithawalla, AKA, the Bum Box…

Fullerton’s Corporate Yard expansion was a mid-nineties project that left the City gasping for air. Despite hiring an outside construction manager and paying him a couple hundred grand, the project dissolved into a litigation mess that only escaped public embarrassment because nobody on the City Council gave a damn. Settlement details vanished into the haze.

The so-called Poison Park on Truslow Avenue may set the standard for Fullerton incompetence, although admittedly, the competition is fierce. In the late 90s, the City had Redevelopment money to burn and just couldn’t wait to do so. So they bought a piece of industrial property and built a park that nobody outside City Hall wanted. Cost? $3,000,000. Of course the site attracted gang members and drug dealers as predicted. Worse still, the land was contaminated and the “park” fenced off. It’s been like that for almost 15 years. And Counting.

Maybe the less said, the better…

No story of Fullerton calamities would be complete without once again sharing the tale of the Florentine Sidewalk Hijacking, in which a permit for “outside dining” was transformed one day by the Florentine Mob into a permanent building blocking half a public sidewalk. The Big City Planner, Paul Dudley, said everything was peachy. He was lying, of course, but did anybody really care?

Caution – ethical behavior narrows ahead…

In a great example of the tail wagging the dog, the Fox Theater has been used to justify all kinds of nonsense, including moving a McDonald’s  a 150 feet to the east and later proposing development of perhaps the greatest architectural monstrosity anybody has ever seen. This saga is still going on, believe it or not, after two decades or more. No one knows how much has been wasted going nowhere on this rolling disaster, and no one seems the least bit interested in finding out.

Egad. What a freaking mess…

Some people might conclude that the majority of Fullerton’s disasters can be laid at the feet of the Redevelopment Agency (really just the City Council) and well-pensioned, inept managers like Terry Galvin and Gary Chaplusky. When they weren’t slapping brick veneer on anything that didn’t move, they were screwing everything else up, too. But when we regard the history of Laguna Lake we enter into the realm of Fullerton’s Parks and Engineering mamalukes. After spending a small fortune on renovating the lake, the thing leaked like a sieve. Hundreds of millions of premium MWD gallons were pumped into the thing to keep it full. The public and council were left in the dark, even as citizens were told to conserve water in their homes. Did anyone in charge give a damn? Did anyone ask how much money and water were squandered over the years? Of course not. This is Fullerton. We could ask Engineering Director Don Hoppe for details, except that he is now comfortably retired and pulling down a massive pension.

Water in, water out…

Our professional planners, have been knee deep in Fullerton’s morass. Over-development (see example, above) has been fostered and nowhere was this better seen than in the Core and Corridors Specific Plan. This idiotic plan wasted a million bucks of State money without a backward glance after the whole thing was finally dumped on the QT  – too stupid even for Fullerton. Did anybody ask for their money back? Nope. And yet  a link to a blank web page titled Core and Corridors still exists! Hope springs eternal.

The 2000s proved that nobody in City Hall or out, was learning anything, even after the expensive failures of the 90s. The “West Harbor Improvement” project in 2009, was an endeavor so unnecessary that it could only be proposed in Fullerton, where government “place making” has never succeeded. The alley is a barf zone behind a bunch of bars that only needs hosing down every Sunday morning.

What can we do with it ? Or to it?

We’ve already covered in detail the multi-million dollar death march of the new elevators at the depot, an unnecessary project that was only pursued because “other people’s money” was paying for it – that is until the project burned into its seventh year. And then City money had to pay to keep the disaster on life support. Aggravating this complete folly and waste is the fact that the existing elevators tower stairs are slowly rusting away and the glass is graffiti marred.

Let the groundbreaking begin. No point in waiting to waste other people’s money, right?

 

This litany of disasters, follies and debacles brings us to the Pinewood Stairs at Hillcrest Park which put on display the incompetence of the designer, the city staff, the construction manager, and a contractor who couldn’t build a sand box to code. Wasting $1.6 million is bad enough; permitting the code violations and construction deficiencies go unfixed is even worse. Barely two years old, the ramshackle structure moves more than the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

A light post not even fit for a drunk to lean on…

And finally, let us not forget the completely useless $725,000 “ceremonial” bridge over Brea Creek at Hillcrest Park. Of course it’s just there to make some sort of statement, not to be used. The only statement that occurs to me is one of conspicuous consumption by a city that is just rolling in dough.

And over all these years Fullerton’s “leaders have neglected our aging infrastructure and permitted zone changes allowing for massive new development that has lined the pockets of developers and political campaign coffers, and left the rest of us with even more traffic and more burden on our roads and pipes.

Water, water everywhere. Except where it’s supposed to be…

 

It could be worse. No it couldn’t.

The end.

 

Fire Sprinklers Save Lives and Property!

The family goes way back

And who should know that better than the Florentine Family whose nightclubs at the corner Harbor and Commonwealth, as FFFF recently noted, were out of compliance with their Conditional Use Permit that requires the installation of fire sprinklers.

Yo, this is better’n Joisey. I got me a sidewalk!

This is surely ironic to people who consider such things, since the paterfamilas of the clan, Tony, used to own a restaurant and lounge called the Melody Inn that was gutted by a suspicious fire in 1989 and required the demolition of the oldest remaining commercial building in Fullerton. This in turn, set off a years-long bureaucratic chain of humiliation and Redevelopment folly that concluded with the construction of a hamburger restaurant and other architectural monstrosities.

There is no second floor. Other than that it’s a 2 story building

 

Maybe it was supposed to be a swimming pool

Now, you might think that someone who suffered such a terrible tragedy as losing a business just a few hundred feet from his current one would be a lot more concerned about a repeat performance in 2019. And you might think the Fullerton municipal government would be a lot more concerned about fire safety and well-being of the Florentines’ patrons.

 

 

Fullerton to Build DTF Love Shack Hotel

In the continuing stream of solutions to questions no one asked, one of the last actions taken by the current lame duck City Council tomorrow will be the approval of an “exclusive negotiating agreement” to build a boutique hotel in the Fullerton Transportation Center.

As everyone knows, Downtown Fullerton needs three things to be more successful:

  1. Less Parking
  2. More alcohol
  3. More places to have sex

Well, here we go! A triple threat project that eliminates 200 parking spaces, probably includes at least one bar, and will be within stumbling distance for hundreds of coeds each weekend who find the alley behind Zings too piss soaked to properly canoodle.

No word if the proposed Love Shack will have vibrating mattresses, but being immediately adjacent to  one of the busiest freight rail corridors in the country ought to provide plenty of stimulation.

We think the BNSF 2:30AM heading out to Albuquerque will be particularly popular with those who are DTF.

Choo-Choo. All aboard!

City Lies While Attempting Hostile Takeover of Library

Odds are that the Fullerton City Council will vote tonight to fire the Library Board and replace it with themselves in a cynical attempt to steal property to offset some Police & Fire Pensions. Fitzgerald wants to do it, Chaffee wants to do it and it likely won’t take much effort to convince Silva to do it.

Why? Because the city needs to pad the budget to fill holes left by Public Safety Pensions and totally predictable but avoided CALPers issues.

Thus the City is planning, under Ken Domer’s guidance, to take property donated to the library to plug General Fund budget holes.

Donated. As in stealing charity. Love Fullerton, indeed.

This is the brainchild of Councilwoman Fitzgerald despite her original campaign rhetoric about libraries being a “core service”. I guess we can just add this to the long list of lies Jennifer Fitzgerald said to get elected. We’ll put this one right up there with her promise not to take a salary and to desire to implement zero based budgeting.

Oops.  Fooled you!

 

(more…)

Another Felzian Development

Word has got out that disgraced former city manager Joe Felz is working with Crittenton Services on a new “mixed-use” development on Harbor Boulevard. It’s hard to imagine Crittenden – that takes care of wayward and abused girls – being in the land development business so that doesn’t quite make sense – unless maybe it’s to build themselves a new corporate complex.

Is Felz working for a fee so he can profit from all those inside contacts he continues to cultivate after his (and our) municipal humiliation? Maybe he is donating his valuable time for the sake of the charity. Either way, it hard to see why Crittenden would think the services of Felz, who quit after getting popped driving off the road and trying to make a quick getaway, would be anything other than an embarrassment to them.

 

I’ll drink to that!

A little research shows that Crittenden has assembled quite a bit of real estate over the years. And curiously (or not) it is directly adjacent to the “Fox Block” monstrosity that never seems to go away.

If the city made a deal to get rid of the “useless” triangle parking lot, the rest of Crittendon’s property along with the covering of a flood control channel and the elimination of an alleyway would make a great apartment block.

And finally, I note that the Fullerton Redevelopment Successor Agency is holding on to $6 million for the Fox Block – vestigial redevelopment Monopoly money that will end up in some developer’s pocket.

Haluza’s BID Bid Bites Dust

Haluza

On Tuesday night our esteemed City Council, a clan that can never say no to a bad idea, reviewed Community Development Director Karen Haluza’s Big Plan to begin the process to create a downtown BID. For the uninitiated, BID stands for Business Improvement District. FFFF already gave the Friends a heads up, here.

To remind you, a BID means a new property lax levy. In downtown the lion’s share of any tax is going to go to the cops, whose performance shutting down the booze culture gives zero confidence that more money in their direction is money well spent. The rest of the loot would probably be wasted on stupid, footling projects that give work to Haluza’s crack staff. Here’s an example of the sort of nonsense that gave our planners the warm and fuzzies before Redevelopment was abolished.

Anyway, the Council got an earful from a few property owners – including one who vehemently denied being notified of the hearing. FFFF will soon be highlighting the comments of this gentleman who poignantly observed that his property income is his retirement income, and, pointing to the uniformed Heroes in the back of the room trenchantly noted that nobody was talking about taking their retirement away.

Our lobbyist-councilperson Jennifer Fitzgerald, who no doubt oversaw this wretched swindle in the first place as a way to keep her bar-owner pals from having to pay to clean up their own mess, moved to continue the item indefinitely. The others didn’t have a whole lot to say, which is typical.

My belief is that we have not seen the last of this obnoxious dodge, a way for the city to get somebody else to pay for their disastrous bar-on-every corner policy.

How Much Mixed-Use Do We Need?

Looking Askance at the “Need” Argument

If you build it…

The City of Fullerton is the process, through the planning commission, of bringing another abomination of a project back to life. What was once “Amerige Court” will now be “Amerige Commons”.

The key reason that the Amerige Commons project is being resurrected is because we allegedly need it. Need being the operative word thanks to our supposed housing and retail shortfall. Or so says the city. Again. Again. And yet again. I’m starting to wonder what the word need even means anymore in this town. Or any town for that matter.

City folk say that our residential vacancy rate is X% and to the city that alone correlates need. In a market economy you would look at what’s selling and adjust to reflect the market. Therefore if single family homes are the fastest sellers you would work to build more single family homes. If you wanted to court a younger population you would build in their price-range. However we’re talking about government and not a market economy and in this case the only sales that matter are the votes of our council members and the developers locked most of those sales up years ago.

If we take the city planners seriously we are forced to focus on the need issue so what do we really need here in Fullerton? (more…)

Amerige Court Becomes Amerige Commons

Hello Fullerton Friends. I’ve been gone for a few weeks owing to the Flu, Family, Festivus and other merriment this time of year. I hope you’re all enjoying your holidays whichever ones you choose to enjoy. Feeling better I wanted to start to dive into some of the public records requests I’ve received from the city but my wife wants me to write about Amerige Court. As my Grandfather once told me that the two most important words in a marriage are “Yes, Dear” I suppose I’m going to have to write about Amerige Court.

For those who don’t keep track of Fullerton boondoggles year in and year out Amerige Court was originally planned to be a 9-Story Mixed Use monstrosity which would sit on the property that is currently some of the most heavily utilized parking for Downtown Fullerton straddling Amerige Avenue between Harbor Blvd and Malden Avenue.

The plus side, at the time of inception anyways, was that it would provide Downtown with 150% of the parking that was (and is) currently available with the downside being every other aspect of this plan. When people got wind of it the city pushed the plan into a “Study Session” where it was cut down from 9 stories to a more reasonable size and the 150% parking requirement was nixed because why not take the only good thing away from the plan. (more…)