Another Tough Trail Truth

During the recent Trail to Nowhere kerfuffle one of the big problems the limo liberals had was bending their brains around the possibility of a multi-modal facility that might improve circulation and offer development flexibility, particularly in light of the massive development the City staff is going to try to cram into the 30 acres adjacent to the UP right-of-way.

Bikes and traffic don’t mix, came the anguished cry of people like Egleth Nucci and Shana Charles who would have never ridden a bike, or even ambled a long the Trail to Nowhere, and ignoring a world full of urban examples where bicycles and cars get along just fine.

These same self-appointed “experts” seemed unconcerned that their beloved trail would have to negotiate intersections at both Highland and Richman Avenues.

To find and example of a space shared by trail and car lane, all these Option 1/trail-only people had to do was look across Highland to their much bragged about “Phase I.” Here’s a satellite image:

Please note that the Phase I portion accommodates both a roadway and a recreation trail! Land o’ Goshen! Is it really possible? Well, of course it is. The trails cult has already built, and often described this existing configuration between the closed UP Park and Highland Avenue as the inevitable prelude to Phase II; but now for some reason, a paved portion west of Highland is verboten.

Oh, well, one thing we can expect in Fullerton, and that is a complete lack of reason and intelligence when it comes to this sort of thing. It’s more important that the so-called professionals do what they want, and there will always be enough dopes in the City to go along and to even be a called a “community.” And then there are those politicians like Ahmad Zahra who decide to score cheap points patronizing their constituents by giving them “nice things” that aren’t nice at all.

Economic Development 101

In my last post I introduced the topic of Fullerton’s latest foray into “Economic Development” a term that really refers to the idea that a city can generate more sales tax revenue through its ministerial efforts so that it can hire more people and pay them more money.

This is the old California Redevelopment mantra that was used by cities across California for decades to hand out land, cash, and favors to chosen developers and retailers. Nowadays, there’s really only land to give away as we saw in Fullerton with the abysmal “Tracks at the Tracks” project that ironically handed away millions of dollars in potential up-front revenue that might have balanced our budget in 2025 all by itself.

I thought I would spend some time reviewing the Kosmont Companies report and watching our esteemed City Council’s review of said “Retail Market Strategy.” To say that I was underwhelmed would be an understatement.

The report is 90 pages long. 95% of it is data mined from some source which tells us nothing an ordinary person couldn’t fathom all by himself – like on-line shopping is a big problem – and which seems almost disconnected from the recommendations on pages 11-13.

I have to wonder about the source of all this tsunami of numbers and even their validity. One side-by-side pair of graphs was particularly dubious.

Huh?

Somehow triple net rents in Fullerton spiked, even as vacancies soared. Meanwhile in the broader areas of Orange County, including neighboring towns, vacancies somehow dropped during the worst of the Covid pandemic. And in Fullerton the graph shows, rents stabilized, even dipped in ’21-’22 even though demand apparently skyrocketed. I’m not an economist but this sure looks like pure nonsenso-data to me.

Anyway, the recommendations are just a boilerplate laundry list of ways to spend money, and a lot of it, to hopefully make money. I’m sure Kosmont uses them over and over again in every “study” they perform. Here they are. Enjoy:

What a load of consultant bullshit-jargon leading to the inevitable conclusion that Fullerton needs to hire more people in order to pay for the ones we already have. If we look at these recommendation we see the old Redevelopment lingo writ anew – collaborations, outreach, improvement districts, façade improvements, “thematic” sidewalks, way-finding, public art. Don’t forget enhanced customer service! And of course collecting data (probably through the kindly and expensive offices of Kosmont itself). But is there a single mention of a public accountability program by which the people of Fullerton and their elected representatives can determine if money blown on this nonsense even paid for itself? Nuh-uh.

And of course Kosmont’s “study” diplomatically avoided mentioning Downtown Fullerton’s million dollar budgetary sinkhole, supporting the myth that it is an asset instead of a decades-old liability. Maybe they think thematic sidewalks will clean up the clientele.

The Council’s reaction to this consulto-gibberish was utterly predictable. Ahmad Zahra, who must have peed himself in excitement over Action Item 12 was completely on board and vocally supported the need to increase “staffing levels” to accomplish this laundry list of pabulum. He believes that art tourism, and all of Fullerton’s museums can pave the way to success. His accomplice in stupidity, Shana Charles was all giddy, too, and pointed out the inescapable link between economic development and Fullerton’s “urban forest” whatever that may mean.

Silence is golden…

Bruce Whitaker mentioned that he was a follower of somebody named Jane Jacobs and supported organic economic development. A wise position, but one completely at odds with his recent approval of the idiotic City-driven apartment/hotel boondoggle that flushed millions and millions right down the municipal commode.

In the end nothing specific was decided and the Council moved on, no one having bothered to find out, presumably because they didn’t care, what this 90 page report cost the taxpayers of Fullerton.

A Massive Gift of Public Money

In December, as the Friends will remember, the City of Fullerton sold a public parking lot to a so-called developer for $1,400,000. The “developer” had the task of building a boutique hotel and an apartment block. FFFF has already documented the ridiculous density the City has bestowed upon the project. So let’s revisit the topic of land value, a calculation based on the number of residential units a developer can cram onto a parcel of land.

Look, it even has the café the bureaucrats demanded!

In this case we know precisely how many units are proposed because the development agreement tells us. There are going to be 141 apartment units and 118 hotel rooms – rooms that will undoubtedly be converted to low income housing when the hotel concept fails. Dividing 259 units by $1.4 million gives us $5400 per “door” as they say in the biz.

Does that number seem low? I didn’t really know, so I contacted some pros at Land Advisors who informed me that a more typical number is in the range of $60,000 to $65,000 per unit in these parts, which produces a land value of about $15.5 million and above.

So the “economic development” geniuses in City Hall got the City Council to agree to a massive reduction in value for the sale of the land, a reduction that could be in the neighborhood of $14,000,000.

Now we all know that government and its agents shield themselves (or try very hard to) from accountability for this type of incredible giveaway. It’s not a crime to be stupid, and so there the issue of legal malfeasance can be fuzzy without proof of corruption. But here there is the issue of misfeasance that in this case justifies the initiation of a recall of the elected representatives who voted for this evident gift of public funds.

Mother’s milk…

And those three representatives are Ahmad Zahra, Shana Charles and Bruce Whitaker.

Now, undoubtedly, these three politicos would argue that they had great reasons for “subsidizing” this boondoggle, and that those excellent reasons are well-worth the $14,000,000 they happily pitched at the developer, an individual, we must remember, who brought this unsolicited proposal to the City. But the City, remember, never did its due diligence by opening up this concept (or any other) for a submission of qualifications by those who might have been interested. No. Not even after several years had gone by and the proposer had been granted several extensions of a Exclusive Negotiating Agreement and the proposal kept metastasizing.

Are a “boutique” hotel at the train tracks and yet another overbearing apartment block so important that they justify the $14,000,000 giveaway? Well, I would challenge Charles, Whitaker and Zahra to prove it to voters in their districts.

Track the Tracks. They Said What?

I’ve been relating the newest bit of Fullerton nonsense lately, to wit: the unfolding, bureaucrat driven, unfolding the disaster now know by the funny name The Tracks at Fullerton Station.

So far, we’ve found out that the 141 unit density of the apartment half of this hermaphroditic monster was based on the entire site size, despite the fact that that the “boutique” hotel, all 118 units, sits majestically on the other half. In essence, the Transportation Center Specific Plan limit of 60 units an acre – which is already ungodly dense – has been multiplied by two-and-a-half times, and the environmental documents that have already been approved by the City Council neglect to address this incompatibility with existing governmental strictures.

But it gets even worse.

It’s axiomatic that government minions will invariably cough up “solutions” to non-existent problems. It’s called job security, and the results, as these pages have amply demonstrated over the years, are never subjected to the embarrassment of scrutiny and accountability. This concept is not different.

At the recent Planning Commission hearing we learned that the project in question involves the complete remodel of the existing parking area just north of the Santa Fe Depot, south of Santa Fe Avenue. This further elimination of parking is being proposed to accommodate a brand new bust lane and stop. Why? No intelligent reason was forthcoming. Here’s the site plan:

Because the current bus stop is so far away…

The existing OCTA bus stops and canopies are only a couple hundred feet away. Is this deemed too far for the scant few travelers who use both bus and train? Of course not. Obviously some “transit” dreamers are hard at work, making work – for themselves.

And now notice at the right of the site plan the proposed hotel juts into the existing Pomona Avenue right-of-way. This will require an abandonment of part of a public street which would require an official abandonment. This is being done to provide outdoor eating for the proposed ground floor café. In order to provide an alternative, our thoughtful staff floated the idea of non-permanent elements in the same area, only requiring the issuance of an encroachment permit. Here’s the architect’s vision looking south along Pomona Avenue:

Aw, Hell, just give it to ’em.

This wet, hot mess was all approved by the five gourds sitting on the Planning Commission dais. Soon it will make its way to the City Council. Will it pass, as the sale of the property did in December? Will the three who voted to virtually give away this useful public land – Whitaker, Charles and Zahra – vote to double down on their foolishness and approve the monstrosity, the unnecessary bus stop and the abandonment?

Let a smile be your umbrella…

My educated guess is they will do it cheerfully.

Track the Tracks. It’s all Based On a Con Job

The plan had problems…

So last time I resurrected the disaster of the proposed “boutique” hotel at the Transportation Center and noted that the land had already been sold – even before the so-called entitlements were in place. It was all crammed into the end of the year to avoid compliance with the new State requirements for getting rid of “surplus” land. The fact that the land in question is not surplus – it provides much needed parking for commuters and our esteemed downtown revelers – doesn’t seem to have entered any decision makers’ noggin. Common sense be damned, this is The Tracks at Fullerton Station.

Yes. I could do that job.

But I discovered the real travesty while watching the Planning Commission hearing on the proposed site plan and conditions for a hotel use.

See, the hotel concept somehow metastasized over the past five years to include a standard, massive housing block – yet another cliff dwelling – giving indication that not only was the new developer trying to cram his pockets with all he could get, but that that this new element may have been needed to ensure success for the whole endeavor.

And here’s where the swindle comes in. The density of the apartment block was developed using the entire site area. So our sharp planners took the 1.7 acre site and multiplied it by the Transportation Center Specific Plan limit of 60 units per acre. That’s 99 units. Then, because the developer was proposing 13 “low to very low” units he got a “density bonus” of another 42 units, per State law. If you’re counting, that’s 141 units.

But wait! Those 141 units sit on only 60% of the property, the other 40% being dedicated to the hotel.

Think about that. The whole site is being used to justify the massive density on only a portion of the site. Meantime the hotel proposal has an additional 118 rooms on its part of the site. Friends, let’s do some math. 118 plus 141 equals 259 units for the entire site, or a jaw-droppingly massive 152 units an acre, 2.5 times the density allowed in the Transportation Center Specific Plan!

How do I know the percentage of use for hotel and apartment block? Because the developer is asking for, and getting, a legal parcel division that shows separate parcels for the hotel and apartment. And here’s the Tentative Parcel Map submitted to the Planning Commission:

Based on the developers own Tentative Parcel Map, the land underneath the apartment component amounts to 42,684 square feet, which is 98% of an acre. This entitles him to only 59 units per the Specific Plan. Adding the State density bonus of 40% brings the allowable total to 83. But he’s getting 141. And a hotel with another 118 rooms on the same 1.7 acres.

Finally, I have to point out that the City Council itself – specifically Zahra, Charles and Whitaker already approved a Mitigated Negative Declaration for this half-baked obscenity in December, even though it clearly violates the Specific Plan that all the planners kept nattering about. That isn’t legal, although this, is Fullerton, meaning that nobody gives a damn.

I would like to report that the Planning Commission was all over this scam and was outraged. But of course I can’t. Instead the 5 commissioned turnips quibbled over electric car charging stations and other gnats on their way to swallowing this camel whole. Honestly, you could take five average people off Harbor Boulevard and you would end up with a more intelligent and sensible commission.

Well, that’s enough of that. My next post is going to be about the idiotic solution to a made-up bus station problem.

Old News Better Than No News

The trouble with being away so much last summer and fall was that I missed all sorts of Fullerton-related stuff. And one of those things was the separation of Tony Florentine from his Earthly cares.

Addio, Tony!

The Florentine paterfamilias, bar owner and restaurateur passed on to his reward back in July of 2022.

FFFF has been diligently following the activities of Tony and his offspring, Joe, in a series of posts going back well over ten years.

Good luck with that!

We documented how in 2012, Tony loudly inserted himself into the anti-Recall campaign as a staunch supporter of Fullerton’s incompetent Old Guard councilmembers Jones, Bankhead and McKinley, parroting the nonsense peddled by his old Rotary pal, Dick Ackerman. He had lots of good reasons for defending the boobs as they let him run illegal entertainment in his business establishment, and as he and his son did everything they could to dodge the City-ordained -and not enforced – conditions of approval for use permits.

Gone, but not quite forgotten…

But the history went farther back. In 2003 Tony got the City to look the other way as he purloined a public sidewalk and got away with it, creating a legal headache that still hasn’t gone away. The Florentines pulled out in 2020 and left the City as landlords of a building extension that the co-joined building owner didn’t own.

Years before that, if we can believe a former associate, in 1989 Tony took a torch to his business, The Melody Inn, that also destroyed one of the oldest buildings in Fullerton and began an embarrassing Redevelopment boondoggle.

Whether or not Tony once drove a copper spike into a street tree because it was blocking his sign is a matter of conjecture, but that’s the tale told by some old Fullertonions.

Joe Florentine was happy to follow in dad’s footsteps as he continued to dodge installing required fire sprinklers in the Tuscany Club and even went so far as forging an official City planning document granting himself use authority over the building he rented because he had a lease there. That fiasco cost us $25,000, not counting legal eagle Dick Jones’s time. The Florentines just seemed to think that laws and rules were nothing but inconveniences to avoid.

So belatedly FFFF says farewell to Mr. Florentine – who brought a little Jersey color to our drab town. In parting it has to be said that neither he or his kid are that important in and of themselves, but they symbolize a governmental culture of incompetence, and a willingness in City Hall to tolerate scofflaws that have become synonymous with Fullerton.

First At Bat; Swing and a Miss

I was perusing old drafts of posts and came across one that needed to be published. The issue itself is bad enough – the virtual surrender of useful public land to build a “boutique” hotel. The fact that the “developer” had no experience and no track record was bad enough; but the idea that any hotel patron would want to spend the night next to the train tracks or in the vicinity of the downtown Fullerton week-end train wreck was laughable. What was even worse was the dumb rationale our council used to keep this metastasizing idiocy alive.

Over several years the dream of our former lobbyist councilperson-for-sale, Jennifer Fitzgerald – a boutique hotel – refused to die, even after Fitzgerald finally bolted from Fullerton. It’s last iteration in December ’22 was approved by our typically befuddled city council.

I’ll take a bite at that apple…

Which brings me to the point of this post. In her first meeting as the councilperson representing District 3, Shana Charles voted on this embarrassment. She spent that opportunity to display the critical thinking one would expect of a PhD, but demonstrated just the opposite. Listen:

It’s real nice that Ms. Charles felt obliged to share her “thought process” with her constituents. But whatever that process was, the result was comical. The the good doctor believed that such a boutique hotel will support “County functions” and “event and community centers” in DTF, but she didn’t elaborate on what those events and centers are. Why not? Because there aren’t any, unless you think of the Fullerton Community Center across the street from City Hall to be the sort of place out-of-towners will be so keen to visit that they’ll book a room at the Shana Charles Hotel.

MEET DIRTY DOUG

FFFF has squirted some cyber-ink on the missus, so I thought we ought to start spending a bit of time with Pilferin’ Paulette’s hubby, the egregious Doug “Bud” Chaffee.”

If the snout fits, wear it…

This piece was recently sent out by Chaffee’s OC Board of Supervisor challenger, Sunny Park of Buena Park.

The swine were offended by the comparison…

The reference here is to an early foray of the Chaffee Crime Family into “affordable” housing, the subsidized sort that always costs so much more than the regular kind. Of course this was thirty years ago and Chaffee has a much longer list of grifts large and small, including selling out the advocates of preserving the West Coyote Hills, creating phony districts in Fullerton, supporting overbuilt prison, I mean apartment blocks with inadequate parking, and of course spending all his time failing to reform the Fullerton Police Department.

On the Board of Supervisors Chaffee has distinguished himself by hiding COVID information from the public, overseeing the public humiliation and politicization of the Health Care Agency, and being a lackey for the misfeasance of his fellow board member, Andrew Do. And the funniest thing of all is that he, as Chairman of the Commission to End Homelessness, had to confess to reporters that he didn’t know what the Commission does.

Putting politician’s faces on animals has always struck me as desperate and sort of silly, persuasion-wise. But Sunny is running against an incumbent (and recumbent) Democrat and needs to syphon enough votes to 1) at least come in second; and, 2) keep Bud from reaching the magic 50%+1 number thereby forcing a runoff in November. Will this help?

WE WANT OUR SIDEWALK BACK!

In Fullerton City Hall, nothing is forgotten quite so quickly as the past, particularly if that past includes malfeasance, misfeasance, incompetence or prevarication.

That’s why FFFF has made it our mission to remind folks about such egregious rip-offs as the Saga of the Florentine Sidewalk, in which a sleazy restaurant put a room addition on a public sidewalk and got away with it.

Here’s the now relevant part: The disgraced Florentine & Co. quit Fullerton last year, and the building’s owner, Mario Marovic is in the process of remodeling the exterior and interior of the building even though he doesn’t yet have the proposed CUP – so he must be pretty confident he’s going to get it. The matter comes to the Planning Commission tonight.

The staff report, as usual, is full of irrelevant crap, and completely ignores the the theft of the sidewalk, a land grab that was eventually made legal by a revised lease – with Florentine. The report also shares Marovic’s plan for the corner space at Harbor and Commonwealth, keeping the permanent structure built by Florentine!

The theft continues…

Now that’s not very good, is it.

I doubt if anybody on the Planning Commission remembers the sordid history of this building, and you can be sure that no one on staff remembers or cares to remind them. But now is the time to get this sidewalk back!

The Poison Park Redux

Don’t go there…

Yes, Friends, the Union Pacific Park (also known in Fullerton as the Poison Park) the project cynically foisted on the residents of the Truslow Avenue neighborhood by City Hall, is still in the news.

Some of our City Council wants you to overlook the 20-year history of dangerous incompetence, indifference and insulting condescension this dead patch of land symbolizes. Instead they want to pretend to give a damn about the residents and their wants and needs; and they want us to believe they are sincere.

They aren’t.

Zahra-Busted
The smile was wearing thin…

In the latest go-round 5th District Councilman Ahmad Zahra agendized, with the concurrence of 3rd District Councilman Jesus Silva, the topic of holding community meetings to discuss with la communidad what to do about the park. This was very strange, very illogical and very disingenuous of these two twits, given the fact that the two of them only a couple of months ago tried to cram a gated private events center, masquerading as an aquaponics farm on the site. These two worthy gentlemen never bothered asking anybody about the impact of this idea from noise to parking issues on Truslow, so it’s reasonable to conclude that Zahra and Quirk-Silva don’t give a shit about the people in the neighborhood and were just playing games.

1st District Councilman Fred Jung interceded, suggesting that an ad hoc committee be set up to talk about ideas for the park; and this is a blessing. The idea of letting parks staff, the same incompetent boobs who have made an embarrassing mess out of this site, guide sham meetings is appalling. The rest of the Council with the predictable exception of the hypocritical Zahra, agreed to Jung’s motion.

Well, here’s some advice to this committee, when, and if it is actually appointed and meets: let somebody who has real ideas and who can put this site into the larger context of surrounding industrial land take a swing at this disaster zone. Fullerton Parks staff will only condemn the Poison Park to another 20 years of abandonment and decay.