Coyote Hills Brouhaha; Tonight at 5:00

Tonight we have the first of a two-meeting public hearing at City Hall to discuss West Coyote Hills.  Actually, after reading tonight’s agenda, it looks like council just might clear the way for the bulldozers.  If you have something to say to the council members, tonight’s your chance, just show up early.

If Councilman Shawn Nelson wins the 4th Supervisorial District race, we will have three council seats to fill in November.  Tonight’s meeting could be the nail in the political coffin for some of council members no matter how they vote.  West Coyote Hills isn’t new to City Hall and it has been a hot-button issue for environmentalists and residents in La Habra and Fullerton for decades.  There are those who see an opportunity to generate desperately needed tax revenue while others see their open spaces shrinking and pollution growing.  Whichever side of the fence you are on, I think we can all agree that this has been one political football that has been fumbled for far too long.  There are pros and cons to this development just like any other.

The meeting is scheduled for 5PM in the council chambers (303 W. Commonwealth Ave.).  As I mentioned, it will be a full house, standing room only, so show up early to get your chance to either support or oppose the development.

Fullerton Decision-makers Lied To. So What’s New?

Last year just before Christmas the Fullerton City Council voted 3-1 to approve the idiotic Richman housing project, a staff-driven boondoggle that makes zero planning, housing, or economic sense. We wrote about it here.

We also wrote about the review of the same fiasco-in-the-making by the Planning Commission here, in which we lauded Commissioner Bruce Whitaker for his solitary stance in opposing it. As the YouTube clip shows, Whitaker objected on economic grounds citing the project’s dubious fiscal foundation.

This position was immediately questioned by Commissioner Lansburg who inquired about it of the city attorney, Tom Duarte:

Commissioner Lansburg: is it within the Commission’s purview to look at this from a financial standpoint or are we only to look at this from a planning standpoint?

The city attorney Mr. Duarte answered: In the commissions purview its a land use issue, the city council will look at the financial impact.

Well, the project was passed by a Commission majority, with only Whitaker dissenting.

Subsequently Commission Chairman Dexter Savage addressed the following  communication to staff, seeking clarification of the issue.

And now, Lo and Behold, the issue has been agendized by the City Council; and just look at staff’s response: economic considerations are indeed within the purview of a planning commission in many respects, and are nowhere prohibited.

This response begs  several questions. Why did the city’s attorney misinform the commission? Is he incompetent, or was he motivated to press the approval of a project near and dear to the hearts of the city staff, without any reference to the law.

Why did the staff present like (John Godlewski) not correct him? He countersigned the above memorandum contradicting Duarte, yet was at the meeting and said nothing.

The facts can really only be interpreted in one way. Both the attorney and staff were more interested in the approval of the project, no matter how bad, than in the service of the public interest, or the truth, or the law.

Now the entire matter has been brought to the City Council for its enlightenment as agenda item #16 at the January 19, meeting. But it’s really to late for the Richman project – a Redevelopment/housing staff concocted project that has all the tell-tale signs of a disaster in the making.

And Friends: there you have it.

Another Disaster in the Making

How come our electeds don’t seem to be able to grasp simple concepts; why have they no resistance to the bureaucratic sales pitch; why must they obscure their own ignorance in a cloud of asinine nonsense or outright lies?

If it was hard we couldn't do it!
If it was hard we couldn't do it!

Last Tuesday night the Fullerton City Council/Redevelopment Agency approved the idiotic Richman housing project, a staff-concocted, no-bid, pet project that proposes to subsidize ownership of condos. The vote was 3-1, Sharon Quirk-Silva, dissenting. Shawn Nelson took a powder.

Why is this project idiotic? First we believe that the ownership of a house is something that should be available equally, and not doled out by the government to its own selected recipients.

Second, the units in this project will have to be perpetually restricted to people whose income levels qualify. Perfect: perpetual housing bureaucracy! The necessary deed restrictions are a pretty significant encumbrance and will just add to the financial shakiness of the whole enchilada. But without these restrictions the original buyers would be in line for a massive windfall courtesy of all of us, when they sell.

A third point, as was admirably developed by Sharon Quirk-Silva, the proposed occupancy restrictions would very likely  disqualify people who need housing the most. Which leads to the fourth point. These units will not count against Fullerton’s most neglected RHNA category – low and very low income. Which leads to:

Five. Dick Jones claimed that approving  the Richman project is required to satisfy some legal mandate – it is THE LAW. That’s just a tin-plated, bald-faced lie. The SCAG RHNA allocations are goals, not a legal mandate. Cities are required by the State HCD to provide evidence of programs used to achieve those goals – not specific projects. And, in any case hypocritically, this project does not address the most urgent RHNA category of all which means that for folks who profess to really like this sort of thing, an opportunity has been lost.

Finally, FFFF has tried to promote better, more sustainable design in government-subsidized projects. And this project just promises more of the same old architectural crap we’ve been getting all along.

And now that we contemplate this fiasco, we feel the need for a last minute adendum to the Fringie Worst Vote category.

The Questionable Promise of Technology

See? We told you it would work...
See? We told you it would work...

Using computers to arrange and sort data is useful for all sorts of things – especially when in comes to creating three dimensional imagery. Nobody can deny the impact of presenting scanned data for medical diagnostic purposes; or the use of scaled multi-disciplinary construction models that can simulate a 3D environment: very useful for ascertaining “clashes” between different trades as well as presenting the architect and client with views of his proposed effort.

But despite the technology drum beater’s boosterism (think laptops for kids, FSD style) there reaches a point in every computer application where the information is either too dense or voluminous to be assimilated or analyzed by those looking at it; or is just plain non-effective compared to traditional approaches; or worst, lends itself to misinterpretation or deliberate misrepresentation. This point of diminishing returns is reached quickest when the recipients of data just don’t know what to do with it. When that occurs they’re bound to do something bad with it.

Such may very well be the case with a City of Fullerton program that promises to create a three dimensional model of downtown Fullerton. We received an e-mail the other day from Al Zelinka, who works for the Planning Department. We point out that Mr. Zelinka is very careful to explain that the pilot program is being paid for by SCAG, not the City (where SCAG got the money is obviously not a point of interest for Mr. Zelinka, or, presumably, us).

First, we are inevitably forced to ask why. Who will benefit from the necessary resources plowed into such a program? It’s hard to answer.  And who will be able to use the information? We can envisage all sorts of staff (and consultant)  time going into creating maintaining and manipulating such data; and then the inevitable jargon and rhetoric tossed back to the public to foist staff driven projects onto the public. The Council: aha! See? The 3D model supports (fill in the name of the Redevelopment Agency’s favored project).

Perhaps the most important question is whether, once the model is done, it needs to be tended and updated by the City. If not, the effort going into seems to be something of a waste.

In any case the public are invited to a meeting on December 16th @ 6 PM in the Council Chambers to see the wonders of 3D modeling. No doubt all of our questions will be answered with sparkling clarity.

At the bottom of his e-mail Mr. Zelinka (AICP) includes a quotation that ought to give pause to even the biggest Planning Department cheerleader:

“Dedicated to Making a Difference.”

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir [women’s and] men’s blood….” – Daniel Burnham

Ay, ay, ay!

Bruce Whitaker Sharpens Axe, Eyes Giant Turkey

Redevelopment brand turkey...
If it walks like a turkey and gobbles like a turkey...

Here’s a great youtube clip showing Fullerton Friend and Planning Commissioner Bruce Whitaker argue against the ridiculous Richman housing project that intends to provide enormously subsidized houses to people.

This “project” has waddled and gobbled along for quite some time, the darling of the Redevelopment staff who conceived, concocted, and cajoled this thing, with their specially selected McSpanish “dee-veloper,” of course.

Anyway, watch Bruce W. in action; and be sure to stay tuned for a separate post we will be doing on the lame clownery of Bruce’s fellow planning commissioners who will do almost anything to avoid looking out for the interests of the citizens and residents of Fullerton.

Give It Back. Now.

We received an e-mail the other day from a Friend calling herself “Lady Artist.” It was a good letter and it made some excellent points so we agreed to publish it.

Didn't they put a moustache on the Mona Lisa?

The City of Fullerton has proven to be a faithless custodian of a modern architectural gem. I have come to the conclusion that the best fate of the building that has come to be known as the Hunt Branch Library is to give it back to the Norton Simon Foundation or, at least to someone who will appreciate it.

William Pereira designed this building in concert with a larger, integrated development; a site plan that included the Hunt Administration Building and coordinated landscape that included a reflecting pool and “floating”  concrete slabs and steps. Over the years the property has been partitioned by a fence, the reflecting pool filled in by its new owners, with new and comically bad architecture burdening the site. Perhaps most insulting of all, the City has put a “bark park” on the grounds next to the library.

A bark park. Great for dogs, insulting for a work of art. Unless by art you mean a group of dogs playing poker.

In the eyes of the beholder...
Fullertonians may not know art, but they know what they like.

I believe that almost anybody would be  a more reliable guardian of this building than the City has shown itself to be. The homeless people who camp out under the extended roof seem to appreciate it more than the City does.

I also believe the present location for a branch library couldn’t be worse. It is not well known, and frankly, I question the number of users claimed by the Library itself in its annual counts. Why continue to fund a branch library at this near-hidden location when neither north nor east Fullerton have branch libraries at all; not to mention that the existence of the Hunt Branch would probably come as a complete surprise to most west Fullerton denizens? But these are separate issues in themselves, and I digress.

For years I’ve heard all this weeping and wailing about how Fullerton could have had the Norton Simon Museum. Why mourn that? Fullerton doesn’t deserve it. Never did. The inescapable evidence is on display at the Hunt Branch every day of the year. 

Let’s give it back to Norton Simon, with our thanks; and our apologies for not recognizing the architectural legacy that he gave us.

Thank you, Lady Artist, for a thought-provoking piece.

Happy 50th Anniversary Sunny Hills H.S.!

More Exaggerated Modern!


A Taste of Sunny Hills

Our 50th Anniversary Celebration will officially begin with “A Taste of Sunny Hills: A Taste of Talent, Food and Reunions”, on Saturday, September 26, 2009 from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.

Bring your family and join us on the Sunny Hills campus for:

– “Tastes” from local restaurants include: Beach Pit BBQ, Chomp, Cafe Hidalgo, Slidebar, Heroes, Phan 55, Koba Grill, Hashigo Sushi, El Matador Cantina, Top Class Pizza, Twin Dragon Chinese Food, Rutabegorz, EHF Fundraising, Lascari’s, and Cajun Swamp!

– A special “KidZone” sponsored by the agriculture department with carnival games and a petting zoo. Jamba Juice will be available in the “KidZone” along with kettle corn and a “candy store.”

– “Reunion Row,” a special place to reconnect with classmates from years past and relive high school memories.

– Live entertainment venues featuring music, comedy and dance from incredible Sunny Hills student and alumni entertainers.

– 50th birthday cake will be served with coffee provided by Starbucks.

Admission for the event is free.

I have received several emails from Friends inquiring about examples of sustainable design in Fullerton.  Sunny Hills High School is a great example of sustainable design.

An umbrageous architecture...
Windows and walkways are shaded...

Concrete structure, steel framed windows both on the north and south sides of all the classroom buildings were built to last; a great cantilevered roof design  provides ample shade while still allows natural light and ventilation to pass through thus not needing HVAC all the time.


The roofs have the perfect pitch and design to accept solar panels for future conversion. When I found out that SHHS opened 50 years ago today, it confirmed the theory that good design will assure that buildings will last for as long as the materials they were built out of will let them.

The new school just around the corner is just 5 years old, and is already starting to fall apart – but more about that in a separate post. DSC00004
Open air food court
Open air food court

Downtown Fullerton: The Brick Myth, The Reality of Brick Veneer, and The Legacy of Schlock

We published a couple of posts a few days ago on the new parking structure planned on Santa Fe Avenue, and how it is proposed to be faced with brick veneer here and here .

You may remember that I got to thinking about why the city staff would tell the RDRC that the $40,000,000 parking structure must have brick veneer; and that I asked one of the RDRC Board members that very same question, and the answer I got was that staff told the Committee that the City has to use brick veneer because it was a “State” requirement to meet the CEQA guidelines. (I also noted that the use of fake brick is in complete contrast to the sustainable design the General Plan Advisory Committee has spend the last 3 years discussing and recommending to the City Council).

CEQA? Yes CEQA he said, because there’s a provision in the CEQA guidelines that requires mitigation of any visual impacts. In other words, since the new parking structure was being built with structural concrete, and the surrounding downtown has many brick-looking buildings, using the brick veneer would cause no visual impact on the environment. I say “brick-looking” because so many of the buildings in downtown Fullerton are faced with fake brick veneers, facades that are not historic, and some of which, in fact, were stuck-on older buildings during the course of Redevelopment in the last 30 years. And many of these were subsidized by the taxpayers of Fullerton.

How do I know this? I did a building facade survey of downtown from the RR tracks to Chapman and from Malden to Pomona. I documented the principal “building skin” of each structure. The results didn’t surprise me, but they may surprise you; they should shock the Redevelopment and Planning Department “experts” who not only have been tolerating, but actually promoting this material over the years – seemingly in an effort to keep downtown “historical” looking. Boy, did they get it wrong.

Here are the results of the survey:

24 Brick veneer

2 Flagstone veneer

9 Real brick & clay block

3 Glazed & fluted brick

24 stucco & plaster

20 Concrete, concrete block & terra cotta

And here is a useful overhead image with the various exterior materials colored in on each of the building’s footprint. Notice how few real brick buildings there are; and of these only a couple are red brick – the crap of choice among Fullerton’s bureaucratic tastemakers. The buildings with substantial brick venerers are pink.

Downtown Fullerton

Using CEQA to bolster the poor design choices of the past is pretty bad. Let’s hope this post will help end the travesty of bad and cheap looking architecture based on erroneous assumptions, and that California’s environmental laws will never be used again by city staff to foist this garbage on us.

Pam Keller Appears to Like Fake Old Buildings

Pam Keller seems to think it’s a good idea to make the new 6.5 million dollar subsidized McDonald’s look “more like the high school” than a “fast-food joint.” She appears to believe that a visual “upgrade” helps justify the huge expenditure of public money. We don’t think it’s an upgrade at all, but just another example of Redevelopment shoving crappy architecture down our throats. Strike two.

On the other hand, maybe Keller is hoping the architectural “blend” will keep people from noticing that the city spent 6.5 Million dollars on moving the McDonald’s 150 feet closer to the school!

Because of the health concerns caused from fast food, Sharon Quirk is said to be considering changing her vote. Maybe Pam Keller will too.

Read this Recent comment from:

#15 by The Enabler at May 16th, 2009

Right on, Frazier. And thank you Supervisor Norby, for your Fullerton legislative history update on the importance of vote-changing, when changing one’s vote is simply the right thing to do.

In one corner, a huge corporation, under guise of a local businessman; in the other, City of Fullerton, hoodwinked into abetting the feeding of malnutritious food to its young residents! On this issue, I must entirely side with Council members Jones and Nelson. McDonald’s shouldn’t receive ONE DIME from City of Fullerton! Long-term costs upon Fullerton’s citizens to provide financial assistance to this global firm are catastrophic!

By eating this food, Fullerton students become less prepared to excel at school, less productive citizens, and will suffer crippling long-term health problems! Obesity, cardiac distress, diabetes! This isn’t idle speculation, but medical fact! Our Latino population’s particularly susceptible to these complications! Not even to mention high civic costs to clean up paper and plastic waste, which is daily generated from this eatery!

I defend, though not happily, McDonald’s or any firm’s rights to build wherever it wants; pay the going rate, meet all governing local, state and federal rules and requirements.

But it’s just wrong for Fullerton to subsidize McDonald’s operation, in any way. Wrong for Fullerton to favor one company over another. Wrong for Fullerton to justify such future ugliness, in the name of civic beautification. Wrong for Fullerton to victimize its young, to enable old people feel good about themselves. Wrong. Wrong Wrong.

I strongly urge Council members Keller, Quirk, Bankhead to carefully reexamine their votes, and put Fullerton first! Put Fullerton first; provide a safe, healthy environment for its young! Put Fullerton first; cautiously rein in civic waste! Put Fullerton first; focus not on global corporate greed, but on local civic virtue!

Every time Fullerton citizens drive by Fox Theatre, and marvel at its future apotheosis as local cultural shrine, please think of thousands of Fullerton young children, teen-agers, young adults who’ll have paid the price to make this happen. Very soon, they’ll have even fewer steps to pick up their Egg McMuffins, Mcfries, and six dollar dollar Super-sized Big Macs.

It hardly seems possible!

Sorry to be so cranky. But I’m truly flabbergasted by this civic-inspired fiscal imprudence and grave social justice.

The Enabler

Hope University Architectural Gems At Risk

Now that's worth keeping...
Now that's worth keeping...

We have it on good authority that when Hope University hightails it from Fullerton to points south, the Exaggerated Modern buildings on their erstwhile campus may be in danger. How come? Because the very entity that built them in the 1960s – CSUF –  is said to be eager to reacquire the property. Based on their recent architectural efforts, a massively overbuilt campus, plus the need to house more students like sardines, the future isn’t too hopeful for the buildings on the Hope U. campus.

Whoa, dudes. Time for class!
Whoa, dudes. Time for class!

The complex of buildings that originally served CSUF as graduate student housing, bookstore, and cinema with their glass walls and soaring roofs have been recognized by many for their architectural value – but never by a governmental entity – and in government land planning thats all that really counts. They have not been recognized by the City, the County, or the State as an historical resource and at present have nothing standing between them and a possible wrecking ball except Fullerton Friends willing to work to preserve them.

Who wants to live in a student warehouse? Nobody.
Who wants to live in a student warehouse? Nobody, that's who.

If we set aside the irony of the CSUF buying back property they once owned, and focus on the aesthetic importance and the sound construction used and the opportunity for creative re-use, we can only conclude that these buildings are worth saving!

Please call State Assemblyman Mike Duvall (714/672-4734) immediately to let him know what you think; e-mail Fullerton City Council members ( to let them know that this complex of buildings deserves to be an historic district. Don’t forget to call Chris Norby, County Supervisor at 714/834-3440 to ask for his support.

If you are a member of the heritage group be sure to tell your board that you want these gems of modern architecture preserved – unlike the buildings currently being demolished on Chapman Avenue to make way for the “Jefferson Commons” monstrosity.


Wow. Style and substance. Don't see that much anymore...
Wow. Style and substance. Don't see that much anymore...

P.S. We have asked our Arts & Architecture Department to develop an educational post to define just what “Exaggerated Modern” is. We hope (no university) you will stay tuned.

In the way of some more Big Plans?
In the way of some more Big Plans?