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 ([email protected]) 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?

Modernist Realtor Promotes Museum Exhibit; Good To See Others Get It, Too

My husband and I attended the opening night reception of Fullerton Museum’s new Forever Fullerton exhibit featuring the classic photography of world-renowned mid-century architectural photographer Julius Shulman. This was an especially exciting treat since I’ve admired his iconic images for years. But what made it even more special was the exhibit was comprised entirely of photos he took here in Fullerton during the 50s and 60s. More specifically of the Forever House tract of mid-century modern homes designed by Eichler design team Jones and Emmons. Click here to read more.


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.

The Sunday Drive ( a break from everything else)

The canopies of trees hold the city together
The canopies of trees hold the city together

Click to bigify images

The other day, while driving along Chapman, I was struck by the scrawny Bottle brush trees pruned to the point of embarrassment and disgrace.  I’ve seen some of the worst examples of improper pruning of both trees and shrubs in Fullerton –both along boulevards and at private homes. Who are these morons with saws?  I thought I’d share some of what I look forward to seeing when I go back.

Savannah is a cosmopolitan city with a mix of old and new. It’s an old city, one where history matters and has played a role in the shaping of it. One of the things that grabs the first time visitor are the trees. There are giant oaks draped with Spanish moss. The delicate but strong strands of moss takes over every thing from trees to camellias and azaleas. But the greenery seems to hold the entire city together giving it a level of comfort and sophistication.

These oaks were planted in 1890
These oaks were planted in 1890

There is a stately grandeur about these trees. Nowhere is this seen better than the oak alley planted along the road to Wormsloe Plantation. Wormsloe was built in 1740 by one of the original settlers, Noble Jones. What’s left of Savannah’s first fort are the “Tabby” ruins, a mixture of lime, sand, and oyster shell halves thrown in for good measure. While the ruins are interesting, it’s the alley that everyone remembers and associates with plantation landscapes.

Provide tranquility in the middle of the city.
Tranquility in the middle of the city.

One of my favorite finds was the discovery of two secret gardens. Secret meaning they’re private and I peeked through a fence. The two gardens shown here belong to townhouses along busy streets. They provide the owners respite in an area where funeral hearses are resurrected as tour buses, and the usual mix of tourists and business crowd the area.

Dock across bulrushes to the river
Dock across bulrushes to the river

Anyway, the grace of the trees and the way the moss takes over everything is part of what makes the city so beautiful. Further out, along the river, there is much scenery to take in as well. I find the natural landscape evocative of where I grew up. The bulrushes are beautiful as well. Here’s the dock over by a house we looked at to buy. This is the stuff of dreams as well.

Secret Garden Spied Through A Fence
Secret Garden Spied Through A Fence

Who Says “Affordable” Housing Has To Be Ugly?

Not Friends for Fullerton’s Future. We subscribe to the opinion that good architecture – innovative, attractive, engaging architecture, need cost no more than bad architecture – non-functional, boring, banal, tacky architecture. So there’s really no excuse for housing developed by non-profits to be substandard, especially when it relies on huge governement subsidies.

Here’s an example of a subsidized housing project on Chapman Avenue. A hodgepodge of “styles”It was built during the mid-90s and can only be described as, well, really bad. The building closest to the street is a stucco box with flush, cheapo windows, and fake shutters – which have been removed, or mercifully fell off. Well maybe we’re just imagining the shutters. The parking structure actually has little roofed stucco boxes stuck on to the front of it, no doubt to make it look “residential” from Chapman Avenue. We wonder what kind of an idiot would mistake a parking structure for a house; or who wouldn’t be offended by someone’s effort to fool him.

Stucco boxes for humans and their cars!
Stucco boxes for humans and their cars!

A more recent aesthetic travesty was perpetrated by Habitat for Humanity on Valencia Avenue in the barrio. The theme here seems to be fake Craftsman; the awkward angles and ridiculous fenestration make it look as if an untalented child drew the elevations. Oh boy! fake rock plinths for the porch posts.

Craftsman Without The Craft...
Craftsman Without The Craft...

Hard to believe, but the apartments the City is buying and demolishing in order to build this other stuff looks better – even boarded up with plywood!

Suddenly, This Doesn't Look So Bad...
Suddenly, This Doesn't Look So Bad...

Now, our purpose here is not to belittle people trying to do good, or even to make fun of untalented children. But rather to point out that neither of the these two examples needed to end up like they did – if in fact an intelligent design review process had decided that low income people shouldn’t have to live in cheap-looking, ugly housing.

Of course we have an ulterior motive for this post. First, the Redevelopment Agency is going to be spending ever-increasing amounts on subsidized housing in the coming years, with or without expansion. Regardless of one’s opinion about this sort of government activity we want to make sure that these projects achieve the highest design standards – not the lowest – as has been the case (see also the recent post on the Allen Hotel). Second, and more specifically, we are extremely concerned about the upcoming Richman project. The selected developer, the Olson Co., is not known for their aesthetic creativity, and will, if allowed, cough up another McSpanish McMess. Their architect is the same individual responsible for the Habitat for Humanity project.

It’s time for Fullerton’s Friends to insist on better, sustainable architecture when it’s subsidized by the taxpayers.

We’re all paying for it. Now and in the future.