Oh, No! Not Another Horror Story!

Deception, Incompetence and Damn Proud of It
Deception, Incompetence and Damn Proud of It

Okay, another story of Redevelopment incompetence run amok. Sorry, but it’s like eating potato chips; once you start…

A visit to the City website will reward you with a list of historic buildings, including what they are calling the Landmark Plaza.

The inclusion of this structure (see image above) on the list is obviously meant to be self-congratulatory and take credit for historic preservation. Unfortunately nobody seems able (or willing) to recall what actually happened. So we’ll help out.

In the late 80s a fly-by-night “developer” wanted to remodel this historic building. The Redevelopment Agency decided to help out by giving the guy a third loan. Since the building was listed as historic the Landmark Ordinance required general adherence to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. These were serially violated when the developer removed the roof and created an outdoor walkway on the second floor, removing the then useless windows in the process. Other character defining features such as a marble stairway were removed as well.

The Agency staff knew all this. In fact before construction started it solicited an opinion from the State Office of Historic Preservation that informed the City that the remodel violated the Standards, would put the building at risk for nomination to the National Register of Historic places, and jeopardize potential tax credits. Yet the City went ahead, approving the work and subsidizing it!

Well, not long afterwards the “developer,” predictably, headed for the tall grass, and the Agency was left holding the bag. Standing in third place, their near-million dollar loan was gone – unless they bought out the folks at the head of the line. Which of course they did. More of our tax dollars at work.

In 1993 after the work was finally done, guess what the City did? They nominated their building for the National Register, turning the process on its head. To their credit the Heritage group of the time opposed this as a reward for deception and incompetent rehabilitation, but the nomination went through with a little political arm twisting.

Soon after the building was sold at a huge loss, but at least returned to the property tax roll.

There are Heritage group brass plaques on this building now, and a spot on the City’s website: a testament to self-delusion, self-congratulation, and abuse of the Fullerton taxpayer.

Well, sure, mistakes were made but hindsight is 20/20!

Our honor roll:

Molly McClanahan

Buck Catlin

Don Bankhead

Dick Ackerman

The Strange And Terrible Knowlwood Saga

knowlwood2
A gosh darn barn right here in Downtown Fullerton!

20 years ago the buildings at the SE corner of Harbor and Commonwealth burned down under strange circumstances, including what was left of the Sterns and Goodman store (why do historic structures keep burning down in Fullerton?). Unbeknownst to the good folks of Fullerton, perhaps the worst example of Redevelopment ineptitude was about to begin.

The owner of the property, Pierre Nicholas, proposed to build a bank building on the corner – a suitable use for the 100% corner any reasonable person would have to agree. But not the entrepreneurial geniuses who ran the Redevelopment Agency at the time – Terry Galvin and his boss Hugh Berry. The problem? Banks don’t generate any sales tax revenue and that’s what Redevelopment is all about. At one hearing a defensive Councilmember Buck Catlin exclaimed “they wanted to build a bank” with the same tone of disgust one might mention a whorehouse or an opium den.

And so Friends, the City embarked on a course to acquire a lengthy ground lease to prevent  the owner of a property to  develop it the way he wanted . Nicholas went along. Why not? Income with no effort on his part.

The Redevelopment bureaucrats already had their favored developer lined up – Sanderson/J. Ray (from Irvine!)who, in cahoots with the City, had worked out a deal with Knowlwood Restaurants to occupy a restaurant on the southerly part of the site.

The subsidized Kwowlwood was eventually ground out of the Redevelopment process – a barn shaped object clad in stucco and brick veneer (pictured, above). Yeehaw!

Meanwhile the development of the corner languished as the developer was finding tenants, and presumably a loan, hard to come by during the early 90s recession. The developer did get permission to put parking lot on the corner and just added insult to injury. The 100% corner –  a parking lot!

By 1995 the project was finally moving ahead. The developer proposed a stucco palazzo with a ludicrous dome covered with green glop. But worst of all the entire second floor was a fake! The developer still couldn’t rent it out and decided to do a movie set storefront instead.  Check out this image:

As a Phallic Symbol It Comes Up A Little Short
As a Phallic Symbol It Comes Up A Little Short
The roof is a giant bowl! This is not a joke. Just check out the picture below if you can’t believe it. The City’s heretofore 5 year saga was reduced to this sort of comic charade. Lights were placed on the floor of the area directly behind the windows to make it look like there was real space up there. To top off the irony, the designer of this mess actually got offended by the suggestion that the geraniums in the second floor planters be plastic to save water!
Maybe It Could be Used As A Swimming Pool
Maybe It Could be Used As A Swimming Pool During The Summer
Well, the City Council went along with this fiasco from start to finish with the exception of Chris Norby. And none of them ever did anything to act on their displeasure if they even experienced such an emotion in the first place. They were:

Molly McClanahan (former Councilmember and current NOCCCD Trustee)
Don Bankhead (current Councilmember)
Dick Ackerman (former Councilman, Sate Assemblyman, and State Senator)
Buck Catlin (former Councilmember)

and, lest we forget:

Julie Sa (twice elected former unintelligible Councilmember, current whereabouts unknown)

By the time the building was built and occupied 7 long years had passed – 7 years of lost property tax, and the addition ludicrous new buildings that never should have been built in the first place. For many Redevelopment watchers “Knowlwood” has become synonymous with Redevelopment boondoggles.

Oh well! As Molly McClanahan was once heard to say: hindsight is 20/20! An excellent motto for the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency.

What Kind of Idiot….

 

A Million Dollar View
A Million Dollar View

…would put a bench facing a blank wall six feet away. Oops, forgot – those bars in the blocked up windows are a real attraction. Seriously, has any sober person ever sat on this bench?

By the way, this 90s remuddle of Fullerton’s first Masonic Temple that you see was subsidized by us – the taxpayers of Fullerton – and approved by the Redevelopment Agency “experts” and the city council. Be sure to thank Molly McClanahan and Don Bankhead next time you see them.