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.
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?
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.”
Last fall, in a deal with property owner Mario Marovic, our esteemed City Council agreed to let him open his two new bars on the northeast corner of Commonwealth and Harbor if he would demolish the infamous Florentine Mob “pop-out” that took away half the sidewalk.
There’s no need to rehash the embarrassment of how the pop-out happened back in 2003 or how our City Attorney looked the other way for 20 years even as he personally bought and sold property in the immediate vicinity. These stories have been described in great detail elsewhere here on FFFF.
This time around, the remedy for the Humiliation That Wont Die was given a deadline; in the words of the agreement: Demolition/Construction shall commence no later than March 27, 2023 and be completed no later than July 2023.
Obviously, this date came and went three weeks ago with no overt evidence of compliance. Unforeseen delays are accounted for in the agreement, but were there any? Who knows? Is anybody in City Hall even remotely curious? Again, who knows?
Cynical folks have been speculating that the demolition of the addition and reconstruction of the City sidewalk under it will simply not occur; after all, Mr. Marovic’s businesses are open and our feckless council is not composed of people who have the stomach for making people do things that they are legally required to do. This is Fullerton, after all. Some of the original restore-the-sidewalk contingent are dead or have gone batty. And Mr. Marovic is not the sort of chap who will forgo wining and dining councilmembers he needs to make this problem to just go away for another 20 years.
Another possibility is another legal struggle, a tussle in which our distinguished City Attorney will continue to give expensive appallingly bad advice at the expense of the taxpayers.
There is always a chance that Marovic will stick to the agreement, but what the odds are of that happening remain unknown.
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!
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!
It’s taken well over thirty years, but apparently the Family of Tony Florentine is calling quits in downtown Fullerton. Normally, such an occasion would be cause for gratitude, reflection, fond memories, etc., etc., ect.
But not in this case.
The reason nobody is indulging in kind reminiscence is simple. Over the years the family has been in on, and accused of some very shady stuff. Forget about shitty food and consider the following fun events, documented right here on the pages of FFFF, even if ignored by City staff, the Fullerton Police Department and the Fullerton Fire Department.
It’s hard to say what other misdeeds and actual crimes have been committed by the Florentines, over the years. Stories abound. But what we know gives us plenty of reason not to consider their departure with any sort of remorse.
And the very continuation of the bad behavior gives us plenty of reason to ruminate on the political climate that permitted the ongoing flagrance and fraud. Decision makers in City Hall have been running interference for, enabling, and diligently looking the other way through this little reign of terror. Does anybody care? The old City Councils never did. Will the new one?
What is it about the Florentine Family and public right-of-way. We are all familiar with the theft of a public sidewalk back in 2003. Now the clan seems to think they are entitled to remove public parking in order to accommodate the people unlucky enough to order take-out.
Sure, it’s more convenient to expropriate the on-street parking, but there’s plenty of room in the back parking lot for the comings and goings of their customers. Oh well. We can chalk it up to more self-entitled behavior from the folks who refuse to adhere to the City Code, and who forged a City document to try to push through an illegal CUP.
An even better question is who at City hall is responsible for this nonsense?
According to Voice of OC, our old pals the Florentines, pere et fil, are at it again.
This clan of scofflaws has a long history of violating Fullerton’s municipal code so it should be no surprise to learn about their most recent hi-jinks.
Apart from rumors of arson and arboricide, FFFF readers have been treated to the Florentine saga of scandalous sidewalk theft, illegal dance floors, and operating in violation of the requirements of a conditional use permit.
The latest offense, which came to light at yesterday’s Planning Commission meeting is an application for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) amendment that was not authorized by the property owner, a guy named Mario Marovic. The Fullerton Municipal Code explicitly requires property owner authorization for a CUP. Instead, the actual application form was digitally modified to show that the Florentines themselves could now authorize the amendment. The person who signed the form, Joe Florentine, the junior member of the gang, claims he has no idea how the form got altered.
Once something starts giving off a bad odor it’s pretty certain that it’s only going to get worse. Many questions need to be answered, pretty damn quick: Why did the planning department process an application they must have known violated the law? Why did our crack City Attorney Dick Jones decide to accept the strange legal reasoning of Florentine’s lawyer? Did the City Manager, Ken Domer, direct the Planing Director to ignore the law? If Domer did, was it on orders from Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald, who has been running interference for scofflaw bar owner in downtown Fullerton for eight years of mayhem?
And why not? Life is good when you can get away with grabbing a public sidewalk and build a building on it. “Are you crazy, Joe?” I can hear you saying. No. FFFF shared the story, here.
The sidewalk grabber was Mr. Anthony Florentine, proprietor of the Tuscany Club. Here he is chipping in to save the Three Dithering Diplosaurs:
And the guy that let Florentine get away with the heist was none other than former Fullerton Development Services Director F. Paul Dudley, whose incompetent tenure caused harm to Fullerton that will probably never be fixed. A member of Fullerton’s $100,000 pension club, Dudley makes extra cash lobbying his former employers on behalf of developers. So he’s working to keep the Old Boys in office, too:
Of course Dudley had help in brushing off the sidewalk scam, and then papering it over. And he had help in the persons of Don Bankhead and “Dick” Jones, previously beneficiaries of Florentine’s campaign largess.
Here’s a damn funny letter sent into the Fullerton Observer by clever wordsmith Anthony “Big Tony” Florentine, a local “family friendly” bar owner and notorious rules-dodger. He has hundreds of thousands of reasons to support his corrupt pals on the City Council since they turned a blind eye to his illegal night club operation and then actually subsidized a fire sprinkler main so he could keep liquoring up the cast of Doc HeeHaw’s Wild West Show.
You may also recall how Big Tony even managed to swipe a public sidewalk with the help of his pals on the city council – probably the most blatant swindle in the history of Fullerton.
Florentine has been giving the Three Dyspeptic Dinosaurs campaign contributions for years and years, so these profitable quid pro quos shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody. But it sure makes it hard to believe this cut rate Tony Soprano’s sincerity when he says anybody else on the planet is “full of shit.”
The best part of his letter is how this cheap bastard bamboozles The Observer into giving him a free ad for his place of business. Anyway, here is Florentine’s letter:
I was at Smart & Final several weeks ago where Tony Bushala was sitting at a card table soliciting signatures for the recall. I greeted him, shook his hand, and told him I thought he was full of s**t, and that what he was doing to our City was BS.
I offered that his only interest in this tragedy is to get control of the City Council so he can foist development projects that may be of questionable value. Whereupon he lost it and went berserk, which he is wont to do when one disagrees with him.
My expletives were not meant to insult him (I’m sure that would be hard to do), I used language I knew he could understand and that described his condition and the content of his actions.
There was no one outside Joe Florentine’s restaurant soliciting signatures, and no one who came outside and spit on anyone. If that had been the case why wouldn’t they have called the Fullerton P.D., identified the person and had them arrested for assault?
The whole story is another Bushala-inspired fabrication meant to discredit someone he doesn’t like.
By the way Florentines’ has a delicious new value added menu with large portions and a family friendly atmosphere. Try it. You’ll like it.
The twisted narrative of how the Florentine Family’s “Tuscany Club” managed to expropriate a public sidewalk is yet another tale of woe showing how badly our elected officals and their alleged professionals have manged to screw up Downtown Fullerton.
Back in 2003 the Florentines made an agreement with the Redevelopment Agency and City for an “outdoor dining” lease on the Commonwealth Avenue sidewalk at the intersection with Harbor Boulevard (forget for a moment that any outdoor patrons there would have to spend their time looking at the architectural monstrosity across the street).
Now, outdoor dining to you or me would suggest an open air space surrounded with a moveable fence or rope, and with furniture that could be picked up and taken inside. Well, that’s not what it meant to the Florentines who started construction of a foundation and a masonry wall in the public right-of-way! Sure, there were outcries of anger and dismay among the community over this blatant grab of public property, but these seemed to fall on deaf ears and the construction kept going until in the end the whole thing was completely enclosed. A private room addition right there on the public sidewalk!
Many months passed by, but the issue refused to die quietly. Finally, a big hearing was held, ostensibly to explain the situation to an outraged group of citizens. Mr. Florentine proclaimed his innocence – a victim of circumstance! The Director of Development Services, an obviously affronted F. Paul Dudley, stood up to say how he had been in control the whole time, had done nothing wrong; and that if he had to do it all over again he would do the same thing!
The only problem with this near-tearful oration was that Dudley had no authority to let any one put a building on public property. Only the Agency and Council could do that – after a public hearing. So the building was an encroachment into the public’s right-of-way, and the offending structure should have been immediately removed. Naturally the Fullerton City Council went along with the sham. After all, nobody really expects accountability or responsibility in Fullerton, right?
Sometime later the terms of the lease of were officially (and very quietly) modified, effectively whitewashing the whole sorry mess; but not before some valuable lessons were learned by careful observers about how things work in Fullerton.
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.
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 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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.