Tag Archives: boondoggles

Erection Dysfunction

 

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.

A little Jack Daniels gets you through the morning.

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 stupid that men do lives after them…

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 once and present tenement…

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!

Oh, boy, the other football!

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.

There is no second floor. Other than that it’s a 2 story building

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.

Deception, Incompetence and Damn Proud of It

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.

Trees and planters block the platform; staff obstruction was almost as bad.

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.

So bad he had to pull over and barf…

 

For those who can remember the Fullerton SRO debacle – a history filled with so much doubling down on stupidity that it strains credulity – it remains one of Fullerton’s saddest tales. Years and millions were burned on fly-by-night developers, one of whom turned out to be impecunious, and the other a flim-flam artist.

Fort Mithawalla, AKA, the Bum Box…

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.

Maybe the less said, the better…

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?

Caution – ethical behavior narrows ahead…

In a great example of the tail wagging the dog, the Fox Theater has been used to justify all kinds of nonsense, including moving a McDonald’s  a 150 feet to the east and later proposing development of perhaps the greatest architectural monstrosity anybody has ever seen. This saga is still going on, believe it or not, after two decades or more. No one knows how much has been wasted going nowhere on this rolling disaster, and no one seems the least bit interested in finding out.

Egad. What a freaking mess…

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.

Water in, water out…

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.

What can we do with it ? Or to it?

We’ve already covered in detail the multi-million dollar death march of the new elevators at the depot, an unnecessary project that was only pursued because “other people’s money” was paying for it – that is until the project burned into its seventh year. And then City money had to pay to keep the disaster on life support. Aggravating this complete folly and waste is the fact that the existing elevators tower stairs are slowly rusting away and the glass is graffiti marred.

Let the groundbreaking begin. No point in waiting to waste other people’s money, right?

 

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.

A light post not even fit for a drunk to lean on…

And finally, let us not forget the completely useless $725,000 “ceremonial” bridge over Brea Creek at Hillcrest Park. Of course it’s just there to make some sort of statement, not to be used. The only statement that occurs to me is one of conspicuous consumption by a city that is just rolling in dough.

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.

Water, water everywhere. Except where it’s supposed to be…

 

It could be worse. No it couldn’t.

The end.

 

Elevators to Nowhere – The Expensive Death March

Here is the latest installment in a series by our Friend, Fullerton Engineer, describing the sad story of the ruinously expensive elevator additions at the Fullerton train station.

It may have been expensive, but it sure was unnecessary…

In my previous installments I described a project that nobody outside City Hall wanted or needed, a project that would never have been contemplated without State transportation grant monies, and that had been “designed” under a 2012 contract that had ballooned to a jaw-dropping $460,000 – including a mysterious increase of 28%. The engineer – Hatch Mott McDonald completed their efforts in 2014, per their purchase order billing record. And there the project sat for a year.

Hatch Mott MacDonald PO P001258

Why? The answer is not immediately forthcoming and naturally the public wasn’t informed; but the cause of the delay can be reasonably inferred from the staff report accompanying the request to award the construction contract to Woodcliff Corporation in April, 2015. For the first time we read that the OCTA is going to authorize a shift of a million dollars from transportation parking funding – money, presumably, needed to actually build the project. And we may surmise that without the funding, money spent on the engineering/design work, money authorized over three years earlier, would have been wasted.

Please observe the complete lack of transparency in the staff report, and the omission of any history that would indicate that staff and the city council in 2011-12 had committed the City to this project without adequate funding.

And note that the staff report lazily repeats the casual assertion of increasing train ridership as the justification for the project, but offers no data to substantiate the need.

The report does indicate worrisome information. The low bid, by Woodcliff is an alarming 22% over the estimate. But remarkably, this fact does not faze city staff at all, who nevertheless recommend award; nor does it alarm our city council who approved this fiasco unanimously. Staff even admits that there are potential cost savings that could be realized if the project were rebid. But nobody cared.

What the public is also not told is that toward the end of the design completion in 2014, a firm called Griffin Structures was given $6000 to provide “constructibility” services, a function that questions the competency of both the designer and the contractor whose job it is to design and build these elevators.

Griffin Structures – Constructability Review PO P001678

Remember the name Griffin Structures. You haven’t seen the last of it.

 

 

The Great ARTIC Melt Down

Pringle's Pipe-n-glass Dream

According to an article in today’s LA Times here, the cloudy jewel in Anaheim’s ex-mayor-for hire, Kurt Pringle’s tarnished crown, ARTIC, may not be eligible for $99 million in special Measure M funding. The money had strings attached. However those strings seem to have come loose.  And by loose I mean really loose. You see, “Project T” Measure M funds can only be used to “expand” existing stations to accommodate high-speed rail, not build new ones that don’t.

So far the OCTA has pitched over $40,000,000 bucks into this glorified bus station and at this point nobody can show that the high-speed rail choo-choos can even get to it; or that high-speed rail will ever even come to Anaheim. Of course the City of Anaheim (that isn’t paying for any of this) is now saying ARTIC is a “stand alone” facility, which is great, but it ain’t what the voters approved back in 2006: a stand alone facility doesn’t qualify for the $100,000,000 (yes, you read that right) Project T funding.

The hot light of public scrutiny is bound to have interesting environmental effects. The great ARTIC melt-down begins this morning at an OCTA Transit Committee meeting, where newly re-elected Supervisor Shawn Nelson is going to ask members to start reflecting upon their complete lack of responsibility in funding this Pringledoggle.

Another Day Another Dump on Pringle’s Main Chance Choo Choo

You are growing very sleepy...

This time it’s a story by the LA Times featuring former OCTA boss Art Leahy and others questioning the dedicated tracks, the impacts, and of course some of the basic operating assumptions of the California HSR.

Meantime we’re not holding our collective breath for the release of Curt Pringle’s “business plan” that seems to be at least 5 years late.

High Speed Rail Boondoggle Splashed With Cold Water

According to a Sunday Los Angeles Times story, here, the high speed rail (HSR) project, every big-government lover’s answer to all our problems, is starting to receive more unwelcome scrutiny lately. Skyrocketing projected costs and ticket prices, federal subsidy guarantee requirements, incomprehensible ridership projections, and property takings that include, apparently, some part of Buena Park’s Metrolink Station or the adjacent residential development are causing folks to take a harder look at this fiasco in the making.

Things have gotten so bad that even lefty Long Beach State Senator Alan Lowenthal is upset.

HSR should be a source of great alarm to everyone in north Orange County, both in terms of its cost to the taxpayers, the damage that it will do to established communities, and also because so many clueless but ambitious politicians like Harry Sidhu and Lorri Galloway are using it as a mantra to solve unemployment woes in California, and in particular Orange County.

When and if this monstrosity is ever built, the jobs will go to giant out of town engineering firms. Most of the construction workers will be imported from the Inland Empire and Los Angeles County – just like they are on every public works project. The only local recipients of reliable employment benefit will be the lobbyists like Anaheim’s outgoing mayor, Curt Pringle and his ilk who are promoting this giant money sucking vortex in their own interest.

And just watch as the onerous environmental laws that the rest of us have to live by are waived for the politicos pet project.

Transportation Boondoggles Belie Sidhu’s Self-applied Stick-on Labels

It's all about #1, baby!

“Tough-minded advocate for streamlined efficient government.”

That’s how 4th District Supervisor candidate Harry Sidhu describes himself in that dopey Fullerton News Tribune ad he bought last week. We also read that Sidhu claims to have “fought to eliminate excessive and wasteful government spending.”

No examples, of course, to support the statements; evidently we are expected to accept Harry’s word for it.

But let’s make a quick visit to Sidhu’s campaign webiste. Under the “Transportation” issue heading we discover stuff all dressed up to look like an accomplishment that in reality gives the lie to Harry’s claim to be anything but an irresponsible public spendthrift.

Turns out Sidhu is a big cheerleader for the California High Speed Rail scam, a boondoggle on which hundreds of millions have already been squandered in “studies,” and with a gargantuan $50 billion price tag that ridership will never pay for. And of course he beats the drum for the jaw-droppingly expensive ARTIC plan in Anaheim, presumably hoping that if you build the southern terminus of the HSR a choo choo will have to show up sooner or later. A trip to the ARTIC website “benefits” page makes things crystal clear: $180,000,000 (yes, Friends you read that right) for a make-work government jobs program – mostly paid for with Measure M funds that everybody in the County has to pay through sales tax. Hardly the behavior of a fiscal conservative, is it?

Our Friends in Anaheim tell us that Sidhu is all gung-ho for this titanic fiasco to grease his relationship with outgoing Mayor Curt Pringle, who is neck deep in the HSR rip-off and who is looking for a soft place to land.

Pringle on his knees again...

Pringle, not coincidentally, is supporting Sidhu’s carpetbagging run for Supervisor (he supported Ackerwoman, too) and has been raising money for him. Symbiosis. And we get stuck holding the empty sack. Typical.

Sidhu is “tough-minded” about one thing: perpetually running for political office. On matters involving our tax dollars he’s about as tough as a mildewed marshmallow.