We’ve received, via a Public Records Request, some of Community Development Director Ted White’s text messages with downtown bar owner Joe Florentine. It looks like Mr. White is working for Florentine which explains a lot:
To clear this up, those “issues” that Mr. Florentine is talking about include all of his violations of the municipal code and his Conditional Use Permit – specifically his illegal refusal to install fire sprinklers.
Florentine is in gross violation and Ted White is pushing a big change to the municipal code through council in order to facilitate Florentine’s bad behavior.
While Mr. White likes to talk about how hard his job is, how impossible enforcement is and how outdated it is to look at “lumens” regarding lighting – he doesn’t admit that fire safety isn’t on his list of priorities – nor is actually doing his job.
Florentine’s properties on the corner of Harbor and Commonwealth, the largest bar / nightclub in all of Downtown Fullerton, as far as we can tell, is the ONLY business given a pass on fire and life safety issues.
We also have it on good authority that Mr. White tried to illegally INCREASE the occupancy at Florentine’s properties, in violation of the law, while ignoring the fire sprinkler issue that has been ignored by staff for 10+ years. Why? Why potentially put more people at risk?
And Mr. White isn’t alone in his belief that one man is above the rules and laws in Fullerton.
Every single year the Fullerton Police Chief, currently Robert Dunn, issues Florentine a Live Entertainment Permit threatening to enforce the applicable laws/permits. And every year the Chief does nothing but wield his rubber stamp for downtown law breakers. This is worse than the old joke of the UN saying “Stop! Or we’ll yell ‘Stop!’ again!” because our Chief can’t even be bothered to use the “S” word. (more…)
We here at FFFF over the years have pointed out the Florentine sidewalk theft and more recently the sham of city oversight in Florentine’s decade+ refusal to install fire sprinklers.
Those stories led a reader to send us a video that may make that fire sprinkler issue way worse in context. It’s a story about what allegedly happened at Florentine’s Melody Inn back in 1989 in Downtown Fullerton.
Those of us in the cheap seats out in Podunk have noticed something odd and can’t quite figure it out and we’re hoping that some of you friends have some answers.
The problem is that Joe Florentine operates a night club in clear violation of the Fullerton Municipal Code and possibly CA Law if not just CA building codes. How so? His nightclubs located at 100-104 N Harbor Blvd, and which have a combined occupancy of over 300 people, are lacking fire sprinklers. Feel free to check for the permits yourself to verify.
The CUP from 2008 on this issue fully states (our emphasis):
“12. The 2008 Building Code requires that restaurants and drinking establishments with a fire occupancy of 100 persons or more are required to install fire sprinklers. As a result, the business owner is required to add fire sprinklers as a matter of approval. Because this is a Building Code requirement, the Planning Commission does not have discretion to waive this requirement. Staff has recommended a condition to assure that the work be performed within a specified timeframe of the use approval, or else the CUP will be brought back to the Planning Commission for revocation.”
Here’s the California Building Code for those who are curious, keep in mind that Florentine’s is said to be about 8,000 sqf:
His business qualifies as requiring fire sprinklers. His conditional use permit requires him to have fire sprinklers. Yet he has no fire sprinklers.
Why are there no fire sprinklers?
Why hasn’t his Conditional Use Permit been revoked as required by law?
For 10+ years Florentine has been operating the largest restaurant / night club against the law and for 10+ years our staff has done nothing about it. Even though Fire and Life Safety are the issues at hand.
OK, that’s not fair to staff. They have done something. They’ve willfully ignored fire codes, building codes and public safety. We’ve got to give credit where credit is due and nothing in this case certainly is something.
Despite that 2008 Conditional Use Permit threatening a mandatory revocation, the city has never once enforced the issue of fire sprinklers let alone considered bringing his CUP back for possible revocation. Not Once. In all that time our useless Planning Commission has been too inept to ask tough questions of staff or for a list of gross violators to even notice this glaring slap against their preening authority.
But wait for it, it gets better.
Each year like clockwork the ever rotating Fullerton Police Chief signs off on Florentine’s Live Entertainment Permit making FPD complicit in this glaring life safety fail. Here’s an example from 2016/17:
“7. The C.U.P (if applicable) shall be strictly enforced.”
The Chief of Police is signing off on Live Entertainment Permits and claiming that conditions of use, such as fire sprinklers, will be enforced while NEVER ONCE ENFORCING THEM in well over a decade.
While Community Development Director Ted White likes to talk about needed changes to the municipal code, specifically Title 15 which passed our clueless Planning Commission, he mentions lights and lumens and outdated technology. It sure is curious that he never bothered to mention Fire Safety and how he, his staff, nor any staff across Fullerton, can be bothered to enforce those issues and laws either. Nevermind flagrant violations of state law, HOLY CRAP LOOK AT THOSE LUMENS! We just can’t measure those time to change the codes!
While he’s baffling our clueless leaders and representatives on the dais with bullshit, he’s letting guys like Florentine violate safety concerns because… why exactly?
No seriously, why? Why are we tolerating staff, our Planning Commission, and our City Council blatantly ignoring the law while they spoon feed us nonsense about lumen measurement?
This is an endemic problem. That Live Entertainment Permit as seen on the Fullerton website actually needs to be signed off on by multiple departments:
How is that nobody in the Building, Code Enforcement or the Fire Department has a problem with such a large venue with such a large civilian capacity each weekend being in clear violation of fire codes?
Joe Florentine actually made the case in front of the Planning Commission recently that the Live Entertainment Permit process was too arduous. Let that sink in. The dude who’s breaking the law and putting people’s lives at risk has the sadz because the process, that is letting him slip by with his lawlessness, wants the process to be easier!
Maybe you can figure out why right now, this weekend of St. Paddy’s Day which is one of the heaviest drinking days of the year, the city is going to continue to put hundreds of people at risk in Florentine’s night clubs.
The city knows Joe Florentine operates his bars outside the law. He is legally required to protect the public he allows in his doors, but refuses to do so. We know it, we tolerate it, and we even sign off on it at least once a year.
Why is this important? Why should you care that your city staff ignores the law and signs off on Florentine’s shenanigans?
Because this means YOU, the taxpayers of Fullerton, are on the hook for an accident in Florentine’s bars.
You, through the Police Chief & Fire Department, signed off on his entertainment permits to pack his bars.
You, through your Council, Staff and City Manager, told him he was safe, every year. You told him he’s a good operator despite obvious evidence to the contrary.
So what happens when, God forbid, there’s a fire like the Ghost Ship in Oakland where fire sprinklers were also lacking?
Who pays restitution? Little ol’ Joe with his big house and big pool up on the hill?
NO! You do! You pay! Just like you always pay when staff and council refuse to do their jobs. You signed the dotted line that blessed all his illegal bullshit and then you did nothing about it.
You get what you vote for, Fullerton. This weekend your vote will be used again to tolerate putting hundreds of people at risk. You voted for people to not enforce life safety laws, you voted to not enforce alcohol service laws, and you voted to not enforce zoning laws.