Amerige Court—How to Give Away Public Land for $500

Mid-Evil Circus Revival revival

Last December The Fullerton Redevelopment Agency approved yet another extension to Pelican, the hapless developer of the gigantic Amerige Court project downtown. Readers will recall that this project was approved in 2008 over the objections of hundreds of people who saw it for what it was, yet another cheap looking, insipid  copy of the retail/loft model that is supposed to revive downtowns.

This time the now unemployed redevelopment staff allowed the developer to plan to rent the housing units at first, even though when it was first approved years ago it was supposed to be all about classing up the area by inviting the landowning gentry to move in and stare down the lawless drunks of Fullerton’s bar culture.

So two months ago, despite several people speaking out against the fourth (!) amendment to the original agreement, and no one speaking in favor of it, the extension was granted. Bruce Whitaker and Sharon Quirk-Silva dissented, having had enough of developer excuses for why they haven’t been able to build anything, but Bankhead, McKinley, and Jones predictably went along with this giveaway of taxpayer owned land in the heart of the city.

Well, that was back before Redevelopment disappeared last week, so now they have to do it all over as the City Council tonight.

Show up to watch developer owned politicians try to give away your land once again, if you let them.

Last week we showed you why the Three Dinosaurs were so willing to perpetuate this disaster of a project.

When you take their money, you have to do their bidding. Besides, if you can give away public land to build a monstrous and unneeded architecturally appalling project that will add more traffic to the area and tear down some really old buildings to do it, why wouldn’t you? Especially when the half of the development partnership that’s still in business gives you $500 to keep you from being recalled?

Pam Keller: Funneling Grant Money Into Liberal Activism for Fun and Profit

We’ve burned quite a few pixels explaining how Pam Keller’s is using her non-profit, The Fullerton Collaborative,  as a vehicle to peddle influence, fund political activists, and profit Keller herself through excessively convoluted financial relationships.

But some of our loyal Friends still don’t get it.

That’s admittedly understandable, since the entire contraption is remarkably complicated. But to help everyone wrap his or her cerebral cortex around the many conflicts of interest, we present this valuable flow chart to demonstrate where The Fullerton Collaborative’s money comes from and where it goes. Naturally the nexus of the whole tangled web is Pam Keller. And that’s the big problem.

Click for an eye-opening experience...

Enjoy following the arrows. After perusing this chart there really is no excuse for not being concerned about the manifest conflicts of interests on the part of our City Council woman Pam Keller.

Unless, of course, you are part of the web.

The Status of the “Amerige Court” Monstrosity; On Life Support – Pull The Plug!


Don’t hold your breath waiting for the good folks at City Hall to provide a public update on the drawn-out Amerige Court saga. They would just as soon you don’t know while they work out a deal behind the scenes.

Well, if they won’t we will. To that end we sent out our crack team of investigative reporters and found out a few things.

As many of the friends doubtless know, the original partnership – Pelican/Laing – that was getting all of the Redevelopment gravy: free land, super-high density, etc. etc., is no more. John Laing Homes went into receivership. But we have been informed by our sources that before they declared under Chapter 11 they managed to offload their interest in the Amerige Court project to their erstwhile partners, Pelican. We suspect that they sold out for pennies on the dollar to salvage something before a bankruptcy court judge could lock things up.

The possibility of a kickback to former Laing employees is hard to ignore, and we hope that this thought will occur to the bankruptcy judge, too. The City granted entitlements were and are, worth millions to somebody who can actually seal the deal.

The Redevelopment Agency staff is aware of all this, and rather than start over will no doubt push hard for the Agency to accept this new arrangement, if they haven’t already. It’s hard to see the Pelican boys getting financing to build a birdhouse these days, but many options are open including selling off the whole mess to somebody else. They may also try to repackage the deal in a “softer” format to makes sure they can get the green light.

So the time is ripe to call City Council members who voted for this huge subsidized eyesore. Keller, Quirk-Silva, and Shawn Nelson have an opportunity to correct their previous mistake and do the right thing by the people of Fullerton. Bankhead and Jones are, of course, far beyond hope, but you can try them, too, if you care to.

Fullerton Collaborative Received Contributions from Developers

You'd be smiling, too.
You'd be smiling, too.

Our own Travis Kiger met with the Chairman and Treasurer of the Fullerton Collaborative yesterday to review donations to that group from people who might have had business before the City of Fullerton where the Collaborative’s Executive Director, Pam Keller, sits on the city council. He also looked into whether or not the Collaborative had received contributions from developers – people from whom Pam Keller had specifically refused to take campaign contributions.

From the records made available to him, Travis discovered two prominent names: Pelican-Ontario, an affiliate of the Amerige Court project developers, and the egregious Steve Sheldon, pitchman for the massive Jefferson Commons project. Pelican and Sheldon gave $300 and $1000 to the Collaborative, respectively. Bushala Brothers, Inc., local property owners and developers in Fullerton gave $1000 as well.

The issue of the St. Jude Medical Center participation in the Collaborative, and Keller’s December 2007 votes in favor of their large project on the west side of Harbor Boulevard was also discussed at length.

The officers of the Collaborative have claimed that the Executive Director is paid from funds separate from those gathered from donations that support Collaborative activities. That may or may not be accurate, but it is true that the typical budget for “Faces of Fullerton,” for instance, includes $5000 for staff salary, and the Collaborative only has one employee – Keller. The larger issue is that contributions made to the Collaborative could, and may have gone to pay for the contract with FSD for Keller’s services. Is it really necessary to parse out different accounts?

The Collaborative leaders also related that in the future they will scrutinize and pre-approve all donations; but that is not any of our business. Our business throughout this affair has been to find out if Pam Keller has been voting on projects applied for by members and contributors to the Collaborative (she has), and whether she has solicited donations from the very developers who she refused to take money from for her campaign (she has).

In conclusion, we make no accusations of illegal behavior on anyone’s part; but is it ethical of Pam Keller to refuse developer campaign contributions only to turn around and solicit them for the Collaborative – an entity she is paid to run? We don’t think so. When she ran for council in 2006 Keller made a big deal about letting the development process be driven by public participation – rather than by outside developers. Her votes to approve the gigantic Jefferson Commons and Amerige Court projects were baffling to many who no doubt took her campaign promises at face value.

There you have it, Friends. You decide.

Pam Keller Week Wrap-up

I love the attention. Bring it on!
I love the attention. Bring it on!

We’ve spent much of the week examining what we could find out about Pam Keller and her “Fullerton Collaborative.” As a Fullerton City Council member she has cast some votes that even some of her devoted supporters have found, well, mystifying. These include the gargantuan “Jefferson Commons” and the mammoth “Amerige Court” messes. Only a crappy economy has stalled these excrescences from going forward, although several historic, mid-century modern buildings have been destroyed to clear the land for Jefferson Commons.

Pam has made a great big deal about not taking developer’s money, and her 2006 campaign manifesto talks about protecting the citizens of Fullerton from the nasty developer special interests that want to “shape our future.” It still sounds like a lot of campaign drivel, but it was clearly intended to appeal to a certain profile voter – just the sort of voter who should now be appalled at those approved projects.

Our series started out with a giggle over her “Woodstock” fundraiser aimed at ex-hippies who could break out their ratty denims and tie-dye T shirts and kick in $1000 to be a “Jimi Hendrix Fan Club” member. The fact that the party nearly coincided with the one year anniversary of her vote to approve the Amerige Court project propelled the conversation in that direction.

The discussion took another turn when we also noticed that Keller’s Fullerton Collaborative is supposed to combat childhood obesity – so it seemed disconnected that she would vote to move a McDonald’s right across the street from Fullerton High; except that the move frees up land for another massive housing project!

The mention of the Collaborative began a look-see into that group. We discovered that Pam is an employee of the Fullerton School District – not the Collaborative, which is convenient – for her – since she can pursue her philanthropy on the public payroll. We remarked that the money that goes to pay the FSD for Pam’s services constitutes the majority of the Collaborative’s expenses, and that in 2007 it operated in the red.

We also discovered that the Collaborative website makes no mention of who its “donors” are, which is pretty weird for a charity and even weirder for people who donate to them; and this led to all sorts of unpleasant speculation about the possibility that private interests in Fullerton that have business with the City might be donating to the Collaborative.

As speculation mounted about the possibility that land developers might be donating to the Collaborative – developers like Steve Sheldon and the Pelican/Laing boys – we picked up a couple of other interesting tidbits, such as Fullerton City Departments being “members” of the Collaborative where their boss runs things (from FSD Trustee Minard Duncan); and then that Pam Keller attended the now infamous Newport Harbor drinkies boat ride and dinner hosted by Steve Sheldon for Sharon Quirk; a boat ride also attended by the Amerige Court developers who paid $1000 a piece for the privilege. Our Friends wondered if Sheldon gave Keller a freebie and whether that fact had been divulged anywhere.

Finally, FFFF blogmeister Travis Kiger issued a challenge for Pam to reveal who the donors  to the Collaborative have been. And Pam responded by saying she would take it up with the Collaborative board (of which she is a member) at their meeting next month.

Well, that’s it so far. It’s been interesting digging into theses topics and others seem to be interested too: we have generated our highest visitor and page view numbers ever.

And rest assured, Friends, we won’t be letting go of this story any time soon, so stick around for the continuing saga!

So Who’s Responsible For Downtown Fullerton’s Amerige Court Turkey Project?

Classic Circus Mid-Evil Revival

June 16, 2009……..Fullerton City Council Agenda



Section 54956.8

Property: North and South Block of 100 West Amerige Avenue,

Fullerton, CA

Agency Negotiator: Rob Zur Schmiede, Director of Redevelopment and

Economic Development

Negotiating Parties: Richard Hamm, Pelican-Laing Fullerton, LLC

Under Negotiations: Price and terms

The Laing of the LLC is John Laing Holmes. Laing is a home builder with a reported debt of $500 million to $1 billion and is in Chapter 11 receivership. And furthermore, the word on the street is the front men of the LLC Hamm & Pellican are also on the verge of financial protection.

Exactly what kind of negotiations could our financially unexperienced City Council be doing with a group of financial wizards who are running amok in debt? When is the Redevelopment Agency going to realize the housing market has collapsed? If this project goes forward it will be a financial wreck for Fullerton.

Dear Friends, how many of you realize Pam Keller, Sharon Quirk, Don Bankhead and Dick Jones have already voted to place the Fullerton tax payers on the hook by guaranteeing the developer who’s in bankruptcy a 15% profit?  Who besides us are willing to admit this project was a turkey from day 1?

George knows all about turkeys
...a turkey from day 1

Avast, Landlubbers…And Let Us Spin Ye a Fulsome Yarn; We Be Callin’ It: The Curse O’Quirk’s Cruise

A Three Hour Tour...
A Three Hour Tour...

Back in the balmy summer of 2007, the weather was great – just perfect to spend some time on the water. Lobbyist, front-man, promoter, and all-round cash-conduit Steve Sheldon (not pictured, left) hosted a  cruise on his boat the S.S. Cash Cow around Newport Harbor, to be followed by a scrump-diddly-umptious dinner at a swank Newport Beach restaurant. It wasn’t free. Lucky invitees had to cough up $1000 a piece for the priviledge, and that ain’t chump change. The beneficiary of this lobbyist largesse: Fullerton City Councilwoman Sharon Quirk.

A little Dramamine goes a long way...
A little Drammamine goes a long way...

Now, Loyal Friends, why would Sheldon organize such an event? Because that’s his job! He represented the “developer” of the massive Jefferson Commons project over by CSUF that would require a general plan amendment and a zone change, demolition of historic buildings, loss of OP zoning, and the usual slide-and-glide job on the required EIR. When you’re in Sheldon’s business you don’t take chances, and of course you wheel your bets.

Any way you slice it, Sheldon performed a big favor for Quirk; and guys like Sheldon know it’s natural for nice people to repay favors.

Among the attendees of Sheldon’s nautical shake down included representatives of John Laing Homes and Pelican Properties – the would-be developers of the “Amerige Court” project – another mammoth project that threatens to consume downtown Fullerton.

Environmental impacts? No, we don't foresee any big problems...
Environmental impacts? No, we don't foresee any big problems...

And so (to return to our maritime theme) on one pleasant summer day, the developers of two of the  biggest proposed monstrosities in Fullerton’s history spent a lovely summer afternoon schmoozing with Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Quirk – presumably sharing the wonderful plans they had for the future of Fullerton. There were a lot of good feelings on board that afternoon, even before the sun crossed over the yard-arm.

Love, exciting and new, come aboard - we're expecting you!
Love, exciting and new, come aboard - we're expecting you!

Hardly more than a year had passed before Quirk had voted to approve both these overbearing projects – with their dubious environmental reviews, and the evident negative externalities the get-rich-quick entitlements foisted on the rest of us.

Arrrrrrgh! The key to the City! What a deal ya scarvy dogs...

Now, in logic there’s a fallacy known as the post hoc, ergo propter hoc, which means that just because B follows A, it doesn’t follow that A caused B. And we’re not claiming that Quirk’s vote was bought by the high-rolling developers and their front man. Quirk could probably come up with all sorts of reasons for supporting these projects on their own merit. We can’t think of any ourselves, but if you can, Devoted Readers and Friends, please feel free to share them. And if Ms. Quirk is reading this, she, too is invited to explain why these projects are so good for Fullerton. We will be happy to give her response its own post – but only if she promises to write it herself!