Will Redevelopment Borrow $50 Million for Affordable Housing?

Have you ever been robbed?  Some robberies are violent and involve weapons or threats of force.  Others are of a white-collar nature.  Don’t be fooled, you are robbed either way.  One robber let’s you know he is taking your money while the other is much more insidious and calculating.  Our Redevelopment Agency is the latter.

Item 10 on this week’s council agenda deserves some attention.

According to the staff recommendation signed by Ramona Castaneda, for our illustrious Land Czar Rob Zur Schmiede and Charles Kovac, these fine public employees would like to sell a bond.  They say that their autonomous agency could net between $26,900,000 and $32,000,000 in proceeds.  That sounds like a great idea if you like to squander public money.  The Staff report states that the debt service payments over a 17-year term would be approximately $2,900,000 per year starting September 20100 and ending September 2027.  Okay, so check my math: $2,900,000 x 17 years = $49,300,000.

That’s a cost of nearly $50 MILLION!  We are cutting staff hours, cutting services and rethinking the way we do business… at least everyone else is.  Our Land Czar wants the money so he can build MORE affordable housing.  That’s laughable since his agency has single-handedly destroyed and displaced more homes than any other in Fullerton.  Oh, but wait!  What’s that Doc?  Oh, he says it’s that law, we just gotta do it!  No we don’t.

Of course missing from the discussion about this venture seems to be the little matter of the lawsuit that Friends for Fullerton’s Future has filed against the Redevelopment Agency’s expansion plan. Is Zur Schmiede counting on tax increment from the proposed expansion area to pay off his bonds? Better hope not.

On the Agenda – January 19th, 2009

In a closed session King Rob Zur Schmiede will attempt to beat up a few property owners in his relentless quest to spend your money and expand his kingdom. Tuesday, he will be targeting several properties along West Avenue and Ford Avenue.

The municipal code change for commission appointments is to be approved. Hopefully, we don’t have another scene like we did at the last meeting where all the old guys go nuts. (Item 2)

There is a change in regulations for taxi operators… (Item 3)

Item 4 will be the financial statements for October and November of 2009. Let’s see just how badly we pissed away our kids’ future.

The Engineering Department hopes to protect their investment with an agreement outlined in Item 5. It makes sense…sort of.

There are several sewer projects on the table, which, if managed correctly, will allow for fecal matter to continue to roll down the hill to the sanitation district. It’s a lot of money but probably necessary considering how poorly we have maintained our infrastructure for the last 40-plus years.

The council is being asked to approve a public alley abandonment. Not surprising, this is related to the King Rob stuff in closed session. (Item 9)

There are a few airport items which you pilots might review. (Items 10 & 11)

Item 12 caught my eye. It appears the James Wernke’s family (for those living in a cave somewhere far away, Wernke was the young man who lost his life this past December) would like to name a trail after their son/brother. But the Parks Department scratched their head and are now asking for the council to direct the Parks commission to look at a policy for naming trails. I suggest the council by-pass the commission and just name a portion of a trail after him. Designate a section of trail in the Brea Damn Recreation area as the James Wernke Memorial Trail. Done. Fire the Parks Director and get a leader..

Item 13 is an amendment to the City’s municipal code relating to permitted parking. As I recall, this has to do with the overflow of students parking on public street and residents not being too happy.

Items 14 and 15 fall under the heading of REGULAR BUSINESS. 14 covers moving our money hither and dither in a shell game related to trails. 15 discusses a Budget Review Process.

On the Agenda: December 15th, 2009

City-Council-AgendaThe Fullerton City Council has just released their agenda for December 15, 2009 and it’s a fat package!

Something near and dear to me is baseball so I take a little more interest when the subject shows up on the agenda.  Item 2 of the closed session is a conference with the real property negotiator concerning 304 W. Commonwealth Avenue.  It would appear that the Orange County Flyers of Fullerton want to move to downtown Fullerton to be closer to City Hall.  In fact they want to have the baseball field across the street where many a young man played pony league baseball.   The Duane Winters Field just might be the sight of the next Golden Baseball League Championship.  In March 2007 the team gave up being the Fullerton Flyers because the new partners wanted to be more marketable.  Hmm, sounds like an Arty Moreno stunt!  So the changed to the Orange County Flyers.  I have a t-shirt that says “Top 10 Reason’s To Be a Fan: …Reason #4: They aren’t the L.A. Flyers of Fullerton.”  That’s true; they’re the O.C. Flyers.  So, will Parks and Rec Director, Joe Felz, give them the field?  We’ll see…

Also in the closed session is another real property whiz-bang.  Rob Zur Schmiede is working on 655 W. Valencia.  In 2007 this was a 63 unit condo by John Laing and the project was in plan check.  3+ years later, what could they be discussing?  Price and terms with C&C Development’s Barry Cottle, according to the agenda.

In the open session you can look forward to a presentation by MWD  and a few awards to people like Quirk-Silva, Dick Waltz, and – drum roll please – The Golden Bell Award, Fullerton Union High School District and (another drum roll please) Fullerton School District!  How ya like dem apples?

Make sure you fill out your blue card before you yell at the council – which you will want to do…

There are a few appointments being made to the Library Board of Trustees.  Your favorite Mayor, Don “Don’t Mess With Me” Bankhead and Shawn “See Ya Later Alligator” Nelson.  Their terms are to expire December 31, 2012 – if they last that long.

We have a busy consent calendar to cover so hang on tight.  In the mix is the amended landscaping ordinance, group insurance for city employees, the employee’s deferred compensation, more sewer replacement, a bunch of Redevelopment stuff, air pollution, SALE OF THE ORANGE COUNTY FAIR GROUNDS (seriously – item 11),  Raymond Avenue grade separation, Fire Management Association agreement, Bastanchury/Valencia Mesa bike path.  There is too much for me to cover here so I’ll expand a little on just a few.

First, there for Redevelopment.  Item 6’s title should tell you everything you need to know… “Redevelopment Agency’s Annual Determination That Planning And Administrative Expenses Are Necessary For The Production, Improvement, or Preservation of Low and Moderate Income Housing”.  Yep that’s all you need to know so don’t look into it or question it.  I suggest that if you ever had a beef with Redevelopment, this is a chance for you to SCREAM at your elected officials.  This “determination” is the justification for wasting your money.  Because if that isn’t enough reason, read item 7, the Redevelopment Agency’s annual report.  This the RA’s justification for existence to the State and Feds.  If it doesn’t dazzle you with brilliance, rest assured, it will baffle you with bullshit!

Ok, enough with the Redevelopment Agency, let’s get down to real business.  According to item 8, it’s time to modify the signals at Orangethorpe and Highland, as well as re-stripe the area and add some signs.

Air pollution shows up 9th on the list.  It’s actually a MSRC grant for $450,000 for a compressed natural gas station.  I wonder how much money we will throw at it to get the gas station operational.  How much will we sell the gas for?  Are there enough customers to make it profitable or are we, the tax payers, suppose to subsidize CNG vehicle owners?  I’m sure the details are all there waiting to be found.

Don Hoppe gets an appointment as the Public Works Dispute Hearing Officer.  Will he get paid extra for the job?

And then we have the Fairgrounds.  It appears that the council would like to request the Governator to not sell the O.C. Fairgrounds.  I’m sure Arnold will read the letter and quickly cancel the whole sale.

The Raymond Avenue Grade Separation is getting a change order for AECOM.  Their fee is $2,450,000.  It is unclear from the agenda or staff recommendation just how much the change order will cost us, if anything.   According to the recommendation, there is $63,739,000 for the project.  That’s a lot of money!

Skipping ahead to the Public Hearings we have some more Redevelopment doozies.  The first one, item 15, is for 524 and 530 S. Richman Avenue where the Olson Company wants to erect 34 moderate income housing units.  I believe the Honorable DR. Jones said we “…absolutely have to build these. It’s the law!”  Well, sort of…not really.

Also, item 16 is the Five-Year Implementation Plan for Redevelopment Agency.  The item is on the agenda so that a request can be made to have a public hearing on it and consider adopting the plan.  What a racket!

Here is an interesting one.  Item 17 is an appeal to install a nature/wildlife habitat along a portion of the Juanita Cooke Greenbelt (known to many who are not as up to date on official trail names as “The Equestrian Trail Behind the Court House that goes to Laguna Lake”).  After looking at what they wanted to do and where, I’m not sure why the City didn’t take advantage of the situation.  Here are a couple who want to improve the trail where it runs along their backyard.  They wanted to make it wilder (I guess) on the slope NEXT TO the path.  The fix could have been to enter into an agreement whereby they can install certain pre-approved plants in a pre-approved manner, the total costs of which would be paid by the applicant.  The City could have the homeowners maintain it until such time as the agreement is cancelled in which case the homeowners could be on the hook for removal/restoration costs.  The cop out from Parks that the trail has two paths and this would confuse people is silly.  Are people really that stupid?  Also, from what I have seen, the encroachment would be onto the slope.  I don’t think the mountain bikers are on the slopes nor are the walkers or horses.  So what’s the problem?

The city will also be looking at parking permit fees in certain areas. (See item 18)

Moving on to Regular Business (I said this was a big package), we have a few reports on the City’s financials as well as the Airport.  Also in the Regular Business is the Commission/Committee At-Large Appointment Process.

I urge you to read through all of the supporting documents for the agenda.  That is where you might find some nuggets of truth that should be brought forth.  I simply don’t have enough hours in the day to do it.  Thanks for reading and feel free to point out other topics that I missed or are important to you!

Ironic Twist to “Euclid Commons”; City Wants To Make A Deal With Disabled Housing Foe


Property: 626 & 700 S. Euclid Street
Agency Negotiator: Rob Zur Schmiede
Negotiating Parties: Paul Kott, Pierre J. Nicolas Trust
Under Negotiations: Price and terms

Affordable housing, like politics apparently makes for strange bedfellows. Take the case of Euclid Commons, a proposed affordable housing site that the City wants to buy. The agent for the owner is none other than Paul Kott, an Anaheim realtor and apparently a giant NIMBY, to boot.

About three years ago the City of Anaheim proposed a housing development for disabled folks near Kott’s offices on Lincoln Avenue, a pretty worthy goal you would think. But guess who marshaled neighborhood opposition that caused the city council back down? That’s right, Paul Kott.

Money does funny things to people...
Money does funny things to people...

Lest anyone think we make this stuff up, we thoughtfully provide a link to the LA Times article from 2006, here.

And speaking of money, here’s the money quote:

“Residents of the neighborhood, called Westmont, said a letter from real estate agent Paul Kott alerted them to the city’s plans for the vacant lot at Wilshire Avenue and Pearl Street. Kott, whose office is a few hundred yards from the site, wrote in his letter that “parolees, child molesters and mentally ill” could soon live nearby.”

Hey, Fullerton CC, nice guys you want to do business with!

No Stems or Seeds That You Don’t Need

Recently Fullerton’s Redevelopment Director, Robert Zur Schmiede (who also serves on the planning commission for Laguna Beach) decided to channel his inner MD for an impromptu prescription to the Laguna Beach City Council to ban all medical marijuana dispensaries from the city. An OC Register article detailing the issue is available here, but here are a couple of noteworthy quotes:

“While acknowledging the needs of ill patients to access marijuana, I will not support — and will, in fact, vehemently oppose — the allowance of collectives in the city,” Commissioner Robert Zur Schmiede said.

“Why anyone with a grain of sense thinks this is something we should do is beyond me,” he added, to some murmurs in the audience.

Father Schmiede Knows Best
Father Zur Schmiede Knows Best

Let’s get this straight:

  • the majority of voters in California elected to legalize marijuana for medical use 13 years ago
  • Zur Schmiede is fully aware that there are ailing citizens who have a legitimate medical need for the drug
  • Zur Schmiede does not have a medical degree

Despite all that, he actively seeks to deny patients access to a drug that a licensed medical doctor has recommended for treatment.

Hmm... No medical marijuana for you!
Hmm... No medical marijuana for you! Trust me. I'm not a doctor.

Does Zur Schmiede really have the public interest in mind here? Can we expect this sort of reefer madness to echo in Fullerton? Or can we reasonably expect our city staff to uphold State law?



We have delved deep into our photo archives and have uncovered this image. And so continuing in the Robert Young leitmotif  we share it with our Friends.

But I'm sick and need help! Nein! Ve vill never approve this pprescription!
But I'm sick and need help! Nein! Ve vill never approve zis prescription!


closed doorsclosed doorscloseddoorclosed doors

Here’s an item on tomorrow’s agenda to be addressed by the City Council behind closed doors:


Property: 626 & 700 S. Euclid Street
Agency Negotiator: Rob Zur Schmiede
Negotiating Parties: Paul Kott, Pierre J. Nicolas Trust
Under Negotiations: Price and terms

Why is the Redevelopment Agency negotiating to buy this property?
This is a big deal. Where's the public hearing?

Let’s get this straight. The Redevelopment staff (aka Rob Zur Schmiede) is asking for council permission to begin negotiations for a huge piece of property off Euclid, presumably to build low income housing. He’s trying to do it behind closed doors under the cover of the “closed session” where he can get the ball rolling on a project that has NEVER been authorized by anybody. The key phrase here is “price and terms” which justifies the secrecy but that in reality is being used as a fig leaf to hide the fact that the council is giving tacit approval to a project that has never been offically authorized by them, in public – even in concept. In fact the very nature of the request is the first in what will be a long series of incremental approvals. In fact, this process is called incrementalization for that very reason.

Well, WE object to these shennanigans even though it happens all the time.  Authorization to negotiate price and terms is premature, and at this juncture issues that are not covered by under Brown Act exclusions are already occuring. What is involved is a secret commencement of the process that will lead to land use entitlements and rezoning. This is wrong, wrong wrong. This is obviously going to be a major project with major policy and CEQA implications.

The City Council should agendize this issue for a public hearing immediately with proper notification to all the neighbors. If they choose to go ahead with this (likely monstrosity), THEN they can schedule their “price and terms” meeting in the cozy confines of the backroom!

Dick Jones Redevelopment Befuddlement Encore

Watch Dick Jones question Redevelopment Director Rob Zur Schmiede about the availability of tax increment monies in the proposed extension area. Zur Schmiede responds that because of the merger with an existing area money would be available “immediately.” And Jones is off to the Camp Town races, perhaps not realizing that his Redevelopment director was only talking about existing funds – not new property tax increment. All he heard was “immediately.” So he sits up, pleased as punch, like he had just discovered radium. Uhmmediately! Well, Land ‘o Goshen!  You cain’t hardly beat uh-mmediate! Instant gratification – a predictable desire in a child; embarrassing in a septuagenarian.

The reality is that even if the Redevelopment extension survives a legal challenge, the depressed real estate market and property tax re-assessments will likely create a flat or even a negative increment for the near to mid-term future within the amendment area. This means that any Redevelopment funded projects here would have to dip into the also diminishing increment in the pre-existing project area. So why doesn’t Jones grasp this? Because the Redevelopment Agency has arrived upon the scene to cure all that ails us. HOT DAMN! IMMEDIATELY!

Is this really the guy we want making this decisions for us?

Fox Block: Fullerton Rejects Fake Old McSpanish Architecture

The room filled with cheers and applause at last night’s Fox Block community meeting when a citizen stood up and pronounced that the Redevelopment Agency should avoid creating more buildings that are meant to look like fake old clones of existing historic buildings.

The developer who was giving the presentation wanted to make sure that he was hearing this right… he asked for a show of hands – who wants Spanish/Mediterranean-style architecture that mimics the current Fox Theater? Two people out of 50+ raised their hands. Judging by the earlier applause, the vast majority of citizens were in support of creating long-lasting buildings in a contemporary style that would one day become historically significant themselves. The developer even went on to openly mock existing redevelopment buildings in Fullerton, at which point Redevelopment Director Rob Zur Schmiede stood up and absolved himself of responsibility, saying that the fake old buildings were created before his tenure.

Where did this sudden hatred of fake old design come from? We can only surmise that the audience was filled with citizens who have been reading this very blog, which has been loudly criticizing these projects for several months.

There are still many serious problems with this development project (we’ll get to that later), but it’s good to see that FFFF is having a positive impact on the future of architecture in downtown Fullerton.

Yeah, but what about that McDonalds?
Yeah, but what about that McDonalds?

The Fullerton Fabricator & City Hall Apologist

did anyone see where I put my barbeque sauce?
Ronald, where did you put my barbecue sauce?

The Fullerton Observer continues to sink to new lows in its coverage of important Fullerton issues. Or lack of coverage.

In its most recent edition it published a redevelopment article which was simply an interview with RDA Director Rob Zur Schmiede, whose very job depends on RDA expansion. Wow, that’s cutting edge investigative journalism!

The Observer has totally ignored the RDA’s $6 million McDonald‘s move
. An evil corporation making kids fat, a giveaway to the rich, money intended for blight going to promote junk food! Fast Food Nation was written by muckraking journalists that the Observer should emulate. $6 million to help McDonald’s make high school kids fatter!

McMore please
McMore please

The Observer has completely ignored the story that has excited even usually tepid reporter Barbara Giasone. They will NOT embarrass the council majority that it helped elect with their endorsement. Jones, Bankhead, Quirk, Keller were all backed by the Observer.

Could it also be that the Fullerton RDA–is paying for quarter page ads in the Observer?

The Observer has published two pieces by Supervisor Norby expressing the County’s opposition to the RDA expansion, but only after leaking both articles to city staff in time to write rebuttals. The rebuttals themselves are not fact-checked by anyone and are filled with lies.

In the current July 2009 edition (Page 4) Kennedy bewails the 1994 recall of Bankhead after he “voted to support a ½ cent utility rate increase to keep the city from going bankrupt”. Three wrong statements in one sentence!

is that you Molly?
is that you Molly?

It was NOT a utility rate increase, but a utility TAX on gas, water, electricity and cable TV. It was NOT a half cent but 2%. It did NOT keep the City from going bankrupt.  In fact, it was repealed soon after the recall and has saved us Fullerton tax payers over $ 100 Million dollars over the past 15 years and the City is just fine!

True to form, the Observer has supported every city, county and state ballot measure that increased taxes, most of which went down in defeat. It especially likes sales tax hikes, which disproportionately affects the poor–the supposed constituents of a “progressive” paper.