The Union Pacific Park Sink Hole. What’s Next For The Park From Hell?

The Park That Never Was...

The history of Redevelopment failures should weigh heavily in the upcoming recall campaign. The disasters and boondoggles are many, but none so painful, perhaps, than the Poisoned Park. This is a saga of utter incompetence with zero accountability; in other words, business as usual for our illustrious City Councilmen Bankhead and Jones. McPension gets off this hook because he wasn’t part of this calamity, although you could bet your bottom dollar he would have gone along with it, too.

This post was originally published 27 months ago. The public is still fenced off from the contamination.

– Joe Sipowicz

It was supposed to be a park. That’s how they pitched it over at City Hall. The only problem was that nobody asked for a park. And nobody outside City Hall wanted a park. Commonsense could have predicted the future of a park.

We are referring, of course, to the Union Pacific Park on West Truslow Avenue, the sad history of which has been well documented on these pages; and one of many in a conga line of Redevelopment disasters perpetrated by Terry Galvin and Gary Chalupsky of the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency- in this case aided and abetted by Susan Hunt the lady dragon of the Community Services Department, and former City Manager Jim Armstrong, mastermind of a million Fullerton failures. We have also stressed the fact that so far nobody has been held accountable for this miserable failure and waste of millions of tax dollars. No one.

Last Tuesday, during the public comments portion of the City Council Show, a longtime resident who lives on Truslow Avenue, across from The Great Disaster spoke about the  problems the City had created when they decided to bestow a park upon unwilling residents. Below we share the video of the residents statement, as well as the response by City Manager Chris Myers. The video is a bit long, but well worth the watch. Borrachos, meth-heads, gang members. Who else did the City think was going to frequent this park?

In the end Myers admits that the park is being shut down – toilets closed, tables removed, fences going up, etc. You can decide for yourselves if can detect any contrition in his voice for the complete and unarguable waste of the millions spent on acquiring, designing, and building this park THAT IS ONLY FIVE YEARS OLD.

Now the city wants to create a “reuse committee,” ostensibly to figure out how to clean up the mess they created.

Here’s a free bit of advice from FFFF: SELL THE PROPERTY ASAP! And let’s not forget a complete investigation into this entire disaster with accountability for the people who created this mess. Perhaps the three councilperson who don’t have their fingerprints all over this debacle, Quirk, Keller, and Nelson, will be willing to demand accountability.

The North Platform Fiasco – Allegro Molto e Vivace

Loyal and Patient Friends, our sad narrative of The Great North Platform Disaster now draws to a merciful conclusion. We have shared all the dismal failures of the landscape architect, Steve Rose, the Redevelopment manager in charge, Terry Galvin, and Design Review Committee members that were evidently incompetent or unqualified.

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

The design failure was complete and palpable. Yet as diverse groups of citizens displayed their unhappiness with the ludicrous and costly elements of the project, the City Staff dug in their heels in a rear guard action to deflect blame by ignoring the obvious and fighting to keep the mess they had created. Newly minted City Manager Jim Armstrong led the effort to defend the indefensible. He went so far as to accuse one of the leading critics of the design mess of  “making the City look like shit.”

Former Fullerton City Manager Jim Armstrong shovelling hard.
Former Fullerton City Manager Jim Armstrong doing what he did best: shovelling hard.

The City Council, to its credit, would have none of it. They ordered construction halted. Even the Fullerton Observer demanded to know who was in charge. In what may have been the last show of independence by a Fullerton City Council, the majority demanded that the incongruous and useless elements be removed. The lone dissenting vote was that of Molly McClanahan, the eternal staff suck-up, who as Mayor tried backdoor sabotage with the State – which was also providing funding for the project. City staff was going into attack mode behind the scenes.

well fed and ready to attack...
Honest citizen tastes like chicken?

In the end the Council (with the sole exception of Chris Norby) lost its collective nerve and settled on a partial removal of the worst offending aspects of the project. The huge planter was split into pieces, allowing platform access through the middle.

Well, that's better than it was...
Well, that's better than it was...

The miserable trees were completely removed.

Look ma, no trees...
The urban forest retreats. Civilization on the march...

The canopies were salvaged though the construction of alcoves cut out of the still useless block bulkhead wall.

Fullerton platform "alcove" designed by our City Council...
Fullerton platform "alcove" designed by our City Council...

The wretched benches and comical little trash cylinders remain to this day. Go to the depot. You can check it out for yourselves.

It was never disclosed whether Steve Rose was back-charged for the cost of all the changes that had to be made, or whether he actually billed the City for remedial design work. Thousands upon thousands of dollars were wasted on building useless construction and then having to remove it. And what happened to the parties responsible for this complete fiasco? You mean you can’t guess by now?

We'll be hanging on to this card...
Oh, we'll be hanging on to this...

Nothing, of course. The proponents of sensible and functional design were blamed by staff for making the City look bad; the whistle blowers were turned into the villains of the melodrama. Chalk up another big win for the escape artists at the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency.

The North Platform Fiasco – Adagio Molto

Useless walls and canopies, obstructive planters, and trees on the platform: The Great North Platform Disaster was shaping up to be one of the jewels in Redevelopment manager Terry Galvin’s cockeyed crown. Local landscape architect Steve Rose had outdone himself in a seeming effort to waste money and to foist comical design elements onto the public and the taxpayers of Fullerton. But, there’s more.

Ah, historical bench! Quick, put it in a museum. Or a landfill.
Ah, historical bench! Quick, put it in a museum. Or a landfill.

The historic benches on the platform were  jettisoned; they were to be replaced by “street furniture” that was comprised of modernistic plastic coated wire chairs, and undersized waste receptacles, and that had nothing to do with the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture of the depot. It was later realized that ash trays had been omitted.

What is this, an episode of the Jetsons?
What is this, an episode of the Jetsons?
Can anyone say "overflow?"
Looks a bit like a robot. Can anyone say "overflow?"

It just didn’t seem possible that the design choice could have been any more inappropriate or comical. And yet there it was, the final insult added to injury. What would the public reaction be? What would Fullerton’s City Council do? What would City staff do to put a happy face on the disaster?

You’ll find out tomorrow!

The North Platform Fiasco – Trio & Menuetto

Ah, Friends! Would that we could end this sorrowful tale of the Fullerton train station north platform without taxing your delicate sensibilities further. Yet, alas, we cannot. We have already detailed the story of the useless block wall that was built right in front of an existing wall, as well as the comically useless canopies built therein. But the “designer” was far from finished with the addition of masonry!

When you're late for your train there's just nothing quite as exhilarating as leaping over a block planter!
When you're late for your train there's just nothing quite as exhilarating as leaping over a block planter!

A huge block planter was placed in the middle of the platform – blocking direct access to the trains; a smaller one was inconceivably built on the footprint of the future elevator tower without anyone noticing. The idea of placing this practical barrier right between passengers and their destination seems odd to us non-professionals, but not, apparently to landscape architect Steve Rose who drew it there on his plans, nor to Redevelopment’s in-house Master of Disaster “manager” Terry Galvin, whose job it was to review the plans; nor even to the Design Review Committee which at that time included two interior decorators.

A pallisade of block on a train platform! What were they thinking?
A pallisade of block on a train platform! What were they thinking?
Good Lord! it looks even stupider from up here!
Good Lord! It looks even stupider from up here!

Well, Loyal Friends, in case you thought that things couldn’t get much worse, you would be wrong. Stay tuned as we continue the lachrymal tale of The Great North Platform Disaster!

Fullerton Redevelopment History, The Gift That Keeps on Giving; The North Platform Fiasco – Introduction & Allegro

Before Redevelopment got a hold of it...
Before Redevelopment got a hold of it...

A few months ago when we were running our award eligible series on the manifold history of Fullerton Redevelopment boondogglery, we promised our Friends that we would relate the biggest mess of the whole kit and caboodle. We have been a bit dilatory about this and so we apologize for being remiss. But now the time has come to tell the tale of The Great North Platform Disaster.

Way back in late 1992 and early 1993 the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency, under the management of Terry Galvin and the direction of brand spanking new Director Gary Chalupsky, began construction on the north platform at the Santa Fe train depot. The work was “designed” by one Steve Rose, a well-connected local landscape architect, and was intended to “improve” the platform area for the increasing number of train commuters. The design passed through the process of staff review by Galvin as well as the scrutiny of the Fullerton Redevelopment Design Review Committee. The budget for construction was in the neighborhood of a million bucks.

The project was bid, the contract was awarded. But as construction proceeded it became very apparent that something had gone wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.

An Open Letter to McDonald’s Franchisees Mr. / Mrs. Frisbie

Do not enter into negotiations with the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency to move your McDonald’s restaurant 150 feet west to the Chapman / Pomona corner. Stay put.

There are many reasons for you to stay where you are. You some of them you know better than we do. But we have some political insights that might be helpful.

  1. To force you to move against your will, the agency must use eminent domain, which requires a 4/5ths vote. With Nelson and Jones already having voted against the move, the votes for eminent domain aren’t there.
  2. Besides, there’s every indication that Sharon Quirk will change her vote. That would make it 3-2 against granting $6 million for the move.
  3. The reconfiguration of your restaurant will hurt business, confusing regular customers who will have to access your drive-in window from Pomona Avenue.
  4. The agency will confine you into a “new-to-look-old” building that will look nothing like a traditional McDonald’s. Many of your patrons will not be able to recognize you.
  5. McDonalds’ trademark signs and golden arches will not be allowed in the new building provided by the agency, confusing and discouraging regular patrons.
  6. You have been, are and will be criticized for accepting $6 million in public money. We know you don’t want to move, but if you accept it, the public will see it as corporate welfare.
  7. The move will likely result in down time, costing you money and customers.
  8. When there are cost overruns (inevitable in public projects) the Agency may be slow to reimburse you for your costs. Those costs may be disputed.

This move is completely unnecessary for you from a business standpoint. You’d said during the hearing that long ago then-Redevelopment employee Terry Galvin told you the city wanted you to move. Galvin didn’t speak for the council then and he certainly doesn’t now.

Terry Galvin has retired. There is a whole new council majority. Nothing obligates you to go along with this deal.

And, there are not the 4 votes needed for eminent domain. You cannot be forced to move. Stay Put!

In the City of Galvin

When we heard Mr. Frisbee mention former Redevelopment employee Terry Galvin’s  name at the recent Council meeting regarding the McDonald’s boondoggle, we started to reflect on the span of his career.

Even though he has been retired for several years, Galvin’s influence still pervades almost every downtown debacle and disaster – including the ongoing McDonald’s relocation and the disgrace of the poisoned UP Park.

We though it might be fun to trace some of the highlights of Terry’s 25 year Redevelopment career to illustrate the influence one person can have over the lives and wealth of so many:

  1. Harbor Blvd. Removal of parking
  2. Construction and removal of concrete trestles along Harbor
  3. Pansy Law subsidy
  4. Bank of Italy demolition/acquisition
  5. Knowlwood Corner fiasco
  6. Depot North platform design failure and cover-up
  7. Allen Hotel blight-to-blight fiasco
  8. Permanent disfigurement and illegal remodel of original Masonic Temple building
  9. SRO catastrophe
  10. Eminent domain for now long-gone Toyota dealership
  11. Acqusition of UP (aka Paseo) park property & right-of-way
  12. Brick veneer and stucco on dozens of significant buildings
  13. Conversion of downtown Fullerton from commercial to high density residential
  14. Slotsy’s Depot platform embarrassment and cover-up
  15. Interference in contract @ Dean Block bld.
  16. The Depot ceiling screwup

To us the most interesting question about Galvin’s reign of error was how he managed to avoid discipline, let alone termination for his string of disasters that adorn Fullerton’s downtown like a string of cheap beads. It could only have happened in an environment free of accountability, and with the complicity of elected officials who not only tolerated this failure, but were also complicit in it.

And that, Dear Friends is why city councilmembers actually keep bragging about what has been “accomplished” in downtown Fullerton; and why, rather than disbanding the Agency, they prefer to expand it!

The “Paseo Park” Chronicles – The Park That Never Was. Or is. Part 1

This is a story that relates a chain of events that goes back many years, Gentle Readers, so please be patient. For those who don’t think Redevelopment spends half its time fixing mistakes it created with the other half, we promise that you will learn a lot about the way your city has been run – in three bite-size installments.

Why can't they leave stuff alone?
Why can't they leave stuff alone?

Way, way back in the 1980s Terry Galvin of the Redevelopment Agency cooked up a deal with the Union Pacific Railroad to acquire their Mission Revival depot on Truslow and Harbor. It was properly seen as a valuable historic resource, but damn the luck! It was on the wrong side of the tracks! Galvin’s plan was to relocate it to its current location on Harbor and Santa Fe, attach a weird-looking wood box addition to it, and present it to his pals at The Spaghetti Factory for $1 a year. The first of Fullerton’s subsidized restaurants offered cheap carbs to the masses, and why not? They weren’t paying any rent!

25 years of corporate welfare...
25 years of corporate welfare...

But how does this narration tie into something called  “Paseo Park” you ask? Patience, Friends, patience.

As usual the Redevelopment “experts” created more problems than they solved, for the empty lot created by the relocation was soon to become a permanent dumping ground for trash and junk – right next to Harbor Boulevard in the veritable gateway to Downtown Fullerton! And the painful irony: blight as a by-product of Redevelopment! But it was in the barrio so nobody cared.

Blight in the foreground, blight in the background, Redevelopment style...
The UP site with the Allen Hotel in the distance: blight in the foreground, blight in the background, courtesy of Redevelopment.

But cleaning up junk on railroad property is not nearly so fun as playing Monopoly with other people’s money, and the problem festered for years and years – almost twenty to be exact; until the Union Pacific decided to unburden itself of this section of track and the adjacent depot site. Despite the fact that that the railroad was in negotiations with private citizens to buy the old depot site, the Redevelopment Agency led by Gary Chalupsky intervened, and acquired the property itself – with the ludicrous intention of building a trail and an adjacent park. The “trail” itself was utterly useless since it effectively ended at the Highland Avenue grade separation on one end, and the SoCo Walk project at the other. The park occupied the former depot space between Truslow and the trail. Check out the aerial.

And all the property was removed from the property-tax rolls forever.

How about a Utility Tax Fix?
How about Another Utility Tax Fix?

Apart from the trail to nowhere, the park project itself was a dubious venture from the start. The location was not auspicious, and nobody from the community really wanted it. Sparsely attended “community” meetings showed that people on Truslow were concerned about on-street parking and getting rid of blight – not creating more. And they weren’t interested in a hang-out for the local gangs and borrachos by creating a “pocket park.” Well the City never let that sort of thing stand in the way of progress.

Skeptical observers noted that vast Richman Park was only a few blocks away, but this did not dampen enthusiasm in City Hall for a land grab: Susan Hunt, the Director of Community Services, was in a facility building mood – and that’s all that counted. Redevelopment money was there to grease the skids.


Read the rest of the Paseo Park Chronicles – Part 1 – Part 2Part 3

The Strange And Terrible Knowlwood Saga

A gosh darn barn right here in Downtown Fullerton!

20 years ago the buildings at the SE corner of Harbor and Commonwealth burned down under strange circumstances, including what was left of the Sterns and Goodman store (why do historic structures keep burning down in Fullerton?). Unbeknownst to the good folks of Fullerton, perhaps the worst example of Redevelopment ineptitude was about to begin.

The owner of the property, Pierre Nicholas, proposed to build a bank building on the corner – a suitable use for the 100% corner any reasonable person would have to agree. But not the entrepreneurial geniuses who ran the Redevelopment Agency at the time – Terry Galvin and his boss Hugh Berry. The problem? Banks don’t generate any sales tax revenue and that’s what Redevelopment is all about. At one hearing a defensive Councilmember Buck Catlin exclaimed “they wanted to build a bank” with the same tone of disgust one might mention a whorehouse or an opium den.

And so Friends, the City embarked on a course to acquire a lengthy ground lease to prevent  the owner of a property to  develop it the way he wanted . Nicholas went along. Why not? Income with no effort on his part.

The Redevelopment bureaucrats already had their favored developer lined up – Sanderson/J. Ray (from Irvine!)who, in cahoots with the City, had worked out a deal with Knowlwood Restaurants to occupy a restaurant on the southerly part of the site.

The subsidized Kwowlwood was eventually ground out of the Redevelopment process – a barn shaped object clad in stucco and brick veneer (pictured, above). Yeehaw!

Meanwhile the development of the corner languished as the developer was finding tenants, and presumably a loan, hard to come by during the early 90s recession. The developer did get permission to put parking lot on the corner and just added insult to injury. The 100% corner –  a parking lot!

By 1995 the project was finally moving ahead. The developer proposed a stucco palazzo with a ludicrous dome covered with green glop. But worst of all the entire second floor was a fake! The developer still couldn’t rent it out and decided to do a movie set storefront instead.  Check out this image:

As a Phallic Symbol It Comes Up A Little Short
As a Phallic Symbol It Comes Up A Little Short
The roof is a giant bowl! This is not a joke. Just check out the picture below if you can’t believe it. The City’s heretofore 5 year saga was reduced to this sort of comic charade. Lights were placed on the floor of the area directly behind the windows to make it look like there was real space up there. To top off the irony, the designer of this mess actually got offended by the suggestion that the geraniums in the second floor planters be plastic to save water!
Maybe It Could be Used As A Swimming Pool
Maybe It Could be Used As A Swimming Pool During The Summer
Well, the City Council went along with this fiasco from start to finish with the exception of Chris Norby. And none of them ever did anything to act on their displeasure if they even experienced such an emotion in the first place. They were:

Molly McClanahan (former Councilmember and current NOCCCD Trustee)
Don Bankhead (current Councilmember)
Dick Ackerman (former Councilman, Sate Assemblyman, and State Senator)
Buck Catlin (former Councilmember)

and, lest we forget:

Julie Sa (twice elected former unintelligible Councilmember, current whereabouts unknown)

By the time the building was built and occupied 7 long years had passed – 7 years of lost property tax, and the addition ludicrous new buildings that never should have been built in the first place. For many Redevelopment watchers “Knowlwood” has become synonymous with Redevelopment boondoggles.

Oh well! As Molly McClanahan was once heard to say: hindsight is 20/20! An excellent motto for the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency.