Lately, I've been attending Fullerton City Council meetings and writing up an account of what happened as "Council Notes" for the Fullerton Observer Newspaper. Here's what happened at the last council meeting. Stay informed, my fellow Fullertonians!
Before every public Fullerton City Council meeting, there is a “Closed Session” in which City Council members meet with various parties to discuss issues outside the view of the public. According to the agenda provided by the City Clerk, at this weeks “Closed Session” meeting, Council met and discussed two current lawsuits against the City of Fullerton.
At the beginning of the Public Meeting, Council member Greg Sebourn gave a prayer in memory of his mother, who recently passed away. Newly-elected City Council member Jesus Silva led the Pledge of allegiance. City Attorney Richard Jones gave no closed session report.
Parking Problems Continue
Four members of the public spoke of the problem of lack of parking for residents throughout the city, and the resultant increase in parking tickets, mainly due to the city’s historic ordinance that prohibits overnight parking. Members of the public requested that City Council consider changing this ordinance to reflect the parking situation today. Those affected by the lack of parking, who live in higher density areas, often have to pay for tickets in addition to other expenses, creating a financial burden.
One resident explained, “The only legal alternative is to park in a different city than the one in which we live. It feels like people are being punished for being poor and working class because of where they live. The punishment is that we pay more money. I am here today on behalf of myself and my neighbors to challenge you to offer us a different alternative.”
Fullerton Director of Public Works Don Hoppe discussed some attempts at alleviation in one neighborhood, but confessed, ”It’s really a citywide issue…we seem to be chasing this all around the city.” Karen Haluza, Fullerton’s Director of Community Development said that she will be presenting a detailed review of the parking situation in Fullerton at the first Council meeting in March.
Orange County Water District
Two residents of Huntington Beach thanked former Fullerton City Council member Jan Flory for serving on the board of the Orange County Water District, and encouraged her re-appointment. Both speakers commended Flory’s push to make Water Board meetings more transparent, such as having them live streamed for public viewing (which they currently are not). One speaker pointed out that many Orange County residents (who are affected by the decisions of the Orange County Water District) are not able to make the long drive twice every month to the public meetings. To learn more about the Orange County Water District, visit www.ocwd.com.
Complaints About Noise from Slidebar
A local resident who owns a condo at the SoCo Walk Community near the Fullerton Transportation center, complained about excessive late night noise and music coming from The Slidebar. He said, “Typically, between 11pm and 12am, the noise picks up and the music gets louder and louder and louder, until I can hear them call “last call” at about 1:35am,” and encouraged the city to “Please do something to end this. We as residents of Downtown Fullerton should not have to tolerate this noise….It’s very difficult to sleep.”
Local resident Tony Bushala added: “For years this bar has been operating with no conditional use permit, as required by the municipal code. This establishment illegally blasts outdoor amplified music in defiance of both the municipal code and the noise thresholds established by the Fullerton Transportation Center Specific Plan. This situation needs to stop, the law needs to be upheld, the Slidebar needs a permit.”
Director of Community Development Karen Haluza said that The Slidebar does not need a conditional use permit.
Council Member Jesus Silva made a motion to create a study session to keep the historic Hunt Branch Library as a community asset (it is currently being leased to Grace Ministries), though no one seconded the motion. Mayor Whitaker said he would support looking closer at the Hunt. Acting City Manager Gretchen Beatty suggested they work it into the upcoming Budget Study Session.
|Hunt Branch Library.|
Silva also said “I’d like to get a press release out to our public saying that the Robert Ward Nature Preserve is open and people can go visit, walk, hike. I’d like to see some signage inviting people.” He also proposed an official ribbon cutting ceremony for the Nature Preserve, which is part of Coyote Hills that is currently owned by the city.
Presentation: Outgoing Assembly Member Young Kim
Council made a special presentation thanking outgoing California State Assembly Member Young Kim (who represented the 65th District, and was defeated by Sharon Quirk-Silva in the November election) for her service. Mayor Bruce Whitaker acknowledged that as a member of the Education committee, Kim was “a leading voice to convert one of our public schools into a charter school.” Council member Sebourn said, “I’ve never seen seen anyone in elected office work as hard as Young Kim.” Kim thanked the Council and the Public, saying, “It’s been a wonderful two years.”
To be included in next issue.
Many Residents Speak About Red Oak Development
Most of the meeting was devoted to public comment and discussion related to the Red Oak Development, a proposed new large housing project on Commonwealth Avenue (the site of the former Mullahey Chevrolet). Developer Red Oak Investments wants to construct a 295-unit, 2, 3 and 4 story mixed-use development (mainly apartments). This particular “high-density” development is part of a trend in the past few years to build large housing complexes, such as Malden Station, Ventana, and the Orangefair apartments. This sort of development, with more to come, is part of a Fullerton General Plan update from 2012 to include a lot of high density (and usually high-priced) housing developments in town.
|Artist rendering of Red Oak development.|
The majority of of the public spoke against the development. Many residents expressed concern over increased traffic and potential parking problems. Patrick Ziebell, who lives in the neighborhood, said “We’re very worried about traffic that is going to be coming through our neighborhood, which is child-friendly.” Another neighbor said that Red Oak is “too large and far too dense. All extra cars will have to go on the street, in the surrounding neighborhoods.” Resident Sean Stewart pointed out that “parking is a problem in our existing neighborhoods, and this seems to exacerbate an existing problem.”
Other residents pointed out that the housing density is twice what the current city plan calls for, which is 30 units per acre. The Red Oak project includes over 60 units per acre. Resident Sean Paden said that the project is “excessive for the infrastructure capabilities in the neighborhood.” Additionally, this project never came before the Transportation and Circulation Committee, on which Paden serves.
Other residents from the surrounding neighborhood said that the new development does not fit with the historic architecture of the area. “This is a travesty to us,” said one neighbor, “the community is old and historic.” Tim Johnson said: “I will live in the shadow of a large project. This is a project that belongs in Irvine.” Leland Wilson, former mayor of Fullerton, said, “I don’t like this architecture. I don’t think it fits Fullerton.”
Still others expressed concern that the high cost of the new rental units would drive out lower-income residents. Debra Camacho, who lives across the street from the proposed development, said, “We love our neighborhood; this is our home, we don’t want to move. Our landlord is talking about raising our rent; we think it’s due to the development.” Resident Manuel Walker said, “I care about this city and the quality of life that we’re going to have going forward…Increasing this luxury housing stock is not going to necessarily correlate with increasing affordable housing in this neighborhood.”
Local resident Jane Reifer pointed out that Red Oak is not a true “mixed use” development, because commercial space is only one percent of the project. Still other residents, like Helen Higgins, expressed concerns about environmental impact of another large development.
Some spoke in favor of the project, such as Tim Mullahey (who owns Mullahey Chevrolet and will benefit financially from the project), who said that Red Oak has “been extremely well-vetted by the city…I’d appreciate a ‘yes’ vote.”
Derek Kirk, a representative of the North Orange County Chamber of Commerce (of which the developer Red Oak Investments is a paying member) said, “We need to do what we can to ensure that this generation is able to live and shop in Fullerton, and we applaud Red Oak Investments for aiding in this process.”
Regarding affordability, City Employee Chris Garder said (presumably in favor of the project), “Maybe it’s not affordable to every millennial today, but 20 or 30 years from now, when I have kids looking for somewhere to move, maybe they’ll be able to afford this.”
Partners of Red Oak Investments Alex Wong and Andrew Nelson also spoke in favor of the project, citing support they had elicited from residents and local business owners.
City Council Member Jennifer Fitzgerald spoke in favor of the project, saying “I am not concerned that this community of 295 beautiful apartments is going to harm the character of Fullerton. What would harm the character of Fullerton is to continue to not address the housing shortage that we have.”
Other Council members expressed concerns over parking and design.
Ultimately, the City Council voted 4-1 (Whitaker “no”) to approve three of the four development agreements: the zoning change, the General Plan change, and the “mitigated negative impact” (environmental impact). Council decided to wait until the next meeting to vote on approving the actual site plan for the Red Oak Development.
Council approved a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (City Audit), which revealed that our city’s “net position” is $392 million, that we owe 111.4 million in pension obligations, and we have an outstanding debt of $21.7 million. Resident Joshua Ferguson emphasized the high amount of unfunded pension liability, and advised council not to raise pensions in the future. “Think about the math,” he said.
Mayor Whitaker proposed a change to the Rules of Procedure and Decorum for City Council Meetings, seeking to increase the time allotment for Public Comment during Public Hearings and Regular Business from three to five minutes. City Council member Fitzgerald opposed the change and moved to table the item, saying, “I don’t see the need for the change because I think we already have the flexibility [to allow people more time].” Mayor Whitaker said, “These council meetings are for the benefit of the public, otherwise we could make all our decisions back in the closed session room.” Council member Silva supported the change, saying, “Giving more access to the public, giving them more leeway, would benefit them. We’re here to hear what the residents have to say. ” City Council voted 4-1 (Fitzgerald “no”) to approve the change.
Council approved Allan L. Roeder as Interim City Manager, while William Avery and Associates provide recruitment services to look for a permanent City Manager.
Council voted 4-1 (Whitaker “no”) to restrict parking on some residential streets around Troy High School and Cal State University, Fullerton. The approval added more “Resident Only” permit parking on San Carlos Drive, Maertin Lane, and Nutwood, which will limit parking available to students.
Council voted 5-0 to accepting a $364,550 Housing Related Parks Program to acquire and build a park in the historically low income Garnett neighborhood of Fullerton.
At every city council meeting, there is a section called the “Consent Calendar” in which Council votes to approve several items “en masse” with a single vote, unless someone “pulls” an item for discussion. This meeting’s consent calendar had 14 items, ranging from approval of an Annual Analysis of Employee Costs, monthly legislative update, approval of vehicle purchases (seven trucks for Public Works Department from Frontier Ford), and a contract to Leatherwood Construction for storm drain improvements.
The next City Council meeting will be Tuesday, January 24th at 6:30pm.