On September 28, 2016 the Fullerton Planning Commission approved a 610,182 square foot, 295-unit, 4 story mixed-use development on the 600 block of West Commonwealth Ave. on land that had previously been a car dealership. In a split 4 to 3 vote, the Planning Commission approved a Zone Change, a General Plan Revision, a Major Site Plan and a Mitigated Negative Declaration.
Nearby residents’ objections to the plan included inadequate parking and the expected increased traffic in their neighborhoods, as well as the project’s inappropriately large size in relation to older surrounding houses. Commissioner Ma ‘Ayn Johnson voted in the majority to approve the project anyway, justifying her decision with reasoning reminiscent of a 2015 episode of the satirical animated television show South Park.
In the episode “The City Part of Town,” residents of South Park build SodoSopa (“South of Downtown South Park”), a gentrified loft-style district intended to attract young hipsters who will shop at the Whole Foods Market the small Colorado mountain town hopes to attract. The 2,000 square foot dwellings are promoted as high style living near the center of the town’s social hub “from the independent merchants and unique cafes to the rustic charm of a mixed income crowd.” The “mixed income crowd” are the economically disadvantaged family of orange hoodie wearing Kenny McCormick, whose house becomes surrounded by high-rises with open floor plan apartments rented by seemingly carefree couples who spend their disposable income in the local bars and restaurants.
The episode’s hilarious mixed animated and live action commercial for the SodoSopa development is dead-on accurate in its depiction of the shallow glamour pitched to young would-be urbanites hoping to simultaneously enjoy comfortable modern living and still claim the local proletariat authenticity of living near an older neighborhood of struggling working class families…
In a case of life-imitating-art-imitating-what-passes-for-life in suburban fake lofts, Ms. Johnson cited a recent attempt by Fullerton residents to attract a Trader Joe’s market back to Fullerton. A discussion on the neighborhood social media app NexDoor.com suggested that residents visit Trader Joe’s website to request a new store in Fullerton (the one that used to be here moved to Brea many years ago). Readers who subscribe to NextDoor know that members responded to the call in great number, and that a robust discussion about how to draw the “alt” chain grocery store back to Fullerton ensued (and continues).
Picking up on the desperation of Fullertonions forced to commute to Brea to purchase packaged nuts, international cheeses, cleverly named noodles, gourmet potato chips, discounted liquor, better greeting cards, dried apricots, microwave-ready brussels sprouts, and seasonal crackers, Ms. Johnson suggested that Trader Joe’s wouldn’t move back to town until we attracted more of the right demographic, those with disposable income, to live here by approving projects like Red Oak Investments’ four story mixed use residences on Commonwealth:
Fullerton has never exactly been ahead of the curve, but can’t we aspire to be better than an animated cartoon comedy about a backwards Colorado mountain town? Do we really need to change the whole city to attract more of the “right demographic” just to have a Trader Joe’s here?