Right where you park now for free, on public land.

The proposed downtown high density development formerly known as Amerige Court returns with a new name Monday night, December 12, 6:00 p.m. at the Fullerton Public Library’s Community Room (353 W. Commonwealth Avenue).

Amerige Court was supposed to be a set of six story residential and retail buildings with accompanying parking structures on either side West Amerige Ave. just west of Harbor Blvd.—you know, that place where you park your car for free now. Documents and a timeline from the long, long history of this project, now called Amerige something or other (I can’t find it), can be found at this link on the city’s own website:

The first date you will find listed is in 2006, when formal plans were made public, but the project actually began as a drawing made on behalf of Fullerton’s own Redevelopment Agency years before right around the time the downtown area was being transformed into a bar district. That’s right, the city itself came up with the idea of building on its (our) own parking lots downtown, then went looking for a developer to build something there that was originally supposed to provide more parking there for the businesses.

A project by the Pelican-Laing group was approved by the Fullerton City Council in 2008, but the final plan actually represented a net loss in parking. Of course, the architecture was a cartoonish mishmash of trendy faux urbane fake brick and stucco familiar to anyone who looks up while driving around OC these days. It was just one of the objections that led to a petition bearing the signatures of over four hundred residents against the project that was wordlessly set aside without comment before the vote was taken. (One Fullerton resident who spoke out against the plan was none other than Karen Haluza, now Fullerton’s Director of Community Development, who argued that it was bad planning to put parking squarely in the middle of the downtown district.)

The good news was that Pelican-Laing couldn’t get anything done with the plan. After several years and successive amendments meant to give the developer more and more time to build something, even some of the council members had had enough, but they were outvoted by the later-recalled Don Bankhead, Pat McKinley, and Dick Jones, M.D.

Amerige Court Circus

Amerige Court in 2008, a pile of junk no one wanted on land given away to the developer.

Scarcely a month after the 2012 Recall a new public parking structure had been built just south of the site on Santa Fe Ave. to accommodate daytime train commuters across the street, but it began to look like it would also serve handily as extra parking for the now burgeoning bar and restaurant crowd at night. Neat trick, but with over 800 new spaces now available, what was the rationale for Amerige Court, again?

More time passed, and two more extensions were eventually passed by the council to give the developer even more time to get something off the ground, even though no one really seemed to want anything there except for the Chamber of Commerce and its cheerleaders, and the developers who contribute to the campaigns of council members…It wasn’t even clear during the last extension hearing whether or not some members of the council understood that the development rights has been sold by this time to the Richman Group, themselves responsible for other utterly forgettable high density residences around town.

Which brings us back to a new beginning for the project that no one wants—a public meeting to find out how much we don’t want it, and how high we don’t want it to be, and what we don’t want it to look like. Be there. There are other massive high density housing/retail projects in the pipeline or already built in Fullerton, but Amerige Court is special because it would be built on public land—your land. And if you don’t want that public land given away to a developer to build something huge and ugly, you ought to let them know at every available opportunity.