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Angelo’s & Vinci’s: will the city demolish it to provide parking for it?

Matthew Leslie


Anyone who attended the joint Fullerton City Council and Planning Commission Study Session on the Fox Block Tuesday night might be tempted to believe that time is cyclical, or in Nietzsche’s concept of the Eternal Return (“I’ll have to sit through the Ice Capades again,” joked Woody Allen). Didn’t we all, at some time in the not too distant past, watch Pelican-Laing’s Dick Hamm pitch his mundane ideas for developing some city-owned property or other, like Amerige Court? And didn’t we all see “architectural” renderings depicting some sort of contest to see how many boxy stucco structures could be crammed into the block surround the Fullerton’s historic Fox Theater just a few years ago?

Yes, we did, but then Dick Hamm and Pelican-Laing were hired last year to pitch ideas for what to do with the so-called Fox Block, currently stranded in post Redevlopment limbo, and Tuesday night we all got to see and hear their best efforts, which were less than inspiring, to say the least.

Despite the mind numbing sense of deja vu, the evening was somehow still full of surprises. Pelican-Laing had four proposals in their report, presented by the perpetually tanned Mr. Hamm, and two of them included buying and demolishing Angelo’s & Vinci’s Ristorante. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. Half of Dick Hamm’s four proposed scenarios for development on the Fox Block site were at least partially predicated on buying and leveling the restaurant whose parking agreement with the city is given as the very reason for building anything on the site in the first place.

Before we decide just how far off into the clouds this effort has ascended, let’s quickly review the four possible development options, as presented by Mr. Hamm:

  1. A parking structure on the big rectangular part of the L-shaped parking lot south of Ellis Place.
  1. A parking structure plus a mixed use, two and one half-storey development on the triangular parking lot north of the A & V’s, and a two-storey office building, residential, and/or mixed use building on the Chapman/Pomona corner site.
  1. A parking structure, residential condos, and a retail courtyard on Harbor, with possible development on the triangle and Pomona sites.
  1. A parking structure, an eight screen movie theater with retail on Harbor.

Even Mr. Hamm and Pelican-Laing’s report make it clear that they do not favor # 4, the movie theater proposal, but # 3 was taken seriously by the some of the elected and appointed officials that night, leaving stunned audience members to speculate about the real motives behind the whole effort to develop around the Fox Fullerton in the first place.

We also had to wonder why, if Angelo’s & Vinci’s was fair game for a purchase to make room for development, the recently renovated McDonald’s was not. After all, just a few years ago the city was seriously contemplating spending $ 6 million to move the fast food restaurant from its present location, inconveniently in the middle of the southern boundary of the site, to a more development-friendly location on the southeast corner of Chapman and Pomona. No one had a ready answer to that question.

Although the proceedings were characterized as a Study Session, the city planning staff nonetheless sought guidance from the council about which scenarios to seriously consider. Mayor Whitaker conducted an informal straw poll of the five council members and the six present members of the Planning Commission. Even a straw poll, however, seemed out of order for an item designated “Receive and File.”