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Fullerton rings in the New Year

Fullerton rings in the New Year

As a rule, I dislike end of the year wrap-up stories, so let’s take a quick look at just a few things Fullerton has to look forward to, and to look out for, in 2015…

New Mayor

2014 ended with recently re-elected Fullerton Mayor Pro Tem Greg Sebourn being elected to serve as Mayor for 2015 by his colleagues on the Council.  Councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald, who works for Orange County’s most prominent lobbying firm, takes over as Mayor Pro Tem.  Mayor Sebourn survived a particularly sleazy negative campaign organized and paid for by the Fullerton Police Officers Association during election season, so we shouldn’t expect to see particularly warm relations between the police and the Mayor’s office. The police needn’t worry much, however, because they still have a compliant Council majority in the form of Councilmembers Fitzgerald, Chaffee, and Flory, and most of the city’s power resides in the office of the City Manager anyway.

New Planning Director

Fullerton has a new Director of Community Development after an extraordinary two and a half year vacancy. Local resident Karen Haluza, who recently served as Interim Director of Santa Ana’s planning department began her new position this past month. On the positive side, Ms. Haluza vocally opposed the awful Amerige Court plan when it was first approved several years ago. On the negative side, she endorsed Measure W, which would have allowed Chevron’s Pacific Coast Homes plan for Coyote Hills to go forward in 2012. Three-fifths of Fullerton voters disagreed with her, soundly defeating that plan, but another is in the works.

New Way to Elect City Council Members?

Two-time City Council candidate Vivian “Kitty” Jaramillo has filed a lawsuit against the City of Fullerton, contending that Latino residents are disenfranchised by the city’s current practice of electing five at-large Councilmembers. Relief would presumably be found in an election-by-district system, where residents would vote for candidates to represent only their district among five (or more?) in the city. Arguments can be made over what system might best serve voters, or whether or not a problem even exists to correct.

New Police Officers and Promotions

The Fullerton Police Department has filled out its ranks by hiring ten new officers. Several others have been promoted to critical positions of leadership as veteran captains have retired.

Old Police Lawsuits

The Rag knows of two current lawsuits against the Fullerton Police Department. The first is the one filed by Ron Thomas over the beating death of his son Kelly at the hands of Fullerton police in 2011. A suit filed by Kelly Thomas’ mother was settled in 2012. Since no one was ever held legally responsible for killing Kelly Thomas (a jury found the officers charged in his death innocent), it may be harder for his father to collect any monetary settlement from the City of Fullerton.

The other lawsuit was filed in 2014, and alleges that a Fullerton police detective coerced sex from a woman during, and in the aftermath of, a child custody case. We’ll have to wait and see whether this lawsuit goes to trial, is dismissed, or is settled out of court. In any case, is that detective still working for the department?

New Body Cameras for Police Officers

All Fullerton police officers are expected to begin wearing body cameras this year, but it remains to be seen whether or not video recordings of contacts with the public will resolve conflicts any better than the already required audio recorders, which can mysteriously malfunction or be turned off. Officers should be seriously disciplined for deactivating cameras, and members of the public should not be prevented from making their own recordings of officer encounters.

New Drought Tolerant Landscaping for City Hall

The lawn in front of City Hall will come out sometime this year, and be replaced by some form of drought tolerant landscape. Let’s hope it becomes a showcase for California’s lush, leafy, green native plants, and not just a giant cactus garden. If Fullerton residents are going to remove their water hungry lawns in favor of drought tolerant landscaping, they need to see something more attractive than spiny succulents. And ditch the decomposed granite, there is nothing wrong with dirt.

(Even More) New High Density Housing

Everywhere, unless the people of Fullerton stand up to City Hall’s plans for more and more mixed-use retail/housing behemoths wherever they can be squeezed in. City Hall wants new tax revenues, but without additional public transportation options or long term local jobs, residents can expect to see more and more traffic on major streets and cut-through traffic in otherwise quiet neighborhoods. Watch out for what may be planned to cast a permanent shadow over your house.

New Assemblymember

Young Kim will take office as the new Assemblymember representing the 65th District, displacing Sharon Quirk-Silva, whose prospects for re-election were doomed by a dismal Democratic voter turnout last November. Ms. Kim’s campaign consisted largely of promising to protect Proposition 13 and something or other about being business-friendly. Not much to work with, really. And let’s not forget that she is a carpetbagger who moved into the district to run for office. Probably not much to look forward to from her, but we’ll see…

Rick Alvarez

I’m too busy to file FPPC reports on time.

Candidate for Fullerton City Council Rick Alvarez has accepted a late contribution in the amount of $ 4,000.00 from a single donor, according to recently filed campaign disclosure forms available on the city’s website.

http://docs.cityoffullerton.com/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=554890

Mr. Alvarez missed the late October filing deadline for the Form 460 all candidates must file periodically or risk fines from the Fair Political Practices Commission. The missed deadline was noted in the latest edition of the Fullerton Observer in a feature compiling information about who is contributing to each of the seven City Council candidates. When asked to provide the information directly to the Observer prior to its publication deadline, Mr. Alvarez reportedly declined, saying he was “too busy.”

However, the Form 460 later appeared on the City’s website, and we can all see now why Mr. Alvarez might not have been so eager to have his campaign contributions made public in the Observer story—the last edition before the election on Nov. 4.

Alvarez Non-Filing

The huge $ 4,000.00 contribution came from a Shirin Hezar, of Corona del Mar, whose occupation and employer are is listed as “Self Employed, Collision Concepts.” According to Linkedin, Ms. Hezar is Director of Industry Relations for Pacific Elite Collision Centers. Assuming this job title is still accurate, the connection between Pacific Elite and the very large contribution to the campaign of Rick Alvarez, is troubling.

Waterford-Alvarez

Pacific Elite Collision Centers owns fourteen auto body repair centers in Southern California.  One of them is located at 600 W. Commonwealth Ave. Formerly known as Cone Collision Center, this business is located on property that also contains a former Chevrolet dealership, now a mostly empty parking lot, that is the potential site of a multi-story residential and retail development given 5 million dollars in leftover Redevelopment subsidies for affordable housing earlier this year. The project is described as 147 units, only 20% of which would be rented as very low income housing, and includes over 4,700 square feet of ground floor retail space.

Waterford-Plan

The Waterford Group, who presented the project, have received the assurances of affordable housing subsidies, but have not had their project itself approved yet by the Fullerton Planning Commission or the Fullerton City Council. Such an approval would make the land at the 600 W. Commonwealth address far more valuable. If elected, Mr. Alvarez would be in the position of approving the project. If he is not elected and remains on the Planning Commission, he would be in a position to approve the development on that body instead.

Sebourn-BIA

The Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan (DCCSP) has become so unpopular that virtually all of the seven candidates for Fullerton City Council have expressed opposition to it in some form. During a recent forum hosted by the North Orange County League of Women Voters none of the seven gathered candidates supported the DCCSP as written.

Some candidates cited concerns about the comprehensive nature of the plan, while others were more specific  about the DCCSP’s potentially negative effects on current residents, but we should remember that it is developers and City Hall who want it to pass, and being too tied to either group should give voters pause when considering which candidate(s) would be most likely to follow through on stopping the DCCSP as it now exists.

Incumbent Greg Sebourn, for example, has received $ 1,000.00 in campaign contributions this year from the Building Industry Association (BIA) of Southern California’s PAC and Olson Urban Housing, LLC. The BIA exists to build, and build more housing. Olson is an Orange County based builder responsible for Liberty Walk, Legacy Walk, SOCO Walk, and other residential blocks in Fullerton shoehorned into parcels next to existing single family home neighborhoods.

Old guard candidate Larry Bennett also received $ 1,000.00 from the BIA PAC. Raise your hand if you’re surprised. You shouldn’t be, since Mr. Bennett is endorsed by recalled former City Council members Don Bankhead, Dick Jones, and Pat McKinley, who regularly rubber stamped high density housing projects in Fullerton. Larry Bennett can also boast of receiving $ 100.00 from the Assoc. of Builders and Contractors PAC of So Cal and $ 100.00 from Crane Architectural Group, a local firm who capitalized on Redevelopment funding to build structures like this one:

Painful to look upon...

Painful to look upon…

At least incumbent Mayor Doug Chaffee was honest enough to plainly identify the DCCSP as a replacement for Redevelopment as a mechanism to attract outside investment in Fullerton, which brings us around to who really wants the DCCSP, piecemeal or not, and who they are willing to support to make sure they get it in some form. Developers develop, and the more land is re-zoned for their residential high rises, the more money they make. More people equals more tax dollars, and that’s what City Hall really wants, even if it degrades the quality of your life here.

When Jane Rands first began asking questions about the DCCSP over three years ago, it wasn’t even on the radar screens of other candidates in the City Council race. But the winds have shifted. Public forums organized by her with Friends for a Livable Fullerton put enough pressure on the City Council to delay a vote on the DCCSP until more notice is given to residents and more time can be spent studying the plan. Not surprisingly, Ms. Rands has accepted no campaign contributions from the building industry.

The DCCSP isn’t dead yet, and City Hall isn’t about to let it go without a fight. Who do you trust to defend the interests of Fullerton residents in this fight? Candidates who are taking big bucks from the building industry, or a grassroots activist supported by ordinary people like you and me?

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