Archives for category: Fullerton City Council
image

Go ahead, figure it out for yourself.

Matthew Leslie

On Friday, May 22, with virtually no warning, the City of Fullerton closed a short block of West Wilshire Avenue to vehicular traffic, including bicycles, to facilitate a new outdoor dining area in the middle of a public street. Signs and barricades close the street to cars, and, specifically, bicycles, even though the area of the closed street is a segment of the city’s official Wilshire Bicycle Boulevard. According to City Manager Ken Domer, the closure is “tentatively scheduled through November 2nd.”

The closure was attributed by city staff to a desire by the Fullerton City Council for amended outdoor dining plans that would allow restaurants to utilize additional city property for expanded seating areas large enough to accommodate social distancing guidelines. But, according to City Manager Domer, “No specific street or public right of way locations were designated by the City Council.“ Domer himself authorized the closure, “not specifically to close it to bicycles,” but for outdoor dining because of the area’s high concentration of restaurants.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led the state to issue strict guidelines for how restaurants may open, including social distancing requirements that make it difficult to seat enough patrons in side their establishments to make opening worthwhile financially. The city’s solution is to allow restaurants to utilized public spaces like sidewalks and parking lots for outdoor dining.

Orange directional detour signs posted on either side of Harbor Blvd. direct  bicyclists north or south on Harbor, not the safest route for many cyclists. Asked if the city recommended that riders use Harbor Blvd. as a detour route, Domer responded “All bicyclists should always use caution on any street they choose to use.”

In response to concerns about the closure, Public Works Director Meg McWade wrote “The intent of the closure is not to hurt the bicycling community.  We are trying to work as quickly as possible to help save the downtown businesses due to Covid impacts – and closing Wilshire quickly is an attempt to do so.” After consulting a map, another city staff member suggested that cyclists use Pomona Ave. east of Harbor, but that isn’t where the detour signs are located.

image

Your tax dollars at work creating confusion.

Domer confirmed that the city’s Active Transportation Committee (formerly the Bicycle Users Subcommittee), which has not met since February, was not consulted about the street closure. At least one of its members, Prof. Vince Buck, has expressed concerns with the closure, writing to Domer that he learned about it only from reading it in the Fullerton Observer.

The Wilshire Bicycle Boulevard begins at the 600 block of West Wilshire, at Woods Ave., east of Euclid Ave., and extends east over two miles to Annin Ave., just west of Acacia, and is a central feature of Fullerton’s Bicycle Master Plan. It connects to other streets officially designated and signed as bike routes, providing safer bicycle passage laterally across most of the city without riders having to use major traffic thoroughfares.

The $ 3.2 million boulevard project was years in planning, and funded primarily with a federal grant through the Orange County Transportation Agency (OCTA), with just $ 300,000 from the City of Fullerton for street paving along the route. Fullerton’s closure of even a small portion of the street calls into question whether the city could be accused of misusing the funds awarded to it by OCTA. The grant funded planning for the boulevard, as well as replacing intersection stop signs with permanent traffic roundabouts, adding directional bicycle “sharrow” markings to the street pavement, and posting permanent signs advising that bicycles may use full traffic lanes on the two lane street.

Under ordinary circumstances, the entire block of East Wilshire between Harbor Blvd. and Pomona Ave. is closed to traffic nearly all Thursday evenings between the months of April and November for the Downtown Fullerton Market, but even then cyclists can walk their bikes through the market, and there is frequently bicycle parking provided near the Fullerton Museum’s beer garden, along with permanent bike racks in the area.

In response to questions raised about the Bicycle Boulevard closure days after it went into effect, Domer indicated that he would have the “no bikes” signs removed, and that bicyclists would be allowed to walk their bicycles through the closed area. Nearly two weeks later, the “no bikes” signs remain.

IMG_3605

Cyclists now just ride on the sidewalk, posing a danger to pedestrians.

Although removing the signs might accommodate causal cyclists, it runs counter to the boulevard’s purpose of providing an uninterrupted route for commuters and other riders. A center lane for bicycling, which would restore continuity to the route, is not provided, according to Domer for the safety of pedestrians and diners. Absurdly, what could easily be a center lane, is now a space filled with potted trees in what appears to be a feeble effort to beautify a dining area located in the middle of a street. Cyclists encountering the barricades can easily be observed simply riding their bikes around the closure signs and on the sidewalk instead of in the street, making redundant the city’s excuse that a bicycle lane would endanger pedestrians.

The city needs to rectify the confusing and dangerous situation it created by opening the street back up to cycling now. While other cities are opening their streets up to cycling and pedestrians, Fullerton has closed one off with ugly orange barricades and metal signs. Restore the Bicycle Boulevard with a central travel lane now, or get rid of the tables and potted trees and make turn it back into a public street again.

060220 ADM Hunt Branch Library Proposal

The proposal being recommended to the City Council.

Matthew Leslie

The Fullerton City Council is scheduled to consider proposals for programming in the closed Hunt Branch Library during it’s regular meeting on June 2. Eight different organizations responded to a Request for Proposals issued last November by the city to solicit programming proposals for the site. A five member panel that included members of the Library Ad Hoc Committee reviewed the proposals following direction by the council in March. The highest ranked proposal came from Heritage Future in partnership with Arts Orange County. The council is being asked to approve staff engaging with the Heritage Future/Arts OC.

Eight responses were received to the city’s Request for Proposals, issued in November, 2019.

Arts OC is a non-profit arts advocacy group founded twenty years ago at a time when such an organization was lacking in the county. Every major, and most minor, arts organization in OC is a member of the group, which advocates for arts funding and support and provides organizational and other services to both local governments and constituent members. For many years they have managed the Imagination Celebration in Orange County. Heritage Future was founded by Kevin Staniec, a writer, publisher, and arts impresario who founded and directs the 1888 literary space in Orange and has organized exhibitions for the City of Irvine’s Great Park gallery for many years and previously worked for the Muckenthaler Cultural Center.

The joint proposal envisions utilizing the historic Hunt Branch Library as an arts and literary presentation and educational space. Staniec would serve as the program team leader, while Arts OC would help to conceive, plan, and implement programs for the space and grounds. The proposal also includes architect Robert Young, who would presumably direct use of $2.5 million in state funding for renovations and restoration of the building.

What oversight the Library Board of Trustees will have of the project is unclear, but the state grant requires that the site retain some aspect of library use.

The library’s tenant, Grace Mission University, also submitted a proposal to utilized the site, scoring at number 5 of the 8 submitted proposals. The next to highest score was received for a proposal called Hunt Library Gardens, but no other information about it is provided in the agenda report, nor were proposals submitted by Access California, Arborland (who operate a private school in Amerige Heights), Faruk Zia & Associates, OCHCC, or Bonnie Hall.

Bane

Face coverings are essential during uncertain times.

Matthew Leslie

An important item appears on the agenda for the Fullerton City Council’s April 21 meeting requesting direction to city staff “regarding mandatory face covering guidance within the City of Fullerton” and, potentially, “for essential businesses, employees, customers and residents outside of their residence.” The agenda’s Recommendation section includes an option that the council’s direction could take the form of an “issuance of a Director of Disaster Services proclamation,” suggesting that a decision could be made that evening. One hopes so. With the numbers of people in the city known to be infected by the COVID-19 virus rising daily, an immediate decision critical if such a measure is to be effective. 

To date, four cities in Orange County have passed measures requiring that workers in essential businesses wear face coverings to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The cities of Laguna Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Buena Park now each require the wearing of face coverings by workers and patrons in grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies, gas stations, and other businesses remaining open during California’s mandated Stay at Home order.  Fullerton has yet to take any such action, despite having met for a special meeting on March 26 and a regularly scheduled one on April 7.

The city issued a press release on April 9 instructing residents to call the Fullerton Police Department to report individuals not complying with the County of Orange’s recommendation “strongly encouraging” the wearing of face coverings, but with no actual requirement in place, one had to wonder how Fullerton police were supposed to respond to such a complaint, other than with their own strong suggestions.

The unfolding patchwork adoption of laws across the county is a result of the failure of the Orange County Board of Supervisors to adopt one that would apply countywide. Although there was some support on the Board for such a measure earlier this month, 4th District Supervisor and Fullerton resident Doug Chaffee, among others, opposed it. The counties of Los Angeles and San Bernardino have both adopted rules requiring face coverings in essential businesses. One wonders why Orange County has dragged its feet, leaving OC’s 34 cities to deal with the problem individually when viruses don’t respect city boundaries.

There is no reasonable way for a significant number of Fullerton residents to avoid close proximity to people who may be carrying the virus, even if they show no signs of it. Shopping in a store, visiting a gas station, picking up medications, among other sometimes unavoidable errands, have become perilous experiences, both for customers and for workers. Though many—increasingly most—shoppers wear face coverings, some still do not. And neither do many in the businesses that serve them, needlessly putting others at risk. Requiring people to keep their faces covered to avoid sharing a sometimes deadly virus is justified, even if some will claim it to be an infringement of their rights.

If we really want to do all we can to stop the spread of COVID-19, we should support requiring people to wear face coverings when they leave their residences too (although the way the report is written, it isn’t clear whether or not it would apply to someone standing in the yard of their own house). Some will consider it a draconian response, but in the midst of a pandemic, the council should at least discuss it. A second wave of infections is a real possibility, even as we’re still experiencing the first.

A city council that takes the unprecedented step to meet virtually from their own residences because it is too dangerous to meet in person shouldn’t consider a face covering requirement in businesses too extreme for everyone else.

And, fear not, the agenda promises that “The City Attorney’s office will opine on legal issues surrounding potential direction as such direction is discussed by the City Council.”

Richard-Jones-2018

City Attorney: Pinin’ to opine…

 

 

%d bloggers like this: