Archives for category: Fullerton History


This afternoon, July 5, marked the third anniversary of the senseless beating of Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic drifter whose life was needlessly taken from him by officers of the Fullerton Police Department. The people gathered in the parking lot near the bus station to mark the sad occasion include his family, strangers who became family demanding justice for him, news vans; about a hundred people of good conscience who refuse to allow the killing to fade into inconsequence.

The lamppost near the scene of Kelly’s death is decorated with red, white and blue ribbon for Independence Day, with pictures of Kelly tucked into the folds. Flowers surround its base. Messages of solidarity and remembrance are chalked onto the ground and walls. Paintings of Kelly are everywhere.

Thoughtful friends bring water and packaged toiletries for people who don’t take these necessities for granted. Others bring food for them.

Some would say that those living on the edge have nothing to lose, but they know that they, like Kelly, have everything to lose. For many it would be much easier to make themselves scarce during a gathering like this one. But they show up because they know that being together makes them safer, and because they can’t look the other way.

The familiar faces of working people, professionals, and those just getting by somehow, are reassuring. What they share is a deep conviction that someone should be held responsible for what happened here, and the character to confront the schizophrenic experience of knowing that no one has been yet. They’ll be there next year too, and the year after.

It’s the third anniversary of a night when a man lost his life and a city was changed.  Changed enough? That’s for the survivors to decide.



Despite all of the purported protections and guidelines accorded historic properties in Fullerton, the owners of the 1929 Spanish style bungalow apartments have replaced half of thier divided wooden windows with single glass panel vinyl frames. The too-cute-for-words Mariola Apartments have graced the 500 block of East Commonwealth for 85 years, surviving intact in an age of overdevelopment because through the decades at least someone knew how special they were, and made sure they stayed that way. Until now…

The City of Fullerton’s website features the apartments as a Significanct Property in its Historic Resources section:

“No major alterations are apparent, and the property has been maintained in excellent condition since the current owner, Vincent Mariola, purchased it in 1970.”

That all changed sometime last month when the beautiful arched wooden windows in the units on the west side of the property were replaced with contemporary white vinyl ones.


Fortunately, the wooden windows on the east side remain, for now.


Vinyl windows may appeal to homeowners tired of painting wooden frames, but they are the nemesis of historic preservationists. Even though subsidies exist to encourage their installatioin because they can be better insulated, owners of properties in historic Residential Preservation Zones are usually constrained from installing them because they so significantly alter the appearance of otherwise well preserved older homes and apartments (wooden windows can be made double paned also, to provide better insulation). Unfortunatley, despite being cited as a prime example of Spanish Colonial architecture of the period by the city, the Mariola Apartments are not in a Residential Preservation Zone.

Perthaps if Fullerton participated in the State of California’s Mills Act owners of local historic properties would have more incentive to appropriately preserve them. The Mills Act allows cities to give property tax breaks to landowners “if they pledge to rehabilitate and maintain the historical and architectural character of their properties for at least a ten-year period.” The contract is renewable.

Unlike Fullerton, other Orange County cities like Anaheim, Santa Ana, Orange, Tustin, Laguna Beach, and San Clemente all participate in the Mills Act, presumably because they “recognize the economic benefits of conserving resources and reinvestment as well as the important role historic preservation can play in revitalizing older areas, creating cultural tourism, building civic pride, and retaining the sense of place and continuity with the community’s past.”

It’s time for Fullerton to embrace the Mills Act before more historic properties are compromised or done away with entirely.


It wouldn’t hurt to pave the streets either.




The historic bench, and the water-sucking lawn behind it.

City crews are in the process of removing two venerable cypress trees in order to save an historic flagstone bench that has occupied the corner of Commonwealth and Highland for nearly 75 years. According to a recent Fullerton Tribune article the bench was constructed by Claude E. Steen Jr. in 1939 or 1940 as a resting place for people waiting for a bus. (The article simply states that the bus stop is now gone. The current stop is located just a few dozen feet to the West).


A good beginning. Now let’s see some California native plants covering the whole area.

The bench will be preserved, and the area around has been scraped clean of grass, evidently in preparation for some other kind of landscape or hardscape. But why stop there? We now live in a time of perpetual drought, yet the City of Fullerton maintains a water hungry lawn in front of City Hall. Although there are two fine demonstration gardens utilizing California native drought tolerant plants located in the parking lot behind City Hall (paid for by Fullerton Beautiful), the continuing maintenance of the large lawn facing Commonwealth Blvd. sends the message to homeowners that even though the city promotes programs to replace lawns with drought tolerant plants on its own website they’re not interested in making the switch themselves. Tearing out lawns and replacing them with plants that don’t require constant year round watering may be fine for homeowners, but not the government, it would appear.

City Hall

Lawns were a sign of upper social status to show that a rich person had land they could waste on grass in places like England, where rain waters them naturally. Lawns don’t make much sense in our Mediterranean climate.


Looks fine behind City Hall, but what about the big lawn in front of it?

Unlike public parks, the front lawn of City Hall is not a place for scheduled, or even informal, recreational activities. Even protests tend to keep to the sidewalk, for the most part. There is no reason at this point to maintain a lawn that requires so much water when we could have a premiere California native plant landscape there instead. If they need advice, I’m sure the folks at the Fullerton Arboretum, where visitors can find dozens of beautiful native plants, would be glad to offer it.

The benefits of planting California native plants are fourfold (at least!):


Not just a bunch of spiny succulents…

1. Water bills plummet. Plants species that have evolved to survive in our low water environment are by definition drought tolerant.

2. Planting natives helps to preserve species under threat of survival from development, and restore areas denuded of plants sometimes found nowhere else in the world. Let’s show some pride in California’s native landscape.

3. They’re not just succulents. There are lush, green ground covers, bushes, trees, shrubs and other plants that comprise our native plant eco-system. Anyone who has hiked in the local canyons or wilderness parks can tell you that no matter the time of year, there is always some plant in bloom.

4. They aid in the survival or our native fauna and pollinators. Native butterflies, bees, birds, lizards and other local animal life will benefit from the re-introduction of native plants.

Water with little more than rain.

The Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano specializes in California natives. They are open year-round, but will hold a special sale to benefit the Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society this Saturday, March 8, between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The day will also feature the following free programs about making landscapes friendlier to native wildlife:

9:30 a.m. – Connie Beck – Attracting Songbirds, Butterflies and Hummingbirds to your Garden

10:30 a.m. – Will Johnson – Disappear your Water Bill with Drought Tolerant Native Plants!

11:30 a.m. – Jeremy Sison – Easy and Stunning Accent Plants: CA Native Dudleyas and Grasses

1:30 a.m. – Mike Evans – Ceanothus and Arctostaphylos: CA’s Iconic Evergreens


Good advice.

The Rag encourages Fullerton residents and our city government to show some pride in our native landscape and save on our water bills by replacing lawns with plants native to our region, and stop pouring precious water on the ground and money down the drain for the sake of dainty lawns.

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