Archives for posts with tag: Amerige Court


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.


Fox Block Arail

Look out Fox Theater,  you’re surrounded!

Matthew Leslie

Many years ago Fullerton’s city planners cooked up an amorphous project called the Fox Block to surround the historic Fox Theater on the Northeast corner of Harbor Blvd. and Chapman Ave. The original idea, it seems, was for the now defunct Redevelopment Agency to (what else?) subsidize a developer’s downtown project to help, somehow, make the Fox Theater’s eventual operation as an arts and entertainment venue possible.

But there were several problems…

First, rather than augment the silent film era theater, the succession of proposals for the mixed use development got larger and larger until they looked like they would suffocate the theater instead. Neighbors to the north were horrified to find out that a multistory parking structure would be built right across the street from their homes.

Fox Block Paseo

The last effort…can you find the Fox Theater in there anywhere?


Second, each set of renderings was comically worse than its predecessor. The final set of drawings threw in everything but the kitchen sink, picturing a fustercluck of bland, mismatched architectural clichés piled atop one another like God had regurgitated an office park on Downtown Fullerton. Whoever designed it got a C- in postmodernism.

Fox Block Fustercluck

Paseo to Hell


Third, it became clear that the development was not going to do anything at all to raise money to fund the restoration of the (still closed) Fox Theater. It was just another giveaway of public land to a developer to build a particularly bad eyesore near one of the city’s landmark corners.

The project finally tanked back in 2009 when the Fullerton City Council caved to public pressure and common sense (except for dear old Don Bankhead, who held out until the bitter end) and axed a deal that would have paid millions of dollars to the nearby McDonald’s to be torn down and moved several hundred feet Eastward, where the city had purchased several modest craftsman homes and flattened them to expand a parking lot for the future Fox Block. It was just too much, even for Dick Jones, and, in many ways, signaled the end of the grand era of Redevelopment Agency boondoggles.

Fox Block McDonalds

The infamous McDonald’s move, too much even for Dick Jones.


And now, out of nowhere, it’s back, as Regular Business Item # 1 on the agenda of the Fullerton City Council’s June 21 meeting. City planning staff are recommending that the Fullerton City Council “enter into an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with Pelican Communities, Inc. for the Fox Block Development Project properties.” Yes, you read that right, Pelican, the same tired developer who has been granted something like seven extensions to develop the equally ill-conceived Amerige Court, also on taxpayer owned properties in downtown Fullerton.

According to the staff report, last May the City Council, in closed session, voted to issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to develop the collection of six properties around the theater. Of the “several” responses received, Pelican rated the highest. Say what? The same people who haven’t been able to do anything at all with the Amerige Court area for about a decade? One has to wonder what the submissions from the other guys looked like…


Amerige Court, still not built, but that’s a good thing…


The agreement calls for a period of one year, with two optional 45 day extensions, within which the city will negotiate only with Pelican to see what they can do. Let’s look at the bright side, maybe they’ll do nothing at all, which might be the best we can hope for.

Fox Block Agenda

One year of talking, and then an extension…and then…


Flying the flag of mediocrity for all to see.

Amerige Court is back. This project is so old that no current member of the Fullerton City Council was even there when it was originally approved. At that time, despite objections from Fullerton residents that the buildings were over-scaled, badly designed, and just unnecessary, the city council voted to allow developer Pelican-Laing to build six (or seven, depending on how they were counted) storey mixed use retail and residential buildings that would tower over the historic downtown storefronts.

Since 2006, not only have we had a complete turnover of members of the Fullerton City Council, but John Laing Homes, the Laing part of Pelican/Laing, has filed for Chapter 11, leaving Pelican to try to raise financing for this monstrosity nobody wants.


How many squares can you count?

The project was originally sold the public as a way to get a private developer to provide more free parking for the downtown businesses. But by the time the project had been redesigned, it actually represented a net loss of parking. The residential units were supposed to be for sale only, providing the stability of an owner occupied populace to quiet things down in the bar district. Later revisions, however, allowed the developer to rent out the apartments and lofts. No owners, no more parking, no benefits to anyone other than a slick developer, but that didn’t stop the City Council from approving extension after extension up until two years ago, when the public were assured that Pelican would finally line up financing, and should be given the chance to do so. At that time, even Dick Jones argued against granting a two year extension, preferring a one year extension, but he eventually went along with the rest of the herd anyway and voted for the full two year plan.

There is a history of the project on the city’s website. (It ends in 2009—even the city planners must have gotten tired of looking at it.)


Still, a giant answer in search of a question…who really wants it?

In 2012 Pelican guaranteed itself a two year extension of its Development Agreement with the City of Fullerton by greasing the wheels with contributions to the anti-Recall campaign of then Councilmembers Don Bankhead, Dick Jones, and Pat McKinley. Councilmember Bruce Whitaker and then-Councilmember Sharon Quirk-Silva voted against the extension.

And here we are today, eight years after it’s original approval, with the “Fifth Amendment to the Disposition and Development Agreement Between the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency (which no longer exists!) and Pelican/Laing Fullerton, LLC, (which no longer exists either!) Regarding the Sale and Development of Certain Real Property Located Along the North and South Sides of the 100 Block of West Amerige Avenue.

The staff report is replete with excuses made about the state of the economy and the disposition of former Redevelopment Agency dissolution legislation and its aftermath. Project Manager Charles Kovac, formerly of the now defunct Fullerton Redevelopment Agency, finally recommends the adoption of the amendment “in the interest of moving the project forward (!),” as if that is our problem—to make sure a horribly designed, unneeded giveaway mega-development with no independent financing should be able to move forward! Remember, this is Public Land being given away.

And the city government is so arrogant about the issue that they’ve placed it on the Consent Calendar, and not scheduled it as a public hearing. Unless a member of the City Council or the attending public asks to have the item pulled for discussion, it will pass without even a public hearing. Oh, and it will cost us $ 5,000.00 for the privilege of giving the developer more of our time and money to waste.

In contradistinction to the recommendation of Fullerton’s Planning staff, The Fullerton Rag recommends that The Fullerton City Council reject this Fifth Amendment, and let the project expire. Instead, either let the area alone and preserve the parking that exists, or, if there is some demonstrable benefit to the people of Fullerton who own this land, open up the process for another developer with a better project and the financing to build it.

%d bloggers like this: