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The choices before the Fullerton City Council. Which one provides the safest route for bicycles?

Matthew Leslie

 

With a four-to-one vote, Jesus Silva dissenting, four members of the Fullerton City Council sold out Fullerton’s Bicycle Master Plan in order to allow what is effectively illegal overnight parking on a street near a recently built housing development in Amerige Heights. Ignoring unanimous decisions by both the Bicycle Users Subcommittee (BUSC) and the Transportation and Circulation Commission (TCC) to proceed with a planned Class II bike lane along Hughes Drive between Bastanchury Road and Nicolas Street, the City Council instead decided to force cyclists to share the road with automative traffic on a two lane street so they wouldn’t anger the residents of an adjacent housing project who use the public street for overflow parking.

Class II bike lanes provide a separate lane for riders, demarcated by thick white lines and clearly printed words designating them as such, next to vehicular traffic lanes, providing at least theoretical protection for riders. Class III bikeways are simply signed routes on roads, without a striped lane. The ultimate goal of the plan is to provide a safe bike route between Gilbert Street and Bastanchury Road.

Hughes-Drive-Wide-View-

The segment of Hughes Drive originally slated for a Class II bike lane.

Hughes Drive seems to have been a four lane street at some point, but is currently considered to be a two lane street with a center left turn lane to accommodate workers entering the Raytheon facility on the north side of the street. Don Hoppe, the city’s Director of Public Works, said that there was inadequate space for both a bike lane and the street’s center lane, and the existing parking. On the south side, residents of the tightly packed houses just over the sidewalk enjoy the benefit of parking their cars on the public street, often overnight, even though parking between 2:00 and 5:00 a.m. on any Fullerton street that doesn’t enjoy an exemption from the city’s overnight parking rule is against the law.

Hughes-Drive-Parking

A close up view of Hughes Drive, where residents have the convenience of a public street to park their cars overnight, because four spaces per house is somehow not enough parking.

Residents complained that they hadn’t enough parking for guests, even though each unit has a two car garage and a driveway to accommodate an additional two cars. Councilmember Silva argued for adding the Class II bike lane, as planned, noting the existence of about forty parking spaces right around the corner on Nicolas Street.

Nicolas-Street-Parking-

Easy parking  on Nicolas Street, just around the corner, but not close enough for residents.

Sounding for all the world like recalled Councilmember and Mayor Dick Jones, Mayor Pro Tem Doug Chaffee launched into a reminiscence of riding his bicycle in India as a Peace Corps volunteer. He argued that bicycle riders and automobile drivers should be able to share a road in Fullerton if he was able to dodge cars, cow pies, pedestrians, and water buffalo on his bike oh so many years ago half a world away. Ignoring the fact that water buffalo don’t move at twenty five miles per hour, the speed limit on Hughes Drive, Mr. Chaffee evidently thought that lowering the bar on traffic safety to the standards of India in the 1960’s was appropriate for Fullerton in 2017.*

Doug-Chaffee-Hughes-Drive-Bike-

Doug Chaffee: had to dodge a water buffalo in India fifty years ago, so you shouldn’t have a safe lane for your bike.

Mr. Chaffee then characterized the conflict between the needs of cyclists to ride safely with the desperation of nearby residents to preserve their free overflow/overnight parking by calling it a case of “the ivory tower versus boots on the ground.” In his opinion, the plan for the bike lane was approved by people in an ivory tower, somehow removed from” the reality,” even though the BUSC is populated by actual cyclists who actually ride the streets of Fullerton and know from experience what they are talking about. “Boots on the ground,” in his mind, are “all the houses that came later,” as if whole housing tracts appeared out of thin air without city approvals of plans for neighborhoods with inadequate parking, if one chooses to side with the residents, who somehow need more than four parking spaces per house.

Most shocking was the treatment given Transportation and Circulation Commission Chair Elizabeth Hansberg, who rightly observed that overnight parking was a city-wide issue that needed to be dealt with in a consistent manner all over Fullerton. She was promptly shut down by Councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald, joined by Bruce Whitaker, who insisted that overnight parking was a separate agenda item later in the meeting, even though it was obviously germane to the Hughes Drive bike lane decision too, since the Amerige Heights residents themselves said there were cars (their own, evidently) parked on Hughes “day and night.”

Ultimately, the council chose to downgrade the Class II bike lane to a Class III bike route with sharrows, forcing bikes and cars to share the road, which can work well, but should not be adopted where there is room for a Class II instead. Remember, the speed limit on Hughes Drive is 25 mph, and most cyclists do not ride that fast (!). Cars will now be restricted to whatever speed a cyclist feels like riding.

At least Bruce Whitaker recognized the that developers weren’t providing enough parking, but he characterized the existing parking as “overflow,” ignoring the fact that residents also routinely use Hughes as their own private overnight parking lot. Either way, his acknowledgement that parking was a problem didn’t keep him from making the wrong decision about the cycling lane, even though he took the time to confirm with Public Works Director Hoppe that the Hughes Drive street segment in question was, in fact, part of the larger bike plan, and shouldn’t be considered in “isolation.” Which is worse, making a bad decision out of ignorance, or knowing full well the consequences of it, and doing it anyway?

Bruce-Whitaker-Hughes-Drive-Bike-Lane

Mayor Bruce Whitaker: recognizing the problem of inadequate parking, and making the wrong decision anyway.

Some public speakers observed that they didn’t see many cyclists using Hughes Drive, but they miss the point, as the council did, that if the city creates safe conditions for cyclists, people will ride their bikes instead of driving cars. The council’s decision, Mr. Silva excepted, was a 100% retrograde one in terms of encouraging alternative transportation in Fullerton. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Removing a safe bicycle lane from the city’s bike master plan creates a gap that affects the ability of cyclists to safely commute across the city. Doing it to privilege parking for cars not only encourages residents to rely on automobiles, but also rewards developers for providing inadequate parking for neighborhoods.

*At press time, the city’s video of the meeting has been uploaded, but the video mysteriously, and maddeningly, starts just after Doug Chaffee’s water buffalo story, cutting out the staff presentation and all of the public speakers. UPDATE: The full recording of the meeting now appears in the city’s website (August 15, 2017, 7:00 p.m.)

All 79 precinct votes counted, the Orange County Registrar of Voters reports the following results for the contest for three seats on the Fullerton City Council:

ocvote2016citycouncil

More of the same(ish)

Lobbyist mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald was re-elected with the most votes, followed by second place finisher Bruce Whitaker.

Third place went to Jesus Silva, but results are preliminary because not all absentee ballots have been counted. In both 2010 and 2012 post-election night absentee ballot counts moved a candidate up into a winning position, displacing a candidate who appeared to have been successful on election night.  Jesus Silva leads Larry Bennett by a relatively comfortable margin of 779 votes. It will be difficult for Larry Bennett to overcome this deficit, but late absentee ballots generally favor conservative voters.

Larry Bennett was the choice of the establishment axis that gave him the support of retiring incumbent Jan Flory, and Councilmember Doug Chaffee both of whom declined to endorse Jesus Silva.

ocvote-measure-ii

Measure ii has passed, cursing the city with a horrible districts elections map until at least the next census in 2020.

More on the implications of the election later.

 

 

Web

Here’s the story…

Three seats are open on the Fullerton City Council. The candidates are: Jane Rands, Bruce Whitaker, Charles Sergeant, Jesus Silva, Joe Imbriano, Susan Gapinski, Herbert Glazier, Joshua Ferguson, Jennifer Fitzgerald, Jonathan Mansoori, Larry Bennett, and Roberta Reid (who recently announced that she is not interested in running anymore, though her name already appears on the ballot).

What follows are my observations about the candidates. (For full disclosure, readers should be aware that I am romantically involved with candidate Jane Rands.) I hope I am being as fair as possible to everyone. There are video interviews on The Fullerton Observer website for most of the candidates, and the League of Women Voters forum is online here.

Jane Rands, Software Engineer

Jane Rands is a board member of the Friends of Coyote Hills, and has worked for many years to preserve the area as a park instead of allowing it to be developed as housing and retail by Chevron. She authored a better district elections map, but it was rejected by the city council.

She was a member of the city’s Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan (DCCSP) Advisory Committee, but opposed the ill-fated plan, working with Friends for a Livable Fullerton‘s Jane Reifer to organize residents and business owners against the plan’s fast-tracking of high density development in many parts of Fullerton. She has worked to oppose the overdevelopment of the city for a decade. She currently serves on and is a past chair of the Bicycle Users Subcommittee, where she has worked to ensure that the city holds true to a vision of increased mobility and safety for cycling on Fullerton streets. She opposed the closing of the Hunt Branch Library.

Her campaign does not accept donations from developers or other special interests, and almost entirely funded by contributions from individual Fullerton voters. Vote for Jane if you want sensible government that listens to residents, not developers.

Jane Rands is endorsed by Citizens for Responsible Development, The Fullerton Observer, and the Orange County League of Conservation Voters

Bruce Whitaker, incumbent City Council member.

Bruce Whitaker has been on the Fullerton City Council for six years. He has philosophically opposed mixing government with development. He voted in favor of Chevron’s plan to develop Coyote Hills. He has generally served as a fiscally conservative voice on the council, opposing cronyism and supporting greater oversight of the police department, earning him the ire of the police union, who have spent heavily to defeat him, unsuccessfully, in the past. His attempt to institute a system of greater transparency in negations with public employee unions was watered down by, among others, Jennifer Fitzgerald, rendering it largely ineffective. He supported keeping the Hunt Library open instead of leasing the property to a church. He joined the rest of the current council in voting for the terrible map attached to Measure ii.

His campaign is supported by local residents and business owners, with one $ 3,000.00 donation from “Roseville Fullerton Burton,” $ 1,000.00 from Townsend Public Affairs, as well as some real estate and development interests.

Endorsed by Citizens for Responsible Development and the OC Register

Jesus Silva, Jr. High School Math Teacher

Jesus Silva currently serves on Fullerton’s Parks and Recreation Commission. Husband of former Assembly member (and current candidate for the office) Sharon Quirk-Silva. He has spoken against developing Coyote Hills, and has cited public safety has his main priority in at least one candidate forum. He courted and received the support of Fullerton’s police union, making him an unlikely candidate for doing anything about police oversight. His campaign rhetoric and ballot statement are quite vague, making it difficult to know what he would do as a council member.

His campaign has been supported, with a few notable exceptions, largely by local donations by individuals.

Endorsed by Fullerton Observer and Fullerton’s police union.

 

Jennifer Fitzgerald, incumbent City Council member, Vice President of Curt Pringle & Associates, a public relations (lobbying) firm in Anaheim.

There are many reasons not to vote for her. Here are a few: She campaigned in 2012 on keeping libraries open, then voted for a budget that defunded the Hunt Branch, leading to the facility being leased to an adjacent church at a cut-rate. Although she is VP of a major lobbying firm in OC, she refused to release that firm’s client list, leaving her constituents in the dark about whether or not she is making decisions that might constitute a conflict of interest at any given time. (She was fined by the Fair Political Practices Commission last year for not being transparent about her employment). She vote to adopt the awful map in Measure ii, a map that diluted the district in which she herself resides form being an Asian Voting Age Population Majority one. She voted against meaningful police oversight. She claims that Fullerton has a balanced budget, but this claim seems to be based on the city selling off “surplus properties,” like the Hunt Library. She voted in favor of Chevron’s plans to develop Coyote Hills. She used an expensive, taxpayer-funded city video on her campaign website.

She has raised absurdly large amounts of money for her re-election campaign, from local donations and from outside interests like developers (including the Irvine Company) and their professional organizations, as well as local downtown bar owners, among others, fueling speculation that she intends to run for another office with the funds. There is no good reason to vote for her unless you want more development in town and like being kept in the dark when it comes to transparency in government.

Endorsed by the OC Register, the police and fire unions.

Jonathan Mansoori, Community Organizer.

Political (and Fullerton?) newcomer Jonathan Mansoori is known to voters primarily as “that nice young man.” He is part of an organization that is trying to catapult former Teach for America members into public office. His campaign rhetoric is long on lofty goals, but short on specific proposals.

He has stated that he supports preserving all of Coyote Hills as a park, and has not yet answered my question about how long he has actually lived in Fullerton (his current voting address goes back only to 2015).

His campaign is funded by oddly tiny amounts of money from people outside of Fullerton, but Jonathan Mansoori has raised tens of thousands of dollars from a PAC funded by charter school supporters like venture capitalist Arthur Rock, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Wal-Mart Board/family members Steuart Walton, and Carrie Penner, although he told the Fullerton Observer that he was not receiving “big money.” He may hold the record in this election for the most amount of money donated to his campaign from outside of the city. Vote for him is you want to wait for the other shoe to drop to find out why he is even running for Fullerton City Council.

Larry Bennett, Financial Planner (owner of an insurance agency.

Planning Commissioner Larry Bennett, a “financial planner” with his own insurance agency, is essentially an old guard candidate endorsed by many of the same people who tried to keep Don Bankhead, Dick Jones, and Pat McKinley in office four years ago. Voters can decide for themselves whether or not his management of the disastrously ineffective Anti-Recall campaign of 2012 lends credibility to his administrative abilities. He pledges to fix Fullerton’s roads and sidewalks and to make pensions sustainable, but is endorsed by the same recalled Council members who helped to cause these same problems. He supported developing Coyote Hills. Vote for him if you like Jennifer Fitzgerald, who has contributed thousands to his campaign, and more development, because that’s what Jennifer Fitzgerald wants too.

His campaign is funded by many of the same locals who tried to keep Bankhead/McKinley/Jones in office four years ago, as well as by property management, automobile dealer, and developer interests.

Endorsed by the police and fire unions

Joe Imbriano, Business owner (insurance agent)
Proudly announces at council meetings that he is the site administrator of the Fullerton Informer blog, where, among other stories, readers will find arguments that the moon landings were faked, the drought is a result of geo-engineering (chemtrails!), Apple is intentionally making children sterile, and the earth is flat (look for it, it’s there). His primary activism has been the area of opposing wireless devices in schools for fear of children being exposed to unhealthy doses of radiation. He opposes high density development, going so far as to propose a moratorium on all new developments, but has spread misinformation about the Polly’s Pies shopping center, falsely claiming that it could slated for “Section 8” housing.

Joe Imbriano’s campaign is funded by local individuals, including himself. Vote for him if you want a reduction in high density development and wish to enter into a miasma of ridiculous off-the-shelf conspiracy theory not seen in OC since the days of Steve Rocco on the Orange School Board.

Susan Gapinski, Iron Worker

Susan Gapinksi promises to fix the roads, as do most candidates, and to oppose high density development, and is for “for property owners’ rights, and less government interference for business owners.”

Susan Gapinski’s campaign is funded by local residents, and $ 2,000.00 from Ed Royce, and unions.

Endorsed by the OC Register and the LA/OC Building and Construction Trades Council

Joshua Ferguson, Camera Store Clerk.

Joshua Ferguson states that the “status quo hates him,” and he is probably right, if they have paid him much attention. Too bad if they haven’t. He’s emerged as an intelligent voice on many issues. He opposes “rubber stamp(ing)” high density housing, wants to reform public employee pensions, fix the roads, and establish more oversight of the Fullerton Police Department.

Joshua Ferguson has not raised or spent enough money to file campaign reports.

 

Charles Sargeant, lists his background as a business owner and school district safety officer. (I can’t find a website for him.)

Charles Sargeant wants to “speed up street improvements/water lines and other infrastructural work, assign more officers to police the bars, and make it easier to start new small businesses in town.

Charles Sargeant has not raised or spent enough money to file campaign reports.

Herbert Glazier is reportedly a retired builder who ran for office in Easthampton, MA (?) in 2013. Not sure why he is running for office here now, but his whole campaign seems to consist of a handmade sign taped to his car window.

Herbert Glazier has not raised or spent enough money to file campaign reports.

Roberta Reid indicated at a recent meeting of the Fullerton City Council that she is not running anymore, and was surprised to learn that her name would still appear on the ballot. Enough said.

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