Archives for posts with tag: Core and Corridors Plan

Red Oak Investments: Residences above Retail, or the Love Boat over Public Storage?

Matthew Leslie

The 295 unit, four story, double structure apartment complex proposed for 600 W. Commonwealth Ave. may only be the latest of its type in Fullerton, but it would be the first in a series for the area west of downtown if it’s allowed to be built. Commonwealth Ave. was one of the “corridors” in the wrong-headed Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan (DCCSP) the city tried to push off on the residents a couple of years ago until it was stopped by popular opposition.* Attempts were made later to revive the DCCSP piecemeal from the ashes, but no new wholesale zoning changes were passed for the area, which was arguably the most dangerous part of the plan. For now, developers still have to seek changes in zoning for their specific projects, one at a time, like Red Oak.

However, the more big projects that are successful in securing these changes in zoning, the more big projects will follow, etc., because each new one that is allowed to be built will contribute to changing the character of the street to one of high density, multi-story structures, “normalizing” them for the area (to use the current popular term). Right now, Commonwealth Avenue west of Harbor is not filled with developments like the large four story Red Oak Investments project slated to come before the Fullerton City Council on January 17, but if the City Council approves the 600,000 plus square foot buildings they will establish a foothold for others to follow, which is what the DCCSP was supposed to do in one fell swoop back in 2014. (Rag readers will recall that the city tried to pass the most sweeping zoning change in the history of Fullerton in the middle of summer vacation time in the library without a live broadcast:

Planners have a name for the current state of West Commonwealth Ave., and it is “underperforming,” because that is how they see an unplanned series of one story apartments and modest businesses, you know, places where people live and make a living. Another term for existing small apartments is “affordable housing” that already exists, and it is just the sort of housing that will be forced out as apartment owners see that they can redevelop their properties into four story blocks with much higher rental prices The units at the proposed Red Oak project are slated to cost $ 2,500.00 per month.


West Commonwealth: The “horrors” of small businesses and existing affordable housing…

Allowing the first one on West Commonwealth will lead to a corridor of monolithic buildings along the avenue, casting shadows over the houses behind them. We’ve already seen it happen on East Commonwealth in the form of the Ventana building. And just because Red Oak’s project tries to avoid looking blocky by “stacking” boxcar-inspired masses atop one another and juggling setbacks from the sidewalk, it will still be a huge double complex in an area surrounded by older, affordable housing.

If we allow it to be built, more will come, and there is no plan to handle the traffic that will obviously result from more and more of them. Show up Monday night at the Library to talk about how to responsibly plan our city, and not leave it to the out of town developers who want to shake as much money as possible from their investments with no concern for the residents affected by their plans. Come to the Fullerton Public Library (Osbourne Room) tonight for a free public meeting organized by Friends for a Livable Fullerton:


*And this blog:


The Rag will take a little credit, but it was probably stopped because residents were calling council members to object to it (keep those calls coming!).

600 W. Commonwalth Overhead

More and more high density housing..,

Matthew Leslie

Here is the good news: Fullerton’s Planning Commission is not scheduled to make any decisions about the newly revived Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan (DCCSP) or the giant mixed-use housing project proposed for the 600 block of West Commonwealth Ave when they meet on the evening of April 27. The bad news is that this two-building project is being proposed in the first place, and that the DCCSP still exists, albeit radically downsized by Community Development Director Karen Haluza and her staff of planners.

Wednesday night’s meeting is instead a study session for both proposals. The four page staff report about this proposed development attached to the agenda explains rather cryptically that, following a preliminary public meeting in September, 2015, “it was acknowledged that this project would be reviewed concurrently with the final design and development components in the revised DCCSP.” The DCCSP itself has undergone quite a change since first approved by the Planning Commission in 2014. Readers will recall that consideration of the massive, and massively inappropriate, plan was halted in its tracks by, among other concerns, revelations shared on this blog that two members of the Fullerton City Council owned property within 500 feet of the plan area. A study session was promised to properly consider the implications of what would have been the largest single Specific Plan in the city’s history. It never happened, and neither did anything public with the DCCSP, but the Community Development planners were evidently hard at work trying to salvage something from it. Two weeks ago, they narrowed it to “three new zoning tools” to “replace the DCCSP” for the Planning Commission. The proposed tools are:

  1. Mixed-Use Overlay Zone
  2. Adaptive Re-Use Incentive Zone
  3. Central Business District

It is the first new tool, Mixed-Use Overlay Zone, that is being considered “concurrently” with a plan by Red Oak Investments to build nearly three hundred living units in two structures on the 600 block of W. Commonwealth Ave. that together would take up most of a city block between Commonwealth on the North and the railroad tracks on the South side. Unfortunately, this tool seems to be more concerned with “appropriate building and frontage type combinations,”  quoting the staff report, than it does with the appropriateness of adding so many new housing and retail units to the former car dealership land in the first place.

600 W. Commonwalth Specs

More apartments, parking spaces.

The plan addresses the issue of overly large building frontages by proposing two stories facing Commonwealth stepping up to four stories backing up to the train tracks (what a view!), but the two structures will still represent over 270,000 square feet of mostly residential space with 568 new parking spaces. And therein lies the major problem. Despite prioritizing water main and electrical upgrades to Commonwealth Ave. in recent months in anticipation of projects like this one, there is virtually nothing that can be done to accommodate the additional vehicular traffic that will be added to our already clogged streets once the units are occupied by people with, you know, jobs to get to. Unless flying cars are introduced into the marketplace by the time tenants move in, there will be more traffic not only on Commonwealth, but also on the residential streets immediately to the North, as drivers try to escape rush hour left turn lines at Euclid and Harbor by cutting through adjacent neighborhoods.


Reid Fleming has found a traffic solution, how about you?

The Red Oak project is more than six blocks from the train station. Although a bus line does run up and down Commonwealth, do we really think these new residents are all going to take public transportation? Where are the infrastructural upgrades that will facilitate these additional vehicles? Nowhere, that’s where. Anyone driving near this new project would just have to spend even more time stuck in traffic, and nearby residents would have to endure even more cars speeding through their neighborhoods. Oh, and where are we getting all of the water for all of these new residents?

The DCCPSP may have been downsized, but its purpose seems to have remained the same—to facilitate more and more multistory high density residential developments in the downtown area and along Fullerton’s major transportation corridors, whether the current residents of the city want them or not.

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…

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