By Barry Levinson
Melia Homes Townhouse Proposal at the March Planning Commission Meeting.
This is what all 6* Planning Commissioners ignored while speaking at the end of the Planning Commission meeting on March 14, 2016 as follows:
1. They ignored our 4 to 5 five-year in the making updated General Plan for Fullerton that was completed I believe in 2012, less than 4 years ago. It was Commissioner Gambino I believe who said that the General Plan is already obsolete. This is what they do. They have a bunch of rules and use them for their advantage when the situation is right and trash the rules when they want to pass something else. If I believed as a commissioner that the General Plan was obsolete and did not meet the needs of the city (which I do not) I would be speaking out loudly on how the city wasted over a million dollars and over 4 years putting together a plan that is not worth the paper it is printed on. But again they would never do that. In fact as I mentioned at the podium it was none other than Mayor Fitzgerald that voted against the Lark Ellen townhouse proposal’s first iteration because it did not follow the General Plan to keep the neighborhoods intact. In fact that neighborhood has homes on 7,000 and 8,000 thousand sq. ft. lots and not the 20,000 sq. ft. lots and greater in Sunny Hills. So one day the city is making decisions based on the General Plan and then a month or two later they are trashing the same plan. All one has to do 90% of the time to fight city hall is to use their own contradictory words and thoughts against them. I find it to be one of the most effective tools we have as citizens to get their attention.
2. As I stated at the podium, Planning Consultant Heather Allen’s presentation was totally biased in favor of the developer. It is the same reason police and firemen get such large raises and outsized benefits. The city and the unions are on the same side and no one looks out for the taxpayers. In this case it is obvious once again that the city and the developer are on the same side. No one on the dais agreed with my comments that the presentation by the city left a lot to be desired. It was so, so obvious but commissioners will not go there (except me at Parks and Recreation).
3. No one asked for any proof that there is no demand for a new office/medical building at the site of the proposed Melia Homes. We heard from the developer, one or more commissioners and Marty Burbank that the Towers office buildings on Harbor and Brea Boulevards are half vacant. Before accepting that as fact, documentation about the vacancy percentage in those two buidlings should have been presented to the committee. Until such evidence is provided it was just an unconfirmed statement, nothing more and nothing less. Even if it is true they are comparing apples to oranges. First, the Melia homes location being so close to St. Jude Hospital and medical offices makes that property a good fit for another medical related building including the ever growing need for more extended senior care facilities. Second, a brand new office building can’t be compared to a 40 year old building over a mile away.
4. No one on the dais stated that Melia Homes should strongly consider bringing forth a plan of single family homes with lots at or near 20,000 sq. ft. as to fit in with the neighborhood. All they talked about was reducing the 40 town-home units to somewhat smaller town-home development.
5. Commissioner Larry Bennett talked about how he is a strong advocate for private property rights. I am also a strong advocate of the same. But buying property zoned as office/medical, which sets the value of that property and now asking that they change it 180% degrees to high density multi-unit residential (no matter what the city labels it) is not property rights. The reality is that it violates the adjoining property owner rights, privacy and valuations, while at the same time making the developer’s property values much higher due to the zoning change. This is crony capitalism at its worst.
6. Finally, based on the majority of the commissioners professions and/or organizations they belong to suggests a real bias for more medium and high density development.
I wish I could have had 8 to 10 minutes at the podium for I would demonstrate point by point how bad this project is and how the commissioners are ignoring the major issues before them. I thought to some extent they were getting lost in the weeds hoping that by throwing the neighbors a bone it would become acceptable. This is also a tactic they use over and over again.
Together we are much stronger than just each of us speaking out individually. Sunny Hills residents please do not be fooled by future city attempts to placate you with the same development on a slightly smaller scale. The city seems to care more about collecting the $11,700 a unit fee/tax, called the Park Dwelling Fee required of the developer for each of the 40 units, which would total $468,000.
To summarize and further clarify the points I made above, I want to add the following:
The current zoning is commercial offices/medical offices. The current owner of the property bought it with this zoning. As you probably know the market value of any property is based in large part on what it is zoned for. Now without any proof that they can’t sell the property as it is currently zoned, the owner wants the city to approve a zoning change that will automatically increase the value of that property by a great deal, probably millions of dollars. What is in it for the city you may ask? I already informed you that the city gets a $11,700 a unit Park Dwelling fee/tax or $468,000.
This is not private property rights, but rather the city working with the owner and developer, against the interests of the surrounding neighbors, i.e. crony capitalism. The relatively short term owner of the commercially zoned office building property is asking for preferential treatment over the hundreds of residents who have lived there for decades.
If the property is proven to not be sellable as it is currently zoned, which I greatly doubt, the zoning change that should be considered is the R1-20 (20,000 sq. ft. residential lots) that is the zoning for homes in the surrounding neighborhood. This makes way to much sense I guess for any of the 6 commissioners to consider at the committee meeting.
With a R1-20 residential zoning, the most homes that could be built on 3.3 acres is 6 homes not the 40 proposed. But of course the owner who bought the property for commercial office not residential, can make much more money converting it the 40 units they have proposed. The representative for the builder was actually unintentionally funny when he stated that he listened and tried to address each and every concern of all the neighbors. Since the biggest issue was the density of the original project and since the developer made the great sacrifice to reduce the original plan from 41 units to 40 units, his statement was farcical on its face and indeed there was a loud negative response when the developer made this very self-serving statement to the committee.
* Kevin Pendergraft appointed by Council member Whitaker missed this extremely important meeting. He also missed the vote on the Downtown Core And Corridor Special Project Proposal several months ago as well.