The Upcoming College Town Proposal for Fullerton and Why It Deserves to be Voted Down
By Barry Levinson
Quite frankly I was hoping to hear some positives for the citizens of Fullerton as it relates to the College Town proposal. Charles Kovacs provided the presentation of the project at a Park and Recreation Committee meeting. It was a Receive and File item, i.e. no recommendation of the project was sought from the committee by the city.
You see I had heard a number of negative issues relating to project such as additional traffic and a loss of a major thru street, Nutwood, and the associated on ramp from that street to the 57 Freeway.
Anyone who has lived in Fullerton for the last few decades knows that traffic has gotten progressively worse. As the city’s population and multi-story buildings have increased, the city has failed to keep up with its road system and its road maintenance as well. The results are that it now takes twice as long to drive across town as it did a mere decade ago.
Therefore, when another major building project gets announced, which includes reducing street access rather than improving our streets, one has to look at this with a jaundiced eye.
However, to be fair I hoped Mr. Kovacs would provide additional information about the project that would highlight some real positives for the city and also some major street improvement plans to handle the additional cars that would be added to our existing roads.
Well the positives that Mr. Kovacs provided our committee frankly were less than impressive. In fact in my opinion, they were almost nonexistent. Namely, a few new restaurants, (which based on past restaurants in the area I expect would be dominated by more fast food joints and a relatively small new grassy space where part of Nutwood Avenue used to be.
What Is The City Manager Thinking?
So if there are real negatives about the project such as greatly increased traffic and very few if any real positives for the people of Fullerton, why is the city pushing for this project so heavily? The one word answer is this…MONEY! All the city has to do is to keep approving high-rise buildings and the money desperately needed to bail out the city for past and current overspending and mismanagement comes rolling in.
You see that for every dwelling unit, no matter how small, each developer must pay an upfront Park dwelling unit fee of…$11,700. The College Town Plan calls for 3,400 residential units plus commercial and retail space as well. The 3,400 units alone, represents $39,780,000 (3,400 residential units x $11,700/per unit) in additional fees/taxes to the city. When our existing road system is already overburdened, you do not have to be a traffic engineer to know that adding thousands of additional cars will only make our traffic problems much worse. In addition to the increased number of cars, the closing of an important access to the 57 Freeway will only add to the traffic and congestion problem.
What out of control spending you may ask?
A $200 million unfunded pension liability/deficit (conservative estimate) and additional millions in retiree health care deficits. On top of all this, the city council with the votes of Fitzgerald, Flory and Chaffee last June 16, 2015approved a $2.8 million 2-year city budget deficit. They then later that year approved to spend additional millions in the form of a 6% raise to begin at the start of the new contracts for our safety workers. This does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars needed over the next decade to deal with our dilapidated roads, sewers and water pipes.
But not to worry because Council member Fitzgerald stated at the June 16, 2015 meeting the following: “And if it were not for the state increasing our PERS Rate we would have a balanced budget today.” How incredibly misleading of our current Mayor to make that statement? I say that because she strongly infers that the PERS rate increase was not at all caused by the city council but by the state. In fact, the exact opposite is true. The large PERS rate increase for the city, i.e. the taxpayers, was primarily caused by a previous vote in 2002 by a past Fullerton city council (including Ms. Flory), to retroactively greatly increase the Safety pension benefits to the current 3% a year at 50 years of age with a minimum of 30 years of service or a whopping 90% pension benefit for life. Ms. Fitzgerald is either greatly misinformed as to the cause of the PERS Rate increase or is not being honest with the people of Fullerton.
Council member Fitzgerald at the same June 16, 2016 meeting thought that the Park dwelling fee increase from $10,600 to $11,700 per dwelling unit was reasonable because the rate had been the same since 2008. This was the same thing we, the Parks and Recreation Committee were told by Director Curiel. Had I known the whole story, I would have been against this $1,100 dollar increase. What Ms. Fitzgerald and Director Curiel failed to mention to the Council and P and R Committee, respectively was that in 2008 that same fee was raised from $3,827 dollars to the aforementioned $10,600 dollars for an incredible 206% rate increase year over year.
It would seem that the goal of the majority of our city leaders is to collect vast sums of additional revenue in the form of additional fees and taxes so that the city does not have to reform the pensions as promised us and make other tough decisions going forward.
The Fullerton special interests win big and the citizens of Fullerton loose big. But you thought the city council and the city manager worked for the citizens. Well unfortunately, apparently not this city council and not this city manager.
I report, you decide.