Levinson: Concerning the Proposed Melia Homes Development

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The following is an Open Letter from Parks-&-Rec board member Barry Levinson to all Sunny Hills (Fullerton) residents, and all parents of children now or in the future attending Laguna Road School, concerning the proposed Melia Homes 40-unit townhouse development on 3.3 acres:

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 who 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 usualy has to do 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 buildings 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 have demonstrated 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.

Barry Levinson.

* 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.

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