Another look at Fullerton’s Socowalk

I recently met the developer of the Socowalk project, Tony Bushala, in Fullerton.  He had an interesting tale to tell about Socowalk.  He said that he started to buy the properties involved in that project piecemeal and eventually he had 26 lots.  That included an abandoned Union Pacific Right of Way and surplus property from the Harbor Blvd. and Lemon St. grade separation – these were leftover remnants.

The area was clearly blighted, but Bushala saw the potential.  His vision for the area was a transit-oriented development.  The original development concept for the area began in 1985.  It took twenty years to see it through.

The Socowalk project did not use any redevelopment money.  It was fully funded by private money.  Bushala bought the properties and conducted an EIR.  The zoning was already for multi-family use.  Six homes were deemed by the developer to have historical value and he paid to move them to other properties in town.

The developer gave relocation assistance that was not required to each of the residents in the project area.  They were rental tenants and each of them received $3,500, in 2002, to relocate.  Many of them used that money as down payments to purchase homes elsewhere.

Once the properties were razed the development was sold to the Olson Company.  They then hired architects and designed the eventual development.

The “soco” aspct of “Socowalk” was the brainchild of Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby who previously served as a Fullerton Councilman.  Norby, according to Bushala, was a big inspiration to pursue this development without resorting to help from the City of Fullerton.

A recent article in the O.C. Register slammed the Socowalk development and quoted a resident who was unhappy with crime in the area and with the fact that the locals don’t appear to be mixing with the Socowalk residents.  However, according to Bushala, there are plenty of residents that love the neighborhood and are very happy to be living in downtown Fullerton.

There are numerous restaurants, bars and other venues within walking distance of Socowalk.  The downtown Fullerton area is quite vibrant and filled with a diverse crowd of all ages most weekends and evenings.

I personally visited one of the downtown Fullerton bars a few weeks ago.  It was quite a scene.  That area used to be quite dead – and now it is thriving.  Clearly this type of redevelopment can work – particularly when the public sector gets out of the way.

About Admin

"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.