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The SOCO Story

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Some time in 2002, Jack Franklin, owner of Heroes Bar and Grill in the Villa Del Sol, became unhappy with the rising rent for these premises. He was also acquainted with Walt Johnson, owner of four properties in a downtown block which had yet to receive attention from the city redevelopment agency. That block is bounded by Santa Fe, Commonwealth and Malden Avenues, and Harbor Boulevard, and now prominently labeled SOCO with signage that cost taxpayers $429,600. Across Malden Avenue is the Fullerton Community (now Opus) Bank, which became the enabler for a four million dollar scheme.

Walt at that time had been a member of the Redevelopment Advisory Committee for 20 years. During his tenure on the committee, he had sold a warehouse building, one of those four properties, to the redevelopment agency, and then bought it back two years later. These transactions were arranged and facilitated by his fellow RDA committee member, Scott Dowds of Farmers and Merchants Bank. Walt was again appointed for yet another term on the advisory committee, this time by Councilmember Sharon Quirk.

One of the first comments Councilmember Quirk made from the council dais was that she had an event at Roscoes, one of Jack Franklin’s enterprises in a Walt Johnson building on Commonwealth Avenue, within the SOCO project. When Pam Keller was a city council member, she advocated for Florentine’s martini sign, and voted against any alcohol-related signage rules. What’s with these supposedly liberal women and the bar trade?

Meantime, Paul Dudley and others in the city said they were concerned about bringing more business activity to downtown. Some, including Mayor Don Bankhead, Sgt. Fred Casas of the police department, assigned to downtown, and Jack Franklin traveled to consult in Pasadena to see how that downtown was developed. They discovered a Restaurant Overlay District, ROD.

In June 2002, the council unanimously resolved to hold a hearing and adopt such ordinance. In October 2002, the planning commission approved this proposal, Dudley’s staff telling them it had “negative declaration.” Apparently the commissioners believed that releasing restaurants from parking requirements and rules for conditions of operation would have no impact upon this city.

In December 2002 the city council–Don Bankhead, Michael Clesceri, Richard Jones, and Jan Flory –unanimously approved this ROD. (Chris Norby had just resigned from the council.) Apparently city attorney Richard Jones did not caution his clients that there would be consequences if there were no conditional use permits for downtown restaurants that served alcohol. Nightclubs were born and thrived. Crowds of revelers filled the streets, blocking emergency vehicles on Commonwealth Avenue at times, FPD Capt. Greg Mayes told the city council.

Bookstores, antique shops, dress shops were driven out. The only businesses activities accommodated in downtown Fullerton were “restaurants” which had become nightclubs because there were no restrictions, that is, no conditional use permits, to control alcohol-fueled activities. And landlords could get so much more in rent from a restaurant/bar than from a book store.

The Franklin and Johnson plan to redevelop the 100 block of west Commonwealth and Santa Fe Avenues could not get approved without some parking nearby. They coveted the lot on Santa Fe and Malden owned by Fullerton Community Bank. They asked CEO Carl Gregory for permission to use the lot for night time bar parking. He said no.

They returned again and again, according to a former bank employee, until they wore him down and he gave permission to use bank property for bar patrons. SOCO was born, midwifed by Jack Franklin. Walt Johnson and Mike Ritto, Downtown Merchants (later, Business) Association president and AllMedia Advertising, according to a former city employee. Ritto denies he was one of the people who nagged Carl Gregory, but a former bank employee said he was.

City Manager Chris Meyers, at a meeting in 2008, said that Paul Dudley drew up the ROD ordinance which stated that no restaurant had to provide parking nor to have a conditional use permit. “Paul Dudley meant it for parking,” said Meyers. “But it says, ‘no conditional use permit,’” I pointed out after all other questions had been answered. Answer came there none.

Incidently, I had received no notice of this meeting, I had been writing regularly for the Fullerton Observer. I and the reporter for The Register, each received anonymous telephone calls telling us of the time, place and subject matter of this meeting.

The downtown boys had also asked the redevelopment agency in 2004 for a pedestrian bridge across Harbor “to connect the two SOCO’s,” but the agency staff representative Terry Galvin told them at the time Redevelopment didn’t have the money. That pedestrian bridge has now been built across Harbor Boulevard. Ostensibly, it was build in order for commuters to make the long hike from the parking structure on the west side to the station on the east side of Harbor .

That parking structure could have been built on property already owned by the city right at the train station. Instead, an extra $10,000,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent in acquiring property for train station parking on the west side of Harbor Boulevard, and, voilá, now a pedestrian bridge connects the two bar/restaurant concentrations.

That new parking structure is right across the street from SOCO and Jack Franklin’s “Heroes” establishment.

Next part, downtown

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Now that DTF* is a hotbed of relentless activity, ABC doesn’t care at all about over-concentration.
In the ruling for our third and last protest hearing for Grits restaurant, Administrative Law Judge Doris H. Huebel said there is a two-prong test to determine overconcentration: crime, and the ratio of on-sale licenses to population. She determined that this census tract qualifies as over-concentrated on both counts.

However, Judge Huebel went on to say that “…an excess number of licenses in a given area is also grounds for denying an application.” But “…there is no set formula for determining what constitutes and excess number of license; rather, the overall impact of the license, should it issue, must be examined.”

“In the present case, there are 19 on-sale licenses withing 1,000 feet of the Premises. Given the nature of the Downtown Fullerton area and the variety of people it attracts daily and nightly due to its mixed commercial and residential use purpose, the pure number of licenses by itself does not appear to be excessive.”

Her conclusion said, in effect, there are so many bars, what’s one more? In other words, now that we have an overconcentration of alcohol licenses and a crime problem downtown, more bars and licenses couldn’t possibly make it any worse.

*to the party crowd, this does not mean DownTown Fullerton, but Down To F**k

ABC approves another license

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Now that DTF* is a hotbed of relentless activity, ABC doesn’t care at all about over-concentration.
In the ruling for our third and last protest hearing for Grits restaurant, Administrative Law Judge Doris H. Huebel said there is a two-prong test to determine overconcentration: crime, and the ratio of on-sale licenses to population. She determined that this census tract qualifies as over-concentrated on both counts.

However, Judge Huebel went on to say that “…an excess number of licenses in a given area is also grounds for denying an application.” But “…there is no set formula for determining what constitutes and excess number of license; rather, the overall impact of the license, should it issue, must be examined.”

“In the present case, there are 19 on-sale licenses withing 1,000 feet of the Premises. Given the nature of the Downtown Fullerton area and the variety of people it attracts daily and nightly due to its mixed commercial and residential use purpose, the pure number of licenses by itself does not appear to be excessive.”

Her conclusion said, in effect, there are so many bars, what’s one more? In other words, now that we have an overconcentration of alcohol licenses and a crime problem downtown, more bars and licenses couldn’t possibly make it any worse.

*to the party crowd, this does not mean DownTown Fullerton, but Down To F**k

Alcohol Beverage Control Licenses

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Continuing How Downtown Got This Way…

Regarding the  Alcohol Beverage Control Department hearing to grant a license to “Spiked Paint”
Inquiring of the status of the ABC notices to the police department, I was told that the officer who had handled the notices had  retired, and they didn’t know who had been assigned that responsibility.

From the B&P codes, I learned that the allotment of licenses depended on the population of the census tract as compared with county population and ratio.  Calculating that ratio, it appeared we qualified for five “on sale”–retail– licenses and two “off sale”–manufacturer–licenses in Tract 0113, basically the Central Business District of Fullerton.  This area also includes  the Restaurant Overlay District, of which more about later.  That number, “five,” was acknowledged  by the administrative law judge in her ruling approving a license for Grits restaurant on May 23, 2016.  And more about that later, also.

I also noted that an application would be denied “…if issuance of that license would tend to create a law enforcement problem, or if issuance would result in or add to an undue concentration of licenses, except as provided in Section 23058.4.”   Section23058.4 defines the concept of “undue concentration” of licenses.  It also says the department could still  issue a license “…if the applicant shows that public convenience or necessity would be served by the issuance.”  Emphasis added.

Delia Garcia, Licensing Representative II, Santa Ana District Office, testified at the hearing that was held for the issuance of an alcohol license to Spiked Paint.  Spiked Paint, already long gone, was a funky little place between Back Alley and Les Amis restaurant, overlooking the parking lot north of Amerige Avenue.  It offered opportunity to copy paintings while imbibing wine and beer.

Ms. Garcia offered into evidence a letter dated April 25, 2012, from Heather Allen, Planning Manager, on Community Development Department letterhead.  That letter stated that the issuance of an alcoholic beverage license to Spiked Paint would “satisfy the City of Fullerton’s definition of public convenience or necessity.”

I objected that there was no foundation indicating Ms. Allen was authorized to issue such an opinion.  Ms. Garcia left the witness chair to go into the ABC offices.  She returned with the memo from F. Paul Dudley, Director of Development Services dated March 24, 1995, referred to in the first paragraph above. Dudley stated, “Approvals will be made by this department after consultation with the Police Department.  Please contact me at X6547 by April 3 if you have any concerns. If we receive none (sic), we will prepare a letter on April 4 for the Mayor’s signature designating Development Service as the contact department for ABC.”

Ms. Garcia also offered into evidence a copy of then-Mayor Julie Sa’s letter dated April 4, 1995, to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Office of the Director, which read, “Pursuant to your March 8, 1995, memo, the City of Fullerton designates our Development Services Department as the authorized contact point for determinations of public convenience or necessity under AB-2897.  The Development Services Department will coordinate with the Fullerton Police Department.  Sincerely, Julie Sa, Mayor.”

I have seen two applications wherein the applicant her/himself  tells ABC why it is convenient and necessary to get a license, and one where our development department wrote the rationale. I have not researched city nor ABC files to see how many other “public convenience or necessity” statements were made by city staff on behalf of the issuance of license to sell alcohol in our downtown.  It would be interesting to know which were the first five licensees.

How Downtown Fullerton Got This Way

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In 1994, the legislature passed AB2897, a law giving more control over licenses to sell alcohol to cities. That is what F. Paul Dudley, then director of Fullerton’s Development (formerly known as Planning) Services, wrote in a memo March 24, 1995, to four other fellow employees– Chief of Police Pat McKinley, City Manager James Armstrong, Lt. Jeff Roop, FPD, and Senior Planner Ted Commerdinger .To get a license, he explained, the local governing body would have to tell Alcohol Beverage Control that it was a “public convenience and necessity” that an applicant receive a license.

Dudley’s memo noted that “‘Public convenience and necessity’ is tied to the concentration of licenses in an area, the population of the area, and reported crimes. As a result of AB2897, local agencies now have much more influence over the issuance of retail licenses.”

Dudley told the four who received the memo that if they had no problems with it, he would have the mayor sign a letter designating his department as the contact for ABC. No one indicated any problem with designating Paul Dudley’s department to be the contact for ABC. Mayor Jule Sa sent that letter to ABC April 4, 1995. Mayor Sa’s letter acutally designated the Development Service Department “…as the authorized contact poit for determinations of public convenience or necessity under AB-2897. However, the keys to a Fullerton liquor license apparently were now in the hands of Paul Dudley.

According to the rules of the Alcohol Beverage Control agency as written in our state laws, the number of licenses to sell alcohol in a particular area is calculated by considering the residential population in a census tract. The rules regarding alcoholic beverages are to be found in Division 9, sections 23000 to 25762 of the California Business and Professions Code.

By the official standards, Census Tract 0113 that encompasses downtown Fullerton is qualified for just five licenses. By last count, we have 58.

How could this happen? Well, I discovered how it happened through the process of protesting the issuance of alcohol licenses. The first was Chronic Tacos on the north side of Chapman Avenue in the 100 block west. I and some neighbors who live on that side of Chapman wanted to keep the alcohol scene from expanding into that historic residential neighborhood. Enough people filed protests, so the application was withdrawn. Chronic Tacos thrived for about 10 years without alcohol.

The second venture as a “protestant,” as ABC calls us, was against CaliFire Grill. I don’t remember if they received a license, but they did not stay in business very long. They were succeed by “Grits” which in April 2016 did get a license to serve alcohol from 7:00 a. m. until 10:00 p. m. This was recently extended by our development department to 12:00 a. m. Having achieved extended hours, Grits has conveyed their license to “Café Patio” offering beer and soju, a clear, colorless distilled beverage of Korean origin, usually consumed neat, and its alcohol content varies from about 16.8% to 53% alcohol by volume (ABV), says Wikipedia.

Our third protest, wherein I discovered the smoking gun, was against “Spiked Paint,” located on the north side of the parking lot between Wilshire and Amerige Avenues, a venue for patrons to daub copies of pictures while drinking beer and wine. This protest was heard at the ABC headquarters in the state building in Santa Ana.

To prepare for the hearing, I read the California Business and Professions Code to learn the Alcohol Beverage Control rules. First, I learned that upon a person’s application for a license to serve or sell alcohol, ABC would notify the local city council and the local police department. On November 6, 2011, I hied myself over to city hall. I asked the administrative aide to the Fullerton city council, Eva Arevalo, what happened to such notices. “Upstairs,” she said, pointing ceiling-ward.

I trotted up to the second floor, Development Services. Bob St. Paul was on the desk that day. “What happens to the notices of applications for alcohol licenses?” I inquired. “I don’t know–I’ll check with Heather.” (Heather Allen, Planning Manager in 2012) He returned from the back room ten minutes later. “We trash ‘em,” he said. “You don’t forward them to the city council?” I asked. “Nope.” “You don’t send them to the planning commission?” “Nope.” “You don’t respond to them?” my eyebrows rising. “No,” St. Paul said, “We trash ‘em.”

I was to learn a different story at the ABC hearing.

Integration in the Fullerton Elementary School Districe 1970 to 1972

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  • A new superintendent came to town in September 1970.  D. Russell Parks finally retired and his reign of segregation was over.  First thing Superintendent Robert Crawford set about was to address the “ethnic imbalance” of the Fullerton Elementary School District.

    That was the cover story for closing Maple Elementary School.  “I never did understand why they closed Maple School,” said a woman who had been in the last Maple sixth grade class in 1972.

    The underlying reason for closing Maple was that the residents of the new and affluent neighborhood called President Homes wanted their own elementary school.  The nearest was Rolling Hills School.  The objection to that school by the President Homesians was that their children would have to cross Brea Boulevard, it was said.  But financing assistance from the state was allocated only on the basis of facility square footage per pupil.  Therefore, to get state financing, Fullerton Elementary District had to have less classroom space.

    Crawford’s  plan included the formation of a citizens advisory committee which was intended to recommend closing Maple School, 98.5% minority students.  Without a neighborhood school, all those students would be bussed to various other schools.  That ultimate plan was adopted by the school board, but rocks arose in the road to its achievement.

    I read of the intended committee in the Fullerton News Tribune, that representatives of local
    organizations would be appointed.*  I telephoned Lorril Senefeld, chair of the Fullerton Fair Housing Council, foundation of the later Orange County Fair Housing Council.  “Lorril,” I said, “The Fair Housing Council needs to be represented on that committee, and Mary Stewart would be an excellent person to be our representative.”

    Lorril called me back, said Mary  had declined and had said I would be an excellent representative.  “Well, ok,” I said.  And so started my second significant political education.  And put paid to Robert
    Crawford’s plan, as it happened.

    No one knew anyone else, among the citizens**–school district employees were included in the
    committee–but everyone knew John Jimenez, principal of Maple School.  The representative of a Rotary Club, Roland Hiltscher,  nominated him to be chair of the committee, and he was duly elected at our first meeting.  As I recall, Roland never came to another meeting.  “Idiot!” someone said to me later.  “When people don’t know each other in committee work, you elect an interim chair to serve until you do get to know who’s who.”

    We began in February 1971.   First thing we had done, at the behest of Peggy Martin, AAUW and Elizabeth Beebe, League of Women Voters, was to draft a statement of principles to be adopted by the Board of Trustees so that we could be clear as to what the Board policy was in regard to the obligations and expectations for our task.  Jimenez didn’t like that, but he could not block it.

 

School Choice

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Is there a month that goes by without an article in the Register about reforming public schools? Gloria Romero wrote her opinions September 10 and October 29, and more to come. She is, after all, an “education reformer.”

Gloria’s big thing is her “Open Enrollment” law. “Choice” is what parents should have, she and others advocate.

Fullerton elementary school district established “choice” for all of us in 1972 when Robert Crawford was superintendent. Unfortunately, then-superintendent Duncan Johnson took it away again in 1983.

Yes indeed, on May 9, 1972, the Fullerton Elementary School District Board of Trustees voted and adopted a policy that said parents who wanted a particular alternative style or approach to the education of their children could establish such a school and work with teachers to do so. The choices were suggested to be an open or “free school” mode, a more strictly disciplined model known as “fundamental” school or just stay with the middle of the road.

A group of parents took up that offer – they after all had initiated the demand for it – and implemented a free school model known as Community Open School. It was located at Maple School on Valencia Avenue. The school board had closed Maple for their one-way bussing solution to Fullerton’s segregated schools.

Ironically, some of those same parents had been on the District’s 33-member Human Relations Advisory Committee appointed to solve the integration problem, and that committee had overwhelmingly recommended to the Board that a system of choice be established and students assigned to schools on an integrated basis, with Maple School to remain a neighborhood school.

I was an essential trekker in both adventures, the Human Relations Advisory Committee and the establishment of Community Open School. And thus I acquired a great deal of political experience.