Fullerton's Pooch Park Move Gets Neutered
Staff now has to start all over again because they stupidly couldn't keep it simple
Last night at the City Council meeting there was a Consent Calendar item to approve a bid for moving the Fullerton Pooch Park from the Hunt Library property (where it’s been illegally sitting for years now) to Brea Dam.
Erik contacted several members of Council and staff as well as wrote about this item, on this site, prior to the meeting:
Councilmembers Whitaker & Zahra both asked to have the item pulled from the Consent Calendar (which means to allow discussion on it).
Whitaker claimed he pulled the item to bring it back to Council for a “deeper dive” and to have an actual discussion on it, Zahra seemingly for the same reason. Dunlap then suggested that the item be sent back to the Parks and Recreation Commission since a Commissioner spoke up about it in general public comments (Council no longer allows the public to pull Consent Calendar items as I mentioned in the breakdown of the agenda yesterday).
While our criticisms of the massive expansion of the plan to move the park were basically parroted by Council, no real discussion took place over the how or why of the item.
Yes, several members of Council expressed concerns over how the item went from a mostly grant funded move of about $250K to a $1.2M monstrosity, however nobody actually asked staff to explain themselves.
A few other Consent Calendar items were pulled last night with a staffer offering up some mostly non-answers but when this item was pulled it largely fell to City Manager Levitt, who dodged the meat of the issue.
Levitt confirmed the changes and most of the discussion then centered around the process of sending it back to the Parks & Rec Commission for review, not why it appeared on the Consent Calendar in the form it appeared.
Levitt likewise claimed it didn’t go back to the Parks and Recreation Commission as this was just approval for the bid and contract. That implies that P&R approved the premise and scope behind the bid in the first place which is just untrue.
Nobody on Council made a single staffer answer a single question on the item. It’s a mystery of an item apparently and one that can’t be asked about in any meaningful fashion lest a staffer or two have to take some accountability.
I guess you could make the case that there was nobody from Parks at the meeting to actually answer questions but that’s even worse because it shows you how little they thought of the oversight on this item. They submitted it to Council while the acting Parks and Recreation Director, Alice Loya, was on vacation and then didn’t bother to send anybody in case the item got pulled for discussion. The Department thought precisely nothing about this item needed explaining.
Oh and the City Manager who overseas everything? Yeah, same problem, different pay scale. He was more concerned with the timeline of the bid then why a $250K bid went over budget by nearly a million dollars. What’s a million dollars between friends anyways?
The item needed to be rejected and remanded back to the Commission if for no other reason than staff was lying by obvious omission in their agenda report.
The report claims:
“City Council approved relocating the existing Pooch Park from the Hunt Branch Library Park property to the Brea Dam Park and accepted and allocated the State of California Prop 68 Per Capita Grant to this project on August 17, 2021.”
Yes, technically that’s true. Here’s what the City Council approved back on 17 August 2021:
“Staff estimates the costs to relocate the Fullerton Pooch Park at $250,000 to $300,000. The City will receive $266,093 in funding from the State Per Capita Grant Program allocations for urban cities. Any additional funding needed will come from available Park Dwelling fund balance.”
Council (and the Parks Commission) approved $266,093 from the State Per Capita Grand Program which would have funded a $250-300K park move.
So how did it get to $1.2Million?
We’ll probably never know in an official capacity. Again, that would require some tough questions and maybe some accountability which is anathema to this and every prior City Council.
That Council regularly, including last night, approves items with poorly written agenda explanations to fund opaque nonsense is how this item ended up on the Consent Calendar with nobody to explain it in the first place. Staff assumed not a soul was paying attention and they’d get away with it. If Council regularly did their jobs, which they all refuse, this would never have happened in the first place.
Every single meeting there are lies, damn lies, and omissions in the agenda and they go unanswered and unexplained. That this item got pulled is an outlier.
The closest we got to an answer is when Councilmember Whitaker made the point (straight out of the agenda itself, above underlined in red) about staff meeting with the “Fullerton Dog Park Foundation” and that the Dog Park Foundation IS NOT a City controlled, operated, or subsidiary organization.
The implication in the agenda packet, and what Whitaker was addressing, is that staff was allegedly doing what the Fullerton Dog Park Foundation wanted. This begs a lot of questions.
Did that “Foundation” get to dictate how much and how exactly tax (or more precisely Park Dwelling Fee) money is spent? If so, why?
It shouldn’t matter if staff wants to ask the Fullerton Dog Park Foundation for ideas as they help run the park. If the Foundation wants to fund solar lighting and water fountains and and and, with staff (and commission and Council) approval so be it. They should have design input that falls within the scope of what the City approves. They should not, however, be allowed to bloat a project out to quadruple the approved price without real oversight.
I’m not sure who’s to blame for these changes as at the moment it looks like a circular firing squad.
Council ultimately denied the bid last night in a unanimous 5-0 decision and the Pooch Park move was remanded back to commission.
What this all means in real terms is that the bid from the vendor, to move and build the new park at Brea Dam, was rejected. The item will now go back to the Parks and Recreation Commission for design review and approval, then back to Council and then the bid process will need to start all over again. Council will then need to approve that bid for the project to actually happen.
Bids take about a month to come in so the process, which will require new meetings and new community input, was pushed back by maybe a few months unless something major changes.
That “unless” could come in the form of finding out that staff is ALSO lying in the agenda about having approval to even move the Pooch Park to the Brea Dam.
This line sticks out to me like a sore thumb (underlined in blue above);
“Staff notified the US Army Corps of Engineers of the project. US Army Corps of Engineers had no objections.”
That’s not how the lease over the Brea Dam works.
While there are several provisions in that lease that this move likely violates, this item is probably the most worrisome:
“All structures shall be constructed and landscaping accomplished in accordance with plans approved by the District Engineer.”
Having “no objections” is not the same thing as having plans approved by the District Engineer.
There needs to be a legal paper trail the same as when you try to build a new addition to your house. Claiming “well, they didn’t object” gets worse if you don’t take it on faith that the District Engineer was even told (given plans) and given the option to object (denying approval).
Having written approval would go a long way to making sure the Pooch Park isn’t once again moved to an illegal location. It’s worth pointing out that nobody on Council questioned this aspect of the issue.
The entire Pooch Park move is turning into a fiasco.
While I’m gad for the overtures from Whitaker, Jung, and Zahra regarding the cost increases associated with this item, the call for accountability is somewhat laughable. I can point to several other items from last night’s Consent Calendar where they approved spending money without knowing what they were even approving because the agenda packets were lacking details that went unquestioned.
Besides the constant refusal of City Council to demand better from staff, this drama likewise could have been avoided had the Parks Department not tried to exploit that typical laziness/corruption. They thought they could get away with taking what largely amounted to the move of some chain-link fences and inject it with rabies and nobody would notice and then, well, we noticed.
I’m always glad to see Councilmembers talk about fiscal responsibility but don’t let the lip service fool you because they constantly enable the culture that causes these problems.
It’s quite an indictment of the City of Fullerton that moving something as simple as a Dog Park could turn into a full blown dog and pony show.
In the meantime if you want to get up to speed on the Fullerton Pooch Park or find a map, you can click this link right… oh wait.
Well that’s embarrassing if not entirely expected.
We’ll keep you posted on the progress of the Fullerton Pooch Park, or lack thereof, going forward.
Fullerton.City News is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
I am not surprised at all. When we let a company from LA come and rip off over million bucks here at Fullerton Heights which as of today still has never open the suite out from for use and that million bucks, the amenities in the construction agreement remain unbuilt. So basically we gave away your tax dollars to an LA County based company that does not do a damn thing and the contract to provide services has never been enforced. I raised my family here and I put into the system. This is how Fullerton treats lifetime citizens!
If you’re referring to Union Pacific Park, I’m not so sure that’s a good place for a dog park. Think of the residents on Truslow who’ve had to look at a fenced off (closed) park for 10+ years, and once re-opened it’s a dog park? Too much noise and not fair to the residents. While I like your out of the box thinking, residents in that area deserve a normal park with green grass, lots of shade trees and some play equipment for the littles. The sad part is, it really wouldn’t take much to reopen that park. As we know city staff bungles and makes things infinitely more difficult and expensive, so there’s that… but if you’re interested, there is an ad hoc committee now for that park, charged with getting it opened and coming up with a real plan for UP Park. Stay tuned…