The Fullerton Planning Commission unanimously decided to send the CollegeTown zoning plan back to the city staff’s drawing board last week after over 200 residents packed City Hall to voice their objections.
The proposed closure of Nutwood Avenue, between Titan Drive and Folino Drive, was one of the residents’ biggest concerns within the plan during the nearly two hours of public comment made to the seven-member commission last Wednesday.
The closure would have resulted in a public plaza that would increase the safety and flow of pedestrians in the area in front of Cal State Fullerton and Hope University, according to the proposed plan.
It also would have forced traffic to either Chapman Avenue or Yorba Linda Boulevard. Among the mitigation measures for the traffic increase would be a sound wall in front of homes on Chapman Avenue, along with adding two lanes to the street.
The plan targeted the area of land bordered by the 57 freeway, State College Boulevard, Nutwood Avenue and Chapman Avenue. It would have rezoned the area to allow property owners to build high density, mixed use development, such as having shops on the ground level and residential above. The plan allowed for buildings as high as 10 stories.
Resident John Seminara told the commission that the mitigation measures would devalue property that surrounds the proposed 88-acre zoning plan. It would encourage residents to sell their properties to developers, he said.
“If you live on a street and somebody sticks an ugly sound wall in front of your driveway, it does diminish the value of your house,” resident Sean Paden said in a phone interview.
Paden, who is vice chair Fullerton’s design review committee, said that he would expect lawsuits if the wall were built.
After public comments, Commissioner Peter Gambino told the residents that he thinks closing Nutwood Avenue would be a mistake. Instead, he supports a pedestrian bridge over the street.
Commissioner Kathleen Shanfield generally agreed with Gambino, telling residents “I’m very much against any of this plan right now.”
Another big concern among residents was parking. The plan called for shared parking, which means that property owners of the mixed-use buildings would voluntarily join a parking management district and share their parking spaces with employees, students, and residents.
During the public comment, a commercial property owner told the commission that no business owner would sign up for the parking plan because nobody would be around to ensure that people move their cars in the morning to make way for employee parking. His and other businesses already spend money on security guards to make sure the spaces aren’t used for student parking, he said.
Many residents said they were fed up with the congested street parking in neighborhoods and parks surrounding CSUF, and that adding a potential 3,400 more residents to the area would just exacerbate the problem.
“I hear loud and clear the concerns of the community,” Commissioner Larry Bennett said. “I don’t think Cal State Fullerton has addressed the long-standing parking issues that they have known about for 15 to 20 years.”
The parking management district would add another “layer of government,” Bennett said. He was also concerned about the lack of details surrounding the parking plan. “I think the devil is in the details and I’d like to see more of that.”
Bennett said that said with a plan like Collegetown, the president of CSUF should have been at the meeting.
Others shared Bennett’s opinion that university officials should be more engaged.
“I’m very disappointed in our education community,” Shanfield said. “Where are they tonight?” She said that she would like the CSUF and Hope University to be more active in the community.
In the phone interview, Paden said he thinks that CSUF and Hope University will still try to push something forward, but would like them to listen to the public more.
“I would urge them to get in touch with us in the neighborhood and listen to us this time.”
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC intern. Please contact him at Scustodio21@csu.fullerton.edu.