Fullerton City Council voted 4-1 (Whitaker “no”) to approve a 12-month extension the city’s “exclusive negotiating agreement” (ENA) with Parkwest General Contractors to develop a plan for an upscale boutique hotel on a 2-acre parcel of city-owned land (currently a parking lot) located at the southeast corner of East Santa Fe Avenue and South Pomona in the Fullerton Transportation Center, at their November 19 meeting.
The extension to the ENA was requested “as a result of additional time required to complete components of the analysis of the project.”
During public comment, members and representatives of local hospitality and carpenters unions gave their ideas regarding the proposed hotel.
Danielle Wilson from Unite Here Local 11, the hospitality workers union in Southern California urged council to consider leasing, rather than selling, the land to the developer, so that the city could share in the profits of appreciating land values in the future.
“Our members have a direct interest in seeing that the city utilize its public land in ways that are most beneficial to the residents and workers of Fullerton,” Wilson said.
Leonard De La Rosa, a representative of Southwest Carpenters (a local carpenters union) urged the developer to hire local, trained/skilled workers.
Gualdo Vasquez, a 40-year resident of District 5 in Fullerton asked that the developer “Hire local workers for local jobs that pay a decent wage.”
Adam Overton, an organizer with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice in Orange County, said, “We stand in solidarity tonight with the residents of Fullerton who ask for their city to ask you to please keep community lands in community hands.”
He said that the city-owned land would be better used for affordable housing, and cited data showing that the number one cause of homelessness in Orange County is the combination of a lack of affordable housing and a lack of living wages for workers.
Fullerton resident Harry Langenbacher also said that housing would be a better use of the property than a hotel. He cited numbers from the Regional Housing Needs Assessment showing that the city is on track to have only 60% of its housing needs by 2021.
Craig Hostert of Parkwest said, “I’m not just some developer. I’m a resident of Fullerton. I really want to do what’s best for this city.”
He said that, according to an economic study of the project, it will bring in at least 204 “quality local paying jobs” and that the transit occupancy tax for hotel guests will bring in an estimated $500,000 annually to the city.
“Any development has to be responsible and taking into account maximizing community benefits,” council member Ahmad Zahra said, who supported the project extension.
“This is a truly exciting project in the city of Fullerton,” Mayor Protem Fitzgerald said. “I’m thrilled to be able to give you some extra time and I can’t wait to see the final development agreement.”
Councilmember Flory said she is “very supportive of this project.”
“I think the time to criticize the use of the property for a hotel is long past,” Flory said. “That property has been a parking lot for decades…We need a hotel in Fullerton.”
Mayor Silva also supported the project.
Councilmember Bruce Whitaker voted against extending the agreement because he was concerned about giving one business a market advantage with a “city subsidy.”
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