Local News

Rare South Fullerton Open Space/Mature Trees to Be Destroyed

Nov 17 at 6:30pm: Last chance to address City Council regarding former Kimberly Clark site.

Fullerton City Council voted unanimously on Nov. 2 to develop the entire former Kimberly Clark (KC) property, located at 2001 E. Orangethorpe Ave, into four mega-warehouses. Goodman Logistics, the company soon to be approved to develop the property, did not do a biological assessment of the land nor did they address existing wildlife, and as a result, hundreds of birds, animals, and pollinators will be driven out into surrounding properties without any mitigations except for potential nesting migratory birds (but not year-round local birds). Animal scat and hundreds of burrows on the site indicate a large number of resident animals.  A favorite of former KC employees was an injured coyote named Tripod and several coyote pups were observed this spring.

At the public hearing, Friends for a Livable Fullerton (FFLF) asked for saving a portion of the groves for more than reasons of nostalgia. They again asked for a survey of the over 500 trees on the property and for a biological assessment covering birds, mammals, and pollinators. The environmental consultant  indicated that the biological aspects had been taken care of, explaining that they had in fact been reviewed, that the assessment acknowledged vegetation on site that would be removed. They determined that a full study was not necessary because there was no sensitive or riparian habitat that would support environmentally sensitive species. They indicated that they’d spoken with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) who had no further concerns about biological resources on the property.

Orange groves at former Kimberly Clark site slated for destruction. Photo by Jensen Hallstrom.

The consultant’s earlier “Notice of Preparation” (NOP) discussed biological resources but indicated no need for a typical full study. FFLF felt that the decision not to do a full study was an oversight due to the unexpected nature of having wildlife adapting to an orchard setting. FFLF pointed out the City’s General Plan also requires a biological assessment.

FFLF feels that CDFW requested only mitigations for migratory birds because they were unaware of other biological resources on site. They were not made aware of the local wildlife or they might have asked for extra measures.  They were unaware of the wildlife (due to the catch-22 of not doing a study since it was assumed to be only an “ornamental” orange grove and could not support wildlife). By only mentioning ornamental vegetation, the NOP ignored the food value of the pecans, avocados, figs and oaks on site. Although there is no plan for wildlife relocation, Mayor Pro Tem Jan Flory encouraged the audience that the wildlife would manage.

The environmental studies and the developer mentioned that they would plant over 600 new trees, which would supply some replacement habitat for migrating birds, but the small, immature saplings are not the equivalent to the 60- to 80-year old mature trees. In addition, the new plantings will be in narrow lines rather than in the current clusters. These comments implied that the new trees would provide a somewhat equivalent habitat, but there is a qualitative difference between vibrant, healthy, established trees, and the new, short, saplings.

FFLF clarified that they were not opposed to the project and were not asking for open space instead of the development, but rather just a portion of the groves, including the best aspects of both concepts, as a collaboration. It might be a simpler matter to save trees on the perimeter of the site, including an unusually robust Japanese black pine.

Rare and exceptional Japanese Black Pine Currently on Perimeter of Former Kimberly Clark site (photo by Jensen Hallstrom).

Several councilmembers and members of the audience started their comments by mentioning that they would have preferred to see affordable housing built there. No councilmember spoke in favor of saving any of the property as a park or open space despite the fact that south Fullerton has little of either.

The Council asked tough, leading questions of the developer, but in the end voted “yes” with no changes despite lack of definitive answers to their questions.

Mayor Pro Tem Jan Flory asked how the City earns revenue from the project. If the new tenants are retail or e-commerce, “point of sale,” the City will benefit from increased sales tax, but this will not be the case if there are only business-to-business tenants. The developer indicated they could not confirm which type of tenants they would have. The two main financial benefits to the City would be about a $200 million uplift in the property tax assessment, about 500 construction jobs, and approximately 1,000 to 1,500 permanent jobs (including automation consultants). To address the quality of these jobs, the developer indicated that many of their larger tenants typically aim for social responsibility and offer jobs with benefits rather than just independent contractor-level work. Some of the companies are expected to have three shifts, and union carpenters are hoping to have some of the construction work.

Councilmember Jesus Silva also questioned whether the developer will help repair State College from the freeway to the warehouses, but the developer is responsible only for sidewalks, fair share cost of new signals, and the roads immediately surrounding the property. Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald asked if it was possible that the warehouses could also bring in slightly more of the transportation aspect of the gas tax, but that was not verified. Flory also asked about the City well and the new well easement.

FFLF brought up alternative  transportation issues to make sure that the new sidewalks do not have fixtures impeding pedestrian flow, that driveways are safe for pedestrians, that bike lanes be re-striped in a safer manner, that there be shelters at the bus stops, and that it be considered to retain one of the rail spurs.

An attorney’s inquiry about greenhouse gases was dismissed as immaterial, but there was no further discussion of any efforts that could be used to mitigate the impacts of dozens of diesel truck movements running 24 hours a day, including the simplest measures of making tenants aware of steps they could take to reduce emissions. The two basic mitigations are that Goodman is making sure that rooftops can accommodate solar panels and space is left in the electrical rooms to handle extra clean energy equipment.

FFLF also brought up that the Council was voting to approve documents that included a third parcel adjacent to Kimberly Clark not intended to be included in this phase. They felt it could be inadvertently entitling that parcel, and therefore misrepresenting the extent of the project in the public notices of the hearing.  This third parcel was indicated by very small, almost hidden, text on the Tentative Parcel Map the Council was approving.

The Council declined to save any portion as open space, voting unanimously  to approve the project, as proposed, but with a request that the developer work with the community to make avocado scions available for grafting.

There is still one more council meeting on the matter as there will be a “second reading” of Item 4 at the council meeting on November 17 at 6:30pm.

For photos of the hidden groves of Kimberly Clark, visit SaveFullerton.com.

To stay updated, call or text FFLF at (714) 729-3019 or email together@SaveFullerton.com.

8 replies »

  1. It was sad seeing all those trees torn out, and left like garbage. Did they even consider moving the trees some place else?

  2. Of course they decided to decimate the trees, it’sFULLERTON. Their decisions are only to collect more dollars, they don’t give a rip about anything else.

    “FULLERTON, where corruption never sleeps.”

  3. Warehouses generate revenue. The Fullerton City Council wants revenue. Trees and wildlife don’t generate revenue. As usual, the decision for the Fullerton City Council was an easy one.

  4. Don’t mess up with mother nature. These trees are older than the council. Took years for these trees to grow, giving people fresh air. No wonder covid is high. We don’t have respect to nature. What goes around…comes around….leave these trees alone…

  5. The city needs to replace the jobs lost by the KC plant closure. This group is trying everything to keep that from happening. Let free enterprise work.