Local News

Last Commercial Orange Grove Cut Down

The last commercial orange grove in Fullerton, at the 65-acre former Kimberly-Clark site, was cut down on January 28-29 as part of a plan to develop the property for warehouses by the company Goodman Logistics.

Uprooted orange and avocado trees. Photo by Jensen Hallstrom.

Nearly 500 trees were removed, many of them over 60 years old. With their removal goes some of the last vestiges of the citrus industry, which once dominated Fullerton’s landscape. The developer has indicated that they will plant over 600 new trees.

“It’s distressing to see the disappearance of the last commercial orange grove in Fullerton, which was also home to a mature avocado grove with an exceedingly rare rootstock feature, other rare trees, and many forms of pollinators and wildlife that had adapted to the orchard, including resident and migratory birds that are just about to start their nesting season,” said Jane Reifer of Friends for a Livable Fullerton (FFLF) who had worked to preserve some of the groves. “This was, sadly, one of the few open spaces left in a congested, urban, and park-disadvantaged District 5.”

Uprooted orange trees. Photo by Mike Ritto.

Fullerton City Council voted unanimously on Nov. 2 to allow development of the property, including removal of the trees.

At that public hearing, representatives of FFLF asked to save a portion of the groves. Though an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was done by the developer as required by State law, FFLF asked for a survey of the over 500 trees on the property, and for a biological assessment covering birds, mammals, and pollinators. Such an additional survey was not done.

Former Mayor Pro Tem Jan Flory suggested a compromise regarding saving trees that did not impact the warehouse footprints, and offering avocado tree scions to the public, but there was no follow-up/implementation despite requests.

When asked for comment, City Manager Ken Domer said, “The private property owners are moving forwards with their project and obtained a demolition permit to begin clearing the buildings.  I am not sure if tree removal requires a permit. As to their discussions with other concerned parties or even those who had CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) challenges against them, I am unaware of their actions or progress.”

City Councilmembers did not reply to e-mails sent by the Observer asking for comment.

One of the Conditions of Approval for the project was to avoid removal of trees “to the greatest extent possible during the nesting season (generally February 1 through August 31).”

If the trees had been removed on Monday, February 1, a preconstruction nesting bird survey would have to have been conducted on Friday, January 29 to see if active nests of species protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the California Fish and Game Code were present, in order to prevent disturbances to nesting and baby birds. It is possibly a coincidence, but the timing of this seems calculated to avoid being technically subject to this condition.

Remnants of an orange tree. Photo by Emerson Little.

Reifer said she feels that the process for allowing public input on saving the groves was inadequate. At an October 14, 2020 Planning Commission meeting, the developer had 40 minutes to speak. Because of COVID-19, the public was not allowed to comment in person, and their e-mails explaining the “hidden” biological resources, although promised in the agenda to be read, were not.

Reifer pointed out many other shortcomings with the process and the development plan as it was submitted and approved.

Workers tearing out the last commercial orange grove in Fullerton. Photo by Emerson Little.

“The Council should consider an initiative to clean up the process by which large projects are approved and Planning Commissioners and Councilmembers should report when they’ve had conversations and site tours with development applicants,” Reifer said.

At the February 3 Planning Commission meeting, Goodman Logistics is requesting to modify the Site Plan with what they feel is a minor modification, but the Director of Community and Economic Development has determined that they are not minor.

To view the Feb 3 Planning Commission meeting agenda and submit public comments on this item, visit https://fullerton.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.

To learn more about Friends for a Livable Fullerton, visit www.savefullerton.com.

Kimberly Clark grove prior to its destruction. Photo by Jensen Hallstrom.

30 replies »

  1. There seems to be zero concern for the environment whenever it comes to money. About the only thing we can do about it now is to not ever buy any products made by Kimberly-Clark, and encourage others to boycott them as well.

    • I don’t think this was Kimberly-Clark’s fault. The developer Goodman Logistics bought the property and tore down the trees. Maybe we can look into this more. Rick’s comment above may be true.

  2. Does anyone know the answer to this allegation is this a true statement? Was city council chomping at the bit to get rid of the Fullerton KC Mill. Was The Mayor, City council, over the years, harassing the facility by supporting water restrictions and other type of stonewall tactics to drive KC out of having the Mill to continue to operate there. There was over 350 good paying union jobs eliminated that contributed to families of the facility and local economy. Pretty sad 😞 to see it go. Would like to know more about the players who set up this transaction and the why. Who benefited and so forth. I think 🤔 the Fullerton observer should look into this further and publish its findings. Inquiring minds want to know
    Thank you 😊

  3. I grew up in La Habra and am old enough to remember the orange and avocado groves. I go to Fullerton all the time. So who owns the property now? I would like to boycott whatever product they make and also write them telling them what I think of what they did.

    • Goodman Logistics.
      Is the name of the company that bought the property. Not sure 🤔 if that name is associated with the business that will be located there. Have to do a deep dive to find out the details. I support your boycott🙋🏻‍♂️👍

  4. I worked at the facility until March 5th of last year and have many memories of picking oranges and avocados on our break time with other operators that worked their. Very sad to hear that these Orange and avocado trees are gone forever after being part of the landscape of Fullerton and OC for that matter. Never thought I would see this happen. I now work for Kimberly Clark in Jenks Oklahoma starting my 21st year with the company. Big business could care less about history. It’s about making that buck! Sad!

  5. A resident of Fullerton in 1956, I have seen it change over the decades. Massive housing developments built in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the houses and streets were bereft of trees.Playing outside in the summer, the only shade came from patios and the sides of houses dependent on slant of the sun. Only the older sections of Fullerton had mature trees and orange groves that lined Orangethorpe Ave. and other parts of Fullerton. Sixty-seven years later, an aerial view of Fullerton shows thousands of tree tops throughout this town. In the 1970’s, Fullerton wanted to be known as the arbor city and engaged in planting many trees during this time. Cutting down an orange grove that fronted a toilet paper factory (Kimberly-Clark) is one more cut to today’s residents of Fullerton with its past. However, cutting down this small grove to build warehouses will increase employment for residents and tax revenue for city of Fullerton. As for the birds and other wildlife quality of life issues, there are many tree lined streets in Fullerton, parks, arboretum where they may feed and build their nests. The trees removed from this grove not so rare that this act would make them extinct. (written by the other Hilda)

    • Thank you, (the other) Hilda for posting that! You have some very good points there! I feel much better after reading your post! I trust what you say! You have seen many changes and I feel I can now accept what’s happened and move forward. We do need jobs and opportunities, and the animals will be just fine.

  6. Edgar, there’s actually more to this than just the blanket concept of private property. The developers asked for special privileges / variances for their project. Usually when you ask for more, you offer something in return, and in order to receive their entitlements, they are supposed to adhere to guidelines that have been specifically designed to handle issues such as the impacts a private property has on other private properties, and on the “commons”, like taxpayer-funded roads, sidewalks, sewer system, etc., but also clean air, water and park land. These are all normal parts of the process, and also cover unexpected situations like historic features, endangered wildlife, etc. These protections exist so that neighbors’ property rights and impacts on the community as a whole are taken in to account. What we’re complaining about here is that the normal rules weren’t followed. You might be miffed, too, if your next door neighbor arranged special exceptions to your neighborhood zoning and had already worked out some sketchy details with the City Council and the State of California before you got to put a word in. PS The Coyote Hills people DID come up with the cash to buy the entire east side of the Hills so it will be saved for the public for all time. I actually think we’re on the same side of this!

  7. I feel so sad for all the wildlife that are now homeless. Why couldn’t they leave it as is was? It wasn’t bothering anyone except for the money hungry business men. Avocados are at thier best at 50 + years. The orchard was taken down literally, in one day. It was done sneakily so that no one would picket to stop it.. One thing for sure they better keep there word on fixing the roadways and sidewalks. Orangethorpe and State College are horrible right now.. So quick to take the trees out, they should be even faster putting up the new walkways and streets.

  8. Had no idea this was even up for a vote, how was this legal? Those established fruit bearing trees are hard to come by. Very heart wrenching the Fullerton City Council chose corporate interests in this small town. I have a 60 year old orange tree and it produces the sweetest and juiciest oranges. The ecological impact resulting from this corporate greed will effect generations to come.

  9. Strange how Jane wants to control other peoples property. Like coyote hills they want to control the property, maybe they should come up with some cash and buy it.

    On the good side in a few years she will be pro my gas guzzler as it’s part of the past.

  10. My heart ❤️ is broken this reminds me of the song about teardown the trees 🍃 and build 🔨 a parking lot.Good bye Camelot 😥

  11. Here’s the simple compromise that Goodman Logistics could have accepted, and partially, did: Jan Flory, who was Mayor Pro-Tem at the time, asked the Director of Community and Economic Development to work with the developers, Goodman Logistics, to see if they could amend their plan to include Jensen Hallstrom’s request to keep the trees on the perimeter and in places where they didn’t affect the building footprints. Two phone calls to follow up with this were never returned. Also, the developer was asked to make avocado scions available to the public. If this was ever announced, we were not made aware of it.

  12. Len, with all due respect, the developers purchased the land in 2019, knowing about the groves, and then neglected to assess them for biological environmental impacts as all other developers would have been required to do. We asked them to save just a representative portion of the trees. Instead, they’ve offered to plant one dwarf citrus tree as a memorial (which, of course, will be subject to the current ACP quarantine).

    • I love how they destroyed 500 trees and the developer said they would be plantimg 600 new trees. Why would you you plant new trees when you had 500 beautiful trees already standing!!! This just makes me sick.

      • I no expert, but I was told that when the Orange trees are that old the oranges are sour and no longer market viable. Growers sometimes have to replant. Trust me I am all for trees and less develpment, but this is probably what happened.

      • How will they replace all the trees??!? I’m just here waiting… They were over 60 years old. I work right across from this land and it’s so sad to see the coyotes (pack of 5) trying to adapt. They have nowhere as there are Main Streets surrounding, but even if they do decide to migrate somewhere better the chances are very low. They will get run over by a car before they get to their destination.

      • Victor these orange trees were part of the original orange groves in Orange County. They were not for market, but part of history. They were on Kimberly-Clark property. Actually I have eaten oranges from the 2nd to last orange grove on Kraemer blvd in the city of Placentia next door and they were wonderful. Such a shame they were not preserved.

      • There were also avocado trees and foxes ,skunks . Worked there for 30 years

  13. Most of the City used to be Orange Groves. Dont get mad cause the people who own the land held out this long to develop it. Look around, everything has been developed. If I owned the land, I would want to develop it too.

    • You’re way off the point, look these folks worked here for years;Way before you were born on this Gods green earth. Not only did they lose their great jobs they lost a part of their self that was interwoven with this facility. To see the destructive care less about what was there before,typical corporate action tearing out trees 🌲 that have been there for over 60 years is pretty hard to take. You sir have no feeling for nothing but what benefits you in the pocket book. Use to be in this country a more level playing field for all others involved. Meeting of humility and conciliation. These trees were kept here because of an agreement made many years ago that they the trees would stay as long as the Kimberly Clark facility would remain. The reason for this is because the area was going to be eventually developed but the city leaders at the time wanted to make sure people knew what was there,for historical purposes and defining what Fullerton was before all the industrial development took over the landscape. You shouldn’t give an opinion unless you have some sort of knowledge of what happened here. Obviously you have none. Your arrogance is not welcome on this site.

    • Typical response from the sort who ALWAYS remove trees. Go live in a desert if you want a bleak landscape.

  14. So sad that corp. Only think about money not the history and the land that once was our local farmers thst produce for our fruit for our state.

  15. The last of Fullerton’s history has been destroyed.. from where this city began to what it has become, is a great disappointment.. it is now nothing more than one concrete plot after another. It used to be a beautiful town. No more..