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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
Categories: Local News