Community Voices

Update: Sunrise Village shopping center voted by council majority to become The Pines residential community

Once the presentation from city staff ended, the Shopoff Realty Investments Group made a quick presentation, detailing the community outreach that they have done.

Shopoff then showed letters from Dr. Cho and Mr. Park who are both currently tenants at the Sunrise Village shopping center showing their support for the redevelopment effort. With the presentations ending the item went to the public for discussion.

Cynthia Santian said, “We started a year ago with Save Sunrise Village as commercial, today we shifted. We recognize that we can’t fight the state power grab for commercial property. Now the fight is to Save Sunrise Village from AB2011. We recognize in certain situations we have to compromise, and going up against the state and that power grab we really can’t fight that. I spoke with [The Developer] and he really feels that this plan is in the best interest of the community and so we understood the alternative and the community supports this plan.”

Daniel Gibbon said, “A previous speaker spoke about how many other commercial properties will rush to build housing on their sites if this project is not approved, and I will tell you I hope it’s a lot because this project has been whittled down and now supplies almost 9/10 of 1 percent of the housing element for the City of Fullerton, so you will have to do 99 more projects of this caliber to reach those numbers. The state power grab is something that has been mentioned a couple of times. The state is attempting to empower the working people of California that they might have homes that they can afford to live in including nurses, firefighters, and educators, and a host of other people..Please approve this project before its whittled down any further.”

With public discussion closed Councilmember Dunlap made a motion and Councilmember Zahra seconded the motion, City Council voted unanimously in favor of the development.

Letter from Save Sunrise Village member Carol Edmonston

Integrity was the big loser at the end of this 15-month struggle to keep Sunrise Village shopping center zoned commercial in hopes of bringing back much needed retail to support the neighborhood. Unfortunately, there was an endless stream of misleading and inaccurate information presented by the developer at public events, Planning Commission and City Council meetings. That, coupled with a threatening statement from the developer relayed to our small team by Mayor Jung days before the January 3, 2023, Council meeting.

“Approve this project as submitted. If you ask for a continuance (because the meeting was scheduled in the middle of the recent holiday vacation) or do not agree with the proposal I will pull it and resubmit under the new state law AB2011.” Which would allow for a massive build — over 500 units in a 6 story building.

Even though this legislation is now law in CA, it certainly does not ‘mandate’ a developer build the maximum number of residential units possible. For the sake of the quality of life in our neighborhood we did not wish to see this happen.

Is surrendering to the bully considered a win for the community just because there was some reduction in the number of residential units made, in addition to some commercial space added?

It seems as if ‘winning’ is being redefined in today’s world. It doesn’t matter what tactics are used, just do what you need to do, to get what it is you seek. The end justifies the choices made along the way whether one sprinkles money throughout the city to gain support, or verbally makes statements which do not reflect accuracy or truth.

To that, I ask, “What is the value of winning if you lose your soul?” The true battle lies between the moral and ethical code we live our lives by and the choices we make along the way.

The developer, Shopoff Realty Investments, was not the only source of my frustration. That began the moment our community was pushed aside and not afforded proper notification of the first Planning Commission meeting back in October 2021. That led to a mad scramble by the few who received a notice to reach out to neighbors and let them know what was going on.

When I questioned the Interim Director of Development, I was told the city no longer has a policy in place to reach out to the community beforehand and schedule any meeting with the potential developer/builder prior to the first Planning Commission meeting, which generally is held with no more than a ten-day notice.

While notices are posted at various sites within the City, including the Maintenance Yard and Library, City Staff does not feel it important to even notify the Fullerton Observer, the 45 year old paper which goes out to 10,000 households in hardcopy with 69,000 readers online, not counting all the issues freely available at newsstands throughout the city. According to Mayor Jung, that publication is apparently not viewed as a mainstream publication and not seen as an important tool in keeping the public updated about development proposals or any revisions.

Sloppy governance has to change. There needs to be a new model put into action. There needs to be a paradigm shift in how things function — from the ground up or else dysfunction will continue to swirl and things will never improve.

I wonder if our elected officials, those WE voted into office to represent us, are willing to have these tough discussions regardless of the outcome?

Are they willing to look within and acknowledge those times when, perhaps, they have felt some regret for choices made which unintentionally begin to cause an erosion of trust and faith in the people they serve?

Our group was astonished to hear two City Council members, Mayor Jung and former Councilman Silva speak in support of The Pines PROJECT back in March, 2022 at the annual Fullerton State of the City event, long before this PROPOSAL was voted and approved by City Council on January 3, 2023. In fact, the site was still zoned commercial at the time.

This large annual event attracts elected officials from nearby cities and influential business leaders from other cities in Orange County. Where is integrity when deliberately trying to convey something that is not truthful?

There is power in language and the words one chooses to use. To consciously choose the word ‘project’ as opposed to a ‘proposal’ leads the audience to surmise it’s a done deal as opposed to being under consideration. While Mayor Jung included other ‘proposals’ and ‘projects’ in his remarks, former Councilman Silva spoke for several minutes praising the ‘project’ and how it will bring life to this area in Fullerton.

As a result, public trust and confidence in our leadership began to erode. Playing both sides of an issue is NOT reflecting the leadership we want, need and expect.

As for the developer — to find it necessary to publicly humiliate and publicly defame two Korean Sunrise Village tenants at the two Planning Commission and City Council meetings is inexcusable. For City Staff to not respond to our eight phone calls/emails related to concerns and questions about the Fullerton General Plan/ Housing Element / PRD-I issues is inexcusable.

For a mayor, our top elected official, to put himself in the middle of a landlord/tenant litigation in an attempt to mediate and find a resolution is inexcusable. You simply cannot play both sides and not think you are at risk of losing the public trust. Is that demonstrating a strong ethical code? The final straw for me happened when our group was told several times, “I am a hard NO” and then listen to Mayor Jung vote “YES” to support The Pines Proposal on January 3, 2023. Where is the integrity?

Integrity is defined as having strong moral principles and being honest and doing the right thing, even when it’s not easy. Integrity goes beyond the individual as well. It’s also reflective of policies that have been put in place.

I’m sure the mayors of La Habra, Brea, and Yorba Linda are pleased that the City Council unanimously voted to support The Pines Proposal, as this ultimately will help fill their city coffers depriving us of much needed retail and commercial businesses.

I hope this has offered insight into how some things were experienced behind the scenes, as your neighborhood may be next in line with grandiose development proposals.

Our group spent countless hours for the greater good of our community and we were happy to do so. We were not paid employees — merely a dedicated group of neighbors who simply championed a cause — to save Sunrise Village as a commercial site and support revitalization efforts that would have brought in a variety of businesses, restaurants, and diverse retail such as E-Mart, the largest Korean market that stated interest in Sunrise Village.

6 replies »

  1. If you are against more housing because it adds to traffic, say so. If you are against housing replacing retail, just say so. But blaming the Mayor or Jesus Silva for a private developer’s land is not legitimizing your point. Especially when Jesus wife Sharon wrote the state law.

  2. It’s very easy for ‘The Fullertonian’ to take cheap shots at Carol. I’m a 30-year resident of Sunny Hills and very familiar with Sunrise Village and the surrounding area. As well as the countless hours’ Carol and others in her area resident group have donated in support of the business owners’ rights and desires. This is only one of their efforts to support the community. Maybe you could step out from behind your anonymity, so readers learn who is generating putdowns like ‘Karen’ and claiming she has no place defending the rights of others. As former long-term President of the North Fullerton Homeowners Association, I’m happy to say she has done a formidable job in her efforts.

    Gardnar O’Brien

    • This message has violated our terms to be civil and not spread hate. The content has been removed. The Fullerton Observer does not permit name calling, sexism, racism, curse words or other language deemed hurtful. Please present your arguments in a civil way. Thank you.

  3. Shocker: another op ed disguised as a news story by the Observer, whose relevance in Fullerton is fading fast since Jesse La Tour left. It was hardly the Times, but now it is darn near unreadable. Also, that Carol sounds like a perfect Karen. She pretends as if she has a clue to what the Korean business owners need. She knows. She speaks for them.

    • Carol was one of the members of Save Sunrise Village. I appreciate your support of Jesse La Tour. He is coordinating the Fullerton Art Walk now. The Fullerton Observer is an all volunteer and community written newspaper. Thank you for your support.

  4. Sad to hear we are losing businesses at Sunrise Village. Also that no affordable housing choices are going in.