Downtown Report: Mid-September 2023

The Downtown Report



SOCO’s Beginning

Has this happened to you? One room in your house gets painted, and suddenly, all the others look old and tired, so you keep painting room after room. Now the carpet looks bad, too, and out it goes. Much renovation work was done in Downtown Fullerton in the 90s to comply with earthquake standards –or else- and many building owners also painted, put new windows in, signage, etc., that it became apparent there was one more area that needed a paint job too, and then some. It was not vintage and cool; it was old and tired.

City Redevelopment Director Rob Zur Schmiede and Hugh Berry, who had good relations with the utility companies serving Fullerton, managed to transform West Santa Fe and the alley just north of it by undergrounding and upgrading the utilities, repaving and installing better lighting, thereby bringing that long ignored part of downtown into the new century.

Many businesses that were there for decades also upgraded their properties. That stretch south of Commonwealth was now ready to join the Renaissance of Downtown Fullerton. Work continues to this day on some buildings, as seen in the photo above.

Terry Galvin, still with City Redevelopment at the time, recalls the Redevelopment project to revitalize the area was supported by property owners there. “Heroes was looking to move to a larger facility. Ellingson owned two properties, and Walt Johnson owned three. They and other adjacent owners agreed to use seismic and rehab loans provided by the Redevelopment Agency to upgrade their properties. Existing buildings were restored and occupied with retail uses, several as restaurants. SoCo has been a successful investment partnership between the city and the property owners.”

Community Garden

A while back, a few interested parties attempted to start a new community garden, but the empty lots that were found were not available. There are many reasons for that, but they could also be of great benefit. Social media is full of local gardeners proudly showing off photos of their produce, yet many others don’t have space in their homes to grow anything. LA County has more than one hundred community gardens, so what’s happening here?

Pathways of Hope started one, in 2020 near Richman Park. A few local churches have them. Fullerton Arboretum has long had a limited number of 15′ by 15′ plots, available on a first-come, first-served basis, and others have sprung up along our many hiking trails.

We were tipped off about a community garden near the above Playspace on East Truslow and Lawrence, taking advantage of usable space nearby. In our next issue, we will follow up, get them all together for a photo, and learn more about how they are making this happen. They have discovered that it’s possible to grow a lot of produce even in small, unused plots of land here and there.

Downtown Parking

Downtown’s citrus processing plant, known as the Donald Duck juice plant by locals, was owned by World Citrus. They processed fruit shipped in from Florida, quite a change from the glory days of Fullerton citrus agriculture. It was the last processing plant in Orange County, closed in 2006 and later razed.

Why no local oranges? Because most people living here then and now, of course, live on land that was part of those huge tracts of orange groves. We yearn for the good old days, yet we need housing, and the profits from citrus were down since there were so many growers. On another note, our last packing house was run by the Eadington Fruit Company, which closed in 1996.

A parking structure for over 814 vehicles replaced Donald Duck, along with residential units and retail on the west side of the huge Santa Fe lot. Parking was free, and retailers, restaurants, repair shops, auto-related businesses, and many others benefited from the addition of parking. The transportation center could now provide overnight parking for travelers by issuing 3-day permits, as the structure is a short walk across the bridge over Harbor Blvd. By the way, three hours of parking is still free, except Thursday-Saturday from 9 pm-1 am, when it’s a flat rate of $5.

photo taken by Mike Ritto at City Hall

Friendliness is Fashionable in Fullerton

Discovered recently, ‘Fullerton Notes,’ apparently designed to promote Fullerton. Wondering what year or decade was this? There are clues, like only 12,000 population, orchards completely surrounding the city, 25 miles from Los Angeles- on U.S. Highway No. 101. That’s right, 101, which had many names: “El Camino Real, Spadra Road, Harbor Blvd,” and Santa Fe are public recreation grounds for adults. High numbers for agriculture, wow. What’s your guess?

Photo Quiz

Send answer to Mike at

This time: Where can this be found?







Last time: Nobody got the clue- the “garden” referred to was the Thursday beer garden in the courtyard outside the Museum Center. That’s where friendships take root. Although the last full Thursday Market of the season took place on September 3, the fund-raising beer garden, live music, snacks, and vendors will continue every Thursday from 4 to 8:30 p.m. through November 2. Coming up, Day in Fullerton, A FREE Celebration of the Arts on Sunday, October 1, from noon to 4 pm. The Winter Market will be held on December 2. Look for more October info right here next time, as Spooky Movies take over FMC.




4 replies »

  1. What states have the worse roads #2. California
    With 46.2 percent of major urban streets in disrepair, California is, shockingly, second on the list of states with the worst roads. It’s also home to the large urban areas with the worst roads in the country. The San Francisco/Oakland region sees a whopping 71.2 percent of its roads in poor condition, followed closely by San Jose (63.3 percent) and Los Angeles/Long Beach/Anaheim/Fullerton (62.8 percent). Residents know the state’s poor roads all too well. So, which state pays the most in gas tax ….California!!!! It pumps out the highest state gas tax rate of 77.9 cents per gallon (cpg). So why dont we get what we pay for?

    • High Gas prices & Oil company profits higher than ever. There is a problem here and its not gas tax. We should be capping oil company profits not worrying about pennies of gas tax that go to maintain roads.

    • Gas taxes and other user fees don’t come close to covering the costs of road maintenance. Cars tear up their own infrastructure, and we all subsidize maintenance costs. The problem is getting worse as cars get bigger and heavier. The state of California is trying to make it easier and more convenient for people to choose non-car modes of transportation where possible, but far too many contrarians in cities push back and hold back progress.

      Another thing affecting Fullerton is that we’re surrounded by major freeways, bringing trucks onto local roads. Thanks to the fourth power rule, big trucks do an inordinate amount of damage to our roads. And Fullerton is not great at enforcing weight restrictions where they do exist.

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