MOORLACH UPDATE — Memorial Gardens Building — July 10, 2013

The OC Register’s The Current had a piece yesterday on the Memorial Gardens Building and today the Daily Pilot has its account in print. They are the first and second pieces below.

In the third piece below, the Voice of OC provides an editorial submission by one of the many detractors of the proposed Anaheim Go Local streetcar project.

The Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch and Newport Beach-Corona del Mar Patch (headline and photo only) provide their take on the 45th Congressional District upcoming race in the final pieces below.

Historic building saved


A historic building that served as barracks during World War II was spared from the wrecking ball and might be relocated following a unanimous vote Monday by the Orange County Fair Board.

The board voted to preserve the Memorial Gardens building by calling on staff to look at the environmental effects of moving the building to a new location on the fairgrounds.

Also Monday, the board gave preliminary go-ahead to award an estimated $10 million contract to Robert Clapper Construction Services for phase two of the Pacific Amphitheatre remodel. The work will create a glass lobby, events plaza, box offices and two restrooms. Although about $8.9 million was budgeted for the work, the board agreed to spend anticipated fair revenues to add the restrooms and box offices. The contract, after a review, could get final approval in August.

The amphitheatre remodel previously had called for the demolition of the Memorial Gardens building, which sits behind the venue. Last month, County Supervisor John Moorlach questioned whether the 2003 environmental report that set the stage for the building’s demolition took into account its historic nature. He also asked if the building might be moved to county land and sent officials out to assess its integrity.

Now, however, some board members hoped the former army barracks might become part of a new war museum, a proposal the board backed at its last meeting.

Several veterans and community members spoke in favor of keeping the Memorial Gardens building on the fairgrounds, rather than moving it to county land. They cheered and applauded the board’s vote.

"The history is on this site," said Theresa Sears of the Orange County Fair Preservation Society. "It needs to remain here."

Others, like Cornell Iliescu of the Noble Cause Foundation, a veterans group, spoke of the contributions made by the thousands who served at the former air base, where the fair now sits.

"These people here, they won the war to protect our freedom," Iliescu said.

Until its deactivation in 1946, the base was a training ground for thousands of pilots, navigators and bombardiers, and provided care for them after combat missions.

Some board members, like David Ellis, wanted to vote for the relocation, which is expected to cost roughly $60,000, according to preliminary estimates, and might move the barracks building to lot G or another site. But Fair attorney Roger Grable advised against it, saying staff should complete a study of California environmental laws first.

Board member Ashleigh Aitken asked staff to look at what’s left of the plants and trees in the former Memorial Gardens, which gave the building its name, with an eye to preserving them for use at the proposed war museum.

Contact the writer: nshine or @nicolekshine.

Fair Board votes to move, preserve Memorial Gardens Building

By Bradley Zint

In a victory for veterans and preservationists, a former World War II-era barracks at the Orange County Fairgrounds will not be demolished.

The Orange County Fair Board agreed Monday to have fairgrounds staff examine relocating the historic Memorial Gardens Building, first to a temporary site and then to a yet-to-be determined, permanent location on the 150-acre fairgrounds.

"This is just a tremendous and exciting effort," said Fair Board member Nick Berardino, a Vietnam veteran who made the initial motion to relocate the building. "I’m proud to be leading it, and I’m very proud of the rest of the board that has been unanimously in support of doing this. This is going to be quite a project."

Berardino said he hoped the building would house or somehow be a part of a proposed war museum on the fairgrounds. Such a museum could honor veterans and pay additional tribute to the area’s former identity as the Santa Ana Army Air Base, he said.

"I’m gonna live up to being a former Marine," Berardino said. "I’m going to live up to our mascot, which is a bulldog. I’m gonna be a bulldog in making sure this project gets done."

The structure, built around 1942, was slated to be torn down — with its historical pieces salvaged — after the fair ended to make way for a new entrance plaza for the Pacific Amphitheatre.

Interim fairgrounds Chief Executive Doug Lofstrom gave a preliminary estimate of $55,000 to $60,000 to move the building, though he anticipated other costs adding to that number.

The Fair Board may meet in August to hire a contractor for the job.

The board’s motion — members Joyce Tucker and Ali Jahangiri were absent, but the other seven board members voted in favor — also directs that an analysis of the project be done under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.

Since 1970, the site around the Memorial Gardens Building has been a California Point of Historical Interest, a designation that can require CEQA review before any projects are done there. The state designation, however, would not fully protect the building from demolition.

Lofstrom said a "cursory review," without a historian’s help, of the 4,800-square-foot building was recently done. Fairgrounds staff said the two-story structure’s siding, flooring, chimney and eaves appear to be original.

The fairgrounds property was once part of the nearly 1,300-acre Army base, which served as training grounds from 1942 to 1946.

"My father-in-law was a World War II veteran," Supervisor John Moorlach, who supported preserving the barracks, said in an email Monday to supporters. "My folks lived through Nazi occupation in the Netherlands. To say that I’m proud of our veterans is an understatement. Maintaining the historical landmark at the O.C. Fair is great news. "

Some Fair Board members suggested that the county chip in money toward the moving effort. The fairgrounds in Costa Mesa are owned by the state.

David Mansdoerfer, a policy advisor for Moorlach, told the Fair Board to request any funding in writing.

He said "there is an interest" at the county level to help, but it’s still being researched and that the decision would ultimately be up to all the county supervisors.

Most speakers during Monday’s meeting insisted that the building — named after a 1.4-acre veterans memorial garden that was ripped out in the 1980s to make room for the Pacific Amphitheatre’s berm — remain at the fairgrounds.

The Memorial Gardens Building was one of nearly 800 structures within the air base.

"The building to us is historical," said Bob Palazzola, the Costa Mesa Historical Society president and an Air Force veteran. "To a lot of veterans and a lot of citizens, it’s symbolic, really."

Costa Mesa resident Beth Refakes said the Memorial Gardens Building should serve future educational purposes to honor veterans.

"If it weren’t for the base being here, the fairgrounds wouldn’t be here as well," Refakes said.

Theresa Sears of the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society disagreed with the recent suggestion from Moorlach that, if the building couldn’t be saved from demolition at the fairgrounds, it could possibly be protected and moved to the former Marine Corps Air Station Tustin.

"The Tustin base is its own identity," Sears said. "That building would be totally overshadowed over there. They’re two different things."

Berardino also advocated for "local control."

"Nobody here is going to be influenced by the developers," he said. "Our interests are the same; this is gonna happen. What a wonderful salute to all the men and women who served. This is going to be the highlight of anything I’ve done in my career."

Cornell Iliescu of the Noble Cause Foundation called the Memorial Gardens Building "a sacred building on sacred ground." His foundation, a Costa Mesa-based nonprofit, works to preserve the "the legacy of the Greatest Generation."

"Be careful. Because it’s an old building, it might fall apart," Iliescu told the Fair Board. "I don’t want to be without it."

Community Editorial: Streetcar Plan Shows Dark Side of Eminent Domain


California’s redevelopment agencies may be dead, but using the power of government to take private property, by eminent domain if need be, to profit the chosen few in the name of “economic development” is alive and well.

The ghost of Kelo haunts Anaheim, in the not so cleverly disguised form of the ARC or Anaheim Rapid Connection fixed guideway, a streetcar that transports resort visitors and employees at public expense.

As it turns out, this public project runs over some private property.

Not only has the Anaheim City Council voted 3-2 for a project while blasting past the Mayor’s objections that should have created concern, the Orange County Transportation Authority has the nerve to call this a mandate from voters who demanded this type of project for the benefit of all when approving Measure M. The OCTA board voted Monday morning to move forward with the project while Directors John Moorlach, Jeff Lalloway and Matt Harper opposed the boondoggle.

Republican power-hitter Jon Fleishman already called this “subsidizing the Mouse,” a view shared by transportation expert Randall O’Toole. Over at the Antiplanner, O’Toole called it “a massive subsidy to Disney,” pointing out that “Disney is reportedly enthused about the project, since otherwise it might have to provide its own buses.”

The (flying) elephant in the room is the public funding to mitigate the traffic impacts caused by one of the most profitable corporate entities in the world. Worse, the plans quietly call for the “taking” of private property, which in turn picks the losers and winners in this high stakes game. Businesses impacted — either voluntarily through the process of negotiation or by force through eminent domain — will be offered fair market value for their property, but the law does not really provide for lost future earnings.

The flip side of this evil game of SimCity is that the property left adjacent to the newly created gap in the motel grin along the right of way on Harbor Boulevard will very likely skyrocket in value. While we may debate whether hotel guests will use the streetcar while carting luggage and children, there is no question of the value in offering guests the convenience of right-outside-the-front-door access to the pedestrian bridge taxpayers are funding, to get those streetcar passengers up and over busy Harbor Blvd into Disney’s gates, where they are welcomed with open arms and open cash registers.

As it turns out, the streetcar does not deliver passengers directly into Disney’s front yard. After all, Disney has uses for Disney’s land, which apparently do not include housing the streetcar nor shouldering the liability of it on their property.

Instead, the streetcar drops its passengers on the east side of Harbor Blvd, and thus we see the need to acquire some of the most expensive dirt in the real estate business.

The motels, restaurant and one office building that are seen by decision makers as nothing but blocks of color in an aerial photo, represent the jobs of about 235 Americans. For now. Yet we will celebrate jobs created by the streetcar as “economic development” while the Anaheim City Council majority stands beside the OCTA board smiling for the ribbon cutting and congratulating themselves on how they have served their constituents.

Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray has appeared at the OCTA board repeatedly, working to convince us that the streetcar will bring prosperity to the entire resort area, even famously admitting within earshot of Voice of OC’s Adam Elmahrek that getting tourists’ cars off the road lets Disney open their long-anticipated third gate.

The truth is that the properties most likely to benefit are those immediately adjacent to the station stops. Property outside the magical equation of the 500 to 1,000 feet that the average pedestrian is willing to walk between destinations are left behind like small prairie towns that were missed by the railroad. Those small towns sent emissaries to sweet-talk railroad executives, offering free right of way, providing a station, even naming the town for those executives. Yes, I am talking about you, Fullerton.

Following a public challenge to ask staff what exactly does sit between Clementine Street and Harbor Boulevard, OCTA Director and County Supervisor Shawn Nelson asked Public Works Director Natalie Meeks to enlighten those in attendance at the board meeting.

Meeks’ vague reply offered little hint beyond a need to acquire right of way, as though referring to an open dirt field to be picked up for a pittance. Her failure to disclose the visitor services, tax generating functions and employment of those small businesses inconveniently sitting on her right of way was typical of a project mired in secrecy and deflection.

Director Nelson’s query about whether these property owners were aware of their impending doom matched Voice of OC’s Adam Elmahrek’s interview of Meeks after the meeting. In both cases their questions were met by nonspecific response, mumbling something about not having actual parcel numbers, as though what they want to do is still some pipe dream to be planned in more detail someday.

A view of the images used for their planning documents indicates a fairly precise record with little doubt of whose financial future is bulldozer fodder and who gets the golden ticket of increased property values. Should Natalie Meeks really not have their parcel numbers, she might get a hold of me. I have them and the names of the property owners associated with the lots.

Ultimately the people of Orange County, who are paying for this, are getting a raw deal, losing gas taxes to a system that benefits those with connections to the Masters of the Universe. For those unlucky few whose livelihoods are on the chopping block, they pay twice: once for the taxes, once in the loss of the property they have worked to improve. Even those of us who believe that the expansion of the resort’s business model serves to benefit all of us in the way of increased tax revenues cannot help but feel just plain dirty as the details of this project come to light.

Staff at the city of Anaheim and OCTA have a clear stake in moving this project forward. There are no prestigious awards given to transportation executives for the project they did not build because they determined it was wasteful. Career bureaucrats make and break their resumes on these big, boondoggle budgetbusters, gathering at their annual conferences to compare the size of their staffs and associated budgets as a measure of their worth in the marketplace.

They are supposed to have that ambition reined in by the elected leaders sent to represent us on these regional nongovernmental organizations, where money is spent faster than Washington can borrow it from China. Those leaders in turn are sandwiched between public employee unions fighting to keep their jobs pushing the pencils and counting the beans of the big project that sends their boss to the annual conference and the private-sector building trades eager for jobs creating the big, sexy project using monopoly money from some fairy godmother named the Federal Transit Administration.

Throw in the corporate interests who want to maximize their property values while avoiding the cost of transporting their own paying customers and perhaps taking out the competitor next door they never liked anyway and you have a lot of special interests bending the ears and filling the campaign coffers of those we suspect stopped looking out for us long ago. The ARC streetcar project pretty much proves it.


County Supervisor Moorlach to Run for Congress

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach plans to run in 2014 to replace retiring incumbent John Campbell.

Posted by Paige Austin (Editor)

John Moorlach. Credit: Orange County

By John Crandall

John Moorlach has his eye on Washington D.C.

The Orange County Supervisor plans to run for the House of Representatives, he said Tuesday. Moorlach – whose district includes Rossmoor, Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Cypress, parts of Fountain Valley, and Huntington Beach – hopes to win the 45th Congressional Seat.

“It seems like it would be great fit,” Moorlach said. “It’s a job application, and I look forward to making the case.”

He aims to enter the 2014 race as incumbent Rep. John Campbell’s (R-Irvine) retires. Campbell announced his retirement June 27 and after some discussion, Moorlach said he decided to throw his hat into the ring June 29.

According to, the 45th Congressional district represents Lake Forest, Rancho Santa Margarita, Tustin, Coto de Caza, North Tustin, Laguna Hills and parts of Mission Viejo, Anaheim Hills, Orange, Orange County and Anaheim.

A Costa Mesa resident, Moorlach said he doesn’t live in the district, but he has had experience representing it in the past.

“I’ve served that part of the county when I was treasurer,” Moorlach said. “I think I’m a quantity that that most of the voters in this county know.”

Moorlach, whose term as supervisor expires in 2014, has said in a previous Patch interview he’s proud of his track record with the county including his role in the creation of the county’s Office of Independent Review, the passage of Measure J and the annexation of a number of unincorporated county areas such as Sunset Beach into neighboring cities.

Before beginning his term as supervisor, Moorlach also served as the county treasurer-tax collector from 1995 to 2006.

“Since the election isn’t until June, I just want to spend time raising money between now and September,” Moorlach said. The September deadline is a personal goal, he added.

If elected, Moorlach said his economic expertise would be a boon to the nation, especially in areas he feels could be streamlined such as the IRS and the Post Office, especially in regard to pensions.

“We’re talking about a federal government that’s in need of good leadership in the area of finance, and I think I have a resume that shows I’d be able to at least able [sic] address those kind of issues,” Moorlach said.

Earlier this year Moorlach considered a run for the California governorship. In June he said he’d decided against it.

Newport Beach Supe Moorlach to Run for Congress

Moorlach hopes to win the 45th Congressional seat.

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach (District 2) (Patch archive)


July 14


Rick Reiff, in his Orange County Business Journal “OC Insider” column, titled “Baron Davis Joins Irvine Team, Too; Harley’s Wild Ride,” gave his spin on the recent selection of the County’s Sheriff.

John Moorlach, the gender Bender in the supervisors’ 3-2 vote making Sandra Hutchens the new OC sheriff, says his top choice was her former subordinate, L.A. County Sheriff’s Commander Ralph Martin. When Martin failed to get enough support from other supes, Moorlach switched to Hutchens. But that was after he vetted Hutchens on a pet issue, the county’s attempt to reduce the deputy pension increase granted by prior supes in 2002. In her public job interview Hutchens said, “I think it will be determined in the courts.” Moorlach pressed her in a subsequent private interview “and she gave a much better answer.” Hutchens indicated she is receptive to ideas for cutting costs and stemming early retirements, such as lower benefits for new hires.

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