Fear, Loathing, & A Powerful OC Politico Loom Over Downtown Garden Grove


Remember when OC Weekly did an expose last year of controversial extreme right “minister” Lou Sheldon? Oh wait, you don’t? OK, that’s right, it’s a different Sheldon! OC Weekly wrote about Lou’s Developer son Steve trying to game the system in Garden Grove to build condos… Even though it may put dozens of Downtown Garden Grove businesses at risk due to lack of parking!

OK, you should remember this oldie-but-goodie from last April:

… [A]long Garden Grove’s Main Street—one of the last relics of small-town America in the suburban sprawl that has engulfed Orange County—Sheldon the younger is rapidly becoming a celebrity. Just not in a good way. Last October, the longtime consultant to the City of Garden Grove convinced city council to give him the exclusive right to develop a $40 million condominium project adjacent to Main Street. In approving the deal, the city sold him the land—currently a city-owned parking lot serving Main Street businesses—for just $1.5 million.

So what’s been happening since then? Follow me after the flip to take a look…

So what’s been happening since last April? Well unfortunately, Steve Sheldon with his big financial guns and cadre of political connections was able to win round one in the courts. The Garden Grove Downtown Business Association is appealing however, and according to Association President Scott Weimer, they are far from giving up on this.
But wait, why are all these small businesses opposed to new condos downtown? Wouldn’t new condos mean new customers? Wouldn’t new condos mean a nicer downtown? Not necessarily.

Here are some disturbing questions about the downtown condo development that the city of Garden Grove and developer Steve Sheldon have yet to answer:

1. Whether the City was justified when they circumvented the Garden Grove Parking Commission by arbitrarily and unilaterally deciding that the parking
lots, which are under the Parking Commission’s jurisdiction, were no longer needed for parking and could be transferred into the redevelopment agency in order to be sold without any competitive bidding directly to a public relations firm.

2. Whether the City violated its own ordinance by refusing to provide the
building and site plans to the Parking Commission for review and
approval, even though the Parking Commissioners’ duties include reviewing
and making recommendations to the planning commission on any site plans or
development plans of any projects that are proposed within their
jurisdictional district.

3. Whether tandem parking, which is illegal under the city’s code, should
be allowed (with its 50% utilization factor) in the project.

4. Whether the developer (Sheldon) had the right to arbitrarily increase the
size of the project by 25%, after he had been granted the exclusive
negotiating agreement (ENA) by the city.

5. Whether the city, in granting Sheldon numerous concessions, variances
and zoning changes, complied with all the restrictive provisions of the
California Redevelopment Law.

6. Whether the city must comply with State Law in dedicating the funds
received from the sale of this parking lot back into the Parking District,
or be allowed to funnel funds over to the redevelopment agency.

Ever since Nick Schou asked these and other questions last year, neither Sheldon nor the city has answered these questions. So why is Steve Sheldon being given an exclusive no-bid contract? Why are so many of these decisions being made in secret? Why did the city sell Sheldon the parking lot for a measly $15,000 per future condo unit (total $1.5 million) when Sheldon’s expected to sell these condos for $400,000 to $600,000 each? And why is there no consideration being made for all the downtown businesses who would lose business due to the lack of parking once these condos are built?

These are some questions that need to be answered. And fortunately, the Save Historic Main Street Coalition is trying to get these answers. Now unfortunately, they’re currently being vastly outspent by Steve Sheldon as his legal team is doing everything possible to block this lawsuit. So what can we do about this?

Here’s what the Save Historic Main Street coalition says:

Recently, the Garden Grove Downtown Business Association filed a lawsuit to try and block this proposed development. This was done as a last resort. The Association, made up of business people, property owners and concerned citizens, tried to negotiate for a more modest development that would leave adequate parking. Our pleas were not even considered. We have retained a renowned attorney known for his success in battling cities in eminent domain issues. But legal costs are not cheap. And the city and the developer, both with deep pockets, feel they only need to hold on until the GGDBA goes broke.

How can you help?

Contribute to SAVE HISTORIC MAIN STREET. Your tax deductible check to SAVE HISTORIC MAIN STREET for $5, $10, $25, $50, $100 or more will send a message to our council that they should listen to the will of the people.

If you have time available, inquire about an associate membership in the Garden Grove Downtown Business Association. Please, tell your neighbors about the threat to Downtown Main Street.

Send your contributions and letters to:
Save Historic Main Street
12866 Main Street #100
Garden Grove, Ca. 92840

You know, this is something that isn’t just affecting Garden Grove. We’re seeing redevelopment battles like this one all over Orange County. Whether it’s the fight for affordable housing in Anaheim’s “Platinum Triangle” or the push to kick locally owned small businesses out of Downtown Santa Ana with the “Renaissance Plan” or fishy smelling efforts to clear out affordable housing for Dana Point’s “Town Center”, this just keeps happening over and over again. All too often, the needs of middle class residents get overrun by the desires of a privileged few. When will this madness stop? Well, here’s a way to stop it.

Think about it.

  8 comments for “Fear, Loathing, & A Powerful OC Politico Loom Over Downtown Garden Grove

  1. its me
    February 28, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    The City Council should be replaced. They are neglecting to do the job they ran for. They forget public service is a trust. I bet you will see large campaign donations made to these snakes. Time to clean house and vote in a new Council and Mayor. Maybe the citizens will be able to take back the city.

  2. lets party
    February 28, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Smells like corruption to me. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. I’m not voting for any Garden Grove incumbents this year.

  3. SHARON SUNDA
    February 28, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    What a great follow-up! Unfortunately, there are still many Garden Grove residents who do not realize the shenanigans of our city government. If they did, I am certain that there would be more outrage and more contributions to help with the fight of the Downtown Merchants. Even some of the merchants are Main Street are reluctant to become involved, due to retribution. One in particular was attempting to modify his building, and kept having roadblock after roadblock thrown at him, until he distanced himself from the Downtown Merchants Association. Miraculously, once he did that, everything went smoothly and he is now up and running. What a sad commentary on our City Staff. There have been rumors for years of city staff padding their pockets, but how would you ever prove it?
    Keep up the good work!

  4. Andrew Davey
    February 28, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Sharon-

    That’s quite disturbing. So city leadership is really intimidating downtown business owners? That’s just wrong. If these city council members use intimidation tactics to scare the opposition and pass favors along to allies, then they’re clearly in the wrong.

    let’s party & its me-

    Yep, yep, yep- I hear ‘ya. If this is how Garden Grove council members think “business” should be conducted, then these council members don’t deserve another term. Simple as that.

  5. Anonymous
    February 28, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Andrew,
    Allow wm e to answer a few questions posted in this thread.
    First, the assumption of corruption can be substantiated. Mayor Bill Dalton had accepted a $1,000 donation from Steve Sheldon just four days after he voted to approve the project in question.
    Second, on this issue of staff lining their pockets. Just recently within the last three months, City manager Matt Fertal moved into a condominium unit at the Chapman Commons condominiums near the corner of Chapman and Harbor Blvd. This property was developed by homebuilder giant DR Horton.
    DR Horton purchased this property at a substantial profit to the seller who just so happens to beee……..(Drum roll please) STEVE SHELDON!!!!)

    Up to this point Mr. Fertal lived in Huntington Beach. And has made public announcements that he is going to be occupying the condominium at Chapman Commons. Has Mr. Fertal recently been divorced necessitating a move? I don’t know. But this move which was published in the Garden Grove Journal some months ago prompted the rumor that Matt Fertal may run for City Council.
    This theory is hogwash since Matt Fertal receives a salary of nearly 200 thousand dollars a year in his city manager position which he would not be able to hold if he were a Council member.

    The truth can be found in records relating to the property at Chapman Commons. Did Mr. Fertal take a condominium in exchange for his complicity in forcing the Sheldon Main Street Project onto the city of Garden Grove?

    For some background, Mr. Sheldon makes deals all the time such as this with his clients which happen to be City Council members of several cities in OC. one of his favorite things to do is to buy up Trailer Home parks and evict the residents in order to build McMansions on the property.

    He recently penned one of these deals in the city of Orange with City Councilman Dennis Bileadeu (Remember the sign stealing Scandal with him and Carol Rudat didn’t live in Orange?)

    Anyway, there is deep rooted corruption in Garden Grove. I suggest a recall or outright effort to unseat all incumbents.

  6. Andrew Davey
    February 28, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Anon 3:51-

    WOW! Those are some serious issues! So are you leading me to the conclusion that City Manager Matt Fertal & Mayor Bill Dalton set up a “quid pro quo” arrangement with DR Horton and Steve Sheldon for this whole Main Street condo project? If you have more evidence, PLEASE PROVIDE IT.

    You are always free to email me tips for this story at atdnext ATgmailDOTcom. And same goes to all the rest of you who have juicy details on this developing scandal in Garden Grove.

  7. Mark Rosen
    February 29, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Andrew,

    I suggest you get a copy (and post it) of the judge’s decision in the lawsuit. He wrote a detailed opinion and addressed each of the issues listed by you. I’m sure Scott Weimer has a copy.

    I salute Sharon Sunda for posting in her own name. (Her husband was my appointee to an OCTA commission.) I dispute that merchants are threatened for supporting the lawsuit. Scott Weimer’s wife Rebecca continues to sit on the Main Street Parking Commission.

    I voted for the Sheldon project because Main Street is dead most of the time. The parking lot in question is usually empty. The Sheldon project will hopefully bring pedestrians into the area and help revitalize Main Street.

    Finally, Matt Fertal bought a condominium at the Chapman Commons for one of his children. He does not live in Garden Grove. I would like to see city administrators live in the city they work for, but that’s a discussion for another day.

    Mark Rosen
    Garden Grove Mayor Pro Tem

  8. Andrew Davey
    February 29, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Mayor Pro Tem Rosen-

    Thank you for stopping by to share your point of view. It’s always appreciated when our local leaders drop by to let us know what’s happening.

    So Main Street is “dead” most of the time? Is that how business owners there describe the regular traffic there? And will there be an effort to preserve the businesses on Main Street if the Sheldon project goes through? Is there a plan to mitigate the possible parking problem?

    I’ll look at the court documents to see if I can find the answers to these questions I still have about the project. But really, thanks for coming by and giving us a direct answer. If we had more elected officials here in OC who weren’t afraid to communicate with their electorate, I bet we wouldn’t have so many problems with so many of them. :-)

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