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NEIGHBORLY ADVICE: DOWNTOWN FULLERTON

With boom, history repeats itself in O.C.

July 29, 2007|Tony Dodero | Special to The Times

Forget commuting or having to drive to get to restaurants and shops. Residents of the new downtown Fullerton are happy to say goodbye to those inconveniences. But they wouldn't mind it being quieter when the bars let out.

Beginnings

Perched along the sloping foothills of the northwest edge of Orange County is the city of Fullerton, a town of 120,000 with a rich history of oranges, oil and railroads. As one of the oldest incorporated cities in the county, Fullerton, named after railroad executive George Fullerton, saw its early seeds planted in 1887 when brothers Edward and George Amerige, from Massachusetts, staked out land on a mustard field that is now the corner of Commonwealth Street and Harbor Boulevard. That intersection today is the gateway to the city's downtown business district.

After incorporating in 1904, Fullerton saw tremendous growth in citrus farming and oil production, accompanied later by a huge housing boom in the 1940s precipitated by the return of WWII soldiers needing homes for their families. City documents show building permit valuations rose from $2.5 million in 1948 to $114 million in 1956.

As happened in many older downtowns, Fullerton saw a decline in commerce and growth for several years during the 1970s and '80s. But for the last five years, the downtown has enjoyed a growth spurt and is now a vibrant center where small business is thriving and homeowners are close to nightlife and dining.

Drawing card

New businesses and housing developments are sprouting up all over the downtown district. Plans are underway to restore the historic Fox Theater and turn it into a performance house, and a new development called SoCo (south of Commonwealth) is adding mixed-use housing and retail to the downtown scene.

The Santa Fe Depot railroad station provides convenient commutes to Los Angeles, south Orange County and San Diego via Amtrak and Metrolink trains. Freeways and main highways are also nearby.

"Downtown is changing the way people live, where everything someone might need is right there," said Robert Loughran, a realty agent with Elite Team who runs the website www.downtownfullerton.com.

Good news, bad news

Although downtown businesses are booming, the weekend bar scene is creating issues. Downtown residents complain of drunken bar patrons who soil their properties, leave trash or drive recklessly. Loud music from some of the nighttime establishments is a problem for some residents who desire peace and quiet, and police have stepped up enforcement.

Housing stock

Most of the homes in the downtown are in 1920s-era Craftsman bungalow or Tudor style. Many have been refurbished, adding modern touches to the classic, vintage looks of the bungalows. With about 80 homes on the market, the prices range from the low $500,000s to just over $1 million.

A three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,500-square-foot 1922 Craftsman on a 10,000-square-foot lot is priced at $895,000. It has original French doors and a one-bedroom guesthouse that could serve as a rental.

Nearby is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom Tudor built in 1927 listed at $1.09 million. It features 2,300 square feet of living space, an 11,000-square-foot lot, an in-ground pool and hardwood floors.

Report card

Children who live in the downtown area attend either Golden Hill or Raymond elementary schools. According to the 2006 Base Academic Performance Index Report, Golden Hill scored 857 out of a possible 1,000, and Raymond scored 796.

The middle schools are Nicholas Junior High, which scored 679; Ladera Vista, 787; and Parks, 867. Most downtown students would attend Fullerton High School, which posted a score of 735.

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Sources: www.octhen.com; www.ci.fullerton.ca.us/; www.downtownfullerton.com;

Fullerton Heritage, www.fullertonheritage.org/; cde.ca.gov/.

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