John Bickel On The Mercury Lane Project.

mercuryBrea’s “Citizen of the Year”, John Bickel was born and raised in Brea, graduated from Brea HS and for 16 years has been a member the Brea Historical Society… President for the last 6 years.

Few people in town devote as much time and energy into local activities or understand local issues better than John. That’s why I’ve ask him to share his correspondence regarding the Mercury Lane Project with the Planning Commission here as a guest blogger.

John’s Message on the Mercury Lane Project.

January 12, 2020

To: Brea Planning Commission & City Staff

Subject: Mercury Apartments Project

I have lived in Brea for my entire life, mostly in the Arovista residential tract where I live today. I have seen this city grow to where it is today. The housing elements are varied and I believe fairly well balanced between attached and detached residences.

My first few years of adulthood placed me in rental units, apartments and houses. In 1977, we were able to purchase a home a stay in Brea. This was an ideal situation for me, since I worked for Unocal in Brea. My commute was 15 minutes.

For many, many years I enjoyed riding a bicycle to and from work. I felt very fortunate to live in the same city where I worked. I had many coworkers who were making long, daily commutes, or renting with others.

The 114 Mercury Apartments will be a good addition to the rental community in Brea. This private project will target the young professional market, of which Brea has many, from firefighters and police officers, engineers, medical and office workers.

Mercury Apartments are not low-income units, they are not subsidized by government and our taxes. They are built near several businesses that have employees who can rent near work and will be very happy to eliminate their daily commute.

We have become a society of valuing time.

Commuting 2 hours a day is not a good use of time.

We’re all concerned with the number of vehicles driving to and through our city at peak times, people heading to work or home. We’ve very little control of traffic with projects in neighboring cities. We have to rely on their project E.I.R. to identify impacts to Breans.

We do have control of our projects and can identify the impacts. This project will encourage people to live here and use alternate means of getting to work. The location is in walking distance to shopping, entertainment and dining, and recreation.

Some people have expressed concerns about insufficient on-site parking. If you look around the city at other apartment complexes, they are all under parked and overflow into the streets and even an adjacent park. I believe with the proper mitigations and a parking management plan, the Mercury project can work to the benefit of all.

Over the holidays I spoke with several of my neighbors. Most knew nothing about this project. Their first reaction was no more low-income rentals. But when I explained more of the project to them, their feelings changed and they became supportive of the project.

I encourage the city staff and this Commission to continue to work with the developer and work towards agreements that make this project, in all respects, a benefit to Brea.


John Bickel

What a difference when you know what you’re talking about.

I value John’s opinions, though we have differed at times. I know he has put in the work to know what he’s talking about and his deep love and concern for his hometown is without question.

If just fraction of the folks I see spouting off on Facebook and Nextdoor would take the time and interest John does before attacking their keyboards… and their neighbors… Brea would be a lot different today.

We wouldn’t be facing many of the crisis level issues we are… and I suspect we would have a whole different set of portraits hanging in the Council Chambers.


14 thoughts on “John Bickel On The Mercury Lane Project.

  1. Thanks Rick for making this correspondence available. John’s endorsement is a strong indication of the thought and care many Breans have for our city.

    • Chuck… John’s take on issues generally reflects what the majority, those who have taken the time to really understand the finer points of local issues, believe. I’m pleased to see he is supporting both the Mercury Lane apartments and Measure G.

  2. Thanks, John, It’s always good to have information from individuals with experience and knowledge about what is really going on. Always a pleasure hearing from you.

    • Kathy…I couldn’t disagree more. Councils back almost two decades ago expressed the conclusion that Brea’s population would ultimately approach 80,000. Much of the building going on over the last decade has been to fill in missing housing elements that were denying certain demographics an opportunity to become homeowners. If Brea doesn’t evolve with the times and, in the process, loses our youth and middle classes, our sustainability comes into serious question.

      Regarding small town feel, that’s an illusion. We’re either a small town or we’re not. Brea is growing and it’s part of a natural cycle. The small town mentality can and should be preserved in how we related to each other, how we care for each other, how we support our seniors, our young families and yes… our schools.

      “Small town feel” is more a state of mind than a product of population density.

      • Rick as usual your response is right on point. Brea will never be the sleepy town it was in our youth. But we can keep that “small town feel” in how we approach our fellow citizens, how our government responds to issues etc. Thank you for a very appropriate and correct response.

  3. It looks like comments here and on other social media are coming from the older, or senior generation. I’m glad to see so many welcoming and adapting to change. I feel sorry for those trapped in the past.

    Where are the younger generations? Why are we not hearing from them?

  4. News Flash… Electric cars now exist; Portable super computers, also known as iPhones, are required for all humans to have any chance to function in the world of dining, shopping, or communication; Public sector pensions have gone from overfunded too teetering on insolvency, and have a direct correlation to the legalization of former crimes; Formerly illegal Drugs are now legal and taxed in many states; Sears is DEAD; Penny’s, Macy’s are next;

    With only those few factoids, it is beyond fantasy to think “Old Brea” is possible. But we can keep the “Brea spirit” and celebrate our 4th of July parade and country fair, our museum at the old police station, and our beautiful hills. What we can’t do is juxtapose “nostalgia” with “progress”, and somehow come up with a no growth or other path that will only lead to failure.

    Forward Ho!!

    • Well said John, BDT (Brea downtown) needs more customers, which means we need more close by residents and businesses to support BDT shops etc. I could see the close west theater being rebuilt to match the lofts across Birch with a bridge to the parking structure.

      Look at the success of a well run business with a pent up demand like the OBCH you need reservations 5 nights a week already. We could find other like type operators to fill the ground floor of the theater footprint.

      Plenty of parking in structure #2 to serve this idea too.

  5. I remember a time when Brea only had one stoplight and orange and avocado groves on every corner! It has grown non-stop ever since! It is nice to reminisce, but progress is progress and this isn’t the only city that is growing! They all are! What is important is controlling the growth and making it the way we like it.

    Now that is… One a nice looking building! Two, it fills a much-needed niche that Brea has for apartments in a range that isn’t too high for some people! I don’t see what people’s real issues are?

      • Changing the zone will negatively have impact… improvement how??

        Please read last paragraph

        This is an excerpt for the EIR submitted to the City of July 2019 | Draft Environmental Impact Report State Clearinghouse No. 2018121032

        for City of Brea
        Prepared for: City of Brea
        Contact: Jennifer Lilley, AICP, City Planner 1 Civic Center Circle Brea, California 92821 714.990.7674 ABILITY TO REDUCE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS

        The Existing Zoning Alternative would lessen environmental impacts in the areas of air quality, energy, GHG emissions, land use and planning, noise, public services, recreation, transportation, tribal cultural resources, and utilities and service systems.

        This alternative would result in greater environmental impacts to population and housing because it would not improve the City’s jobs-housing balance. This alternative would have similar environmental impacts as the proposed project to aesthetics, agriculture and forestry resources, biological resources, cultural resources, geology and soils, hazards and hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, mineral resources, and wildfire.

      • Maria… The EIR focuses only on the impacts of the project on the environment, while the benefits of The Mercury project are detailed in a separate document, The Mercury Planned Community Master Plan (available on the City’s webpage

        The Mercury project’s vision is simple – if you work in Brea, you should be able to live in Brea. The Mercury adds 114 workforce rental units to the existing mix of residential, shopping, dining, entertainment, office, and other amenities within Downtown Brea, and provides new affordable residential options for those that currently work in Brea, but cannot afford to reside in the City.

        For the future residents of The Mercury, they will be spending a smaller percentage of their income on rent; reducing their time, dollars, and miles spent commuting to work; and increasing their personal expendable income/personal savings.

        For the community, The Mercury:

        • Strengthens the success and competitiveness of businesses in the City by providing housing for the City’s workforce.
        • Gives priority for the units to those that work in Brea by collaborating with the Human Resources Departments of large employers in the City.
        • Provides a deeper talent pool for local businesses and employees and increases economic activity within the City.
        • Provides economic and environmental benefits by providing housing close to employment centers in the City.
        • Brings in additional sales and tax revenues to the businesses and the City from the new residents that will shop, dine, and play in the community.
        • Provides the opportunity for residents to walk or bike to work, which eliminates the need to drive to work.

  6. Rick, you just spelled out in plain English why the Mercury needs to be approved. The project is for the “greater good” of Brea. It’s benefits are perpetual and all reaching. The question should be where can we have more Mercury projects …thank you

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