Anaheim Mayor Helped Sack Gas Station Set to Rival Political Ally at The Pump

Shell game. Photo by Gabriel San Roman

Morning commuters pull up to a Shell station in Anaheim Hills where a gallon of regular gas costs $3.99 if paid for with a debit or credit card. The fuel stop at the intersection of Imperial Highway and La Palma Avenue remains the sole such outpost near the on-ramp to the 91 freeway. That’s how it’ll stay after Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu led the charge against a proposed Arco gas station opening up across the street, successfully blocking the development during a June 18 council meeting.

In doing so, Sidhu just happened to preserve a monopoly for Navaz Malik, the Shell station owner and political supporter who attended the mayor’s victory party at his estate in Anaheim Hills; within a few months Malik, in turn, transformed council chambers, with Sidhu at the helm, into a full-service station.

The fenced-in dirt plot at the center of the controversy is owned by Isa Bahu and currently stores inventory from a local car dealership. Bahu’s father owned his first Arco station at the same exact location in the 1970s until the property was demolished in 2004 through eminent domain to make way for the widening of Imperial Highway. Rebuilding the Arco station, a stated dream of Isa’s now-deceased father, didn’t seem daunting at first. The project found little dissent when the Planning Commission voted 6-1 on Apr. 1 to move it along.

In the days that followed, Malik and Aslam Dada, a car salesman with Cal City Corporation, separately appealed the Planning Commission’s decision. In the past, both Yorba Linda men contributed to Sidhu’s failed State Assembly run in 2016. But on the surface level, their objections to the Arco gas station read practical, not political. Traffic jams at the intersection, failing zoning code requirements, and unsafe access for delivery trucks rounded out the list of gas station grievances.

“After reviewing the project plans, I came to the conclusion that the builder is asking for leniency in exchange for safety,” wrote Malik in an Apr. 1 opposition letter. “It will be impossible for a gas station, the existing bus stop and the current flow of traffic to coexist in this location, more importantly–it will be hazardous to drivers.”

The Bahu family countered the complaints in a letter addressed to City Council. “It’s easy to understand that [the] existing Shell station on that corner would prefer to maintain their area monopoly, but comments from them that it would increase traffic, increase the number of left turns or be difficult for gas trucks to enter are without merit,” the letter reads. A law firm retained by Bahu charged that Dada is a “close business associate” of Malik and deemed his role in the appeal as that of a “transparent strawman.”

Malik (center) and Sidhu (right) at the mayor’s victory party. Photo by Grant Romancia with permission

The fight turned next to the June 4 city council meeting where the appeal would either be denied or upheld. A staff report highlighted the appellants’ key points of contention and largely refuted them in its analysis, setting the stage for the public hearing to follow. Other high-profile fights over short-term rentals and a possible street car study commanded attention during the council meeting, but the fracas over the fuel station proved important enough to enlist heavy hitters on both sides.

Former Anaheim Police Department deputy chief Craig Hunter and former Anaheim city manager Jim Ruth signed up in support of the Arco station developer Isa Bahu. Peter Mitchell, a consultant with the Anaheim Police Association (APA) and councilman Jordan Brandman’s campaign last year, battled on behalf of Malik as did OC GOP chairman Fred Whitaker, a former Orange city councilman.

Like everyone else who voiced opposition to the Arco station, Mitchell began his comments during the public hearing session of the meeting by paying fealty to free markets before offering a caveat. “Normally, we support and are pushing businesses for development,” he said, representing Malik, the APA and Starlight City Cinema Theaters. “The question is this is a troubled project that should have had significant changes from the beginning.” The APA previously objected to the gas station in April as a “public safety concern” citing traffic collision statistics for the intersection.

“The project, the way it stands with one entrance, is fine,” said Bahu in defense. “We’ve gone through and made a lot of concessions to make everybody happy, including the appellants.” He agreed to a six-month review by the Planning Commission, a revision of delivery schedules and a sign alerting motorists to make U-turns further down La Palma Avenue.

But would high-paid consultants and investigators really enter the fray over such squabbles?

Hunter, who heads his own Veritas Investigative Solutions firm and was a former chief investigator for Orange County District Attorney’s office before leaving amid a sexting scandal, delivered bombshell accusations when addressing the public hearing–and they weren’t about traffic impact, plot size or sole entrances. “It piqued my interest when [Bahu] started explaining to me that the appellant was going around town telling everyone that he had the mayor under his thumb,” he said. “It all just sounded rotten to me. This is not about fairness. This is about the $2 million a year that he’ll lose when people get to pay 35 cents less a gallon.”

After hours of debate, the council majority found the appellants’ arguments more persuasive than the analysis of their own city staff. At the onset of the hearing, Sidhu disclosed that he met with both the applicant and the appellants. He didn’t mention Malik and Dada’s past political support, of course. The mayor closed the matter sounding more like a good government steward than a craven elected official using the powers of the state to squash a gas station that would inevitably compete with the business of his political benefactor.

“I support and encourage business opportunities in our city,” said Sidhu. “But for me, safety comes before [being] pro-business on this item.” A majority of his council colleagues agreed; the appeal was upheld by a 5-0-1 vote with councilwoman Denise Barnes abstaining and councilman Jose Moreno out of town on a work trip.

Bahu’s plot with Shell in the distance. Photo by Gabriel San Roman

Malik’s political ties and campaign donations to Sidhu may have evaded all discussion, save for an allusion made by Hunter’s remarks, but they’re well-documented and go back more than a decade. In 2007, the Pakistani American businessman helped host a campaign fundraiser at the Ayres Hotel in Yorba Linda in support of Sidhu’s failed State Senate bid. In 2016, Malik contributed $2,200 to another failed run by Sidhu, this time for an assembly seat out of reach.

Both Malik and Sidhu fared better when it came to last year’s mayoral race in Anaheim. The gas station owner’s name appears in a list of Sidhu’s local citizen endorsers. According to campaign contribution forms, Malik also donated $2,000 on Sept. 27, 2017, the maximum amount allowed at the time, to Sidhu’s bid to become Anaheim mayor. He listed himself as a Shell gas station attendant. And, of course, after Sidhu won by less than 500 votes, Malik joined in the victory party revelry.

Neither Malik nor Sidhu responded to Weekly requests for comment.

When the Arco station dispute came before council a final time on June 18, Moreno offered to table a vote on a formal resolution upholding the appeal given Bahu’s stated flexibility to concerns aired. But a majority of council members showed their disinterest, no matter how many concessions he sought to offer. Just before council members readied a vote, Brandman made it known that Hunter’s comments at the past public hearing had “infuriated” him.

“It brought dirtiness into this chamber,” he said. “I was outraged by it.”

Soon after, council voted 5-2 to adopt a resolution reversing the Planning Commission’s recommended approval of Bahu’s gas station–a move that preserves Malik’s monopoly and, assuredly, his political support of Sidhu.

Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!

39 Replies to “Anaheim Mayor Helped Sack Gas Station Set to Rival Political Ally at The Pump”

  1. Looks like Román feeds Bahu’s disgruntlement at the city’s decision by pointing fingers in a one-sided argument against Malik with less facts than emotion. Funny how this public show of bias is reminiscent of how Bahu’s family used to publicly slander and libel Malik with curse words spoken and written when he performed well back when they did have their Arco. Talk about playing dirty there. Seems like the apple didn’t fall far from the tree now that Bahu is taking to OC Weekly for his issues in a similar manner. Facts are facts, and those are the truth to the matter. Why, after 10+ years of the Arco being closed, would Bahu randomly want to open a gas station up again? Everyone agreed having a gas station in that old lot would be a hazard due to: 1) the lot has ONLY 1 entrance, 2) the bus stop next to its driveway picking up families from the motel next door, 3) the short width of the driveway that oil tankers would have to somehow turn into, 4) the u-turn at the intersection across the entrance to the lot, 5) the large crosswalk at the intersection where the u-turn occurs, 6) how cars could even possibly try to exit this lot given all the above happening in the street. Bahu was really trying to push the city to let an oil tanker turn right where cars are making u-turns into its lane, and a bus is stopped in the same lane to pick up families staying at the motel next door to the lot?! All this still while people are crossing at the intersection, and cars are trying to exit the lot..? Does Bahu have no value for life? Those are 6 possible instances of major accidents! It’s one thing to have a fair argument, but this is just a personal vendetta he, for some reason, has against Malik and wants to continue with at all costs- like others’s lives. And the author – Gabriel San Román – of this article should have done his proper research on this case before demeaning his own credibility for the sake of portraying bias publicly. Understand the truth to everything objectively before you give away your opinion to bias, people.

    1. Shut your azz up. I work near that shell and that shell is the problem and causes a mess of traffic that is trying to get to the freeway. If anything an arco would alleviate some of that mess that the shell causes. All this is just childish politcial BS. Ya’ll dont care about safety. A couldnt care less about your guys politics and that garbage mayor.
      Stop acting like little whiney pricks and let that man build an arco. SINCERELY, an Anaheim resident thats not afraid to give the FACTS.

      1. Not that the Mayor cares about residents having taken $millions$ from the resort, Disneyland, Arte Moreno and of course his friend that owns a Shell gas station for his campaign. At his victory dinner he even asked for post election checks from the attendees and has received $23,000 post election according to records online.

  2. A gas station with only one driveway too close to one of the busiest intersections in the city is a bad idea. I’m glad the council recognized that.

    1. Natalie, all gas stations are on busy intersections. So if we use your logic we should shut down the Shell station across the street because it is on a busy intersection.

    2. It is no more dangerous than all the people having to make a right into Shell on the other side of the street. I would rather come to La Palma and make a right and another into the gas station as opposed to sitting in the LONG line to turn left to only have to sit at the next light that takes forever to turn in by In N Out. I guess I could do what most people do and make an illegal u-turn to get into Shell faster. I just think it would be nice to have a choice of where I get gas.

  3. This Arco gas station was paid in full 17 years ago to widen the imperial Hwy. The City of Anaheim condemned the property and remove the gas station. The City Council voted 5-1 There is only 1 way in and out of that lot. It’s a safely issue. A gas station in that location is a disaster waiting to happen.

    1. Amelia get your facts straight before you post on this article. The city did not pay for the business 17 years ago, the lot was not condemned. The fact that you’re a commissioner at the city and at of Anaheim shows how bias you are. You don’t know anything about this project except what Trevor tells you. And the only disaster is at the city of Anaheim has become so crooked with everybody on the take from the mayor to the Chamber of Commerce to the Anaheim first committee. There’s no more ethics in politics it’s all about who can line their pockets. So you’re getting paid for your opinion you just posted, by the city of Anaheim by the residents of Anaheim.

    2. Let it be known, readers: Castro was the point woman for Harry Sidhu yard signs and even hosted a meet-and-greet for him and councilman Trevor O’Neil during the campaign. Now, she’s on Anaheim First’s board of directors and is busy posting this very same message all over Facebook making it seem like an Arco station would transform Imperial/La Palma into Final Destination 2!

      Laughable.

      1. Gabriel thank you for your article. Very informative what is going on within the city of Anaheim’s city hallways.

      2. The News man breaks the News on the twisted Anaheim politics. It is bad and getting worse.
        Sidhu, O’neil, Faessel, Brandma and Kring took several $million from the Resort industry, Disneyland, Arte Moreno and Mobile Home Park owners. Sidhu is still getting checks post election!!
        The pay back will cost us all, hope that the reporting is on the nose! Or a punch in the nose.

    3. Shut up you lying azz. Frankly this is just stupid politcal bs. This has nothing to do with safety. Adding a gas station wouldn’t change things much. The light to the theater parking lot is what causes all the traffic. Sincerely, an Anaheim resident.

    4. The insidious Sidhu just voted the way of his friend simple enough.

      Ask the people if they want to pay $3.99 a gallon or $3.29 a gallon for gas.
      Anaheim residents would say resoundingly LESS PLEASE.

  4. Alex, love how you comment as if you’re not Malik or his son. All your points are not valid the city of Anaheim planning department approved the site and all issues we’re cleared by planning, traffic, fire and police. and the reason Bahu waited 10 years to open was the residents of Anaheim have the been begging us to open due to your price gouging. guess Malik doesn’t want to give up the 1.7 million dollars he’s gouging the city of Anaheim residents out of. surprising Malik didn’t care about a McDonald’s coming in for traffic nor the In-N-Out nor the movie theater nor Chipotle guess those don’t cause any traffic right.

  5. Suggestion: Will the owner of the Shell gas station pledge to sell gasoline at OC’s average gasoline prices? That would truly help the “public” that both sides blah blahing to protect.

  6. Alex and Amelia you have been called out for who you really are and therefore your comments are tainted and not believable.

  7. I was at the public hearing for STR’s (which was a circus, might I add) and this one followed.

    The council-members unanimously agreed to deny this plan because it was clearly out of city code with a great deal of variances. The plan that was presented was not within code and that’s why it was shut down. The counter argument was that if you want to build it, do it legally like everyone else.

    To say the mayor swayed the entire council’s vote one way is laughable, at best. Zoning laws are in place for a reason.

    1. Regarding city code, the staff report says otherwise.

      Can’t figure out the glue for the five votes on the surface? Look at where the Anaheim Police Association was on the issue. Then look at who they’ve endorsed and how they voted on this matter. All too easy.

      1. Let’s not let emotions get the better of us, I was simply stating facts, not taking sides. The first job of our public servants is to uphold the law.

        There are diagrams on the plan (which can be found on the city’s website) showing what the code requires and what the project is proposing (exemptions from code).
        This is word for word what the planning commission wrote:

        “The applicant is requesting reduced front landscaping setbacks along the La Palma Avenue and Imperial Highway street frontages where 15 feet is required and 5 to 10 feet is proposed. The applicant also requests a setback reduction along the interior property lines adjacent to a hotel where 10 feet is required and 1.5 to 2 feet is proposed. The small size of the lot (due to the dedications and utility easement mentioned above), as compared to other SP-2015-1 zoned properties in the vicinity, makes it difficult to meet all of the development standards…Most service stations located at an intersection of two arterial highways are permitted to have two driveways; however, this site is only proposing one entry point along La Palma Avenue because no driveway is allowed along Imperial Highway due to Caltrans restrictions.”

        The council’s resolution echoes what was said in the staff report: the plot is too small for this project to be built within code.

        1. Who’s getting emotional?

          Instead of engaging in gymnastics, you could review council tape where deputy city manager David Belmer uttered these words. “We don’t have a code requirement that requires two driveways.” He followed that up by noting Caltrans reviewed the project and had no concerns.

          Or you could reread the conclusion of the staff report. “Staff has carefully considered the concerns raised by the appellants and believes the issues raised have been thoroughly addressed and therefore, staff recommends the City Council deny the appeal and uphold the Planning Commission’s actions.”

          Were there variances proposed? Yeah. But don’t pretend that the Planning Commission vote and the Staff Report analysis are consistent with the council’s actions. That’s intellectually dishonest.

          1. Right. Nowhere did I mention that it was denied due to there being one driveway. Those were the planning staff’s words.

            But thank you for acknowledging that there are variances. Which, again, are proposed around the ENTIRE property as a result of the lot being too small for a project of this size to be built within city code.

            Maybe you should rewatch the council tape where all members cited the variances as the reason for denial. I’ve been in construction long enough (30+ years) and dealt with every city in OC to know when they’re being unjust.

          2. In addition, if I remember correctly, the applicant could not meet the parking requirement.
            He had to make an offsite parking agreement with another business.
            Why, you might ask? There is not enough space.

    2. Mike get your facts straight, the council members did not unanimously vote us down it was 2 to 4. Zoning already approved us the City Planning Department already approved us. Educate yourself we were up to code we are 100% approved by the City Planning Department. This is not a zoning problem this is not a variance problem this is a political issue with the mayor and the owner of shell Malik ganging up on us to try to bully us not to open, but that’s not how it works in America!

  8. I’ve known the Bahu family for years. Our kids went to school together. Isa is less than honorable, to say the least – I watched him screw his own brother financially after his Dad died. Now he’s got sister May doing PR on Facebook and in the comments.

  9. Ed, obviously you don’t know our family. My mom’s still alive so isa couldn’t have screw his brother. If You’re going to make comments have the balls to post your real name. Nice try! I I’m not doing PR I’m just posting facts. I’m sure you didnt post your real name cause your you have more dirt on you!

  10. Mike get your facts straight, the council members did not unanimously vote us down it was 2 to 4. Zoning already approved us the City Planning Department already approved us. Educate yourself we were up to code we are 100% approved by the City Planning Department. This is not a zoning problem this is not a variance problem this is a political issue with the mayor and the owner of shell Malik ganging up on us to try to bully us not to open, but that’s not how it works in America!

  11. by just reading i can say its political. let them build a gas station thats how america works freedom of enterprise. safety ?? too obvious . stop the politics

  12. Does the Council realize there was a gas station there for 40 years which i used to go to all the time. It wasn’t dangerous then. The Christmas tree lot iand the pumpkin patch are not dangerous Trevor and Harry the mayor are just protecting there friend. They are not working for the people they are working for those who line there pockets.Its very sad that’s how things are.if they were working for Anaheim they would let that gas station go in so that gas prices in Anaheim hills would go down and that shell station would be forced to compete this is going to bite Trevor and the mayor in the ass we the voters will not forget when Election time comes around that you’re letting us get gouged and protecting your friends we might all not be rich but we all do vote and you remember Trevor Harry only one by 450 votes. These people deserve to be arrested for their dirty politics .Recall the mayor recall Trevor long Live Anaheim Long Live America what goes around comes around just remember that Recall the mayor recall Trevor long Live Anaheim Long Live America what goes around comes around just remember that

  13. Ok I’m a little late to the party, but what’s the problem with building another gas station off Imperial and La Palma?? This family has run very successful Gas Stations for many years. I believe the only reason the original one got shut down was due to eminent domain. In the old days there were gas stations on every corner. I say let the Bahu family rebuild, it will be a great addition to that corner! They are a hardworking family who have been loyal to AH!!

    1. This is word for word what the planning dept. wrote in the plan:

      “The applicant is requesting reduced front landscaping setbacks along the La Palma Avenue and Imperial Highway street frontages where 15 feet is required and 5 to 10 feet is proposed. The applicant also requests a setback reduction along the interior property lines adjacent to a hotel where 10 feet is required and 1.5 to 2 feet is proposed. The small size of the lot (due to the dedications and utility easement mentioned above), as compared to other SP-2015-1 zoned properties in the vicinity, makes it difficult to meet all of the development standards…Most service stations located at an intersection of two arterial highways are permitted to have two driveways; however, this site is only proposing one entry point along La Palma Avenue because no driveway is allowed along Imperial Highway due to Caltrans restrictions.”

      The plan can be found on the city’s website.

      1. Mike, mr. 30 plus years in construction why don’t you look at the gas station across the street the shell has multiple variances and they are on the lot line of the in and out property(no set back) AKA variance they don’t have 10 feet that is required. They have multiple variances for that lot, We have two variances which is not uncommon. That’s why we have a whole planning department of professionals who do that for a living everyday and they approved the plans. So don’t tell me if you’ve built in multiple cities you know that’s more than normal, give me the address of 10 of your projects and let me see how many variances you have. Guarantee you your projects have had multiple variances. That’s why we worked with the planning department to make it a win-win project!

  14. This whole thing sounds like the mayor and Trevor are dirty I will not be VOTING for them ether will my 1000 employees. They should have recused themselves and done the right thing there totally friends. Who goes to to your Christmas party if your just a person who donated to them Malik , THE MAYOR AND TREVOR are in bed together I really hope they get caught. THIS IS A TOTAL COVER UP!!!!!
    WE THE RESIDENCE ARE PAYING FOR THIS WITH HIGHER GAS PRICES BECAUSE THEY WANT TO PROTECT THERE FRIEND MALIK!!!
    THIS GUY HAS BEEN SCREWING ANAHIEM HILLLS FOR THE LAST TEN YEARS WITH HIS PRICING. TICK TOCK TICK TOCK VITING IS AROUND THE CORNER!!!!!!!

    1. This comments section is straight comedy! Sounds like the same people with diff names/titles and their buddies. Youd think the “largest employer in anaheim hills” would’ve passed 2nd grade english class. lol sure you are. No business owner of that notability would be leaving comments like these tryin to draw attention. What a joke. Grow up

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