Friday, September 29, 2023



Last night, Thursday, September 28th, a meeting was held at the Anthony M. Toto Auditorium on the Fairview Developmental Center (FDC) site at which the consulting firm, DUDEK, solicited input from community members on the plan to carve out 15 acres from FDC site for an Emergency Operations Center to act as a secondary site to the State’s primary site in Northern California. 


A preliminary Environmental Impact Report  (EIR) has been published and the state, through their consultant, wanted input so a final document can be prepared.  The purpose of this meeting was not to answer questions - of which there were many - but to receive input from the public.



My best guess, confirmed by others in the room, was that somewhere close to 100 people attended this meeting.  Of course, that would include city staffers and state representatives (1) plus the consultant team, led by Laura Masterson.  Of those, nearly 3 dozen people stepped to the microphone to express views/ask questions.  Also in attendance was Jason Kenney, Deputy Director, Real Estate Services Division of the Department of General Services, who attempted, with only marginal success, to field some of the more heated questions asked by speakers.  


I was pleased to see so many former officials attending this meeting and participating in the program.  Former Mayor Sandra Genis was one of the early speakers and roundly criticized the current EIR.  Professionally, this is her bailiwick, so her view carries significant weight.  Also speaking were former councilwoman Wendy Leece and former councilman Jay Humphrey.


That term is not meant to be derogatory.  Several of the speakers were those activists in the community who actually DO pay attention to issues and actually DO their homework - like plowing through the voluminous EIR, in this case.  Cynthia McDonald and her husband, Rick Huffman attended and each spoke.  Arts Commission Chair Charlene Ashendorf and her hubby, Dennis, were in the room.  Active Transportation Committee Chair Ralph Taboada sat behind me and spoke.  Flo Martin, who attends almost every meeting of consequence, attended and spoke.  Katie Arthur, a member of the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group, stepped to the microphone, too, as did both Sue Lester and Susan Meyer.



In the audience were many members of the City staff and elected officials.  I saw Deputy City Manager 

Alma Reyes, Director of Public Services Raja Sethuraman, City Clerk Brenda Green and Police Chief Ron Lawrence in the crowd.  There may have been others.  I saw Planning Commission Chair Adam Ereth and former planning commissioner Diane Russell in the crowd, too.  Mayor John Stephens and Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Harlan were observing, too. 



Most of the rest of those who stepped up to speak at this meeting were relative newcomers to the process.  They were unfamiliar names and faces, many of whom clearly were not comfortable at a microphone before a crowd addressing officials, but they stepped up and expressed their concerns.  A total of 34 people - more than a third of the number in the room - spoke.  That’s 35 if you count Mayor Stephens. 


Without attempting to quote folks directly, I came away from this meeting with the following observations, not in any particular order of importance:

1 - Most speakers - most of whom seemed to be well-intentioned, were frustrated and just a little angry that they didn’t know about this situation earlier, so they could become more educated and make more appropriate comments.

2 - Many clearly simply did not understand the purpose of this meeting, which was for the consultant’s team to gather input from members of the public about the proposed Emergency Operations Center tentatively planned on the grounds of the Fairview Developmental Center - not to answer questions or concerns posed by the speakers.

3 - Consultant Laura Masterson and Jason Kenney simply were not prepared to respond to tough questions fired at them by members of the public.  This, of course, only exacerbated the frustration of members of the audience.

4 - Several times during the meeting Masterson encouraged the crowd to present their questions/concerns via letter or email.  A slide was briefly shown with the appropriate contact information.

5 - The layout of the room - a very large auditorium - was inadequate for the presentation. It was too large, seating was spread out too wide and the screen and images on it were much too small.  I sat directly in front of it and could barely make out the text.   Most viewers could not see the slide presentation unless they were directly in front of the small screen provided.  In fact, one frustrated attendee plopped himself down directly in front of the screen on the hardwood floor for the duration of the presentation. 

6 - It seems to me that the City of Costa Mesa is being forced into a little “shell game”.  On one hand, the State tells us we MUST find a way to plan for their newly imposed RHNA numbers - 11,760 new dwelling units in the city over the next 6 years.  Coincident with that is the plan to shutter the Fairview Developmental Center and make that 113 acres available.  The State provided a grant to the city to do the planning for housing on that site.  THEN, they tell the city, “Oh, yes, and we’re gonna put an Emergency Operations Center to serve all of Southern California into a 15 acre site within the footprint of the FDC, including a helipad and a 120 foot, highly illuminated, communication tower.”  Really?!  Exactly how is such a facility compatible with ANY residential uses?  One speaker described is, succinctly, as a “turd in a punch bowl”.

7 - Mayor John Stephens was sandbagged by speaker Sally Humphrey into addressing the crowd.  Again, this meeting was NOT designed to be an exchange of information and he was there as an observer, to hear what his constituents had to say on the subject.  Still, I’m happy he stepped up, grabbed the microphone and addressed the crowd. 


8 - Paraphrasing the Mayor, he told the crowd that he understood their concerns - that he also shared many of them.  He told us he felt this process was moving too quickly and that there needed to be better collaboration between the City and the State on this subject.  He was concerned that the State was moving unilaterally, without giving appropriate consideration to the City’s position.  He told us this issue will be discussed in the City Council meeting on Tuesday.  I presume it will be in Closed Session, since it’s not identified in the Open Agenda.  He said a letter was being prepared to be sent to Governor Newsom, who’s avowed top priority in the state is sufficient housing, including affordable housing.  He also said he would get himself on the Governor’s calendar and fly to Sacramento to speak with him on this issue.

9 - Not all members of the audience  were convinced The Mayor was on the right track.  This may be due to what certainly appeared to be a serious distrust of ALL government entities as expressed by speakers last night.  Personally, I believe the Mayor.  I believe his concern is honest and he will do what he can to resolve this issue.

10 - My opinion?  I believe the EOC, as planned, is incompatible with the proposed (presumed) residential uses for the FDC.  I believe the carving out of that 15 acre site will severely hamper any serious planning for housing on the remainder of the FDC.  I believe, even though the proposed helipad would “only be used 2-3 times a year”,  its existence renders a significant portion of the FDC property untenable for proposed residential uses.  One speaker last night referred to it as one more example of government imposing onerous conditions on folks who can do little about it - referring to those individuals that would make up the residents of the proposed affordable housing stock on the FDC site.  I agree.

11 - There are options.  On the presentation slide titled “Alternatives”, under the “Alternative 3: Alternative Site in Tustin”, the very last line on that slide identifies the 24 acre site at Red Hill Avenue and Victory Road as, “Environmentally superior alternative”.  So, go for it!  Have the State more fully investigate that site, find out who owns it - the Federal Government? - and work a deal to acquire it and place the proposed EOC at that location.


Well, calmly reduce our concerns/criticisms to written form by a letter or email and send that info to the appropriate State entity - with a copy to our Costa Mesa City Council.  Those comments are due by October 20th, so get cracking.  Here’s the contact information as presented by the consultant:


Ms. Terry Ash, Senior Environmental Planner

℅ Dudek

California Department of General Services

Real Estate Division, Project Management and Development

2635 North 1st Street, Ste. 149

San Jose, California 95134

Copy To City Council:

City Council

City of Costa Mesa

77 Fair Drive

Costa Mesa, CA 92626



I neglected to mention that Barry Friedland was at this meeting, recording it for his Costa Mesa Brief YouTube channel.  That presentation should be available for viewing this weekend.  Here's a link to his channel:

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Thursday, September 14, 2023


Last night I had the pleasure of attending a forum hosted by the activist group, Speak Up Newport, at the community room at Newport Beach City Hall.  The program consisted of a panel of experts on journalism, and local journalism in particular.  It included former Daily Pilot publisher and current publisher of StuNews Newport, TOM JOHNSON; former Los Angeles Times reporter, Daily Pilot Editor, podcast host and award-winning author, BILL LOBDELL and former Daily Pilot Editor, public relations expert,  college journalism instructor and current Public Information Officer for the City of Costa Mesa, TONY DODERO.


Among the 80 or so people in attendance were current and former Newport Beach council members and commissioners, Daily Pilot columnists and a wide array of community activists.  Among them were folks who had, in the past, been named by the editors of the Daily Pilot as among those 103 most influential in the community - like yours truly, who was named on that fun array of movers and shakers 8 times (but who’s counting?).


President of Speak Out Newport and former Newport Beach Mayor ED SELICH kicked off the evening, then turned the discussion over to Johnson, who moderated the conversation among his friends at the table with him.  He introduced his staff - his former wife, LANA JOHNSON, who is the editor of Stu News Newport and the person who actually gets things done, and SHAENA STABLER, his partner in the publication.


The panel recalled their early days at the Daily Pilot.  When Johnson and Lobdell took over the newspaper in the early 1990s it was a struggling, poorly-run operation, described as probably the worst community newspaper in the state.  They built it into a profitable operation, recognized as the best in the state.  When they ran the operations, and later with Dodero at the helm of the news operations, the publication did outstanding work.  According to the discussion, when the Los Angeles Times acquired the Daily Pilot and several other local community newspapers the wheels began to come off.  The Daily Pilot is the last one standing and it’s teetering on the brink.


Johnson shared some of the strategies that helped them become successful.  He said they “had to keep thinking of new things” to keep the Daily Pilot on the cutting edge of community engagement.  He cited the creation of the Daily Pilot Cup - a youth soccer tournament that exists  to this day, although no longer under the auspices of the Daily Pilot.  He also mentioned the Jones Cup, a women’s golf tournament.  And, of course, he spoke of the almost capricious creation of the “DP 103” - for which Lobdell, chuckling, took full credit.


According to the panelists, large newspapers, like the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register, were very slow to react to the digital realities on the news business.  The only large publications that have figured it out are the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.  Social media, with all it’s faux urgency and rampant inaccuracy, have become the go-to source of “news” by many in our society.  The iPhone has replaced the daily newspaper. According to Lobdell, there are 60% fewer journalists today than there were just a few short years ago.  They also cited mismanagement of many smaller newspapers.  The management of those operations were slow to react to the financial realities of the competition for advertising dollars in the digital world.  The failure of the Santa Barbara News Press was cited as an example.


Johnson gave us a brief tour of what it’s like at Stu News Newport, which produces a new product every Tuesday and Friday for both the Newport Beach operation and their sister publication in Laguna Beach… that’s four digital newspaper editions a week with a shoestring staff.  As I mentioned earlier, he gives LANA JOHNSON full credit for pulling off those four small miracles each week. One acknowledged shortfall is the production of true investigative reporting.  They are successful selling advertising for the “good news” they produce twice a week, but ramping up to produce a more hard-hitting product is expensive.  A discussion was held about the possibility of using interns - but that really doesn’t provide the skill set necessary for the tough reporting.  In our area there really is only one source of investigative reporting - the non-profit Voice of OC, published by former Orange County Register reporter NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.   They do an excellent job of digging up the dirt on issues, although sometimes they anger folks - a byproduct of tough reporting.


There was a brief discussion of the possibility of “re-branding” Stu News - to give it a change of look.  Specifics were briefly discussed, and a January 2024 date was mentioned for a possible “new look”.


At the end of the evening Johnson entertained questions from the audience.  Fewer than a dozen people stepped to the microphone.  One person mentioned the curiously fortuitous timing of a column published that very day in the Daily Pilot by columnist PATRICE APODACA on the subject of the decline of local newspapers.  Another speaker  complimented them for their work on the Daily Pilot, and described how family members always visited those pages for family members names in box scores and social events.  Others spoke of the need for strong investigative reporting and the fun that was had when one’s name appeared in the DP 103 list.

So there you have my summary of the highlights of the evening.  I did not provide you with a word-for-word account, but it was a very worthwhile event.  The three

panelists are my friends.  Each one nurtured me as a 50-year-old fledgling writer who offered commentaries to the Daily Pilot pages before launching my blog in 2005 - and later, too.  I admire each of them for their positive contributions to my community over the past few decades. I suspect that they may put their collective experiences to work to continue finding workable solutions to the evolution of credible digital media.  I hope so.

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Sunday, July 30, 2023


The Costa Mesa City Council meets again on Tuesday, August 1, 2023 and, among the many issues on the agenda, are two involving cannabis retail sales in the city.  One is an appeal of a previously denied application by the Planning Commission.  The other is a discussion on possible changes that might be made to the current ordinance that governs retail cannabis sales.  After much contemplation I decided to share my views on this issue with the City Council and wrote the following email to them this afternoon.  Take a few minutes to read my thoughts.


TO:  Mayor John Stephens, Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Harlan, Council Members Arlis Reynolds, Manuel Chavez, Andrea Marr, Loren Gameros and Donald Harper.

SUBJECT:  Cannabis ordinances in the City of Costa Mesa

Dear Elected Leaders,
I write to you today as a 50-year resident of Costa Mesa with some significant concerns about how cannabis is being managed in our city.  You will address some of these concerns during your meeting Tuesday, August 1, 2023.

Several years ago the residents approved the non-retail sales uses of cannabis to be conducted north of the I-405 Freeway - an area known as the Green Zone.  Those activities were to be taxed at 6% of sales.  After a short time the operators of those businesses began to whine to the City Council that the tax was making it difficult for them to make a profit, so the Council knuckled under and reduced the tax to 1% - barely enough to provide administrative oversight of those activities.

More recently the voters of this city overwhelmingly authorized the retail sales of cannabis products, approving a rapidly-crafted ordinance that, as it turns out, left too many loopholes in the process, including the total number of cannabis outlets to be approved and some laxness as to locations thereof.

On your agenda Tuesday night is an appeal of a recent Planning Commission denial of a cannabis outlet.  I watched that meeting and think the Planning Commissioners reached the proper conclusion. I hope you will uphold that denial.

Also on your agenda Tuesday night is a request to revisit the cannabis ordinance with an eye to tightening up rules about total numbers and locations.  I wish to address that item.

First, I’m not a fan of cannabis sales.  There is irrefutable scientific evidence, which can be found with a simple Google search, that cannabis use can be - and many times is - a threshold drug, leading to the use of much more addictive substances.  As you know, our area is in the midst of a very serious opioid epidemic and there is reason to believe that easy availability of cannabis may contribute to that epidemic.  That being said, we have an ordinance that authorizes retail cannabis sales, so...?

Currently there are 21 cannabis dispensaries approved for our city, with MANY more in the hopper pending consideration/approval.  At one time the total was over 60 applications pending.  While nobody can tell us how many should be approved, logic tells us that 5 dozen dispensaries - several with a home delivery element - are just too many for our city of around 112,000 souls.

Some council members - and some shills for the industry - tell us “the market will take care of itself” - meaning that if there are too many dispensaries some will drop by the wayside because they cannot compete with others.  We see no evidence that this assumption is valid so far.  Logic tells us that a finite number should be established and controlled.

As the approvals have been made we’ve seen some long-established businesses forced out of their locations because cannabis businesses can pay steeper rents.  Some moved while others just packed it in.  As some of those unsuccessful cannabis businesses drop by the wayside they leave in their wake those ousted businesses AND vacant storefronts at their locations.

As applications have been approved we have seen several venues throughout the city that now have “clusters” of cannabis retail outlets in close proximity to each other.  In my view, this is bad for their business, and bad for the other businesses and residences nearby.  We should designate minimum spacing between retail cannabis outlets.

In response to that assumption, some folks - including some elected officials - trot out the facts of the number of places in our city where alcohol and beverages containing it, are widespread in our city, citing restaurants,  bars, liquor stores, markets, mini-markets, etc.  In my view, this straw man is an “apples and oranges” situation.  Since the end of prohibition nearly a century ago, alcohol sales has been a federally-monitored activity.  Bars and restaurants permit on-site consumption of alcoholic products.  There is no such permission for on-site consumption of cannabis products… yet.  Liquor stores typically also sell other products.  Markets and mini-markets have alcohol sales as only a small segment of their total retail sales.

Overuse of alcohol is monitored by the police when they stop impaired drivers and administer blood alcohol tests.  No such test currently exists for the cannabis-impaired.  We rely on the training and skills of our police officers to make assumptions about the level of impairment of drivers under the influence of cannabis or other drugs.

In their recent meeting the Planning Commission chose - unwisely, in my view - to shove an application for a cannabis store to their next meeting, apparently hoping the discussion held in the Joint Study Session about the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance might provide some guidance on that issue.  I can’t understand how that would be relevant nor timely.  Regardless, one of the concerns expressed about that particular location was the proximity to a residential rehabilitation home.  Yes, that should be a codified concern.  Just as is the case with churches,  schools and playgrounds, cannabis dispensaries should not be permitted near a known rehab home.  The quandary here is that there is NO control over where such homes may be located.  AND, further complicating this issue, is the fact that cannabis products may be delivered to locations in our city - without restriction - by drivers from cannabis outlets.

Another factor I see coming into play soon is the 7% tax on retail cannabis sales.  It will not surprise me at all if, in the very near future, existing cannabis retail operators band together to complain to the city officials that the 7% tax is unworkable for them, and request (demand?) that it be reduced.  There is a history of this happening with businesses in the Green Zone.  One of the selling points used to promote the ordinance authorizing the retail sale of cannabis products was that it would generate significant sales tax dollars.  I expect, if pushed, this council will, once again, knuckle under and reduce the sales tax on retail cannabis stores.  That, in my opinion, would be a “bait and switch” move -  a failure to follow the wishes of the electorate, who passed the ordinance, at least in part, because of the potential tax revenue.

Summarizing this long-winded essay, I feel the following issues, and probably others, should be addressed and clarified/modified regarding cannabis sales in Costa Mesa:

1-Restrict the total numbers of such businesses in the city.

2-Redefine the restrictions on locating near drug and alcohol rehabilitation homes.

3-Make it clear that the sales tax burden of 7% WILL NOT be reduced for any retail sales cannabis business.

4-Modify the ordinance to prohibit “clustering” of cannabis businesses in the city. 

As a long-time resident of Costa Mesa - one who actually has paid attention to municipal issues for most of the past couple decades, studied them and offered opinions on them - I don’t want our town to become known as Orange County’s “Cannabis Central”.  I know this view is not shared by some of you - some who have established close relationships with some applicants and their representatives and see the siren-song of sales tax revenue worth the diminishing of our image in the community of cities.  I don’t want our city to be the “go-to” place for drugs.  This city has SO MUCH to offer the broader region - wonderful cultural and artistic venues, unparalleled shopping venues, proximity to nearby beaches, etc. - that it would be a real shame to have our image darkened by the proliferation of these businesses. 


As a group you’ve demonstrated great leadership managing the homelessness issue - you’ve shown the way to all other Orange County cities on that subject.   It’s NOT TOO LATE to do the same on this issue - to throttle-back and implement significant controls on cannabis businesses.  As you hear the discussion and the views of folks supporting and opposing the issue, please give it careful consideration Tuesday night. 

 I continue to be grateful to each of you for your dedication to our city and the time you take to manage such important issues.  Most of you read the staff reports, consult with the staff on sticky issues, visit sites in question and represent our city at ceremonial events.  That, of course, is why we pay you the big bucks and I appreciate most of you for your efforts on our behalf.  Thanks for that.


Geoff West


I know the council will be interested in opinions of the residents on this issue.  Please attend and speak, or call in during the appropriate "comments" segment.  I'm going to share this post on my Facebook page.

Sunday, June 18, 2023



Today, June 18, 2023, is Father’s Day… a day we all remember our fathers and celebrate their contributions to our lives.  In years past I would recall MY father, Robert J. West - the man who gave me guidance, demonstrated what it means to be a good man and helped me become the man I am through his example.  I will link to something I wrote about him a few years ago at the bottom of this entry.


Today I want to recognize my “other” father - my Sweet Susie’s father, David Livingstone Cunningham


David was a very special man.  An adventurer at heart - one of the family stories we recall with great love is of the time he and his pal, Jack Harbutt, climbed a church steeple in his native Bath, England.  When the press refused to believe they did it, they did an encore late at night and tied a white towel at the highest point to prove their feat.


David decided to make a new life for himself and emigrated to the United States in 1937 - just 

as Europe and his native England were about to be embroiled in World War ll.  He came to New York City aboard the Queen Mary, hooked up with his boyhood pal, Jack, to see the sights, then rode a Greyhound bus to the West Coast where his uncle Larry Cunningham - a haberdasher in Oakland - awaited.


He spent a couple years seeing California, then got a job working in horticulture. He was technically an illegal immigrant, so he had to go to Mexico for a few weeks to sort things out.  Eventually he was given permission to return to the United States and work.


He became very successful and managed to coax his lady love, Joan Sabina Adams, to join him.  She was his 17 year old girl when he left for the US.  Through several years of love letters (all of which Joan kept) he convinced her to join him in November, 1940.   They married in Whittier on December 7, 1940.

Upon her mother’s passing my Sweet Susie discovered the small diary her father kept during his immigration adventure, plus all the love letters he had written to her mother over all those 

years.  In order to preserve those precious memories, Susie transcribed them and created a 112 page hard-bound book, including era-appropriate photos, and distributed copies to her brothers and their children.


He and Joan had four great children - James, Susan, Lawrence and Robert - and created a wonderful life for them in Newport Beach.  He also sponsored his brother-in-law and his family
to emigrate to the United States in the 1960s.

David became one of the most respected men in the southern California horticulture community.  As a past President of the California Association of Nurserymen (C.A.N.), Past President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the C.A.N. and the Past President of the California Chapter of the American Association of Nurserymen, he was a guiding light in the growth of that industry as post-World War II Southern California grew.


He worked for a couple different nurseries, including as Vice President of Descanso Distributors in La Canada/Flintridge and Chino, before he began his own company, David L. Cunningham, Inc., which served the nursery industry and developers all over the state.  It became the “go-to” source for hard-to-locate trees and shrubs and was the benchmark for superior service. Eventually my Sweet Susie and two of her brothers, Lawrie and Rob, took over the business and expanded it exponentially for the next 40 years.


Among David’s many accomplishments was the opening of the world famous Descanso Gardens in La Canada/Flintridge to the public.  He suggested to his boss, newspaper publisher Manchester Boddy, that the public might actually pay a dollar to tour those magnificent gardens - at the time a private garden complex that surrounded Boddy’s residence.  They built a small cinderblock building to house a lemonade stand on the front and restrooms at the rear, hoping to recoup the $5,000 cost eventually.  That first year 100,000 people paid $1.00 each to view the gardens.  David was known in the industry as “Mr. Descanso”.


As a British immigrant, one of his proudest achievements was shepherding the introduction of the “Queen Elizabeth Rose”, developed by Dr. Walter Lammerts in the mid-1950s, into the marketplace.

I’m grateful to have become part of the Cunningham Clan when I married my Sweet Susie.  She and her brothers share their father’s quick wit and joy of life and have passed that on to their own families. 


This year you get two great men for the price of one.

Here’s the link to the blog post I created to honor MY father,
Robert J. West, a few years ago, HERE.

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