Monday, October 03, 2022



My city, Costa Mesa, California, like many others in our state, is in the midst of campaign season for city, county, state and national elections.  On November 8th we will choose three city council members and a mayor, chime in on a very important municipal ordinance, plus vote for members of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District, Mesa Water District and the Orange County Board of Supervisors.  This is about the city races…


There are three council seats available this time around.  The City began electing city council members by district PLUS a directly-elected mayor in 2018, having been extorted by a Malibu law firm into converting from at-large voting to “give our Latino population a greater voice in government”.  Costa Mesa is 37% Latino, most of whom reside in what is known as the West Side - those areas represented by Districts 4 and 5 - two of the seats up for election this time.  The remaining seat is District 3, an area roughly surrounding the Orange County Fairgrounds near the center of the city.


Let's review some history so you can understand why I think this election is so darn important.


When the city was forced to go to district voting the then-Republican majority, led by Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger, tried to quick pitch the process when putting the District voting on the 2016 ballot.  Instead of using the 5-District configuration preferred by 100% of the residents who attended all the meetings held by the demographer, they had him conjure up a 6-District and Directly Elected Mayor choice, figuring they could field a group of like-minded individuals to control the city council.  That was the only choice on the ballot for the voters to consider and it passed with 64.8% of the ballots cast.  In an interesting sidebar, the existing mayor, Steve Mensinger, was ousted, finishing 4th the race for 3 open council seats.  And, further demonstrating the ire of the electorate, controversial Measure Y was passed by an even greater margin - just over 68%.  That citizen-generated measure was designed to slow, or stop, development in the city by requiring a “vote of the people” if certain triggers were met.  Since that measure passed not a single project has moved forward - no “vote of the people” has been taken.


In the next election - November 2018 - council members were elected by district for the first time.  Districts 3,4 and 5 - the same ones up for election this time around - chose new council members.  Interestingly, all three of them chose persons with a Latino heritage.  In District 3 United States Naval Academy graduate and former Navy officer Andrea Marr defeated a Republican-supported candidate soundly.  In District 4 Manuel Chavez - who grew up in that district and was the youngest council member ever elected - was chosen over a hand-picked contender favored by the council majority by a wide margin.  In District 5 local woman and MIT-graduate Arlis Reynolds defeated seated councilman Allan Mansoor - a former mayor and state Assemblyman - by more than 20 points!.  And, in the biggest news in that election, Katrina Foley - who had been ousted as mayor by the majority in a bit of pure partisan politics just a few months earlier - soundly defeated the woman who replaced her, long-time councilwoman Sandy Genis.  That was a stunner and certainly made the point that the voters had had enough.  


One must think back on what it was like back then.  Republican activists - Jim Righeimer, Steve Mensinger, Gary Monahan and Allan Mansoor - controlled the city and made some very controversial moves.  For example, on March 17, 2011 - St. Patrick’s Day - their council decided to issue layoff notices to 213 “regular employees” - non-public safety staffers.  This was their idea of how to control large unfunded pension liabilities.  In a tragic result of their actions young maintenance worker Huy Pham, upon receiving his layoff notice, leaped to his death from the roof of city hall.  This was the darkest day in our city in my memory - 48 years and counting.  There was a huge public outcry and outpouring of sympathy for Pham’s family and his entire city family, too.  Monahan, who was mayor at that time, didn’t bother to come to City Hall to console grieving employees - he was too busy pouring green beer at his bar, muttering something like, “What am I supposed to do?  This is the biggest day of the year for me.”  That was a quote from a news reporter who sought comment from him as he pranced around his bar in his kilt.  Disgusting!  Even worse, courts later determined that the layoff notices were illegal!


About that same time friction ensued between certain members of the City Council and the Costa Mesa Police Department.  The council members sued the Police Association’s law firm and the association.  That went on for several years, but was finally settled.  In the meantime, the toxic atmosphere created by that council provoked several members of the Costa Mesa Police Department to abandon their jobs, choosing to either retire early or bail out to another police jurisdiction.  For more than 8 months the Righeimer/Mensinger council refused to permit recruitment efforts to fill more than 50 vacancies.  It’s been more than a decade since all that was going on and we still have not achieved proper police staffing levels.  That same council decided that the A.B.L.E. helicopter program - a joint venture between Costa Mesa and Newport Beach that provided police helicopter support for both cities and was a model for all municipal helicopter programs nationwide  - should be disbanded.  They proceeded to do just that, selling off the assets - 3 multi-million dollar helicopters - and reassigning the pilots back into patrol duties.  That was another low-morale moment in the CMPD.  This group also decided to privatize both the police jail and street sweeping services - causing more layoffs.  It was rumored that the successful contractor for the jail services was operated by family members of Jim Righeimer.  That unfortunate experiment has failed and the jail is, once again, under control of members of the CMPD.


Another bellwether of discord was Allan Mansoor’s scheme to deputize every single Costa Mesa Police Officer as an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officer so they could randomly snatch up members of our Latino community and process them for deportation. For his efforts Mansoor was anointed as an honorary “Minuteman”.  That scheme failed, fortunately, but it terrorized the entire Latino community to the point where they seldom expressed concerns about city issues.  That has changed under the current council.  Recently we’ve seen Latino’s bravely step to the speaker’s podium and air grievances.  They know they will be given a fair hearing on issues important to them and no longer worry about being hunted down like stray dogs in the street and deported.


The atmosphere in our city during those years was very tense.  That council decided that they were tired of hearing residents stand before them during the Public Comments segment of their regular meetings and gripe about issues - things that were important to the residents - so they bifurcated the public comments.  Only the first 10 people in the queue could speak early in the meeting.  Any remaining speakers had to wait until the very end of the meeting - sometimes midnight or later.  Few speakers stayed around that late.  At that time we saw several highly skilled senior staffers choose to retire early instead of dealing with the atmosphere created by that council.


Well, in the four years since the core of the current council was elected - those choices clearly sent a message to the Republican establishment with the ouster of Mansoor and Mensinger and the rebuffing of Genis , who was soundly thumped as a directly-elected mayor by Katrina Foley not just once, but twice - a lot of important things have happened in our city and it’s appropriate to talk about how they were handled.


The city, for years, has had a growing homeless population.  The current council found a way to manage that issue by first contracting with a local church to provide temporary housing until a new facility could be created.  They then found and purchased an industrial building not far from John Wayne Airport and created a 70-bed shelter and worked out a deal with the City of Newport Beach to use 20 of those beds for a fee.  That system is working.


More than 2 years ago the hellish Covid-19 pandemic hit us, just as it did in every other city in America.  Our council, led by the tireless Mayor Katrina Foley (who has earned your vote for her seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, by the way) and John Stephens as Mayor Pro Tem, helped provide the leadership to get out ahead of this issue before any other Orange County city.  Right off the bat they rejected the Governor’s scheme to house 60 infected people from an airliner in northern California at the under-used Fairview Developmental Center - right in the heart of our city.  They crafted emergency ordinances to govern mask-wearing, short-term rental assistance, rules to keep covid-affected renters from being evicted, and much, much more.  And, they made the tough decisions and managed to keep a balanced budget without tapping municipal reserves.


Recently the State slammed our city with the demand for us to plan for 11,760 new dwelling units during the next 8 years (now 7 years), then told us our “Measure Y”, constraints passed by the voters in 2016, effectively created a roadblock to preclude the city from completing a required satisfactory Housing Element.  The failure to do so would cause the city to be penalized $100,000 per month, become ineligible for ALL State grant funds and - the worst part - lose all local control over development in our city - the State would take over.  So, with that gun to our head, in January the council appointed an Ad Hoc Committee of Mayor Pro Tem Marr, Councilwoman Reynolds and Councilman Jeffrey Harlan - a land planner and lawyer - to assess this problem and come up with a solution.  That effort resulted in what is now known as Measure K.  This ordinance, which is on the November 8th ballot, will basically de-fang Measure Y and thereby permit development of the much-needed (and State-demanded) new housing units, some of which will be affordable housing units.  To facilitate that action an Inclusionary Housing Ordinance is being crafted and will be presented to the council for consideration by December.


The Ad Hoc Committee has been roundly criticized by the people who conceived and marketed Measure Y, stating it would gut their product and “take away the vote of the people” on development decisions.  This, of course, is a flat-out lie!  Should Measure K pass next month ANY project submitted to the city for consideration will have to run the gauntlet of bureaucratic hurdles - including approvals from the Planning Commission and City Council.  At every step of the way residents or other interested parties have the opportunity to express themselves before those official bodies and/or write to them in detail with their concerns.  Measure Y was passed 6 years ago and, as I mentioned above, not a single project has been placed before the voters.  Any developer - every developer - will simply take their development dollars and expertise elsewhere when faced with spending tons of money and time, only to be informed that they now must go before the vote of the people.  Our city will shrivel under these constraints.  Our major commercial and industrial corridors will atrophy and our economic vitality will wither.


I wrote all the above to make a point. This time around Mayor John Stephens, a former council member who was appointed mayor when then-mayor Katrina Foley was elected to the Board of Supervisors, is being challenged by Republican John Moorlach - a partisan who has held positions on the Board of Supervisors and in the State Senate.  Moorlach’s record in those roles is undistinguished, although some tout him as being a financial expert because he predicted the Orange County bankruptcy two decades ago.  Stephens, on the other hand, has been an instrumental part in leading Costa Mesa through a series of crises including the homelessness issue and the covid pandemic.  In both those cases Costa Mesa has led the way among all Orange County cities in dealing with those issues effectively, in great part due to the wisdom, energy and leadership of John Stephens.


In this election only the seat occupied by Manuel Chavez is safe - he has no opposition.   Andrea Marr is being challenged by a Republican-supported newcomer, John Thomas Patton, who brings absolutely no governance experience to the party.  And Arlis Reynolds is being challenged by Rob Dickson, a former Righeimer/Mensinger sycophant who was part of “the problem” back in those days as he rubber stamped the council majority wishes while on the Planning Commission.  They have joined the creators of Measure Y to oppose Measure K - something our city MUST HAVE - and spread the lies provided to them.  This is not only disappointing, but very dangerous for our city.  Should all three of these men be successful that would change the balance of power on the City Council and combine them with lazy, hapless, hopeless, partisan hack Republican councilman Don Harper - the worst councilman in my memory - and we could be right back where we were nearly a decade ago.  This is NOT GOOD for our city..


Candidates Moorlach, Dickson and Patton constantly harp about the “unfunded pension liability” facing Costa Mesa, as though this is something this council created and fails to “fix”.  Well, this is not a new issue - every city council in the state that subscribes to the CalPERS retirement system is facing the same thing and THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT at the local level.  The problem is the way the system was conceived.  It is managed by a board that understands little about municipal finance.  Their plan is to receive a 7.5% annual return on their investments to keep their ship afloat.  However, if the markets in which they play fail to generate that kind of return they simply bill their subscribers - hence the “unfunded liability”.  The only way this actually becomes a problem for our city, or any city, is if every single employee decides to retire simultaneously.  Then there wouldn’t be enough cash in the till to fund the retirements.  Of course, that’s not going to happen.  Predecessor  councils - the Righeimer/Mensinger group, for example - decided to “solve it’ by putting a paltry million dollars each year towards the debt, knowing full-well that would do nothing at all to solve the problem.  Their other solution, mentioned above, was to lay off over 200 employees, and we all know how that turned out.  This “issue” is really a “non-issue”.  It’s a straw man to attempt to burnish the candidacy of Moorlach, a theoretical finance expert, and the others are just piggybacking the issue.  If Moorlach has a solution let him speak out for the public good.  Otherwise, he should quit barfing up that politically-charge rhetoric.


Some non-incumbent candidates are making a big deal about campaign funding by “out of town developers”.  Well, yeah!  The city is in desperate need of housing - affordable housing, for the most part - and the people that build that stuff are…. DEVELOPERS!  Of course they want to see a council in place that will give them a fair hearing, and that will help with the negative quagmire Measure Y has created.  All that jabbering about “out of town developer money” is a smoke screen, designed to inflame the voters into voting against Measure K.  The smartest guy I know on land use and planning issues, current Costa Mesa Planning Commission Chairman Byron de Arakal, has expounded frequently, loud and clear, why Measure K is critical to the future of our city, and has given us example after example of what happens if we don’t comply with the State rules.  That’s good enough for me.


Yeah, I know… you’re saying to yourself, “But Geoff, you’re a lifelong Republican and you’re asking us to support Democrats!”  That’s true.  I’m asking you to support proven, rational, clear-headed, non-partisan leadership who have effectively guided our city through multiple crises simultaneously instead of a trio of partisan hacks who march to the tune that caused chaos in our city in the recent past.  Because the future of our city is at stake, I implore you to not be bamboozled by those who lie about the issues.  Please re-elect Mayor John Stephens, Mayor Pro Tem Andrea Marr, Councilwoman Arlis Reynolds and Councilman Manuel Chavez.  And, if you hope your children and their children will be able to afford to live in Costa Mesa, please vote YES ON MEASURE K. 

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Wednesday, September 28, 2022



At 2:50 p.m., Tuesday, 9/20/22, I submitted a commentary to the Daily Pilot.  At 6:32 they published it online and it remained online until Sunday, 9/25/22, when it appeared in print.  The format I submitted didn't work for them, so they changed it, but didn't change a word of the text.  What follows below is the commentary just as I submitted it to them, including the use of bullet points to emphasize those issues.  I present this to you for whatever future reference you may choose to use it for.


I'm VERY disappointed in the tack taken by folks who oppose Measure K.  Most of the loudest voices are those who created Measure Y... my commentary addresses my view on that. I sincerely hope they see the light and realize what long-term damage will be done to our city if we don't pass Measure K.  And now my Daily Pilot commentary...


In 2016 Measure Y was passed by the voters with more than 68% of the votes cast. The result?  Measure Y requires a “vote of the people” if a property owner wants to update their property and that update changes certain parameters of the property or is located close to any other development that would have even retroatively triggered Measure Y.  After going through the time and expense of hiring architects and engineers and then pushing the project through the approval process, including an affirmative vote by the Planning Commission and City Council, then being faced by an expensive “vote of the people”, property owners and developers simply chose to take their development dollars elsewhere or not bother upgrading their existing properties at all.   Virtually all development in the city has dried-up, including attempts by existing property owners to simply upgrade their existing buildings.  There has not been a single “vote of the people” on developments since Measure Y passed.


On August 2, 2022 the Costa Mesa City Council voted, 6-1, to place on the November 8th ballot an item that was eventually identified as Measure K.  This ordinance, crafted by an Ad Hoc Committee of Mayor Pro Tem Andrea Marr, Councilwoman Arlis Reynolds and Councilman Jeffrey Harlan after months of deliberation, is designed to loosen the grip Measure Y imposed on all development in the City of Costa Mesa.  


Most of the recent rhetoric against Measure K has been from the same people who created and marketed Measure Y six years ago.  In 2016 these well-intentioned folks, seeing a developer-friendly, heavy-handed city council approve uncontrolled development and spot zoning,  effectively said to the then-council “No More!”  The exclamation point on that election was the ouster of sitting Mayor Steve Mensinger, who finished 4th in a three-seat race.  


The subsequent election in 2018 - the first with district voting -  saw a dramatic change in the mix of council members.  That’s when the core of the current council was elected to guide our city.  They have done an exemplary job, navigating through the pandemic, effectively dealing with our homeless problems and enhancing support for the Public Safety organizations.  They have earned the confidence of the voters in doing so.  It was with that same concern for the future of the city that they approved Measure K being placed on the ballot - so the voters can help decide the future of Costa Mesa.


If the voters fail to pass Measure K in November the cost to our city could be catastrophic.  The impact of Measure Y is recognized by State officials as a roadblock to meeting State Housing Element compliance. It prevents well-meaning property owners from upgrading their properties, leading to “tenants of last resort” like massage parlors and illegal dispensaries, and eventually vacancies and blight as we currently see on Harbor Blvd.  It inhibits creation of new, much needed and required, housing.  If the impact of Measure Y is not mitigated the City could be subject to debilitating penalties.  They are:  

  • Fines of $100,000 per month. 
  • Loss of eligibility for ALL state grant funds. 
  • The probability of the State taking control of ALL development in the city - the complete loss of local control.


  • Will allow for much-needed re-investment on Harbor and Newport Blvds.
  • Will loosen the stranglehold of Measure Y on development.
  • Will permit planning for good development in industrial/commercial corridors.
  • Will protect residential neighborhoods from large developments.
  • Will allow the City to conform with State requirements
  • Will prevent penalties from being imposed.
  • Will require developments to conform with all development standards.
  • Will permit concerned residents to express their views on developments through the normal vetting process.


  • Will not repeal Measure Y.
  • Will not pemit uncontrolled development.
  • Will not permit encroachment on residential neighborhoods.
  • Will not remove the opportunity for “the people” to express their views on developments.


Please vote YES on Measure K.  The economic viability of our city depends on it.

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Saturday, September 24, 2022


NOTE:  This is a reprise of an essay I posted on my original blog site shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.  For your reading pleasure. 


Shortly after Hurricane Katrina I began thinking about natural disasters and how my area might be affected by, say, a major earthquake.  So, I researched the heck out of the issue and presented the following essay.  The predictions would be more severe if such a quake happened today.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina I offer the following scenario for you to consider. The scene is set sometime in the future - perhaps the not-too-distant future - and is viewed from the prism of a Newport-Mesa perspective.

Wednesday morning was typical of a late September day in southern California. By nine o'clock it was bright and sunny, with any hint of coastal overcast rapidly burning off. There was a mild off-shore breeze which promised to push the temperatures into the high 70s. It was the kind of day that chambers of commerce all over the southland love to tout.

In the Newport-Mesa area things were buzzing along as usual. The school children were back at their places with bright, shining faces. The shop owners were beginning to unlock their doors and freshen their inventory. The realtors were pounding themselves on their shoulder pads, getting ready for another "game day", when they might close a deal on a $5 million house. They could almost see that new Bentley convertible in their garage now.

The local police and firefighters were settling in for another routine day. It's long past the 7:00 a.m. shift change, so the patrol officers were comfortably snuggled into the seats of their cruisers and the motorcycle officers were busy staking out a nice, shady place from which to spring on unsuspecting transgressors. Radar guns were being warmed up.

At the Newport Beach and Costa Mesa city halls the public servants were busy checking plans, designing recreation programs, scheduling street repairs, collecting business tax dollars and generally going about the people's business.

Most commuters had long since left their homes in the Newport-Mesa and made their way to their offices - some as far as 50 miles away - and were on their second cup of coffee as they went about making a living so they could continue to live in this most perfect of locations.

The early morning rush of flights out of John Wayne Airport has eased off by now, with those air commuters to Sacramento already on the ground at their destination and busily lobbying for this or that in the state capitol.

Immigrant fast-food workers are walking to the bus stops enroute to their first job of the day, a 6 hour                                     shift wrapping tacos and burritos, before heading to their janitorial job that evening. Such labor is necessary to live here and provide food and clothing for their handful of bright, bilingual American citizen children who have been at school for nearly two hours by now.

The regulars at the local Starbuck's, Deidrich's and Peet's are comfortably slumped down at their favorite tables, slurping jolts of caffeine at twenty-five cents a gulp and reading their newspapers in search of rare good news on this planet.

A neighbor is outside on a ladder, scraping his house in preparation for the application for a much needed fresh coat of paint. Another is in his garage, tinkering with the hot rod he's been building for most of the past decade. An elderly neighbor using a walker makes her way to the curb to check her mailbox, looking for anticipated treasures in the form of birthday cards from her great-grandchildren.

A covey of "soccer moms" bustles past the window on their post-carpool walk-and-chat, spurting out conversation at the rate of about ten words per step.

It was a normal day in this little slice of paradise... Then the world changed forever.

It began as three seconds of an almost imperceptible sound, somewhere between a groan and a grind, followed by a loud crash - more like an explosion - and louder grinding, which seemed to go on forever. These sounds would be joined by more crashes, loud pops, explosions... and screams.

At precisely 9:00 a.m. the Newport-Inglewood Fault slipped, causing what would later be calculated as a magnitude 8.3 earthquake along it's more than 50 mile length. The epicenter of this event was located midway along the fault at approximately the entrance to Huntington Harbor at Anaheim Bay. The shaking lasted two minutes and ten seconds and was felt as far away as Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland and Salt Lake City.

Ten seconds after the beginning of the quake Newport Harbor resembled a huge toilet bowl, with water swirling and sinking as though someone had pressed the flush lever. Docks collapsed and boats tore from their moorings as the water disappeared below. Twenty seconds later sea water rushed in through the harbor entrance and over the peninsula and overfilled the void. This local tsunami, combined with the liquefaction of the low-lying, sandy areas, scoured every home and business from their foundations and piled the debris at the base of the bluff from the Santa Ana River to Corona del Mar.

The one-year old Newport Beach City Hall, that magnificent $50 million structure built amid much controversy at the site of the old city hall, was among the first casualties of the quake. The liquefaction caused the foundation to settle almost immediately and the surge from the tsunami drowned every worker trapped inside. The adjacent new fire station also sunk in the soil, trapping the equipment inside. The new parking structure also collapsed.

Hoag Hospital, even though it had gone through extensive retrofitting, had no chance. Perched on the bluff over looking the harbor, it sat squarely astride the fault line. When the quake hit the thrust tossed the buildings like a pup with a new toy. They first leaned north, then snapped back south in a whiplash-like motion. The parking structures pancaked, crushing more than 300 cars. Eventually, more than 1500 people would succumb to injuries or die in the fires that followed as flammable gases from ruptured lines ignited.

Behind the hospital, the condominiums on Superior Avenue collapsed, caught fire and slid down the hill toward Pacific Coast Highway.

The bridge over the Santa Ana River leading to Huntington Beach collapsed. The Arches Bridge which carried Newport Boulevard traffic across Pacific Coast Highway collapsed. The bridge over the Back Bay collapsed. The Reuben E. Lee, torn from it's berth, was pitched like an early morning newspaper onto the highway, blocking all lanes.

Two of the three Balboa ferries were found, upside down, near the Back Bay Bridge. The third ferry was later found sunk in the mud in the bay at what had been Balboa Island.

The tidal surge, a 45 foot wall of water, carried debris and water craft all the way to the Jamboree Road bridge. Most of the debris stopped there, but the water continued on to the San Diego Freeway. Unsuspecting campers at Newport Dunes, mostly snowbirds enjoying the weather in the shade of their mammoth retirement motorhomes, were swept away. Most were never identified.

Near the end of the Back Bay, the Fletcher Jones Mercedes dealership on Jamboree Road was destroyed by the tidal surge. Some displaced Mercedes automobiles were found along San Diego Creek near the 405 freeway, having washed that far in the surge.

Homes on every island in the harbor and on the peninsula were completely obliterated - not a single structure was spared as the harbor morphed into a shallow, level quagmire of mud and debris. The marine fuel tanks on the peninsula and Balboa Island ruptured. The spreading fuel, ignited by downed power lines, made a flaming cauldron one hundred yards in each direction. Those flames eventually ignited the remnants of structures nearby, which burned unabated for several hours. Balboa Island became a funeral pyre.

The boulders which formed the rocky spines of the jetties at the harbor mouth were tossed like so many marbles, blocking the entrance and exposing the harbor to damaging swells for months to come. The bait barge was first upended, then tossed onto the rocks by the surge.

The flow from the Santa Ana River mouth was re-directed as the jetties were destroyed. The flow turned south into West Newport which became an extension of Newport Harbor until jetty repairs were completed eight months later.

On the high ground folks fared better, but not much. At Newport Center the high rise buildings swayed and rocked. Two eventually collapsed completely before the shaking stopped, leaving 350 people dead or injured.

In an amazing bit of irony, in Newport Heights St. Andrew's Church - which was finally undergoing it's very controversial expansion - suffered major structural damage, caught fire and burned to the ground. The loss was estimated at $30 million.

Across the street, Newport Harbor High School - which had recently completed Measure A renovations - was so severely damaged that it was later declared a total loss. Five hundred children lost their lives that morning, with another three hundred severely injured, as the buildings buckled and crumbled around them. Corona del Mar High School didn't suffer the same extensive damage, but several buildings would require demolition and repair. Two dozen children were killed and another 150 were injured.

At Costa Mesa High School, Estancia High School and Orange Coast College extensive damage to buildings was reported. The brand new Olympic swimming pool fractured and was a total loss. Between the three schools, 480 people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured. Throughout the school district more than 3,000 children, teachers and administrators were killed and 6,250 injured. The athletic fields at all the schools became triage centers as the overwhelmed emergency workers attempted to save the lives of survivors.

The San Joaquin Hills Reservoir below Pacific View Memorial Park suffered extensive damage, which resulted in it's contents washing down hill to the back bay. At the cemetery, significant earth slippage was reported, with many caskets exposed.

Up on Signal Peak, site of communication towers and a reference point for local flyers, the antennas whipped like willows in the wind but somehow managed to stay upright. Power to the towers was interrupted, which shut them down for more than a week.

Along King's Road, 90% of the homes on the edge of the bluff collapsed and became part of the debris pile created by the tsunami surge. Only 5% of the homes in the Newport Heights area came out unscathed. Most of those were the small, single story older homes which somehow managed to ride out the quake and the subsequent fires.

Bluff top homes along the coast south to Dana Point were severely damaged. The buildings at Crystal                                     Cove were destroyed - swallowed up by the sea, as were the trailers at El Morro.

Homes in Emerald Bay were badly damaged, some later declared a total loss as the temblor rippled south and caused landslides.

Pacific Coast Highway buckled, shifting as much as ten feet in places, throughout it's length. It became impassible in Corona del Mar - or what was left of it. The fires that started within fifteen minutes of the quake were driven by the mild Santa Anna wind that morning. Ruptured residential gas lines were ignited by fallen power lines. Four hundred homes on the south side of Coast Highway in Corona del Mar were burned to the ground because firefighters were unable to reach them and the water mains were damaged, resulting in no pressure in that area.

In the higher locations, Spyglass Hill and Newport Coast, the two-minute duration of the shaking caused landslides which eventually claimed another three hundred multi-million dollar homes. Laguna Beach suffered a similar fate, as the unstable canyons once again failed. 275 homes were destroyed by landslides or the resultant fires.

Los Angeles International Airport, Long Beach Airport and John Wayne Airport lost the use of all runways as the earth shifted and buckled. It was later estimated that it would take nearly $2 billion to repair LAX. Long Beach, with a main runway paralleling the fault destroyed by the quake, will require complete rebuilding to the tune of $1 billion. The terminals at John Wayne were so damaged that, along with the runway repair, costs would run to more than $1.75 billion. In another bit of irony, The Great Park in Irvine - site of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station and potential site of an                                     intercontinental airport - suffered only minor damage as the quake spread on a more southerly route.

North along the coast, Huntington Beach lost every home in low-lying areas. Damage to the Santa Ana River channel walls would take months to repair. In the meantime, the tsunami surge forced sea water through the break and inundated the city, as well as parts of Fountain Valley. The hotels along Coast Highway in Huntington Beach were declared a total loss.

Pacific Coast Highway from the Santa Ana River to Long Beach simply disappeared below the sea and sand.

The power plant at Huntington Beach, built on the sand, failed within the first minute of the quake as the soil liquefied and the structure sank twelve feet in places. It will be a total loss.

In Long Beach, which had suffered catastrophic losses when a quake hit that city on the same fault in 1933, was destroyed. The 1933 quake, a magnitude 6.3, resulted in 115 lives lost and 40 million in damage. The current quake is 100 times more powerful. Not one multi-story building was left un-damaged. All beach front properties suffered the same fate as Newport Beach and Huntington Beach. The business district was annihilated as building after building collapsed and burned.

The huge ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, which handled 40% of all cargo in the United States, were so damaged that the economic loss to this country over the next three years that it would take to return them to good working order was estimated at $2 trillion.

Oil wells in Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, Long Beach and Newport Beach failed, dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil onto the adjacent areas. The fires which were ignited at those locations and at the refineries in Wilmington took two months to finally extinguish. The acrid smoke filled the entire Los Angeles basin for weeks.

In Costa Mesa, every bridge over the 55 and 405 freeways failed, stranding residents and travelers amid piles of debris. The damage on the 405 stretched all the way to LAX, making driving in the region all but impossible except for those on motorcycles. Downed power lines made most roads impassible for nearly a week following the quake. Water lines fractured, severely limiting fire fighting capability and calling for emergency rationing. Despite the recent seismic retrofitting, that erector set exoskeleton left incomplete by the original contractor, the City Hall suffered severe damage. No records were lost, although the severity of the quake knocked out communications. The Orange County Fairgrounds became a disaster relief point for nearly 60,000 displaced people from Costa Mesa and neighboring communities.

Bethel Towers, the high rise senior living facility, was whip-sawed back and forth for the duration of the quake. The residents and staff, who were just beginning their day, suffered 95% casualties. It took                                     three days to extricate the handful of injured elderly survivors. The building was so damaged that it was later demolished.

At South Coast Plaza, pedestrian bridges collapsed, killing dozens of people on their way to work. Both of the main plaza structures on either side of Bear Street suffered major structural damage, with the parts of the roof collapsing at both locations, trapping hundreds of early morning shoppers.

Actors and crew rehearsing at the Performing Arts Center were injured as parts of the structures failed.

In Fountain Valley, the effluent being treated at the sewage plant was pitched like you would toss the residue from a cup of coffee. The infrastructure was so damaged that it would take 8 months to repair,                                     leaving more than a million customers without sewage treatment.

In the distance smoke could be seen billowing from the tunnels of the TriTunnel Express, below Saddleback Peak. That multi-billion dollar boondoggle that was supposed to relieve traffic on the 91 Freeway had been open for a few months, carrying a much smaller volume of traffic than was predicted. During the quake two of the four active faults crossed by the three tunnels slipped, causing the tunnels to displace ten feet. Both oil pipelines carried by the tunnels ruptured, spilling the flammable fluid into the tunnels. One of the two 500,000 volt electric transmission lines were severed and ignited the oil. More than 2,000 automobile drivers and 400 truckers, with rigs being carried on the train through the third tunnel, were trapped in the 12 miles of smoke-filled tunnel and perished. It took 2 hours before crews could shut off the flow and 4 days before the smoke in the tunnels cleared enough for recovery efforts to begin.

On Catalina Island, with the exception of buildings higher than 50 feet above sea level, the city of Avalon was wiped out by the tsunami. The Casino building was left standing, although pulled off it's foundation and mortally wounded. It would later be demolished. Two Harbors was scrubbed of any structures as the surge crossed the island at that point.

The nuclear power plant at San Onofre, which suffered no structural damage from the quake, was flooded by the tsunami. The thirty foot high flood walls proved to be fifteen feet too short to handle the surge that reached the site at the same time Catalina was hit. The generators went off line, but no nuclear disaster occurred.

Offshore oil wells in the Catalina Channel were dislodged by the tsunami. Only one survived intact and emergency shut-off devices on some rigs failed, allowing thousands of gallons of oil to pour into the ocean in the channel. The ecological damage would make the Exxon Valdez disaster look like a mere oil spot on your garage floor by comparison.

The National Guard facility at Los Alamitos was severely damaged and was unusable. The Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro twisted, buckled and suffered a failure of a 100 foot section in the center of the span. It would take ten months to repair it.

Much of southern California resembled a war zone. Martial law was declared within days of the quake because desperate, starving people began looting to survive. Roving bands of armed thugs roamed un-checked until National Guard troops made their way to the area. Dusk to dawn curfews were imposed for months. Violators were shot by nervous guardsmen who had been fired upon as they patrolled the streets.


In the aftermath of the quake, those residents who survived were forced to make difficult decisions. Some tried to remain in their homes, but it would take weeks to restore even the most basic electric, gas and water service. The sewer systems of all cities along the fault were destroyed, rendering even neighborhoods which came through the quake otherwise unscathed, uninhabitable. Residents were forced to evacuate to other locations, most of which were further inland.

Some of the most valuable real estate in the world disappeared, swallowed up by the ocean as the fault released energy equivalent to 2.5 billion tons of TNT.

Aerial video of the disaster area was almost incomprehensible. Locally, the Balboa Peninsula, once such a vibrant, happy place, has been reduced to a strip of sand and debris only twenty-five yards wide in most places. The remnants of the islands within the harbor are barely visible below the surface now. Since no insurance company will ever again provide coverage for homes in those areas, it was turned into a national seashore recreation area. It will take a decade to dredge the harbor to a depth sufficient for safe pleasure boat use again.

Throughout southern California the casualty count was almost beyond belief. At least 310,000 people were killed in the quake or shortly thereafter from quake-related injuries. 670,000 people were injured. 2.6 million lost their homes. More than 60,000 businesses were destroyed.

Once the regional refugee data base was created a month after the quake, it took many more weeks for families to be re-connected. Thousands of people were never accounted for and reports of bodies floating in the Catalina Channel were recorded for two months following the quake.

The inquiry into the quake and it's damage six months later determined that the direct cost to replace the damaged infrastructure would be more than $280 billion. Economic impact to the nation was conservatively estimated at over $5 trillion. Some communities ceased to exist. The peninsula and islands in Newport Beach were gone, never to be reclaimed. Seal Beach and coastal parts of Huntington Beach and Long Beach were gone, with the sea now covering those areas. Three major insurance companies declared bankruptcy and the California Earthquake Authority, overwhelmed by claims, was declared insolvent and disbanded.

It took a month for some local governments to begin functioning again. It will take a nearly a decade to re-construct Newport Beach public records because they all were lost when the City Hall was destroyed. Every civic leader with the exception of the Police Chief was killed in the quake. Costa Mesa, in a move prompted by the circumstances, annexed Newport Beach and changed the name of the combined city to Newport Mesa. The seat of government for this new city was located at the much-maligned former Triangle Square, which inexplicably survived the quake with almost no damage.

Is this story fiction or prediction? You tell me. We've all watched the coverage of the damage and despair along the Gulf Coast caused by Hurricane Katrina in recent weeks. Do you think my little story over-estimates the damage that would be done by a major earthquake along the Newport-Inglewood Fault? Do your own research. Ask the experts about it. Think about it. Lose some sleep over it. Most of all, prepare for it. 

Friday, July 29, 2022



Six years ago some well-intentioned residents of Costa Mesa crafted a ballot measure that eventually became known as Measure Y.  They did their very best to gather enough signatures to place it on the General Election Ballot, then spread their word around the city with such vigor that Measure Y passed with slightly over 68% of the ballots cast in November 2016. 


Measure Y was apparently intended to rein-in what those residents perceived as an attempt by the then-city council to unleash out-of-control development.  Measure Y requires a vote of the populace if certain triggers are met.  


It accomplished the goal - Costa Mesa city staff members  have advised us over and over that developers withdraw projects, or don’t even submit them, when they are made aware of the voter-support necessary to proceed.  Significant development has dried-up. 

Enter the State of California, which imposed unrealistic requirements for housing in Costa Mesa - 11,760 dwelling units must be planned for over the next 8 year cycle.  In the previous cycle the requirement was 2!  If Costa Mesa does not fulfill the obligation to meet this planning requirement - re-zoning, etc. - and produce an acceptable Housing Element the penalties are severe.  We are told they involve a $100,000 per month penalty, prohibition of The City to receive ANY grant funding - parks, streets, etc. - AND the State would take over control of ALL development in the city. 


As the city wrestled with the requirement to produce an acceptable Housing Element - the guiding document required by the State - it became very clear that Measure Y was a barrier to compliance and that something just had to be done to fix the problem.  In an attempt to find a solution to this problem, earlier this year The City formed an Ad Hoc Committee comprised of Mayor Pro Tem Andrea Marr, Councilmember Arlis Reynolds and Councilmember Jeffrey Harlan.  Over several months they met and worked on this issue.  Two weeks ago this committee published a commentary in the Daily Pilot explaining their work product and the City Council held a Study Session - all members of the council except Don Harper attended - in which all the elements of this issue were thoroughly discussed and public comments were taken. 


Then the City Council included this issue on their regular council meeting agenda two weeks ago.  In that meeting they presented a probable new city ordinance to be placed on the November 8th ballot.  This ordinance would modify the most onerous and problematic elements of Measure Y and, if passed by the voters, permit the city to move forward and produce a proper Housing Element. This new ordinance would NOT repeal Measure Y, only make mandatory adjustments to comply with state law. There was a couple hours of discussion, including many public comments.  The decision was made to consider all that discussion and continue the item to the council meeting of Tuesday, August 2nd.


A few residents have taken exception to this proposal - many of them were creators and supporters of Measure Y - and have spread misinformation about exactly what this new ordinance would actually do.  First, it WOULD NOT repeal Measure Y!  


It would help the city to  meet the housing requirement planning and avoid those costly penalties mentioned above.  It would permit significant development along several commercial or industrial corridors in the city that would NOT require a vote of the people as long as all other development requirements are met.  Despite what opponents of this new ordinance proclaim, these corridors are NOT in, nor do they abut, residential areas.  The ordinance was specifically crafted to protect residential neighborhoods. 


Tuesday, August 2nd, the City Council will, once again, hear this issue. They MUST make a decision on that date because the cut off date for placement on the November ballot is August 12th.   If they decide to present the issue to the voters in November, and it passes, it will permit the City to meet the obligations imposed by The State and avoid the penalties mentioned above.   If the council decides to NOT place this issue before the voters (unlikely), or if it fails to pass, the future of housing, and all development in Costa Mesa is quite unclear. 


If you have an opinion, or questions, please participate in the Council meeting, either in person or via Zoom.  You can also submit your viewpoints via email.  The City Council wants to hear your opinions. 

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Monday, April 12, 2021

Saying Good-bye To An Angel


I have had one great, enduring love in my life.  My Sweet Susie and I have been married for more than 53 years.  She is absolutely the best thing to ever happen to me.  She is my wife, lover, confidant, quiet critic and encourager - the person who has shared the many great joys and successes in my life for more than a half-century and the person who has given me strength to move forward in troubled times.  I love her with all my heart.


And yet, there has been another love in my life - a woman I’ve known for more than 60 years - a beautiful person no matter how you measure that word.  I think I’ve loved her most of my life - as I would love a sister and great friend.  I’ve never held her hand, stolen a kiss or tried to woo her, but over the decades we have shared hugs that have meant more than any of that.  We have been there for each other - she more than me - and had an enduring bond since we met as teenagers.  And now she is gone…


My dear friend, Sherry Harper, died in the early morning hours of March 13, 2021 following her recovery from the removal of a banana-sized tumor from her brain by skilled surgeons at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach.  During her recovery she began to show signs of the return of her illness - a Grade 4 Glioblastoma, an incurable form of cancer.  As a woman of great faith, she assessed her options - her children wanted her to place her wellbeing in the hands of one of the cancer research hospitals in Southern California, to see if some kind of undefined experimental treatment could solve the problem - and she chose to place herself in the hands of God.  36 hours later she passed away at her home, surrounded by those she loved most in this world, each of whom knelt beside her bed, exchanged words of love and gave her their permission to depart this world.  It was a perfect departure for my friend.


My friend was born Sharron Lee Graves on June 12, 1944 and was raised in Petaluma, California by her mother, Shirley and adoptive father, John Graves.  In her youth she became a champion water ski racer, skipping across the waves at more than 70 miles per hour.  She was also a beauty queen - Miss Sonoma County, 1962, a title she won the day after she broke her nose in a water ski racing accident.  She flew as a stewardess for American Airlines from 1964-1966, then became a ticket agent at the San Francisco Airport for a few more years.  She married Al Coppin in 1966 and had three wonderful children, Shawn, Daniel and Michael.  Sherry and Al were married for 14 years.


Following their divorce Sherry Co-founded the Singles Ministry and Divorce Recovery Ministry at Marin Covenant Church in 1980, where she was the Minister to Singles.  During this time she met her second husband, Sanford (Sandy) Harper, to whom she was married for more than 25 years until his death from Leukemia.  For a couple decades they traveled the country in motor homes - 15,000 miles a year - making friends and spreading her Divorce Recovery Ministry far and wide.  They eventually settled down in Tucson, Arizona.  With Sandy came a step-son, Chris, who became Sherry's 4th child in every sense of the word.


Sherry came into my life as a pal of my sister, Linda, when they met and became close buds during a vacation at Clear Lake, CA.  Back then Sherry was just a cute little target of teasing and jokes.  My cousins and I would drag her out of the tent in which she slept - sleeping bag and all - carry her down to the dock and dump her unceremoniously out of the sleeping bag into the water.  She was a great target.


Our families would coordinate our vacations at Clear Lake and we had some wonderful times.  Sherry and I both became pretty darn good water skiers - but she was the brave one.  She dominated women’s water ski racing on the West Coast for many years - a tiny slip of a thing, skipping across the water, holding off all comers.


As the years passed we drifted apart, but she still insisted in driving down to Fort Ord to rescue me and an old high school pal from Basic Training on a weekend pass at the end of 1963.  And, her father, John - one of the really fun men I’ve ever known - insisted in taking us for a boat ride on the Petaluma Slough in his hot boat, The Big Deal, before we took the bus back to Fort Ord.  So, early that Sunday morning we began running hot laps past the warehouses along the waterfront, the dry stacks of the 392 Chrysler engine blazing away.  We woke up the entire city and several hundred people lined the waterway to see what was going on.

When I was assigned for duty in New York City following Basic Training, Sherry - then a stewardess for American Airlines - would occasionally end up in the Big Apple, so we would do stuff - take the Staten Island Ferry, trek around Central Park, etc.  She was a great friend when I really needed one.


When I got out of the Army the end of 1965 I had no car - my ’57 Chevy convertible was long gone - so Sherry, who was based in the LA area, would let me use her nifty little 1962 Austin-Healy Roadster from time to time.  In fact, I drove it north to Petaluma for her at the time of her wedding.  Again, she was there for me.


In 2003 my best friend since we were 5 years old, Larry Moore, crashed his motorcycle outside Las Vegas and spent the next 6 weeks in the hospital there before he passed away.  Sherry and Sandy drove up from Tucson, not to see Larry, but to see how I was doing… She was that kind of friend.


Susie and I were good friends with Sherry and Sandy.  We would visit each other’s homes when our respective schedules permitted.  Susie really became great friends with Sherry when they traveled to England together and spent a month visiting friends and relatives.  We have joked about how it was like traveling with me - Susie is an early riser and Sherry, like me, was NOT!  They remained great friends ever since.


Once the decision was made to transport Sherry to her home in Mission Viejo under hospice care her wonderful daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Coppin, somehow convinced the transport drivers to take a detour to our home on the way.  They stopped in front of our house, opened the rear doors of the ambulance and, as we began to talk to Sherry, they stopped us.  They had more work to do!  They carefully pulled the gurney holding our dear friend out onto the street in front of our home so we could hug her, give her a smooch and tell her we loved her.  I will be forever grateful for that act of kindness - and for Liz’s persistence.


That was the final time we saw our friend, who passed away peacefully at her home 36 hours later, surrounded by those she loved.


Last Friday, April 9th, a mass was held in honor of our friend at the Catholic Church she regularly attended.  She had become a devout Catholic over the past couple decades.  It was a wonderful event with many family members speaking.  We were in tears as we watched the video feed.


Then, on Saturday, the 10th, a Celebration of Life for her was held at a non-denominational church in Orange.  This was also a wonderful event, attended by more than a hundred friends and family members (with proper social distancing, of course!), including her ex-husband, who was among those speaking about Sherry.  I was asked to be the first speaker - the lead-off hitter in the line up that day. I just hoped to not strike out swinging with all the power hitters to follow me.  Choking back tears, I spent several minutes telling the audience about “My Sherry” - about our more than six decades of friendship and how much she meant to Susie and me.


I was followed by presentations by her children and grandchildren, and her ex-husband, all of whom shared stories about Sherry and what a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother she was.   Her daughter-in-law, Liz (Lizzie, as Sherry referred to her), chronicled the last two weeks of her life for us.  Her husband, Mike, explained how much her loss meant to him.  Her daughter, Shawn, spoke of her unfailing love and how much she inspired her to follow her own ministry.  Her former husband, Al, had a tough time explaining his feelings for her - clearly still very deep after all these years.  Her stepson, Chris, told us just how welcome she made him feel as her "fourth child."  Her son, Dan, a wonderful single man still searching for the right woman, explained how his mother had filled the nurturing, supportive role he sought in a wife.  Son-in-law Bob King read a long note from Sherry’s brother, Bill, who could not attend, which attempted to chronicle all the men in Sherry’s life, and how she had trusted him with her Austin-Healey and taught him to drive.  A friend, the daughter of one of Sherry’s old friends from when she was a young mother, read a note from her mother talking about how much Sherry’s strength and support meant to her.  Through all these speeches the common thread was what a supportive, giving person Sherry was.   I had very wet cheeks as I listened to these words.


Following the service we enjoyed some refreshments with other attendees and several folks stopped by our table to say hello.  One woman spent quite awhile with us, chatting about the impact Sherry had on her life - she was a participant in the Divorce Recovery Ministry very early on and she and Sherry became great friends.  Others shared similar stories.


So, we said good-bye to our friend, a woman described by family and friends as “the rock” of their family - always there when she was needed, even at times when she anticipated that need and showed up just to chat and listen.  I knew THAT woman well.


My friend is survived by her ex-husband, Al Coppin, her daughter, Shawn King (Bob), son Daniel Coppin, son Michael Coppin (Elizabeth), step-son Chris Harper (Sarah) and five grandchildren, Aiden and Avery King, Samantha Bell and Jackson Bear Coppin and  Hanalore Harper.


Of all the thousands of images of my friend that were circulated as a result of many of us rummaging through scrap books, photo albums and other archives, this last one is my favorite. It is one of the very last images captured of her by one of her children.  She is laying on her side with a beautiful, contented smile on her face, on her bed at home - the place where those she loved best knelt beside her to say good bye and to give her their permission to leave.  That image captured exactly who she was - a woman sharing all the love she had to give and clearly at peace with her decision to depart.  I’ll forever be grateful for that image of my friend.

For more than 60 years Sherry was my friend in the truest sense of the word.  I’ve loved her as a sister.  She has left a huge hole in our lives.  I will miss her great sense of humor, her kindness, her patience and the friendship, wisdom and love she shared with us all.  So, good-bye, my dear Sherry.  You served us all well during your time on this earth and we know that you will be there, among all the other angels, watching over us from above.  We love you, dear girl.

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