Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Surprising Lack Of Unity Marks Planning Commission Meeting


OOPS... A LITTLE DISAGREEMENT
The Costa Mesa Planning Commission met Monday night to a full agenda and, to my amazement, they actually found an issue that split their vote.  More on that when we come to it.

PUBLIC COMMENTS
During Public Comments Beth Refakes, representing the Military Affairs Team, gave an update on the success of the gown drive for the wives of the 1/5 Marines and announced the current candy drive - Trunk or Treat - for the children of that organization.  Individually wrapped candies may be delivered to the lobby of City Hall for this drive.
FIREFIGHTERS FOR THE GOOD GUYS
Mary Spadoni announced the Firefighters event supporting candidates Sandy Genis, John Stephens and Jay Humphrey on Saturday, October 1st at TeWinkle Park at which the firefighters will serve pancakes in the morning and roasted brats for lunch.
CRITICIZING COLIN, TICKING OFF MATHEWS
An unidentified woman took Commissioner Colin McCarthy to task, citing his recent commentary in the Daily Pilot praising the current council majority.  She also asked Vice Chair Jeff Mathews where he lived - south county?  Mathews was REALLY peeved at that question and said he lived on 20th Street and "don't ask me that question again!"  Hmmm... struck a nerve, did she?  As a matter of fact, she can ask him anything she wants and Mathews can do nothing about it.  Methinks he doest protest too much.  Hmmm...
GOOD JOB, SAILORS
During Commissioner Comments Stephan Andranian praised his alma mater, Newport Harbor High School, for their good behavior while losing the Battle of the Bay last weekend.  He was obliquely refering to some bad behavior by students from Corona Del Mar High School at the event.
PETTY TIM
Tim Sesler was peeved at Spadoni's announcement.  He, of course, mispronounced her name - SPANDONI - and suggested she ask firefighters about their high pay.  It was hard to hear him on the CMTV feed - I think he sometimes speaks with marbles in his mouth.
COLIN CAMPAIGNS FROM THE DAIS
McCarthy also used his time to campaign from the dais, speaking about his personal experience ten years ago with alleged firefighters going door-to-door.  He launched in to a lauditory screed about how lucky we are to have the current council majority because they are responsible for our $11 million surplus.
THEY JUST CAN'T STOP IT
Chairman Rob Dickson spoke briefly about how lucky he had been to have purchased a former rehab home on the Westside and how the property has doubled in value.  Again, campaigning from the dais.
CORRECTING THE RECORD
The only item on the Consent Calendar was the minutes of the September 12th meeting and resident Steve Chen pulled them for discussion.  He presented some specific items on the minutes that he said misrepresented the actual facts and asked that they be corrected.  The commission decided to have the staff review the entries and bring the minutes back for approval at a future date.  I think this is the very first time I've seen anyone from the public challenge the minutes.  It was refreshing.
788 CENTER STREET FIRST
Then, instead of taking the Public Hearings in order they decided to pull #4 to the front, apparently because the applicant showed up with small children.  So, the commissioners took a couple of minutes to hear the staff report and hear from the applicant for 788 Center Street in which an old single-story home will be demolished and two units built.  It was approved, 5-0.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF 2850 MESA VERDE DRIVE EAST
Then we went back into the normal order and heard Public Hearing #1, the General Plan Amendment and Rezone at 2850 Mesa Verde Drive East.  This one is curious - and I don't mean that in a good way.  It seems this is out of sequence because the City Council, during a Special Meeting in June to hear the General Plan Update, somehow managed to approve, 4-0 (Gary Monahan was absent) that this issue would be included in the motion.  Normally, there would be a separate hearing in which a Tenttive Tract map would be considered.  So, Peter Zehnder - who has build several small developments around town, including one right next door to this proposed project - presented it for the commission's consideration.  The plan is to demolish two existing office buildings and replace them with low density housing.  Zehnder provided a potential project layout.
LOSS OF BUSINESSES
Several prople spoke out against this plan, including Reverand Jim Terrill, who has had an office in one of the buildings for 28 years.  He spoke about the disruption of him and 20 other tenants and those who used the services provided by those businesses.
LOSS TO THE COMMUNITY
Robin Leffler, a Mesa Verde resident, spoke about the loss of this "business community" and how it would negatively impact the nearby residential community.
MCCARTHY BRUSHES CONCERNS ASIDE
After a discussion in which McCarthy shrugged off the claims of this business complex would be a loss to the community by telling us that his dentist used to be there but he didn't like the shabby buildings, so he changed dentists - as if that had ANY relevance to the issue at all!
"THE COUNCIL GAVE US DIRECTION, SO...."
Commissioner Stephan Andranian said he sympathized with the business owners, the City Council had apparently provided direction that this is the way they wanted to go with this proposal.  So, the commission passed it along, 5-0.
LOW DENSITY IN MESA VERDE... CURIOUS
An observation - low density developments are pretty rare these days in our city.  It's more than curious that two of them are now going to be done back-to-back in Mesa Verde - where McCarthy and the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem lives.   Just sayin'......

SOBECA - DON'T BLINK
That brought us to Public Hearing #2, the required action bringing the recent changes to the General Plan Update for the SoBECA area into compliance with the General Plan.  This took less than 10 minutes and the commisson passed it, 5-0.
PIERCE STREET ANNEX/THE COUNTRY CLUB
Then came Public Hearing #3, the proposal to convert the existing Pierce Street Annex, a bar at 330 East 17th Street, into a restaurant to be called The Country Club.  The applicant, Mario Marovic - owner of the Wild Goose a block to the East - also wanted to have operating hours of 6 AM to 2 AM.  We've seen Marovic in action before - when he pitched his ideas for The Wild Goose.  He's a very polished operator and, lest you forget that, he comes prepared with slides and charts telling you what a great guy he is.
WHAT LIVE ENTERTAINMENT?
One thing that happened during the discussion was the revelation of a couple things.  One, the current operation was already permitted to operate starting at 6 AM if they wished to. And, contrary to a section in the staff report, the current use already includes live entertainment.  That surprised the commissioners.  Marovic didn't want to give either of those up.  There was also some haggling over the facade in the front of the restaurant - the City wants more "transparency" in the front wall and Marovic didn't.  The staff could find no record of a live entertainment permit having been issued - but this place has been open for business under one name or another since 1959.  After nearly 90 minutes the commission eventually passed it, 5-0, with some changes regarding the facade - more light showing - and deleted the reference to live entertainment.
PARKING PROBLEMS WITH THE CRACK SHACK
After a short break they tackled Public Hearing #5, the conversion of a bank building at the corner of 17th Street and Orange Avenue into a restaurant called Crack Shack - a place that specializes in chicken and egg dishes.  This one seems like an interesting concept, but parking was an issue.  The applicant, Mike Rosen, brought with him a "parking consultant" who proceeded to tell the commissioners why our parking standards are all wrong for this use - at least, that's what I think he said, because we couldn't hear a word of his presentation.  He had stepped away from the microphone to be able to read his slides, so those of us watching at home have no clue about what he said, except what we could attempt to interpret from his slides.
RESIDENTS BALK AT PARKING PROBLEM
Beth Refakes and Chuck Perry - both Eastside residents - expressed grave concerns about the parking issue.  It seems our requirements for this use is 75 spaces and the applicant's solution only provides for 62, but does include a valet option.  Round and round the discussion went.  McCarthy observed that in EVERY case involving this kind of a situation the applicant will present a parking expert to find a way around our parking requirement and the result is severely underparked projects like this one.  He specifically cited 17th Street, where parking is terrible.
 SHARED PARKING OPTION
Andranian suggested that the applicant find a nearby business to negotiate a shared parking arrangement.  The applicant said that was in the works, but balked and the requirement because of the unknown of the future of the business in question.  He was adament that his project met the city requirements via the use of valet parking.  After a little more than an hour the commissioners voted, 3-2, to REQUIRE the applicant to find shared parking for 13 more cars.  Dickson and Sesler voted NO.  That was VERY interesting.
 LATER HOURS AND ALCOHOL FOR PIZZA PRESS
The final item, Public Hearing #6 - a Conditional Use Permit for the Pizza Press at Metro Point to operate past 11 p.m. with the onsite sale of alcohol.  The hours would be 11 AM - 1 AM.  The commission took only 10 minutes to approve this one, 5-0.
LATER THAN WE THOUGHT
Dickson adjourned the meetin at 10:10 p.m.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Get Connected With Katrina Foley Tuesday Night


FOLEY HOSTS IMPORTANT DISCUSSIONS
Costa Mesa Councilwoman Katrina Foley will host the next iteration of her "Get Connected" meetings in City Council Chambers at City Hall Tuesday evening, September 27, 2016 at 6:00 p.m.  On the agenda for this meeting are some very important hot button topics.
HATCH ON THE NEW LIBRARY
CEO Tom Hatch will provide an update on the Library/Lions Park Project that will build a new library at the site of the current Neighborhood Community Center and will convert the existing Donald Dungan Branch Library into a Community Center.
PANEL DISCUSSION ON REHAB/SOBER LIVING
Costa Mesa Police Chief Rob Sharpnack will be part of a panel that will discuss the Rehab/Sober Living Home situation that seems to be on everyone's mind these days and was a major focus of the CM4RG Town Hall last week.  See the flyer below for the names of that panel.

GOOD FORMAT FOR DISCUSSIONS
In the past this has been a casual affair, with lots of opportunities to ask questions and actually have them  answered.


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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Planning Commission Has A Full Agenda Monday


FINALLY, A FULL AGENDA
The Costa Mesa Planning Commission meets again at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall Monday, September 26, 2016 and has a full agenda to handle.  You can read the full agenda package HERE.

11 RESIDENCES AT 2850 MESA VERDE DRIVE EAST
The first of six Public Hearings, HERE, is a General Plan Amendment and Rezone for property at 2850 Mesa Verde Drive East to change the commercial site to R-1, low density residential - a proposed 11 unit development as shown on the images below.  Click to enlarge for easier viewing.  An interesting element of this proposal is that it didn't go through the normal screening process, but was tucked into a General Plan update discussion last June.


AMENDING SOBECA URBAN PLAN - ADDING DENSITY
Public Hearing #2, HERE, is a City-initiated Urban Plan Amendment to the SoBECA Urban Plan to allow residential development at a maximum 40 dwelling units per acre and an overall development capacity of 450 units within the urban plan area.  This is consistent with the recently approved 2015-2035 General Plan - the one that codified high density development in many parts of the city.

CHANGING PIERCE STREET ANNEX INTO THE COUNTRY CLUB - LONGER HOURS
Public Hearing #3, HERE, is the planning application for the expansion, renovation and conversion of Pierce Street Annex, 330 E. 17th Street, into a restaurant (The Country Club).  This request includes two variances, one Conditional Use Permit and two Minor Conditional Use permits and would change the operating hours from the current 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. to a proposed hours for The Country Club from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., seven days a week.  This project is within 200 feet of a residential properties.


SMALL LOT SUBDIVSION AT 788 CENTER STREET
Public Hearing #4, HERE, is a planning application for a two-unit small lot subdivision development at 788 Center Street.  This would replace a single residence with two detached single-family residences with attached two-car garages.  This is in the 19 West Urban Plan.
TURNING BANK INTO CRACK SHACK AT ORANGE AND 17TH STREET
Public Hearing #5, HERE, is the planning application to establish a restaurant (Crack Shack) in a former bank building at 196 East 17th Street - at the corner of E. 17th Street and Orange Avenue and requires two CUPs and two minor CUPs.  There is great irony in the name of the proposed restaurant, since that intersection has been a hotbed of sober living denizens in recent months.
EXTENDING HOURS AND SALE OF ALCOHOL AFTER 11:00 P.M.
Public Hearing #6, HERE, is the planning application for a CUP to allow extended ours of operation for customer service and sale of alcoholic beverages after 11 p.m. for The Pizza Press at 901 South Coast Drive, Unit C-120.  They are proposing extending operating hours from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. daily.
WHO WILL SHOW UP?
It will be interesting to see how many residents turn out for this meeting since it conflicts with the first Presidential Debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump - the liar and the lunatic.  The press is talking Super Bowl kinds of numbers.

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Parks & Rec. Commission Meeting Was Predictable

SMALL TURNOUT
Last Thursday night, September 22, 2016, the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission met at City Hall before a sparse crowd while many more of us attended the CM4RG Town Hall.
UNREMARKABLE, EXCEPT FOR HARTLEY'S ABSENCE
The commission meeting, which I later viewed on my recording of the event, was not remarkable except it marks the first meeting since Maintenance Services Manager Bruce Hartley retired a week ago, and his absence showed.
RECREATION PRESENTATIONS
Kevin Stoddardt provided a summary of summer events at several city recreational venues and Yvette Aguilar gave us an overview of other events/programs - Bark Park improvement, Concerts in the Park, Senior Center and Community Gardens.  Unfortunately, there was not staff report online to provide a reference tool, so you'll just have to wait for the streaming video to become available if you're interested.

PAYING HOMAGE TO HARTLEY
During Commissioner Comments Byron de Arakal, Vice Chair Bob Graham and Chairman Brett Eckles paid homage to Hartley, who has provided skill and knowledge to the management of his organization for many years.  He CERTAINLY will be missed.  It is rumored that he retired to join former Director of Public Services, Ernesto Munoz, in a private sector organization.  We wish him well and thank him for his service.
TREE REMOVAL #1 DENIED
There were three tree removal requests on the agenda, each of which were denied.  The first, a Brisbane Box, drops a lot of fruit which causes the adjacent property owner some difficulty, but the tree is healthy and the City is managing it and the nearby sidewalk appropriately, so the request was denied.

SAME WITH #2, QUICKLY
The second was a Canary Island Pine and the applicant failed to show up, so the request was summarily denied.

DITTO NUMBER 3
The third was the same species located in a community park near a neighboring home.  The applicant said the droppings from the tree - sap, pine cones and leaves - are causing her problems.  The staff has recently pruned the tree and, after viewing the photos, it's difficult to see how the problems are actually occurring.  The request was denied.
VERNAL POOLS
The Parks Manager's Report was presented by Recreation Manager Justin Martin - Bart Mejia was  absent.  Following the presentation de Arakal asked the status of the proposed fencing of the Fairview Park Vernal Pools and asked that the commission receive a report on the proposed delineation.
MERCURIO SHOWS AND SPEAKS!
Oh, yes, Commissioner Julie Mercurio actually did speak at this meeting, so she earned her hundred bucks.  Her contribution was negligible, but she was there and spoke.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Good Turnout For CM4RG Town Hall


PUBLIC SAFETY AND SOBER LIVING DRAWS A CROWD
Somewhere around 100 people turned out for the Town Hall sponsored by Costa Mesans For Responsible Government (CM4RG) Thursday evening at the Neighborhood Community Center.
CANDIDATES WERE ALSO PRESENT
In addition to the presenters of information, city council candidates, representatives of certain initiatives and candidates for the Mesa Water District Board and the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board were also present to answer questions and hand out literature.
 Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board Members 
Art Perry and Jim Ferryman, running for re-election.
OMNIPRESENT BARRY FILMED IT
Barry Friedland of Costa Mesa Brief was on hand to record the event, so look for his work product at his YouTube Channel in the next few days.
REICH TO LEFFLER...
Alex Reich, candidate for the Mesa Water Board, acted as the Master of Ceremonies.  He kicked the meeting off at around 6:45 p.m., then handed it over to CM4RG President Robin Leffler, who led the pledge of alligience and then explained a little bit about the organization.


...TO LEECE
Former councilwoman Wendy Leece then stepped up to provide an update from the Orange County Vector Control Board, of which she was a member during her tour on the City Council.  She explained the need for resident diligence due to the growing problems with West Nile Virus and now the Zika Virus.  No standing water.  Contact Vector Control if you suspect a problem.
COSTA MESA FIRE DEPARTMENT DISCUSSED
Next up was Ralph Taboada, Chairman of the Bikeway and Walkability Committee and member of the Pension Oversight Committee, to talk about the Costa Mesa Fire Department.  He explained that the department used to be one of the premiere departments in Orange County - a destination department.  He explained that the members of the CMFD are active in the community, including teaching CPR and making school presentations.  Members of the CMFD are usually pillars of their communities.  He explained the history - 5 Chiefs in six years - and used slides to enhance his presentation.  These are mostly self-explanatory.
SOBER LIVING HOMES
Then came community activist Teresa Drain to speak about Sober Living issues.  She told us also on hand for questions was Robert Mann of the Sober Living Network.  She gave us some statistics that really made you think.  Speaking of heroin specifically, she told us that there have been 1800 deaths due to overdoses in the past five years and the Center for Disease Control estimates 70 lives a lost daily due to addiction.  There are 300,000 addicts in Orange County.  She told us Costa Mesa has 300 licensed liquor dispensaries.
ADDICTION A DISEASE
She then described Addiction as a disease and Sobriety as addiction in remission.  Among the stats she told us was that there is a 86% failure rate with heroin addicts.  She spoke about the 12-step programs, first evolving from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and now used with Narcanon, too.

DUAL PROBLEM - DRUGS AND ALCOHOL
She spoke of the dual problem of alcohol and drugs and mentioned the Orange County Sober Living Coalition as an organization helping with the problems.  She told us that 80% of criminals have drug and or alcohol addiction issues.  She told us that 95% of those incarcerated for drug issues return to the drugs once released.  She told us that treatment and recovery is the solution, not incarceration, which is why so many petty criminals with drug issues are currently involved in Sober Living Homes.

SPADONI DISCUSSES THE CMPD
Mary Spadoni, life long law enforcement officer - she was the first woman police officer to work in patrol many moons ago - next spoke about the Costa Mesa Police Department.  She spoke about the impact of AB 109 and Prop. 47, and told us to oppose Prop. 57 on the November ballot because it just goes one step further in the wrong direction than Prop. 47.  Because of those laws we have many more criminals on our streets.
STAFF SHORTAGES
She spoke about the decline in staffing of the CMPD - how the current council majority issued over 200 layoff notices to city employees in 2011, several of whom were civilian employees of the CMPD.  She spoke of how that act caused a lawsuit by the Orange County Employees Association, which represents the employees in question, and how the city lost that lawsuit and cost nearly $400,000 in legal fees.

HISTORY OF STAFFING
Spadoni told us a little history of the staffing of the department, and mentioned that currently the authorized staffing level of the CMPD is 136, but that we actually have only 113 on the payroll, 10 of which are out on injuries.  We have only 52 officers available for patrol duty and many of the speciality assignments to which officers aspire - Gangs, Narcotics, K-9 - are no longer available, which hampers recruiting and retention of officers.

ATTRITION REPORT
She mentioned the attrition report prepared by former Chief Tom Gazsi more than two years ago which outlined for CEO Tom Hatch the reasons for the departure of so many officers due to retirement and/or moving on to other venues.  That report was never acknowledged.  Much of that turnover was due to the toxic environment created by the current City Council majority.

PAROLEES LOVE COSTA MESA - NO COPS
Spadoni told us of a meeting in 2014 of representatives of the County Probation Department and State Parole organization in which Costa Mesa representatives at the meeting were told that parolees like to come to Costa Mesa because we're understaffed in the CMPD, so chances of them being picked up for crimes is small.  She described our situation as a perfect storm - fewer cops and greater demand.  She said we're "understaffed and overcrimed".

SHARPNACK TRYING, BUT...
She praised Chief Rob Sharpnack for his energy and enthusiasm trying to get the CMPD back on track, but the process is taking a long time - despite what Mayor Mensinger told us earlier this year.  She cited the influx of sober living homes as part of our problem keeping crime down - it's up dramatically.  She said we're not "Costa Mayberry" anymore.  She told us that Costa Mesa has 3% of the county population but 27% of the sober living homes.  She said 63% of our residences are rentals.  She cited the unrealistic positions taken by candidates Mensinger, Mansoor and Ramos on public safety issues.

Q & A
Next came Questions and Answers presented by the audience via note cards.  The panel included retired CMPD Lieutenant Clay Epperson - a long-time Costa Mesa resident; Former man-of-many-hats, retired Interim Chief Fred Sequin and Robert Mann of Clear Path Recovery to answer Sober Living Questions.


CMPD 5 YEARS BEHIND
In response to a question about police staffing, Epperson told the audience that we're 5 years behind.  That we have a hard time recruiting and retaining officers because of the atmosphere within City Management towards the CMPD.

CMFD WORK SCHEDULE
Seguin was asked about work hours.  He explained that the CMFD works a 56 hour work week and that it's not at all unusual for firefighters to work hundreds and even thousands of overtime hours because of the depleted staffing.

MANN DODGED THE QUESTIONS
Mann, didn't really answer many of the questions posed to him.  Most of the time he waltzed around and did a promotion for his industry and his business specifically.  He feigned ignorance of statistics when asked.  He was not the only Sober Living operator in the room.  He was asked, for example, why there was no mechanism to return failed "clients" to their homes instead of just turning them out onto our streets.  He didn't really answer that, except to say his organization sometimes turns those failures over to other organizations.  Kind of an incestuous situation.

CRIME FROM DRUG AND ALCOHOL USE
Other questions were asked about  rising crime.  Epperson told us much was due to drug and alcohol users.

JULY 4TH ENFORCEMENT?
Seguin was asked about July 4th fireworks and how it is enforced.  He said with current staffing levels it's hard to catch perpetrators in the act.  One angry audience member demanded to know how many arrests were made this year - he had no answer.  He did say it's hard to catch those shooting off illegal fireworks because they are masked by legal fireworks.

IMPACT OF OVERTIME
He was also asked about the impact of overtime on the firefighters.  He responded that it was hard on the firefighters AND on their families due to the unanticipated demands for overtime.  He said it's not unusual for a firefighter to work several consecutive shifts without time off.

FIND BARRY'S RECORDING
The meeting ended just after 8:30.  Find the Costa Mesa Brief recording, HERE.  It will be worth your time.

THANKS TO CM4RG
Thanks to the folks at CM4RG and all the volunteers who put this program together.  I think most who attended thought it was time well-spent.  Interestingly, despite some grumbling on certain social media sites, I saw no members of the opposition in the audience.   That wasn't all bad.  One particularly mouthy candidate for a Sanitary District Board seat kept yapping about attending all week, then did a no-show.  No loss.

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