Thursday, March 26, 2015

Marking Another Milestone...

PRIORITIZING...
OK, you're on your own this weekend.  For the next few days I belong exclusively to my sweet and very patient wife as we celebrate her birthday.  With this many years it takes several days to properly celebrate it.  I'll be back next week.

'TAINT FAIR...
This just doesn't seem fair, since each of MY birthdays that we celebrate mark a date when I'm clearly getting older, while she, on the other hand, just seems to get younger!  It's not fair, I say!

WHATEVER SHE WANTS...
So, we will celebrate her birthday this weekend with things SHE wants to do, which will almost certainly include seeing a chick flick or two and having more than one meal out.  Sadly, because of the extreme drought and attendant fire hazard, I was unable to get a fire permit for her cake, so this one will just have to do..  (Yes, that's going to cost me, for sure.)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, 
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU,
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SWEET SUSIE,
AND MANY MORE, TOO...


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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meeting Canceled, And More

NEVER MIND!
Remember that Pension Oversight Committee meeting I told you about that was scheduled for this afternoon?  Well, it was canceled yesterday, HERE.  So, all of you planning to attend now have some free time on your hands!



PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION
Never fear, though. The Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, scheduled for tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers is still on the schedule.  You can read that agenda HERE.  If you attend you will watch Chairman Kim Pederson and the other commissioners discuss a tree removal request and hear about the plant palette for certain Mesa Verde street medians and Monument Entry Sign concepts.

FAIRVIEW PARK COMMITTEE MEETS NEXT WEEK
Next week, on Wednesday, April 1, 2015, (which seems somehow perfectly appropriate, considering the turmoil around this committee for the past few months) the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee will meet for what may well be their last meeting for a long time.  You can read that agenda HERE.

MEHREN'S RESIGNATION AND MEETING CANCELLATIONS
You will likely recall that the Chairman, Dr. Richard Mehren, (shown here on the left with Vice Chair Steve Smith) resigned in protest at their last meeting, early in January.  Their February meeting was canceled because the staff needed more time to prepare the reports on the items to be discussed - the possibility of playing fields being installed in the Southeast Quadrant of the park.  The plug was also abruptly pulled on the March meeting.

ON THE AGENDA
Scheduled for discussion, finally, at the meeting next Wednesday are:
1 - Baseball/Softball Facilities
2 - Soccer/Football Fields
3 - Multi-use Fields

There will also be a discussion of a proposed East Fairview Channel Trail.

A LONG, TUMULTUOUS PATH
This committee, which has toiled for 20 months with a prodigious and ill-timed task, has seen the venue changed several times, the configuration of the group change due to the passing of long-time community activist David Stiller (replaced by Frank Davern) and the resignation of Dr. Mehren.  Former Daily Pilot columnist Smith is the Vice Chair and will apparently run this next meeting.  The ranks of the committee have been depleted by Mehren's departure and the appointment of member Brett Eckles to the Parks and Recreation Commission, where he now serves as Vice Chair.  He subsequently resigned his seat on this committee.

HEAR THE REPORTS, THEN WAIT...
The last direction given to staff by the City Council was that the committee should hear the final remaining staff reports, but should then delay any report of their own to the Parks and Recreation Commission until the completion at least the consultant-conducted community survey portion of the update of the Master Plan of Parks and Open Spaces is finished.  What has been missing since the beginning of this committee's work has been actual data about the field use in the city.  There has been plenty of anecdotal "wishes" presented to the committee by youth sports officials, but actual data has been virtually impossible to acquire - despite constant pleas for that information by at least one committee member.

AN UNFULFILLED ASSIGNMENT
So, next Wednesday may be the last time we see this group meet - with their long, long assignment incomplete.  I've attended most of the meetings and found the process to be sometimes quite painful, but they followed the format created in the beginning and have managed to slog their way to within sight of the finish line - expending thousands of staff hours along the way.  I understand the reasoning behind delaying their final report until that survey is complete, and hope they will be permitted to reconvene at a future date to finish the job they signed on for.

NO REPLACEMENT FOR ECKLES
There has been NO solicitation for replacements of Mehren nor Eckles on the committee.  That process could take at least a couple months.  That lack of activity might be a bellwether of how the future of this committee is viewed by the council majority.  We'll find out.

THE JOB SHOULD BE FINISHED!
I think this committee, which has spent the best part of two years of their lives on this assignment, should be permitted to finish the job.  I think they should hear the remaining reports from the staff and do as they've done in the past - vote on whether to present possible changes to the Parks and Recreation Commission.  Then, they should ask the staff to prepare a report based on all the work they've done over all these months outlining the very few changes the committee has agreed upon for possible inclusion in Fairview Park.  That report should be presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission for its consideration and possible inclusion in the update of the Master Plan of Parks and Open Spaces.  THEN the committee can be disbanded with the thanks of a grateful community for all their hard work.

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Brough/Harper Co-author Rehab Home Bill

AB 838 INTRODUCED IN STATE ASSEMBLY
As mentioned by Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer at a recent Costa Mesa City Council meeting, Assemblymen William Brough of the 73rd District and Matthew Harper of the 74th District have co-authored a bill, AB 838, which will modify Section 1505 of the State Health And Safety Code relating to recovery houses.  You can read the bill and the Legislative Counsel's Digest HERE.

WHAT DOES IT DO?
I spent some time on Tuesday chatting with members of the staff of both assemblymen at their local field offices and in Sacramento, trying to get a clear picture of what this bill is supposed to accomplish.  I think the aforementioned Legislative Counsel's Digest provides you with a good, concise description.

TIGHTENS UP EXISTING LAW
Basically, it changes the California Community Care Facilities Act by adding a new section to the law to more tightly define certain group homes and, as a result, allow local jurisdictions to enforce the new laws - a misdemeanor.

ANOTHER TOOL
If passed, this would provide one more hammer in the tool box of cities like Costa Mesa - which, according to reports, has more than 25% of rehab homes in Orange County - with which to control the proliferation of such facilities.

RIGHEIMER TO LOBBY SACRAMENTO
It is our understanding, based on what Righeimer said at that council meeting, that he will be traveling to Sacramento early next month to talk with folks about this bill.  Right now the bill is in the Human Services sub-committee, but has not been scheduled to be heard yet.  We presume Righeimer will be attempting to influence other Assembly members to move forward with this bill.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Planning Commission Kicks The Can(s) Down The Road

NO DECISION ON DEVELOPMENTS
Last night the Costa Mesa Planning Commission agreed to kick the can down the road on the only two major issues on the agenda and it still took almost two hours to wrap up the meeting.

VOLCOM PRESENTATION
Before role call the commission heard a very positive presentation from Deric Sabori, Vice President of Volcom, which outlined the history of the company, its move to Costa Mesa and its recent acquisition by Kering Corporation.

BARRERA'S DEBACLE
During Public Comments five of the seven speakers addressed the debacle of the former Lions Den bar - now called Maison - which was scheduled to open for business as a LiveNation entertainment venue last Friday night, but was Red Tagged by city officials when it was determined that the operator, the infamous Roland Barrera, had obtained NONE of the required permits - business license, use permit, construction-related permits - and that the business was unsafe to operate.  Neighboring resident Steve Chan used his three minutes to address this issue and his comments were amplified and enhanced by presentations by Ann Parker, Mary Spadoni, Edward Carmona and Markie Rabinowitz.

1/5 MARINE KIDS AND DEVELOPMENT
Beth Refakes reminded us of the Easter egg and toy drive for the children of the 1/5 Marines at Camp Pendleton.  Jim Kerins expressed the opinion that the development he's seeing around town lately is NOT making Costa Mesa a better place.  He doesn't like the vertical, cramped development spouting up all over town.  He was especially concerned about what may happen at the property owned by the First Church Christ Scientist on Mesa Verde Drive East - his neighborhood.

GENERAL PLAN REVIEW
Following Commissioner Comments Chairman Rob Dickson re-shuffled the deck and moved New Business #1, the 2104 Annual Review of the 2000 General Plan, forward on the agenda.  The presentation and discussion of that very important 94-page document took less than 10 minutes, after which the commission voted unanimously to forward it to the City Council.

HIGH RISE HEARING CONTINUED
Public Hearing #1, the High Rise development at 3350 Avenue of the Arts was continued until the April 13th meeting so additional staff work could be completed.  Only one person spoke on this issue.  Spadoni reminded the Planning Commission that the current Fire Department deployment plan calls for the closure of Fire Station #6 - our newest facility and the one designed to serve the area in which this high rise, and other mid-rise developments, are being planned.  She demanded that Station #6 NOT be closed.  She later told me that the developer of this particular project had no idea that Station #6 was scheduled for closure.

VICTORIA STREET DEVELOPMENT DITTO
At 6:45 the discussion of Public Hearing #2, the 28-unit development on Victoria Street, began.  This, too, was intended to be continued until April 13th so the developer could hear and digest public comments and consider what kind of modifications, if any, he might wish to make to the project.    Senior Planner Mel Lee gave an abbreviated staff report addressing zoning and traffic impacts, then the public was invited to speak.
DENSITY AND TRAFFIC
Eight people spoke on this issue - none in favor if it.  Major concerns ranged from the density of the project, even though it meets the zoning requirements; the variances being requested; the very limited open space and - probably the most contentious issue - the traffic impacts and traffic safety caused by the need to access this project from a very busy Victoria Street.

DEVELOPER WILL DIGEST COMMENTS
Spadoni, Jay Humphrey, Steve Sprigg, Parker, Kerins, Amber Webster and one other woman who's name I missed and a fellow who spoke later all complained about those issues in very passionate terms.  The developer, Eric Nelson, stepped up to express his gratitude for their input and for the commissions willingness to extend his time until next month.

MCCARTHY UNEASY, TOO
Commissioner Colin McCarthy also expressed concern about the density issue and the traffic.  The commission voted to continue the meeting until April 13th.  I suspect the next hearing for this project will include MANY comments from members of the public again.  This seems like a "torches and pitchforks" kind of issue. 

EARLY DEPARTURE
We were out of the building before 8 p.m.!  Yea!

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Busy Week Ahead In Costa Mesa

MEETINGS, MEETINGS AND MORE MEETINGS
It's going to be another busy week ahead in Costa Mesa.  Several commission and committee meetings are on the agenda plus two separate closed sessions for the City Council to consider labor negotiations.  Here's what's ahead...

PLANNING COMMISSION ON MONDAY
Monday, March 23, 2015, the Planning Commission meets again to consider more development in the city.  You can read the agenda HERE.

HIGH RISE DEVELOPMENT
Public Hearing #1, HERE, is the planning application for a 100-unit high-rise residential building and a 6.5 level shared parking structure at 3350 Avenue of the Arts.  The project has several variances requested.

MORE DEVELOPMENT ON VICTORIA
Public Hearing #2, HERE, is the General Plan Amendment and tract Map for a 28-unit Residential Development at 1239 Victoria Street.  This project is immediately adjacent to the new development that kind of looks like a fortress as you drive up the hill on Victoria to the city limits.  More vertical development in our city.

ANNUAL REVIEW OF THE 2000 GENERAL PLAN
New Business #1, HERE, is the 94-page 2014 Annual Review of the 2000 General Plan.  The commission will be asked to recommend this review to the City Council.

 ***
TWO CITY COUNCIL CLOSED SESSIONS ON TUESDAY
On Tuesday, March 24, 2015, the Costa Mesa City Council will meet for two (2) Closed Sessions to discuss labor negotiations.

 COSTA MESA POLICE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION
The first one, HERE, commences at 9:00 a.m. for a discussion about labor negotiations with the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association (CMPOA).  Only council members Katrina Foley, Sandra Genis and Gary Monahan may participate in this meeting since Mayor Steve Mensinger and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer have a conflict because of their lawsuit against the men and women of the CMPD.  We hope Monahan shows up for this one.

FIREFIGHTERS AND FIRE MANAGMENT
The second meeting, HERE, begins at 5:00 and involves the entire city council in discussing negotiations with the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association (CMFA) and the Costa Mesa Fire Management Association (CMFMA).  The public is not welcome at these meetings.

***
PENSION OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE MEETING WEDNESDAY
Wednesday, March 25, 2015 the Pension Oversight Committee will hold another of their sparsely-attended meetings beginning at 4:30 p.m. in Conference Room 1A at City Hall.  You can read the agenda HERE.

***
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION MEETING THURSDAY
On Thursday, March 26, 2015, the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission, led by Chairman Kim Pederson,  will hold their only meeting of the month beginning at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall.  You can read that agenda HERE.

TREE REMOVAL REQUEST ON 24TH PLACE
This New Business item, HERE, involves a request for the removal of a parkway tree at 248 24th Place.  This is the second request for removal - the first was denied in August, 2013.  The staff recommends denial again.
PLANT PALETTE AND MONUMENT SIGN
The second New Business item, HERE, is a report on the proposed landscape palette for various locations and entry monument sign concept plans for an entry monument sign at Newport Frontage Road and Industrial Way.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Barrera's Maison Red Tagged By City

OFFICIALS CLAMP DOWN ON BARRERA
Friday afternoon I received a call from friends telling me that there was a "significant" official presence at the location of Roland Barrera's new night club, Maison, at 719 West 19th Street.  You may recall that this venue was the subject of a complaint by neighboring resident Steven Chan at the city council meeting last Tuesday, when he told the council that this site was being renovated into a LiveNation entertainment venue.

RESIDENT COMPLAINT LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION
Chan's comments and subsequent conversations with city officials generated a beehive of activity at City Hall this week, which culminated in the visits to the site today.  According to reports from readers, Barrera was selling tickets to shows at the sight tonight, Friday, and Saturday even though construction was still underway.
(Code Enforcement Officer Apolinar Ramos, Khanh Nguyen and Brad Zint)
OFFICIALS ON SITE AND UNHAPPY
So, I grabbed my trusty camera and drove across town to find Costa Mesa's Building Official, Khanh Nguyen, Code Enforcement Officer Apolinar Ramos and representatives from the Costa Mesa Fire Department on site, inspecting the place.  They were not happy.  Several residents and Daily Pilot Ace Reporter, Bradley Zint, were also there.  The official presence was later augmented by the arrival of Fire Battalion Chief Kevin Diamond, Hazardous Materials Specialist Michelle Rudaitis and Fire Chief Dan Stefano.  New Planning Commissioner Stephan Andranian also showed up later and toured the facility.
(Rudaitis and Diamond with unhappy resident)
MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC UNHAPPY, TOO
Members of the community heard about this situation and stopped to tell officials how they felt about it, and to express concern about the frequency of this kind of situation on the Westside.
THE CULMINATION OF ACTIVITY
After spending a couple hours on the site Friday afternoon investigating the venue - which had been preceded earlier in the week with conversations with Barrera in which he was directed to retain the services of an architect, and directing Barrera to make specific changes - Nguyen found the venue was nowhere close to being ready for occupancy earlier in the afternoon.

ARROGANT DISREGARD FOR THE RULES
It turns out that Barrera had completely ignored the rules.  He had neither sought nor received ANY permits of any kind for this operation, including business license, use permit and more than a half dozen building permits for things like plumbing and electrical work being done.
GIVING HIM THE WORD
At 5:00 p.m. Khanh and Stefano finally gave the word to Barrera that, despite all the changes they were making, the building would be Red Tagged, and any occupancy except for workers required to correct deficiencies would be prohibited.
 (Andranian, Stefano, Nguyen, Rudaitis, Barrera and Architect)
RED TAGGED
As Khanh affixed the Red Tag to the wall adjacent to the new entry door being hurriedly installed by workers, members of the band scheduled to play that night arrived to begin their set up.
FINES TO BE ASSESSED NEXT WEEK
It is my understanding that Barrera will be prohibited from any use except the aforementioned construction until next Thursday, when a subsequent inspection will be made.  As mentioned before, he was required to retain the services of an architect to assure the necessary changes were proper and met code.  In addition, Barrera will be assessed fines next week for his failure to acquire the necessary permits.
A PATTERN...
Many of the residents who attended this event expressed concern for the arrogant disregard for the rules in this case.  Mention was made about public safety and references were made to tragic nightclub fires around the country in similar circumstances.  Based on comments from city staff, the fines that will be levied next week - likely less than $2,000 -  really don't seem to be a sufficient disincentive for the gravity of the offense and the flouting of the law.  Barrera has a well-documented history of problems with the legal system.  That's a discussion for another time.
NO SIGN OF ACTIVITY TONIGHT
Later tonight I drove back to the site to see what, if anything, was happening.  The only pedestrian traffic in the parking lot seemed to be coming from the laundromat two doors down.  The temporarily-constructed new door was closed and, on another nearby door there was a notice of the cancellation of the performance.
THE PLACE IS A MESS!
This site is really in disrepair.  There was no evidence of ANY kind of cosmetic maintenance on the exterior of the building.  Graffiti was evident on two sides of the building and the planter area in the front was a shambles.  It is unclear whether Barrera will be required to make improvements on the exterior in addition to the safety measures on the interior.
KUDOS TO CHAN AND OTHERS
So, we learned this week that alert residents willing to speak up can be an effective force within the community.  Thanks to Steven Chan and his vocal neighbors and others who continued to push this item with city officials to be sure the safety of the public was considered and the rules followed.  Kudos to all.

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