Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hang On! Here We Go!

The Planning Commission meeting Monday night was a particularly interesting adventure. This was the first meeting with the "5 improvers", or 4 improvers and a question mark, depending on how you view Jim Righeimer.

At the beginning of the meeting the assembled throng was treated to a mini-concert by a group of wonderful young children from Rea School. They led the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag, then sang the National Anthem and other patriotic songs. It was a nice touch. Apparently, although it didn't come through to the viewers at home, there was an accompanying Powerpoint presentation on the large screens displaying a recognition of the contributions Bill Perkins and Bruce Garlich made during their six year tenure on the commission - a very nice touch.

In the middle of this concert I received a telephone call from another observer, wondering if I was watching. He also wanted to know if I shared his feeling of irony at those bright, eager, mostly brown faces singing patriotic songs in front of the "improvers" on the dais, some of whom were almost certainly wondering how many of those children were in this country illegally. I, of course, shared the same question...

I couldn't help thinking about those children in the context of our current municipal immigration debate. I found myself wondering how many of them will find themselves separated from one or more parents in the near future as the parent is interrogated after a minor infraction - jaywalking, wrong-way-bicycle-riding, etc. - and end up being deported because they cannot produce adequate identification.

The meeting itself was just a little surreal. Following the mini-concert Donn Hall, serving as vice chairman of the commission, clumsily made presentations to Bruce Garlich and Bill Perkins acknowledging their service on the commission before being bounced by the new council majority. Hall's well-intentioned, but inept, attempt at a gracious presentation fell well short of the mark. He didn't even give Garlich and Perkins a chance to acknowledge the presentations and to say thanks to the many people gathered to honor them. I found myself cringing as I viewed the proceedings. That would not be the last time I would cringe that night.

After all that hoopla they finally got around to electing new officers - Hall as Chairman and Jim (I'm a realtor here in town) Fisler as Vice Chairman. Some will remember that Hall is a former mayor of Costa Mesa who, during his tenure two decades ago, tilted at more than his share of windmills.

Right off the bat the guy who resembles my theoretical character, Your Neighbor, stood before the commission and tried to sell them on the wisdom of the creation of a marina in the Santa Ana riverbed - a pipe dream that was first floated by Hall two decades ago and failed to gain consideration. Hall took this guy's lead, acknowledged that he is "right" - a truly scary concept!

Hall, in his role as chairman, finally got around to introducing the new commissioners, Jim Righeimer and Sam Clark.

You knew this was going to be an interesting meeting when they decided to consider the last item on the agenda first. Good grief! Hall, crusty curmudgeon that he is, ran what can only be described as a loose ship last night. He seemed not particularly concerned with protocol and did a marginal job of controlling the flow if dialogue - frequently allowing comments to be shouted from the audience. This does not bode well for the future. He's shown us in the past that he cares little for the formalities so important for proper decorum and deliberation on the commission. With him in charge now the commission needs to be watched carefully. He demonstrated a penchant to attempt to consider and vote on items not on the agenda, for example.

In what may be an omen of things to come, Commissioner Eleanor Egan - a long time improver - attempted to derail the first item discussed. She launched a long and tedious presentation about how that particular project didn't fit her idea of the Mesa West Urban Plan. Fortunately, Hall slowed her momentum down long enough for Don Lamm, director of Development Services, to leap to the rescue and remind the commission that the urban plan didn't preclude industrial development, only provided a mechanism to insert residential into that primarily industrial area. Any industrial property owner in that area should be very, very worried. This sure looks like the improvers are going to try to change the rules - that agreement that was hammered out over a year's time by the Westside Revitalization Oversight Committee (WROC). I'm not surprised. You will recall that I've frequently reminded all residents to watch their backs, that their rights may be the next trampled by this mob. Well, this is only the beginning.

A note about Righeimer. He seems like a very smart fella, who is obviously up to speed on planning issues. I'm withholding judgment on him for a little while longer, but I suspect he'd be a good guy to have in this role - if his appointment hadn't been such a transparent example of political patronage. Time will tell.

As provocatively entertaining as the Planning Commission meeting was last night, the City Council Study Session this evening promises to be even more fun. I'd love to have the boxing glove concession for this one. I find myself hoping that Katrina Foley and Allan Mansoor are sitting at opposite ends of the table, to avoid the possibility of nose-to-nose dialogue. Stay tuned.



Blogger Len Bose said...

Please keep an open mind to the Marina idea. The marine industry needs more slips and moorings. This marina would produce a tremendous amount of work/jobs into the area. "The man in Black" is correct on this issue.

2/13/2007 06:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Good Idea - 20 years too late said...

The Marina idea is most likely completely dead in the water. State policies, from the Coastal Commission to the State Lands Commission to the Water Resources Control Board, among others would have a huge problem with converting any existing coastal lands to a commercial marina. It would be prohibitively time consuming and expensive, in my opinion. Plus you would ensure intense opposition from a world of well-heeled and savvy environmental organizations. I think we have much higher priorities as a City. Spending a massive amount of capital for a few hundred slips doesn't benefit the City as a whole.

2/13/2007 10:05:00 PM  
Blogger Len Bose said...

I see the marina idea differently. I would argue that a couple of hundred slips alone would bring in Three hundred thousand dollars a month on slip rent, well over million dollars a month t o the marine industry +++.
Environmentally the outlet would be the best thing for the bay. The water would come in an out of the bay twice as easy and this would make for a much cleaner bay.
How to deal with the coastal commission would have to be left to our local government.
Therefore I would strongly disagree and say that it would benefit the city as a whole. I believe it was a huge mistake not to-do the Marina forty years ago and why should we continue to make the same mistake?

2/14/2007 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...


You may be right, but help me understand about this. I realize you're a "boating guy" with not only an interest, but a vested interest in another marina in our area. Where, specifically, do you envision this marina? I think those activists in Costa Mesa who are promoting the idea see it up along the Santa Ana River, abutting Costa Mesa somehow. From your comments, it appears you may be thinking of a slightly different location.

We assume the river mouth would be widened, the PCH bridge raised to permit entrance by boats, etc. Are you envisioning a marina that connects with Newport Harbor somehow? Help me out here.

2/14/2007 08:22:00 AM  
Anonymous dvs said...

Len is much more connected to the boating industry than I am, so I understand his interest. I would agree that using more of our sheltered coastal features for recreational and possibly even commercial boating activities is a good thing to consider. Demand for access will increase as the population increases. Just like off road recreational activities that I enjoy, water born activities are a legitimate use of infrastructure investments.

On a practical side, I don’t believe that the city of Costa Mesa has the leadership or the vision to responsibly and credibly pursue this plan. I believe that a plan would be better presented by a coalition of local communities that at least would include Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. I honestly believe that the catalyst for any movement in that direction would have to come from local business leaders and developers. The government bodies aren’t likely to have the drive without that vital push from economic interests.

2/14/2007 09:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Kent Morrow said...

The commissioners are just awful television performers. Reminds me of Steel at the council and Leece at Parks and Rec. The orchestra accompanying the kids was excellent.

2/14/2007 10:46:00 AM  
Anonymous good idea - 20 years too late said...

I don't know if you are all aware of just what would need to happen for a marina to go in anywhere around the Santa Ana River mouth. One, the Santa Ana River is a flood control channel for the entire basin, and it isn't going anywhere. Two, the land adjacent to the river channel on the Costa Mesa side is multi-jursidictional and has significant private ownership, along with existing wetland habitat. There is no question that new marinas are needed, but this area is a complete non-starter from a regulatory and environmental standpoint today. You may have been able to pull it off in the 1970s or 1980s. I am not against a marina or boating in general, but this idea is not appropriate for the City of Costa Mesa at all, and the area in question isn't suitable either. There will be huge hurdles to housing on the oil company property as is, but dredging all that area and adding the infrastructure for a marina shouldn't be a priority for Costa Mesa when we have some many other pressing issues.

2/14/2007 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Len Bose said...

True, there is more of a chance of replacing the high-density apartments in Mesa del Mar with senior housing than a marina in Costa Mesa.
The area of the marina is just south of Victoria/Hamilton street bridge. The harbor almost reaches this area just North of PCH and the Huntington Bridge. So, yes it would be apart of Newport Harbor. I know the family who owns this property and like any good business people they are always open to offers. I think that with all the oil on this land it might be the best way to develop it.
The smallest area would be Costa Mesa and coalition of local communities of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach is the only way it could happen. (Hey, doesn’t Huntington Beach need to run some water through town?)
I am very active at the Balboa Yacht Club and the biggest mistake we made was not buying our slips from the Irvine Company back in 1991. So, with this example in mind, yes we should have built the Marina back in 1968. So I have to wonder what the people will say in 2040?
I agree this shouldn't be a priority for Costa Mesa. I would much rather have less cut through traffic, better schools and live in an area were my son can play in. So, what I am saying is I want my cake and eat it to!

2/14/2007 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous good idea - 20 years too late said... said...

I wonder how much actual support there is out there for a marina. If private developers would do a feasibility study, it would be worth looking into. Spending City funds, though? Not such a good idea.

As for Mesa del Mar - I just LOVE the fact that Mr. CM Press, an alleged conservative, advocates total abolition of property rights where convenient to him. He wants the industrial owners on the Westside out, just like he wants the brown people out of Mesa del Mar. What about the inconvenient fact that all those apartment buildings are privately owned? If they are too dense, have Code Enforcement get serious about bringing that whole area up to code and cracking down on illegal garage conversions and occupancy limit exceedances. But all this talk of trampling all over the rights of individual property owners is infuriating.

Not to get TOO off-point, Len... I think a marina would be great, I just don't think it is feasible or appropriate for Costa Mesa to take the lead.

2/15/2007 11:22:00 AM  

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