Changing The Rules Midstream - Righeimer's Retribution
While the debate about where to place the next skate park occupied a big hunk of the Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night, there was an equally interesting item on the agenda. That item, the appeal of the Planning Commission's decision to chop developer Barry Saywitz' proposed condo conversion of a twelve unit apartment complex on Victoria Street on the Westside of town by 25%, will likely result in legal action by Mr. Saywitz against the city.
PRE-MORATORIUM RULES APPLY
The project in question was in the pipeline before the City Council imposed a moratorium on any such projects and, based on the general understanding of the rules, was not restricted by the pending rules changes. Saywitz was not asking for any special treatment - he requested no variances from the guidelines. Regardless, during several sessions before the Planning Commission and City Council Saywitz was forced to agree to an extraordinary number of "conditions of approval", several of which would prove costly to him as he attempts to help chip away at the renters/owners housing imbalance in this city. However, that apparently was not enough for some city officials.
RIGGY ON A RAMPAGE
You will recall that I've reported a couple times in the past that Saywitz has been harangued and harassed by rookie planning commissioner James Righeimer - the carpetbagger who landed his job on the commission in what certainly looked like pure political pay back because he's a pal of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher - a huge supporter of our young jailer/mayor and his barnacle, Wendy Leece, during the campaign last year. Riggy, as his GOP buddies call him, took Saywitz to task several times in a manner that was more inquisition than information gathering. At one point during a recent meeting his antics incurred the wrath of the commission chairman, curmudgeonly ex-mayor Donn Hall, who looked like he was ready to take Riggy out to the woodshed for a good whuppin'.
PULLING THE RUG OUT
It certainly does look like our city officials, Righeimer in particular, have changed the rules on Saywitz in the middle of the game. From all appearances, through all the harassment and appeals, he seems to have kept his head and tried to meet every demand made of him - regardless how unreasonable they might have been.
COURT OF LAST RESORT
I, for one, will not be surprised if he seeks a legal remedy to this situation. If he does, the result can be laid squarely at Righeimer's feet. What ever personal problems exist between Righeimer and Saywitz, they should be left outside the chambers. We, the tax payers of this city, should not be expected to foot the bill for Righeimer's personal vendetta.
RIGGY'S TWO LEGS UP
Righeimer is a tough guy to figure out. First he's handed a plum job on the Planning Commission even though he'd lived in our city for a few months. Then he somehow manages to land a coveted assignment as a weekly front page columnist on the Daily Pilot, in which, we were told, he would provide a "conservative" view of the world in our area. Each of these roles provides him with a tremendous vantage point from which to present his philosophy and display his skills, not to mention a double spring board to whatever office he seeks to attain next year.
DROPPING THE BALL - TWICE
In my view, Righeimer has bungled both of these jobs so far. On the Planning Commission he has demonstrated a propensity to bully applicants - Saywitz is a perfect example - and a willingness to forego the common courtesy expected by a commissioner on the dais. From his bully pulpit (so to speak) of the Daily Pilot column he has managed to anger residents in both Costa Mesa and Newport Beach - not smart for a guy who expects to have a future in politics. He actually acts like a guy who thinks he's got that next step on the political ladder locked up. I would urge restraint on his part - the electorate can be fickle.
In the meantime, I hope the City of Costa Mesa has set aside a war chest for legal matters - it looks like they may have to dip into it very soon.