REPORT FROM THE TWILIGHT ZONE
Last night's Costa Mesa City Council meeting may have been the most surreal event I've observed in nearly a decade of paying attention to what goes on in our city. This meeting, which dragged on past midnight and actually ended at 1:10 this morning, demonstrated the wisdom of the council policy to not try to conduct city business past midnight.
Mayor Mansoor, who looked like he was well off his game all night, made the decision to move forward with one of the most contentious issues on the agenda - the debate of whether or not to re-open the Fairview Park Master Plan to consider placement of a dog park and/or skate park within it's boundaries - at midnight! Dozens of speakers stood to address the issue and very few spoke in favor of such a move. Most pleaded with the council to retain Fairview Park in it's "natural" state, citing potential damage to fragile habitat and danger for the indigenous critters that call it home. This was after the council decided earlier to approve placement of a temporary building near the model trains to house a donated train exhibit and to move forward with plans to seek grants to build a larger building that is included in the current master plan.
THANKS, BUT NO THANKS - WOOF!
One of the truly strange parts of the Fairview Park debate was the fact that several dog lovers, including a couple officials from the Costa Mesa Bark Park Foundation that oversees the operation of the TeWinkle Park facility, stood and told the council that the site proposed by staff for a dog park at Fairview Park was not acceptable. They encouraged the council to look for a different venue. I can't remember when an advocacy group rejected an opportunity for a facility before. It was actually kind of funny when former mayor Sandra Genis - a dog lover herself - stood at the podium and warned the council about the inappropriateness of the proposed site, citing the potential danger from errant golf balls from the adjacent golf course. I know she was serious, but I couldn't help but chuckle.
Earlier, the subject of a skate park at Lion's Park took three hours to debate. The staff had provided the council with five different sites within the boundaries of Lion's Park, including the incendiary suggestion to place it on the infield of the baseball diamond at Davis Field. At the end, none of the sites presented - which represented virtually every inch of open space available at the park and then some - were found to be acceptable. The result, much to the chagrin of the men on the dais, was that the ladies on the council voted to not place a skate park at Lion's Park. They, instead, directed staff to return soon with an analysis of each of the other parks throughout the city with an eye on possibly placing small skate venues in several of them to serve the neighborhood skaters. They also directed staff to continue to seek opportunities to purchase land in the city for another larger skate park. I imagine there's a certain diminutive bar owner who is not happy this morning.
DUMB IDEA DUMPED
The issue of the possibility of closing Park Avenue north of 18th Street, a strange idea proposed by Linda Dixon, was combined for discussion with the skate park at Lion's Park. It was clear from early debate that no one was interested in closing the street - rightfully so. That idea was rejected along with the skate park.
In a night of strange events, the most bizarre was the behavior of Mayor Pro Tem Eric Bever when, at the end of the debate about Lion's Park as a possible site for a skate park - even before the vote was taken - he blew a gasket. He petulantly told his peers on the dais that he was "ashamed to be up there with them" and that they should let him know the next time they planned to discuss a skate park because he would just stay home. I found myself wanting to make him go stand in a corner for his infantile outburst. That display of childishness occurred just before midnight, reinforcing the wisdom of closing the meetings before the calendar flips over.
Curiously, a man who has been beyond just merely vocal on the subject of the preservation of Fairview Park and not placing a skate park at Lion's Park - he posted at least 8 blog entries on his "little newsletter" in the past few weeks, posted innumerable comments of the various Daily Pilot blogs under several of his pen names and his own, too, and had a commentary published in the Daily Pilot on the subject yesterday - failed to speak on these issues last night. In fact, I don't know if he was in attendance or not, which is also very strange, since he almost never misses a meeting in this city. Perhaps he felt his "direction" to the council had been clearly stated and his ideas were a slam dunk - which it turns out they were. Costa Mesa politics is a strange business.
It was good to see Katrina Foley back in the saddle after her recent convalescence from cancer surgery, about which she spoke briefly at the beginning of the meeting. She brings focus to the debate of most issues. Perhaps that's why our young jailer/mayor looked like he was dealing with a bad toothache all night.
NO TREE UN-HUGGED IN FAIRVIEW PARK
So, every tree hugger in our town can breathe a little easier today because the insects, birds and other critters in Fairview Park have been given a reprieve. And, the skateboarders in our city - who waited a generation for the first skate park - will have to wait a little longer to see just how the City Council will resolve their frustrations and pent-up demand for more skate facilities in our city. Based on some of the testimony against a skate facility in Fairview Park and the photos presented by some speakers, I guess those little "terrorists" will just have to continue damming up the flood control channel to make a skate venue and using every wall, curb and raised planter in the city as a grind rail while they wait.
AIR NATIONAL GUARD SITE POSSIBILITIES
On the brighter side, the council did direct staff to aggressively pursue the possible acquisition of the recently abandoned Air National Guard site behind TeWinkle Park. That process is in it's early stages, but could provide some interesting opportunities for future open space/recreational facilities. Actually, that site has lots of possibilities. Things that immediately come to mind include another much needed high rise senior living facility similar to Bethel Towers on the Westside, more athletic fields like The Farm Sports Complex or maybe just acquire the space, then swap it with another land owner for a site or sites elsewhere in the city where recreational venues are in short supply. Heck, maybe one of those "nasty, polluting businesses" on the Westside Bluffs so reviled by the "improvers" in our city would want to swap - that could be fun.
Life is never dull in Costa Mesa.