Monday, October 12, 2009

Indecision And Vacillation Prevail

Tonight's Cos
ta Mesa Planning Commission meeting demonstrated, loud and clear, the difficulties that can arrive when the commission is dominated by developers - a fact that is exacerbated by the fact that the commission is running with only four members following Jim Fisler's resignation in August. The City Council has not yet selected a replacement for Fisler, which makes the commission even-numbered and can lead to the inability to make a decision. That was not the case tonight, however.

After listening to a very slick presentation by former mayor Peter Buffa on behalf of the current owners of the withering South Coast Home Furnishing
s Center requesting approval of significant changes in the center, including the use of LED signs, it was clear that all members of the commission wanted to find a way to make this plan work. One might have been apprehensive about this project when they recalled that Buffa was part of the City Council during the creation and approval of our current municipal white elephant, Triangle Square - a center that has been in trouble since the day it opened and, except for a couple gin mills, is a virtual ghost town.


However, residents of the "state streets" turned out in large numbers - more than 50 residents were there hear the issue and to speak - to protest the plan. It seems that when the original project was processed those folks - who live directly across the 405 freeway from the development - were never consulted nor pr
ovided an opportunity to express an opinion on the signs that were erected. Those signs make a significant impact on the neighborhood in the form of lighting overflow that has been distressing for many of the residents since the center was built. The signage was handled at a staff level - a fact that was acknowledged by the senior staff member present on this subject. Neither the Planning Commission nor the City Council addressed the sign in the approval process. The neighbors were at the meeting tonight to be sure that slight wasn't perpetuated this time around.


After several hours of discussion and speaker comments the Planning Commission failed to make a decision! Commissioner Colin McCarthy was on the right track - to deny the project as presented. That move would have given the applicant a chance to pro
mptly appeal it to the City Council and, in the interval, address the items that were clearly problems for the commission and residents. No, the majority - Chairman Jim Righeimer, Vice Chair Sam Clark and Commissioner Steve Mensinger - chose to kick the can down the street to a special Planning Commission meeting next Monday. One can only hope for an even greater turnout of residents to voice their concerns - again.


This is a real slap in the face of the residents that took the time to present their very valid concerns and will likely not accomplish a thing. The Planning Commission in the past has complained that important items heard the the commiss
ion have evoked virtually no community interest, but then a large number of people subsequently turned out if the item made it to the City Council. Tonight the commission virtually turned it's back on the residents who did turn out and commented. Not only that, but Clark admonished the attendees that, although they had every right to speak on an issue, they should really pick one or two spokespersons. In my view, someone should remind Clark that he's up there to hear the people, not chide them!

The applicant -
who has an anchor tenant for the new, improved center, on the hook and is trying to reel it in - expressed concern about delaying the process, which will now happen because this issue cannot possibly be posted for a hearing before the next council meeting on October 20th. It will be lucky to make the cut-off date for the meeting on November 3rd.


Personally, I don't understand the problem... All the commissioners acknowledged driving the neighborhood in question, to experience the light issue first hand. They all also acknowledged having separate, private conversations with the applicant or his representative. One would have thou
ght that many, if not most, of the issues would have been at least preliminarily discussed during those contacts.


From my view, Righeimer and Mensinger were bending over backward to help the developer to the detriment of the residents. McCarthy understood the issue and was on the right track. It's going to be very, very interesting to see how th
is pig moves through the snake...


On another note, later, while addressing another issue on the agenda, Mensinger put on his pit bull hat and, several times, wondered out loud what it takes to get Public Services Director Peter Naghavi to do his job! Those were his words! One such comment would have been too many, but repeating it several times was completely inappropriate. He frequently forgets that he's not President of the Planning Commission - he can't bully people like he can in his business or on the Pop Warner football field. Someone needs to remind him of his role, which includes the requirement to treat people with civility - particularly the hardworking members of the beleaguered city staff. What a jerk!

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Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Just a reminder - I don't post comments submitted as "anonymous". They go right into the old electronic trash can. Pick a pen name...

10/13/2009 09:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Slim said...

Good piece! I caught the discussion on TV--what was the Planning Commission THINKING! Opposition like that should doom such a terrible project. Does Democracy not work anymore? Since when does the voice of those 3 outweigh the voice of the many! Say no to Jumbotrons in Costa Mesa! Hopefully, the Council will listen

10/13/2009 01:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Colin McCarthy said...

Geoff- some clarification is needed. The status quo is not acceptable. The neighbors are living with a sign that they never agreed to. The previous Planning Commission never reviewed the existing sign. That was an honest oversight by staff. Unfortunately, we are powerless to do anything about that sign now. We can't revoke the approval for it. I hope Peter uses the next week to meet with the State Street residents to find some common ground so we can get a resolution that everyone likes. I don't like the sign as proposed, but I certainly don't like the sign that's there now. I think we can find a solution if everyone is involved.

10/13/2009 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Colin, I agree. I thought your motion to deny the project made sense. That would put the onus on Peter and their team to rally support or, at least, answer some of the questions you all had. I really don't see what a meeting next Monday is going to accomplish except to possibly push the time line out - something Peter and his team wanted to avoid because of that potential tenant.

If you had denied it the process would allow the issue to be appealed on November 3rd. If you review the issue again next Monday and deny it there will almost certainly be an appeal. If you approve it there will likely be an appeal - I suspect the state street homeowners would pool their resources to fund the appeal - which means that it is HIGHLY unlikely that it could make the council meeting on the 3rd. More likely is that it would be on the 17th, which creates more heartburn for the applicant.

10/13/2009 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger mesa verde madman said...

Nice to see Mensinger turning his back on his State Street neighbors, seeing how he's just a few blocks away on Country Club. He's gotten some great PR in the Pilot for the youth football program, and deservedly so, but it would seem he doesn't much care for these people otherwise. I live just across Gisler and can look out my door and see the lights in the near distance (oxymoron, I know)...kind of reminds me of when you get close to Vegas and get all excited seeing the lights over the hill...but I'm not excited. Disgraceful...can't wait to see how the battle over the fairgrounds goes...that should be REAL interesting if developers Riggy and Mensinger get on city council

10/13/2009 08:16:00 PM  
Blogger mesa verde madman said...

And Slim - the voice of those 3 commissioners outweighs the voices of the many because they are politically connected and were hand-picked by the current City Council...depressing, isn't it? Do they really think signage is going to help that center? Talk about a sad relic of the boom times.

10/13/2009 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

Aren't these guys "Improvers"? It seems to me they are working on "Improving their financial support from the development community.

10/14/2009 06:50:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Bruce, as a matter of fact, only Clark was an "Improver". Riggy, Mensinger and McCarthy were not part of that "group". And, yes, you would have to say that those three certainly comporte themselves as "pro-development".

10/14/2009 06:56:00 PM  

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