Indecision And Vacillation Prevail
Tonight's Costa 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.
BUFFA'S SLICK PRESENTATION
After listening to a very slick presentation by former mayor Peter Buffa on behalf of the current owners of the withering South Coast Home Furnishings 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.
TWO WRONGS DON'T MAKE IT RIGHT
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 provided 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.
INDECISIVE - WHY?
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 promptly 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.
COMMISSION AND CLARK BACKHAND RESIDENTS
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 commission 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 PROCESS WILL NOW DRAG OUT
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.
WHAT'S UP WITH THAT?
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 thought that many, if not most, of the issues would have been at least preliminarily discussed during those contacts.
RIGGY AND STEVE
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 this pig moves through the snake...
MENSINGER THE PIT BULL
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!