Fitzpatrick To "Lead" the Planning Commission
Sorry, I must confess that I couldn't stifle a smile when I wrote that title. But, yes, former and current Costa Mesa planning commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick - he of the contentious, costly, short tour on the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board of Directors - was elected as Chairman of the commission at their special meeting last night. His sidekick, Rob Dickson, was chosen as Vice Chairman. There were no other nominations for either position. Make of that what you will...
Before we get to the meat of the meeting, let me express personal reservations about just what kind of leadership Fitzpatrick will provide. His tour on the Sanitary District board was marked with anything but leadership. Quite the contrary, his tenure in that job was marked with divisiveness and forced the rate-payers to absorb thousands of dollars in legal fees to force him to follow the law. I wonder just what kind of leadership a man so obviously willing to ignore solid legal opinions will bring to the Planning Commission? It's going to make for some interesting watching. Keep reading to understand why...
THE REASON FOR THE MEETING
The most contentious item on the agenda of that special meeting was the consideration of a project near the west end of Victoria Street that calls for replacing the present church facilites with 17 detached, single-family homes on 1.4 acres. The developer referred to the look as a "contemporary beach shack". The development will have 63 parking spaces, which meets the current code, some of which will be underground parking spaces. He also plans to excavate the property so the three-story units will look like two-story units from adjacent properties. Whether you like the "look" - extremely vertical with flat roofs - or not is a matter of personal taste.
RESIDENTS AND "EXPERTS" SPEAK UP
A half-dozen speakers - I thought there would be more - stepped up and addressed concerns about traffic, the recommended exemption to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the view being lost by one existing resident. The commission and staff resolved all those issues with a clear discussion. They can't, for example, rule on the "view" issue.
FITZPATRICK TAKES A HIKE
So, it then came time for Chairman Fitzpatrick to lead his group into their first vote and he demonstrated his "leadership" by asking the City Attorney, Christian Bettenhausen, if he could abstain! His quote was, "I don't have any specific concerns, but I do have just some general concerns that I'd like a little more time on and I'd prefer not to vote no because I am in general support of this project. Do I have the opportunity to abstain?" Bettenhausen, after a long pause, told him he could abstain anytime he wanted. So, in his first vote as chairman Jim Fitzpatrick decided to take a little vacation. The commission voted to approve, 4-0.
CODE SAYS HE MUST VOTE!
Checking the Costa Mesa Municipal Code, Section 2-69 - Failure to vote says as follows:
Every councilman should vote unless disqualified by reason of a conflict of interest. A councilman who abstains from voting acknowledges that a majority of the quorum may decide the question voted upon. A councilman who is silent or inattentive and fails to vote without stating his abstention or without being disqualified shall be deemed to have cast a "yes" vote. Keep in mind that the code equates commissioners with council members in this context.
TOO LAZY OR WHAT?
So, because he was too lazy in his first week after being appointed to do his homework or unable to articulate whatever concerns he had on the only item of substance on this special meeting agenda, Fitzpatrick just blew off his responsibility to vote on this issue. It's going to be a very long couple of years if that's the kind of leadership we can expect to see from him. Maybe we should withhold his $400 for February since he basically didn't do the job.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE...
It gets better. The only other item on the agenda last night was the nominations for the Mesa Green Design Award. Here's the definition of that award taken from the city web site.
"Purpose of Mesa Green Award:
To encourage green design and practice, in 2010, the Planning Commission added the Mesa Green Design Award to recognize exceptional “green” projects. The Mesa Green Design Award is presented as projects are nominated throughout the year."
That seems pretty straight forward, right? Nominate a project that is exceptionally "green". Good idea - and a concept that Fitzpatrick has championed for years since he considers himself a "Green Expert". He used to write a column for the Newport Beach Independent online newspaper on those subjects. So, which project did he nominate? None! Nope, he nominated a city staff member - Building Official Khanh Nguyen, whose name he mispronounced at least twice! Now, Mr. Nguyen is a great guy, who reportedly does a great job, but he's not a "green project" by any definition of the word. If Mr. Nguyen has made an exceptional contribution in the performance of his job and some sort of recognition is appropriate, let's find one that is correct, for goodness sake!
WHAT'S WRONG WITH HIM?
Watching Fitzpatrick during the meeting last night, and based on his only two decisions - both of which were bogus - I found myself wondering if he was distracted... or something else. I don't know, but I do know that his first performance as Chairman of the Costa Mesa Planning Commission was a big FAIL! I also have more than a little better understanding of what the members of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District had been dealing with.