General Plan Update Process Underway
As I told you recently HERE, the process of updating the Costa Mesa General Plan is now officially underway. We're told that this updating process should take place every ten years.
CONCERNED CITIZENS SHOW UP TO HELP
Last night more than four dozen residents, plus a dozen city staffers and consultants, met at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to kick-off the process with the first of a series of meetings, cleverly titled "Great Reach", designed to elicit input from members of the community. The schedule for the remaining meetings is included in that earlier post linked above.
MANY FAMILIAR FACES IN THE CROWD
Council member Wendy Leece was the only member of the city council present last night. There were, however, many other familiar names in the audience, including former councilman Jay Humphrey and Costa Mesa Sanitary District Director and long time coach at Estancia High School, Art Perry. The list of activists who also attended is too long for me to provide here - and not forget someone. They included a mix of folks who support the current power elite in the city as well as many who do not, plus some folks not identified with either side of issues. Some folks were relative newcomers to the city while most had resided in Costa Mesa for decades - as many as six in some cases. A breadth of views was represented in what I would describe as thoughtful, spirited discussions.
FLYNN LEADS THE DISCUSSION
In a meeting that was scheduled for 90 minutes but stretched to two full hours, Assistant Development Services Director Claire Flynn kicked off the meeting, then handed it off to consultant Laura Stetson from MIG/ Hogle Ireland, the organization that is facilitating this process. She guided the group through what she referred to as a General Plan crash course. She told us the General Plan is a "constitution for development" - a blueprint for the future of our city.
She guided us through a discussion, using as starting points these issues:
- Land Use Revitalization Opportunities (Westside, Newport Blvd., Motels)
- Homeownership/Rental Imbalance
- High Density Residential Land Uses
- Lot Configuration, Size
- Vacant Land Availability
- Traffic Limitations Related to Land Use
When asked for their thoughts on what should be considered when creating this General Plan update, members of the crowd spoke of the following issues and more:
- The ratio of homeowners to renters
- Affordable housing
- The need for libraries
- A vital "Downtown" - too many alcohol servers and less desirable businesses
- Open Space and the animals that live there
- Better restaurants (less fast food stores)
- Quality of our schools
- Vacant lots that could become community gardens
- Auditory assists for Seniors at city intersections
- Attention to the time it takes those less mobile to cross streets
- Mass Transit
- The need for narrow roads in residential areas to slow traffic
- Rapid Bus transportation on arterials
- Retention of mobile home parks as affordable housing
- The need for premiere bicycle system - safe routes
- Retention of the Westside industrial base
- Plans for the expansion and retention of the action sports businesses
- Better adherence to development standards - fewer variances
- Concern about misuse of the Westside overlays resulting in more rentals
Guided by consultant Veronica Tam, 30 minutes was dedicated to the Housing Element, which apparently is all but completed now and is due to be submitted to the State by October. Many members of the crowd expressed concern that they had been precluded from offering timely input to this particular part of the General Plan process due to the tightness of the schedule. She did mention that, based on the most recent census, Costa Mesa's home ownership ratio to renters has improved slightly - it is now 57% renters, 43% owners. That should make Colin McCarthy happy.
According to Tam, the Housing Element contains:
- Current and future housing needs assessment, Special needs populations - Elderly, disabled (including developmentally disabled), homeless, large households, female-headed households and farmworkers
- Future residential growth opportunities
- Housing constraints - Governmental, market, environmental, and infrastructure
- Housing programs to address housing needs - With quantified objectives for new construction, rehabilitation and conservaton of housing
In fact, as was explained by Flynn, in years past the state had mandated that Costa Mesa plan for upwards of 1,500 housing units in the Housing Element update as part of our contribution to the regional demand for housing. This time around, of the 412,000 units being required for our region, Costa Mesa is only required to provide two (2) to meet the minimum requirements! At that point I stopped worrying about the Housing Element.
In the subsequent discussion period attendees expressed interest/concern for a "visioning" session - a part of the process discussed early-on. In response to that feedback, Flynn decided on the spot to change the agenda for the June 19th meeting from "Land Use Alternatives" to "Visioning".
INFORMING THE COMMUNITY?
Others worried about how this process had been advertised beyond the mentions on the city web site. Concerns for those in the community - seniors, for example - who don't have access to computers nor read a daily newspaper so wouldn't have known about this series of meetings.
CONCERN FOR SPANISH-SPEAKERS
Some concern was expressed about the apparent lack of outreach to the large Spanish-speaking segment of our community.
As the meeting progressed a staffer created a contemporaneous bit of graffiti that chronicled the discussion that took place. If you look closely you can see those elements in the image below. (click image to enlarge)
Tuesday, May 28th, the Planning Commission - as part of their regularly scheduled meeting - will hear a discussion of the Housing Element. The City Council will hear it on June 4th. The next meeting in this series is the above-mentioned one on "Visioning", to be held in the EOC on June 19th at 6:00 p.m.