Joint City Council/Planning Commission Study Session
Last night the Costa Mesa City Council and the Planning Commission put their heads together at a joint study session to establish goals and priorities over the next several months. All the commissioners were present and only Gary Monahan was absent among the council members. This meeting can be seen on tape on CMTV soon.
HERE'S WHAT THEY DISCUSSED
The meeting covered ten (10) items which are described as follows, taken directly from the hand-out provided at the last minute at the meeting.
1. Adoption of a Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance
This is intended to promote development of single family detached homes and ownership housing by providing flexible development standards for lot size, open space, etc. and allowing forming a maintenance association instead of a homeowners association.
According to Assistant Development Services Director Claire Flynn, there are no other Orange County cities with such an ordinance, but the staff is working with the Building Industry Association to craft a workable ordinance to facilitate fair, consistent standards for the many "infill" projects that will be presented to the city as the economy continues to rebound. Density, parking and the need to develop findings to support such projects were discussed. Council member Sandra Genis was concerned the findings issue and the adherence to the Davis/Sterling Act that governs HOAs.
A couple of developers spoke and expressed concern about possible "strict guidelines" - no surprise there. Another expressed concern about "parking standards that are a little rigid". This process will continue and staff will work on a process based on the direction they received last night.
2. Proactive Enforcement of Convenience Market and Liquor Stores
This is to address most markets and liquor stores that were established decades ago, that are non-conforming and not operating under a conditional use permit. Zoning Codes includes extensive conditions that apply to the new and expanded businesses.
During the discussion Genis wondered when problems around these kind of establishments rise to the level of being a "public nuisance". The staff has prepared a draft of a new ordinance on that issue that would be presented to the Planning Commission at its meeting later last night. I'll cover that separately.
3. Modification of Fire Prevention Turnaround Requirements in Site Planning for Properties
The intent is to comply with all safety requirements and provide most flexible site planning tools for lots that are up to 300 feet deep consistent with other agencies and the Orange County Fire Authority.
Flynn indicated that the staff is working closely with the Fire Department on this issue and it should be finalized soon. Genis expressed concern that when it is finalized there should be no compromise on safety issues.
4. Motel Solutions and Enforcement
Incentives and flexible development and land use standards to promote and encourage motel conversions and redevelopment.
Planning Commission Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick has chosen this as HIS issue, so he took the lead on much of the discussion. Mayor Jim Righeimer expressed the possibility of using "node zoning", and that problem motels should be closely monitored and billed for services when a certain - undefined - level of calls is reached. I'm not quite sure how they pull that one off. Lawyer Christian Bettenhausen indicated that it's something they would have to look at closely. Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger expressed impatience with the process, asked for a timeline and wondered where the Neighborhood Improvement Task Force stood on this issue. Assistant CEO Rick Francis indicated that it might be a matter of weeks or months. Council member Wendy Leece discussed incentives and flexible development and wondered what other cities are doing.
The discussion got around to the impact of "long term stays" at these motels, indicating that they contribute to the major problems. Flynn told us that the Municipal Code permits 25% long term stays, but the staff is working on a change reducing that to 10%. She also indicated that the Costa Mesa Motor Inn is approved for 40% - at which Righeimer became almost apoplectic.
Genis expressed no interest in "spot zoning" to solve the problem. Righeimer told us our position should be "Fix up, clean up or knock down". Mensinger expressed the need for an analysis using the pending crime mapping capability from the CMPD so calls for service could be monitored more accurately.
5. Additional Parking Requirement For Nightclubs, Coffee Shops with WiFi Access, and Small Food & Beverage Establishments
Evaluate the parking demand to address these uses and develop standard operational conditions to regulate the parking.
Significant discussion took place on the use of Conditional Use Permits and the current parking standards. The staff will evaluate the current standards based on the changing realities of today - the use of WiFi, for example, which extends the time customers stay at coffee shops, etc. Francis used as an example a recent visit he and others made to the strip mall at the corner of Irvine Avenue and 17th Street at lunchtime. NO parking spots were available and it seemed to be due to the heavy mix of food establishments at that site. It was generally agreed that this is a BIG problem.
6. Updating of Sign Standards and Requirements
The discussion on this one revolved around the size of existing signs and the trend to use smaller monument signs. Genis expressed a concern about the possibility of future LED signs or what she referred to as "shrink-wrapped buildings."
7. Develop Landscape Pallets For Market Windows And Arterials
This was proposed by Mensinger, but it was decided this is a more appropriate discussion for the Parks and Recreation Commission.
8. Review "Enhancement Project".
Did it accomplish goals? Were hardship cases treated respectfully? Were there many hardship cases?
Chief of Code Enforcement Willa Bowens-Killeen took the lead on this discussion. Generally, the enhancement project is successful, but not perfect. Recent reports show much progress. Code enforcement officers are sympathetic to hardship cases and sometimes social workers are called in to provide support. Genis expressed the view that some in her neighborhood called the program "Neighborhood Harassment Program" due to the number and nature of the violations cited. She expressed the need to be flexible on repair time lines, considering the impact of bad weather, etc. Commission Vice Chair Rob Dickson expressed the value of the "education element" to these programs. Mensinger wanted before and after photos to show progress.
9. Commissioners Participation In The General Plan Meetings... How Many?
The short discussion, led by Righeimer, was "if more than 2 attend only one should talk and don't sit together."
10. With The Liquor Store, Bars, Restaurants Morphing Into Night Spots, Does Costa Mesa Have Alcohol Related Arrests/problems Due To These Establishments? Look at what SLO has done to curb alcohol related issues.
Leece proposed this issue and referred to the recent "DUI Summit". Concern was expressed on the lack of follow-up on employee training at establishments that serve alcohol. Apparently San Luis Obispo made it a "health" issue, which gave the city more leverage. More study will be done.
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION TOMORROW
So, there you have it. Today, at 4:30, the council will meet with the Parks and Recreation Commission in the same venue - Conference Room 1A - for a similar exercise. I'll report on that later tonight.