Planning Commission Wrap
Tuesday evening the Costa Mesa Planning Commission met for its first meeting of the month. As anticipated, it was a short meeting due to a short agenda and one of the more controversial items was shoved off to the meeting of June 24th.
MISSION STATEMENT AND MORE MEETINGS
One of the items on the Consent Calendar, the modification of the Planning Commission bylaws, took a curious turn. This issue, which included a "Mission Statement" for the Planning Commission that included a dozen items - read it HERE - evoked such euphoria on the part of its primary sponsor, Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick, that he completely forgot to permit Public Comments before having the commission vote on it. They did, and it passed 5-0. Then staff reminded him - after some outcry from the audience - that he had neglected to permit public comments. So, he invited anyone from the audience who wished to speak on the issue to do so. Long time resident and activist Beth Refakes stepped up and told them that the list was too long - more a list of goals than a short mission statement - and she was correct. Fitzpatrick and the other commissioners agreed and directed staff to return at the next meeting with a condensed version, then they re-voted on the remainder again, which passed again, 5-0. Part of that vote included a decision for the Planning Commission to begin meeting twice a month again, which it will. Ironically, this decision came at the shortest meeting in months. We were out of there by 7:40!
NEIGHBORHOOD IMPROVEMENT TASK FORCE UPDATE
Perhaps the most interesting part of the meeting was the report by Assistant Chief Executive Officer Rick Francis and Costa Mesa Police Lieutenant Mark Manley of the Neighborhood Improvement Task Force Update. This item was moved to the front of the agenda because, according to Fitzpatrick, Francis and Manley had busy schedules. (?) You can read the staff report HERE. As you read through that staff report you'll find some very interesting information. Francis and Manley focused on a couple of them - the "troubled motels" and sober living/rehabilitation facilities.
MANAGING MOTELS IS COSTLY
Manley quantified the impact of having to police the motels. He told us that a dozen motels throughout the city are serious problems, accounting for extraordinary numbers of calls for service. He told us they accounted for 1,835 calls for service in 2012 and that those calls, plus the 440 other reports taken, were responsible for over $104,000 in costs.
PAROLEES A MOVING TARGET
Vice Chairman Rob Dickson asked how many parolees reside in those motels, to which Manley responded that it's a moving target. They come and go and that the redistribution of inmates due to Assembly Bill 109 (thank you, Governor Brown!) make isolating a specific number on a specific date difficult. He did stress the excellent relationship the CMPD has with Orange County Probation in managing this issue. He frequently used the term "awesome" when referring to the current enforcement climate - something he'd not seen during his long tenure on the CMPD.
In response to a question by commissioner Colin McCarthy about the relationship of the 2nd floor code enforcement folks to the 5th floor operations, Francis told him that the two code enforcement officers that work on the 5th floor executive offices have specific targeted responsibilities, including parolees and the sober living/rehab. homes. Costa Mesa presently has 26% of all such facilities in Orange County - much more than our fair share.
Manley emphasized the effectiveness of the Neighborhood Improvement Task Force and suggested that it could/should be the model for other cities to follow as they all grapple with similar problems.
LIONS PARK HOMELESS SITUATION IMPROVING
Included in this discussion was a mention of the improvement of Lions Park from a homelessness standpoint. Manley and Francis - and commissioners as well - commented on how much things have improved there lately. It was attributed to new tools available to them - the fact that there is now a place for homeless folks to park their goods safely and the availability of a mental health worker a couple days each week, for example - and the hard work of Sergeant Vic Bakkila and Officer Julian Trevino and others. Beth Refakes related how the homelessness problem has diminished around the Historical Society building in Lions Park. Ironically, as I drove home from the meeting I noticed a half-dozen homeless enclaves along Harbor Boulevard - shopping carts piled high with plastic bags of belongings.
COUNCIL MEETINGS TUESDAY
Tuesday brings a full agenda with the City Council, beginning at 4:30 for a Special Study Session and followed at 6:00 by a Special Council Meeting. It's going to be a long week. NOTE: Both meetings will be televised LIVE this afternoon/evening on CMTV, Channel 3 on Time Warner Cable and Channel 99 on ATT U-Verse.