General Plan Meeting/Movie Has Big Turnout
The General Plan Update Visioning meeting last night was a big success. While nearly 90 of your friends and neighbors listened intently and participated enthusiastically, a large covey of children gathered nearby on the lawn, created little cardboard "car seats" and patiently waited for the SpongeBob SquarePants movie to begin.
The meeting was facilitated by new Director of Development Services/Deputy CEO Gary Armstrong - fresh off going through this process in his previous gig at San Benito County - and consultant Rick Zimmer of the firm Hogle-Ireland/MIG. Clearly, both men had been there before and moved the meeting along briskly.
LOTS OF NEW FACES
Following a brief introduction and explanation of the process for the evening, more than two dozen residents stepped up to express their views on what they'd like to see in the City over the next couple decades. While most speakers were those who regularly participate in municipal matters - speaking before the City Council and commissions, participate on committees, etc. - there were quite a few new faces in the audience. At least a third of the audience were newcomers and they followed the proceedings intently. That's a good sign - the goal of this particular meeting was to lure families out so they could participate in the extremely important process. It succeeded. for example, in the back row of seats, not too far from where I was standing, a new father sat cradling his month-old baby, listening to the discussion, while his wife was on the lawn a few yards away with their other children getting ready for SpongeBob.
OPEN SPACE, DENSITY, PARKING AND MORE
The topics of concern to the speakers ranged far and wide. Several were concerned about diminishing open space, high density housing, traffic, affordable housing and inadequate parking. Several speakers spoke in glowing terms about their Westside neighborhoods and expressed the view that there is nothing wrong with that part of town - and that is should be left alone.
NO COMMENTS ABOUT SPORTS FIELDS
Considering the fact that this meeting was aimed at families, I don't recall anyone speaking about the need for more sports fields, although many did express a view that they loved the parks - Fairview Park in particular - and hoped features like the model trains would always remain.
A few people spoke about the Banning Ranch project - none in favor of it. Dr. Terry Welsh, President of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, waited patiently to speak, then did so with vigor and passion.
CONCERN ABOUT MOBILE HOME PARKS
A few spoke with concern for the future of mobile home parks in the city - a valid concern, since there has been a recent movement to shutter a couple more of them and build "new" things in their place. Several speakers opined that mobile home parks represent much-needed affordable housing in Costa Mesa.
NEED FOR LIBRARY FACILITIES
Mary Ellen Goddard spoke about the need for more library facilities and another speaker echoed her comments, but expressed the view that the City shouldn't be on the hook for the costs.
PROTECT THE INDUSTRIAL/COMMERCIAL AREA
Some of the speakers expressed favorable comments about the industrial/commercial section of the Westside and hoped it would not be forced out and replaced by high density housing elements.
MORE LAND USE MEETINGS
Activist Robin Leffler expressed the need for MORE such meetings, and echoed former councilman Jay Humphrey's view that the "mix" of meetings should be adjusted to include more "land use" meetings and fewer "circulation" meetings, since circulation is driven by land use.
SPEAKERS GIVEN TIME
The number of speakers surprised the facilitators, but they let everyone who wished to do so to speak their piece, regardless how long it might have taken them. That stretched the meeting until shortly after 8 p.m.
THE MAYOR SPOKE
MOVIE AND MEETING, PART 2
Following the outdoor portion of the meeting the kids and their parents were treated to corndogs and other treats while the movie played. Many members of the audience joined Armstrong and Zimmer in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) where more questions were asked and views stated. Approximately 20 residents took advantage of that opportunity to further discuss the General Plans and give their views for another 90 minutes.
I came away from this meeting with strong positive feelings. It was great to see so many new faces taking time to participate. And, it was refreshing to watch the facilitators actually listen to what was being said. Later some of the participants wondered what the outcome of this process would be. They were concerned that all the time taken by them and others to present their views might be ignored by the City Council when the final General Plan document is created. Sadly, nobody was able to placate their concerns.
CITY OFFICIALS ATTENDING
In addition to Righeimer making a cameo appearance during his busy schedule, council women Wendy Leece and Sandy Genis were present at the event. They stuck it out to the bitter end and were still chatting with participants when I left at 9:30. I also saw Planning Commission Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick, Vice Chair Rob Dickson and member Tim Sesler hovering around the perimeter, listening to the proceedings. Now, some of you might say Fitzpatrick was just there for the corndogs, but he seemed tightly focused on the discussions and took time to visit with participants before and after the event. I did see him near the corndogs, though.
HATCH OBSERVED AND SMILED
In addition to several other hardworking city staffers in attendance to help make the event a success, I saw CEO Tom Hatch standing in the back, taking it all in. He was pleased with the turnout and the way the meeting went.
Here's the schedule of future General Plan events, straight from the City web site:
Wednesday, August 21, 2013: Land Use Alternative workshop, 6 to 7:30 p.m., City of Costa Mesa Emergency Operations Center (EOC) 99 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013: Circulation Element Workshop, 6 to 7:30 p.m., City of Costa Mesa Emergency Operations Center (EOC) 99 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013: Circulation Element Workshop, 6 to 7:30 p.m., City of Costa Mesa Emergency Operations Center (EOC) 99 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013: Preferred Alternatives Workshop, 6 to 7:30 p.m., City of Costa Mesa Emergency Operations Center (EOC) 99 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
Wednesday, December 18, 2013: Policy Review Workshop, 6 to 7:30 p.m., City of Costa Mesa Emergency Operations Center (EOC) 99 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.
CHARTER COMMITTEE MEETING TONIGHT
My next meeting is tonight, Wednesday, July 24th in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), where the Charter Committee will meet again beginning at 6:00 p.m.. They will discuss Public Contracts if they can get past the "Moment of Silence" issue. You can read the agenda for that meeting HERE.