General Plan Land Use Workshop*(Amended)
Last night saw more than 75 people gather on the lawn at City Hall for the most recent in a series of General Plan workshops. This is the first of two on Land Use and was, again, designed to be a "family-friendly" event.
KIDS TAKEN CARE OF...
It included a puppet show for the children on the lawn nearby so the parents could know their kids were safe while they provided input to the process.
GOOD CROWD, NEW FACES
Economic and Development Director Gary Armstrong and consultant Laura Stetson guided the way and encouraged participation by the crowd. More than a dozen spoke to the group, expressing their views on what should be considered as the General Plan is developed. Once again, I saw unfamiliar faces mixed with those folks who regularly attend such meetings. That was a good thing.
CHECKING OUT THE PHOTOS
An early adjournment permitted the attendees to examine graphics displayed along the walkway to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), where the second segment of the proceedings would take place. Folks were encouraged to scribble their thoughts on Post-It notes and place them on a white board before entering the EOC.
BETTER TURNOUT, MORE STAYED
Unlike the previous meeting where a small segment of "outside" attendees stayed for the indoor portion, almost everyone stayed and more came in, too. I estimated 80 or so people filled the room, including a cadre of mostly developer-types who clung to the back wall.
RIGHEIMER KICKS IT OFF
Mayor Jim Righeimer briefly welcomed everyone, thanked them for their participation, then tossed the ball back to Armstrong and Stetson. No, he didn't mention his lawsuit against the police, in case you were wondering. And, for the second night in a row, I sat within an arm's length of him the entire night and we both survived the experience.
The "inside" segment began with a little data-mining exercise using an electronic voting technology. All the attendees were given little clickers, then were posed a series of questions to which they would respond by clicking a specific key on their clicker depending on their choices. They went through several rounds, displaying the percentages of participants who selected each option. The data will be compiled for later use when presenting the results of the General Plan Outreach sometime next year.
Then a rousing Question and Answer period was held. Excellent questions/concerns were asked and some were actually answered. It was a worthwhile event that went an hour longer than planned.
OFFICIALS IN ATTENDANCE
Besides the cadre of staffers, I saw many city officials in the audience and participating. In addition to Righeimer, councilwomen Wendy Leece and Sandra Genis were in attendance. Planning Commissioners Rob Dickson and Tim Sesler were joined by Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick.
A significant amount of time was spent discussing Node Zoning, just as it was at the meeting I attended the previous afternoon. This time, though, specific examples of Node Zoning were provided graphically, each showing one or more of the "problem motels" that might be replaced should the City Council decide to adopt Node Zoning as a practice. Although the concept seems to have value, I'm more than a little uncomfortable with the idea of basically spot zoning in our city. That seems like a dangerous practice.
SQUEEZING MOTEL OWNERS
In addition, Righeimer mentioned new tools to be used to encourage motel property owners to consider offers from developers. Those are in the form of two new ordinances he expects to be placed on the agenda for the September 3rd council meeting - the first day after the long Labor Day holiday weekend. Those will be the renovated Nuisance Ordinance and an un-named ordinance that will facilitate levying significant fines for "excess use" of city services - primarily police and fire services. Armstrong gave numbers like 2,200 calls for service at one motel during the last year. The plan, as Righeimer had told us in the previous meeting, is to squeeze motel owners so hard in their pocket books that their property will become devalued and therefor be easier for them to consider offers. It's the old "make them an offer they can't refuse" routine. As part of that discussion Righeimer acknowledged that it might lead to litigation. Gee, do you think? We're designing a plan to actually force profitable businesses out of business in our city. No one identified themselves as motel owners at this meeting, although one example was given by a member of the audience of a billionaire owner of one local motel that rakes in tens of thousands of dollars a month from a very seedy place.
DEALING WITH OTHERWISE HOMELESS
Again, concern was expressed about the otherwise homeless families currently living in some of those motels. Righeimer said it's not our intent to throw them out onto the streets. However, he did state that tighter control will be exercised on how long individuals and families stay in one spot. There are regulations about the length folks can stay in the motels. Once they leave they won't be permitted back in. Sounds like more lawsuits to me.
MET TONY CAPITELLI
Oh, yes... almost forgot. I met recently-announced City Council candidate Tony Capitelli. He seems like a very affable young fella who seems to be doing good work for Congressman Dana Rohrabacher in his Huntington Beach field office, where he specializes in Immigration issues. He told me he doesn't have another job. He is the son-in-law of Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry.
*NEXT MEETING SEPTEMBER 12th
While there were a couple glitches in the program last night, I think it was a worthwhile exercise if the input actually makes into the big homogenized pot for later presentation to the City Council. The next meeting is next month, on Thursday, September 12th from 6-8 p.m. at the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue - Lions Park. Westside issues will be discussed in a very similar format. Mark your calendars. (DUE TO CONFUSION ON ENTRIES ON THE CITY WEB SITE CALENDAR THE DATE SHOWN FOR THIS MEETING ORIGINALLY WAS INCORRECT. THE DATE NOW SHOWN IS THE PROPER DATE)
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