Long Meeting, But Something New Learned
Monday night the Costa Mesa Planning Commission met for what most expected to be a short meeting. It wasn't.
TWO PUBLIC HEARINGS SHOVED OUT
As anticipated, the first two Public Hearings were shoved off to a future date. The first item was continued to the meeting of November 12, 2013. The second one was removed from the agenda and will be re-noticed for an undetermined future meeting. That item, a project by developer Peter Zehnder on Santa Ana Avenue, has a load of variances which, as I compared them to the list of things that will be included in the Small Lot Ordinance the commission and city council will discuss Tuesday afternoon in a study session, seemed very familiar. Maybe Mr. Zehender, not wishing to fight more battles under the current rules, will simply put the project on hold and re-submit if and when the Small Lot Ordinance passes.
SMALLER PROJECT, BUT STILL UNDERPARKED
The third item, the proposal to replace an approved two 26 story towers on Anton Drive with an 8 story residential facility - three floors of parking with the first one below grade - sucked up two full hours as the developer and commission hashed out some of the more difficult issues. The biggest of those is parking. Costa Mesa has notoriously underparked projects in the beginning and the residents and business owners in the area have always paid the price. This project, which is for 250 high-end rental units - studios, 1 and 2 bedrooms - is in an area with NO on-street parking, so any difficulties the developer has because the project is short a dozen parking spaces will have to be solved by the developer within the footprint of the project. It otherwise looks like a very nice project.
WHO ARE THOSE GUYS?
The biggest surprise for me at the meeting was the unannounced presentation by Keith Clark, who we learned is one of the 5th floor denizens who heads up the special code enforcement group called the "Improvement Division" of the CEO's office. I don't believe I've met Mr. Clark, who apparently is the part time Director of that group and has three full time Code Enforcement Officers working for him. Here's a slide he showed describing the organization:
There were many fascinating elements to Clark's discussion. He showed us examples of places he and his crew had visited and cited, and which they facilitated getting squared away. I found it interesting that in some cases where the paint on a building was shabby, they would tell the owner to select from a paint palette that would be more agreeable and blend better with surrounding properties. Does that sound just a little like Irvine? In my opinion, unless someone belongs to a Homeowners Association that controls stuff like that, he should be permitted to paint his place whatever color he choses - even if it's pink with purple trim.
CITIATIONS ISSUED/RECEIVERSHIP POSSIBLE
Clark spoke of the citations they've issued and how they may place the home of a reluctant person into receivership and turn the management of the property over to a third party. Is anyone else just a little bit nervous when you read that? I know it really bothered me when I heard it last night. It seems to me that the city has ceased being one full of compassion and has turned into a heavy-handed, almost despotic, place to live.
PROBLEMATIC MOTELS DEFINED AND FINED
He showed us slides of units within "problematic motels", and described recent sweeps and fines levied against one offending operation - the Costa Mesa Motor Inn, where more than $40,000 in fines were assessed that facility last month.
THEY WRITE PARKING TICKETS, TOO
He also told us that his three-man crew is now authorized to write parking tickets if they choose to do so. That seems like an odd assignment for a code enforcement officer. Better keep your lawn mowed, your paint freshened and on and on, or you'll get a visit from the three code enforcement officers who may end up placing your home into receivership if you don't straighten up.
CONCERNED ABOUT "STORM TROOPERS"
To be perfectly honest about this, I'm VERY concerned about a little private army of enforcers resident in the Executive Offices - men who are not trained in code enforcement, but have been turned loose on the public like a little group of storm troopers.
WAIT FOR THE PUBLIC NUISANCE ORDINANCE!
If you think this is bad, just wait until they get their Public Nuisance Ordinance passed! It's going to put tremendous power into the hands of a few among us. Once that begins there will be nothing to keep them from citing you for violations because your lawn is an inch too long, your hedge needs trimming, your car needs working-on, and on and on and on.
WHY NOT ON THE AGENDA?
And then there's the issue of this showing up as a presentation but not being shown on the agenda. I suspect that, if this presentation had been placed on the agenda, more than a few residents would have attended the meeting, since there are those around town - including at least one current council member - who have described this group as the Neighborhood Harrassment Division. I suppose that might be the reason they didn't tell anyone this presentation would be made ahead of time. Here we have another example of selective transparency, only used when it's good for the city government.
SPECIAL STUDY SESSION TODAY AT 4:30 IN CONFERENCE ROOM 1A
The commission adjourned to the study session today with the City Council to discuss the proposed new Small Lot Ordinance, which may be throwing open the door to rampant single-lot developments throughout the city, but primarily on my Eastside.