A Short Meeting Gone Long
Last nights Costa Mesa Planning Commission meeting, which probably could have, and should have, been completed in a couple hours managed to stretch to double that length. Upon reflection, at least 30 minutes of that time could have been saved if Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick didn't like to hear himself talk - and say not much of anything. Then, again, maybe the commissioners were feeling guilty about being overpaid based on their peers around the county, so wanted to "earn their keep"by yammering on and on. You can read the agenda HERE and watch the streaming video HERE.
I-405 MONSTER STILL ALIVE
Perhaps the most important issue discussed last night was Transportation Services Manager Raja Sethuraman's report to the commission on the status of the I-405 Improvement Project. You remember that one from last year, when the city and adjoining neighboring cities apparently successfully fought off the scheme to widen the I-405 as it passes through Costa Mesa and add High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, replacing the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes - the "carpool lanes" we know and love.
JUST WONT DIE
Well, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) and the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) have just not let this thing go and are back with a newer scheme - one just as onerous as the previous one - that would likely again include the destruction and replacement of the relatively new - 4 years? - Fairview Bridge over the I-405 to accommodate additional lanes.
You can read about the project status HERE and a long, comprehensive OCTA staff report HERE. However, all you really need to know is this sentence, contained at the bottom of page 4 of that second report. It reads thus: If an ascending debt structure is used, the toll revenue stream could generate up to $186.6 million in toll financing capacity.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY
Yep, folks, it's all about the money. Apparently CalTrans has put the old squeeze on the OCTA and threatened to convert whichever choice they make into the HOT model - and take the resultant revenue for use elsewhere in the state. So, the OCTA folks are now scrambling to produce a revenue-generator that will keep the toll fees in Orange County - and not necessarily to be used in the area in which they have been collected. Several other toll roads are in dire financial straits, so funds from "our" segment of the I-405 may be used to help pay the debt on those roads.
LARGE TURNOUT REQUIRED
MORE FOCUSED ENFORCEMENT
New Business #1 is the discussion of what is known as "Residential Neighborhood Enhancement Program Number Four", a focused attempt to "clean up" a specific part of town by applying code enforcement muscle to force property owners to shape up. The area covered is shown in this image.
"TIGHTENING UP" SINGLE HOUSEKEEPING UNITS
THREATENED LEGAL ACTION
He attempted to put the fear of God - and the legal system - into the commissioners, implying that HUD funding was in jeopardy if they proceeded with this plan, and that lawyers from all over the country were flying in to sue the pants off the city. Gee, what's new? Apparently he, and most of those in the audience who came to hear this issue, thought this was aimed directly at the growing number of group homes - drug and alcohol rehabilitation sites - that have begun infesting residential neighborhoods in our city with noise, migrating smoke in the neighborhoods and parking problems. Dumont was among the half-dozen speakers on this issue - most of them were new faces in council chambers - and most were in favor of making the proposed change to the code.
COUNCIL TO CONSIDER ON NOVEMBER 5TH
After nearly an hour of discussion - and vacillation by Fitzpatrick, who wanted the staff to prepare a more "robust" staff report, whatever that means, the commission voted, 3-2 to approve the current staff recommendation and send it to the City Council on the November 5th meeting.
VALET PARKING APPROVED
TOWNHOMES ON BERNARD APPROVED
At 7:45 the commission began the discussion on Public Hearing #2, the proposed 10-unit condominium development on Bernard Street. This project generated a lot of public comments - a half dozen folks rose to criticize the project, including one man who will be displaced from his home of many years. There was conversation of the units being "affordable", but the developer says their target price is in the $600,000 range. We live in the land of curious definitions. The commission approved the project with its numerous conditions of approval on a 5-0 vote.
RECOMMENDING A MORATORIUM