Short, But Illuminating, Meeting
The Costa Mesa Planning Commission meeting Monday night went about as anticipated. In a 90 minute session - one of the shortest such meetings in recent memory - the commission dealt with the few issues before them briskly.
APPROVING AN "OOPS, MY BAD" EVENT
They approved a request by a resident to allow their porch to remain although the original plans called for it to be smaller. The completed project, which apparently got botched up due to a confluence of events, would have likely been approved in any event, so this really was a non-issue.
On a 5-0 vote they approved the request in Public Hearing #1, HERE, in which certain segments of the Residential Design guidelines were modified. The only speaker on the issue was a developer who is doing business in the city and will be a beneficiary of the changes.
The final item on the agenda, New Business #2, was a long discussion of Extended Occupancy Motels, HERE. The staff report was advisory, requiring no action on the part of the commission. It was, however, a bellwether of things to come. The commission will soon hear about new ordinances and other policies designed to "correct" the problems at several of the motels in our city. Squalor, calls for public safety - fire and police - services that are deemed to be excessive were all discussed at length by the commissioners.
INSTITUTIONAL KNOWLEDGE LOST
We learned, too, that due to the departure of many senior staffers, institutional knowledge of issues is sorely lacking. Gathering historical information for the commissioners takes longer and the context is sometimes missing.
NOT A NEW ISSUE...
We were told by Vice Chair Rob Dickson that this issue is not new, and he cited reports from 1996 during which current council members Sandra Genis and Gary Monahan, as well as iconic names like Mary Hornbuckle, Joe Erickson and Peter Buffa, were all on the council at the time and described conditions nearly identical to the current state of affairs regarding "problem motels". Unfortunately, not enough has been done in the intervening years to resolve the problems.
...SO WE SHOULDN'T CRITICIZE THE CURRENT COUNCIL
Dickson then went on to criticize the critics of the current city council - those who accuse them of trying to feather the beds of developer buddies. That, of course, was aimed directly at me. I have long been a critic of the methods Mayor Jim Righeimer and his fellow-travelers are trying to use to "fix things" in our city - problem motels are one of those issues. Righeimer has said during public forums that he was going to put the motels out of business - to force them, through intense, aggressive code enforcement and law enforcement actions - to re-consider the value of their properties and accept more moderate offers to buy them. In fact, Righeimer said the city might be forced to buy some of those properties, then SELL THEM AT A LOSS to developers!
HERE'S WHAT HE SAID EARLY-ON
Early into his term Righeimer said, during the Council Member Comments segment of a Council Meeting on June 21, 201l, the following:
"Another thing that we have in this community that causes crime is we have a lot of motels that are problems. We all know that. It gets to be like a running joke about the motels. In fact, if you need an arrest you just run to a motel and hit it get all the license plates and you'll find somebody. The city needs to remove these motels. I'm not talking about condemning them, I'm talking writing a check and buying it and making a pocket park out of it. That's how you take care of crime issues."
THAT'S HIS MIND-SET
That seems to have been the kernel of his ideas about how to dispose of so-called problem motels. It's going to be very interesting to see how this plays out.
NEXT MEETING A LONG ONE
The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be held on a Tuesday, November 12th and, according to Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick, will have nine (9) Public Hearings! Yikes! That promises to be a long one.
Speaking of Fitzy, in my last post I asked for some help keeping track of how many times he uttered his pet annoying, immature and inappropriate words, "Cool!" and "Excellent!" during the meeting. Well, I tried to keep track and here's my results:
Cool! - 1
Excellent! - 5
And, he also threw in "Awesome!" for good measure - 3