ONE DOWN AND STILL SMILIN'...
Well, the first Costa Mesa city council meeting of the new year proved to, indeed, be a kinder, gentler event than many in the recent past. New Mayor Jim Righeimer ran the meeting crisply, with almost the perfect mix of business and humor. He enlisted the help of his fellow council members and the public to keep things moving briskly. I don't want to heap too much praise on him or he might get a big head... oh, wait... too late.
OFFICER SMITH PRESENTS A FLAG
The evening began with three VERY
special presentations. Costa Mesa Police Officer Jon Smith
- who had been honored on the lawn of the Police Headquarters earlier in the day when the yellow ribbon that had wrapped the trunk of a large ficus tree on the lawn was removed after Smith safely returned from a year-long deployment in Afghanistan - presented Righeimer with an American Flag that had flown over Afghanistan.
LOCAL HEROES HONORED
Then Righeimer honored two young maintenance workers from the South Point Apartments who saved the lives of two women who had been trapped in a burning apartment building. Arturo Hernandez
and Gerald Rodriquez
broke in a door and literally carried the two women to safety.
And then Righiemer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger
presented awards to members and coaches of the Estancia High School Eagle football team for their victory in the annual Battle Of The Bell - the cross-town rivalry with the Costa Mesa High School Mustangs. Coach Mike Bargas
spoke briefly about his team and their accomplishments.
Fewer than a dozen folks rose to speak during Public Comments on issues as diverse as improving an entrance to Fairview Park; the successful Snoopy House event; the concern of residents of Bethel Towers about the pending renovations; the proposed new Fairview Park parking lot; the pending recall of Mayor Righeimer and the new, more civil attitude, which was punctuated by a word - or maybe it's two words - left hanging in the air by former mayor Eric Bever
having to do with bovine excrement. Apparently some things will never change.
During his segment CEO Tom Hatch
brought a full bag of tricks that had accumulated for a month, since the last meeting. He updated us on the progress of the consultant for the city General Plan update. He told us that they plan to provide even more specific information on the Warrants that presently appear as part of the Consent Calendar. He also mentioned that in the special study session on January 29th two important issues will be discussed - the unfunded liability issue and the 2.5@55 benefit enhancement, and invited the public to attend. I'll remind you. He then invited Chief Tom Gazsi
to make a short presentation on the status of our School Resource Officer (SRO) program.
CHIEF GAZSI ON SRO PROGRAM
Gazsi told us that the CMPD aggressively trains for protection of probable targets - schools, shopping centers, athletic events, etc. He told us that recently retired SRO Jess Gilman
returned on a part-time basis in a reserve officer role. He also told us that on Monday he hired four (4) new police officers - the first hired since 2008 - and that four more will be hired this month. He's working closely with Dr. Fred Navarro
, Superintendent of Schools for the Newport Mesa Unified School District on SRO plans.
Then, after a little pep talk by Righeimer about what items on the Consent Calendar are supposed to be, members of the council promptly pulled half of the items for separate discussion. During a discussion of the Warrants Mensinger said, paraphrasing him, that when he requested the Warrants be included in the Consent Calendar he didn't expect them to be pulled for separate discussion. Gee, I guess that means we want transparency, just don't dare ask any questions about little things like how much we're spending on legal fees. He mentioned those specifically. Too late, Steve - you opened that particular Pandora's Box and you're just going to have to live with the consequences.
By the time we finished the Consent Calendar it was 7:55 p.m., nearly an hour after we should have been discussing Public Hearing #1, the item for which most of the remaining crowd was patiently waiting. But, instead, he jumped to New Business #2, the discussion of the SR-55 Improvement Study
- apparently so the half dozen OCTA folks in attendance could get on their way.
Transportation Services Manager Raja Sethuraman
made a brief presentation of the history of this project, then turned it over to a representative from OCTA, who explained the remaining process. From this point forward a detailed technical analysis will be performed, then the process will return to the city to arrive at the "preferred local alternative". Cost estimates for the four remaining options ranged from $9-14 million
for Alternative #2, the Transportation System Management
option that included signal synchronization and adding a couple partial lanes to $9-25 million for option #3, Vertical Terminal Enhancement
and a whopping $306 - 373
million for the Cut and Cover
choice. And, of all the options, that final one would have the greatest business impact by far.
FINALLY, THE ANCHOR TRAILER PORT CLOSURE IMPACT REPORT!
After a nearly 20 minute break at 8:35 we finally got to the Public Hearing on the proposed closure of the Anchor Trailer Port. It is proposed to remove the existing mobile homes and trailers and build 40 live/work units ranging is size from 1952 to 2000 square feet. Representatives of the proposed new owner were present to present their plan for the relocation of the existing residents, more than half of whom showed up for the meeting. Nineteen (19) people stood to express their concern about the process and their apprehension - distrust, actually - of the plans being proposed.
DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN!
Many of us who have been observing council activities for more than a short time remembered back nearly a decade ago when two trailer parks - El Nido and Snug Harbor - were closed by the owner to build a medical office building. That process was long, late and rancorus over many months. The presentation by the proposed owners and by Celeste Brady
representing The City in this matter as a member of the law firm of Stradling, Yocca Carlson & Rauth was thorough. Brady made it very clear early on that the council has NO
discretion in this matter. They can only find that the applicant did or did not follow the state law in this matter - which she told us they did and even exceeded the requirements, too. In fact, they were working with the 24th version of the Closure Impact Report (CIR), each of which were prepared after input by residents and city staff.
Still, the conversation went on and on and on and was finally passed after the council squeezed concessions out of the applicant and Mensinger wondered what the penalty would be if they DID NOT
pass the action. I could see Brady flinch when he asked the question. Well, gee, Steve - I guess that would get us saddled with yet another law suit because of a boneheaded council action! The guy really is obtuse. And, as it turns out, he has a friend who is a resident of the trailer park who he apparently is now moved to "help" - whatever that means. The applicant will offer significant financial incentives and assistance to the residents, including relocation counseling. The council finally took their vote - 5-0 - at just before 11 p.m., then took a short break while all the interested parties filed out. The meeting commenced at 11:05.
FAIRVIEW PARK BOARDWALKS
Now we were on New Business #1, the Fairview Park Wetlands Boardwalk Project
. In a nutshell, we have just about finished creating a wetlands area of Fairview Park but most of it would not be visible to visitors from the trails around the perimeter. So, the staff wants authorization to move forward to plan a series of boardwalks that will enable visitors to walk above the wetlands and safely see the wildlife and plants included therein. The cost for the planning and design phases is $100,000 and the total project may cost $1 million. The seven remaining residents in the chambers heard the council approve moving forward with the plan.
SECURITY CAMERAS AT CITY HALL AND LIONS PARK
Finally, at 11:25, the final item on the agenda, New Business #3, Council Authorization for the Implementation of Security Camera System Upgrade and Expansion For City Hall and Lion's Park
, was heard. Among the questions asked were just who the "authorized staff members" are that will be permitted to view these video recordings. Apparently, in the case of the Lions Park tapes, that would be police personnel. Some conversation suggested that members of "city management" will be permitted to view the City Hall tapes. We were assured that none of the cameras will be trained on working areas, only common areas like hallways, parking lots and entrances to the building.
ALMOST MIDNIGHT - AGAIN!
Finally, at 11:47 p.m., we were done. So, despite his best efforts, Righeimer was still not able to get us on the road home early last night.
NEXT MEETING NEXT WEEK
The next meeting will be next Tuesday, January 15th. That's going to be a tough one for the staff, since it only gives them a couple days in which to prepare the necessary staff reports. Such is life in the new, kinder, gentler City of Costa Mesa.
Labels: Celeste Brady, Dr. Fred Navarro, Fairview Park, Jess Gilman, Jim Righeimer, Jon Smith, Lions Park, Mike Bargas, School Resource Officers, SR-55, Steve Mensinger, Tom Gazsi, Tom Hatch