Library Plan and General Plan Land Use Updates
At a Special Study Session Tuesday beginning at 4:30 p.m. what was left of the Costa Mesa City Council heard staff reports, comments from residents and provided staff direction on each of the two items on the agenda. Approximately 60 people showed up for the meeting. Only Mayor Jim Righeimer, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger and Councilwoman Wendy Leece attended. Councilwoman Sandra Genis was absent due to illness and Gary Monahan, as mentioned in an earlier post, decided to stay at his pub for a fundraiser instead of attending this study session. Righeimer, as he announced that fact, suggested that the audience adjourn to Monahan's bar after the meeting to support Kaiser and Woodland Schools. So, now we're publicizing bars from the dais... nice.
First up was the plan - nobody said where this idea came from - to convert the Neighborhood Community Center (NCC) into a library and convert the nearby Donald Dungan Library into a community meeting venue. The representative from KAL Architects gave a detailed presentation about how the new facility would be laid out, more than doubling the existing library space. The staff report is HERE.
PROS AND CONS
Ten residents spoke on the issue. Members of the Costa Mesa Library Foundation and the Friends of the Library supported the idea. Others urged caution, suggesting that there was no compelling reason to do this at this time and we had no idea of the costs yet. One speaker suggested that the Mesa Verde Branch library should not be overlooked as talks of improving library facilities moves forward. Many spoke expressing concern about the displacement of the organizations which use the NCC for regular meetings. At an earlier meeting one member of the council implied that the NCC was underutilized. However, the staff report listed all the current users groups - 42 in all. Of those one, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, rented space 141 days last year. Another four groups rented space from 50-74 days, three rented space from 22-32 days, nineteen rented space from 9-18 days and the remaining fifteen users rented space from 1-4 days. According to CEO Tom Hatch and Assistant CEO Tammy Letourneau, every effort will be made to assist those displaced find meeting quarters.
FAST AND LOOSE WITH NUMBERS
Supporters bemoaned the fact that, due to a perceived lack of commitment by the city, there was an inability to come up with community financial support and the opportunity was lost to build a new, first-class library near the City Hall complex. It would have cost an estimated $50 million. Righeimer said, "If we don't do this now it will never happen." He then, in one of those stream of consciousness rants for which he is becoming infamous, he said we could do this for "$4-6 million, under $10 million", and that he was all for it. So, what we have here is a guy who pretends to be a fiscal conservative yet approaches a major project like this like a drunken sailor buying drinks for the house! I mean, what the heck - four million, six million, ten million - what's the big deal, right? Geez! The staff was given direction to come back with a Request for Proposals to spend somewhere in the amount of $100,000 for further architectural work. For more on this, see Bradley Zint's Daily Pilot article HERE.
LENGTHY GENERAL PLAN UPDATE
After a third of the crowd departed, leaving around 40 people in the auditorium, they tackled the second item on the agenda - the General Plan Update - Land Use Alternatives. The staff report is HERE. Consultants from MIG (Hogle Ireland) led the way with a snazzy PowerPoint presentation covering eight (8) separate and distinct areas where changes to the General Plan are recommended. They emphasized that 85% of the city will be unchanged. The eight areas are:
Area A - Business Park Overlay
Area B - Segerstrom Home Ranch
Area C - Sakioka Lot 2
Area D - Residential Overlay
Area E - Corridor Mixed Use
Area F - Westside Overlay
Area G - Newport Boulevard Mixed Use
Area H - SoBECA
BUSINESS OWNERS ARE CONCERNED
After the presentation more than a dozen folks stepped up to express concerns about some of the changes. Seven Westside business owners addressed the council, expressing concerns about the probability of being squeezed out of their locations - some of whom had been there for more than four decades - by the implementation of so-called Live/Work housing units contiguous with industrial uses. John Hawley of Railmakers - a long-time metal fabricator supporting the local boat businesses - led the way. Also speaking was Roger MacGregor, who built boats that carry his name at his five acre Westside location on Placentia until - anticipating the squeeze - he recently moved his thriving and world-renowned business to Florida,
RESIDENTS CONCERNS NOT INCLUDED
Residents also stepped up to complain that, among other things, the sentiments expressed to the consultants who conducted several community outreach meetings last year seemed not to be acknowledged nor reflected in the presentation. Several of them attended all the meetings - I attended all but one - and I agree. There seemed to be a major disconnect between what the consultants had consistently been told - no more increased density housing - to what was being presented last night.
BUILDERS LOVE IT!
The final speaker was Mike Balsamo, representing the Building Industry Association - a trade group of more than 1,000 builders. He suggested that Costa Mesa was on the right track - what a surprise, considering the recent developments being considered in the city - and that the "Millennials" want things like Live/Work units because they are marrying later and having families later. None of that made the business owners very happy, though.
MORE "FUNNY" NUMBERS
During his comments Righeimer said he had attended 4-5 of the outreach meetings - I don't recall that being the case - and he said there were only 10, 12 or 30 people attending and there was no "outcry" about density. Well, he didn't attend the meetings I attended, because there was, indeed, an outcry about what appeared the plans for more high density housing. And, once again, he plays fast and loose with the numbers! He launched off into a rant about the state needing to do more to attract businesses to California - while he was in the process of putting together a General Plan that will squeeze out existing businesses from Costa Mesa! He cited diminished "trips" in several of the areas discussed, but Gary Armstrong - Director of Economic Development - and Ernesto Munoz - Director of Public Services - acknowledged that the statistics used for those "trips" were estimates, not the result of specific, costly traffic studies. So, we're now pulling numbers out of the air and basing major planning decisions for the future of the city on them. Yikes!
WATCH THE TAPES...
I won't attempt to discuss each element in detail. You can read the staff reports and the proceedings were shown live on CMTV and will be available for viewing in the local outlet rotation and also via streaming video shortly. Watch it yourselves for the details.
EXPANDING THE PROGRAM
The staff was sent away with instructions to expand the contract of the consultants to do a broader program, to include:
Open Space and Recreation Element
MORE MONEY - MORE TIME
According to the staff report, this plus Focused Zoning Update and additional Great Reach (outreach) Events will cost nearly $150,000 and the process will stretch into the first part of next year. The staff will bring back the request for the increase at a future meeting.
LONGER THAN USUAL
The Study Session, normally a couple hours, stretched to nearly four this time because greater opportunity was provided for public comments on each item. That was a good change on the part of the mayor.... that's "one", for those keeping track. And, the meeting likely would have run even longer if Genis had been there. This stuff is right in her wheelhouse and she'd have had significant contributions to make. As it was, Righeimer read her short prepared statement into the record without comment.
Labels: Donald Dungan Library, Gary Monahan, General Plan, Jim Righeimer, John Hawley, Neighborhood Community Center, Roger MacGregor, Sandra Genis, Steve Mensinger, Tammy Letourneau, Tom Hatch, Wendy Leece