A Few Surprises At Planning Commission Meeting
When the Costa Mesa Planning Commission met last night we knew it was going to be a long meeting. We didn't, however, anticipate some of the curveballs thrown during the proceedings.
For example, the Public Comments segment began with Eastside resident Scott Morlan stepping to the podium to criticize Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick for a YouTube link he posted in a thread on NextDoor - the neighborhood conversation site that both he and I participate on. I had not seen that particular comment - there are so many of them! - but went back after the meeting and did find it HERE. As you can see, this is the old video put together by Righeimer sycophant Kent Mora using his "professional name" - Art Vandelay - in which he ridicules members of Costa Mesans For Responsible Government (CM4RG). Fitzpatrick attempts to use the NextDoor platform to spew his party line and pretend he actually knows something. It's all so very sad... He did not respond to Morlan's criticism.
NO SWEAT CONSENT CALENDAR
The Consent Calendar passed, 5-0, without any separate comments.
GARAGE REJECTED - REHAB HOME FEARS
The first Public Hearing, dealing with a proposed 845 square foot garage plus game room above on Placentia Avenue was denied by the Planning Commission after much debate and many speakers - most of whom raised the specter that the extra room might be separately rented and/or the whole home would be turned into a rehab home. During the discussion of the project all the commissioners tiptoed around that issue, instead because it was not "harmonious and compatible" with the surrounding neighborhood. Their decision was a surprise.
The second Public Hearing - the towing service on Logan Avenue - was continued until the next Planning Commission meeting.
37 UNIT CONDOS MOVE FORWARD
The third Public Hearing - the planned 37-unit condominium development on Victoria Street - was presented by former Development Services Director and Deputy City Manager Don Lamm, who makes a living these days representing development clients. His poised, professional presentation dazzled several members of the audience. Near the end of the discussions Vice Chairman Rob Dickson said, "This is exactly what the Urban Plans calls for!" However, Fitzpatrick pulled an "Allan Mansoor" when he said he'd like to have some more dialogue on this project, so voted against it. He didn't say what kind of dialogue and didn't perpetuate the discussion. It was very strange. Mansoor used to do that all the time. The project passed, 4-1.
DISPLACED FAMILIES ATTENDED
KICKING THE CAN...
Next up was the "Smoking Lounge" ordinance, which really seemed directed at hookah and e-vape lounges and not the only cigar store in town. The commission went around and around on this one, trying very hard to differentiate between hookah, e-vape and the cigar store. Eventually it was decided to toss it back to the staff for more work on the ordinance. It will be brought back at a future date.
INDEPENDENT RESEARCH ON THE DAIS
By the way, we had another example of folks on the dais using electronic tools - phones, in this case, to do independent research during a meeting. Dickson told us that, during the discussion, he "Yelped" the subject of e-vapes in Costa Mesa and came up with over 20 - the staff report said there were only a few. In my view, this is a very slippery slope. Commissioners and Council Members should NOT be doing independent research and basing decisions on it unless and until the professional staff has had a chance to vet the information - and for that information to be made available to the other members.
ANNEXING AN ISLAND OF THE COUNTY
That brought us to Public Hearing #5, the discussion of the annexation of the so-called Colleen-Santa Ana Annexation Area. A few members of the affected area - an island of Orange County that is surrounded by Costa Mesa and Newport Beach - expressed concerns about being able to retain the lifestyle that they presently enjoy - large lots, deep setbacks - as part of Orange County. It would be zoned R-1, which has a minimum lot size of 6,000 square feet. Presently the homes on the 14 acre parcel are also zoned county R-1, but the minimum lot size is 7,200 square feet with 25 foot setbacks on the rear property line - more than double the city code requirement. Eventually, led by the verbiage of Colin McCarthy, the commission approved the staff requests and the process moves forward. Here are a couple slides that show some of the data on this project.
We finally got to New Business #1, the Planning Commission goals, but it was tough to follow along. It seems that the staff report that both of us remaining in the audience at 9:45 had didn't include a second list of proposed goals given to the staff earlier by Fitzpatrick.
GROUP HOMES FITZPATRICK'S #1 PRIORITY
He did tell us his number one priority was group homes, and complained that the city says we presently have 118 group homes but some neighbors think there are more than twice that many. He wanted a reconciliation of the two numbers.
FITZPATRICK - BLEND CODE ENFORCEMENT UNITS
Fitzpatrick surprised me when he did something I've talked about for months when he called for the two code enforcement entities presently operating in City Hall - one out of the second floor and one operating as a private enforcement arm of the Executive Offices on the 5th - to be merged under one common command structure.
CODE ENFORCEMENT WRITING PARKING TICKETS?
By the way, did you know that the code enforcement officers are now going to be authorized to write parking tickets? Yep, plans are underway to train them so they can simply write a ticket instead of having to call the police when they see cars illegally parked during one of their sweeps through the neighborhood. I find myself wondering if we will next see them armed?
Fitzpatrick criticized the processes in the city that - according to him - kept information from being shared effectively. Dickson chimed in with the same complaint - he wants access to all the police department information so the Planning Commission can make "proper land use decisions". Hmmm - really?
A LONG EVENING
The meeting finally ended at 10:25 p.m. The next Planning Commission meeting will fall on TUESDAY, May 27th because Monday, the 26th is Memorial Day.