Thursday, November 20, 2014

Parks & Rec. Commission Assigns Districts

FINAL MEETING OF THE YEAR
Last night the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission met for the final time this year and, before a small crowd, fulfilled chairman Byron de Arakal's goal of assigning each commissioner a group of parks for which they will have primary responsibility for oversight.  The agenda for the meeting is HERE.
A LONELY GUY...
I say "small" crowd because there was me and, well, me for most of the evening.  Former commissioner Mark Harris - 14 years on the dais - and his wife attended and Harris spoke twice to the commission.  The first time he stepped up during Public Comments to compliment them and the staff for the even-handed way the contentious tree removal request on Yukon was handled earlier in the year.  The second time was on the issue of the evening, the assignment of districts.  I did see recent City Council candidate Chris Bunyan pause briefly in the meeting - one of the few meetings he's attended lately.  Except for staff, that was it.  When you watch the tape and you see the commissioners talking to the audience, they were talking to me - way, way back there in the cheap seats.

PROPERTY OWNER A NO SHOW - REQUEST DENIED!
First thing off the bat was another tree removal request on Cork Lane.  The commission heard the thorough staff report, offered some views of the issue and seemed disappointed when the property owner failed to show up to speak to his request.  This happens often, which is peculiar, because from my vantage point it usually seems like some of the commissioners might be more sympathetic to the request if the property owners would actually take the time to speak with them at the meetings.  This one didn't and the request was denied.

A DILUTED PROPOSAL FOR DISTRICTS
Next came the aforementioned Park Districts proposal.  You can read that staff report HERE.   Instead of proposing that this plan become a municipal ordinance, de Arakal shifted gears and now proposed that it simply become a policy - which may be subject to some political tinkering in the future.  However, by doing it this way it can be implemented immediately, without City Council approval.

PARK RANGERS
During his comments, which stretched well beyond his three minutes, Harris stressed the value of the Park Ranger program, opined that there should be more of them and suggested they be returned to the Parks Department for management instead of being part of the Police Department.

POLICY, NOT AN ORDINANCE
In a nutshell, the new policy would have all 30 public park areas throughout the city will be divided nearly evenly and grouped into districts.  A Parks and Recreation Commissioner will be assigned as the primary liaison person for a specific district, to facilitate more focused attention to every park in the city.  The commissioner will have responsibility for reporting to the commission twice each year - April and October - on the status of each of their parks.  In addition, correspondence regarding issues involving each park would be shared with the appropriate commissioner, who would be the primary interface with residents to insure satisfactory customer service.  It was stressed that the commissioners would NOT have management oversight on the parks, and would NOT provide direction to staff on issues.  They would follow up on inquiries and requests, though.  They would also work with the staff to recommend future Capital Improvement Projects in relation to their assigned parks during the budget process.

PARK DISTRICT ASSIGNMENTS
The list of park districts and assignments attached to the staff report was incomplete.  The following is the complete list.  In the future Park Districts would be determined by a simple lottery process.

Parks and Recreation Commission
Proposed Park Districts and Neighborhood Parks Representatives


District 1: Chairman De Arakal
Civic Center
Ketchum-Libolt
Tanager
TeWinkle
Wilson
Hammett


District 2: Commissioner Harper
Estancia
Mesa Verde
Moon Park
Smallwood
Suburbia


District 3: Commissioner Graham

Brentwood
Heller
Jordan
Lindbergh
Pinkley
Harper


District 4: Vice Chairman Pederson

Del Mesa
Gisler
Paularino
Shiffer
Wakeham
Wimbledon


District 5: Commissioner Abernathy
Canyon
Fairview
Lions
Marina View
Shalimar
Vista


NEW SIGNAGE
Coincident with the new policy would be the installation of signage at each park that would be similar to this example provided in the staff report.  You'll note that it does NOT specifically name the commissioner assigned to the park, nor does it provide direct contact information to the commissioner.  Contact would be through the city email/telephone number.
SOME MASSAGING ANTICIPATED, SO TO SPEAK
I suspect this new policy will require some tinkering as it gets implemented fully.  I anticipate some overlap of contact by staff and commissioners that might become cumbersome.  Time will tell.  As a policy, it can be massaged to improve it without having to go through the lengthy process that would be involved if it was an ordinance.

HARTLEY'S REPORT
During his report Maintenance Services Manager Bruce Hartley mentioned that the Senior Center will be closed  beginning this Friday for two weeks for refurbishing.  Services will be transferred to the Neighborhood Community Center in the meantime.  He also addressed the recent ceremony at the Estancia Adobe in which the Sons of the Golden West presented a plaque recognizing the Adobe as the 2nd oldest structure in Orange County.  He also told us that the landscape contract was up for bid for the first time in 8 years, which might result in improved economies and service.
KARLEN, TOO
Recreation Manager Travis Karlen also mentioned the Senior Center shutdown and indicated the official ribbon-cutting of the new, improved facility would take place coincident with the Christmas Party on December 19th.  He mentioned that members of the Police and Fire Departments would participate in that celebration.

PARKS PROJECT REPORT
Parks Project Manager Bart Mejia provided two reports.  The first was his normal monthly report, which included an overview of ongoing and anticipated plans/projects.  This slide shows those items:
NEED FOR PUBLIC OUTREACH
de Arakal observed that he hoped the first one, the update of the Open Space Master Plan of Parks and Recreation, would include significant public outreach in the form of workshops.  He specifically mentioned outreach on the Westside to the Latino community - in Spanish.

HARBOR BLVD AND CANARY STAIRS
Mejia also mentioned the Harbor Boulevard Beautification project, the installation of the Canary Drive stairs into Fairview Park and other projects.  For the complete list of projects/accomplishments read the staff report HERE.
FAIRVIEW PARK
He also presented his annual Fairview Park report, HERE, which includes a list of a dozen accomplishments for the 2014 year and a list of goals for 2015.  de Arakal complimented Mejia for his guidance of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee and encouraged a continued steady approach to their task.  He emphasized the need to be cognizant of probable constraints that may be imposed by the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife on certain segments of the park, particularly where protected species are known to exist.
DARK UNTIL JANUARY
The commission adjourned to their meeting in January - it is dark in December.



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