Friday, April 24, 2015

Of Trees, Skate Park, Drainage And More

LONG, YET PRODUCTIVE MEETING
The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission met again Thursday evening in a meeting that was productive and lasted longer than anticipated.

TREE REMOVAL REQUESTS
Just over two dozen people in the audience at the beginning saw the commissioners spend just under two hours hearing two separate, yet related, issues involving tree removal requests in a community near the Baker Street off ramp of the 73 Freeway.

KLONDIKE TREES
The first, at 3081 Klondike Avenue, property owner Gabriella Oseguera, requested two more city-owned trees be removed because of a variety of reasons dealing with pollen, dust and potential future damage to her wall.  Several residents rose to speak both for and against her request, including former Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mark Harris and his wife, Jessica.  Clearly, there is ill-will within that community, as was reflected by the sniping at each other by some from the speaker's podium.

COMMISSION SAYS "NO"
In the end, the commissioners voted unanimously to NOT remove the trees because no evidence of actual damage had been presented.

PROSPECT PLACE TREES A TENTATIVE "NO"
The second request was for three city-owned trees to be removed from property adjacent to 883 Prospect Place.  Many of the same people stepped up to support the request and a few opposed it.  Residents Kelly and Scott Waterman contended that three trees near their property would eventually cause damage to their backyard, which is about to undergo renovation.  In the end, at the suggestion of commissioner Byron de Arakal, city staff will go to the site and, in conjunction with the contractor hired by the Watermans, excavate inside their yard near the wall to determine IF the roots from existing trees are going to be a problem, or not.  The request was denied, but staff may overturn that vote if the above-mentioned excavation determines that the roots of those trees are immediately problematic.

LOOKING BETTER AT THE SKATE PARK
Next up was the Costa Mesa Skate Park Report.  Recreation Manager Travis Karlen presented a positive report, indicating that there are now 8 Park Ambassadors assigned to work at and around the Skate Park each day. Costa Mesa Police Lieutenant Vic Bakkila told us criminal activities are down in and near the Skate Park, and that most of those violating the rules are not Costa Mesa residents.  Speakers requested longer hours at the Skate Park, but the commissioners felt the existing hours are satisfactory now.  Eventually the commission voted to receive and file the report.

EASEMENT CART BEFORE THE HORSE
Next came a request for an easement into a small section of Fairview Park.  Developer Peter Zehnder explained that if this request is denied the water from his developement could continue to flow directly onto Fairview Park, to which this project is contiguous.  This whole train of thought seemed a little backward - the cart was before the horse.   The commission may not authorize an easement, just confirm that the plan does not violate the existing Fairview Park Master Plan.  Great concern was expressed about the builder and other contractors having to dig up part of the park that houses protected Native American sites.  This process took much longer than necessary, but the issue was thoroughly vetted before the commission voted to confirm that the requested easement did not violate the existing Fairview Park Master Plan.
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM
Then for the next half hour the commissioners plowed through the current fiscal year and seven year projection Capital Improvement Program Budget, providing emphasis to items contained therein.  Each commissioner had a chance to voice their individual views on line items and the staff will carry those forward to the City Council as part of the upcoming budget deliberations.  Quite honestly, considering that the staff report was more than 130 pages long, I feared this process might take much, much longer.  It didn't...

GRAHAM FPCAC LIAISON
Next the commission voted to appoint Bob Graham as primary liaison to the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee, which is presently on a year-long hiatus.  Don Harper was appointed as alternate.

DE ARAKAL STAYS WITH NMUSD COMMITTEE
They then voted to permit Byron de Arakal, at his request, to remain the liaison to the Newport Mesa Unified School District Committee because of his familiarity with the relationship and the various issues being worked by that committee.  Chairman Kim Pederson was named alternate.

PARK DISTRICT REPORTS
Then the commissioners launched into their individual reports on the parks for which they have primary responsibility - a task that took an hour, but was worth hearing.  Each member discussed each of their assigned parks, providing their opinion of the positive elements of the parks and listing areas where improvement were necessary.  This brainstorm of de Arakal's while he was Chairman has turned out to be a very positive change.  Instead of every commissioner trying to become thoroughly knowledgeable about every element of every park, each focuses on a handful and provides reports to the entire body.  This was the first such report and the staff will take their views under advisement for possible inclusion in the budget where necessary or for direct action if appropriate.

NEEDS
Issues like the need for bike racks, more frequent sandbox rototilling and maintenance of restrooms and dining shelters were among the many items mentioned.

NEXT MEETING IN A MONTH
Following the reports from Parks Project Manager Bart Mejia, Recreation Manager Travis Karlen and Maintenance Services Manager Bruce Hartley and committee member comments, just after 11 p.m. Chairman Pederson bid both of us remaining in the audience a fond adieu and adjourned to a possible study session on May 20th and the next regularly scheduled meeting on May 28th, just before the Memorial Day long weekend.

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