Sunday, October 18, 2015

A New Appeal Process Tops City Council Agenda Tuesday

The Costa Mesa City Council meets for the final time this month on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 beginning at 5:45 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall.  The agenda for this meeting may be read HERE.  It should be a short one, but you just never know.  It will be preceded by a multi-item Closed Session in Conference Room 5A.  Since they failed to provide a quorum for the last Study Session last week, it will be interesting to see how many of the council members show up.

Early in the meeting the council will consider nine (9) items on the Consent Calendar - those items deemed to be of a routine nature and, in theory, should be voted on in one vote.  Item #3 is Warrant #2544, HERE, which contains a listing of recently paid bills.  Usually I will list some of those items for your illumination, but today I'll simply let you click on that link and scroll down yourself and pick out some of your favorites.  I will observe that, even though this warrant did not include a payment to our contract City Attorney, Jones & Mayer, we still managed to pay nearly $25,000 to other law firms for various legal services.  Enjoy your scroll through the warrant.

Other items on the Consent Calendar that were interesting include:
  • Item #4, HERE, for more than $200,000 for Cattail Removal at Fairview Park
  • Item #6, HERE, for nearly $140,000 for engineering design services for improvements along Harbor Blvd. between Wilson Street and 19th Street.
  • Item #7, HERE, a resolution authorizing the submission of comprehensive transportation funding program applications to try to capture some of the nearly $50 million in transportation-related funding available via the so-called Measure M2 funding.  The city staff has historically done an excellent job of grabbing some of these dollars for transportation projects in our city.
  • Item #8, HERE, is a Budget Adjustment and Acceptance of a Grant from Hoag Hospital for Medical Transportation Programs of $100,000, administered through the Costa Mesa Senior Center.
  • Item #9, HERE, is a resolution consenting to the inclusion of properties within the City of Costa Mesa to join the Californiafirst Program for installation of renewable energy, energy and water efficiency improvements and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.  
There are two Public Hearings on the agenda.  #1, HERE, is an ordinance for the Second Amendment involving the Segerstrom Town Center and includes extending the development agreement (originally executed in 2001) for an additional 20 years until 2035.

Public Hearing #2, HERE, is for the vacation of excess right-of-way at 752 West 19th Street.  This is the most recent of many such requests, usually granted coincident with a planned development adjacent to the site of the vacation.

The final item on the agenda, New Business #1, HERE, is the most interesting.  This is the discussion of the City's Appeal Fees and Procedures.  In recent months there have been two (2) incidents where a resident has appealed a decision made by a city body - the Zoning Administrator or the Planning Commission - and in both cases those appeals were upheld.  Each of those residents had to pony up significant dollars, nearly $700 in one case and more than $1200 in the other.  Because their appeals were upheld they each, individually, requested reimbursement for their fees.  The City Council lumped those two requests into one action item and rejected them.

The City has no formal policy on this kind of thing, although there have been at least two incidents within the past few years where the fees were reimbursed.  They are mentioned in the staff report.  Unfortunately, the recommendation by the staff is that a new policy be established firmly stating that all such appeal fees are non-refundable.

I'm familiar with both of the current incidents.  In each case it might have been possible for a council member to appeal the issue without cost to the resident.  In one case it was possible for a planning commissioner to do so, and it was presumed he would - but then he backed out at the very last minute and the resident had no choice to pay the fees and proceed on her own.   This was the Solid Landings issue on East 19th Street.  It's interesting to note that, although the appeal was upheld and the organization was found at fault, they still have not remedied the situation.  It's interesting to note that one of the Closed Session items involves legal action with Solid Landings.

The other incident involved the proposed Farmers Market at the church on the corner of Bay Street and Orange Avenue.  In that case the resident discovered what the staff should have discovered - a condition of approval on a prior project at that site that would preclude the establishment of the Farmer's Market.  She basically did the work the staff should have done and the approval for that market was overturned.

In my view, the proposed policy is much too stringent and, in fact, seems punitive.  In my opinion, there should be more flexibility in any such policy, so concerned residents who take their own time and effort to thoroughly vet an issue, which turns out to be a correction of a mistake by the process, should not be also required to pay for the privilege.  If their action results in a proper decision, then consideration should be given to reimbursement of all, or at least part of, the fees paid for the process.  The discussion should be very interesting and, as usual, comes at the very end of the agenda.

It's possible that we could be out of the meeting before 8:00 p.m., but I have a sneaking suspicion the last item will draw out a few speakers.  We'll see.

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Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

If your appeal supports developers, you'll be rewarded. If not, tough.
Costa Mesa: Government by developers for developers, public be damned.

10/19/2015 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Unfortunately, people who appeal a planning decision can't go to Katrina or Sandy to put forth their appeal because it would be shot down out of spite.

10/19/2015 04:34:00 PM  

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