Friday, October 23, 2015

Parks and Rec. Commission Stumbles Through The Agenda

The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission had one of its more interesting meetings last night.  It managed to make it through the agenda, HERE, but not without some hiccups along the way.

Beth Refakes reminded us, for the final time, she says, that the City continues to collect candy for the children of our adopted Marine unit, the 1/5, at Camp Pendleton.  All candy, indiviually wrapped, may be placed in the foot locker in the lobby of City Hall.  The Military Affairs Team will deliver it to Camp Pendleton before Halloween.

Things began smoothly enough when, without discussion, they approved the Consent Calendar items - memorial tree, bench and plaque placement for Frank P. Forbath and a memorial tree and plaque for Katherine Libel.  We were on a roll at 6:07 and I was optimistic that we'd be out of there by 8:00.  Ha!  Silly me!

Next up was a simple tree removal request by resident Hennie van Doorn at 954 Governor Street, or so most of us thought.  It took 40 minutes to finish this one off.  There were only 8 people in the audience at the time.  By the time the commissioners struggled through this one, with Commissioner Byron de Arakal throwing a curve ball (note baseball metaphor in honor of the season) by trying to get the commission to do what they will likely do routinely once the new set of rules is finally adopted next year - let the applicant pay for removing the offending tree and the city pick up the tab for the replacement.  Round and round the conversation went.  In fact, they actually voted on this twice - the first time failing to meet de Arakal's objective.  Finally, after another ten minutes of discussion, Commissioner Robert Graham proposed exactly the same motion and it passed, 3-2, with Chairman Kim Pederson and Vice Chair Brett Eckles voting no.  I'm not sure what they did was by the book, but they did it, nonetheless.  One of the concerns was that this would be setting a precedent... which it did, as you'll see in a minute.

Next up was the tree removal request for 1969 New Jersey Street, where the resident, Mathew Martinez, is re-landscaping his home with more drought-tolerant plantings and wished to replace a parkway tree that doesn't fit with his plans.  This time the deliberations took five (5) minutes and the commission agreed unanimously to allow the removal of the tree, the replacement with two fan palms and further addition of three trees to the city inventory, all at the owner's expense.

Then came the final tree removal item on the agenda, requested by Mona McClanahan at 2822 Ellesmere Avenue.  This actually involved three (3) trees, one of which was causing problems with the sewer lines and it, along with the other two were causing sprinkler damage and creating algae problems in a salt water pond, plus the roots were creating problems with concrete and grass failed to grow adjacent to them.  This applicant was savvy enough to recognize what happened with the first tree removal request, so requested the same consideration for hers.  The commission, hearing that door slam behind them, agreed.  The city will pay for the first tree to be removed as a health and safety hazard and will remove the other two, as well, but the applicant must pay for the replacement trees for those two.

At 7:00 we began the discussion of the Harbor Boulevard Bicycle Trail Plant Palette, which took about five (5) minutes and was approved on a 5-0 vote.

Then Recreation Manager Travis Karlen began the discussion of the Costa Mesa Community Garden Report, which included new rules for the use and maintenance of the two gardens.  As this discussion progressed, and the five (5) speakers addressed the commission, it became apparent that there were some missing links, although it took nearly an hour to arrive at that conclusion.  A couple of the speakers were long-time gardeners and also helped launch the second community garden on Hamilton Street.  Another was the only member of the volunteer group that is supposed to be administering the current rules, but apparently that's not happening.

The upshot of this was that the new rules will be put into effect and Karlen and his staff will pull together those individuals that are theoretically part of the volunteer group and help implement the new rules.  This will come back to the commission in six months.  One was left feeling that the new rules, which may be found as part of the staff report, HERE, are a very good beginning, but the administration of them is going to be problematic.  It's interesting that there's an estimated two-year waiting list for each of the two parks and no new people are being added because of the low turnover.  These new rules may create new openings.

After a short break we heard Karlen's "Per Player Fee" Analysis, requested by Chairman Pederson at an earlier meeting.  Karlen surveyed several neighboring communities for information, the spreadsheet for which is attached to the staff report, HERE.   Pederson works with a per player fee program at his job with the City of Newport Beach and he's convinced it's a good way to go.  It isolates fee charges for individual players into an account that can be used for ONLY enhancements or maintenance of specific fields/other infrastructure relevant to the individual user group.  After a few minutes discussion he asked that the staff prepare a plan and bring it back to the commission for consideration.

Then we heard from each individual commissioner on their Parks Districts Report.  I'm not going to attempt to quote the praise most parks received, but issues of lighting and trash cans were universal.  Dead or dying trees were also mentioned by several commissioners.
de Arakal suggested a meeting with neighbors around Tanager Park to discuss their wishes for a big slab of concrete that is no longer used as a court.

When it was his turn Vice Chair Brett Eckles spoke with concern about Lions Park, speculating that space there might be found for a skate park or additional fields, among other things.  He also expressed concern and disappointment for the apparent damage done to brand new infrastructure at Shalimar Park.

Bart Mejia gave his Parks Project Manager's report, which was simply a referral to the published report provided to the commissioners.  It's not included in the information online.

During Commissioner Comments Eckles wondered how the new "strikes" policy was working under the recently-revised Field Use and Allocation Policy (FUAP).  Karlen explained some of the context and some of the current violations being tracked.  This is new ground, so users are a little slow to adapt.

Don Harper suggested the City take a more proactive role in instructing the public on proper water use practices.  Oddly, nobody suggested that is the purview of Mesa Water, and they've provided information to the public on that very subject.

As Chairman Pederson was about to adjourn it was pointed out that he'd forgotten the Recreation Manager's report, so he gave Karlen a chance to present three items of interest.

The first was a new event - an Art Adventure - conceived by the Cultural Arts Committee which will take place the middle of November - the 13th, 14th and 15th.  It will be a "juried art show" with only Orange County artists, and more.  Publicity on the event is forthcoming.

Also, he told us that there will be a new R.O.C.K.S. program at Rea School this year.  And that a new Field Ambassador has been assigned to that school during California Youth Soccer Team games and practices.

Pederson reminded all of us left - both of us - that the next meeting will be held earlier in November because of the Thanksgiving holiday.  The meeting will be on November 19th.  Mark your calendars.

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Anonymous Xyn Bohemia said...

thanks alot tree haters and parks and recs commissioners! hopefully i will be long gone when our beautiful ash trees in freedom home neighborhood. are removed cuz people don't wanna rake leaves or do plumbing maintenance on their own property. we will go from city of trees to city of barren tracts of cookie cutter homes. i moved here because of our beautiful trees and will be happy to leave when they come down...

10/23/2015 08:15:00 AM  

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