Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Sparks Fly As General Plan Is Discussed

Well, sadly, another Costa Mesa City Council meeting lasted past midnight this morning.  As most know who read here occasionally, not much good happens in City Council Chambers past that witching hour.  As it turned out, the meeting finally ended at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

On the other hand, live entertainment was provided in the form of the verbal jousting between Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and Councilwoman Katrina Foley.  And, it wasn't just one little bout... it stretched throughout the meeting, so we didn't have to worry about dozing off.  When the meeting began there were over 100 people in the audience, dealing with sub-par performance of the air conditioning unit, which was eventually adjusted more than two hours into the meeting.  I think Righeimer was more than usually obnoxious because the room was filled with his developer buddies, so I guess he had to show them that he was in charge.  He doesn't do that macho, muscle-flexing thing very well - he just looks like the bully he is, and was called out for it by Foley at one point in the meeting.

First the good stuff.  Mayor Steve Mensinger made two presentations.  The first, the Mayor's Award, went to the proprietors of the year-old Westside restaurant, Social, for their success in their first year of operation - Tuesday night was their first anniversary.
The second award was the presentation to two young men who participated in the recent Bicycle Safety event.  That was special.  The only down side of that segment was Gary Monahan whining about private schools not being included.
During Public Comments thirteen (13) people spoke on a variety of issues.  Kathy Esfahani, representing the Costa Mesa Affordable Housing Coalition, spoke about the pending closure of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn, and the loss of 236 rooms for low-income folks.  She announced her group will hold a demonstration on Thursday, October 22nd to protest our lack of affordable housing.

Beth Refakes reminded us, once again, that there is a candy drive
going on for the children of the 1/5 Marines at Camp Pendleton - only individually-wrapped pieces can be accepted and may be placed in the foot locker in the City Hall lobby.

Former councilwoman Wendy Leece observed that several items 
the 17 point plan for the Fire Department had not been fulfilled and specifically asked for information on when they would be completed.  She then obliquely mentioned problems with conflicts of interest with council members.  That set off Righeimer on the first of many rants that evening.  He took her comments to be a criticism of his plan to build a new home on his Capri Land site and said he went out of his way to be sure his name was not on the plans when submitted to the city to avoid the appearance of any kind of favoritism.  Well, in fact, his name IS on the plans - I have a copy of them.  They portray a lovely home with a garage of DOUBLE the size you or I could build on our lots... AND, it also includes a "bonus room" and a full bathroom.  And yet, off he went on his rant against Leece, accusing her of politicizing "everything".

Bitter former employee Steven White stepped up to deliver a disjointed rant about 91101 and him losing his job.

Rick Huffman addressed sober living homes in his neighborhood, providing specific addresses to the council.

Robin Leffler came to Leece's defense and scolded Righeimer for his behavior.

Teresa Drain advised the council that the construction crew for
2600 Harbor Boulevard were violating the conditions of approval on their construction site.

An anonymous speaker chided the council for not refunding the fees to the two women who successfully brought appeals recently.

Tamar Goldmann bemoaned the demise of so many motels.  Others spoke about the Banning Ranch issue.

During Councilmember comments Monahan gave Mensinger a Stanford visor to wear because he lost a bet to Monahan about the USC game, and he donned a Notre Dame visor in anticipation of USC losing to the Irish.  He encouraged everyone to help with the identification of sober living homes in the city, stating that even if we had enough police they still couldn't keep up with it.  He chided Tamar Goldmann for "not hearing complaints about motels", stating that he hears about them all the time.  I thought to myself, "Well, of course you do... you run a bar and people gripe to you about all manner of things!"  He said he has compassion for the homeless.  He said, "I have a bleeding heart."

During his segment Righeimer confirmed to Teresa Drain that the construction hours are clearly defined asked CEO Tom Hatch to check into it.  He told Huffman that each of those sober living homes require licenses and, for those who were already there but are unable to continue at their current location because of the rule about such homes not being within 650 feet of another, it could take two years for them to relocate.   He encouraged us all to use Costa Mesa Connect to get photos of license plates where meetings are being held illegally.  Regarding so-called "problem motels", he said, "It's up to the property owner to do what he wants to do.", but said that $1,800 a month for a 250 square foot room is "just wrong".  You may recall that his avowed purpose a couple years ago was to make the owners of those motels "reassess their value" by hammering them with police, fire and code enforcement visits and, in fact, he pushed for the implementation of the Excessive Use Of Resources Ordinance, where a motel owner is given a maximum number of calls for service he can make before being fined for excessive use.  That puts them in the position of calling for help or just letting the emergency run its course and hope for the best.

Mensinger said he'd keep it short because he didn't want to "beat the motel issue to death."  He then went on a mini rant of his own, stating, among other things, that he wouldn't let kids near the Ana Mesa Motel because of "high risk pedophiles" at the site.  He told us other surfwear companies, hearing of the plan for Van's to move back to town, are now looking for space, too.  He said Van's is bringing 750 jobs to town.  He also invited everyone to the Halecrest Chili Cookoff next Saturday.

Foley spoke of the ribbon-cutting at the Vanguard University new building.  She also expressed concern about sharing too much information on sober living homes when there is pending litigation.  She praised the Bikeways and Walkability Committee for working "overtime" - meeting twice a month - to get their part of the General Plan completed.  She addressed affordable housing, indicating that state law requires us to have more affordable housing.  And, she closed by encouraging all men to get a blood test for prostate cancer screening.

Sandra Genis observed about the bike safety program.  She spoke about the League of California Cities Conference she and the mayor attended and noted that sober living homes were a hot topic.  She also observed that the California Coastal Commission will hear the issue of the Banning Ranch development today, Wednesday, at the Long Beach Convention Center.  She observed that we need to have housing for folks who work in the city, but that it's nearly impossible to find truly affordable housing for low income workers.  She asked for the meeting to be closed in honor of Forest Werner, who recently passed away.

CEO Hatch mentioned a study session beginning at 5 p.m. in Council Chambers next Tuesday, October 13, 2015 at which the plans for the library and community center at Lions Park will be discussed.  He mentioned he will have someone check on the 2600 Harbor Boulevard construction issue today, and that the completion of the terminus of the 55 Freeway is almost complete and that the city monument sign and landscaping should be in place by year's end.

Only one item was pulled from the Consent Calendar - Item #9, the Fairview Park North Bluff Trail Realignment change order for Kabarra Engineering.  Genis pulled that one and it was trailed to the end of the meeting.  When they finally got around to it at 12:20 a.m. today, Genis said she was concerned about the "electrical engineering" element of the proposal.  Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz assured her that there was no electrical contracting involved.  The vote to approve the change order was 4-1, with Foley voting no.

New Business #1, the General Plan Land Use Alternatives discussion, was up next, with the item commencing at 7:40 p.m.  at least 75 people remained in the room at this time.  Because he has a conflict on one segment of the items Monahan was excused and left to watch the proceedings on television until it was clear for him to participate.  More on that later.

Consultant Laura Stetson and Assistant Director of Development Services Claire Flynn ran this show, with Stetson taking it from the top.  The staff report was mostly a summation of the recent joint study session with the Planning Commission on this issue and the staff is looking for guidance so they can proceed with the preparation of the General Plan Update.  The actual consideration of the update will not happen until after the year-end holidays.  Stetson mentioned that only 4% of the city's land is being studied.

Early in the discussion Foley mentioned the subject of housing north of the 405 Freeway because the staff report indicated that there would be NO new housing at that location.  She said that she had said at the study session that she would be OK with housing north of the 405, as was Genis, and she wondered where on what basis the staff decided there would be no housing up there.  She was told that the mayor and mayor pro tem made it clear that they wanted no housing up there.  Foley asked what independent analysis the staff had to support that decision and Righeimer blew up.  They went back and forth for a few seconds, then Mensinger chimed in and, as the discussion got heated, he called for a 5 minute break at 7:55.  The meeting resumed at 8:05, at which time Foley reiterated her question about the independent analysis.  The answer was no.

Stetson finished her report and the four members of the council present briefly discussed the issue before Public Comments were taken.  That segment began at 8:45.

Kyle Woolsley, representing the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber supports the General Plan update, period.

Kathy Esfahani said density bonuses should be given to encourage affordable housing.  She said if all the motels were closed it mean a loss of 789 dwelling units, many of which are currently filled with low income residents.  Diane Russell and Linda Teng also spoke, representing the Costa Mesa Affordable Housing Coalition.

Flo Martin also addressed the dwelling units per acre numbers, citing that they are inadquate  to provide affordable housing.

A representative of the Fairview Developmental Center, which is theoretically on the block,  spoke of the plan by the state to move forward with the Shannon's Mountain development on the site for developmentally disabled people, but the scope of the plan is nebulous - a problem that continued to be addressed later.

Westside businessman John Hawley addressed the emphasis on apartments, indicating that we were "doubling down" on density.  He appreciated the study session, which gave many people a chance to be heard.

Murray McQueen, representing Tribune Properties, addresed the vacant Los Angeles Times building and told us they purchased the adjacent baseball field and they were excited to move forward with some commercial uses on the site to create jobs.  When asked about residential, he said they had not ditched that as a possibility.

Wendy Leece said it was disengenuous to talk about "crummy motels" when we need more cops to enforce the rules.  She also said the Fairview Developmental Center should be a separate discussion.

Robin Leffler wondered where all the ideas presented by residents at earlier meetings had gone.  All she saw were council ideas and thought the process should be delayed until those ideas could be folded into the process.

Cynthia McDonald said this process was developer driven.  She said we need an inclusionary housing ordinance.

Peter Laurner (sp?), representing Intercorp, wanted to have the Whittier Law School property included in the General Plan discussion, although he could not give any ideas about the long term plans for that property.

Rick Huffman complained about the 40 dwelling units per acre number that proliferated the plans, citing that it was too dense.

Greg Sullivan addressed the different ways different cities handle the density issue.

Jay Humphrey cautioned to consider more than just raw traffic numbers, but to consider WHERE that traffic will be, and mentioned the Banning Ranch development as an example of too much traffic being forced into too small an area.

Chris Otis expressed concern about Wilson Street being too narrow.

Then, as the public comments were about to finish, up pops Monahan, returned from the television exile, demanding to speak as a private citizen.  That evoked an argument between Foley, City Attorney Tom Duarte and the mayor.  Eventually Monahan had a chance to speak his piece on issues near his home and business - but not technically within the "conflict zone".  Foley was NOT happy about that, and said the council should have been told about the conflict ahead of time, and that this very likely will have tainted the process.  She was ignored.

When it came time to vote on the issue where Monahan was excluded - part of the Newport Boulevard plan - it was a 2-2 vote.  When Monahan returned to vote on the remainder of the plan it was 3-2, with Foley and Genis voting NO.
The council then took the items on the list as shown on the above image (click to enlarge it) and began to vote.

Item 1, the Residential Incentive Overlay along Harbor Boulevard, passed with the council male majority supporting the staff recommendation.

Item 2, The Segerstrom Home Ranch, passed 5-0.

Item 3, Sakioka Lot 2, also passed 5-0.

Item 4, the SoBECA mixed use overlay zone was modified to include a maximum of 450 units by Righeimer, passed 3-2, with Foley and Genis voting no.

Item 5, the Harbor Boulevard Mixed Use Overlay Zone passed 5-0.

Item 6, the Fairview Development Center generated a lot of discussion and disagreement.  Monahan made a motion and the discussion heated up.  Righeimer had a specific idea of what he wanted to see.  Finally Monahan said, "I withdraw my motion and let the mayor pro tem do his.  It's not going to work if he doesn't get what he wants anyway."  That pretty much summed up most of the discussions last night.  Righeimer grabbed the steering wheel early and just wouldn't let go.  Eventually it passed, 5-0, with modifications Righeimer demanded to the total units to be built.  Foley wanted to bring it back after the staff had a chance to further study it, and to get a better handle on what the state has in mind.

Item 7, the Los Angeles Times site, passed quickly on a 5-0 vote and they took a short break at 10:45.
The staff and consultants will now move forward with the direction given to them and prepare the General Plan update, which should be seen by the council early next year.

At 11:00 p.m. they reconvened and began discussing New Business #2, the proposed Urban Plan amendement for the SoBECA and Westside Urban Plans.  Flynn gave a short presentation, then four people spoke to the issue.  During the discussion Mensinger got into Foley's face, challenging her to remember what they were thinking nine years earlier when they considered this issue the first time.  She explained the concept proposed back then, and that the economic downturn halted plans.  Eventually, they voted 5-0 to pass it.

At 11:30 it was time for New Business #3, the residential development at 440 Fair Drive.  This was a General Plan screening request to change the site from Neighborhood Commercial to Planned Development Residential.  Amazingly, there were still two dozen people in the audience - half of which were city staffers.  The developer, Steve Sheldon, sounded very much like Righeimer, with his rapid-fire delivery.  He spoke of the delay for community outreach efforts and said he was happy with the results.  Ten members of the public spoke to this issue and only two were against it.  Foley was concerned with the nearby proximity of the gas station, which backs up to the property.  Eventually, the council moved the item forward on a 5-0 vote.

That left only the Consent Calendar item #9, mentioned previously.  At 12:30 Mensinger closed the meeting in memory of Forest Werner.

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Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Righeimer's attack against Leece showed there's something he wants to hide regarding his new house plans. The liar said his name wasn't on them but it is. Leece's point was that the process should have gone through the Planning Commission instead of staff because there's the possibility of conflict of interest. That commission is full of Riggy's bootlickers as it is, so he'd get his way regardless. The unanswered question is: what does he want to hide from the public?

10/07/2015 07:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Re - Jim's house: Other than the underground garage, there may be a few variances. Maybe a batcave for his batmobile?

What a coincidence that he and Steve are both doing teardowns and reconstruction at the same time. Maybe they want to get them finished before they lose power in the next election.

10/07/2015 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous It has to be said...

hide and go seek, Arthur:

See for yourself, scroll down to page 39:

10/07/2015 01:57:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Why does Righeimer hate Costa Mesa so much?

10/07/2015 09:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Rig is a liar alright. He said that he isn't doing anything that any other citizen in this city can't do. Do you suppose he'd allow anyone else to double the size of their house, double the size of a subterranean garage, and put in an elevator? Oh yeah, and a bathroom in his man cave. The guys in Newport have parties in their man caves, so Rig has to have one also.

Rig showed what a petty, pathetic, loser is really is attacking Wendy Leece when she is 100% correct in her assessment. Righeimer said that "they are in negotiations with the Fire Department and they want everything". Guess what!! They haven't spoken with the CMFD in negotiations in nearly 2 years. Righeimer is a blatant liar.

And if we are paying Duarte more than $5.00 an hour, its too much. Its really clear that he will lie and perjure himself in order to say what Rig wants to hear. We need to notify the California State Bar that he is giving erroneous information knowingly. Thankfully Katrina called him on it. He's nothing if not slimy.

That was a very stupid stunt that Gary pulled coming in to speak on issues he knows he should have recused himself on. He spoke "as a resident" with the same diatribe that he would have used as a business owner. An absolute conflict. Gary has no scruples, no conscience, is conniving and deceitful. Those are his good qualities.

Can't wait for the next council meeting to watch Rig flip out again. He makes such an ass of himself with his whining jags.

10/07/2015 09:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Skeptical in Costa Mesa said...

Has anyone noticed how the DG path has disappeared from any conversation? Friends in high places steve?

10/08/2015 08:15:00 AM  
Anonymous lovemygarden said...

Riggy can’t stop himself; he is his own worst enemy. I think it is great that Wendy got him going about his mancave because that rant, once again, shows how completely off balance he is. The garage actually sounds like a bunker to me, but I don’t want to get him started on that again (oh yes I do!). And the second meltdown with Katrina was because she pointed out the fact that there is no planning in Costa Mesa, except by developers.

Gary’s comment that the Costa Mesa Motor Inn is the place where people go when they’ve got nowhere else to go forces the question “Whose fault is that?” There was a wonderful proposal for fully funded transitional housing a few years back. The proposed location didn’t work out, so they just let it grow cobwebs but it sounds like they may be reviving it.

The Costa Mesa Motor Inn will be replaced with a luxury housing unit with 20 “affordable” units for moderate income earners (that is roughly 11% of the units now that they have reduced the number of units from 236 down to 224). What the heck are those “affordable” units going to rent for? Sandy has defined moderate income as 120% of the median income of workers in the county. There is no way that someone who lives in the Costa Mesa Motor Inn now can be accommodated by this development because the only persons who will be able to afford one of those “affordable” units is one that makes more than what 2/3rds of the rest of the workers in the county make. It will be interesting to see how the developer works out the placement and size of those units. Hopefully, they will not locate them so they have a separate entrance and no access to amenities like at least one development in Los Angeles.

Peter Lauener is the regional vice president for Intracorp, a west coast apartment and home builder.

Finally, Mensinger once again displayed a lack of knowledge when he said Azulon was 40 dwelling units per acre. It is just shy of 30 dwelling units per acre. Interesting that the little shopping center across from Azulon got included in the Harbor Boulevard overlay. Wonder what Segerstrom has planned (note that the site where Acapulco formerly was rezoned when they got the Azulon parcel rezoned).

10/08/2015 01:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Its interesting that there was no interest in the motels until Rig decided he wanted to develop them. Then, all of a sudden, they are a disaster and must go. He tries to get the city on his side, not mentioning that he most likely has a vested interest. (He is paying for that home somehow)

Is this the route citizens want Costa Mesa to take? I don't believe it is. There is even a apparently a blog now that attempts to entice people to sign up in order to sway them over to the pro development side.

Costa Mesa is certainly at a crossroad. Do we want a mayor and mayor pro tem that we can't trust? Do we want traffic that is nearly gridlocked? Do we want to lose jobs in this city? Finally, do we want a crippled police and fire department that may or may not be able to do the job they need to in order to protect residents? If your answer is no, we need to vote them out in 2016.

10/09/2015 07:52:00 PM  

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