Friday, March 06, 2015

Brief Planning Commission Meeting Anticipated Monday

DICKSON LEADS THE COMMISSION
The Costa Mesa Planning Commission, led by new Chairman Rob Dickson, kicks off another busy week of meetings in the city with their first meeting of March on Monday, March 9th beginning at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers.  You can read the agenda HERE.

RECENT DEVELOPMENT CHART
On the Consent Calendar - items that normally will be voted upon as one group unless someone pulls an item for separate discussion - there appears Item #2, Update on Major Development Activity and Demographic Trends in Costa Mesa, which you can read HERE.  This is a fascinating document with images of many of the in-progress or recently completed projects in the city.  The report quantifies 2,000 units in-progress or completed.  Check it out.

MESA VERDE EAST PROJECT PULLED
Public Hearing Item #1, HERE, the controversial plan to build 13 units on the site of the old Church of Christ Scientist location at 2880 Mesa Verde Drive East has been pulled from the process by the developer following a couple community outreach meetings recently and will be re-submitted and re-noticed at an as-yet undetermined future date.

APPEAL OF DENIAL OF VENDING MACHINES AT CIRCLE K
Public Hearing Item #2, HERE, is the appeal of the denial by the Zoning Administrator of the outdoor placement of certain vending machines at the Circle K store on Del Mar Avenue, near Newport Boulevard.

PARK FEE PROPOSAL
The final item on the agenda, New Business #1, is the review of proposed parkland impact fees, HERE.  In this thorough study we are told that the consultant retained for this job recommends a REDUCTION of fees for Single Family Residences and Condominiums and establishes a NEW fee for Apartments.  Here's a comparison chart from the staff report:
Please read the staff report for the methodology and reasoning behind this recommended change.  It's fascinating reading, complete with nifty charts.

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City Still Seeking Volunteers For Committees/Commission

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED
The City of Costa Mesa today again sent out a call for volunteers to fill positions on several committees and the Senior Commission, where two more positions were recently authorized by the City Council.  There are more than 50 positions open this time around, including fifteen (15) slots on the Bikeway & Walkability Committee.

TWO WEEKS TO GO!
So, disregard the fact that this council majority has demonstrated a tendency to fill these slots with cronies in the past and give it another shot.  I wrote about it earlier, HERE.  You can read all about it HERE on the city web site.  Go online for the application and get it to the City Clerk, Brenda Green, by March 20th.  You've got two weeks, so get with it!

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Medical Marijuana Ordinance Study Session

THE LATEST CUT AT THIS ISSUE
The City of Costa Mesa just announced that a City Council Study Session will be held at 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, March 10th in City Council Chambers to discuss the most recent draft Medical Marijuana Ordinance.  You can read the agenda HERE, and the draft of the ordinance HERE.

VENUE CHANGED ANTICIPATING A CROWD
This is going to be VERY interesting.  The venue was moved from the conference room in anticipation of a larger crowd than Conference Room 1A could handle.  And, because it's in the chambers, there's always the possibility that it might be televised live and in living color - in this case, probably green.  See you there.

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First Steps To A New Library - Maybe

THE FIRST OF THREE PUBLIC MEETINGS
Last night, at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center (NCC) - a facility that would be sacrificed to a possible new library - four dozen interested parties gathered to hear a presentation by consultants about the process that has begun to assess the possibility of creating more library capacity in our city.  Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and former councilwoman Wendy Leece were among the crowd.  We learned a lot.
CONSULTANTS LED US
Assistant CEO Tammy Letourneu led off, then handed off the evening to Steve Johnson, of Johnson Favaro, the main guide through the process.  He was aided by Linda Demmers, who has performed more than 140 such assessments.  Johnson began by outlining his expectations of us for the evening:
  • Understand the Purpose of the Study
  • Understand the process
  • Express Your Observations, Needs & Concerns
We think his expectations were met, because the group was very engaged and several actively participated.

THE TIMELINE
Johnson presented us with a timeline of activities which took us from the first week of February  through the middle of May.  This meeting is the first of three such events planned.  The other two will be in the middle of April and the end of May.  Between the first part of February and the middle of March they will be reviewing and assessing existing conditions.  Overlapping that segment, from the third week of February through the first week of April they will begin what they called "Library/Community Center Programming".  I apologize for not having a photo of his slide.  My equipment fell short of my needs last night.

TWO MORE MEETINGS PLANNED
From last night's meeting through the end of April they will hold another community outreach meeting and develop options and a cost study of alternatives, which will be presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission at their April meeting.

FINAL MEETING IN MAY
Following that presentation through the third week of May another community meeting will be held and final alternatives will be prepared for recommendation to the City Council.

GROUND RULES
Johnson expressed a hope that we all would continue to participate in the process to the very end, and laid out some Ground Rules for us, as shown on this slide.
 
ONE OF TWO DISTRICTS
He explained to us that Costa Mesa is divided into basically two library districts, and the current Donald Dungan Branch - at 8,080 square feet - serves 55,216 people (.14 square feet per capita), is at the very low end of the accepted formula for library service, shown on this slide.
NOT EVEN HALF WAY THERE!
According to the formula used to determine proper library space in a community our size, the library serving this segment AT LEAST 17,670 square feet, for a ratio of .32 square feet per capita.
A LONG, LONG WAY TO GO
He also provided us with a chart showing Guidelines and Benchmarks comparing the Dungan Library to the Benchmark for the Orange County Public Libraries and the California Average, below.
NCC USE
Because there is great concern that by "swapping" buildings - the NCC becomes the library and the Dungan Branch becomes a community center - many valuable meeting spaces would be lost, he provided us with some partial statistics based on an intellectual exercise to demonstrate how the current NCC is underutilized.  That premise was challenged and he was told that we needed more solid statistics than just a "pretend" exercise before approving such a massive undertaking.  Toward that end he presented a graphic showing the Top Users of the NCC over 2014.
WHERE WAS THE GORILLA?
As you scan down that slide some of the information will grab your attention.  For example, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District is the largest user, by far.  And yet, there was nobody from the School District at this meeting.  Apparently, there will be separate meetings with select users.  They will receive a private audience without the benefit of hearing the views of the community at large.  There was no quantification provided of the number of infrequent users, so we don't really have any accurate sense of the real use of the facility.  I smiled as I wondered if those private meetings will include the folks at Yellowstone Recovery, a business we are trying to scoot out of town.

WHO DOES THIS LIBRARY SERVE?
To help us understand more fully the need for more library capacity in this part of town he showed us a slide showing the demographic makeup of this area - zip code 92627.  Zip code 92626 is served by the Mesa Verde Branch Library, which, according to folks in the audience, is also in need of improvements.
INTERESTING INFORMATION - AND NO LATINOS PRESENT
As you can see from the chart, this part of town - most of it the Westside - reflects some troubling numbers.  It is a younger area, but one that is not as well off economically.  Home prices are higher than the OC average, but Medium income is less, so it takes a greater percentage of income to buy a home.  And, there is that proliferation of high-density housing being built within sight of this location...  Incidentally, I saw no Latino faces in the crowd last night.  That ethnic group makes up a very large segment of the area served by this library.

WALKING DISTANCE
They showed another chart - again I apologize for the poor photograph - that reflects the "walkability" of the area served.  According to Johnson, the demographic in this area walks a lot.  That red circle is 1/4 mile - an easy walk.  The double yellow lines mark an area roughly a mile from the current library.
POSSIBLE RESTRICTIONS ON A NEW BUILDING
At one point a member of the audience mentioned that Orange County Public Libraries no longer permit general meetings in their facilities - a concern, because this new library would theoretically have meeting rooms to replace some of the current uses in the NCC.  Trish Snow of the OCPL stepped up and confirmed that a recent change - October 1, 2014 -  in policy restricted use of the libraries to "educational" purposes.  She did say that everything was subject to negotiation, but this is an important issue that needs to be resolved before we jump off the fiscal cliff of actually building a new library.
AGING FACILITIES
Several times during his presentation Johnson mentioned that whether we build a new library or not right now, we soon will be facing severe issues with the aging facilities.  Both buildings are old and, for example, the roof on the NCC must be replaced soon, which means removing the photovoltaic cells from it first, then replacing them.  He emphasized that, in very short order, we will have to do something.
MOVING THE COMMUNITY CENTER
There was also a discussion of, perhaps, moving the NCC capacity to a more centrally-located site within the city so the existing sites could be better utilized for a library.  Mention was made of the very underutilized Civic Center Park, adjacent to the City Hall/Police Headquarters complex on Fair Drive.  It has been rejected as a Library site, but it seems like a perfect location for a Community Center, particularly since there is parking at City Hall or across the street at the Orange County Fairgrounds for larger events in the evenings.  Many in the audience thought that should be considered.  Righeimer squirmed when this was discussed.
NO DECISIONS MADE YET
During that part of the discussion Johnson reminded us that this is just the beginning of the process, with many questions to be answered first.  NO decisions have been made yet as to what will be recommended, including swapping building uses on their current sites.  He stressed that neither one - the NCC nor Dungan - were really a good fit for the swapped use.  Both would require significant renovations or complete replacement, but that was part of the analysis that was underway now.  Demmers told us of working with Mission Viejo and proposed a library of more than 50,000 square feet.  They chose to build a facility half that size and, in very short order, came back and build another facility of equal size to meet the demand.  Members of the audience stressed the need to think further out than today - think out 30 or more years - when planning for new facilities.

GUARDED OPTIMISM
Members of the audience opined about their personal experiences with the NCC from a facility and cost standpoint.  Most shared the view that the facility seemed adequate and cost effective for their uses.  Most seemed apprehensive about the adequate replacement at an affordable cost.  They did seem willing, however, to let this process play out and see what evolves at the next meeting.

WHAT'S NEXT?
Johnson provided us with the next steps, as shown on these next two slides.  The first one is the process the consultants will be following over the next couple months.
 This is what the community is charged with over the same time period. 
NEED BETTER PUBLICITY
In my view, this meeting was not adequately publicized.  There was no member of the media present, unless you count me.  If the City is serious about including community input on this very important project, it needs to do a much better job of reaching out to be sure all stakeholders are at least aware of this process so they may participate.  The slide show used last night will, in theory, be available on the City web site.  When that happens I'll provide you with the link.  They will also be updating the information on this process on the site, too.  I'll provide you with information about how to find that when it's available.  The next meeting will be the middle of April... see you there.

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Thursday, March 05, 2015

City Seeks Input On Library Plan

COMMUNITY OUTREACH OPPORTUNITY
Tonight, at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue (Lions Park), the City of Costa Mesa will hold a community outreach event to solicit opinions and ideas from members of the community on the plan to convert the community center into a new library and the existing Donald Dungan Library into a community center - a swap, as it were.

NOW'S THE TIME TO SPEAK UP
This scheme has a full head of steam up, so if you wish to provide your views to the elected leaders and city staff, this is a time to do it.  The meeting is from 6-8 p.m.  See you there.
THE NOTICE
THE VENUE
THE LOCATION

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A Packed House Grills Officials On Group Homes

GROUP HOMES AND CRIME
A packed multi-purpose room at College Park Elementary School greeted Costa Mesa officials and staff as Debbie Leedom and her College Park neighbors hosted a 90-minute question and answer period on two subjects about which they have great concern - the proliferation of sober living homes and crime, in general.
STANDING ROOM ONLY
The meeting, which played to a standing-room-only crowd of approximately 225 in number, was run crisply and pretty much stayed on schedule.  Extraneous questions from the crowd were kept to a minimum until the very end, when time grew short and anxiety continued to build as residents from all parts of the city became not fully satisfied with the answers to their written questions.

 MANY SENIOR STAFFERS PRESENT
Attending for the City were Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, Councilwoman Katrina Foley, CEO Tom Hatch, Interim Police Chief Ron Lowenberg, Director of Development Services Gary Armstrong, Deputy City Attorney Elena Gerli, Assistant Director, Community Improvement Division Jerry Guarrancino, Police Captain Mark Manley, Police Lieutenant Vic Bakkila, Code Enforcement Officers Mike Tucker and Jon Neal and Executive Assistant to Hatch, Kelly Shelton.
CANDIDATES AND ACTIVISTS
In the crowd I recognized many familiar faces from all regions of the City.  I saw former council candidates Jay Humphrey, Tony Capitelli, Lee Ramos and Chris Bunyan.  Many other activists - regular attendees at many official city meetings and volunteers in may areas in town -  were sprinkled throughout the crowd of otherwise just normal residents with big concerns.
WRITTEN QUESTIONS READ
After Leedom kicked things off she handed the microphone to Righeimer, who provided some perspective and introductions.  Then moderator Jay Friedman took over and asked the written questions of the staff.  In general, the staff decided who would field which question.  As you might expect, lawyer Gerli had a big chunk of them, as did Guarrancino.  Righeimer didn't hesitate to grab the microphone, either.
THE CROWD LEARNED A LOT
Much of what was discussed was not new information to those of us who attend city meetings regularly, but it certainly was to many in the crowd.  Among the many things they learned Wednesday night were:
  • The City CANNOT regulate state licensed group homes.
  • The City CANNOT regulate homes with six (6) or fewer residents plus a house manager because they are considered a "Housekeeping Unit".
  • Our Group Home Ordinance applies ONLY to R1 (Single family residential) neighborhoods.
  • An ordinance for other residentially-zoned area is in the works, but it's more complicated.
  • The City needs the help of residents to identify group homes.
  • Righeimer and other staffers recommended the use of the Costa Mesa Connect Smart Phone App.
  • They stressed the need to report the group homes with infractions so a file can be created.
  • We must tread carefully as we attempt to enforce our ordinances to be sure we are not violating the rights of the residents in those places.
  • We learned from Lowenberg that our police staffing is up to 108 today from a low spot of 85 and that efforts are being made to recruit greater numbers of qualified officers.  He mentioned the recent report on the staffing issue on the City Website, HERE.
  • Lowenberg, Manley and Bakkila all stressed that they need our help.  Residents MUST call when they have a problem.
  • The revised Crime Mapping Program is now available, HERE, but not without some glitches.
  • We learned of a Gang/Narcotics bust on Maple Avenue that snatched up 6 criminals.
  • We learned that we should be participating in Neighborhood Watch programs.  As Lowenberg said, "Help us help you".
  • We learned that Costa Mesa has a quarter of ALL state-licensed group home in Orange County.
  • We learned that there is no limit to the time a person can stay in a group home.
  • We learned from Lt. Bakkila that they hope to resurrect their bicycle patrols, apparently a very effective tool.
  • Captain Manley told us that, for this part of town, Lt. Bakkila is a "mini-police chief" - "He's the guy who will solve your problems".
  • We learned that Officer Bill Adams, currently our only School Resource Officer, is one of the best cops we've ever had.
  • In response to a concern about Code Enforcement staffing, we learned from Righeimer that the City will "spend whatever it takes so the problem gets handled properly."  We've heard that before...
  • We learned from Hatch - in response to a question about how relapsed residents are handled because some are simply dumped onto our streets and become homeless - that the City is dealing with the homeless among us by identifying those with ties to the city, then providing services to them through faith-based organizations.  So far, of the 125 identified, 50 have been placed in housing.
  • We learned that representatives of several group homes in Costa Mesa were at the meeting, gathering information.
  • We learned that enforcement of group homes is a long process - a matter of months, as various essential steps are taken in order to be sure the operator has a chance to respond.
  • We learned that some folks co-mingle in their minds sober living patients with parolees and other criminals.
  • And, we learned a lot more.
NO CMTV COVERAGE?
For example, I learned that the City apparently didn't deem this meeting important enough to provide video coverage by CMTV, but it was important enough to cancel the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee meeting, scheduled for the same time on the same date.  That's a shame, because this meeting is the PERFECT example of what can happen when motivated residents team up with City staff to put together an outstanding community outreach opportunity.
ANGRY INQUIRY AT THE END
At the end of the evening one very impatient man stood up and strongly addressed the panel, wondering if they were aware of the Sober Living Network, and the impact they were having on Costa Mesa.  I found a link to that organization, HERE, which shows Costa Mesa as the location for  nineteen (19) facilities - more than double any other Orange County city shown.  It was unclear if he received a satisfactory answer to his questions and statements.  At Tuesday's council meeting we learned that there are another twenty-one (21) group homes in line for licenses in Costa Mesa!
ANY CONNECTIONS?
The final question asked of all the City panelists was, "Do you have any relationships with any of the group home operators?" or words to that effect.  Every staffer answered a resounding NO!  Bakkila told us he had arrested a few of the residents, though.  Righeimer was the final person to answer the question, also with a NO.  It is interesting to note that for several years, HERE, his great friend, Scott Baugh - they just traveled to Israel together as part of a group and he has shared office space with him for years  - has been an advisor for the sober living industry.  I guess we'll presume they never discussed that business.  Uh, huh...
KUDOS, AND THANKS...
Many questions were either not answered or incompletely answered, but Leedom promised to provide feedback to those interested once the answers are determined.  Good job to our friends and neighbors in College Park for hosting and conducting an outstanding event.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Sober Living And Crime Q&A Tonight

FACE-TO-FACE WITH CITY LEADERS
Our Costa Mesa Neighbors will host a meeting tonight that will likely have city-wide interest.  I posted about this last week... this is a reminder.

YOU’RE INVITED to a COSTA MESA Q & A!
March 4th, 6:00 pm, College Park Elementary School
Organized by your College Park Neighbors

WHAT: College Park residents invite ALL fellow Costa Mesa residents and neighbors to a Q & A session with the City of Costa Mesa.  Please join us for a discussion on important issues such as:

The increasing number of Sober Living Homes opening up in residential neighborhoods in Costa Mesa.  Find out what the new 1413 Ordinance is, and how will it be enforced.

The uptick in crime in residential neighborhoods in Costa Mesa. Let’s discuss what might be causing the recent increase in the number of break-ins, tagging, drug deals and prostitution within residential neighborhoods. Hear about CMPD’s strategies for rooting out these problems.  

DATE: MARCH 4th @ 6:00 to 7:30 pm

LOCATION
: Multi-Purpose Room (MPR) at College Park Elementary School, 2380 Notre Dame Road, Costa Mesa, 92626

CONFIRMED TO ATTEND
:

City Council

Stephen Mensinger, Mayor

Jim Righeimer, Mayor Pro Tem

Katrina Foley, Council Member


City Staff
Tom Hatch, CEO

Gary Armstrong, Development Services Director/Deputy CEO

Jerry Guarracino, Contract Assistant Director-Community Improvement Division

CMPD Chief Ronald Lowenberg

Robert Sharpnack, Acting Police Chief

William (Bill) Lobdell, Director of Communications

Elena Q. Gerli, Deputy City Attorney
 
Mike Tucker
, Community Improvement Division

PLEASE ATTEND! YOU will have the attention of the majority of the City of Costa Mesa officials.  Come ASK QUESTIONS.  INVITE your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.

We hope to see you there! Please email Deb at collegepark@att.net as for further info.
 (Click on Image To Enlarge Map)

Survey Rejected, Lloyd Loved, Foley Furious

A MEMORABLE MEETING, FOR SURE
Well, now... that was fun!  Yes, sir, the Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night/Wednesday morning was one for the old memory book.  So much happened that I almost don't know where to begin... almost.

HEADING FOR DAWN...
The meeting ran until 12:45 a.m. Wednesday, so I'm going to give you just a little shorter version so I can get to bed before dawn... another busy day is ahead.

TCA DOING BETTER
The meeting began with a report from the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA), outlining it's recovery from the fiscal abyss and showing the progress being made.  It was good news.  You can read their information on the two images below.   Click on them to make them bigger.
HANK LLOYD
Public Comments was VERY interesting.  Of the twenty people who spoke between 5:50 and 6:45, nearly one third of them addressed the possibility of Hank Lloyd leaving the Costa Mesa Tennis Club, including Lloyd, himself.  In a nutshell, a Request For Proposals for the operation of the Tennis Center was issued and Lloyd - who has operated it for 17 years with great success, putting Costa Mesa on the Tennis Map - found the changes in the terms too backbreaking to attempt to manage.  A half-dozen folks spoke on his behalf and at least that many more came to the meeting in support of Lloyd.  The upshot was that the council directed staff to look into the situation surrounding the very significant increase in costs to Lloyd - they involved passing through charges for electricity and water that had not been part of the arrangement in the past. 

PUBLIC COMMENT POTPOURRI
Other speakers addressed group homes; inconsistent planning rules; insufficient data on the Consolidated Plan survey; lack of a Economic Development Plan; the pending demolition of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn and the impact on residents; poor condition of baseball fields; the departure of Communication Director Bill Lobdell to the Irvine Company; the shortage of police and public records requests.

FOLEY ON MORALES AND MORE
During Council Member Comments, Katrina Foley asked for the meeting to be adjourned in memory of Crystal Morales, daughter of CMPD Detective Jose Morales, who tragically died in a traffic accident last week.  She also spoke of the Young Kim press conference on I-405 Toll Roads earlier in the day; the Hank Lloyd RFP issue; an electronic waste collection at Costa Mesa High School from 10:00 to 2:00; Fire Department staffing; her previous request for a council goal-setting meeting and more.

GENIS ON LLOYD AND SEGERSTROM
Sandra Genis also addressed the Tennis Center issue and two items on the Consent Calendar.  She asked for the meeting to be adjourned in honor of Henry Segerstrom, the visionary creator of South Coast Plaza, who died recently at age 91.  She also mentioned the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

MONAHAN SPEAKS!
Gary Monahan actually had something to say at this meeting - he pointed it out to me for all to hear...  He spoke of Little League and AYSO openings and, in response to an earlier speaker's concern about the Conference and Visitor Bureau funding, misspoke about the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), stating it was voluntary.  He's wrong... a segment of the TOT - 3% - is voluntary for eleven (11) hotels in town.  The city receives 11% from those hotels - it's 8% for all others - then returns the 3% to the Conference and Visitors Bureau for business development purposes.  He also mentioned that Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce President Ed Fawcett will soon retire and an announcement will be made about his party.  He asked CEO Tom Hatch about Talbert Park, and any plans for Costa Mesa to take it over.  He also addressed the Hank Lloyd situation.  As it turned out, he should have not said another word.  More on that in a minute.

RIGHEIMER ON COPS
Jim Righeimer also addressed the Hank Lloyd situation, kind of scolding Lloyd for not speaking up sooner - the council received his letter Tuesday.  He addressed the Young Kim press conference - he did not attend.  He also mentioned the meeting tonight, Wednesday, at College Park Elementary where several members of the city council and staff will discuss sober living homes and the current status of policing.   Addressing the latter, he responded to Jay Humphrey's question about Righeimer and Mensinger "pulling out all the stops" to get the CMPD staffed up.  He mentioned a letter the council received from the CMPD, which is now on the City Website, HERE.  Hatch later addressed this memo, too.  Review the letter for yourself and you will find a schedule - "glide path" as Righeimer referred to it - that theoretically takes the CMPD from the current strength of 108 officers to 144 by the end of 2016.

MENSINGER ON SEGERSTROM
Steve Mensinger talked about his history with Henry Segerstrom - he attended his service over the weekend.  Apparently his Aunt Peggy - who was the mayor of Modesto - went to Stanford with Segerstrom.  He asked Hatch to figure out a way for the City to honor Segerstrom.  He mentioned that he will be out of town for the long weekend ahead, going with Hatch to Washington, D.C. for the mayor's conference.  He discussed the group home issue brought up by resident Barry Fisher, and mentioned Hank Lloyd, too.  He also spoke of the press conference earlier in the day, which he did attend.

HATCH - COPS STAFFING AND MORE
Hatch took his turn and made a lengthy presentation.  He echoed what is in that CMPD report mentioned above, and expanded on the fact that we are hiring excellent recruits.  We've had the top recruit in the past two classes.  Foley wondered what we were doing about attracting lateral transfers from other jurisdictions because all Hatch was talking about was new recruits, none of which would be ready to be functioning on his own for nearly two years.  She wondered what we are doing to retain cops.  Hatch addressed the group home meeting today, and spoke about the staffing of Code Enforcement.  He addressed the Tennis Center issue and reminded the council that they just cannot turn off the RFP process because they've had several people respond to it now.  He will work with the City Attorney on the issue

Four items were pulled from the Consent Calendar for later discussion.

MONAHAN GAFFE, FOLEY AND RIGHEIMER SCRUM
Then the fun began... At 7:47 p.m. Lawyer and negotiator Laura Kalty addressed Public Hearing #1, the extension of the side letter between the City and the Costa Mesa Police Management Association (CMPMA).  This should have been a short, sweet discussion, but the wheels came flying off.  During the discussion Monahan let slip information about negotiations with the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association (CMPOA) that could have only come from information he gathered in a Closed Session negotiating session and Foley jumped right on it.  Trust me when I tell you that finding that section of the video tape is going to be worth your time!  At one point things got so heated that Mensinger actually pounded his gavel on the dais and demanded order be restored.  Foley and Righeimer got into a shouting match, exacerbated by her challenge of a legal opinion provided by City Attorney Tom Duarte.  Foley pointed out what she referred to as a manipulation of the process where Righeimer and Mensinger are not supposed to be privy to ANY part of the negotiations between the City and the Costa Mesa Police Association because they are involved in a lawsuit with the association.  Foley and Righeimer yelled back and forth at each other and Mensinger finally called a 5 minute break.  During that time Foley and Duarte were at the coffee cranny at the rear of the dais and she could be heard screaming at him. 

PUBLIC CONCERNS
When they returned four members of the public addressed this issue.  Gene Hutchins, once again, gave his rote rant about unfunded pensions.  That issue seems to be like a chunk of spinach he cannot remove from his teeth.  Tamar Goldmann expressed concern about hiring laterals because of the hostility between Righeimer, Mensinger and the CMPD.  Jay Humphrey expressed consternation at the outburst, and the reason for it.  He cautioned council members - he's been there - to just hold their tongues on the dais.  Anna Vrska observed that she has experienced some shoddy legal work via Jones & Mayer herself, amplifying what Foley had complained about earlier.

FOLEY CONCERNED ABOUT LEGAL OPINION
Foley then apologized for her passion on the issue.  She is concerned about the confidentiality of the Closed Session and was concerned about liability the City might have as a result of Monahan's gaffe.  She expressed concern that the City Attorney was turning a blind eye to the issue, then said there is NOTHING we can do about it.  She said it degrades the process and degrades good faith.  She told Hatch she wanted an independent legal analysis of Monahan's comment.

CONCERN ABOUT WAIVING CONFIDENTIALITY
Genis expressed concern that if, as Duarte had said earlier, Monahan's comment effectively waives the City's confidentiality, she didn't want him waiving HER confidentiality.  Whew!  This was one for the ages!  All that ended at 8:25 and we had four more hours to go!  Ugh!

SMALL LOT ORDINANCE CHANGES APPROVED
Public Hearing #2 was the amendment to the Small Lot Ordinance.  Several speakers expressed concern that these modifications were just more developer giveaways.  I'm giving you the short version.  After a 30 minute discussion during which the parking changes were the primary focus, the council gave first reading to the changes on a 3-2 vote - Genis and Foley voted no.

SENIOR COMMISSION UP TO SEVEN
Old Business #1, the expansion of the Senior Commission from five members to seven, took about two minutes and passed, 5-0.

FINANCIAL AND BUDGET POLICIES APPROVED
We then launched off into the three Finance-related issues, guided by Interim Finance Director Steve Dunivent.  The first was the Financial and Budget Policies, which passed, 4-1, with Genis voting no because of a language issue.

GENERAL FUND RESERVE STUDY
The next was the discussion of the General Fund Reserves Study.  Following a 45 minute discussion - during which Foley and Righeimer agreed that the staff report was too conservative - the council passed the plan, 4-1, with Monahan voting no.  The staff report was modified to make the Reserves goal $55 million,  and the annual contribution to the Reserves $1.5 million, part of which would be the annual repayment of money the State stole from us.  That should be around $700,000 each year for the next 10 years or so.  The staff report wanted just over $63 million, with up to $2 million annually going toward the reserves.  Keep in mind that our reserves were over $73 million before the recession the end of the last decade.

BUDGET REVIEW
The third item was the Mid-Year Budget Review.  Among the suggestions by speakers were an accelerated payment of the Fire Side Fund.  One speaker was concerned about where the legal costs were paid from, since the Self Insurance fund normally associated with it has been depleted to just about $2 million from $22 just a few years ago.  Nobody seemed particularly concerned about that.  The council passed the staff report, 4-1, with Genis voting no.

NO SEPARATE SURVEY
Finally, at 10:45 and without a break, we launched off into Mensinger's request for a Fairview Park Use Survey. After a 30 minute discussion - during which Righeimer, in particular, showed impatience with the process, stating that he "just wanted to get it behind us" - the first of sixteen (16) members of the public stepped up to address this issue.  Even Hutchins rejected the survey idea - but he took a completely out of context jab at Foley for her vote on the Police Pensions half a decade ago.  Of those, only the final speaker - Mensinger friend, Chuck Perry - said anything even remotely in support of Mensinger's scheme.  All the others, in one way or the other, rejected the need for the survey.  Eventually, at 12:15 a.m., the council voted 5-0 to NOT conduct a separate survey, but fold some Fairview Park-specific questions into the scope of work for the consultant that will soon be retained to facilitate the update of the Master Plan of Parks and Open Spaces.  The council will consider that contract at it's next meeting on March 17th.  So, Steve didn't get his survey

MORE MARATHON INFO REQUESTED
The council moved quickly through the "pulled" Consent Calendar items until they got to #8, the Orange County Marathon issue.  Righeimer excused himself and left the auditorium because "Scott Baugh is the Chairman  and I don't want to hear about it."  It turns out, based on the testimony by Gary Kucher, who runs the Marathon, that Baugh is NOT the chairman of anything.  He is a member of the OC Marathon Foundation Board.  Foley wanted to know specifics about the costs to the city for supporting the marathon - specifically, the costs and reimbursement for the CMPD and CMFD.  During the conversation it came out that the  charges had been reduced a couple years ago, apparently because Costa Mesa charged more than other cities.  The discussion took about 30 minutes, but they finally passed the item, 4-0, with Righeimer out of the room and we finally adjourned at 12:45 a.m.! Arrgghh!



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