Friday, September 25, 2015

Short Parks & Rec. Commission Meeting

SHORT TWO MEMBERS
The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission, most of them, met Thursday night for what I thought might be a fairly short meeting that actually turned out even shorter!  Commissioners Byron de Arakal and Robert Graham were absent from this meeting.
TWO ITEMS PULLED FROM THE AGENDA
Two tree removal items were yanked from the agenda and moved forward to the meeting of October 22, 2015, which left us only one remaining tree removal item and the always-interesting discussion on lighted fields.  As it was, the meeting ended about 7:40, and could have been even shorter except for the kind of circular waltz that was done with the tree removal request.
MARINE CANDY DRIVE
There was only one speaker during Public Comments.  The omnipresent Beth Refakes, a stalwart on the Military Affairs Team, stepped up and reminded us of the Halloween Candy Drive for the children of 1/5 Marines from Camp Pendleton.  There's a box in the City Hall lobby in which individually-wrapped candy may be placed.  The Military Affairs Team will transport the collection to Camp Pendleton near the end of October, in time for their annual celebration.  Kudos to Beth and the other members of the team.

TEMPORARY FIELD LIGHT ROTATION PLAN
First, the item on the agenda concerning a rotation plan for temporary lights at three different venues over the next three years, which was expected to resolve some of the problems of having one neighborhood burdened with lights near their homes year after year.  The plan was to place lights at Back Bay High School this year, at Harper Elementary School next year and Kaiser Elementary School the following year.  The staff has been meeting with residents near Back Bay High School to smooth out the plan, but a few attended this meeting with questions/concerns.  According to the staff report, an Ambassador will be in attendance every night the lights are required and will turn them off at 7:30, or earlier if the teams depart earlier.  According to Recreation Manager Travis Karlen, the cost for this season - which includes Diesel Fuel, Field Ambassador's Salary, Maintenance and Repair and Sound Curtains to muffle the noise - will be $8,000.

ERRANT BALLS
Resident David Stiffler (sp?), representing the Bayview Terrace Condominiums adjacent to Back Bay High School, expressed concern about errant balls flying into their properties and players trespassing to retrieve them, plus the disruption of their peace and quiet every night.  He complained that these were not little kids playing, but adults.
DENTED GARAGE DOOR
Resident Kathleen Murphy, who lives across the street from Back Bay High School on Monte Vista, worried about the other sports being played there - Lacrosse, specifically, because of the dents in her garage door from misfired balls and the lights from the school late at night.
GOAL PROXIMITY
Derrick Spaulding, also a Bayview Terrace resident, echoed Stiffler's concerns and was worried about the proximity of the goals to his property line because he felt it would result in too many balls flying over his fence.
WHAT ABOUT THE NUMBERS?
Eastside resident Katie Arthur, who has been here before because her property backs up to Harper School, expressed concern because she and others have not been able to get actual numbers on how many children are involved in the leagues using these fields from AYSO 97.  She also observed that an expert that testified a year ago indicated the lights chosen were wrong for the application.  She also wondered how many kids involved are from Newport Beach, and what Newport is doing to help with the situation.
AN ANONYMOUS ECHO
Another resident who preferred not to identify herself echoed Arthur's concerns about the numbers, citing Anna Vrska's difficulty getting statistics during her tour on the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee.  Regarding the lights, she suggested a technical consultant.

ECKLES RESPONSE
In response to some of the questions, Vice Chair Brett Eckles indicated that only AYSO 97 would be using the lighted fields during the week and those kids were 17 and under.  He had affirmed that their permitted time was from 5-8 p.m., but that the lights would be turned off no later than 7:30.  In response to his questions, Karlen affirmed that the actual numbers of children using the fields have been compiled and that the City has hired 2 auditors to confirm those numbers in real time during field use periods.  Eckles also indicated that he would be in immediate contact with the Lacrosse coach at Newport Harbor High School regarding Ms. Murphy's concerns, but emphasized that it is a school district issue.
BEGIN 10/1
After more discussion Eckles moved to approve the rotation plan as outlined in the staff report, but that instead of beginning on October 15th the start date should be moved ahead to October 1st.  The motion passed on a 3-0 vote.

TREE REMOVAL AT 1653 LABRADOR DRIVE
Next up was the tree removal request by Robert Harrington at 1653 Labrador Drive.  Mr. Harrington has lived at that address for 47 years and has seen two City trees installed.  The first was a Brazilian Pepper, which destroyed the walkway, so the city removed it and replaced it with the tree in question - a 20 year-old Liquid Amber, which is doing the same thing.
OOPS... NEW INFORMATION!
Mr. Harrington is re-landscaping his entire front yard and the parkway where this tree is located to comply with the demands for water conservation.  The tree in question has already begun to raise the sidewalk, in a recent revelation, begun damaging his sewer lateral.  This is important because, as it turns out, had the staff known there was sewer damage they could have - on their on hook - authorized the removal of the tree as a Category 1 removal - for health and safety reasons - and either replaced it with another tree species or not replaced it at all if the property owner chose not to.

TOOK TOO LONG, BUT THEY GOT THERE
Unfortunately, the discussion went round and round and round before this information finally became apparent.  Mr. Harrington had brought with him a video of the inside of his sewer lateral which, he says, shows the root incursion and pipe damage.  We didn't see the video.  The upshot, after much too long a conversation, was that the City will remove the tree as a Category 1 removal assuming the video actually does show the damage and "will work with" Mr. Harrington regarding a replacement tree.  Although not required to do so under those terms, Mr. Harrington said he and his wife would pay for a replacement tree to be installed elsewhere in the city.  Since he made that committment BEFORE the full facts were known, he may not have to do that.  The motion was passed on a 3-0 vote.

RECREATION MANAGERS SUMMER REPORT
The last thing on the agenda, for which we had no staff report, is Karlen's Summer Report.  So, I'll just let you try to get the gist of it from these images I took as he spoke about the very successful summer programs, which served the youth, adults and senior citizens for the past three months.  He did mention that the Concerts In The Park series had an average attendance of 1,500 people and raised over $10,000.  
(PLEASE CLICK ON THE IMAGES FOR EASIER READING)
WRAPPING UTILITY BOXES
The Art In Public Places focused on local artists who produced art that was used to wrap utility boxes, mostly on the Westside.  Plans are for that program to continue throughout the city.
THE CAMPS
 SUMMER R.O.C.K.S
 SUMMER RECREATION LEADERS IN TRAINING (RLIT)
 NCC CLASSES
 NCC RENTALS
 SPORTS, MUSIC AND ART (SMART)
 DOWNTOWN RECREATION CENTER USE
 AQUA CAMP
 SWIM PROGRAMS
 SWIM LESSONS
 COSTA MESA SENIOR CENTER
Membership is up to over 1,600 and participation is up.
MANY NEW PROGRAMS...
...INCLUDING HEALTH AND WELLNESS
FEES?
At the end Eckles asked Karlen about fees, particularly at the Senior Center.  He responded that they seemed to be in line with other senior centers nearby, but that they will be investigating ways to reduce them using grant funding.

NEXT MONTH MORE FUN
Chairman Kim Pedersen adjourned the meeting to October 22, 2015.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Parks & Recreation Commission Agenda

SHORT AGENDA
Tomorrow, Thursday, September 24, 2015, the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission will meet again beginning at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall for their only meeting this month.  You can read the entire agenda HERE.
 ROTATION OF LIGHTED FIELDS
There are four (4) New Business items on the agenda and the first one, HERE, is likely to generate the most public interest and discussion.  This is the proposal to rotate the use of portable lights on fields to help meet the demand for practice fields in the late fall/winter months.  In a nutshell, the use of three school areas - Back Bay School, Kaiser School and Harper School - will be in a rotation for use of lights, with Back Bay School up first for this year.  Harper School would be used in the 2016/2017 school year and Kaiser Elementary would be in the rotation for the 2017/2018 year.  Read the staff report.

THREE TREE REMOVAL REQUESTS
The remaining items on the agenda are three (3) separate tree removal requests, for which the staff recommends denial.  Those locations are:
954 Governor Street, HERE.
1653 Labrador Drive, HERE.
1869 New Jersey Street, HERE.

SHOULD BE AN EARLY EVENING
It's unlikely this meeting will run late, but even if it does, we'll report on the results tomorrow night. You can watch this meeting live on CMTV - Channel 3 on Time Warner Cable and Channel 99 on ATT Uverse - and also via live streaming video on the City Website by clicking HERE.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Group Launches Initiative To Protect Fairview Park

PROTECTING OUR "CROWN JEWEL"
A group of activists has launched an initiative designed to protect Fairview Park from any kind of future development efforts.
INITIATIVE PRESENTED LAST FRIDAY
On Friday, September 18, 2015, representatives of the group Fairview Park Preservation Alliance presented an initiative to the Brenda Green, Costa Mesa City Clerk, for processing.  Now that document will be vetted by the City Attorney and, as was the case with the so-called Smart Growth initiative, he will produce a summary document and a title by which this new initiative will be known.

THE TIMETABLE
Once that process is complete - it must be returned to the proponents by October 2nd - they will have 180 days in which to gather signatures of registered Costa Mesa voters - at least 5,500, but will probably need 8,000 - 9,000 to be sure.  Once those signatures are presented to the City Clerk, she and her staff will accept them, count them, then present them to the Orange County Registrar of Voters.  His staff will then have 30 days in which to verify every single one of the signatures for validity.  Assuming all that goes well, the initiative will qualify for the November, 2016 ballot.

THE PURPOSE
Although I've seen the text submitted to the City Clerk, I'm not going to publish it yet, just in case there are changes.  However, from that text, the purpose for this initiative is:
  • Keep Fairview Park as a natural and open space as documented in the Fairview Park Master Plan as defined in November, 2008.
  • Give the citizens of Costa Mesa a voice in determining whether the development of a project beyond the As Built condition of Fairview Park shall be allowed or not.  In this case "As Built" means the amenities and alterations that have been built in Fairview Park as of the effective date of the ordinance.
  • Ensure that the Costa Mesa officials provide timely, accurate and unbiased review of any such proposed development or change to Fairview Park.
  • Ensure that the Citizens of Costa Mesa receive all necessary and accurate environmental and relevant information needed to cast an informed vote on any such proposed development or change. 
OPPOSITION MOUNTING ALREADY
It will come as no surprise that opposition to this initiative is already mounting, even though - in theory - nobody has yet seen it.  That's kind of how it works, isn't it?

WHY?  HERE'S MY GUESS
Although I've not spoken with any of the proponents of this initiative about WHY they felt it was necessary, the actions over the past couple of years make it pretty easy to figure out.

THE STACKED FAIRVIEW PARK CITIZENS ADVISORY COMMITTEE
For example, the very obvious attempt to ramrod playing fields into at least part of Fairview Park using the stacked Fairview Park Citizen's Advisory Committee as a tool demonstrated to many observers that some currently in power wish to plow under large parts of Fairview Park and install any manner of recreational amenities.  During those meetings at least 90% of the folks who attended and spoke to the committee preferred Fairview Park to remain in it's current state.  Dr. Richard Mehren, (shown here with vice chair Steve Smith) the man who is largely responsible for The City purchasing Fairview Park originally and the chairman of the FPCAC until he abruptly resigned in protest at a meeting near the end of their deliberations, is a participant in the group sponsoring this initiative.
THE INFAMOUS "DG TRAIL"
The destruction of the vernal pools by replacing a user-defined trail by overlaying a decomposed granite road is another perfect example of this kind of ill-regard protected habitat is held in the eyes of some in power.  That intentional, misguided effort has resulted in nearly $20,000 in remediation and the ill-will of the United States Fish and Wildlife Department.  That debacle is not yet over - we're still waiting for the other shoe to drop - which could mean the removal of The City's stewardship of Fairview Park and sanctions imposed on individuals involved.
EDUCATE YOURSELVES
I'll keep you informed on this issue as it moves along.  As is the case with the Smart Growth initiative, I suggest each of you read it and try to understand it BEFORE signing the petitions that will be making their way around town.  You can find the Facebook page for the sponsoring group HERE.  The contact person for this group is Larry Courter who can be reached at lcourter@fairviewparkadvocates.com.  Their mission statement reads as follows:

"Our Fairview Park Preservation Alliance mission is to sustain Fairview Park as an open space, undeveloped, natural park, for public enjoyment in perpetuity. We strive to preserve, enhance, and protect Fairview Park for present and future generations."

THE DAILY PILOT STORY
For more information read Brad Zint's story in the Daily Pilot, published an hour ago, HERE.

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Another Successful "Coffee With A Cop" In The Books

IT WAS GOOD EVEN THOUGH...
Despite the fact that Mayor Steve Mensinger - who is suing the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department - showed up and stayed for an hour, the latest Coffee With A Cop event at the Starbucks store at Harbor and Wilson today went very well.
OTHER SENIOR STAFFERS
Not only did Mensinger grace us with his formidable presence, but CEO Tom Hatch, Assistant CEO Rick Francis and new Public Information Officer Tony Dodero also attended the event.  Councilwoman Katrina Foley showed up and visited with police, staff and residents.
MANY OF COSTA MESA'S FINEST
From the CMPD, Chief Rob Sharpnack, Captains Mark Manley and Bryan Glass, Lieutenant Vic Bakkila, Sergeant Clint Dieball, Community Service Specialist Kelly Vucinic and many other officers came and went, stopping to visit with residents.
RESIDENTS AND ACTIVISTS
Throughout the morning residents came and went, many stopping to chat with officers and to get a free cup of coffee.  I saw many familiar faces and many new ones - folks on their way for their morning cup of Joe who saw the police officers and stopped to visit.  Former City Council candidate and homelessness activist Tony Capitelli, who works for Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, also showed up to chat with the police and residents about homelessness.
RECRUITING
I saw young people, enthralled by the weaponry carried by the police officers, stop to ask questions.  We saw some disabled folks, including one disabled Marine, stop to say "Hello".
THE CHIEF IS OPTIMISTIC
We stood there as Chief Sharpnack told residents about all the exciting things happening in his department - new hires and new recruits in the pipeline; re-staffing the Detective Bureau and a new spirit of optimism.  It was good to hear.
JOSE TORRES
We had a chance to visit with long-time officer Jose Torres, now astride one of our new bicycles, who shared stories about this new adventure for the CMPD.

MIKE BRUMBAUGH
We had a chance to visit briefly with Code Enforcement Officer Mike Brumbaugh - shown below on the left - who recently lost a boss when Jerry Guarrancino abruptly left the employ of the city.  Brumbaugh will be part of the other Code Enforcement team now, but basically maintain the same assignments.
A CHUCKLE
I had to chuckle as I saw a CARE Ambulance team snuggle their rig in next to a CMPD vehicle.  CARE is at the core of controversy regarding our proper use of our brand new quarter million dollar rescue ambulances, but that's another story.
A VISIT TO WILSON PARK
On my way to Starbucks I stopped at Wilson Park, just a block East of the site, to see how many homeless/junkies/prostitutes were hanging out there.  Residents apparently have reported such activities, so we've locked the bathrooms and removed the picnic tables.  Instead of miscreants I found only Park Ranger Ann Harkey, on the job.  She and I visited about the situation in the park, which is better today than it was a month ago.  When I asked about the locked bathrooms she told me stories that made me cringe - stories about several people being seen emerging from the bathrooms following whatever illicit activities they had engaged in.  She told me about having the drains cleaned from the bathrooms and found them packed with drug residue - syringes, etc.  No, I wouldn't let a child use those bathrooms today.  When I left heading for Starbucks she also departed, leaving for a meeting, but was replaced with another Park Ranger, who was still there two hours later when I drove home.  There was still no sign of bad actors in the park.  See, a greater law enforcement presence CAN and DOES make a difference, despite with Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer tells us.
KUDOS TO ALL
So, another good day for Coffee With A Cop.  I hope this series continues because it provides an excellent opportunity for residents to meet and chat with officers in a very casual setting.  Kudos to all.

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