WOW! ANOTHER MARATHON!
OK... where do we begin? First of all, those of you who guessed the Costa Mesa City Council meeting would run until 1 a.m. exactly won the pool! That means I only spent 8 hours in City Council Chambers last night. And, much of that time was spent in a packed house.. there were only one or two seats empty through the first public hearing. And those folks walked through a gauntlet of affordable housing advocates, singing to them as they approached council chambers.
SPEAKERS, SPEAKERS AND MORE SPEAKERS!
And, to give you a clue why it took so long, we had fifteen (15) speakers for Public Comments, thirty-seven (37) for Public Hearing #1 (the Costa Mesa Motor Inn issue) and eighteen (18) for Public Hearing #2 (the Sober Living Ordinance), which means we had three and a half hours of public comments alone!
For the first time in recent memory nothing was pulled for separate discussion from the Consent Calendar, so, silly me, I thought we might have a chance to get home Tuesday night. Ha!
We had a wide range of issues discussed during Public Comments. Several residents presented a petition for permit-only parking in their area, which was passed along to Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz
. They were told it would take at least 6 weeks to do the studies and process the request.
and Kevin Nelson
complained about the "illegally" filled-in arroyo in Fairview Park.
showed photos of the Camp Pendleton Halloween celebration. She and other members of the Military Affairs Team took the candy collected for the past couple months down for the event.
demanded an update on the status of the Fire Department deployment as a result of spending over $1.2 million on Paramedic Ambulances - citing the two-year-old report which outlined the plan.
Ex-employee Steve White
spoke again on a variety of issues, including the need for Hemp Cars.
observed that when the Costa Mesa Motor Inn is demolished it will create a need for affordable housing for the residents and advised the need for some plan to help.
echoed Leece's comments regarding Public Safety staffing.
praised the council for the new housing around town.
observed that council member Monahan had recently posted a report about homelessness on Facebook and suggested it be made available to a broader audience.
An anonymous speaker complained about being "doxxed" recently - her background made public by an internet vandal in an apparent attempt to intimidate and silence her. She has contacted the FBI.
Another anonymous speaker reminded us all to register to vote, endearing herself to Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer
by reminding us that he only won re-election by 47 votes the last time around. She also observed about the group homes and the recent 60 Minutes piece on the heroin plague throughout the country.
COUNCIL MEMBER COMMENTS
During Council Member Comments members Katrina Foley
, Gary Monahan
and Righeimer had nothing to report. Mayor Steve Mensinger
observed that he had walked 2400 miles around the city. Sandra Genis
expressed concern about not knowing about projects with minor modifications. She also observed the need for transitional and supportive housing, indicating there were only 2300 units for $1,000 per month or less.
MESA WATER REPORT - MAY CUT OUR USE TO ONE DAY PER WEEK
CEO Tom Hatch
asked Mesa Water General Manager Paul Schoenberger
to make a short presentation. He told us that the District was doing well responding to the Governor's demand for conservation. He said we started out with a bang - a 25% reduction in the first three months, but have tailed off to around 20% now. He said the Mesa Water Directors will meet on November 12, 2015 at District Headquarters and will likely require users to water only one day per week instead of the current two days. He said there would be no rate increase due to conservation - but didn't say there would be no rate increase for other reasons. Foley asked him about the shrinkage of clay soil. He was also asked about enforcement of the conservation policy, to which he replied that there were "ambassadors" patrolling the neighborhoods, issuing warnings. He said so far no fines have been levied.
COSTA MESA MOTOR INN
At 7:00 we began hearing Public Hearing #1, the Costa Mesa Motor Inn demolition, to be replaced by a 224 luxury apartment complex. Former Director of Development Services, Don Lamm
, represented the owners and made the presentation following the staff presentation. Three hours and 37 speakers later the council finally voted on the issue.
TRIPS AND TRAFFIC
Here's the shortest summary I can give you. Genis expressed concern about the amount of recreational space being provided. She was concerned about how much earth would be removed/moved in the project. She expressed concern about the number of trips this project would generate - and was told by Lamm it would be negligible, and that the nearby major intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Wilson would remain at an A or B level. She expressed disbelief at that statement.
Of greatest concern for her was the definition of "moderate" housing - this concern was expressed throughout the discussions. The issue was "moderate" vs. "median" and which government entity's numbers to use.
SAVING THE KIDS
Foley was concerned about the 45 children attending Newport Mesa Unified School District schools that would be displaced. She also expressed concern about the volume of what she described as hateful communications they'd received on this issue.
During his presentation Lamm gave a history of the project and went through the details of the transition planned, including a discussion of the proposed relocation plan that was a condition of approval imposed by the Planning Commission.
Public Comments commenced just after 8:00 p.m. and began with Kathy Esfahani
and her compatriots from the Costa Mesa Affordable Housing Coalition presenting six short video interviews with residents of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn. It was an effective use of their time - six speakers introduced each short clip and also spoke very briefly on the issue. The thrust of their presentations was the need for affordable housing for low income people - they said this project should have 20% of its units for those folks instead of 9% for moderate income individuals.
FOLEY SPEAKS AND MENSINGER FREAKS
, the owner of the Harbor Shopping Center - directly across the street - and the property manager both spoke in favor of the project, citing crime and fear by their customers. When Bell spoke Foley wanted to ask him a question but Mensinger threw what my Grandmother used to call a "hissy-fit", forbade her from asking the question and, when she challenged him, he pounded his gavel on the desk and called for a break. It was a bizarre display of infantile behavior, but it wouldn't be the only one we saw last night.
10 SPEAKERS FOR IT, 27 NOT SO MUCH
Of the 37 speakers, 10 favored the project as proposed. The remaining 27 either opposed it outright or, recognizing the inevitability of it, wanted 20% of the new units dedicated to low income residents. The comments were completed just before 10:00 p.m..
20% AFFORDABLE NOT DOABLE
Lamm, in response to the comments, told the council that 20% low income housing was off the table. If that was a requirement it would be a deal-breaker and the owners would either sell the property or convert it to another kind of motel. It is presently zoned for commercial, so a retail center or office building could be built.
SWEETENING THE POT
The discussions took another hour. The upshot was that the owner agreed to donate $200,000 to be parceled out to help low income folks get on their feet PLUS agreed to modify his relocation assistance package. In the final form it would provide reimbursement of 3 months rental plus $1,500 dollars per unit for those long-term renters who kept their places up and paid their rent. And, instead of this becoming effective June 1 with an anticipated closure date of August 1, he agreed to back the start date to February 1st, providing more flexibility for tenants to locate scarce housing in the area. That $200,000 will be managed by the Housing Authority staff and will be used to help other down-and-out folks based on their needs.
FOUR 4-0 VOTES
There were four (4) separate issues requiring a vote. Each passed on a 4-1 vote, with Genis voting no, and Mensinger called for another break before proceeding to the next item - and the crowd thinned by about 1/3.
LATE START FOR SOBER LIVING
At 11:15 (Ugh!) we began the second controversial item on the agenda, Public Hearing #2 - the new Sober Living Ordinance and it also proved to be a fun-filled experience. Rather than try to explain the ordinance to you, here's the slide show presented by the staff. It's pretty self-explanatory. That second bullet point in the second slide should get your attention!
The staff presentation only took a few minutes and the Public Comments began just before 11:30 when Fernando Pedroza
, representing the Sure Haven recovery operation stepped up and told the council that the ordinance as written violated federal HIPPA and Civil Rights laws because it required the sober living operators to send those who dropped out, or were tossed out, home. He cited it was impossible to basically hold someone hostage to force them to go "home". It went downhill from there.
FULL COURT PRESS
The recovery industry made a full-court press on this issue. Eleven of the speakers either represented Solid Landings or one of their affiliates or the Sober Living Network or similar organizations. It was clear that the threat of lawsuits was being floated in not-very-subtle ways.
RIGHEIMER RANT AND TWO VOTES
Eventually, at 12:40 a.m., and following another of Righeimer's classic tirades in which he called a resident a liar from the dais, the two motions necessary on this issue passed on 5-0 votes. Let the lawsuits begin!
QUICK WORK OF THE HELIPORT
The third public hearing - the heliport adjacent to John Wayne Airport atop a commercial building, took only about 10 minutes and passed on a 3-2 vote along gender lines after rejecting a substitute motion by Genis and seconded by Foley by the same margin - 2-3. The male majority effectively spit in the eye of our neighbors in Newport Beach and those folks from the Airport Working Group who have fought the expansion of John Wayne Airport for decades with virtually no cooperation from our city. This is just the latest example.
FINAL TWO ITEMS TOOK LESS THAN 10 MINUTES COMBINED
Public Hearing #4, the vacation of a little slice of right-of-way at 580 Anton quickly passed, 5-0 and Old Business #1, the Segerstrom Town Center extension request second reading also passed quickly on a 5-0 vote, despite the fact that Righeimer had quick-pitched the process the first time around.
And at 1:00 a.m. today we departed the City Council chambers, hoping to beat the sunrise with this entry... we didn't. Good night, er, good morning to you all.
Labels: affordable housing, Costa Mesa Affordable Housing Coalition, Costa Mesa Motor Inn, Gary Monahan, Group Homes, Jim Righeimer, Katrina Foley, Sandra Genis, Sober Living Homes, Steve Mensinger, Tom Hatch