General Plan And More At Planning Commission
The Costa Mesa Planning Commission met on Monday evening with a brief agenda, but one loaded with significance. The General Plan Update and the Draft Environmental Impact Report were the big items, which also included proposed amendments to three Westside Overlay Zones and the SoBECA district. So, let's get to it.
A WARNING! DON'T MISBEHAVE!
First, as a kind of omen of things to come, Chairman Rob Dickson read from the agenda report a new sentence that was included for the first time: "In accordance with Costa Mesa Municpal Code, Sec. 2-64 (1): No person in the audience shall engage in disorderly, disruptive, disturbing, delaying or boisterous conduct." This obviously had to do with the events from the previous Planning Commission meeting. The result is, as would be demonstrated later, members of the commission may utter inflammatory, rude, inaccurate and disrespectful comments and, if members of the audience react to them, they will apparently be in violation of the rule above. More on this later.
During Public Comments eight (8) members of the public spoke on issues not on the agenda.
ON THE INITIATIVES
Jay Humphrey spoke on the Fairview Park Initiative and mentioned the Park Master Plan. He also mentioned the so-called Smart Growth Initiative, and handed the ball off to four residents who each addressed a separate "myth" about the initiative that have been circulating around town.
Kim Hendricks was among those speakers - she dispelled the myth that the Smart Growth Initiative was "just like Malibu's" - it's not. She went on to address some of the reasons for the Fairview Park Initiative, including illegally filling in a canyon, incursion on native sacred sites and more.
Also speaking on the "myths" were Cindy Black, Bill Harader and a woman whose name I missed. You can find more debunked myths on this issue HERE.
Beth Refakes again reminded us of the candy and gift collection for the children of the 1/5 Marines at Camp Pendleton. The deadline for donations is March 18th. She also reminded us that the groundbreaking ceremony for the Heroes Hall Veterans Museum will occur at 9:00 a.m. on the grounds of the Orange County Fair and Event Center.
LETTER TO HATCH
Mary Spadoni read a letter she was presenting to the clerk for delivery to CEO Tom Hatch regarding the behavior of commissioners Colin McCarthy and Tim Sesler at the last meeting. She referred to McCarthy's derogatory reference to the Smart Growth Initiative as the "smart growth, no growth or whatever it's called" initiative and her reference to Sesler was for his touting the Costa Mesa Public Square during his comments, and more. She demanded an apology.
UNEVEN CODE ENFORCEMENT
An unidentified person wondered how Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer managed to slip a 1600 square foot garage in his new home though the process. It's nearly four times the allowable space, so it should have come before the Planning Commission. She also spoke about rehab homes and the fact that Code Enforcement should be applied equally.
During Commissioner Comments, Stephan Andranian asked to know more about the sober living locations that final speaker mentioned.
COMPOUNDING THE PROBLEM
Then Tim Sesler took the floor and ripped the scab off an already festering wound. Reacting to Spadoni's comments - the contents of her letter - Sesler said, in part: "I would just encourage the smart no growth supporters to come down here and be civil. I think they're capable of that. I think a civil discussion is engaged in on a daily basis on the Facebook page Costa Mesa Public Square, provoking the best of Costa Mesa. So I'd encourage anyone to try to join that page. You'll be able to participate in a very civil discussion on these issues and you won't be called a name if you disagree with somebody. It's moderated very well so that those individuals that have had a history of doing so probably aren't allowed on it. That being said, let's have a civil discussion tonight. I think we're all capable of it."
LIAR OR STUPID?
So, once again, thin-skinned Tim conjures up the Costa Mesa Public Square as the bastion of all civil discussion - which it's not. And, trust me, if the discourse taking place there is "the best of Costa Mesa" our city is in deep, deep trouble! So, Tim is either stupid or a liar. Heck, maybe both. The CMPS, moderated by an iron-fisted High Priestess, is the repository of one-sided discussions. Sure, they're civil if all you're hearing is your side of the issue! And, contrary to what he implies, it is NOT open to everyone. Not only does the High Priestess toss folks off for perceived unkindness on the site, but her skirmishers sneak out from behind their protected barrier to other sites where the discussion rules are more reasonable and try to provoke folks into angry exchanges. Those folks are then tossed from the CMPS for their perceived indiscretions elsewhere. Sounds like a Trump rally to me. Ah, but there's more to some... stay tuned.
Colin McCarthy advised that the meeting will adjourn in the memory of late City Engineer, Fariba Fazeli, who passed away the afternoon of the last commission meeting. He spoke of her in very glowing terms - she was a wonderful woman and a true professional in her job.
Rob Dickson echoed McCarthy's comments about Faseli.
The minutes were passed without comment on a 5-0 vote.
GAMBOA DELIVERED A QUARTER OF THE REPORT, THEN...
Spadoni pulled the Code Enforcement Update from the Consent Calendar, so Acting Manager Fidel Gamboa began reading his staff report, HERE. About one quarter the way through it, after he had spoken about the need for more staff, the restructuring of the organization so it reported directly to Development Services Director, Gary Armstrong and the cutting of an Assistant Director position to free up money for more staff, Andranian stopped him for a moment. He asked if the report he was reading was available in the auditorium for folks who wanted it, and was it online for those at home? The answer was yes, so he suggested Gamboa stop reading the report and that we hear from members of the public and answer their questions. That's what happened - so the audience got a piece of his report and the folks watching at home without computer access had not a clue about the remainder. I understand his thought, but it was a bad idea. He presumed that everyone in the world is computer literate, and that they'll dash to their PC to follow along.
LONG LIST OF QUESTIONS
Spadoni, who had pulled this item for discussion, stepped up and asked a long list of questions involving Group Homes, why no citations issued if staffing is increased, the current number of group homes and state licensed homes in the city. Few of her questions were answered.
CODE ENFORCEMENT FAILURES
An unidentified person asked another group of questions and cited several examples of the failure of Code Enforcement to enforce the codes.
CITY EFFORTS AND ELSEWHERE
Wendy Leece spoke about the Network for Homeless Solutions - the stealth group formed by the city that, apparently, no residents can be privy to. She mentioned San Francisco's shower bus for homeless folks, and spoke of her 9 month training to be a mentor to homeless folks.
LAYING ON THE GUILT - "THE COST OF A LIFE?"
Adam Shambrau, Facilities Director for Solid Landings, the operator of a large number of sober living homes in Costa Mesa and which is embroiled in at least two lawsuits with the city, spoke about addiction, primarily the current epidemic of heroin addiction. He then, apparently alluding to our Nuisance Ordinance which can be used to cite group home offenders who are "nuisances", asked what the cost of a life is? He implied that expecting group homes to be good neighbors is unreasonable - like what's a little noise and a few cigarette butts, anyhow? My words, not his. He said the city should provide leadership. Well, yeah! I mean, the rehab business is estimated to be a $35 billion business...
WHAT ABOUT RESIDENTS QUALITY OF LIFE?
Cindy Black, in response to Shambrau's comments, tossed it right back at him, citing the diminishing of quality of life for residents near group homes. She accused the businesses of taking advantage of disabled people and sucking the money out of them. Good point.
MORE GROUP HOMES
Jay Humphrey addressed this issue, too. He cited a location on Royal Palm where an over-proliferation of group home residents exists, and buses are coming and going all day.
Teresa Drain reminded us that Solid Landings appealed code violations, and that Costa Mesa has an over-abundance of group homes - she called it a 'statistical anomaly'. And, she reminded the commission that we, the residents, speak out when rules are broken.
DICKSON - "CALL GAMBOA"
Chairman Rob Dickson then advised folks to contact Code Enforcement directly to get answers to their questions. What a crock! Instead of just answering the questions, he has now unleashed a handful of residents on Gamboa. Gamboa did tell us that enforcement under the R-1 ordinance is on hold because of a law suit and the new R-2 ordinance just went into effect.
GENERAL PLAN UPDATE AND DRAFT EIR
ELEMENTS OF THE GENERAL PLAN
LAND USE ELEMENT
Consultant Laura Stetson, who has been involved in this project for the City for nearly 3 years now, spoke about the Land Use Element, focusing on the following areas:
Then Transportation Services Manager Raja Sethuraman discussed the Circulation Element, including the Master Plan for Streets and Highways and the work of the Bikeways and Walkability Committee to craft a new Bikeways Master Plan and a Pedestrian Opportunity Zone map. They finished at 40 minutes, but it took another hour before this issue was finished.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING/FAIRVIEW DEVELOPMENTAL CENTER
Kathy Esfahani, representing the Costa Mesa Affordable Housing Coalition, bemoaned there was NO plan for affordable housing - ZERO. She suggested that the Fairview Developmental Center site - presumed to become available from the State in the near future - would be a perfect location for such housing, but that current plans should be expanded to 40 dwelling units per acre to make it work.
YES, AND OTHER CITIES, TOO...
Wendy Leece echoed her thoughts, and pointed to Irvine and San Clemente as sites of good affordable housing projects, available through the use of tax credits.
PLAYING FIELDS AND ERRORS ON DOCUMENTS
Kim Hendricks cited errors in segments of the documents - important errors that affect some of the conclusions. Referring to a segment where the Fairview Park Citizen's Advisory Committee was incorrectly identified, she said there is no evidence that the city needs more playing fields, and referred to a recent Parks and Recreation Committee meeting for that authority.
KENNEDY COMMISSON LAWSUIT?
Jay Humphrey also was concerned about the lack of affordable housing and wondered if the Kennedy Commission lawsuit was relevant to this discussion.
DENSITY AND TRAFFIC?
Rick Huffman, of Costa Mesa First, stated that although the changes affected only 4% of the land in the city, the density and traffic was much greater. He stated that the 2035 endline for this plan showed an additional 9,500 dwelling units - achievable only by building 4-5 story buildings with 6 story parking garages.
Beth Refakes was pleased that the plan finally deleted the 19th Street bridge over the Santa Ana River, but wondered about the Gisler Street Bridge. She reminded the commission that at every meeting on this issue the members of the public who attended were adamant - they did not want increased density and more traffic.
THE TRIANGLE/METHODIST CHURCH DEAL?
An unidentified person complained that the traffic data they were using was old data - 10 years out of date. She also brought up the issue of The Triangle shopping center's plan to use part of the Methodist Church across the street for a multi-story parking structure, and wondered why nobody in the City seemed to know anything about it.
An unidentified man, who said he was a long time resident, complained about the incomplete 55 Freeway though Downtown and alleged misuse of more than $300 million in funds. He complained about the growth not being supported by the infrastructure.
"I DON'T NEED A STUDY!"
Colin McCarthy thanked the staff and consultants for the excellent work. He said he was intrigued by Esfahani's comments, indicating he has no problem with affordable housing at the Fairview Developmental Center site. On the subject of playing fields he said, "Costa Mesa does not have enough playing fields! I don't need a study to tell me that - I have two kids that play." Really? So, we'll just base our planning decisions on what you think your kids need? Good grief! McCarthy also cited the success of the SOCO location, and speculated about the need for mixed use developments in the north part of town - something the City Council has quashed for the time being.
Then came time for Thin-skinned Tim to take a turn at bat. At the end of a short, feeble attempt to have Flynn clarify the numbers of attendees at the various meetings that contributed to this effort, he finally said this:
"I guess the question I have is this. I appreciate everyone that has come down tonight and appreciate everyone that's attended the workshops and roadshows. I guess my observation is that all these attendees here, while very passionate, the group is fairly monochromatic, retired and active politically. What steps have we taken to have participants reflect the true diversity of Costa Mesa, in terms of working families, ethnicity, age? I mean, have we taken any affirmative steps, because I see the same faces and the same voices at our meetings here and at the workshops and they're valued, but I'm just wondering if we're missing an opportunity to really reflect the true diversity of Costa Mesa when we participate and put together these General Plan Updates. Kind of a statement/question."
So, I guess my question to Thin-skinned Tim is... What the heck are you trying to say, you simpering sanctimonious sop? Are you saying that you don't like to see all the same faces? Well, dude, I attended nearly ALL the meetings and there were MANY unfamiliar faces - just regular folks who took time out of their busy days and evenings to attend the workshops and roadshows. In some cases they brought their kids along. They listened to the consultants and staff. They participated in the exercises that led to the document you have in front of you. Yes, there are familiar faces in the audience tonight because most of them are folks who actually understand the impact of this document and have taken the time to study the issues and to make constructive comments. Among them are former council members, current committee members and just plain old working folks. Yes, many of them are retired - something you apparently hold against them. I wonder - do you consider that age discrimination? I mean, after all, we geezers are part of a protected class, Mr. Lawyer.
DID YOU MEAN LATINOS?
You may be right, though, Tim... I don't recall any outreach in Spanish, for example. Is that what you meant? After all, nearly 40% of the populace of Costa Mesa is Latino. Did you mean, "Where the heck are my pals?" Well, apparently they don't care enough about this process to get involved. They're too busy pillorying the opposition on the Costa Mesa Public Square!
WHAT, EXACTLY, DO YOU MEAN?
When you asked about "age", were you concerned that you didn't have any high school age kids in the audience? Or college students? What, EXACTLY were you looking for? Enough with him!
BRIDGES - 19TH STREET DEAD, GISLER ON LIFE SUPPORT
Colin McCarthy asked about the bridges and had confirmed by Raja Sethuraman that the 19th Street Bridge is, indeed, dead. However, the Gisler Street Bridge is still on life support.
NO MONEY TO FINISH THE 55 FREEWAY
Dickson referred the gentleman concerned about the completion of the 55 Freeway to Sethuraman, who told us that the last estimate to "cut and cover" - the last alternative considered - would have cost at that time something like $400 million, and there's just no money to complete the project. Actually, I'm not sure that's all bad when you consider the impact of those businesses along that stretch of Newport Boulevard from 19th Street to 16th Street. I doubt if any could survive the construction turmoil.
NOT A DONE DEAL YET
At the end Stetson reminded us that there are still more hearings ahead, that this is NOT a done deal yet! Flynn advised the commissioners that they would be providing the City Council with a red-line copy of the General Plan for their consideration, and it's their schedule to make. She also affirmed to Sesler that we were not double counting attendees. We took a break.
WESTSIDE OVERLAYS AND SOBECA CHANGES
The final item on the agenda was the amendments to three Westside Overlays and the SoBECA plan. Andranian left because he owns property near one of the Westside locations. You can read the staff report on this issue HERE. I'm not going to try to go into great detail, but this chart will be helpful to understand the nature of the changes being proposed. If you have trouble reading it, click on it to enlarge it. If that doesn't help, click on the staff report link, then go to page 6 for this table.
AN AIR B&B TYPE PLAN STIFF-ARMED
ADJOURNED IN MEMORY OF FARIBA FAzELI
Labels: Code Enforcement, Colin McCarthy, Draft EIR, Fairview Park Preservation Alliance, General Plan, Rob Dickson, Smart Growth Initiative, SOBECA, Sober Living Homes, Stephan Andranian, Timothy Sesler, Westside Plans