General Plan, More Development Move On
The Costa Mesa Planning Commission met again Monday night and things went about as anticipated, although not without some interesting twists.
TWO COMMISSIONERS MISSING
To begin with, Vice Chair Jeff Mathews and Commissioner Tim Sesler were absent, so that left only three commissioners to consider the issues before the commission.
REPORT ON EGGSTRAVAGANZA AT CAMP PENDLETON
During Public Comments four (4) residents spoke. Beth Refakes gave a report, with slide show on the recent Easter Egg event at Camp Pendleton for the children of the 1/5 Marines. She and her compatriots on the Military Affairs Team have been collecting plastic eggs, toys and candies for the children and last Thursday was the event. According to Refakes, it was a rousing success, with more than 2,000 eggs collected, packaged and delivered. The Easter Bunny was present to spread the joy.
Former council candidate Chris McEvoy stepped to the podium to chide the commissioners for perpetuating the density/traffic problems in the city. He asked them how they "fix a problem by adding to a problem." He accused the commission of bending the rules to accommodate developers.
PROTECTING FAIRVIEW PARK
Kim Hendricks addressed the commission on the Fairview Park Initiative and encouraged folks to sign the petitions being circulated.
FIGHTING SOBER LIVING PROLIFERATION
Resident 47 (who prefers to remain anonymous) told the commission about an effort by a San Clemente group that is organizing to fight the impact on sober living homes in their community, much like Costa Mesa's Take Back Our Neighborhoods (TBON) has tried to do in recent years. She announced the existence of an online petition, assessable via the TBON website at www.tboncostamesa.com by clicking on the red "alert" section at the top of the home page. The goal is to spread this movement state-wide. She also spoke of a March 18, 2016 meeting in Irvine at which this issue was discussed by many elected leaders, including Congressman Dana Rhorabacher, who apparently feigned ignorance of the issue until that very moment, and others. She complained that few Costa Mesa officials were present - only Sandra Genis was present among our elected officials.
During Commissioner Comments Stephan Andranian commended the volunteers for their efforts on behalf of the kids of the 1/5 Marines.
Colin McCarthy expressed surprise that the City Council recently overturned one of the commissions decisions - on a religious/cultural center near John Wayne Airport, and stated at one point, he "takes orders from our elected leaders."
"DOESN'T TAKE ORDERS..."
Chairman Rob Dickson, responding to a critic who accused commissioners of "taking instructions via cell phone on the dais", said "I don't take orders on how to vote." OK, so he doesn't and McCarthy does, right?
GENERAL PLAN UPDATE, AGAIN
Public Hearing #1 was the second cut at the General Plan Update and the Draft Environmental Impact Report. There was no formal staff presentation. The hearing was to, once again, gather public comments and observations from the commissioners. Minoo Ashabi guided the discussion and reiterated that formal written comments are due no later than close of business on April 18, 2016.
NO LAND USE CHANGE FOR FAIRVIEW PARK
McCarthy asked about the relationship to the General Plan Update and Fairview Park and was told that there is NO land use change to the park in the General Plan Update.
Nine people spoke on this issue. Former councilwoman Wendy Leece observed that the writing was better in the update, then asked several questions about a survey that was conducted, Cultural Resources section and more - and asked for more details.
Rick Huffman asked several questions about specific statistics in the Land Use Element.
FIELD USE INTERROGATION
The commissioners thanked all the speakers for their comments. McCarthy asked consultant Laura Stetson about sports fields and dragged from her that the numbers include school district fields that fall under the Joint Use Agreement, and that the agreement could be changed or cancelled at any time. The commission continued this item to the Planning Commission meeting on April 11, 2016 on a 3-0 vote.
592 HAMILTON DEVELOPMENT
Public Hearing #2 is the development of six units at 592 Hamilton Street. The developer, Nick Louis, is a small developer - this will be his biggest project. He asked the commission to waive the requirement for undergrounding the utilities - he said such an effort would actually involve eight (8) properties. Following about 40 minutes of discussion the commission passed it on a 2-1 vote, with Andranian voting NO. However, the decision left in place the requirement for undergrounding utilities, so - as McCarthy observed - it was probably a deal-killer because of the cost. It will be interesting to see if the applicant appeals the decision, hoping that other recent projects where the undergrounding requirement might impact this decision.
10 UNITS ON BERNARD STREET
Public Hearing #3 is the project at 522 and 526 Bernard Street. This is resurrection of a long-dormant project that had received approvals back in 2013. This is a new developer, Patric Lynam, who changed the project from a condominium project to detached individual homes. There was much concern about the ratio of enclosed to open parking spaces - the ratio seemed reversed to McCarthy. In the end the project was approved on another 2-1 vote, with Andranian again voting NO because of the parking issues and the fact that the developer apparently did not comply with the City Council recommendation that he find alternate parking solutions. This project also required undergrounding utilities, but the developer didn't bat an eye at that requirement.
33 UNITS ON HARBOR BLVD.
After a short break Public Hearing #4, the 33 unit development on 3.71 acres at the corner of Harbor Blvd. and Merrimac - 2626 Harbor - was discussed. This project met every requirement and more. For example, it has over 50% open space, including a dedicated private park. It is less dense by 25%. Former City Director of Development Services and Deputy CEO Peter Naghavi is the consultant on the project and he presented a lengthy, detailed presentation. One of the requirements is for lighting along Harbor Blvd and Merrimac - a requirement not seen in the city before. When the vote was taken the resolution was crafted to not REQUIRE the lighting, but for both Development Services and Public Services to work with the developer to determine IF such lighting is really necessary. Concern was expressed by staff that because street lighting along Harbor is in the center divider it may not meet the minimun illumination standards. Shortly afetr 9:15 the item passed on a 3-0 vote and the meeting was adjourned.
DEVELOPMENT STAMPEDE CONTINUES
It was an interesting night for development in the city. We saw two projects not passed unanimously and one of which, despite being passed, may be Dead On Arrival due to the requirement to underground the utilities. A couple of the developments were resurrected projects with new developers. And, we are seeing the beginning of the metamorphosis of Harbor Blvd. from a commercial corriedor into a mixed bag of residential and commercial and I'm wondering just how this is going to play out. The development at Harbor and Merrimac is directly across the street from the recently rebuilt Cadillac dealership - a project that continues to give neighbors on the other side fits due to light spillage. It's going to be interesting to see how that new housing development works out, since it's located on one of our busiest commercial streets and has commercial operations on two sides of it. And, so, the development stampede through Costa Mesa continues.