CM4RG/CM1ST Town Hall A Success!
Thursday night two Costa Mesa grass roots organizations, Costa Mesans For Responsible Government (CM4RG) and Costa Mesa First jointly hosted a Town Hall at the Neighborhood Community Center to present facts and answer questions on several development-oriented issues. The meeting was attended by more than 100 individuals and it certainly seemed to be a great success.
FOUR IMPORTANT ISSUES
Issues to be discussed included the General Plan, the so-called Smart Growth Initiative, the Fairview Park Initiative and the future of the Banning Ranch and it's impact on Costa Mesa.
DICKSON AND COUNCIL CANDIDATES
Among the members of the audience I noticed Planning Commission Chairman Rob Dickson and City Council Candidates John Stephens, Lee Ramos, Jay Humphrey and Julie Mercurio. Mercurio was accompanied by a cadre of minions from the Costa Mesa Public Square Facebook page that she rules with an iron fist. In fact, she live-streamed the meeting on that page. Sources tell me that several city officials participated in the comment thread during her event, offering up caustic critical comments. A few of her minions bailed out midway through the meeting and didn't return. She and Ramos left before the Question and Answer period began. I guess they didn't really care what potential constituents were concerned about.
COSTA MESA BRIEF ON THE JOB
Barry Friedland, of Costa Mesa Brief, was onboard to record the meeting. His completed work product should be available for viewing on his YouTube channel, HERE, sometime late in the weekend.
ARRIVED EARLY AND OBSERVED THE CROWD
My sweet and very patient wife and I arrived in advance of the advertised start time and had a chance to view the many display posters propped around the walls. Here are but a few of them. Gift bags were distributed to every attendee and each included a raffle ticket for a drawing at the end of the meeting. We had a chance to chat with some old friends and to observe that the room was filling up with many unfamiliar faces. There were many more than just "the usual suspects" - activists and residents who regularly show up at important meetings. It was good to see more concerned folks attend this meeting.
We saw folks from all over the city - Westside, Eastside, Mesa Verde, College Park and from Mesa North, too. We also saw major landowners represented, apparently interested in how this discussion might affect their operations.
LEFFLER KICKED IT OFF
Robin Leffler, representing CM4RG, kicked the meeting off with an introduction of the purpose, a brief history of Costa Mesa and a description of what was to follow.
CEQA AND THE GENERAL PLAN
Leffler handed it off to Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Sandra Genis, who makes her living as a professional land use planner and who is likely running to retain her seat on the council in November. She provided us with the benefit of her significant expertise a discussion of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), most of the details of which are covered in the following slides.
Next up was Teresa Drain, who discussed the Land Use Element of the General Plan. Again, the details of her presentation are included in these slides.
CIRCULATION ELEMENT AND TRAFFIC
Anna Vrska spoke about the Circulation Element of the General Plan, and specifically the traffic increases anticipated.
OPEN SPACE - FAIRVIEW PARK
Dr. Richard Mehren was up next to discuss Open Space issues and most specifically Fairview Park. Dr. Mehren was instrumental in Costa Mesa acquiring the parkland decades ago and has been an active shepherd of that venue - described by many as the Jewel of Costa Mesa - ever since. He was the Chairman of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee until he abruptly resigned in disgust with the direction it seemed to be taking.
Suzanne Forster, Vice President of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, provided us with an update on the status of that project, which lies fully within the boundaries of Newport Beach but will have a very dramatic impact on Costa Mesa from a traffic, noise and pollution standpoint. She encouraged folks to attend the hearing at the Newport Beach City Hall on either September 7th or 8th - the specific date is as yet undetermined, but it will be on their website. One of the items she mentioned was that the City of Newport Beach apparently does not have enough water to handle this project, so that likely will mean some kind of contractual arrangement with the Mesa Water District, the organization that provides most of Costa Mesa's water. An interesting factoid to consider.
SMART GROWTH INITIATIVE
Rick Huffman then spoke directly about the Smart Growth Initiative, outlining the reasons for its existence and providing details of the facts about the initiative.
Finally, Mary Spadoni wrapped up that segment of the meeting by reminding all that this was a collaboration of two true grass-roots organizations, who work with passion but no compensation other than to try to make the community better. She cited her personal reasons for being active, among them High Density of housing, Traffic and quality of life degration as a result. She wants to see a better balance between homeownership and rentals. Right now there is over 60% rentals vs homeownership. And, she doesn't want the city to become Santa Monica. She encouraged folks to be informed and involved.
During the Question and Answer segment beginning around 8:30 things got a little ragged after a very crisply-run program. Concerns expressed by attendees involved the demand for water by the high density development. Leffler handled on about the General Plan and encouraged folks to attend the June 14th special council meeting and then the next regular meeting on June 21st, when it will be discussed and voted upon.
Rick Huffman fielded a question about dedicated bike lanes in the city, which brought the discussion back around to the fact that Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer had emasculated the work product by the Bikeways and Walkability Committee when he demanded the "policies" that had been crafted as part of their Goals and Objectives be referred to as "recommendations", which took all the teeth out of the document.
Forster address a question about the proposed Orange Coast River Park, indicating that it was still in the works.
Genis reminded folks of the proposed increase in traffic in the upcoming General Plan update.
The meeting was wrapped up with the aforementioned raffle.
CONSENSUS - A VERY GOOD EVENT
After the program ended and folks began milling around we had a chance to visit with more than a few, to take their pulse on the meeting. The consensus of those with whom we spoke was that it was an excellent presentation, which had provided valuable information on several issues. I noticed that Dickson lingered and spoke with residents, too, as did Stephens and Humphrey. I encourage you to wait for the Costa Mesa Brief coverage of this event this weekend, then take a couple hours to view it. It will be time well-spent.
LOOK FOR LUKE
And look for Luke Money's article in the Daily Pilot shortly. He was on the job last night, too.
GONNA BE A BUSY FEW MONTHS
In this campaign season we're likely going to see many more such events, either as Candidate Forums or specifically for some of the many issues on the growing November ballot. With two - probably three - medical marijuana issues on the ballot, along with the vote-by-district issue, the Smart Growth Initiative and a probably counter to it by the City, the Fairview Park issue and a likely state-wide recreational marijuana issue also available for November voters, it's going to be a very busy summer and fall.
Labels: Banning Ranch Conservancy, Barry Friedland, Costa Mesa Brief, Fairview Park, Fairview Park Preservation Alliance, Jay Humphrey, John Stephens, Julie Mercurio, Lee Ramos, Smart Growth Initiative