Surprising Lack Of Unity Marks Planning Commission Meeting
OOPS... A LITTLE DISAGREEMENT
The Costa Mesa Planning Commission met Monday night to a full agenda and, to my amazement, they actually found an issue that split their vote. More on that when we come to it.
During Public Comments Beth Refakes, representing the Military Affairs Team, gave an update on the success of the gown drive for the wives of the 1/5 Marines and announced the current candy drive - Trunk or Treat - for the children of that organization. Individually wrapped candies may be delivered to the lobby of City Hall for this drive.
FIREFIGHTERS FOR THE GOOD GUYS
Mary Spadoni announced the Firefighters event supporting candidates Sandy Genis, John Stephens and Jay Humphrey on Saturday, October 1st at TeWinkle Park at which the firefighters will serve pancakes in the morning and roasted brats for lunch.
CRITICIZING COLIN, TICKING OFF MATHEWS
An unidentified woman took Commissioner Colin McCarthy to task, citing his recent commentary in the Daily Pilot praising the current council majority. She also asked Vice Chair Jeff Mathews where he lived - south county? Mathews was REALLY peeved at that question and said he lived on 20th Street and "don't ask me that question again!" Hmmm... struck a nerve, did she? As a matter of fact, she can ask him anything she wants and Mathews can do nothing about it. Methinks he doest protest too much. Hmmm...
GOOD JOB, SAILORS
During Commissioner Comments Stephan Andranian praised his alma mater, Newport Harbor High School, for their good behavior while losing the Battle of the Bay last weekend. He was obliquely refering to some bad behavior by students from Corona Del Mar High School at the event.
Tim Sesler was peeved at Spadoni's announcement. He, of course, mispronounced her name - SPANDONI - and suggested she ask firefighters about their high pay. It was hard to hear him on the CMTV feed - I think he sometimes speaks with marbles in his mouth.
COLIN CAMPAIGNS FROM THE DAIS
McCarthy also used his time to campaign from the dais, speaking about his personal experience ten years ago with alleged firefighters going door-to-door. He launched in to a lauditory screed about how lucky we are to have the current council majority because they are responsible for our $11 million surplus.
THEY JUST CAN'T STOP IT
Chairman Rob Dickson spoke briefly about how lucky he had been to have purchased a former rehab home on the Westside and how the property has doubled in value. Again, campaigning from the dais.
CORRECTING THE RECORD
The only item on the Consent Calendar was the minutes of the September 12th meeting and resident Steve Chen pulled them for discussion. He presented some specific items on the minutes that he said misrepresented the actual facts and asked that they be corrected. The commission decided to have the staff review the entries and bring the minutes back for approval at a future date. I think this is the very first time I've seen anyone from the public challenge the minutes. It was refreshing.
788 CENTER STREET FIRST
Then, instead of taking the Public Hearings in order they decided to pull #4 to the front, apparently because the applicant showed up with small children. So, the commissioners took a couple of minutes to hear the staff report and hear from the applicant for 788 Center Street in which an old single-story home will be demolished and two units built. It was approved, 5-0.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF 2850 MESA VERDE DRIVE EAST
Then we went back into the normal order and heard Public Hearing #1, the General Plan Amendment and Rezone at 2850 Mesa Verde Drive East. This one is curious - and I don't mean that in a good way. It seems this is out of sequence because the City Council, during a Special Meeting in June to hear the General Plan Update, somehow managed to approve, 4-0 (Gary Monahan was absent) that this issue would be included in the motion. Normally, there would be a separate hearing in which a Tentative Tract map would be considered. So, Peter Zehnder - who has build several small developments around town, including one right next door to this proposed project - presented it for the commission's consideration. The plan is to demolish two existing office buildings and replace them with low density housing. Zehnder provided a potential project layout.
LOSS OF BUSINESSES
Several prople spoke out against this plan, including Reverand Jim Terrill, who has had an office in one of the buildings for 28 years. He spoke about the disruption of him and 20 other tenants and those who used the services provided by those businesses.
LOSS TO THE COMMUNITY
Robin Leffler, a Mesa Verde resident, spoke about the loss of this "business community" and how it would negatively impact the nearby residential community.
MCCARTHY BRUSHES CONCERNS ASIDE
After a discussion in which McCarthy shrugged off the claims of this business complex would be a loss to the community by telling us that his dentist used to be there but he didn't like the shabby buildings, so he changed dentists - as if that had ANY relevance to the issue at all!
"THE COUNCIL GAVE US DIRECTION, SO...."
Commissioner Stephan Andranian said he sympathized with the business owners, the City Council had apparently provided direction that this is the way they wanted to go with this proposal. So, the commission passed it along, 5-0.
LOW DENSITY IN MESA VERDE... CURIOUS
An observation - low density developments are pretty rare these days in our city. It's more than curious that two of them are now going to be done back-to-back in Mesa Verde - where McCarthy and the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem lives. Just sayin'......
SOBECA - DON'T BLINK
That brought us to Public Hearing #2, the required action bringing the recent changes to the General Plan Update for the SoBECA area into compliance with the General Plan. This took less than 10 minutes and the commisson passed it, 5-0.
PIERCE STREET ANNEX/THE COUNTRY CLUB
Then came Public Hearing #3, the proposal to convert the existing Pierce Street Annex, a bar at 330 East 17th Street, into a restaurant to be called The Country Club. The applicant, Mario Marovic - owner of the Wild Goose a block to the East - also wanted to have operating hours of 6 AM to 2 AM. We've seen Marovic in action before - when he pitched his ideas for The Wild Goose. He's a very polished operator and, lest you forget that, he comes prepared with slides and charts telling you what a great guy he is.
WHAT LIVE ENTERTAINMENT?
One thing that happened during the discussion was the revelation of a couple things. One, the current operation was already permitted to operate starting at 6 AM if they wished to. And, contrary to a section in the staff report, the current use already includes live entertainment. That surprised the commissioners. Marovic didn't want to give either of those up. There was also some haggling over the facade in the front of the restaurant - the City wants more "transparency" in the front wall and Marovic didn't. The staff could find no record of a live entertainment permit having been issued - but this place has been open for business under one name or another since 1959. After nearly 90 minutes the commission eventually passed it, 5-0, with some changes regarding the facade - more light showing - and deleted the reference to live entertainment.
PARKING PROBLEMS WITH THE CRACK SHACK
After a short break they tackled Public Hearing #5, the conversion of a bank building at the corner of 17th Street and Orange Avenue into a restaurant called Crack Shack - a place that specializes in chicken and egg dishes. This one seems like an interesting concept, but parking was an issue. The applicant, Mike Rosen, brought with him a "parking consultant" who proceeded to tell the commissioners why our parking standards are all wrong for this use - at least, that's what I think he said, because we couldn't hear a word of his presentation. He had stepped away from the microphone to be able to read his slides, so those of us watching at home have no clue about what he said, except what we could attempt to interpret from his slides.
RESIDENTS BALK AT PARKING PROBLEM
Beth Refakes and Chuck Perry - both Eastside residents - expressed grave concerns about the parking issue. It seems our requirements for this use is 75 spaces and the applicant's solution only provides for 62, but does include a valet option. Round and round the discussion went. McCarthy observed that in EVERY case involving this kind of a situation the applicant will present a parking expert to find a way around our parking requirement and the result is severely underparked projects like this one. He specifically cited 17th Street, where parking is terrible.
SHARED PARKING OPTION
Andranian suggested that the applicant find a nearby business to negotiate a shared parking arrangement. The applicant said that was in the works, but balked at the requirement because of the unknown of the future of the business in question. He was adament that his project met the city requirements via the use of valet parking. After a little more than an hour the commissioners voted, 3-2, to REQUIRE the applicant to find shared parking for 13 more cars. Dickson and Sesler voted NO. That was VERY interesting.
LATER HOURS AND ALCOHOL FOR PIZZA PRESS
The final item, Public Hearing #6 - a Conditional Use Permit for the Pizza Press at Metro Point to operate past 11 p.m. with the onsite sale of alcohol. The hours would be 11 AM - 1 AM. The commission took only 10 minutes to approve this one, 5-0.
LATER THAN WE THOUGHT
Dickson adjourned the meetin at 10:10 p.m.