Friday, January 29, 2016

Chief Neth To Receive Mayor's Award Tuesday****

As some know, former Costa Mesa Police Chief Roger Neth received word this week that he will be among several alumni to be inducted into the Newport Harbor High School Hall Of Fame later this year.  Bradley Zint wrote a nice article in the Daily Pilot about that announcement HERE.

Well, Chief Neth is on a roll.  At the abbreviated City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 2, 2016, he will receive the Mayor's Award from Mayor Steve Mensinger.
Chief Neth is legendary in these parts.  As mentioned in Zint's article, he was Costa Mesa's second police chief and held that job for more than two decades beginning in 1964.  During that time he created a police department that was second to none technologically, including the creation of the A.B.L.E. helicopter program, which was the model for all municipal law enforcement helicopter programs in the country. ****  (See Below)
While it's wonderful that Chief Roger Neth, shown below with former chiefs Dave Snowden and Tom Gazsi, will be recognized by The Mayor on Tuesday, it's too bad that this ceremony will occur at a meeting that will likely be sparsely attended due to the limited agenda - there's only one item on it.
I hope you all will join Chief Neth's friends when he receives this honor.  The meeting begins at 5:45 in City Council Chambers and his award will occur promptly at the beginning of the meeting.  See you there.

A good friend who's in the know sent me a note to correct the A.B.L.E. record, above.  My friend tells me that Chief Neth started the Costa Mesa helicopter program in 1970 and was actually a pilot in that program.  He tells me that Costa Mesa took delivery of the first helicopter a couple months after Huntington Beach acquired theirs.  He tells me that Chief Neth was instrumental in leading edge technology and put computers in the police cars decades ahead of the other agencies.  He tells me that Costa Mesa also had the leading edge communications center that other agencies throughout the nation would visit.  Although he was the father of the Costa Mesa helicopter program, he retired before the formation of A.B.L.E.

I'm told that A.B.L.E. was a Joint Powers Agreement between the Newport Beach Police Department (Chief McDonell) and the Costa Mesa Police Department (Chief Snowden).  It was formalized in 1996 and continued to operate as an effective, efficient air support model serving three communities - Santa Ana contracted with A.B.L.E - until the short-sightedness of the Costa Mesa City Council folded it up on June 30, 2011, HERE, and HERE.  Thanks to my friend for the clarification and amplification of this issue. 

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Parks & Rec. Commission Wrap-up

The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission met last night, Thursday, for their first meeting of the year.  As I wrote about earlier, the agenda was not a big one, but there was some good information to be gleaned.  Commissioner Don Harper was absent.  Approximately fifteen (15) members of the public attended, but there was never more than 12 in the audience at one time.
Beth Refakes reminded us all that the Military Affairs Team is gathering small individually-wrapped candies and small toys that can be placed in plastic Easter Eggs for the children of the currently-deployed 1/5 Marines out of Camp Pendleton.  There will be a foot locker in the City Hall lobby for donations.  There are three age groups - 0-2, 3-5 and 6 and over.
Cindy Black advised the commission and the dozen of us in the audience that petitions are being circulated for the initiative launched by the Fairview Park Preservation Alliance, to protect Fairview Park from certain types of developments.  You can read more about the initiative on their website, HERE.
Rocky Evans stepped up again to request more hours at the community Skate Park, another Skate Park and/or enhancements to the current one.  He observed that it is consistently heavily-used.
Recreation Supervisor Justin Martin made a presentation on the activities of the Cultural Arts Committee.  He outlined the many art-related opportunities in the City.  Among the highlights of his presentation was a review and images of the ArtVenture event, which was attended by a reported 1,300 people.

Next up was the Tree Removal request at 2743 Gannett Drive.  Commissioner Bob Graham recused himself since this is in his neighborhood.  Maintenance Services Manager Bruce Hartley provided the staff report and recommended denial of the removal of the tree.  The applicant was not in attendance - odd, since you'd think he might want to plead his case.  When the vote was taken to deny the request - on a 3-0 vote -  Commissioner Byron de Arakal followed up with a request for the staff to do an exploratory patch where the tree roots are clearly lifting the recently paved roadway and use their own judgement once the roots are exposed as to whether removing the roots to save road damage would result in a severely weakened tree.  If so, the option would be to remove and replace it.


Next up was Recreation Manager Travis Karlen's 2015 Fall Field Audit Report and recommendations for amendments to the Field Use and Allocation Policy (FUAP).  Karlen discussed the several adult groups that have been denied fields because they didn't meet the correct residency percentages.  And, they discussed Friday Night Lights and their drop from group 3 user status to group 6, which results in limited field use in the Fall of 2016.  Karlen emphasized the improved data collection and presented an audit timeline.  There was also a discussion of the difficulty staff members had getting cooperation by some user groups - some were described as "defiant" -  and the inability to get residency numbers verified by the Newport-Mesa Unified School District because of the extreme workload it would place on their staff.  The staff recommended lowering the existing minimum local residency requirement for Group 6 users from 25% to 10% because the higher standard eliminated all but one Group 6 user.  After all was said and done, it was agreed that, while not perfect, this was an excellent first step in fairly managing the scarce field resources.
During Public Comments on this issue  Anna Vrska, a member of the now-dormant Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee and strong critic of the lack of accurate statistics on actual field use, was almost giddy when she expressed her appreciation to the staff for this process.
Brent Wood, who coaches youth sports teams, addressed the issue of Friday Night Lights, expressing the opinion that he was happy they will be punished for what he described as "cheating and lying" by the leadership of that group, and suggested penalties should be stronger - like 5 years of no field use.  He said the behavior by that group casts a shadow on all the groups.  During the discussion Karlen affirmed that the Matt Lienart Flag Football group now participates as So. Cal. Elite, a non-profit organization.  The commission voted, 4-0, to receive and file the report.
Next came the discussion of the Fairview Park Annual Report, presented by Parks Project Manager Bart Mejia.  He began with a discussion of the Ryperian Wetlands project, telling the commissioners how the water features had become clogged with non-native plants which kept the water from flowing properly.  He showed slides depicting the "before" and "after", following the clean out by a contractor who specializes in such projects.  The debris removed is currently stacked for drying before being removed from the park.  Mejia told the commission that an annual maintenance program will be followed to ensure the Wetlands functions as designed, and that it will cost $40-50,000 per year.
There was a discussion of the vernal pools and the commission was advised that there is no timeline for a response from US Fish and Wildlife as to what is to happen next on that issue.  Mejia cited staffing issues at USFW.

Regarding the Orange County Model Engineers, Mejia said no major projects are planned by that group this year, but they continue to provide free rides each month.

Chairman Kim Pederson asked about the lighting project and was advised that it is still in the environmental stage.
During Public Comments Flo Martin addressed the subject of the vernal pools, and presented hot-off-the-presses photos - taken that day, of the site of the vernal pools which had been defiled by the now-infamous decomposed granite trail - a road, actually.  She showed images - some are shown below - that reflected the current conditions, with cut barrier ropes, bent fence posts and paths being gouged through one of the pool locations.  When asked about the status of more permanent barriers, Mejia said they will be double strand steel cables with posts every 20 feet, but that they will not keep vandals and others out of the pools.  Greater use of signage and more awareness by Park Rangers will help.
Cindy Black asked about how frequently these types of reports are issued and was told annually, and had been for ten years.

Kim Hendricks advised the commission that the planned multipurpose trail - a road - violates the Fairview Park Master Plan and should not be undertaken.
Jay Humphrey, commenting on the newly-refreshed riparian ponds, tongue-in-cheek observed that former mayor Donn Hall's Costa Mesa Marina is finally a fact.  He also observed that the maps currently in use are just too small - the type is almost unreadable.  He also observed that the planned lights in the parking lot are unnecessary, since Fairview Park, and all other Costa Mesa Parks, are dawn-to-dusk parks, requiring no lighting.
Resident Andy Campbell, a geologist who works for a water district, addressed the planned trail, indicating that ADA will permit a grade in excess of 5% if resting places are included along the way.  He cited 5 areas of 10-15 square feet, level, with a bench, that could be accomplished for about $100,000 instead of spending more than $1 million on the planned trail.  He also later cited the extreme excavation that would be necessary to accomplish the proposed plan.
Debbie Koken spoke to that issue, and said to leave the trail alone.

Anna Vrska also thanked the staff for their great work, then advised that we should do a better job of protecting the vernal pools, that lighting in the Westside parking lot was unnecessary and such actions as the extreme trail is what caused the Fairview Park Protection initiative to be launched.  She also observed that 90% of the people who addressed the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee felt the park should be kept natural.
De Arakal observed that the many agencies with which the City must deal on Fairview Park issues are very strict and won't permit violations of established rules.

Commissioner Bob Graham complimented Flo Martin for her use of photos.  Graham, himself, tries to do that, too.  His photographic prowess is meager, by the way.
Much discussion revolved around the vernal pool situation.  The type of fencing was discussed, and it was observed that chain link fencing would not be appropriate.

Eventually the commission voted to accept the report, 4-0.

Mejia was up again with his Parks Project Manager report.  He skipped anything to do with Fairview Park, since it had been thoroughly flogged already.  He spoke about Smallwood park, Harbor Boulevard Trail Improvements, the Feasibility Studies for lighting sports fields at School District Sites, the update on the City's General Plan and that the Open Space and Recreation element will be updated, too.  Public workshops are being scheduled for March.

He told us that a consultant is working on the delineation of the vernal pools in Fairview Park, and that ADA requirements in TeWinkle Park are being addressed.

He spoke about the current renovations at the Costa Mesa Bark Park and that the renovation of Fields 1 and 2 at the Jack Hammett Sports Fields with artificial turf should be underway soon.  He observed that it will make them much more usable due to the lack of maintenance issues.

He spoke of the Newport Boulevard Landscape Improvements, which will run along the frontage from Bristol Street to 19th Street.

He also discussed the funding approval for this fiscal year for a feasibility study about the possible need for a second skate park.

Cindy Black addressed the problems with the proposed trail/road in Fairview Park again.  Kim Hendricks denied the need for lights in the parking lot.  Andy Campbell said he has volunteers that would help with the application of dirt to make the baseball field at Smallwood park more usable.

Travis Karlen gave his Recreation Manager's Report.  He observed that the Recreation Division had received an award recently.  He complimented AYSO 97 for their successful season under the temporary lights at Back Bay School - a complaint-free season.
De Arakal addressed the recent Liaison meeting between the City and the School District, during which the possible acquisition of the Balearic Center from the School District was moved forward.  The district has acquired an appraisal and now committee work is underway.
Vice Chair Brett Eckles observed that new features might be needed at the current skate park, and that he would pass on the discussion of Smallwood Park to Harper since that's one of his parks.  He also mentioned the Costa Mesa United Golf Tournament last week, citing its success.
Graham had nothing to add but thanks to the staff and the attendees.
Chairman Pederson added his thanks to those who attended and spoke, then adjourned until the next meeting on February 25, 2016.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Short Council Agenda Tuesday - Why Bother?

The Costa Mesa City Council will hold another meeting beginning at 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday, February 2, 2106 in City Council Chambers at City Hall.  The agenda for that meeting may be found HERE.

After looking at the agenda, my question is - WHY?  Why hold a meeting at all with a short Consent Calendar and one (1) item on the agenda?  It's hard to imagine that the only item on the agenda, Katrina Foley's request for a $15,000 Feasibility Study for Amenities/Portable Bleachers at Costa Mesa High School, HERE,  couldn't wait until the next meeting on February 16th!  There was nobody around City Hall this afternoon that could answer that question.

And, since this one will be short - we could be out of there by 7:00 p.m. - it's likely that the agenda for the 16th will be yet another marathon, where it will stretch until the next day and poor decisions are made.

However, since we're here, let's visit Consent Calendar Item #2 - Warrant 2550 HERE - to see how the City spent $5 million of our tax dollars.  I'll give you a snippet from the long list of checks written, taken as I scroll down through the pages of the warrant.  These items just caught my eye because of the nature of the expenditure or the amount.
  • Clean Street - $57,299.96 - Street Sweeping Svcs, Nov, 2015
  • Costa Mesa Conference & Visitor Bureau - $176,997.91 - BIA Receipts, Nov. 2015
  • Pierce Manufacturing Inc. - $1,340,961.44 - Two (2) Pierce ArrowXT Fire Engines
  • Allen & Goel Marketing Company - $558.00 - Magnets 4 Sr. Center
  • Costa Mesa Community Run - $10,000.00 - 2016 CM Comm Run Sponsorship
  • Interwest Consulting Group, Inc - $11,205.50 - Sr. Bldg Inspct. Svcs, Nov 2015
  • WLC Architects Inc - $8,575.00 - Fire Station #1 Architectural Design Ser.
  • Whitaker Brothers Business Machines, Inc - $1,119.97 - Shredder
  • City of Brea - $32,531.00 - FY15/16 ILJAOC Membership
  • St. George Construction, Inc - $143,156.62 - Prof. Svcs Agreement
  • Blue Sky Outfitters - $4,15.25 - Jackets and Tshirts for Rec. Staff
  • Government Staffing Services Inc - $6,435.00 - Proj Mgnt Temp Svcs
  • Larry's Building Material - $941.76 - Pea Gravel 4 K-9 Grass-Bark Park
  • Orange County Probation Department - $1,207.50 - Juve Crt Work Prog Nov 2015
  • Scientia Consulting Group Inc - $4,859.00 - Prof Svcs Agreement 12/13-12/26
  • White Nelson Diehl Evans LLP - $10.290.00 - Audit Services FY 2014/2015
So, we spent more than a million bucks for a couple fire engines - that's great news.  I just hope this city council doesn't find a way to keep the CMFD from using them, like they did the 6 Rescue Ambulances!

And, since there's not much else on the agenda I scrolled down to the Upcoming Community Activites, Events and Meetings section at the very end and found a bunch of cool stuff that you can see if you visit that page, too.  My favorite was the Smooch Your Pooch event at TeWinkle Park from 9 a.m.- 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 13th.  That's followed by the Meet The Mayor event, from 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 on Sunday, the 14th, where some sycophants may assemble for their own smooch-fest.  City Hall will be closed Monday, February 15th - the day before the next Council meeting.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Field Use And Fairview Park Top Parks Commission Agenda

The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission meets for the first time this year on Thursday, January 28, 2016 beginning at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall.  The agenda for the meeting may be found HERE.

There is one tree removal request, HERE, for a pretty nice looking Canary Island Pine tree at 2743 Gannett Drive.  The staff recommends denial, but the commission could authorize the removal.

Next up on the agenda is the 2015 Fall Field Audit Report and proposed amendments to the Field Use And Allocation Policy (FUAP).  You can read that agenda item and the report HERE.  This could be a very interesting discussion.  As a result of the audit several adult groups were bounced from the fall schedule and youth group Friday Night Lights failed to meet the membership standards, too.  I suspect we'll see representatives of many of these groups in the audience to discuss the changes being proposed.

The final item on the formal program is the Fairview Park Annual Report, HERE.  I won't try to cover everything on the report - it's an easy staff report to go through.  Most Fairview Park lovers will find it of great interest.  I find myself wondering if the initiative to protect Fairview Park from development for which petitions are currently being circulated will get any discussion during this meeting.  We'll see.

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Rappin' With Ramos

As most already know, my Eastside neighbor, Lee Ramos, announced his candidacy for a City Council seat in the fall at a shindig at lame duck councilman Gary Monahan's gin mill earlier this week.  Bradley Zint wrote a nice piece about the event in the Daily Pilot, HERE.  If you've not seen it please DO read it because it contains some interesting quotes from Lee.

Sometimes an event will get my creative juices flowing, as was the case this time.  I thought about Lee's candidacy and out came as a rhyme.  (Oops, gave it away, didn't I?)

So, please sing along with "Lee" on the following string of verse. 
First we'll need to establish the beat.  It should go something like this:

Ka-thumpa Bump Bump
Ka-thumpa Bump Bump
Ka-thumpa Bump Bump
Ka-thumpa Bump Bump 

Got it?  OK, here we go...  Ah, One, Ah, Two...

Well, hello there, everybody
My name is Lee,
And I'll be any kind of candidate
That you want me to be.

A little wiggle to the left
A little waffle to the right,
And I can look like a chameleon
All day or night.

I've lived in Costa Mesa
For 47 years,
Yes, I'm a Latino
But don't have any fears.

Last time I had an identity crisis
That anyone could see,
People thought I was Asian
Because my signs said "Vote for Lee".

But half way through the cycle
I changed my campaign team,
And my tactics became
Much more mainstream.

The signs now proclaimed
That Ramos is your guy,
But Latinos don't vote
So why even bother to try?

Everybody loved me
As I went door to door,
But it just didn't show up
On my election score.

But this time around
I'm going to be everybody's man,
And I might even show up at forums
To try to explain my plan.

In my announcement I said
"Balance will be the key",
And that is really true
As you're about to see.

I'll tip-toe atop the fence
With very special care,
I won't be forced to take a position
Because that's just not fair.

When asked about an issue
And without even knowing,
I'll stick my finger in the wind
To see which way it's blowing.

The difference this time
Is that "I know what's right",
It's only taken seven decades
Because I'm not very bright.

I'm going to be my own man
And not join any slates,
And this time I might even
Participate in debates.

And if you vote for Lee
Please don't fret,
Because what you see
Is what you're gonna get.

 I'm a man with few positions
To tell you all about,
And for those few I do have
I can hardly get the words out.

But my pals really want me
In this next council race,
To suck off some votes from others
And throw them off their pace.

I can't beat Steve or Sandy
Each will likely hold their seat,
But Gary's slot is open
And Jay's probably the guy to beat.

It's quite early in the race
But it looks like Bunyan's back again,
Last time he finished dead last
Because losing is his game.

And I hear rumors that the CMPS babe
Julie something-or-other is her name,
May also run this time
Quite a change for she of "fake innocent" fame.

Her presence on the ballot
Like clueless Rita the last time,
Makes no sense at all
So I won't even bother with a rhyme.

I don't know if this time
I'll be walking and knocking on your door,
I sued a city contractor because I hurt myself
And my old body's still mighty sore.

But if you happen to see me
Waddling down your street,
Be sure to stop me
For a little meet-and-greet.

I'll be the old fella
With gray hair and a great tan,
And I'd love to tell you
Just why I am your man.

But please don't ask me any questions
With answers that are too hard,
Or I may just go and pass out
Right there in your front yard.

Next fall you'll have lots of choices
To fill a council slot,
And most of them will be better than me
But I thought I'd give it a shot.

So let me leave you with this final thought
Lee Ramos is your guy,
But for the life of me
I just can't figure out why.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Approvals All Around At The Planning Commission

The Costa Mesa Planning Commission met last night in a meeting that ran longer than many expected.  But, they accomplished quite a bit, so I'm not complaining - about the length.

During Public Comments Beth Refakes alerted us that the Military Affairs Team is again collecting toys for the children of the 1/5 Marines Easter Egg Hunt.  A foot locker is placed in the City Hall lobby for that purpose.
An unidentified person told the commissioners they should see the movie, "The Big Short" because it's relevant today.  She also mentioned the apparent scheming going on with the Episcopal Diocese in Los Angeles regarding title to local church properties.

During Planning Commissioner Comments Stephan Andranian wondered about Code Enforcement violations with the Saddleback Church.  Tim Sesler chided the speaker above - a real classy guy.  Colin McCarthy spoke about the meeting at Fairview Developmental Center to gather public comments about the future of that State facility.  Apparently the meeting is from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday, February 6th.  He also mentioned the record number of building inspections last year, but attributed them to our neighbors fixing up their houses - not all the new construction going on around town.  Jeff Mathews said nothing.  Rob Dickson also mentioned the Fairview meeting and gave props to the Costa Mesa United golf tournament last week.

During the discussion of Public Hearing #1, the new Landscape Standards required by state law, planner Minoo Ashabi guided us through a slide presentation.  I've shown them below.  Click on each to enlarge for easier reading if necessary.  There were no public comments.
Public Hearing #2, the request for a Conditional Use Permit for live music at Al Forno Italian restaurant in Mesa Verde was approved after a short discussion.  The main concern was the possibility of another restaurant coming in and using that approval for loud music.  Chief of Code Enforcement Fidel Gamboa assured the commission that any such problem could be handled by his group with the existing conditions as specified.  The commission passed it, 5-0.
Public Hearing #3, the Conditional Use Permit for Gunwhales Ale, a proposed new microbrewery locate on Randolph Street was anything but routine.  Among the sticking points that generated much discussion were the use of food trucks to supply food, the lack of clarity of which type of liquor license would be issued and the parking arrangements.  One the owners, Bob Fitzgerald, made the presentation.

Resident David Smith, who told us he represented the residents of a local neighborhood, Pentridge, was concerned about the hours of operation and his perception of a lack of code enforcement.  He also expressed his opinion that a traffic light was necessary at Baker and Randolph.
Greg Neyland and his wife (I didn't get her name), the husband and wife team who own the nearby Barley Forge Brewery both spoke at length, observing that when THEY applied for their conditional use permit they were specifically forbidden to consider using food trucks or caterers, so they had to go to the expense of building a proper kitchen.  They also complained because that caused them to pay much higher fees than this applicant.  They complained about it not being a level playing field.
During the discussion Deputy City Attorney Yolanda Summerhill advised that each request is handled on its own merits - that no two conditional use permits were identical.  Assistant Development Services Director Claire Flynn advised that, depending on which type of ABC license was issued, the applicant may be required to appear before the commission again.
The parking issue revolved around the proposed hours of operation and how they didn't seem to mesh very well with the requirements of The Commissary, who has the rights to all the parking spaces from 8:30 onward.  The Gunwhale proposes to close at 8:30.  After much conversation and speculation, Flynn resolved it by simply stating that this applicant knows what the parking rules are and must comply with them or be in violation of the CUP.
The food truck issue was, more or less, resolved by conditioning it to one truck at a time, which must be parked onsite.  The potential chaos from extremely popular food trucks drawing a large crowd on their own was problematic.
When the commission finally approved the CUP, it was conditioned to include a 6-month review by staff.  I must say that there seemed to be an inconsistency with the way the rules had been applied for the Barley Forge Brewery and with this project.  The folks at Barley Forge were forced to make very expensive unanticipated improvements and pay hefty fees, too, that this project will avoid because of the inconsistency of the application of the rules.
Following a break they took on Public Hearing #4, the request for the expansion and expanded valet parking for SOCIAL, a restaurant that has become enormously popular - according to the owners it was named best new restaurant in Orange County last year.  Even though the existing parking seems to be adequate for the 50% expansion of space, they've made arrangements for more valet parking spaces nearby.  The applicants played a CMTV tape prepared for their Mayor's Award presentation last year.  The commission approved this one, 5-0, too.
The final item on the agenda, Public Hearing #5, is the five-unit small lot development at 548 Victoria.  The five units actually front on Miner Street and the rear of the lots abut Myran Drive, which has four homes on the opposite side of the street, facing this development.  A member of the Myran Drive community asked for a higher wall along the back of the project - right now a 6-foot wall is planned.  After some discussion it was determined that the six-foot wall, combined with the 20 foot setback and, perhaps, more trees, should suffice.
This project meets or exceeds all requirements under the small lot ordinance, including being fully parked.  Representatives of the developer who spoke, Jennifer and David Nguyen, had only one concern - the condition to underground the utilities.  After lengthy discussion the commission determined that it's not fair to place the expensive burden of removing the two utility poles - estimated to reach as high as $300,000 - on the developer.  It would make the project too costly to complete.  So, that condition was removed and the commissioners approved it on a 5-0 vote.  These homes will certainly enhance the neighborhood - they are all 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom homes ranging in size from 2400 - 2900 square feet.
And, once again, Colin McCarthy was almost orgasmic as he sang the praises of the Small Lot Ordinance - and wondered how they could make the public more aware of its success.  Funny, as they go about measuring the "success" of that ordinance, I wonder if they REALLY consider the impact on the neighborhoods where such developments have been built?  More traffic, more stress on the utilities, more people compressed into a smaller area.  I understand that he's part of the cabal in charge right now that just LOVES to build on every square inch of earth they see.  But, is it really making our city "better"?  Some would say not.
In any event, the meeting closed with Bart Mejia telling us that the long-delayed landscaping enhancement at the terminus of the 55 Freeway should be taking shape in a couple weeks when the new monument sign arrives.  He also told us that the Del Mar Entry Improvement is underway.

The meeting ended just after 10 p.m.

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