Friday, April 01, 2016

Smart Growth, Medical Marijuana, Affordable Housing Bond And More

NOT AN APRIL'S FOOLS DAY SPOOF
I paused for a long time today before posting this lest you, my dear readers, thought it was one of the many April Fool's Day spoofs being perpetrated on the public today.  But, alas, no - it's true.  The Costa Mesa City Council will meet again on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 beginning at 5:45 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall.  The Closed Session will precede it at 5:00, where the City Clerk will take role, read the six (6) items on that part of the agenda then Public Comments on those items will be taken - nobody ever shows up, but you're welcome to come address the council on those items if you wish - and the council will adjourn to Conference Room 5A in the 5th floor bunker to deliberate the secret stuff.  You can read the agenda for the meeting HERE.

SIX CLOSED SESSION ITEMS - THREE ON REHAB ORGANIZATIONS
Before we discuss the agenda for the open segment of the meeting, let me dwell briefly on the Closed Session agenda.  Items 1 and 6 bracket the agenda and both deal with "anticipated litigation".  The remaining four deal with existing litigation - there's a whole lot of that going on in Costa Mesa since the current council majority took over five years ago.  Three of those four items deal with litigation with sober living entities!  Yes, sir... Costa Mesa has become a lawyer's retirement annuity.

MAY NOT START ON TIME
Presuming the closed session finishes promptly - never a guarantee with so many items to consider, at 5:45, following the Call To Order, Pledge of Allegiance, a Moment of Solemn Expression and Roll Call, apparently there will be a report on the Solid Landings litigation - two of the above mentioned items involve that organization.
TESLA - REALLY?
Apparently Mayor Steve Mensinger is going to give the Mayor's Award to "Tesla", although no reason is given.  I guess as long as there are car dealerships in town Mensinger will never be at a loss for folks to bestow what is supposed to be a prestigious award for some kind of community service.

PROCLAMATIONS
There will also be proclamations naming April as Donate Life Month and April as Community College Month and naming April 21st as Coast Community College District Day in Costa Mesa.

COMMENTS
By this time we will have rolled around to 6:00 or later and will then have Public Comments, Council Member Comments and the CEO Report - if Mensinger let's Tom Hatch talk at all.

ANOTHER LARGE CONSENT CALENDAR
The Consent Calendar, items that are theoretically routine in nature and can be voted upon with out discussion and as one vote, comes next.  Council members, staff or members of the public may pull an item for separate discussion and vote, but it will be trailed to the very end of the meeting, forcing the person who was interested in this item to remain until - sometimes - past midnight to be heard.  So, let's talk about a few of the ten (10) items on the Consent Calendar.

THE WARRANT
Item#2, Warrant #2554, HERE, lists nearly $7 million of your money spent by the city.  As has been my practice, I'm going to list a few of those items - ones that caught my eye.  They will appear below in the order they appear on the warrant, so you can scroll down through the list for more if you wish.
  • City of Huntington Beach - $21,000.00 - Helicopter Svcs - Jan 2016
  • Civil Source - $38,880.00 - Construction Staff Svcs - Jan 2016
  • Costa Mesa Conference and Visitor Bureau - $281,025.35 - BIA receipts Jan 2026
  • Inter-sky Inc - $21,470.50 - Skylights @ Senior Center
  • Show Development West Inc. - 25,900.00 - Holiday Lighting and Stage Rental
  • Department of Conservation - $9,381.24 - SIMP Fees Collecgted Oct-Dec 2015
  • Government Staffing Services Inc. - $3,808.00 - Temp Svcs Purchasing 3/6/16
  • KOA Corp - $6,575.00 - W. 19th St Fac
  • Matrix Imaging Products Inc. - $8,750.00 - Bldg Permits Conversion Svcs
  • Civil Source - $94,538.00 - Staff Support, various
  • Newport Mesa Unified School District - $277,533.00 - Developer Fees, Jan and Feb. 2016
  • Rimini Street Inc. - $121,648.00 - Support Services Agreement
  • Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth - $31,681.20 - Legal Svcs various
  • AKAL Consultants - $9,250.00 - Study E76 Prep. Svcs
  • Accountemps - $1,089.60 - Temp Svcs, Treasury Mgnt, 3/4/16
  • Environmental Science Associates - $13,528.30 - No Description
  • Landworks Development Services - $7,380.00 - Prof. Svcs Agreement
  • Michael Baker International Inc. - $10.580.00 - Prof. Svcs Agreement
  • Safe Moves - $9,325.00 - Bicycle Education Services
  • Scientia Consulting Group Inc. - $10,759.69 - IT Services 1/24-2/20/16
  • Tandus Centiva US LLC - $11,533.25 - City Hall 1st Floor Carpet Repl.
  • Traveltech Enterprises - $5,328.00 - SrCntr Travel-2/21/16 Laughlin
  • Clean Street - $57,291.98 - Street Sweeping Feb 2016
  • Endemic Environmental Services - $19,310.00 - Wetlands svcs vaiours Feb 2016
  • G4S Secure Solutions Inc - $53,125.14 - Jail Facilities Svcs Feb 2016
  • Liebert Cassidy Whitmore - $51,389.87 - Legal Svcs Various
  • Merchants Building Maintenance LLC - $29,622.67 - Janitorial Svs - City Bldgs
  • Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce - $10.000.00 - Dntn-16 ArtOfLeadership
  • Government Staffing Servcies Inc - $5,593.00 - Temp Svcs Fire Admin and Buyer
  • Granicus Inc. - $4,650.00 - Web Streaming Svcs 4/1-6/30/16
  • Interwest Consulting Group Inc. - $13,222.50 - Sr. Bldg Inspec Jan 2016
THREE-QUARTER MILLION DOLLAR CONTRACT
Item #7, HERE, is a three-year contract at $150,000 per year for street striping and thermoplastic markings, with a provision for two (2) one year extensions.

CRITICAL ENGINEERING NEEDS
Item #8, HERE, is for the Emergency Purchase of Professional Engineering Services for staff support on capital improvement program projects.  The vacancy of six positions in the Engineering Division, and the untimely and tragic passing of Engineering Manager Fariba Fazeli recently, have created a critical condition and impacts the city's ability to move forward with millions of dollars of projects.  HERE is the proposal by Interwest Consulting Group to provide those services.  This is, de facto, another "outsourcing" of critical city services, very likely created by the recent imposition of an unsatisfactory labor contract which places the city's "General" employees - the Engineering staff is included in this group - at the low end of the labor market, which has created instability in the workforce.  You can thank the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem for this latest move to outsource every job in the city.

AMENDMENTS TO SOBECA AND OVERLAY ZONES
Public Hearing #1, HERE, is the issue of amendments to the SoBECA and Westside Urban Plans.  These changes are a result of several meetings over many months.  The chart below outlines the changes.  Click on the image to enlarge it for easier viewing.
 BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB LEASE EXTENSION
Old Business #1, HERE, is the Lease Agreement with the Boys and Girls Club of the Harbor Area, Inc., extending it for another 48 years at $1 per year, per the existing agreement.  Although discussion took place at the March 1, 2016 meeting about reducing the term of the lease, the Boys and Girls Club Board has rejected that idea, indicating a shorter term would impair their ability to attract large donors.
THE "SMART GROWTH" INITIATIVE
Old Business #2, HERE, is an interesting - and controversial - item on the agenda.  This is the "Review of Agency Report on Initiative Petition Qualifying For Ballot; Consideration of Adopting a New Ordinance; Submission of an Initiative to the November 8, 2016 Ballot.

THE CHOICES
In this staff report the recommendation is for the City Council to:
1 - Adopt the ordinance, without alteration;or
2 - Order placement of the measure on the November 8, 2016 consolidated municipal election ballot.  Resolutions calling for a consolidated municipal election, and submission of the measure to the ballot, to be adopted at the June 7, 2016 City Council meeting; and
3 - Consider providing Staff with direction as to the preparation of an alternative measure.

COMPREHENSIVE REPORT
The staff report provides the history of the initiative and includes a 30-page report, HERE, which outlines in GREAT detail the impact of the initiative and compares it to other similar measures passed in California over the past two decades, including the Newport Beach "Greenlight" initiative.  As I read through it today I found myself wondering how many of the council members will do the same before the meeting.  I'm guessing two will read it.  The other three already have their minds made up.

THE COSTS
In the Fiscal Review it is estimated to cost $10,000 to add the initiative to the November 8, 2016 ballot.  The report by Keyser Marston Associates, Inc. cost an estimated $28,000 and it is estimated to cost between $10,000 - $20,000 to retain outside counsel to prepare an alternative measure.
WATCH RIGHEIMER RANT
This is going to be an interesting discussion, probably dominated by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer as he rants and raves about how terrible the initiative is and how it will stop all growth in the city.  Of course, that's not true, but it might impact his developer-buddies, which will likely be in the house Tuesday night.  If you can't be there, watch it on CMTV or on live streaming video.
RIGHEIMER'S AFFORDABLE HOUSING BOND
New Business #1, HERE, fulfills Righeimer's threat to put a $20 million bond issue on the November ballot to see if "the people" really want to support Affordable Housing in Costa Mesa.  Readers may recall his fit of pique when advocates for affordable housing in the city presented their case before the council many times.  The staff report outlines the cost of two firms, Fieldman, Rolapp & Associates ($23,000) and Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, P.C. ($40,000) to do the work necessary to place this item on the ballot.  However, through all the verbiage I could find NOTHING that says how the money generated by the bond might be spent.  There is only the amorphous phrase "affordable housing purposes" - whatever the heck that means.

TELL ME HOW THE MONEY WILL BE SPENT - FIRST
In my opinion, as much as the city apparently needs affordable housing stock, this issue should NOT move forward unless there is a clear definition of just how $20,000,000 of our taxpayer money is to be spent - not just "affordable housing purposes".  If this thing gets placed on the ballot without a clear definition of the use of the proceeds of the bond I'm voting NO.
GARY'S MEDICAL MARIJUANA SCHEME
New Business #2, HERE,  is the discussion of resurrecting the Medical Marijuana Initiative proposed by lame duck councilman Gary Monahan.  There WILL be two Medical Marijuana initiatives on the November, 8, 2016 ballot.  The proposal would be for the City to offer the voters yet another alternative - Monahan's issue or a new measure - with the top vote getter winning.  The staff report is lengthy and thorough and includes an excellent comparison chart to the two earlier initiatives, Monahan's original proposal and the Santa Ana law.  Read it HERE.  I suspect this will generate a lot of discussion Tuesday night.

YET ANOTHER PLAN AT 3350 AVENUE OF THE ARTS
New Business #3, HERE, is a screening request for a proposed 150-room hotel at 3350 Avenue of the Arts (formerly the Wyndham Hotel).  This is a second proposal for the site.  This one involves the demolition of the existing parking structure and adding a new 15-story hotel tower with multiple banquet rooms and 150 guest rooms above a 6-level parking structure.
LIGHTED FIELDS AND SYNTHETIC TURF
New Business #4, HERE, is the much-delayed discussion of a feasibility discussion for permanent lighting and synthetic turf at multiple locations.  This issue will become more critical if AB 2496, which eliminates Daylight Savings Time, is passed.  The council will be asked to approve this concept and provide authorization for a letter and check for $45,000 to be forwarded to the Newport Mesa Unified School District initiating a feasibility study for sport field lighting and synthetic turf fields at Kaiser Elementary, Davis Middle School and Parsons School.

GONNA BE ANOTHER LONG NIGHT
I'm guessing the council meeting will drag well past midnight... Ugh!

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Costa Mesa's Not Alone In The Rehab Battles

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO DEALING WITH REHAB HOMES
Late last night online and in today's print edition the Orange County Register published an article by staff writer Fred Swegles buried on page 4 of the Local Section titled, "San Juan seeks freeze on rehab homes".  Click on that title to read the article.

THE TEXT SOUNDS VERY FAMILIAR
This timely piece summarizes what's been going on in that South County city as it deals with the infestation of rehabilitation homes - a problem exactly like the one Costa Mesa has been wrestling with for a few years now.  Costa Mesa residents have been asking for a moritorium on rehab homes for several years - San Juan Capistrano is poised to do exactly that.

OUR PROBLEM IS SIMILAR, BUT BIGGER
As you read through that article you'll get the sense that you're reading about Costa Mesa, except our city has been mired in this problem longer, and to a much greater extent.  It's been estimated by some that Costa Mesa has nearly one-third of all the rehab homes in Orange County.

RECENT MEETING - DANA CLUELESS
The article also mentions the March 18, 2016 meeting in Irvine attended by many elected officials - Sandra Genis was the only elected official from Costa Mesa based on reports from the scene - in which the issue of the proliferation of rehab homes throughout Orange County was discussed.  And, Congressman Dana Rhorabacher apparently has been quoted as saying something like "I've just become aware of this issue.", or words to that effect.  OK, there are a couple ways you could interpret that.  Since he's a resident of Costa Mesa - a couple blocks from me - it seems virtually impossible that ANY person with ANY political position could actually NOT be aware of this situation.  He is either clueless or not truthful - neither option seems satisfactory to me.

STATE-WIDE SOLUTION SOUGHT
There is a group in San Clemente - San Juan Capistrano's neighbor - that is attempting to generate signatures on an online petition to force the folks in Sacramento to DO SOMETHING about this problem.  A local organization, Take Back Our Neighborhoods (TBON) has been working with the San Clemente group and has provided a link on their web page that will take you directly to that petition.  The TBON page can be found at www.tboncostamesa.com.  The large red alert banner at the top of the homepage includes a link to the petition.

TWO ORDINANCES - NO ENFORCEMENT
Costa Mesa has passed two (2) ordinances in an attempt to regulate the way these rehab homes operate.  The first, pertaining to R-1 residential neighborhoods, is currently unenforceable due to litigation.  The second, for all other residential neighborhoods, should just about be going into effect now.

STAY ALERT AND SPEAK UP
Costa Mesa residents should continue to be vigilant because the proliferation of these homes appears to be adding to the spike in crime in our neighborhoods.  We should continue to require our elected leaders to look for solutions - including lobbying state and federal officials for a comprehensive solution -  and hold their feet to the fire until they do.

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Tardy Parks & Rec. Commission Wrap



BETTER LATE THAN NEVER...
Last week, on Thursday, March 24, 2016, the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission under the guidance of new Chairman Brett Eckles met to discuss a small, but interesting agenda.  You can watch the streaming video replay of the meeting HERE.  Commissioner Don Harper was absent for the third consecutive meeting with no explanation given.  I was also absent, traveling to an exotic location to help my wife celebrate her birthday, hence this tardy report.  Better late than never, right?  If you want to read the agenda for that meeting go HERE.

SOBER LIVING PETITION
During Public Comments an unidentified person reminded all of the petition being circulated to place an initiative on the November ballot to prohibit development of Fairview Park.  She also told the commission of an effort by a group in San Clemente to generate state action on Sober Living Homes.  She referred us to the site for her local group, Take Back Our Neighborhoods (TBON) at www.tboncostamesa.com, which contains a link to the online petition involved.

EXTEND SKATEBOARD HOURS
Skateboarder Rocky Evans again asked for extended hours at the Volcom Skate Park.
FAIRVIEW PARK EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY
The first item on the agenda under New Business, HERE,  was a new Instructional Class Proposal presented by Interim Recreation Manager Justin Martin.  This is a fascinating new program, to be conducted beginning in June at Fairview Park.  Read the staff report.  The meetings will be on Saturdays, not on Thursdays as previously suggested.  Commissioner Byron de Arakal seems to be the prime mover on this issue.  The four-week program, which was described as a first step - a pilot program for broader application if successful.  de Arakal mentioned Canyon Park and Talbert Nature Preserve as other possible venues.
The titles of each module are:  
Week 1 (June 4) - Identification Tour 

Week 2 (June 11) - Native Seed Collection 

Week 3 (June 18) - Invasive Removal  

Week 4 (June 25) - Planting
See the staff report for more details.  The instruction will be conducted by members of the Institute for Conservation, Research and Education (ICRE), a non-profit that has conducted similar programs in the Newport Beach Upper Bay.

PARTICIPATION LIMIT NOT FIRMED-UP
Although the staff report says the number of participants will be 10 - 25, that limitation is not firm and may be more flexible, depending on the community response.  Although designed for an older demographic, the dates were changed to Saturdays to accommodate school-age children, too.  More information will be forthcoming in the city Recreation Guide in the near future.  Only one member of the public addressed this issue, former councilman Jay Humphrey, who heartily supported the concept.  I was surprised more Fairview Park activists didn't show up for this meeting.  The commission moved it forward on a 4-0 vote.
OUTDOOR MEETING AREA
The second item under New Business is the proposed plant palette for the new outdoor meeting area adjacent to the old Print Shop - which will be converted to a meeting room - behind City Hall.  After a short discussion in which the suggestion to have a confer process with the landscape maintenance organization on the plant appropriateness, the commission moved this forward on a 4-0 vote.
ONE TREE REMOVAL REQUEST DENIAL...
The commission voted 3-1 with de Arakal voting NO, to DENY the request to remove two trees at 3140 Jefferson Street.  The property owner was not present to plead the case for removal, which apparently swayed the decision of at least one commissioner.  The applicant can re-apply again in a year.
AND MORE...
They also voted unanimously to vote to deny the removal of trees at 1881 Maui Circle, 1883 Maui Circle and 216 Flower Street.

AWARD-WINNING PERFORMANCE
Martin provided a summary of the Recreation organizations achievements during the fall and winter months, including the receipt of a prestigious award for the Ranch Program.  The Award of Excellence was presented by the California Park and Recreation Society at a recent expo.  Kudos to Martin, Assistant CEO Tammy Letourneau and the Recreation staff for the program excellence.
AB2496 - ELIMINATION OF DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME
During Commissioner comments de Arakal expressed angry chagrin about a new bill being proposed in Sacramento by a San Jose assemblyman - AB 2496, which proposed the elimination of daylight savings time in California.  He stated this is will require a tremendous increase in lights on fields throughout the city.  He asked for a brief report on the impact and to have it agendized in April.  He described it as the "dumbest piece of legislation I've seen in a long time."   Chairman Eckles agreed wholeheartedly, with no small degree of anger, too.  He described it as "a disaster".
WHERE IS EVERYBODY?
As he prepared to close this meeting Chairman Eckles expressed disappointment that nobody showed up for the meeting.  Of course, some of the tree removal applicants were there, but bailed out immediately after being rejected.  I, too, was surprised that nobody except Humphrey showed up to discuss the Fairview program.  Regular attendee Beth Refakes was at Camp Pendleton, distributing easter goodies to the children of the 1/5 Marines and your humble correspondent was heading that direction to begin my wife's birthday celebration trip.  To be honest, the Parks and Recreation Commission meetings are the most sparsely attended of all the commission meetings - including the Senior Commission.  Perhaps the April meeting, with the Daylight Savings issue on the agenda, might evoke more participation.

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A Joyous Side Trip

A PERSONAL DETOUR
As you regular readers already know, sometimes this blog will take a personal side trip - just because I can and I want to.  This is one of those times.
A LONG, LONG CELEBRATION
For the past several days my sweet and very patient wife and I have been celebrating her birthday - which actually fell on Tuesday, the 29th.  I'm not going to tell you how many birthdays this represented, but there's a clue further on down.  Suffice it to say, I was unable to get a fire permit for her cake, so we had to make do the best we could.
A SPECIAL CITY
Our birthday adventure began with a trip to our favorite big city - San Diego.  We did what most tourists do - went to the zoo!  It was a perfect day - except for the 17,000 other people on the grounds, elbowing each other to see the marvelous critters and playing destruction derby with their strollers.  We love the zoo.  We love the special critters and the effort made to create good habitat for them.
AND MORE
We also took in big chunks of other parts of Balboa Park, including the Natural History Museum, where we learned about Fairy Shrimp (are you listening, Steve?) and the plight of Whales in 3D.  We enjoyed all the venues and the street musicians adding melody to the perfect weather.  We loved the flowers. We loved eating hot dogs off a cart and devouring ice cream cones before they ran down our arms.
GREAT GRUB AND A "CAKE"
We celebrated her birthday early with a marvelous dinner overlooking the harbor, where we could see aircraft carriers docked and watch other warships come and go.  She got her first "cake" - actually, a chocolate souffle' - for dessert Saturday night.
SURPRISE AND MEMORIES
On the way home from that wonderful weekend we stopped for an Easter brunch at her brother's house in Laguna Niguel - which actually turned out to be a surprise birthday party for my Sweet Sue. The topper for that party was the fantastic memory book created by six of our nieces and nephews, including some wonderful old images and personal remembrances of Aunt Susie from each of them.  They are wonderful young men and women.  Here are a few of those pages...
MORE GOOD FOOD AND JOY
Then, Tuesday, she and I had lunch and dinner together.  At the latter - one of our favorite local spots - she was presented with a hot fudge sundae with candle as the staff and patrons (much to her chagrin) sang Happy Birthday to her!
THANKS TO ALL
So, thanks to all our Facebook friends who sent my Sweet Sue birthday greetings throughout the day, and to our family and friends who have made it a VERY special birthday, with cards and flowers and gifts for the birthday girl.  It was a wonderful day for a wonderful woman.  It's the great joy of my life to have her by my side, supporting my efforts in all I do.

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