Forbath, Chargers Highlight Council Meeting
'TWAS A LONG NIGHT...
OK, take a deep breath, get comfy in your chair - maybe get a cup of coffee (or something stronger) - because I'm afraid this entry is going to be a long one. It's going to take a lot of words and images to present what happened last night at the Costa Mesa City Council meeting - all six hours and twenty-one minutes of it! Yes, the meeting finally finished at about 12:30 this morning! If you want to view it yourself, go to the granicus feed, HERE, and click on the appropriate video clip.
So, let us begin with with some of the good stuff.... Before the meeting, as I arrived, I saw former councilman Gary Monahan pushing a cart out of City Hall. It seems he catered the meal for the council and staff that day. He hailed me down and we had a very nice chat and we discussed this van in the parking lot. It apparently belongs to Will B. King - you'll read more about him later. For some background on him read this, HERE.
HEARING MISS DAISY
Right off the bat Miss Daisy Avila, a student at Costa Mesa Middle School, treated us to her rendition of the National Anthem. That was VERY special.
Pastor Mike Decker of Palm Harbor Church provided us with guidance from on high - although during part of the meeting it looked like some folks in the chambers may not have been paying enough attention.
THE high point of the evening for me was the presentation of the Mayor's Award to Jean Forbath, whose lifetime of service to others has set a very high bar in our city. Her family and supporters filled a couple rows in council chambers and I thought Mayor Katrina Foley was going to lose it emotionally as she presented the various mementos to Forbath. There is no more worthy recipient of that award than Jean Forbath.
During Public Comments several people rose to address the council on a variety of issues.
COUNCIL MEMBER COMMENTS
During Councilmember Comments - the 4 minutes provided in this segment - the following comments were made:
Sandra Genis supported protection for the recently-discovered Fairy Shrimp at Fairview Park and also supported looking at the Small Lot Ordinance. She told us of scholarships available from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).
John Stephens told us that he and Councilman Allan Mansoor will be hosting a forum on Homelessness. The format will provide expert comments and an opportunity for the public to ask questions. The date is set - Saturday, April 6th - but the time and location are still pending. He mentioned, in context of the joint meetings held with the Mesa Water District and the Costa Mesa Sanitary District, of a program with the CMSD that will pay for a plumber to scope your sewer lateral, give you the image of your line and allows you to get three bids to fix the problem, if any. He also reminded us of the Joint meeting with the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Planning Commission next Tuesday, March 28th at the Costa Mesa Country Club. He observed that the Costa Mesa Fire Department recently hired thirteen (13) new recruits who are now fully-immersed in our local academy. We have never hired so many firefighters at one time and this is a very good sign for public safety in our city.
Jim Righeimer began by apologizing for denigrating the First Friday Roadshow - referring to it as a "little car show". He then launched off into a screed about the sentencing of Private Investigator Chris Lanzillo to a year in jail for his role in surveiling Righeimer, former mayor Steve Mensinger and apparently attempting to entrap then-councilman Gary Monahan in some kind of illicit activities. He said, "That is now behind us. I want that behind us." He later said "I'd like it to be behind it in everything." Yeah, OK, but the lawsuit he and Mensinger filed against the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department is still pending. If he wants it "behind us", drop the bogus lawsuit, for goodness sake! He addressed the Small Lot Ordinance, indicating he had no problem working with Mayor Pro Tem Genis to see "if we need some tweaks on it." He spoke about the Group Homes, indicating that handling them was delayed because "we swapped out the whole Planning Commission". He also addressed the Fairview Developmental Center, speaking about the changes made in the recent General Plan Update that codified the zoning of that site.
Allan Mansoor spoke about replacing the rubberized padding at Angel's Playground. He spoke about Fairview Park and Measure AA. He complained about the broken asphalt and blamed AA for the loss of a grant to repair the pathways. He spoke about unintended consequences of ballot measures.
Katrina Foley spoke of their recent offsite meeting, indicating it was very productive. She gave a brief overview of the issues, refined down to five major issues - Safety, Sober Living Homes, Sound Fiscal management, Homelessness and the Lions Park project. She mentioned that Sprouts on 17th Street is hiring and the Orange Coast College Foundation is hiring. She mentioned the Eastside Listening Tour with Genis on April 24th(see the following slide) and spoke of her Friday Office Hours.
Several items were pulled from the Consent Calendar, but the discussions on those were shoved out until New Business #1, the Los Angeles Chargers issue, was heard.
Which brings us to the love-fest that was the presentation of the agreement between the City of Costa Mesa and the Los Angeles Chargers for the utilization of fields 3 and 4 at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex for a period of ten (10) years. The staff report indicates the Chargers will pay the City $150,000 or so per year, plus will fork over $50,000 for our new Mobile Recreation Van plus pay AYSO 120 $10,000 for the inconvenience of having to relocate during the first year of the contract. City Manager Tom Hatch made the presentation, referring the council to specific details in the staff report and assured that The Chargers would be engaging in significant public outreach to resolve concerns. The Chargers will use the fields for 3-5 months of the year, during the summer when they would normally be dormant - rested. They will bring fields 3 and 4 up to NFL standards and rehabilitate them each year. Concerns were expressed by members of the public about traffic and noise impacts on the surrounding neighbors - Mayor Foley had to recuse herself because her home backs up to the site - and about safety issues for young people using summer recreation facilities nearby at Costa Mesa High School.
CONCERNS ABOUT OTHER FIELDS
Concerns were also expressed about the conditions of adjacent Field #2 and also #5 and #6. There is also concern about the adequacy of the restroom facilities and parking nearby. Mention was made of planned shuttles.
THE CHARGERS TEAM
The Chargers had a small group, including owner Dean Spanos, in the audience. Spanos spoke about his gratitude for the professionalism of the staff and how important the training camp is to his organization. Kimberly Layton Vice President of External Affairs - is a former local who attended UCI and actually worked at The Grant Boys.
JOHNSON AND TEAM
Among the twenty people who spoke was Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce President Tom Johnson and a handful of supporters who cheered whenever given the chance. Johnson raved about the great economic value to the community by having the Chargers call our city home, and spoke about the community outreach they've done in the past in San Diego. One speaker, Lisa Reedy, briefly welcomed The Chargers, which she referred to as "The Los Angeles Chargers of Costa Mesa". The audience chuckled.
Not everyone was overjoyed about the Chargers using these fields. Bob Sutcliff, who has lived near this site when it actually was a Farm, spoke of the transition of this site and the attendant noise and disruption by permanent and temporary users - like college teams who have used the site in the past while playing in the Rose Bowl game.
Vince Rodriguez, representing AYSO 120, spoke in favor of the plan.
Others were concerned about the flat fee - the same amount for a decade - and suggested that some kind of escalator be included. It wasn't.
GO HOME, ROSANSKY
Former Newport Beach councilman Steve Rosansky was in the crowd and spoke, advising the Chargers to look him up if "they blow this tonight"! A sidebar - during the discussions Righeimer crept on little cat feet down from the dais and snatched Rosansky's Chargers ball cap from his head, which he later donned on the dais.
PASSED, WITH MUCH JUBILATION
So, after all was said and done the deal was passed, 5-0, and a short break was taken so photos could be taken with all the council members mugging for the cameras, embracing Chargers brass. We'll see how this plays out. Read Luke Money's account of this event in the Daily Pilot HERE.
CONSENT CALENDAR PASSED
Back to the Consent Calendar. The aforementioned Will B. King pulled most of the issues and rambled nearly incoherently on each one. Each passed on a 5-0 vote.
2068 MAPLE AVENUE APPEAL
Next came Public Hearing #1, the de novo hearing on the request for a one-year time extension for a project at 2068 Maple Avenue that the Planning Commission recently denied. This appeal, which was to address just the request for a time extension and not the project as a whole, took much longer than most anticipated. It was helpful having two lawyers on the dais. Both Foley and Stephens couched their questions and comments with their legal training showing through. The applicant had only purchased the property - and the previously-approved entitlements - in September of 2016. His entitlement expires near the end of May of this year. This slide shows the current status of the project.
During Public Comments comparisons were made to an adjacent project - Poet's Place - as one that never should have been approved due to incompatibility with the surrounding neighborhood. One speaker told the council that he had met with Righeimer and Mensinger who told him, "This won't happen again." Another speaker quoted Stephens as addressing that project in negative terms.
APPEAL DENIED, BUT...
As the discussion unfolded it was clear that Righeimer and Mansoor were inclined to overturn the denial due to the time and effort the applicant had invested in this project. There is only one step left - the receipt of the approved map from the county, which would then be recorded and building permits could be issued. However, when the final vote was taken the council, on a 3-2 vote with Righeimer and Mansoor voting no, voted to uphold the Planning Commission denial of the time extension. The developer can still move forward with this project IF he can complete the necessary steps prior to his time running out near the end of May.
This is VERY unusual. Nobody could recall when a request for a time extension had been denied. Part of the staff report had a list of recent projects for which such requests were made - all were granted.
CUTTING OUT COSTA MESA UNITED
This now brought us to New Business #2, Consideration of Direct Partnership ith the School District for the Sports Facility Improvement Grant Program, which turned out to be the most acrimonious discussion of the evening. Dan Baker, Assistant to the City Manager, made the staff report. In a nutshell, the plan is to cut Costa Mesa United out of the process of passing dollars through to the School District for projects in the schools. There is no short version of this story, but I'll try to find one.
WHO REPLACES THEM? STAFF...
Costa Mesa United was praised for its diligence in this matter, but the discussion observed that City Staff - likely Baker and Recreation Manager Justin Martin - would play the role that organization plays now. Questions were raised about the need for a "public benefit" for the funds passed from The City through Costa Mesa United to the School District.
Gordon Bowley, who was instrumental in founding Costa Mesa United and is still the spokesman for the organization, took exception to some of Baker's characterizations.
Vicki Snell, Vice President of the Newport Mesa Unified School District Board, spoke and read a letter she sent to the Board about this issue and the plan to expand the distribution of funds to elementary schools, not just three high schools in the district as is now the case. She and Foley got into a heated discussion about this issue and a conversation they had about this issue recently.
RIGHEIMER BLOWS A GASKET...
Righeimer blew his top! He referred to it as "Chicago politics" - something he should certainly know about, since that's the site of his roots. He described this plan as a "political stunt" and said he's absolutely against any kind of program.
Stephens moved to approve the recommended action and the discussion continued. Stephens praised Bowley and Costa Mesa United. He described himself as a long-time supporter and contributor. During the discussion Righeimer continued in his meltdown, saying, "My advice to the school district is to get as far away from the City of Costa Mesa as you can." and went on to describe this as a "deal with the devil", apparently referring to Foley. He then wondered why private school would not be included in the distribution. Genis reminded him that it's against state law.
STEPHENS SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT
Stephens cited the fiduciary responsibility the council has. As the discussion further unfolded, in response to Righeimer's earlier claim that this was purely a political stunt, Stephens pointed out that Bowley, as President of Costa Mesa United, was a signatory with Righeimer on several ballot measures and observed, "The argument that Costa Mesa United is apolitical is factually inaccurate."
When the vote was called it passed, 3-2, with Righeimer and Mansoor voting NO. There seemed to be nobody particularly happy with this outcome due to the rancorous tone of the discussion. We took a break.
NEW COMMITTEES... MORE CONTROVERSY
At 11:20 the meeting commenced with New Business #3, the formation of several committees:
1 - Fairview Park Steering Committee
2 - The Youth Sports, Open Space & Recreation Advisory Committee
3 - Youth Sports Committee
4 - Open Space & Recreation Advisory Committee
ANOTHER CHALLENGE TO COSTA MESA UNITED
This discussion again devolved into some very unpleasant areas because it was a direct challenge to the existence of the Youth Sports Council - a sub-set of Costa Mesa United. And, again, Bowley and Foley mixed it up regarding her actual awareness of his organization and its operations. And, again, Snell stepped up and read yet another letter she was sending to the School Board on this issue.
DIDN'T SEE THE NEED
Brett Eckles, former Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission and youth sports activist, cited probable difficulties recruiting members to participate in this new Youth Sports Committee. He said he wasn't necessarily against the committee, just didn't see the need.
COSTA MESA UNITED WILL CONTINUE
Bowley said Costa Mesa United will continue to operate, as will their Youth Council. This is when he chided Foley for what he said was a spotty attendance record at Costa Mesa United.
One speaker said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Righeimer kind of led the discussion, wondering about how many fields are involved, citing he didn't see a need for the Youth Sports Committee.
The Open Space and Recreation Advisory Committee, required by Measure Z, would have 7 members. The Youth Sports Committee would also have 7. The combined committee would have 17!
Eventually the council decided to Receive and File both separate issues, which passed on 3-2 votes with Foley and Genis voting NO. They then launched into a discussion of the combined item and passed it with some minor adjustments, 3-2, with Righeimer and Mansoor voting NO. This is VERY strange.
STEERING COMMITTEE CONFIGURED AND PASSED
The Fairview Park Steering Committee was passed as a seven (7) person committee with two alternates, on a 3-2 vote with Righeimer and Mansoor voting NO.
END OF A VERY LONG NIGHT
At 12:30 this morning Foley adjourned the meeting and those of us left - including very disgruntled youth sports supporters, dragged our collective bodies home.
OH, YES.... THANK YOU...
Before I publish this I want to take a moment to thank those of you who stopped to say hello and inquire about my health last night. Many folks I had never met introduced themselves and wished me well. Some I had not seen for a very long time went out of their way to say howdy. My little life-changing event last year has caused some adjustment to my schedule - as you can see by the timestamp on this entry. A year ago this would have been completed early in the morning. No longer can this old body manage that kind of schedule. Anyhow, thanks to you all. We'll just keep on chuggin' as long as we can. Your kind words were much appreciated.