Friday, May 11, 2007

Let There Be Lights - Again

At the City Council meeting on Tuesday, May, 15th, the council will have before them as part of the Consent Calendar the issue of approval of contracts for the lighting of The Farm Sports Complex. Under normal circumstances, unless a member of the public or a member of the council pulls an item from the Consent Calendar for separate discussion, the entire calendar is voted on as one item. This item, number 7 of 12, will be pulled because Councilwoman Katrina Foley has a conflict of interest - she lives near the Farm and cannot vote on the lighting issue. So, this subject will get it's own hearing and vote.

As anyone who has been following this subject for the past couple of years knows, lighting of The Farm has been a subject of considerable controversy. There is a faction in town, including at least one council member, who feels that lighting the remaining four fields violates a covenant given to the contiguous neighbors when the complex was approved that only fields 1 and 2 would be illuminated. The city official who purportedly gave that assurance was, according to those officials who have addressed this subject, not authorized to make such a promise.

Costa Mesa is in dire straits when it comes to adequate playing fields for the youth of our city. We, quite simply, don't have enough of them. Every city official and elected or appointed leader who has addressed this subject agrees - we don't have enough fields for our kids. This problem has recently been emphasized by the controversy about people kicking balls around smaller, neighborhood parks. Lighting all The Farm fields would provide near-term relief to this problem and take some of the pressure off our officials as they go about developing long-term solutions.

The vote Tuesday night is going to be interesting. I suspect there will many speakers from both sides of this issue. Last week Recreation Manager Jana Ransom took the unusual step to communicate with many stakeholders in this issue, suggesting strongly that they make their views known before the council Tuesday. As she pointed out, it won't be a question of funding - the dollars to provide the lights for all fields at The Farm have already been allocated.

I hope the members of the City Council will do the right thing and vote to light all the fields at The Farm. With Foley unable to vote on this issue, a split vote is possible. Should that occur the result will be no lights. That would not only be a shame, it would be catastrophic for the youth of this community and the hundreds of volunteers and parents who attempt to juggle schedules to provide important sports opportunities for the kids.

I encourage those of you interested in this subject to speak before the council on Tuesday. This item will most likely be considered early in the evening, between 6 and 7 p.m. If you cannot attend, please communicate with the council by email. The address to use is:

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff – I am a huge proponent of more fields or longer use of fields with lighting. That said, I find it hard to understand why Mesa Del Mar (MDM) must withstand the worst of the lights. I live in this community, although far from the lights that it will not affect me. However I have visited people living next to the lights and can understand there frustration and annoyance toward the lights. In MDM we live with the Fair each year and the traffic and noise it brings, we live with Speedway and concerts. I believe MDM has been a community that supports a lot of what the City wants in terms of growth. Why is Balearic of other fields not the subject of lights? There have to be other places in CM that can support youth play. Either way I am neither for or against the lighting of the Farm but I have to believe some people living on the cusp of the Fair and Farm could feel unfairly impacted.

5/14/2007 09:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The light issue is a sticky one. As much as I want to see the maximum use of fields, I hate to have homeowners put in a position that they feel their property value (or usability) is diminished because of community needs without being fairly compensated.

I believe that any property owner has the right to do as they wish with their property short of harming others. there, of course. is the big grey area.

I would hope that if the city believes that the lights are necessary (probable) that they would find a way to ease the pain of the adjacent homeowners.

5/14/2007 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Andrew, the city staff has been evaluating all city parks for appropriate usage, including those where lights may provide extended utilization. I've heard Balearic mentioned several times. There appear to be many potential solutions to the long-term needs for playing fields for the residents of this city, but The Farm is the quickest fix for the short and mid-term needs. That is, after all, what it was designed for. I don't really know what to tell you, Andrew, when you ask about the Fair and Farm. Most folks living in Mesa Del Mar moved there long after the Fairgrounds were established. It is where it is. The Farm Sports Complex was created after a lengthy process several years ago. I'm sure those entities impact the lives of those living nearby, as do the college, high school, TeWinkle Park, etc. Some folks view those entities as amenities - things of which they are proud and are happy to have them so close by so they can be used easily. I do know that the plan for the lights that will be discussed tonight represents the latest in technology and that, in one choice before the council, the lights on fields 1 and 2 will be upgraded with this new technology which, as I understand it, will further reduce the potential for spill-over into the adjacent neighborhoods. This is a difficult issue. I suspect we'll see many divergent viewpoints tonight. Let's hope the council does the right thing. In my view, that's going forward with additional lights.

5/15/2007 11:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff – I am one that views having the park, fair, and sports complex close by as a plus. However, there are residents that see the development of the Farm, the sports complex at Te Winkle Park and the huge growth of the Fair and all of its ancillary programs as negative impacts to their quality of life. For them it is not the single issue of the lights but the whole package that makes them, understandably, feel dumped on. I am posting this so some can read there are other sides to the story. Like I said either way, it has little impact on me and would actually be a plus for my kids in youth programs but I want to respect the people that live in my community and understand their pains.

5/15/2007 01:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a firm believer in individual property rights, and the need for public uses to respect the adjacent private homes, but the continued protests about lighting the Farm complex baffle me. We know from the Home Depot Center that directional lighting is possible and works. I just checked Google Maps satellite image feature and counted maybe 24 homes that abut the Farm complex. 24 in a City of 110,000. Some of those homes have extensive trees bordering the fields. The parking lot is far from the homes. So what really is the issue?

I live off 17th Street near the intersection of 17th and Santa Ana. Do I have the right to shut down 17th Street and all the associated noise, lights and traffic that sometimes bother me late at night? No. So why should 24 families have the right to shut down lighted sports for potentially thousands of youths?

I am asking a question - not advocating a position, as I do not live there, and I have no idea what impacts those 24 homes have on their livability, etc. But let's be honest about the scope of the problem - 24 homes.

As for the fairgrounds - I'm lost on that one also. Arlington and Tewinkle Park separate homes from the Fair. Everyone who bought a home there knew darn well that the Orange County Fair is held there every summer.

I hear the drums and band at Newport Harbor High School whenever they perform, but I don't storm over there and demand that they shut up. Some homeowners actually drove Cirque du Soleil out of Costa Mesa years ago because they complained of the noise from evening performances. Personally, I found that embarassing, but I wasn't a homeowner who had to endure the Pacific Ampitheater in full raucous bloom or be forced to litigate to get some peace. I might be a little sensitive to noise as well if I had. Cirque did go out of its way to try and make the homeowners happy, but got no consideration in return.

What defines evening and an acceptable quiet time? When I camp, the quiet time begins at 10:00pm, all over the country. Why should Costa Mesa be different?

The point is, in an urban area there is noise. Some nights I am kept up by birds that sound like klaxons at 2:00am. Should I be able to shoot them out of the trees?

Life is noisy, and we should have very strict prohibitions on excessive noise at reasonable hours, but if the Farm lights are shut off at 9:30pm, or the last performance at Cirque must shut down at 10:00pm, what else can a city do? At what point do residents' objections become unreasonable?

I think we need to ask all these questions so we have a good baseline for measuring the impact of different community needs.

5/15/2007 07:19:00 PM  

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