Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In-N-Out - In Or Out?

At their meeting Monday night the Costa Mesa Planning Commission gave approval to In-N-Out Burger to build a new restaurant in town at the location of the former Kaplan's Deli, on Harbor Blvd. at the 405 Freeway. You can read Alan
Blank's article in the Daily Pilot HERE.


Even though
the plan was approved, everything was not all rosy for the developer. Chairman Jim Righeimer and his tag-team partner, Steve Mensinger, demonstrated one more time just what developers in our city will face as they bring projects forward.

The project was approved - without the signage requested by the applicant - and it included a condition of approval that the applicant
didn't like. I can't blame them. It dealt with the need to replace a chain link fence with something spiffier - like a block wall with wrought iron, for example - and also required them to work out an arrangement with the city and Cal Trans as to just who would be responsible for the maintenance of roughly 1500 square feet of landscaping. Depending on how those negotiations go, the costs to the applicant could be very significant.


Both Righeimer and Mensinger assumed their bully demeanor and made it clear that because they, as developers, had done such projects in the past, they expec
ted the applicant to follow their demands. Rookie commissioner Colin McCarthy, a real estate lawyer, twice tried to get Riggy and Mensinger to back off, and was joined by Vice Chair Jim Fisler - to no avail. They dug in their heels and refused to modify their demands. The motion approving the project - with the contested condition of approval - eventually passed unanimously.


I don't like what I see in Righeimer and Mensinger on the Planning Commission dais. They demonstrate impatience with applicants and Riggy short-cuts procedures. Last night, for example, he failed to give the applicant a final chance to address the contested issues before calling for the vote. He's making up the rules as he goes along, which is certainly a change in atmosphere from other recent Planning Commissions, who followed the rules and conducted hearings with
professionalism, decorum and respect.


Another thing that I find curious is Righeimer's question of his fellow commissioners inquiring if they had had any "ex parte communications" with the parties to the items before them, as though that's a problem. The term "ex parte" is a legal term derived from the Latin and means "By or for one party". I'm not sure what is driving this line of inquiry by Righeimer, but the implication that having private conversations with developers and applicants before the commission is somehow out of line is misleading at best and certainly should offend his fellow commissioners and their predecessors. Every good commissioner in recent memory has considered it his or her job to do just that - visit sites and talk with the principals of the projects to get a clear understanding of the issues.


I don't know if the applicants will appeal the project to get the wall and landscaping demands sorted out and to re-address the sign issue, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if they do. Riggy's playing fast and loose with the rules and we're going to see many of these kinds of situations during his tour as Chairman. The City Council needs to get this resolved in a hurry or they're going to be seeing a lot of appeals of this Planning Commission's rulings.

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Blogger mesa verde madman said...

Riggy and Mensinger must like their Double Doubles - they don't want to make the drive over to 19th Street any more. That is a terrible location, though, for anyone in Mesa Verde that uses that intersection - myself included, hence my nom de plume!

5/12/2009 08:12:00 AM  
Anonymous www.jimfisler.com said...

The city zoning administrator approved this project without the need of planning commission approval. It was brought up for review by the Chair and the planning commission relied on traffic studies and other testimony from staff that there would not be traffic problems. As a commission we thought the signage approved was not proper for our city and reversed the zoning admin. ruling concerning allowed signage. Only one person from the public spoke about this project which surprised me. If it goes to council a whole horde of people will probably show up (half of them claiming to have given input to the planning commission!). Input from the public at commission level would be much more efficient to help fine tune things though council has last word on most items. On a more positive note, I was pleased to see Chris McEvoy show up and speak concerning the overlay zoning. He obviously puts a lot of thought into what is going on in the city and takes the time to express his thoughts to commission and council. Thank you to Chris. But where are all those other guys who ran for council last election? They showed up for one or two meetings before the election and a couple of them showed up for one meeting or so after the election and then they just disappeared. I know they care about CM or they would not have run for council. It would be nice to see them back before late October 2010. It would be great to see a vested,long time local win a seat and beat the big $$ machine.

5/12/2009 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Welcome back, Vice Chair Jim,

Last night was VERY interesting. I thought Righeimer's attempt to blackmail the applicant was very inappropriate. I thought McCarthy's attempt to rebuff that move, with your support, was a good try.

I agree that it's good to see young Mr. McEvoy engaged in issues. He's got a lot to learn about the process, but seems to be working hard to gather information with which to form an opinion. He's a smart young guy who treats the official bodies with respect and courtesy - unlike some others who rail from the podium.

I hear what you're saying about a "vested, long time local"... have anybody in particular in mind? :-) I think Riggy's toast. He's demonstrating a couple times a month why it would be a mistake for this city to place him on the City Council. He's an impatient, opportunistic carpetbagger with no real attachment to our city. It's ironic that he and Mensinger sit in judgment of others when they head up organizations that are in extreme fiscal distress.

As always, thanks for participating here. You're welcome any time.

5/12/2009 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger Chris McEvoy said...

Thank you Mr. Fisler for the compliment. I would like to say I appreciate your accessibility and candor. I know firsthand that a couple of the '08 candidates are working hard on a few items that will greatly benefit our city immensely and I know that there is one that is well, um, sigh…ugghh.

Geoff, thank you too for the kind words. I do have a lot to learn. Hopefully my ears dry out a little. I often think that Monahan, Foley and Bever are way more qualified as council members then I would have been because of their experience and can think of many occasions to reference this. I would like to see them apply this to the Westside, i.e. cut through traffic, over development, etc. It definitely takes a lot of time to start to understand what’s going on and why it’s going on. Your blog definitely helps.

Mr. Fisler I think you hit on an excellent point because not enough people are involved. The current direction of city is not shared by any majority I have interacted with the exception of those in the council chambers. The overlay zone is a perfect example. The most common opinion I’m aware of is that the Westside is fine and we don’t need any more high density residences. Further people like current Westside cultures. I am noticing that the people who don’t like the Westside of town tend to live in different areas.

5/13/2009 12:35:00 AM  

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