Friday, November 09, 2012

"Sign" Of Trouble At The Triangle

The Costa Mesa Planning Commission, at it's meeting on Tuesday, November 12, 2012, will address a request from the new owners of The Triangle - it used to be known as Triangle Square - for approval to hang huge movable vinyl signs on the carcass of the renovated building that represent advertisers NOT associated with the building.  The image at the top is what one artist thought it might look like with LEDs.  The current proposal would forbid lighting, but not tackiness.

Yes, after withdrawing a similar request that involved LED lighted signs earlier this year and spending who-knows-how-much money on the current renovations, Greenlaw Partners are back with a request to plaster signage at two locations on the building - signage space that would be rented out to non-resident advertisers.  You can read the Daily Pilot article on this issue HERE.

The current agreement apparently calls for signage that only represents tenants of the star-crossed shopping center.  You can read the staff report HERE.  The owners managed to circumvent the spirit of that agreement when they rented a closet to Van's which entitled them to have a huge banner stretched around the corner of Newport Blvd. and 19th Street for folks coming out of the SR-55 ditch to see as they wait for the traffic signal to cycle - sometimes two or three times - before heading on down to Newport Beach to spend their money. 

Concerned residents, mostly Eastside folks, have rallied against this scheme and plan to show up at the Planning Commission meeting Tuesday to vent their collective and individual spleens against this plan, which many of them apparently feel would produce a gaudy, inappropriate distraction for residents.  Most folks could be satisfied with signage for businesses located within the shopping mall - The Yard House or the Starlight Theaters or the new and thriving gym in the basement for example - but are very concerned about ads for inappropriate and offensive businesses.  Correspondence I've seen lists a large number of objectionable potential Costa Mesa businesses that might appear on those signs:

  • Condom Stores
  • Personal Injury
  • Check Cashing
  • Massage Parlors
  • Credit Debt Counseling
  • Mufflers and Exhaust Systems
  • Gun Shops
  • DUI Attorneys
  • Bail Bonds
  • Dating Services
  • Pet Grooming
  • Windshield Repair
  • Cash Advance
  • Criminal Law Attorneys
  • Liquor Stores
Because of the pro-developer orientation of the current Planning Commission and City Council majority, opponents feel this may just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to loosening up the The City's sign ordinance.  If these large, overpowering signs are permitted here - in one of the primary gateways into our city - they are concerned about what will happen throughout the city later.

The Planning Commission meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.  You can read the entire agenda HERE.  This item is the final one on a fairly short agenda, so those wishing to address this before the commission are advised to arrive early.  Each speaker will have 3 minutes to address their concerns following the staff report presentation.

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Anonymous Byron de Arakal said...

Geoff...I understand the concerns about signage and lighting. BUT...The Triangle is a HUGE white elephant sitting dead center in our downtown. How do you propose the city help make the thing work?

11/09/2012 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

First, listen to their pitch. I'd need to be sufficiently convinced that without the income from outside advertisers the site will fail before approving it. The original deal was for them to use the signage ONLY for businesses within the mall. They agreed to that, even while manipulating the deal by renting a closet to Van's to justify their signage.

I don't think plastering condom ads all over the exterior is a good way to go. I know, that's extreme, but it does emphasize the point.

If our developer-friendly elected and appointed leaders want to turn this town into Stanton, I guess the good folks of Costa Mesa will have to consider that during the next election.

11/09/2012 10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Ironically, anything going into the triangle will fail for the simple reason that there is no channel for foot traffic into the site. Browsers, people on foot, are the lifeblood of any mall. In order to get to the triangle, you must either park in the underground structure, or cross Harbor at Newport, or Newport at 19th, or Harbor at 19th.

All four alternatives require major efforts: the first requires you to drive there; the second, a pushbutton crossing in a long crosswalk with a short light, and no access that anyone walking would use; the third, from a residential area of Costa Mesa with no offstreet parking; the fourth, coming from a commercial area of the city, requires a pushbutton crossing and a long wait. In none of these cases is there an adequate place to park.

A pedestrian bridge or underpass crossing Harbor, or a light and pedestrian crossing there, where the parking lot for the CVS stripmall debouches onto Harbor would solve a large part of this problem, but the planning commission doesn't have the intellectual horsepower to conceive such an idea, nor to perceive that it would be a good one.

Foot traffic is vitally necessary for a mall to succeed. Cut it off and it's like not watering a tree when it's just getting started -- it turns into a stick and becomes food for bugs.

11/10/2012 01:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Nat Geo said...

Similar to its counterpart in Bermuda, the Costa Mesa Triangle makes businesses disappear. Let's harness that negative energy for the common good!

Offer underemployed supplicants like Mensy and Fitzy free office space for their "consulting" businesses. The city could subsidize a small stall for almost former Mayor 909 Bever's used furniture business. Surely there's a place for a certain dive bar in a corner of the parking garage.

After a few months these enterprises and the people associated with them will never be seen again.

11/10/2012 07:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Byron de Arakal said...

Come on, Geoff. The election is over. If the Triangle is going to work, the city is going to have to partner with the "developer". So, apart from the "developer-friendly" knock, what can we agree on to make that center viable? Serious question...let's not use the question to campaign, OK?

11/10/2012 07:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Byron de Arakal said...

Terry...I agree with you. Ease of pedestrian access to the Triangle is essential. I've always liked the notion of pedestrian bridges.

11/10/2012 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger just wondering... said...

Terry is correct. Retail in there is going to be very difficult there. This place might do better accommodating offices and businesses such as architects and dentists. It's miserable for disabled people to get around in there. The traffic makes it hard to get in and out. Putting this type of signage on the building simply cheapens it and makes it look like it should be on the "car alley" on the 405 Fwy at Long Beach. If they have to go to this extreme to keep it afloat maybe the owners should rethink its use. It's simply too large for the area. IMHO it should have been smaller shops and businesses that could have created a beautiful "downtown" area...with I interesting shops and cafes and a nice ambiance. This building is just oppressive.

11/10/2012 08:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Green Horizon said...

The "good folks of Costa Mesa" apparently have decided that being like Stanton is what they want and... they're going to get it.
It will take about a year or so to really start to become obvious but when the CMPD is replaced with the Sheriff's Dept because our cops leave for employers who will respect what they do, the "good folks" will have to get used to a different kind of policing.
Those guys just came from working years in the jail and treat everybody with a little different attitude. Good luck.

11/10/2012 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

Professional developers should have understood the economics of the place before taking on the project. What has changed that suddenly requires this additional income stream? Are there over runs in the rehab costs? If they went in with margins that were too thin, then they are not skilled business people and this will end either with more requests for variances to bail them out or another failure.

Though the failure is not good for the city, the variance can create long-term issues for the city as other developers/owners ask for the same thing, citing economic hardship as the same basis. There would be little or no objective reason for future commissions to deny them.

I am also concerned when people start with a breach of ethics that is overlooked, and by that I mean the renting of storage space to justify an ad. That space could become the most sought-after real estate in Costa Mesa if this is allowed. Target already got a pass on ethics when it over-stepped its hours without permission and was then rewarded for it with a permanent variance. (That might not be the official term, but you know what I mean).

Yes, we need income, but we also need to be a city of values that speak for who we are as a community and act as lessons to the next generation. We have to balance the needs of the residents with those of the business community.

My suggestion is to have them recast their business plan to find other areas of income onsite and to revisit their cost structure for the rehab. It's the same thing we all have to do as individuals and business owners - live within our means. And when the plan isn't viable, admit it and don't make it another person's (or in this case 111,000 people's) problem.

This is a tough property and Terry makes great points as to why. But this is not news and these folks knew what they were buying. It's up to them to solve it. Isn't that the cry of advocates for smaller government?

11/10/2012 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Byron, I'm sorry you don't like my characterization of those folks, but - in my view - it is what it is. That being said, I agree that if we expect The Triangle to be a success we need to be sensitive to the owner's needs. However, I watched the hearings on this thing before and I thought that's exactly what we did at that time. You pals on the council have tried to micromanage this and many other projects in the city. I want Greenlaw to succeed, but within the boundaries prescribed for that site and to which they've previously agreed.

I think the pedestrian bridges are a great idea. One - across northbound Newport Blvd. - was part of the plan for the undergrounding scheme. The location is one of the busiest traffic sites in the county. Gary told the folks in Transportation Services to stop counting card at Newport and 19th several years ago - when it was clicking off 113,000 cars per day. It's unlikely that it's fewer today.

11/10/2012 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger just wondering... said...

Top know, this monolith could make a nice 'design center" where there is building design, architects, furniture, maybe even landscape architects. The point being all the businesses are separate yet play off each other. But Ipeople have to make a concerted effort to go there, such as home design, etc, Fun idea to play with.

11/10/2012 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger valan2 said...

This sign proposal needs to be evaluated as just that - a sign proposal - not an additional source of income for the owners. First, income should not be a basis for making a land use decision.

Second, some seem to imply the income will make the difference between the center being viable or not. The argument is based on the observation that businesses are not successful here - at least in the long term. I don't see how adding off-site advertising signs, and additional income for the owners, will make the on-site businesses more successful. And, if it doesn't, the center will have the same potential for becoming a white elephant. The only difference is that the owners would hurt a little less, financially, in the meantime.

If we want to increase income for property owners, we should allow off-site advertising signs for everyone (and, if they're illuminated and animated, they'll bring in more income!)

If we wnt to return to the old days of billboard blight, we should support this proposal.

If we care about the image of our city, we should not.

11/10/2012 10:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Randall said...

I have to agree. For the reasons below we can’t allow the promotion of these types of businesses:

·Condom Stores (No one from our generation uses them anyway)

·Personal Injury (We can’t promote personal injury)

·Check Cashing (Every USA citizen has a bank account)

·Massage Parlors (No happy endings in CM!)

·Credit Debt Counseling (Just charge the purchase and worry about it later)

·Mufflers and Exhaust Systems (We don’t need no stinking exhaust systems)

·Gun Shops (When’s the last time you saw a deer in CM?)

·DUI Attorneys (Screw the Supreme Ct)

·Bail Bonds (Leave em in jail – if they’re arrested they must be guilty)

·Dating Services (See massage parlors above)

·Pet Grooming (This just attracks outsiders to our dog park)

·Windshield Repair (BMW’s and Mercedes are already covered under warranty)

·Cash Advance (Who need’s cash anyway?)

·Criminal Law Attorneys (No comment necessary)

·Liquor Stores (They just take business away from the pot dealers)

11/10/2012 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

The owners of The Triangle are in a box, both literally and figuratively.

The literal box looks like an inpenetrable monolith. In my experience, it has a foreboding look that screams “Danger! Danger! Do not enter!”

The figurative box is that there’s so much money already sunk into the structure, and the owners “need” every square foot of retail floor space to pay the bills and make a profit, that they can only “afford” to tinker at the margins. But years of sub-par performance from previous tinkerings predict only more failure.

What to do to get out of the box? A wise person (my youngest son) once advised, “When a problem is unsolvable, do a 180 and go in another direction.”

Duly inspired by my son (who also is a whiz at keeping my computer running), I offer this 180: Tear out the walls of the monolith. On street level, let cars park there. On the higher levels, push the walls back so there can be a promenade all the way around, with storefronts facing out rather than in.

Advantages are huge: open space that reduces the scary factor, easy parking that invites shoppers (even if they occasionally have to schlep up to other levels to find parking), and a retail presentation that people are familiar with.

Disadvantage: much less floor space to rent out. However, I suspect the owners could get closer to the kind of rents seen in upscale venues such as South Coast Plaza than the bargain basement rents seen in downscale venues. If so, then the owners could make more money than they would by just putting more lipstick on the monolithic pig.

With appropriate marketing and following through on the original development plans (the triangle is part of a larger redevelopment project that had devised a synergistic retail/residential plan), the area could become the magnet that planners first envisioned.

South Costa Mesa has great potential. To continue having a zombie right in its downtown center is to prevent South Costa Mesa from achieving its potential.

Let’s do a 180!

11/10/2012 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Byron de Arakal said...

Here's my point, or my perception, I guess. You throw around 'developer' and 'developer-friendly' as a pejorative. So how do you suppose we achieve a growing and sustainable tax base for Costa Mesa going forward without 'developers'?. Answer: We can't. Are you saying we shouldn't be a 'developer-friendly' city? If that's the do we create a sustainable community not just for us but future generations.

11/10/2012 11:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

I predict this signage will be approved, based on the prior approval across Newport Blvd. of a series of pawnshops. The current majority of the Council and Planning Commission seem dead set on turning downtown Costa Mesa, a major entry point from Newport Beach, into a place to drive through and not stop.

11/10/2012 02:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Katie Arthur said...

Several years ago (then) Triangle Sq.’s new owners/property mgmt. determined that TS couldn’t make it as a retail center and decided to turn it into a “destination center” which includes 24Hr. Fitness, a soon to be bowling lane, and a plethora of bars and restaurants. For better or worse, “The Triangle” has transformed itself into a giant “mosh pit” upstairs; aka: party central in Costa Mesa. On any weekend night (and some weeknights) you’ll see drunks spilling out of the bars and staggering back to their cars in the parking lot behind TS (where Fresh and Easy is located) or across Newport Blvd. to their cars parked front of residents homes, a block or two away.

Many Eastside residents now have to contend with incredibly loud noise well after midnight coming from Sutra and the open area upstairs. Go to the shopping center across the street, on Harbor between 19th and Newport Blvd., or any of the 6 or more Eastside streets which abut Newport Blvd. on a Friday night to get a real appreciation for what these poor residents have to deal with (despite the fact that many have lived in their homes for decades).

Now, it appears that the property owners still aren’t making enough money and want to use the building as a giant billboard. They tried to get this approved, along w/ 1K Sq.Ft. of LED’s, also to advertise for off-premise businesses. Even the CC said “no-off premise advertising” in 2010. It was a bad idea then, it’s a bad idea now!

Study after study has shown billboards degrade communities both visually and economically. Property values surrounding this location would certainly be negatively impacted if we allowed this to happen. (See for just one source of multiple studies on this.)

Given our PC and CC regularly suggest we should be more like Newport, Irvine, and the like, so one would certainly expect they would not allow this since this is not allowed in those cities!

Any suggestion that “WE”, Costa Mesa, need to help the owners of the building and/or property mgrs. make more money is preposterous and ridiculous. Is it up to us to bail them out if the building is being mismanaged, they’ve made poor leasing choices, or otherwise? If the issue is that this space will NEVER make $$ then why are we throwing good money after bad and degrading our community in the process? Given our current PC and CC majority’s conservative bent, I’m sure they would not agree to such a socialist move.

What precedent would we be setting for other areas in CM?

Some suggest this is just a “toe hold” to set them up to request LED’s again in another year or two since the monies generated from banners may not be enough to save TS if it can’t generate the revenue based on it’s own business.
If we allow “other CM businesses” we cannot control the content! It’s been fought and proven in court that it’s a “freedom of speech” issue for the property owners. So yes, Gun Shops, DUI Attorneys, Massage Parlors, etc. could be allowed to advertise.
And, any suggestion that this would be advertising on behalf of the City seems to be a questionably legal issue; are we allowed to mix $$’s for private/public benefit?
Finally, I’m sure Mr. McCarthy will do the ethical thing and recues himself from voting given the businesses at that location hosted fund raiser(s) for him within the last 60 days.

11/10/2012 02:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

I'm in full agreement with you, Geoff-- What I'd recommend is pedestrian underpasses for crossing Newport at the Harbor intersection, at the midway traffic light, and at Mother's Market, with spacious and well-lighted entries; ones crossing Harbor at Newport, the midway light there, and 19th; and at least one crossing 19th, but preferably two, one at Harbor and one at Newport. (That's EIGHT of them.) These might be viable if an arrangement or agreement can be made between Mother's, the mini-mall across Harbor, and Triangle, that parking should be open and shared in those three locations. I think that this kind of arrangement could make a moribund mall viable, and could possibly eventually give us a facility at Triangle second only to South Coast Plaza.

Triangle has had some adverse effects on the area: we lost the 99-cent movie in favor of Borders, which has become Mother's; Wright Hardware used to be one of my favorite places to buy metric screws on a Saturday, but now Jeff has moved into the rear and marked his building for lease; Amburgey's garage is now a tire joint; Cal's Cameras is gone; and one of the really neat features, three bookstores in the area, is no more. And I've only been here sixteen years!

The amazing thing about Triangle is that the level of abandonment evidenced there today has not resulted in an urban decay situation with graffiti, gang activity, drugs, and broken windows. This may be due to hired security, or it may come from Costa Mesa's cops, or (I wonder!) just the lousy accessibility to foot traffic. I'd like to hear some opinions on this.

11/10/2012 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous woofie said...

What's wrong with dog groomers? How are they in the same boat as a condom store?

11/10/2012 08:11:00 PM  
Anonymous COIN 2 said...

May I suggest something similar to Measure HH for the next election in Costa Mesa?

11/10/2012 08:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Tacky, tacky, tacky said...

way to keep it classy, Costa Mesa

11/10/2012 09:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Annals or a-holes? said...

Didn't Fitz and McCarthy vote to approve LEDs in 2010? Oh yea...Fitz isn't on PC anymore.
So McCarthy, and you other Councilmen: is this the legacy you want to leave Costa Mesa?

11/10/2012 09:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Joseph Weber said...

I attended the opening of Edwards Triangle Square when then Mayor Buffa and Mr. Edwards himself gave speeches in the lobby. It's been somewhat downhill ever since.

Hasn't the city done enough for this development? If the "run the city like a business" crowd is truly sincere, then it will allow the free market to determine what happens. Does the owner want to build bridges across Harbor and/or Newport Blvd? If so, how much can it pay? My family has already paid its share with consistent patronage of the businesses there for many years.

11/10/2012 10:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Katy, my apology for stepping on your toes here. My outlook was just "how should Triangle extricate itself from a really bad set of circumstances".

-- I back you fully on signage. Maybe, though, we might be able to convince the Council to treat the activities you mention as a public nuisance; if Bever can suggest it for charitable works, he certainly cannot veto it for true nuisances.

You might think about a late meeting with Mensinger so he can actually listen to the noise. He has his own agenda, but of all the four, probably listens best. He even hears sometimes. Maybe take along a sound-level meter...

11/10/2012 10:30:00 PM  
Anonymous OCLonghair said...

The perfect solution for the T2 problem is simple. Just do the following.
1. Build a multi-level parking structure (5 story should do the trick) at Lyon Park. Doing this would create a twofold remedy. It would give ample parking for the droves of shoppers anticipating the opening of T2 and remove the homeless issues plaguing the park; the homeless who have made the park worthless to any children attempting to play there.
2. Next, build a Monorail/People mover (Disney could help design) that could encircle the downtown area. Function and Fun... WIN, WIN!!!
The great thing about being #25 in the list of comments, only you Geoff, will be privileged to this great solution. LOL
Yes Eric, I am still around… by the way, great job on losing. Are we now rid of you for EVER????????

11/11/2012 09:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Move over area code 909! said...

meanwhile, Newport Beach is planting trees and landscaping, opening cool/nice restaurants and shops, collecting a fair a profitable for all business tax, while CM puts in more fast food chains, 7-11s, drive-throughs, BillBoards, and refuses to raise the business license tax. Great Job CM City Officials!! Keep up the good work!

11/11/2012 12:08:00 PM  

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