Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Joint City Council/Planning Commission Study Session

Last night the Costa Mesa City Council and the Planning Commission put their heads together at a joint study session to establish goals and priorities over the next several months.  All the commissioners were present and only Gary Monahan was absent among the council members.  This meeting can be seen on tape on CMTV soon.

The meeting covered ten (10) items which are described as follows, taken directly from the hand-out provided at the last minute at the meeting.

1. Adoption of a Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance
This is intended to promote development of single family detached homes and ownership housing  by providing flexible development standards for lot size, open space, etc. and allowing forming a maintenance association instead of a homeowners association.

According to Assistant Development Services Director Claire Flynn, there are no other Orange County cities with such an ordinance, but the staff is working with the Building Industry Association to craft a workable ordinance to facilitate fair, consistent standards for the many "infill" projects that will be presented to the city as the economy continues to rebound.  Density, parking and the need to develop findings to support such projects were discussed.  Council member Sandra Genis was concerned the findings issue and the adherence to the Davis/Sterling Act that governs HOAs.

A couple of developers spoke and expressed concern about possible "strict guidelines" - no surprise there.  Another expressed concern about "parking standards that are a little rigid".  This process will continue and staff will work on a process based on the direction they received last night.

2. Proactive Enforcement of Convenience Market and Liquor Stores
This is to address most markets and liquor stores that were established decades ago, that are non-conforming and not operating under a conditional use permit.  Zoning Codes includes extensive conditions that apply to the new and expanded businesses.

During the discussion Genis wondered when problems around these kind of establishments rise to the level of being a "public nuisance".  The staff has prepared a draft of a new ordinance on that issue that would be presented to the Planning Commission at its meeting later last night.  I'll cover that separately.

3.  Modification of Fire Prevention Turnaround Requirements in Site Planning for Properties
The intent is to comply with all safety requirements and provide most flexible site planning tools for lots that are up to 300 feet deep consistent with other agencies and the Orange County Fire Authority.

Flynn indicated that the staff is working closely with the Fire Department on this issue and it should be finalized soon.  Genis expressed concern that when it is finalized there should be no compromise on safety issues.

4.  Motel Solutions and Enforcement
Incentives and flexible development and land use standards to promote and encourage motel conversions and redevelopment.

Planning Commission Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick has chosen this as HIS issue, so he took the lead on much of the discussion.  Mayor Jim Righeimer expressed the possibility of using "node zoning", and that problem motels should be closely monitored and billed for services when a certain - undefined - level of calls is reached.  I'm not quite sure how they pull that one off.  Lawyer Christian Bettenhausen indicated that it's something they would have to look at closely.  Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger expressed impatience with the process, asked for a timeline and wondered where the Neighborhood Improvement Task Force stood on this issue.  Assistant CEO Rick Francis indicated that it might be a matter of weeks or months.  Council member Wendy Leece discussed incentives and flexible development and wondered what other cities are doing.

The discussion got around to the impact of "long term stays" at these motels, indicating that they contribute to the major problems.  Flynn told us that the Municipal Code permits 25% long term stays, but the staff is working on a change reducing that to 10%.  She also indicated that the Costa Mesa Motor Inn is approved for 40% - at which Righeimer became almost apoplectic. 

Genis expressed no interest in "spot zoning" to solve the problem.  Righeimer told us our position should be "Fix up, clean up or knock down". Mensinger expressed the need for an analysis using the pending crime mapping capability from the CMPD so calls for service could be monitored more accurately.

5.  Additional Parking Requirement For Nightclubs, Coffee Shops with WiFi Access, and Small Food & Beverage Establishments 
Evaluate the parking demand to address these uses and develop standard operational conditions to regulate the parking. 

Significant discussion took place on the use of Conditional Use Permits and the current parking standards.  The staff will evaluate the current standards based on the changing realities of today - the use of WiFi, for example, which extends the time customers stay at coffee shops, etc.   Francis used as an example a recent visit he and others made to the strip mall at the corner of Irvine Avenue and 17th Street at lunchtime.  NO parking spots were available and it seemed to be due to the heavy mix of food establishments at that site.  It was generally agreed that this is a BIG problem.
6.  Updating of Sign Standards and Requirements

The discussion on this one revolved around the size of existing signs and the trend to use smaller monument signs.  Genis expressed a concern about the possibility of future LED signs or what she referred to as "shrink-wrapped buildings."

7. Develop Landscape Pallets For Market Windows And Arterials
This was proposed by Mensinger, but it was decided this is a more appropriate discussion for the Parks and Recreation Commission.

8. Review "Enhancement Project".
Did it accomplish goals?  Were hardship cases treated  respectfully?  Were there many hardship cases?

Chief of Code Enforcement Willa Bowens-Killeen took the lead on this discussion.  Generally, the enhancement project is successful, but not perfect.  Recent reports show much progress.  Code enforcement officers are sympathetic to hardship cases and sometimes social workers are called in to provide support.  Genis expressed the view that some in her neighborhood called the program "Neighborhood Harassment Program" due to the number and nature of the violations cited.  She expressed the need to be flexible on repair time lines, considering the impact of bad weather, etc.  Commission Vice Chair Rob Dickson expressed the value of the "education element" to these programs.  Mensinger wanted before and after photos to show progress.

9. Commissioners Participation In The General Plan Meetings... How Many?
The short discussion, led by Righeimer, was "if more than 2 attend only one should talk and don't sit together."

10.  With The Liquor Store, Bars, Restaurants Morphing Into Night Spots, Does Costa Mesa Have Alcohol Related Arrests/problems Due To These Establishments?  Look at what SLO has done to curb alcohol related issues.

Leece proposed this issue and referred to the recent "DUI Summit".  Concern was expressed on the lack of follow-up on employee training at establishments that serve alcohol.  Apparently San Luis Obispo made it a "health" issue, which gave the city more leverage.  More study will be done.

So, there you have it.  Today, at 4:30, the council will meet with the Parks and Recreation Commission in the same venue - Conference Room 1A - for a similar exercise.  I'll report on that later tonight.

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Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

Love that they are suddenly concerned with parking issues, etc., on projects THEY approved. Cart, meet horse. Why have a PLANNING department, and then continually ignore its recommendations and push projects through that don't make sense to anyone but the ones developing it?

5/14/2013 06:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Marty Baker said...

Mike, we've been watching the planning commission closely for years. I can't recall a single project that has been approved that did not meet parking requirements. Can you give an example?

5/14/2013 09:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

I think it is the right time to look at revising parking requirements because car ownership has changed.

I live in a common interest development that was build 34 years ago. The zoning required 2 resident spaces and 2 guest spaces per unit, with which we complied despite great annoyance from our residents. Children grew up and now had cars, there were roommates, company cars… We tried to obey the law and made the owners find off site solutions for the parking. But, most took to parking on the public streets surrounding the development.

When our surrounding neighbors complained we were called to the City Council and after several appearances and negotiations we were ordered (by Alan Mansoor and Gary Monahan in particular) to give up half our guest parking to residents. If we didn't, a single complaint from a neighbor would result in permit parking on all the surrounding streets denying us and our guests (many who are Costa Mesa residents)access to public parking.

So now,we are in breach of our contract with the residents (CC&Rs) and in breach of the city zoning laws. The reality is that more people have more cars and we have to make some new rules that are sane and apply to all. Perhaps the city demand of the house owners what they demanded of us - cars in garages; boxes in storage units.

5/14/2013 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger just wondering... said...

Marty...see Canyon after 6:00 p.m. These are fairly new condo projects and "townhouses". Don't try to park though. You can't.
If these are meeting parking requirements, then they need to change the requirements. The homes on American and all duo residents. That means two families in each "home". 2 car driveway. These cars are going all over the area to park.

5/14/2013 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous James Rivera said...

Whew. You done write a lot Geoff. Thanks.

5/14/2013 12:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

So I guess you personally inspect every project the PC approves, Mr. Baker? I guess you missed the Beach Pit BBQ - of course, it helps when one of the investors is a planning commissioner (but fails to disclose that). You can't have six onsite parking spaces for a place that size, and they've been in violation of their conditional use permit regarding parking for months, and the city just keeps saying 'we're working on it.' Yeah, right.

5/14/2013 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Moe Tell Me More said...

I love the City Councils approach to these problem motels- run em' out of town, tear em' down and then give the development deal to a buddy. How many of these problematic motels are there? What kind of money/ taxes do these places bring to the City every year? As for the Motor Inn, isn't this place sponsored/ subsidized by the Federal Government? The City makes money from this place, no matter how long somebody stays.

5/14/2013 02:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

Part of the parking problem in condos and apartments is that they are expected to have no more than two adult residents, but units are often shared by two couples, which means there will be 4 cars. Further, as sons and daughters grow up they can't afford a place of their own but they drive cars. Unless developers are willing to provide at least 5 parking spaces per unit (unlikely), there will be shortages.

5/14/2013 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous I want a spare car! said...

@just wondering
i think its funny how similar in nature canyon and pacific are- but theres always someplace to park on pacific. Maybe it has something to do with the fact there are a couple of undeveloped parcels and one under construction.

Touching on what eleanor said:
One thing i do notice as a growing trend: more than 1 car per resident. I dont think this can ever be adequately planned for. Between hobby cars, extra cars for commuting vs their 100k babies, work trucks, weekender motorcylces, etc, . Many of those extra cars are parked on the street. We are considering getting an offroad vehicle which would need to be parked on the street.
If parking were problematic we would never consider it. But the more people like me, the more problematic it will become.

There lies a huge flaw with the more parking mentality. More parking--> more cars outside. Less motivation to keep cars in the garage (extra storage, workshop, studio). I know of a couple who decided against a condo on pacific bc they didnt like the idea of towing two kids and groceries in case they couldnt find immediate parking. They already knew they werent going to use a garage as parking.

I imagine pacific will go the way canyon did and this will be an ongoing problem everywhere no matter how many spots you build.

If you build it, they will find something to park there

5/14/2013 11:17:00 PM  

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