Wednesday, July 24, 2013

General Plan Meeting/Movie Has Big Turnout

The General Plan Update Visioning meeting last night was a big success.  While nearly 90 of your friends and neighbors listened intently and participated enthusiastically, a large covey of children gathered nearby on the lawn, created little cardboard "car seats" and patiently waited for the SpongeBob SquarePants movie to begin.
The meeting was facilitated by new Director of Development Services/Deputy CEO Gary Armstrong - fresh off going through this process in his previous gig at San Benito County - and consultant Rick Zimmer of the firm Hogle-Ireland/MIG.  Clearly, both men had been there before and moved the meeting along briskly.
Following a brief introduction and explanation of the process for the evening, more than two dozen residents stepped up to express their views on what they'd like to see in the City over the next couple decades.  While most speakers were those who regularly participate in municipal matters - speaking before the City Council and commissions, participate on committees, etc. - there were quite a few new faces in the audience.  At least a third of the audience were newcomers and they followed the proceedings intently.  That's a good sign - the goal of this particular meeting was to lure families out so they could participate in the extremely important process.  It succeeded.  for example, in the back row of seats, not too far from where I was standing, a new father sat cradling his month-old baby, listening to the discussion, while his wife was on the lawn a few yards away with their other children getting ready for SpongeBob.
The topics of concern to the speakers ranged far and wide.  Several were concerned about diminishing open space, high density housing, traffic, affordable housing and inadequate parking.  Several speakers spoke in glowing terms about their Westside neighborhoods and expressed the view that there is nothing wrong with that part of town - and that is should be left alone.
Considering the fact that this meeting was aimed at families, I don't recall anyone speaking about the need for more sports fields, although many did express a view that they loved the parks - Fairview Park in particular - and hoped features like the model trains would always remain.

A few people spoke about the Banning Ranch project - none in favor of it.  Dr. Terry Welsh, President of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, waited patiently to speak, then did so with vigor and passion.
A few spoke with concern for the future of mobile home parks in the city - a valid concern, since there has been a recent movement to shutter a couple more of them and build "new" things in their place.  Several speakers opined that mobile home parks represent much-needed affordable housing in Costa Mesa.
Mary Ellen Goddard spoke about the need for more library facilities and another speaker echoed her comments, but expressed the view that the City shouldn't be on the hook for the costs.
Some of the speakers expressed favorable comments about the industrial/commercial section of the Westside and hoped it would not be forced out and replaced by high density housing elements.
Activist Robin Leffler expressed the need for MORE such meetings, and echoed former councilman Jay Humphrey's view that the "mix" of meetings should be adjusted to include more "land use" meetings and fewer "circulation" meetings, since circulation is driven by land use.
The number of speakers surprised the facilitators, but they let everyone who wished to do so to speak their piece, regardless how long it might have taken them.  That stretched the meeting until shortly after 8 p.m.
Mayor Jim Righeimer spoke to the group near the end.  He regaled us with his busy schedule - meeting with potential developers of "sit-down restaurants", attending the Concerts in the Park, before coming to this meeting.  He expressed gratitude to all attending and encouraged them to continue to be involved in the process.
Following the outdoor portion of the meeting the kids and their parents were treated to corndogs and other treats while the movie played.  Many members of the audience joined Armstrong and Zimmer in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) where more questions were asked and views stated.  Approximately 20 residents took advantage of that opportunity to further discuss the General Plans and give their views for another 90 minutes.
I came away from this meeting with strong positive feelings.  It was great to see so many new faces taking time to participate.  And, it was refreshing to watch the facilitators actually listen to what was being said.  Later some of the participants wondered what the outcome of this process would be.  They were concerned that all the time taken by them and others to present their views might be ignored by the City Council when the final General Plan document is created.  Sadly, nobody was able to placate their concerns.
In addition to Righeimer making a cameo appearance during his busy schedule, council women Wendy Leece and Sandy Genis were present at the event.  They stuck it out to the bitter end and were still chatting with participants when I left at 9:30.  I also saw Planning Commission Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick, Vice Chair Rob Dickson and member Tim Sesler hovering around the perimeter, listening to the proceedings.  Now, some of you might say Fitzpatrick was just there for the corndogs, but he seemed tightly focused on the discussions and took time to visit with participants before and after the event.  I did see him near the corndogs, though.
In addition to several other hardworking city staffers in attendance to help make the event a success,  I saw CEO Tom Hatch standing in the back, taking it all in.  He was pleased with the turnout and the way the meeting went.
Here's the schedule of future General Plan events, straight from the City web site:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013: Land Use Alternative workshop, 6 to 7:30 p.m., City of Costa Mesa Emergency Operations Center (EOC) 99 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013: Circulation Element Workshop, 6 to 7:30 p.m., City of Costa Mesa Emergency Operations Center (EOC) 99 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013: Circulation Element Workshop, 6 to 7:30 p.m., City of Costa Mesa Emergency Operations Center (EOC) 99 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013: Preferred Alternatives Workshop, 6 to 7:30 p.m., City of Costa Mesa Emergency Operations Center (EOC) 99 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013: Policy Review Workshop, 6 to 7:30 p.m., City of Costa Mesa Emergency Operations Center (EOC) 99 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.

My next meeting is tonight, Wednesday, July 24th in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), where the Charter Committee will meet again beginning at 6:00 p.m..  They will discuss Public Contracts if they can get past the "Moment of Silence" issue.  You can read the agenda for that meeting HERE.

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Anonymous James Rivera said...

While this meeting may have been for family input, hardly any speaker was younger than retirement age.That alone explains why no mention of sports fields. No offense, but the seasoned generation largely took over this meeting. If it was meant for families, pe rhaps they should let them speak first. However, my feelings were expressed here. Yet sports fields is a point I forgot about. We do need more of them, just not as part of exosting park space.

7/24/2013 05:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Good morning said...

Sounds like it went in a positive direction. Also sounds like the facilitators caught on fast to the city council turning a deaf ear to anything they don't want. I am glad to see more people becoming involved. Thanks Geoff for covering the meeting.

7/24/2013 06:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Pirate Press said...


**then again , they might.

7/24/2013 07:46:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

James, EVERY person who wanted to speak, did speak. Nobody was turned away, so it wasn't a matter of families "speaking first".

7/24/2013 08:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

James Rivera - Look at our city's demographics and realize we old folks are, and will continue to be, the majority. We do not have a growing number of kids which, in itself, is a great reason not to build more sports fields and facilities.

This plan is, in the words of the city, planning for the city's future which has an aging population.

This is actually a world-wide trend as family size shrinks and we all live longer the largest part of the population will be adult and senior. Build the city that reflects the reality. Some may argue that it is best build a city for youth that will attract them, but, youth is fleeting. The kids we attract today will quickly speed through these facilities and stay here as adults. It is a natural cycle that we all need to come to grips with.

7/24/2013 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

It was a great meeting, Geoff.
I was very happy to see the main concerns of land use, overdevelopment, high density impact on neighborhoods, affordable housing, parking, etc. were all covered. The residents spoke for me as well.
Everyone was very respectful and listened to the speakers. We do need more General Plan meetings covering land use, as Robin and Jay suggested.
I was very pleasantly surprised to hear my son's comments, specifically about the need for a homeless shelter.
Kudos to all involved in running this great meeting.
Thanks for a great report, Geoff.
It was good to see you last night.

7/24/2013 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Mesa Mustang said...

But Mary Ann, when the City does build housing for seniors, like the nice new facility going up on the corner of Harbor and Mesa Verde, people write to the Daily Pilot and complain about traffic and density. You just can't win with the anti-development crowd. They don't know what they want.

7/24/2013 11:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

@ Mesa Mustang: The City doesn't need to build housing - not for seniors nor for young people. The private sector does the building.

The City needs to determine what should be built and where, to preserve what residents enjoy, not just to satisfy the demands of developers or "the market."

I heard that message loud and clear last night from many people. Will the developer Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem hear the message? We shall see.

7/24/2013 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

To Mesa Mustang,
Does all new construction have to be( in some cases extreme) high density construction? That's all we see being built in our city now.
Yes, there are compromises.

7/24/2013 12:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

Mesa Mustang - First, I have never written complaining about the density there; I believe there is a time and place for it. Next, we will never get 100% acceptance on anything; it's contrary to human nature. But we can all agree on a few facts: we have an aging population and playing soccer and football is bad for those brittle bones. HA!!

7/24/2013 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Truthout said...

Mesa Mustang = The race-obsessed blogger

7/24/2013 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous MVTerry said...

James, would you like some whine with your cheese?

It was great to see Dickson, Sesler and Fitzpatrick aka the 3 stooges there. I was able to speak to both Dickson and Fitzpatrick at length and was quickly reminded just how ditzy these men are.

7/24/2013 04:28:00 PM  

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