Tuesday, August 27, 2013

BIA Takes A Second Bite Of The Apple

This afternoon, in a crowded conference room on the second floor of City Hall, members of the Planning staff and the public had a chance to hear from representatives from the Orange County Chapter of the Building Industry Association of Southern California for a second time on their views/preferences as the City of Costa Mesa moves forward with the General Plan Update.  It's not clear to me why they got two shots at this, but the meeting was fruitful.  They had yet another chance to hear residents voice their opinions, much to their probable chagrin.

This was the second time we've had a chance to hear from these same folks - I covered the first meeting last May, HERE.   The same players from the BIA attended this meeting - Chief Executive Officer  Michael Balsamo and Victor Cao, their head of governmental affairs as well as a couple of local developers.


Three staff members - Gary Armstrong, Director of Economic and Development Services, Claire Flynn, Assistant Development Services Director and Minoo Ashabi, Principal Planner attended.  I was among more than a dozen residents who attended this meeting, most of whom have attended the other meetings dealing with the General Plan and who have been frequent speakers on the issue.

Balsamo discussed the content of the letter he sent to Armstrong earlier this month that outlined what amounts to a wish list from their organization as the City moves forward with considerations on the General Plan Update.  Here are the items he included in his preferences for the city to consider:

  • Maintain and enhance existing Overlay Zones and Specific Plan.
  • Consider use of a Specific Plan or Overlay Zone for the Harbor/Newport Blvd Corridors that promotes a moderate increase in density up to 50-60 dwelling units per acre at appropriate locations.
  • Streamline entitlement process through use of by-right development and staff level administrative review.
  • Provide assistance in parcel consolidation when possible.
  • Reduce parking requirements in order to promote smart growth and alternate modes of transportation.
  • Realign open space requirements and park in-lieu fees using most recent  market and demographic data and in accordance with State Law.
As you might expect, members of the public were curious about some of those ideas, particulary the density numbers and the parking issue.  As it stands right now, south of the 405 Freeway density of no greater than 20 dwelling units per acre is permitted and this city has an on-going and pervasive parking problem throughout.

Many of the residents spoke to the issues outlined above, and several others, too.  Among them were the current imbalance between rental units and owner-occupied housing.  The city is upside down, with a 60/40 ratio of renters to owners.  Former councilman Jay Humphrey, who attends many of these meetings, reminded the BIA folks that Costa Mesa is the 36th most densely-populated city in the country - not county or state, but in the entire nation.  It's hard to imagine increasing housing density in any areas of the city with that bit of knowledge banging around in our heads.

When the BIA folks suggested that not every area should be targeted for increased density, members in attendance from the Westside reacted as you might expect - with no small degree of rancor.  Their view is that the Westside is just fine, thank you very much, so quit picking on us to "fix".

The conversation frequently turned to the issue of "problem motels" - something Mayor Jim Righeimer and Planning Commission Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick have chosen as their cause of the moment.  If you've read this blog for awhile, you know this issue has been simmering for several years.  I agree that something needs to be done to clean up several of the motels that have become havens for drug use and prostitution, plus are "affordable housing" for many down-and-out families.

It was during one of these discussions near the end of the 80 minutes we were together that I told the BIA folks of the mayor's recent and frequent exposition of his plans to put pressure on motel owners to either change their ways or sell out.  Currently, many of those units are cash cows - Righeimer's favorite term - bringing in mountains of cash for the owners who are not disposed to either maintain them nor follow established rules.

Righeimer's plan, as mentioned many times in public forums recently, is to adopt some new ordinances - a "Nuisance Ordinance" and an "Excess Use of Resources Ordinance" to squeeze the owners into compliance.  His thought, as he described it many times, is to change the owner's perception of the value of their properties by imposing fines and other sanctions - fees for public safety calls, for example - to de facto force the value downward.  That might make it possible for developers to acquire those parcels at a rate that would pencil out if converted to - you guessed it - high density housing!  As Righeimer has so eloquently put it - "We have to be willing to trade drugs and prostitution for higher density."  I didn't, and still don't, think those are, nor should be, our only options. And, I'm sure not eager for the mayor to get us embroiled in more legal action with that kind of approach.  He has acknowledged that his plan "might lead to more litigation", and it doesn't seem to bother him at all.  He's a one-man retirement plan for local law firms, for goodness sake!

An interesting, relevant, sidebar... when I told the BIA folks the above, Balsamo's reaction was one of surprise, then he said something like, "We didn't ask for that".  I understood his reaction, since there's a very good chance the mayor may have some serious legal issues to deal with if he, in fact, is planning to force long-time, profitable, tax-paying business owners out of business.  Then, again, he's the lawyer's best friend....

According to the City web site, HERE, the next General Plan meeting is Land Use Part 2, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.at the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue (Lions Park) on Thursday, September 12, 2013.

The next one, a Circulation Element Workshop, is from 6 - 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 18, 2013, at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at 99 Fair Drive, next to Police Headquarters.  More on each of those as the dates approach.



Remember that you MUST register before you post a comment.  Those submitted by un-registered folks will be deleted without being read.  Click HERE for the information about registration.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

I missed the meeting this evening…I have not felt well today…I have a couple of things to say about motels again.

A typical “affordable” motel room brings in revenue of approximately $12.50 per square foot per month…Let’s equate that to a 1600 square foot home in Costa Mesa…If you had to pay $12.50 per square foot a month…That is $20,000.00 a month… That is without a kitchen or refrigerator in the room…About $15.00 a square foot with a kitchenette or $24,000.00 a month for the 1600 square foot home … I bet you never new how much it costs to live in a motel…

Here are a few legal tidbits to think about…There is no way the city is going to get around the California Legislature on this…You can’t blame the motel/hotel owner on who they rent a room to…

Bed tax or Transient Occupancy Tax paid to the city stops after the 30th day of being a guest and you become a tenant.

It is illegal in California to not rent a room to someone if you have one available according to state law…Matter of fact it is a misdemeanor…

It is illegal to not rent a room or provide services to someone in violation of the “The Unruh Civil Rights Act” or in California Civil Code 51.

Civil Code 1940 covers most motel and hotel occupancy laws..

Civil Code 1859 through 1867 cover Innkeepers Laws specifically..

Other than 365. I have only pasted the beginning of the code for reference..1940 is way to big to put anything here.

365. Every person, and every agent or officer of any corporation
carrying on business as an innkeeper, or as a common carrier of
passengers, who refuses, without just cause or excuse, to receive and
entertain any guest, or to receive and carry any passenger, is
guilty of a misdemeanor. However, an innkeeper who has proceeded as
authorized by Section 1865 of the Civil Code shall be rebuttably
presumed to have acted with just cause or excuse for purposes of this

1865. (a) For purposes of this section, "hotel" means any hotel,
motel, bed and breakfast inn, or other similar transient lodging
establishment, but it shall not include any residential hotel as
defined in Section 50519 of the Health and Safety Code. "Innkeeper"
means the owner or operator of a hotel, or the duly authorized agent
or employee of the owner or operator.
(b) For purposes of this section, "guest" means, and is
specifically limited to, an occupant of a hotel whose occupancy is
exempt, pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 1940, from Chapter 2
(commencing with Section 1940) of Title 5 of Part 4 of Division 3.

51. (a) This section shall be known, and may be cited, as the Unruh
Civil Rights Act.
(b) All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and
equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion,
ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic
information, marital status, or sexual orientation are entitled to
the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities,
privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind

8/27/2013 11:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Thank you Ken. Now there is something Riggy (or his attorneys) probably better bone up on.

8/28/2013 06:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary Ann OConnell said...

I just spent 4 days in Chicago (a great city) and took the famed Architectural Tour where I learned that the city founders understood the value of open space and passive parks. They believed they added to the city's greatness and the health and well being of its citizens. And so, they declared the south lakefront free from development with the exception of the museum plaza. The notable thing is that they were ALL real estate developers.

They also required that all river front property be developed in a way that left landscaped free passage that all could enjoy.

They limited density and required structural set backs to allow light and air flow.

That has stood and the rules still apply. No money or influence can change that and Chicago is a great city to this day. Our Council Majority could take a few lessons from the Windy City.

8/28/2013 06:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Geoff --
You said,
As Righeimer has so eloquently put it - "We have to be willing to trade drugs and prostitution for higher density." I'd like to get the source on this one, because if you stand back and look at it, it is one really dumb thing to say. How many whores equal ten more bodies per acre? What good dope would we exchange for, say, twenty more bodies per acre? Suppose, say, that we get a thousand more hookers here in the city. How many pounds of marijuana would it take to put them out of business? How many more warm bodies per acre would we trade a ton of cannabis for? And what about my two drugs-of-choice, coffee and whiskey/beer? I like beer. I am not willing to trade all the beer at Anheuser-Busch for even five more warm bodies per acre. And by god, anybody who gets between me and my coffee in the morning might wind up mangled. That's just not socially acceptable.

So, please, Geoff, give me a source on this quote. I'd like to run with it... I even feel a song coming on...

8/28/2013 10:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Boy, you really woke me up this morning, Terry.

I hadn't thought about that stupid quote/concept in literal terms. I'm laughing so hard I have tears.

This is the best.

But you are right. Why does it have to be high density or nothing?

8/29/2013 06:37:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home