Thursday, August 22, 2013

General Plan Land Use Workshop*(Amended)

Last night saw more than 75 people gather on the lawn at City Hall for the most recent in a series of General Plan workshops.  This is the first of two on Land Use and was, again, designed to be a "family-friendly" event.

It included a puppet show for the children on the lawn nearby so the parents could know their kids were safe while they provided input to the process.
Economic and Development Director Gary Armstrong and consultant Laura Stetson guided the way and encouraged participation by the crowd.  More than a dozen spoke to the group, expressing their views on what should be considered as the General Plan is developed.  Once again, I saw unfamiliar faces mixed with those folks who regularly attend such meetings.  That was a good thing.

An early adjournment permitted the attendees to examine graphics displayed along the walkway to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), where the second segment of the proceedings would take place.  Folks were encouraged to scribble their thoughts on Post-It notes and place them on a white board before entering the EOC.

Unlike the previous meeting where a small segment of "outside" attendees stayed for the indoor portion, almost everyone stayed and more came in, too.  I estimated 80 or so people filled the room, including a cadre of mostly developer-types who clung to the back wall.
Mayor Jim Righeimer briefly welcomed everyone, thanked them for their participation, then tossed the ball back to Armstrong and Stetson.  No, he didn't mention his lawsuit against the police, in case you were wondering.  And, for the second night in a row, I sat within an arm's length of him the entire night and we both survived the experience.

The "inside" segment began with a little data-mining exercise using an electronic voting technology.  All the attendees were given little clickers, then were posed a series of questions to which they would respond by clicking a specific key on their clicker depending on their choices.  They went through several rounds, displaying the percentages of participants who selected each option.  The data will be compiled for later use when presenting the results of the General Plan Outreach sometime next year.
Then a rousing Question and Answer period was held.  Excellent questions/concerns were asked and some were actually answered.  It was a worthwhile event that went an hour longer than planned.

Besides the cadre of staffers, I saw many city officials in the audience and participating.  In addition to Righeimer, councilwomen Wendy Leece and Sandra Genis were in attendance.  Planning Commissioners Rob Dickson and Tim Sesler were joined by Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick.
A significant amount of time was spent discussing Node Zoning, just as it was at the meeting I attended the previous afternoon.  This time, though, specific examples of Node Zoning were provided graphically, each showing one or more of the "problem motels" that might be replaced should the City Council decide to adopt Node Zoning as a practice.  Although the concept seems to have value, I'm more than a little uncomfortable with the idea of basically spot zoning in our city.  That seems like a dangerous practice.
In addition, Righeimer mentioned new tools to be used to encourage motel property owners to consider offers from developers.  Those are in the form of two new ordinances he expects to be placed on the agenda for the September 3rd council meeting - the first day after the long Labor Day holiday weekend.  Those will be the renovated Nuisance Ordinance and an un-named ordinance that will facilitate levying significant fines for "excess use" of city services - primarily police and fire services.  Armstrong gave numbers like 2,200 calls for service at one motel during the last year.  The plan, as Righeimer had told us in the previous meeting, is to squeeze motel owners so hard in their pocket books that their property will become devalued and therefor be easier for them to consider offers.  It's the old "make them an offer they can't refuse" routine. As part of that discussion Righeimer acknowledged that it might lead to litigation.  Gee, do you think?  We're designing a plan to actually force profitable businesses out of business in our city.  No one identified themselves as motel owners at this meeting, although one example was given by a member of the audience of a billionaire owner of one local motel that rakes in tens of thousands of dollars a month from a very seedy place.

Again, concern was expressed about the otherwise homeless families currently living in some of those motels.  Righeimer said it's not our intent to throw them out onto the streets.  However, he did state that tighter control will be exercised on how long individuals and families stay in one spot.  There are regulations about the length folks can stay in the motels.  Once they leave they won't be permitted back in.  Sounds like more lawsuits to me.

Oh, yes... almost forgot.  I met recently-announced City Council candidate Tony Capitelli.   He seems like a very affable young fella who seems to be doing good work for Congressman Dana Rohrabacher in his Huntington Beach field office, where he specializes in Immigration issues.  He told me he doesn't have another job.  He is the son-in-law of Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry.

While there were a couple glitches in the program last night, I think it was a worthwhile exercise if the input actually makes into the big homogenized pot for later presentation to the City Council.  The next meeting is next month, on Thursday, September 12th from 6-8 p.m. at the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue - Lions Park.  Westside issues will be discussed in a very similar format.  Mark your calendars. (DUE TO CONFUSION ON ENTRIES ON THE CITY WEB SITE CALENDAR THE DATE SHOWN FOR THIS MEETING ORIGINALLY WAS INCORRECT.  THE DATE NOW SHOWN IS THE PROPER DATE)


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Blogger Mike H. said...

It looks like another well-done, well-attended, and well-informed event. Congrats to Gary, Laura, Minoo, Claire Flynn, and Martha Rosales for putting on a good show.

Those interested in this stuff need to know a recent Supreme Court case called Kelo v. New London, Connecticut. That case said (in a 5-4 decision) that the general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth qualified private redevelopment plans as a permissible "public use" under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

You now have a self-proclaimed conservative Republican in Righeimer at odds with none other than Clarence Thomas. In his dissent in the case, Justice Thomas said "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

I'd like to hear what our more conservative/libertarian friends in Costa Mesa think about this.

8/22/2013 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Marquis said...

It would be interesting to see the economic proposition for forcing the motels out and replacing them. The motels pay property taxes, Transit Occupancy Tax, sales tax, and a few pennies for a business license. Maybe the property taxes on new developments that replaced the motels would offset the obvious losses of revenue if the motels are forced out, but it seems like we'll lose revenue streams and get a couple of lawsuits to boot.

Most people don't want a seedy motel in their backyard and trying to "clean up" the motels isn't a bad goal, but Riggy's plan, as usual, sounds like it's not very well thought out. If they actually try to enforce the part about not permitting people back into hotels, lawsuits will surely follow.

8/22/2013 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Marquis said...

And to Mike H's comment - Quite possibly the only time I've ever agreed with a Clarence Thomas opinion.

8/22/2013 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

I wonder what use the generated statistics will see. It seemed to me that the conclusions drawn were of the nature of "Have you stopped beating your wife?" or "He is, too, fit to live with pigs." We got offered twenty, thirty, forty, and fifty dwelling-units per acre as alternatives, but the actual density was never specified until after the voting-by-clicker was done. The data might be used in an entirely appropriate fashion, with conclusions drawn based on the real statistics; or they might be utterly perverted, as sometimes happens in politically-motivated surveys. Either way, I kind of felt as though I was being hustled a bit, being asked if I had stopped beating my wife...

Then the motel "nodes" came up. We were presented some alternatives for dealing with the oldest profession (see Genesis for more elucidation on this subject) and the oldest vice (Again, Genesis 6; Noah was, I think, the first drunk mentioned there). In which, I must hasten to add, neither our Mayor nor his Vice, by their own admission, indulge. (Those flasks of the world's best beer that I presented them were never tasted; the siren call of diet coke being far, far more compelling to those "gentlemen". Ah, well.)

It is obvious to any thinking person that prostitution and dope-dealing MUST BE two services that are highly valued in every community on this weary planet, as all attempts to stamp them out have met with abysmal failure. Thus the Righeimer/Mensinger attempt to scale back these two valuable services, while on the surface appearing to be motivated by the purest and most chaste of lily-white virtue, are at their base simply basely political, and in addition, are doomed. This is not to say that some political advantage will not accrue to these two gentlemen over their efforts; and in their inevitable failure, they can claim that they fought the good fight.

But would it not be better if we simply acknowledged the inevitability of these two vices, and took action to limit them to a "node" specifically zoned for them? What if we set aside one of these problem motels as "Hooker-Doper House Motel" and wrote a city ordinance prohibiting such activity outside, say, this "problem node"? I've heard much commentary about "state law" and how it would prevent such legislation, but the same arguments were raised against medical marijuana, only on a federal-state level instead of a state-city level, and they were easily shunted aside here for medical marijuana and in Colorado for the recreational stuff. And think of the tax advantages that would accrue! (If, of course, such an operation were not granted the standard, cheap two-hundred buck license that Nordstrom pays, but were taxed by language written into the ordinance.) We might even realize enough revenue from these valuable services to fund, finally, our unfunded pension liability! Maybe even get new parks, new athletic fields, new Olympic-sized swimming pools, et cetera! We wouldn't even need to sell TeWinkle park to the beer lobby, but could keep it for ourselves!

You know, if we could start something like this, I might even pledge never to use the word "pander" in council chambers... It would take courage on the part of councilmen, though; and perhaps such courage cannot be maintained or supported by persons who consume, and collect receipts for, that odious beverage, diet Coke. Not that I would ever call Mr. Righeimer a pander; no, sir. Not me. Not in a million years.

I'll even lay odds that he doesn't beat his wife.

8/22/2013 11:10:00 PM  

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