Wednesday, August 21, 2013

General Plan Meetings - Yesterday And Today

Yesterday I attended a meeting at City Hall attended by leadership members of the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group, a coalition of my neighbors who have come together to present a unified voice on issues that affect those of us who live on this side of town.  This meeting was with city staff to discuss the upcoming General Plan Update, to provide input from the perspective of Eastsiders.
A dozen people sat around the table in Conference Room 1A, including Planning Commission Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick (an Eastside resident) and Mayor Jim Righeimer, plus Director of Economic Development/Deputy CEO Gary Armstrong and Minoo Ashabi of his staff who heads up the General Plan updating effort.  Former councilman Jay Humphrey also attended and participated.

We discussed many issues that, while general and apply throughout the city, have a very specific impact on the Eastside.  We spoke about cut-through traffic, the recent Broadway traffic calming efforts and the upcoming plan for something similar on East 19th Street.  We spoke of the impact of the 55 Freeway terminus and the more than 100,000 cars that pass the intersection of Newport Blvd. and 19th Street daily.  We spoke of the impact of the reinvigorated Triangle retail center and the probable impact of the Banning Ranch project on Eastside traffic.

We talked about wanting to maintain the sense of "community" within the Eastside.  Some fear that the prolifieration of common interest developments - a dozen homes where there once was one or two - will diminish that feeling, which is one of the reason many residents purchased their homes in the first place.

We talked about what appears to be a change in the way development standards are applied recently.  Variances and deviations to standards, both parking and other important measures, seem to be the norm rather than the exception.  Righeimer told us that a "Small Lot Development Standard" is being prepared.  I'm not sure I took comfort in that, because it seems like it might just be codifying the problem.  We'll see.

We talked about "problem motels", which are primarily an Eastside issue.  Righeimer explained the economics of the problem and acknowledged that we do not presently have sufficient enforcement tools available to do enough to control the problems of rampant drug and prostitution uses in some of those locations.  When asked he told us that there are two new ordinances - the revamped Nuisance Ordinance - and another he would not elaborate on, that will be presented to the council at the first meeting in September.  His goal is to drive down the value of those properties by fining them until it hurts enough that they will either change their business model - which apparently is like printing money right now - or sell the property to someone who will scrape the offending buildings and find another use.  Right now, according to Righeimer, the economics of it just don't work.

As I sat there listening and participating in the discussion I found it ironic that our mayor - a man who has been clamoring for economic development in the city - is actually strategizing about how to destroy businesses in our city.

One of the tools they're talking about using is "node zoning", which nobody yet has clearly defined for me.  It seems like it means that specific parcels within the city would be specifically "zoned" based on what is perceived as an offending current use.  I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that concept, but need to know more.

Another "tool" they plan to use is a new ordinance that will permit someone in City Hall to decide when calls for service - police and fire - are "too many" and are costing the city "too much", so the city will begin charging for every call beyond a "reasonable" threshold.  OK, I understand what they're  saying, but once that ordinance is on the books I wonder if they could arbitrarily apply it to, say, a senior care facility that generates more than the average numbers of emergency calls.  I'm not sure I want a politician deciding whether my next emergency call is worthy of response.  I'm not sure I want to hand my credit card to an EMT when he arrives to apply a defibrillator to my pounding chest because I, or my neighbors, have exceeded our quota of calls for the month.

We talked about the proliferation of rehabilitation homes on the Eastside, an extension of the conversation Righeimer had with residents last month at his "Meet the Mayor" gathering on Orange Avenue.  Again, new ordinances need to be created to deal with them and it's a very touchy issue.

I thought the meeting was VERY worthwhile and am glad Righeimer and Fitzpatrick attended.  Their presence contributed positively to the discussion, even though some of the solutions need to be given more thought, in my opinion.

Tonight, on the lawn next to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) the next in the series of public outreach efforts on the General Plan Update will occur.  It begins at 6:00 p.m. with a program on the grass and a puppet show for the children adjacent to it.  Refreshments supplied by Starbucks - coffee, milk and cookies - will be available for all.  At 7:00 p.m. those interested will shift into the EOC for another hour or so for a presentation during which consultants will gather data from the participants using sophisticated electronic data gathering equipment.  That should be interesting.  Here's a flyer that describes this meeting. (click on image to enlarge it)  I hope you all will try to attend.  The last one with a similar format brought out many new faces many of whom took the opportunity voice their opinions to the city staff and their neighbors.  See you there...


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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

It doesn't sound a single thing has been accomplished since the last gab fest. Fitzpatrick was in charge of the motels...nothing. Then there is meetings with the mayor to discuss the problems and solutions...nothing. So, they may have contributed to the chat session, but it didn't sound like much but talk. Did anything solid come from it?

8/21/2013 02:00:00 PM  

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