Friday, August 23, 2013

The Natives Were Restless Last Night

When I used this image on my entry yesterday discussing the Parks and Recreation Commission discussion of the proposed entryway improvements at the southern end of Fairview Park at their meeting last night I was kind of kidding.  However, it proved to be accurate, as an engaged - and often hostile - crowd attended the meeting to express their concerns about the conceptual plans, HERE.

At just about 6:30 p.m. the commission began the discussion of this project, delayed from the previous meeting because of concerns about the footprint and number of the parking spots originally proposed at the Pacific Avenue entrance to the park and the size and location of the play area.  The original plan showed 42 parking spots, but the current version of the Fairview Park Master Plan allows only 10, so Chairman Byron de Arakal sent the staff back to the drawing boards to come up with a scheme that more closely matched the approved plan.  They did, and they didn't.

The crowd of more than 60 residents and other interested parties had a chance for a little warm-up for this meeting when most of them attended the meeting Monday of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee, which covered some of the same ground.  After attending that meeting I knew this one would be fun.  It was, to say the very least.

More than 20 speakers stepped up to address the commission with a variety of concerns, from inadequate noticing of this project to increased traffic on Pacific (a frequent refrain), to the lack of toilet facilities near the proposed tot lot, to illegal night-time use of the park, to the proximity of the amenities to a "failing bluff face", and on and on.  I'm not making light of the complaints - each person who spoke was very serious about the impact of these "improvements" would have on them, personally, and to the users of the park as a whole.  Several speakers were concerned about lights, even though de Arakal made it very clear early on that lights were not part of this particular discussion. 

Immediately it was evident that the "new" solution offered for the Pacific Avenue entrance was simply the same old footprint with fewer parking spaces.  Again, technical professionals opined that the footprint used was necessary to provide turnaround space for emergency vehicles.  No representative from the Fire Department was present to affirm that opinion.  At least this time the consultant who drew up the plans did not tell us that the larger space was prepared for "anticipated future uses in the park".  That's code for "playing fields".  That would have REALLY set last night's crowd off.  Nobody spoke in favor of the options offered.

And, as the discussion moved along, many members of the audience had difficulty hearing Parks Project Manager Bart Mejia and commissioners Don Harper and Dean Abernathy as they spoke.  All three men are soft-spoken and, in their defense, it's very unusual to find more than a handful of people in the audience for these meetings.  But, de Arakal managed to poke the audience in the eye with a sharp stick when, in response to several members calling out for speakers to speak louder, he told them to just move forward.  Bad tactic, which evoked the rancor of the crowd and proved to be a precursor of things to come.

After all the speakers had presented their views and the discussion among the commissioners was moving along, it became pretty clear that the majority was going to vote for one of the staff recommendations.  The crowd became more vocal and agitated, to the point that the chairman was forced to take a 5 minute break to allow things to calm down.

When they resumed just before 9:00 p.m. the vote was taken and the commission recommended that the staff proceed with Plan B on a 4-1 vote.  Commissioner Bob Graham voted NO.  As is occasionally the case, Graham can be swayed by a loud, vocal opposition to an issue, regardless of the merits of the arguments.  The crowd might have reacted better - maybe not - if their major complaints had been addressed when possible before the vote.  Even though Chairman de Arakal indicated he had been listening and taking notes, specific issues were not addressed, leaving the speakers feeling that the only reason it was approved was because it was in the Master Plan.

As the crowd cleared the room, leaving only staffers and a couple audience members who were interested in tree removal requests, several called out that they would appeal the decision.  On the porch councilwoman Sandra Genis - who had attended the meeting, but had not spoken - suggested that she would appeal the decision to the City Council.  If that does happen, I expect another loud, vocal group to attend that meeting, too. 

However, they need to be forewarned - council meetings are a whole different breed of cat.  With several officers typically in attendance, NO outbursts like the one we saw last night will be tolerated - not for an instant.  The crowd will lose any sympathy council members might have for their position if they behave that way before them.

Early in the meeting, during the Oral Communications segment, Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee Chairman Dr. Richard Mehren spoke to the commission about the illegal decomposed granite trail that runs along the fence next to the Waldorf School that, as it turns out, encroaches significantly on Vernal Pool #6.  He advised the commission and audience that the Federal Department of Fish and Wildlife is now involved in helping us "solve that problem" - government speak for giving us a whack across the knuckles that might take any number of forms, from simple scolding to severe sanctions for not fulfilling our custodial obligations in the park relative to protecting the vernal pools.  That was part of a decades-old agreement between the City and the Federal Government.  We had the impression that the Feds were not happy campers.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and if anyone takes responsibility for this serious infraction.  We hear rumors of some fairly prominent names in the community being associated with this transgression.. we'll see.


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Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

The thing that's so frustrating about meetings like this is not a single person speaks in support of a project, a large number of people speak against it, and in the end, you know the commission or council is already dead set in its decision - usually not in lockstep with the people who spoke out. So why even bother to show up and speak out, when they don't listen?

I don't go to many meetings for this very reason. The few I have attended, decisions are all but a done deal. What's the point of letting the people speak if it has no impact whatsoever?

8/23/2013 06:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Its apparent that deArakal has either been promised something by Mensinger and Righeimer, or he really isn't as intelligent as I was led to believe. I'm thinking both. I was willing to give him the benefit though, but no.

This entire commission is a joke, as are the rest, set up by Riggy to do his bidding. He can't get in trouble that way, at least not directly. Sad that none of these guys can see that.

Byron, whatever he promised you will likely never materialize. Its the MO..promise, promise, promise, and then renig. I've seen him do it over and over.

8/23/2013 06:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I have no doubts the Feds will find out exactly what went down. They have a way of getting to the bottom of things. This will be good.

I hope the Park Commission had the sense to check with the Feds about screwing up this park before it gets out of hand.

That ocean view is wonderful. To turn it into a parking lot is insane.

We've been complaining about the over dense development, and this is the result. You can't have it both ways.

8/23/2013 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I wasn't pleased with Byron's reasoning; one instance he said "Fairview is not entirely passive, and cited the trains (true), kites (umm, that's fairly passive land use), and soccer playing (actually illegal). He also mentioned "Safety is Issue One" when talking about trying to decrease the lot footprint a little. Well, apparently the FD said they can live with a smaller footprint, even according to his words. That's not compromising safety.

All in all, I wasn't impressed with his line of reasoning. Chairman Graham, even though you make him seem to be easily swayed, seemed to have good thoughts regarding this process. He had a good thought that staff may not have answered; the tot playground could be right next to the fields to be more convenient.

Personally, you decrease the parking footprint, and I'm fine with it. After hearing Comm Graham, I would have been for moving it by the fields. Sandy Genis, appeal! appeal!

8/23/2013 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger Marquis said...

I'm with Mike McNiff. It's almost a waste of time to speak at any of these meetings. The council boys and their appointees have made up their minds and they don't care what the community thinks.

What really bothers me is that there is ZERO demand for this parking lot from the community. There is the opposite of demand - a very large number of people are against it. There is no documented need for this parking lot, no demonstrable value, lots of potential problems, and budget dollars are tight. And then they do it anyway. Please check your logic and reason at the door - you're in Costa Mesa now.

Charters, lights, parking lots, police staffing - it's the same song. What the community wants is irrelevant. Your input is barely tolerated and never seriously considered.

The only "good" thing is they've just pissed off a whole bunch more people. Maybe those people will vote for somebody who actually cares about the community next time.

8/23/2013 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

The reason for speaking at the meetings, is so you can be put on the record. When the appeal is filed, there is record of the objections.

8/23/2013 12:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Hold em Accountable said...

Can't you see that it's ALL about slowly adding parking for the Estancia stadium?

That piece of land has been just fine for 57 or so years. In come Jim and Stevie to the rescue to help fix it.

I really hope the Feds step in and hold 'em accountable. Isn't that DG road right near the Pop Warner practice fields.

Oh, right...Dare I say anything negative about Pop Warner and I hate kids....My bad.

Steve did you know about that road being built? Step up!!

8/23/2013 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Flo Martin said...

Even though, in my heart of hearts, I agree with Mike McNiff and the Marquis (de Sade?), I usually speak at council meetings when there. On one such occasion, when the mayor told me I had the floor, only Wendy was looking in my direction. The council dudes all had "turned off."(This was before Genis joined the council.) Instinctively (a teacher's instinct) I waited to speak. Silence! Boy, did the council heads turn, in surprise, to look at me then! Joke on them!

8/23/2013 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

It's very frustrating at any meeting when the leaders who will cast the votes have made up their minds before they hear the public speakers.

Flo, I have done this also for the same reason.
It does get their attention.

8/23/2013 07:52:00 PM  

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