Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Long Meeting, But Something New Learned

Monday night the Costa Mesa Planning Commission met for what most expected to be a short meeting.  It wasn't.

As anticipated, the first two Public Hearings were shoved off to a future date.  The first item was continued to the meeting of November 12, 2013.  The second one was removed from the agenda and will be re-noticed for an undetermined future meeting.  That item, a project by developer Peter Zehnder on Santa Ana Avenue, has a load of variances which, as I compared them to the list of things that will be included in the Small Lot Ordinance the commission and city council will discuss Tuesday afternoon in a study session, seemed very familiar.  Maybe Mr. Zehender, not wishing to fight more battles under the current rules, will simply put the project on hold and re-submit if and when the Small Lot Ordinance passes.

The third item, the proposal to replace an approved two 26 story towers on Anton Drive with an 8 story residential facility - three floors of parking with the first one below grade - sucked up two full hours as the developer and commission hashed out some of the more difficult issues.  The biggest of those is parking.  Costa Mesa has notoriously underparked projects in the beginning and the residents and business owners in the area have always paid the price.  This project, which is for 250 high-end rental units - studios, 1 and 2 bedrooms - is in an area with NO on-street parking, so any difficulties the developer has because the project is short a dozen parking spaces will have to be solved by the developer within the footprint of the project.  It otherwise looks like a very nice project.

The biggest surprise for me at the meeting was the unannounced presentation by Keith Clark, who we learned is one of the 5th floor denizens who heads up the special code enforcement group called the "Improvement Division" of the CEO's office.  I don't believe I've met Mr. Clark, who apparently is the part time Director of that group and has three full time Code Enforcement Officers working for him.  Here's a slide he showed describing the organization:
 Clark went on to describe their areas of focus, shown on the end of that slide.  He then gave a brief overview of what each includes, as shown on the next three slides.
There were many fascinating elements to Clark's discussion.  He showed us examples of places he and his crew had visited and cited, and which they facilitated getting squared away.  I found it interesting that in some cases where the paint on a building was shabby,  they would tell the owner to select from a paint palette that would be more agreeable and blend better with surrounding properties.  Does that sound just a little like Irvine?  In my opinion, unless someone belongs to a Homeowners Association that controls stuff like that, he should be permitted to paint his place whatever color he choses - even if it's pink with purple trim.

Clark spoke of the citations they've issued and how they may place the home of a reluctant person into receivership and turn the management of the property over to a third party.  Is anyone else just a little bit nervous when you read that?  I know it really bothered me when I heard it last night.  It seems to me that the city has ceased being one full of compassion and has turned into a heavy-handed, almost despotic, place to live.

He showed us slides of units within "problematic motels", and described recent sweeps and fines levied against one offending operation - the Costa Mesa Motor Inn, where more than $40,000 in fines were assessed that facility last month.

He also told us that his three-man crew is now authorized to write parking tickets if they choose to do so.  That seems like an odd assignment for a code enforcement officer.  Better keep your lawn mowed, your paint freshened and on and on, or you'll get a visit from the three code enforcement officers who may end up placing your home into receivership if you don't straighten up.
To be perfectly honest about this, I'm VERY concerned about a little private army of enforcers resident in the Executive Offices - men who are not trained in code enforcement, but have been turned loose on the public like a little group of storm troopers.

If you think this is bad, just wait until they get their Public Nuisance Ordinance passed!  It's going to put tremendous power into the hands of a few among us.  Once that begins there will be nothing to keep them from citing you for violations because your lawn is an inch too long, your hedge needs trimming, your car needs working-on, and on and on and on.

And then there's the issue of this showing up as a presentation but not being shown on the agenda.  I suspect that, if this presentation had been placed on the agenda, more than a few residents would have attended the meeting, since there are those around town - including at least one current council member - who have described this group as the Neighborhood Harrassment Division.  I suppose that might be the reason they didn't tell anyone this presentation would be made ahead of time.  Here we have another example of selective transparency, only used when it's good for the city government.

The commission adjourned to the study session today with the City Council to discuss the proposed new Small Lot Ordinance, which may be throwing open the door to rampant single-lot developments throughout the city, but primarily on my Eastside.

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I hope any citizen who is told what color to paint their home, or is targeted unduly for these code restrictions, has the sense to get an attorney.

I have to ask, why...when Colin McCarthy is complaining about more renters than homeowners, and they obviously are cramming more homes into small lots to raise the percentage,...why...would they even consider an apartment complex that large? It looks nice, but why not make it liveable and sell them as condos? That would up the percentage quite a bit. Why do they keep considering rental units and then complain about it?

The last house on Pacific, next to the park on the right, has just been sold, and will be demolished, and SIX homes will be put on that lot. Now this is in a place where parking is already ridiculous. Then there is the 10 parking space lot the council wants on the open space park. I'm guessing now that this will be for the six new homes. They are using public open space, to alleviate parking for their new development.

November 2014 cannot come too soon.

9/10/2013 07:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Mr. Verbose said...

I have dealt with two of the new Improvement Division CE guys for a code violation, and I will say that they were actually very courteous while delivering the blow. The follow up inspection was very fast, just as courteous and they did not come across as Gestapo type.
The code issue was my doing, I owned up to it, and that helped ease the message that was being delivered. That being said, I am sure after the council starts applying pressure on them to increase citations for control and revenue sake, their tactics will need to change to keep their jobs, which are probably funded through fines.
Big Brother is watching. Costa Mesa’s drone program is on the way, into your back yard.

9/10/2013 07:58:00 AM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

No, no, Mr. Verbose. We will outsource our drone program and pay Huntington Beach to do it.

What is the legal basis of this group?

Was it ever agendized? (No.)

If it's a special task force of the CEO, why do they take orders from the council majority?

What legal protections are in place to protect residents and their property from abuse by this group?

How does one get their home/property out of receivership when this group places it in it?

What does the current law say about a homeowner's right to paint their house pink with purple trim? By recommending certain palettes, is this group violating current law?

9/10/2013 09:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

I was in the management team at the Wyndham Hotel next door to this proposed apartment complex on Anton…

I looked at the little shopping center next door that is going to be replaced every day, and it was empty all the time…No tenant ever remained for long, because they went bust…The property owners must be eating it…

As much as I do not like to see more people moving in to town, especially the crowd their going after, it is much better to have them put up a building that is 77 feet tall, rather than 280 feet…The 280 has already been approved before...And it is in an area that has nothing to do with any single family homes…Mr. Sakioka was very careful in who he let his farm property go to as he sold it off…

I would say yes, just to keep another high rise going in…If you look at the demographics of the shopper at South Coast Plaza, that should explain who will rent these…super-luxurious apartments…According to the funny papers I read that’s what the developer calls them…

The Wyndham had approval to erect two giant towers also…The owners of the Wyndham are from a foreign country, and have the money to put those towers up when the economy ever climbs out of the toilet…And up it will go….You know how Hong Kong and Honolulu look… If I had any money…I would buy a few tower cranes….

The difference in construction costs between 280 feet and 77 feet to house the same number of people is staggering…Building this lower Type III wood framed structure, is the better of two evils…

Now the real part…..The fees to the city coffers will be huge…The thanks extended for a Quid Pro Quo deal should be amazing, if your on the receiving end…..

Back to eating peanut butter and crackers here on the Eastside…

9/10/2013 09:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

I am very concerned about them being allowed to have a presentation that was not properly noticed. As a member of the Charter Committee we have been told a few times that discussions which have grown organically from the agenda items could not happen because they weren't on the agenda. Funny how the law is applied on a sliding scale with this city.

I think the senior citizens of this community should pay attention: if your energy is low and your income is fixed so that the property doesn't resemble the Newport/Irvine wannabe this Council Majority is all about, the city can take it over. That is chilling. The only ray of sunshine in this: they admitted it this time.

9/10/2013 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Mr Verbose, I too had a similar experience with Code Enforcement and I ditto what you said. I and my neighborhood are better for it.

Were you actually awake for the meeting, Geoff? Not dozing off? ;)

The paint schemes are something that apparently have to be arranged so that subsidizing, I think, can take place. These "code violators" can take advantage of this program if they follow one of 14 paint schemes. You want your own paint scheme, I almost think code enforcement would work with you anyway to find financial assitance; And even if not, at the WORST you would just have to pay 100% of the cost to paint to get back up to spec, in your own color. Awwwwwwwww. Damn gestapo/storm troopers. Enforcing laws that are already on the books. Awwwww.

9/10/2013 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

In two weeks, we have the following rays of sunshine:

1. Lack of transparency on the 60th. Pay the bills, but can't see invoices.
2. Federal law broken on mismanagement of park land and lack of transparency of those details.
3. A previously unknown task force with the ability to put property in receivership because of chipped paint and long grass.

Imagine what they could do with a charter.


9/10/2013 10:49:00 AM  
Anonymous seedling said...


You misrepresent the status of the last "house" on pacific. Its not a "home" but a 5 unit mini-complex of sorts already -- and if you walk into it youll see its in pretty bad shape. (http://www.redfin.com/CA/Costa-Mesa/2294-Pacific-Ave-92627/home/4555553) so the net addition is only 1 residence.

Are you pro parking lot?

For whatever its worth, i am easily able to find parking in that area whenever ive needed it. According to guests ive had, that end of the street is easier to park.

I do agree though, that pacific is already too dense and we shouldnt be making it denser.

9/10/2013 12:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Verbose said...

Mike H , James Rivera and Ms. O’Connell prodded me into thinking about some things while I was on a walk at the beach. My comments on the code enforcement officers being courteous while they delivered the blow, was actually just that. I was responsible for violating the building code. I can only wish it was as simple as my grass was to high. or I had a motorhome that was in the front yard with my children living in it.
It was at least 300 hours of work down the drain, and quite a bit of money. I won’t go into the details, but it was expensive physically and financially. This was something in place for many years, and required moving some of my family out of our place after losing the space.
We were not a specific target, just caught up in another properties difficulties with the city, that carried over to our place through a simple observation by the CE men.
My recollection on the CE officers hiring, had to do directly with bringing the problem motels and commercial properties into line, rather than them wandering the community. Living in the older section of Costa Mesa like I do, with a mix of commercial properties and such, led to the discovery of my situation.
The city council authorized the hiring of these new CE officers on October 16, 2012 during a city council meeting.
You have to pay attention to the consent calendar items to understand how this council operates. I do and so should you.


Please understand that I was not kidding about a drone program finding it’s way to replace the $19,000.00 a month helicopter service provided by Huntington Beach. The drone laws are following the same path as the attachable GPS tracking devices, surreptitiously placed on a Costa Mesa citizens vehicle, by any law enforcement agency, including the CMPD, with no need for a warrant. These GPS charges are also located on the city warrant authorizations on the consent calendar each month.

9/10/2013 01:35:00 PM  

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