Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Great DG Trail Mystery Unraveled (Almost)

It seems the two issues swirling around Costa Mesa these days are the 60th Anniversary celebration scandal and the mystery of the decomposed granite path that runs along the fence separating Parsons Field/Waldorf School and Fairview Park.  Let's talk about the latter, shall we?

I'm in possession of an email thread that provides some clarity to how the user-defined trail evolved into a more than 8 foot wide decomposed granite path that encroaches on a federally-protected vernal pool - #6.  What is missing in that email thread is what launched it in the first place and how, and who, eventually installed the DG (decomposed granite).  I've been able to fill in some of the blanks.

It seems that earlier this spring, in May, Mayor Pro Tem (and Pop Warner Booster President) Steve Mensinger verbally asked Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz if something could be done to knock down the weeds along a user-defined trail.  That conversation was followed by a short email from Mensinger to Munoz asking what can be done to move it along, and included a photo of the path(below).
Staff replied to Munoz that herbicide had been applied but it seemed to be a less-than satisfactory solution.  A week or so later the staffer was able to run a mower over the area to enhance the trail, which now became the approximately 8 foot-wide path shown below. 
The end of June I received a photograph and correspondence from a park user indicating that this mowed path now had DG installed and wondered if the city did this work, or if it even knew about it.  When my correspondent approached the men spreading the DG they were confronted by them, wanting to know why they were taking photos.  I forwarded the information to Munoz, who passed it along to the staffer, who subsequently acknowledged the installation of the DG and indicated that we, the city, didn't do it, but whomever did it did a good job on it.  In the correspondence there is mention that "Pop Warner Boosters" did the work, but I can find nobody who can confirm that supposition.
Unfortunately, the new path - and the mowed path before it - significantly encroached the unmarked borders of Vernal Pool #6.  You can see the boundaries marked with yellow flags.  In fact, the original trail also encroached on those boundaries, too. The boundaries were never marked - according to councilwoman Sandra Genis, part of our deal with the federal government was that we would not only identify and protect the borders of ALL vernal pools in Fairview Park, but would also delineate a 10 foot buffer zone around each one to protect them -  and that contributed to the encroachment in this case.
  (Image courtesy of LSA Associates)
It seems to me that an error by city staff probably contributed to the initial mowing of the path, which was exacerbated by some group of people who, without permission or permits, overlaid the DG on the newly-mowed path.  Unfortunately, neither Mensinger nor those who did the DG work have had the courage to step up and say, "Yeah, I did it!"  That's a shame.

Now the City is trying to resolve the problem.  It has hired LSA Associates who has provided a biologist to mark the boundaries of ALL vernal pools presently unprotected on both sides of Plancentia Avenue, including Vernal Pool #6.  As part of their actions they have prepared a memo to the city which includes four options to the remediation of the encroachment on Vernal Pool #6.  You can read a section of that memo in the image below.  Click on it to enlarge it.
This memo has been sent to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for their review.  Munoz expects to hear back from that organization within a few weeks.  At that point, action will be taken based on the USFWS decision to mitigate the damage.

Based only on the choices shown above, it seems to me that the better of the four is #4, which involves "relocating" Vernal Pool #6 to a nearby location - probably contiguous with the much larger Vernal Pool #5.  That will involve grading the new location to ensure water flows into it, then scraping the dirt which contains the critters presently dormant at that location and transplanting it into the "new" pool.

We don't know yet if the federal government, through the USFWS, will seek any kind of punitive damages for the encroachment on the vernal pool.

I'm disappointed that this whole thing happened, but more disappointed that our mayor pro tem doesn't have the guts to admit his part in this whole mess.  It's hard to measure a man's character while he's on the campaign trail.  It's only when he's in office - and in a position to do significant damage - that this kind of thing turns out up.

So, I'm asking him - and any of his cronies that may have participated in this situation - to step up and offer to assist in the remediation measures, whatever they might be.  I'm not asking them to pay a fine if one is imposed by the federal government.  I am asking them to participate in cleaning up the mess they helped cause.  I'm asking Mensinger to step and be a man...

Incidentally, I've heard a rumor that a football booster organization may be offering "preferred parking" at the Waldorf School parking lot for games at Estancia High School, which includes being ferried up the hill to the stadium in golf carts - along that nice, new DG path.  I tried to verify that rumor but have had no success so far.  If any reader knows more about it please let me know via the email address on the profile page of this blog.

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Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Should Mensinger resign or be recalled?

9/04/2013 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Journalism at it's finest. Same with Voice of OC and their investigation of the county.

Where's the Pilot in all of this? Hello?

9/04/2013 04:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I told ya Steve is a LIAR.

9/04/2013 04:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I'm going to make a template out of that so I can access it quickly...

Steve is a LIAR!

9/04/2013 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

Leadership We Can Believe In!

Cast your votes wisely in the future, people.

9/04/2013 04:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

I cannot be disappointed by Mr Mensinger because past actions lead us to this expected conclusion. I do feel sad for the youth that consider him some sort of role model and worry about the consequence of his emulators.

I am sad that certain city staff members clouded the story and weren't forthcoming with the answers. Not our Council Majority, but staff. That makes me sad. Where has truth and accountability gone to in this city? You are right - it started as a mistake. Why wouldn't people own up to that?

But I am grateful to you and to Sue Lester for the tenacity in getting the full story. Even when Sue challenged them last night, Steve danced.

He thinks he is above the law and that is dangerous. He should be removed. Soon.

9/04/2013 04:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Squad 51 said...

The fact that it was done, and there is little doubt he was involved, by not comming forward, isn't he essentially lying?
Even if he admits he made a mistake at some point, he has been dishonest by not stepping forward right off the bat and addressing the possibility that he had made a mistake.
Doing that at a later point doesn't make him any less dishonest. I simply shows that he is just another one of those lying politicians we're all sposed to be so tired of.
What does it take for voters to start getting rid of them? Everybody says that they're tired of them.... SO?

9/04/2013 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Let me be fair. The Pilot did break the original story.

I apologize for the error.

9/04/2013 07:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

You know, when this issue first came up, about the trail, there were ample opportunities for Mensinger to come forward. We even asked him to come forward (because we already knew). He isn't a big enough man to own up to it. If he had just said, "Ooops. I made a mistake." It would have been a bummer, but okay, and deal with it and move on. But now we see what kind of a person he really is. He lied when the truth would have suited him better. He is completely spineless, sneaky, underhanded and dishonest.

I can't wait for the next election. We can take it out on Righeimer.

9/04/2013 07:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike O'Reilly said...

I'm a simple person and not a lawyer. Could someone smarter than me answer this question? Some people damaged a public park. We know they were an organized group; we even know the name of the group. Federal jurisdiction notwithstanding, shouldn't the CM cops be investigating this? Isn't damaging city property a crime? If not, could I cut down a tree in Fairview Park -- say, because it's blocking my view or otherwise inconveniencing me -- and suffer no penalty? Or perhaps urinate on the steps of city hall because the bathroom's too far away? (I know; that's more than one question.)

9/04/2013 07:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Heart for Costa Mesa said...

Oh, come on, why don't we give Steve the benefit of the doubt?
Such as:

"I doubt Steve can ever recover the goodwill he had prior to this term"

“I doubt he can make rational decisions as this trespass so blatantly illustrates”

“I really doubt a PI tailing his buddy is the cause of his psychological problems, but I sure don’t doubt he is as psychologically screwed up as he admits in his lawsuit.”

“I doubt we’ll ever trust him again”

This was a real test of character, and Steve flunked. He flunked when he appropriated a piece of Fairview Park for his own purposes, and he flunked again when he failed to step up and be a man about it. If he owns it now and offers to do whatever it takes to put it right it will be too little too late and obvious he’s just trying to salvage his reputation. If he had integrity he would have done the right thing at the beginning, but he chose to treat a public trust like it was his own kingdom. Then he tried to cover it up.

How many times does he have to hear “I’m sorry I voted for you” before he stops acting impulsively to satisfy his whims at the expense of the people who trusted him to lead responsibly?

9/04/2013 09:36:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

@Mike - Section 12-20, A9 says the following

"The words "disorderly conduct" shall include any of the following conduct in any park: Damage, deface, alter, injure, destroy or remove any tree, wood, bush, turf, flower, plant, grass, soil, rock or any similar thing or part thereof from any park or in or on any building or structure within any park."

Seems pretty clear to me...

9/04/2013 09:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Skeptical in Costa Mesa said...

steve is not one to stand up when he's done wrong. Why? Because in his little mind the ends justify the means. This isn't the only thing that he wasn't come clean about. Trust me there are many other skeletons in his closet. As I said before Karma is painful steve. I look forward to you getting what you deserve.

9/04/2013 10:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

Ok….Contractor talk here….Lets see….400 feet by 8 feet by 2 inches in depth as a guess just for fun sake…Or pissed off sake…or for no sake except my lawsuit for a headache sake…

Let me do the funny paper math here for just the new DG trail with some guesses…I measured nothing, so I am going off dimensions I have read….

4800”x 96”= 460,800” x 2”= 921,600” / 46656 “= 19.75 Yards of DG…1 ten wheel dump truck approximately 10 yards capacity…..So ….Of course if it is deeper than 2 inches, 1 more inch in depth adds one more 10 wheel dump truck……

19.75/10 = 1.95 dump trucks or one 10 wheel transfer dump truck pulling a B Box slide in ….Or one belly dump or 2 10 wheel dump trucks….or some magic powder and fairy dust….

Who has that much DG on hand close by…….Erm….Costa Mesa….Erm…Larry’s Building Materials on Baker……Erm…Thompson Building Materials on Taft in Orange…Or a phone order to some other supplier…

Now of course it could come from anywhere…There would not be a pile of it at the City Yard right across the street would there…Hmmmm… any dump trucks over there…

Next question…Let’s see…how was it spread by the guys putting it down…

I was over taking a little looksie there and it seemed there may have been a trail of DG dust in a dirt parking area at the end of Canyon there between a chain link fence and Waldorf School that was heading in the direction of the Vernal Pool # 6 in front of Parsons Field…

Ah hah…The answer lies in how it was spread….Somebody took some pictures…

From a personal perspective…I used to ride a horse through that area, and I never knew there was anything there at all except hobo’s living along the riverbed…

9/04/2013 10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

Mike O...I am not smarter than you, but if you peed on the steps to City Hall, you could be arrested on a 5150 psychiatric hold, taken to Royale for 72 hours, then if your a jerk to them, you could earn yourself a 5250 for 2 more weeks of medication to see if you respond to the Haldol...If your a real jerk, they could consider you Gravely Disabled and keep you there until you are moved to Fairview Developmental Center, where you can watch the shrimp out your window...

9/04/2013 10:33:00 PM  
Anonymous seedling said...

Good question Mike-- seriously, this should be treated with a heavy hand! If a ranger saw my dog just poo and i didnt pick it up, id be cited. They dumped toxic chemicals into a vernal pool!

When this issue first came up, was there ever a doubt it was him? Mr we need parking lots, lights, ball fields, PATHS -- it appears he is out to destroy everything that makes the place special. Maybe it was too dark and he thought he was in the parking lot, tripped over some weeds and got angry at the whole park.

While i love this city, I want the feds to throw the book at costa mesa for this! Its protected land, which is supposed to have a buffer, this kind of OOPS is inexcusable. Is it in his authority to just commission trails be made willy nilly? Are maintenance staff his personal servants?
I hope this sets a precedent for the city to NEVER be trusted with the talbert nature preserve.

Resign steve, resign. Such a disgrace!

9/04/2013 10:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Skeptical in Costa Mesa said...

Are there witnesses? Can't believe that much work could be done w/o someone seeing it? Come out, come out wherever you are. Pretty please!

9/04/2013 11:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

“It’s easier to get forgiveness than to get permission” is the mantra of developers and perhaps every other aggressive human.

So I can easily imagine that Steve Mensinger was the promoter of the DG-ed path, since his history in the public eye has been instance after instance of his saying and doing whatever he feels like.

But hasn’t he been punished and forced to beg for forgiveness? Not to my knowledge.

Which leads to another mantra of aggressive leaders: “Never explain and never apologize.” This also fits Mensinger’s M.O. So, based on this, I’m not going to hold my breath until he fesses up.

As far as punishing him through the democratic process – e.g., recall – I don’t see it happening. To the sports community in Costa Mesa, he is some kind of demigod. He has that going for him as well as the considerable conservative part of the electorate that elected Righeimer and re-elected Gary Monahan.

And we can’t forget the unlimited money trough he has access to as a loyal supporter of the Scott Baugh/Jim Righeimer/OC GOP effort to get brownie points from national GOP for making Costa Mesa the first city in the country to do to unions and public employees (and eventually private employees) what was done in Wisconsin by Scott Walker and the Republican-majority legislature.

Bottom line: The GOP extremists have taken over Costa Mesa and have huge momentum now. Just take a look at their farm team, aka city commissions and committees … every one has a majority made up of black hat supporters, young for the most part, and eager to do what it takes to get promoted in the GOP system. Costa Mesa may be for generations, “ground zero,” as Scott Baugh promised a cheering Tea Party gathering.

If white hats continue fighting the black hats the ineffectual way they have so far, Righeimer and Mensinger will forever be lionized as the brave souls who took the abuse, but got the “right” kind of politics installed in Costa Mesa.

9/05/2013 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger Marquis said...

Not surprisingly, I agree with Tom. We usually do agree. What worries me most is that all the antics and nonsense from Riggy and Mensinger are invisible to most of the population of Costa Mesa. Mostly it's because they're uninterested and/or uninvolved, but it leaves the door wide open for extremist knuckleheads to do whatever they want.

We like-minded people can chatter all we want about how Riggy's idiocy will surely bring him down next election, but as Tom alludes, that is unlikely to happen unless a lot more people get a lot more fired up.

Riggy and his new little pal from Rorabacher's office are already running. No "white hats" are running yet. And as we learned last election, new or unfamiliar white hats will have a very tough time. The best chances lie with people like Sandy G - stalwarts of the community with a track record. Maybe Katrina will come back. Her leaving let Mensinger in and precipitated the current state of affairs, so I figure she owes us one.

9/06/2013 12:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Dark Moon said...

I began sharing "A Bubbling Cauldron" posts on Face Book. There's always someone that knows someone who knows someone else. It goes full circle. People do read, even if they don't say anything. So if any of these miscreants would like to go further into the political field, they'll be pretty easily dismissed even by people back East. People do know about this blog and they talk about it. Share. It gets around and people do care.

9/06/2013 05:25:00 PM  

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