Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Planning Commission Dumps Half The Agenda - And Still Runs Long

OK, I'm going to get this posted before dawn, or else!  Otherwise, I may just blow it off, and there's too much stuff going on to do that.

The Costa Mesa Planning Commission, burdened by an agenda that proved to be much too heavy despite shoving off half of it until January, slogged through their business and finally finished just before midnight Monday.

The ever-dynamic Chairman, Jim Fitzpatrick, took a page out of the playbook of his mentor - Mayor Jim Righeimer - and shuffled the deck at the very beginning.  He moved to have Items 6, 7 and 8 - all of which dealt with problem motels - continued to their meeting of January 13th, 2014.

Then Fitzpatrick took the last item on the agenda, #10, and moved it up front because we had an expensive consultant cooling her heels.  That item is the Housing Element of the General Plan Update which was presented by soon-to-retire Hilda Veturis - a stalwart in the Development Services Department for more than a decade.  After a discussion by the consultant and Veturis plus some dialogue by other commissioners and one member of the public - former councilman Jay Humphreys - the commission voted, 5-0, to send it on to the City Council.  Time is of the essence - it MUST be submitted by February 12, 2014.

At 6:45 we began Item #1 and I thought we might actually get out of there in a couple hours.  It was not to be.  ITEM #1, HERE, was a request to allow concurrent sale of beer and wine at the Shell Station at the corner of Santa Ana Avenue and Bristol Street.  The owner, Abid Ali Malik and his representative, Sherry Olson, pleaded with the commission to permit them to acquire a license from outside the city instead of having to follow the rules and acquire one on the open market from within the city.  The rule that requires that is intended to limit the expansion of more sources of alcohol in the city.  After a long discussion the commission voted, 4-1 with Colin McCarthy voting NO, to remove that requirement from their request.  So, add one more alcohol dispensary to the roster of such places in Costa Mesa.

Next up was Item #2, HERE, another alcohol-related issue.  This time, the Turners,  the new owners of a bar at 1562 Newport Blvd.,  were requesting a change in the type of license for selling alcohol from a type 40 - beer and wine - to a type 48, which includes distilled spirits.  Part of the rationale was that they hoped to attract more female customers who, they said, like the hard stuff.  Eventually the commission went along with them and, with some modifications to the request, approved it on a 4-1 vote.  Fitzpatrick voted NO.

Next up, at 8:15, was the request by the folks at South Coast Metro for a modification of their sign program to include banners and a 65 foot high LED sign along the 405 Freeway, HERE.  Sign guru Milton Soloman, representing Arnel Development, tried to convince all the commissioners that this was a great idea, and that South Coast Metro would lose stores to other venues with such advertising signage.  Eventually the commission passed the request, minus the banners, on a 3-2 vote.  Fitzpatrick and McCarthy voted NO.

Following a short break, at 9:35 they began discussing Item #4, a Design Review of an 11-unit, two-story detached residential development on Victoria Street, HERE.  Despite a handful of deviations, adjustments and variances, spokesman Chad Brown reminded us that this project replaces a 12 unit apartment complex with 17 parking spaces with the proposed project with at least 44 parking spaces in home ownership units.  There were a couple issues that needed to be tinkered with - trying to find a couple more guest parking spaces and locations for trash cans on site - but the commission moved it forward unanimously at 10:30 p.m.

Then came #5, HERE, the five-story, 240-unit apartment building with a six-level parking structure smack dab in the middle of an industrial zone on East Baker Street, near Pullman. (click on image to enlarge it)  This one generated a lot of public attention, including that of a manufacturing business owner quite near the site.  He, and his wife, who also spoke, were very concerned about the noise generated in the surrounding industrial uses and how - sometime downstream - residents of this complex would begin complaining about that noise and pollution coming from those kinds of businesses.  Their concerns seemed well-founded to me.  Concerns were expressed about traffic, but the consultant who worked on the Environmental Impact Report indicated that the developer had a plan for an additional signal that would resolve that issue.  Skeptical interested parties seemed unconvinced.  The EIR will move forward and the project will likely appear before the City Council in February or March.  You can read the draft EIR HERE.

Finally, at 11:05 p.m., the commission began discussing the REALLY BIG item on the agenda - Item#9, HERE, the proposed Small Lot Ordinance.  This proposal has been in the works for months and months and is intended to codify some of the practices that have been followed via variances, deviations and adjustments on the many projects submitted to the city for infill within multiple family residential zones.  The goal, as I interpreted it, is to facilitate the approvals of these type projects by saving staff and applicant time in the process.  For example, the project on Victoria Street, above, would have met all the provisions of the small lot ordinance had it been in effect.  The objective last night was to hammer out the details of this proposal and submit it to the City Council for first reading.  After going round and round it became clear that there was still work to be done, so the commission - on a 5-0 vote - decided to continue it to the meeting of January 27, 2014.  In the meantime, staff will work on the details that were hashed out during this meeting.  All the commissioners agreed, though, that it should be presented much earlier in the agenda.  Both of us left in the audience at the time agreed - the commission doesn't do it's best work as the clock approaches midnight.  The meeting was adjourned at 11:45 p.m.!

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Out of curiosity, Colin McCarthy laments the ratio of renters to homeowners in Costa Mesa, yet they move to approve large apartment complexes such as the one where The Lakes is now, and this one. These projects could have been condos just as easily. So..what gives? Can anyone explain their thinking?

12/10/2013 07:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

How unfortunate the Planning Commission allowed yet another ABC license to be brought into Costa Mesa! It will probably end up eventually somewhere on West 19th Street, which is way too saturated with alcohol. They talk about wanting to improve the Westside, but watch how fast this alcohol license finds its way to the Westside and causes more trouble.

12/10/2013 10:46:00 PM  

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