Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Long Evening Of Contrasts

It was a long and interesting evening as the Costa Mesa Planning Commission met Monday night at what could have, and probably should have, been a fairly short meeting.  Alas, it was not to be.

The meeting started on a very positive note, with Code Enforcement Officer Mike Brumbaugh introducing the "team" that helped get him the Planning Commission Design Award.  It was peculiar for a city employee to receive an award that typically is reserved for a project that included something particularly meritorious or special.  I'm not saying that recognition was not due, it just seems that the particular award they chose to use to do it was odd.

Regardless, Brumbaugh and his "team" of fellow code enforcement officers, city staffers and residents plus vendors who offered reduced prices for things like paint, are to be commended for their hard work late last year on their clean-up of a section of the Mission/Mendoza community.
Next up was Public Hearing #1, the issue with a hookah lounge in the north part of town.  The applicant, shown, was doomed from the beginning when he chose to represent himself without help  and didn't serve his cause well when his version of events didn't square with the staff reports.  In fact, not only did the commission vote unanimously to deny his request for additional hours, Colin McCarthy was so peeved at him and the circumstances that he suggested the staff investigate using the Nuisance Ordinance to punish him for consistently violating his operating permit.

Contrast that with Public Hearing #2, the extremely professional presentation made by the partners who operate the Wild Goose Tavern on 17th Street who want to nearly quadruple the size of the facility and create a new two-story building to house tenants and their administrative operations.

Not only was their presentation crisp and on point, but they trotted out 19 speakers to support their plan, a big chunk of the approximately 30 supporters in the auditorium.  Only three people spoke to oppose it.  Among those who spoke in favor of the project were Shawn Dewane of Mesa Water, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Don Harper and Rhonda Rohrabacher - the Congressman's wife - who sat in the audience with one of their triplets, both busily working on laptops while waiting their turn during the two-and a half hours it took for this item to be completed.

It was clear from the staff report and presentations that this was a good project, but one that is severely under parked.  A great part of the discussion revolved around ways to mitigate that problem.  Unfortunately, the numbers are not even close, as commissioner McCarthy pointed out several times.

The partners, Mario Marovic and Andrew Gabriel (shown), produced a plan to mitigate the parking issue by requiring mandatory valet parking use at peak hours on the busiest days.  Both Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick and Vice Chair Rob Dickson admitted that they were looking for a way to be able to approve this project, even it doesn't come close to providing enough parking.

Finally they decided to condition the project to require the owners to manage the parking issue or be subject to losing the use of their patio for dining - that would change the parking requirement ratio. The applicants agreed with that and all the rest of the requirements and, barring an appeal to the City Council, will move forward with the project.  The commission voted favorably, 4-1, with McCarthy voting NO because of the parking issue.  I give him credit for sticking to his guns because, as he stated a couple times from the dais, we have under parked commercial projects all over Costa Mesa.

Even though there is much trepidation about the parking issue, I hope the owner's make it work.  While I have not been to this restaurant, EVERY person with whom I've spoken about it raved about it.  I imagine the city staff will be closely-monitoring the parking issue once the new construction is finished and the restaurant has had some time to work out the kinks.

The final item on the agenda, Public Hearing #3, the 240 unit apartment complex at 125 Baker Street in the northeast part of town, took another 90 minutes to wrestle with.  This project, in an area of town that was built as commercial/industrial and presently is the site of an aging commercial building and directly across the street from a manufacturing plant, has been in the works for awhile.

This project exacerbates the out-of-balance ratio of renters vs. homeowners, which Fitzpatrick doesn't seem at all concerned about. One of the owners, Joe Flanagan (shown) presented a strong case for the project.

Only four people rose to speak on the issue and were equally split in favor or against the project.  One of them - a businessman who works in that area - spoke of that section of town being in "transition", with churches and schools recently replacing industrial uses.  He thought it was a good project.  The other three spoke of how this contradicts the General Plan, which requires all developments over four stories to be north of the I-405 Freeway.  And, they mentioned, at the meetings for the updating of the General Plan, there was broad support for limiting density throughout the city.  This will increase the density in that section of town dramatically.

According to retired former City of Costa Mesa employee Peter Naghavi, who was one of the representatives of this project speaking to the commissioners, the traffic in that part of town will actually improve because of this project.  The developers are installing critical traffic signals near their facility, plus the cars are going the opposite direction from this site in the morning and the evening.  The meeting tonight was to consider five separate motions - each of which were passed unanimously by the commission before ending the meeting without discussing their Goals.

We ended the meeting at about 11:35 p.m.... Ugh!

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Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

As I've observed at a few PC meetings, McCarthy can vote against knowing full well the other four Pep Boys will approve. I'm convinced that stuff is done well before anybody sets foot in that room.

3/25/2014 08:15:00 AM  

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