Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Few Surprises At Planning Commission Meeting

When the Costa Mesa Planning Commission met last night we knew it was going to be a long meeting.  We didn't, however, anticipate some of the curveballs thrown during the proceedings.

For example, the Public Comments segment began with Eastside resident Scott Morlan stepping to the podium to criticize Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick for a YouTube link he posted in a thread on NextDoor - the neighborhood conversation site that both he and I participate on.  I had not seen that particular comment - there are so many of them! - but went back after the meeting and did find it HERE.  As you can see, this is the old video put together by Righeimer sycophant Kent Mora using his "professional name" - Art Vandelay - in which he ridicules members of Costa Mesans For Responsible Government (CM4RG).  Fitzpatrick attempts to use the NextDoor platform to spew his party line and pretend he actually knows something.  It's all so very sad...  He did not respond to Morlan's criticism.

The Consent Calendar passed, 5-0, without any separate comments.

The first Public Hearing, dealing with a proposed 845 square foot garage plus game room above on Placentia Avenue was denied by the Planning Commission after much debate and many speakers - most of whom raised the specter that the extra room might be separately rented and/or the whole home would be turned into a rehab home.  During the discussion of the project all the commissioners tiptoed around that issue, instead because it was not "harmonious and compatible" with the surrounding neighborhood.  Their decision was a surprise.

The second Public Hearing - the towing service on Logan Avenue - was continued until the next Planning Commission meeting.

The third Public Hearing - the planned 37-unit condominium development on Victoria Street - was presented by former Development Services Director and Deputy City Manager Don Lamm, who makes a living these days representing development clients.  His poised, professional presentation dazzled several members of the audience.  Near the end of the discussions Vice Chairman Rob Dickson said, "This is exactly what the Urban Plans calls for!"  However, Fitzpatrick pulled an "Allan Mansoor" when he said he'd like to have some more dialogue on this project, so voted against it.  He didn't say what kind of dialogue and didn't perpetuate the discussion.  It was very strange.  Mansoor used to do that all the time.  The project passed, 4-1.

A sidebar to this particular item.  More than a dozen Latino residents sat patiently in the audience as the discussion took place.  At one point a very polite young man and his mother stepped to the speaker's podium to ask, basically, what will happen to us - pointing to the members of the audience.  This project will involve tearing down 27 run-down rental dwelling units and replacing them with 37 new ownership units.  Clearly, all those folks in the audience will be out of a home when that happens.  When pressed for some kind of a timeline on the project, Lamm indicated that he didn't think construction would begin until early next spring - providing plenty of time for those folks to relocate elsewhere. 
Of course, Costa Mesa has very, very little affordable housing, so that nice, articulate Estancia High School student and his family and friends will have a tough time finding new housing in our city.  Come to think of it, my "Mansoor" reference seems appropriate now, since some thought from the very beginning that the Urban Plans were simply disguised methods of expelling the Latinos from our city. The economic downturn of the past decade delayed it.

Next up was the "Smoking Lounge" ordinance, which really seemed directed at hookah and e-vape lounges and not the only cigar store in town.  The commission went around and around on this one, trying very hard to differentiate between hookah, e-vape and the cigar store.  Eventually it was decided to toss it back to the staff for more work on the ordinance.  It will be brought back at a future date.

By the way, we had another example of folks on the dais using electronic tools - phones, in this case, to do independent research during a meeting.  Dickson told us that, during the discussion, he "Yelped" the subject of e-vapes in Costa Mesa and came up with over 20 - the staff report said there were only a few.  In my view, this is a very slippery slope.  Commissioners and Council Members should NOT be doing independent research and basing decisions on it unless and until the professional staff has had a chance to vet the information - and for that information to be made available to the other members.

That brought us to Public Hearing #5, the discussion of the annexation of the so-called Colleen-Santa Ana Annexation Area.  A few members of the affected area - an island of Orange County that is surrounded by Costa Mesa and Newport Beach - expressed concerns about being able to retain the lifestyle that they presently enjoy - large lots, deep setbacks - as part of Orange County.  It would be zoned R-1, which has a minimum lot size of 6,000 square feet.  Presently the homes on the 14 acre parcel are also zoned county R-1, but the minimum lot size is 7,200 square feet with 25 foot setbacks on the rear property line - more than double the city code requirement.  Eventually, led by the verbiage of Colin McCarthy, the commission approved the staff requests and the process moves forward.  Here are a couple slides that show some of the data on this project.

We finally got to New Business #1, the Planning Commission goals, but it was tough to follow along.  It seems that the staff report that both of us remaining in the audience at 9:45 had didn't include a second list of proposed goals given to the staff earlier by Fitzpatrick.

He did tell us his number one priority was group homes, and complained that the city says we presently have 118 group homes but some neighbors think there are more than twice that many.  He wanted a reconciliation of the two numbers.

Fitzpatrick surprised me when he did something I've talked about for months when he called for the two code enforcement entities presently operating in City Hall - one out of the second floor and one operating as a private enforcement arm of the Executive Offices on the 5th - to be merged under one common command structure.

By the way, did you know that the code enforcement officers are now going to be authorized to write parking tickets?  Yep, plans are underway to train them so they can simply write a ticket instead of having to call the police when they see cars illegally parked during one of their sweeps through the neighborhood.  I find myself wondering if we will next see them armed?

Fitzpatrick criticized the processes in the city that - according to him - kept information from being shared effectively.  Dickson chimed in with the same complaint - he wants access to all the police department information so the Planning Commission can make "proper land use decisions".  Hmmm - really?

The meeting finally ended at 10:25 p.m.  The next Planning Commission meeting will fall on TUESDAY, May 27th because Monday, the 26th is Memorial Day.

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Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

You're joshing us readers; time to come clean! You did not attend a CM Planning Commission meeting.

By your narrative it's obvious that you were really at a performance of Circus Vargas.

5/13/2014 05:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

At the risk of once again being "called out" by the mayor (This time, Mr Righeimer, just call me, you do have my number), three of these entries are bone chilling and one is morale crushing.

Staff quotes the city as having 118 group homes but "neighbors" say it could be double the amount. Next, staff says there are very few smoke lounges, but Yelp (which does not remove closed businesses and is sued for false information) says there are 20. Finally, there is an application for a garage/play room but “neighbors” think it could be converted to a group home.

These are all whisper campaigns and unsubstantiated whispers that curtail people's rights to augment their properties and run their businesses because a few people, armed with emotion rather than fact, have the ear of the council and commissions and are dangerous. It is reminiscent of McCarthyism here in the U.S. and Franco's Fascism in Spain. No, I am not saying people are dying or disappearing here, but trampling on rights and condemnation by whisper is eerily similar. Both are the result of thinking of the far, far right.

Facts are so easy to get and verify and our city staff is exceptionally good at it. But they are ignored when they fail to support this leadership's ideology. Be careful, Costa Mesa, your neighbor might have it in for you, next.

Finally, the seemingly innocuous statement that the families currently renting will have time to “move somewhere else” is sad. That’s a euphemism for – leave Costa Mesa. Some of us chose this city because it was not a cookie cutter community like Irvine and Newport Beach. It is racially, ethnically and financially diverse and that is healthy for a city. It should be a way to escape “group think” when everyone has the same reference points and narrow point of view. We should seek out differentiation so our decisions are informed by a broad set of circumstances, past and present. But, as you point out, Geoff, the scent of Mansoor has lingered. From my vantage point only white, affluent Republicans have a voice that can be heard in Costa Mesa, and that monolithic thinking will be its downfall.

5/13/2014 09:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Geoff, you really have a knack for taking pictures of Fitz that make him look like he's taking a dump.

Seriously, I wonder, since the PC is so concerned about projects not fitting into the neighborhoods, how they reconcile those ugly over built tenaments? They certainly don't fit into the neighborhoods.

I wonder why the PC wants peoples' police records? Those should be confidential. If that happens, there should be a legal backlash. Its clear that these guys are over reaching their positions, but then again, following the laws is not something this regime has been known for.

5/13/2014 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Actually, WMC, I just missed his "wink" at me... he noticed I was taking a photo and winked at me, but I was too slow to capture it... had to settle for the "dump" image. ;-)

5/13/2014 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Here's another photo of Fitzy taken later in the evening:


5/13/2014 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

Seems more like screwballs and knuckleballs than curveballs, but that would be coming from someone wearing the 'tools of ignorance' and catching all this BS, to stick with the baseball theme.

You report, we'll decide.

5/13/2014 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Muffin Top Bob said...

Pretty sure Fitzy was ordered by his handler and our little dictator to recommend the joining of the code enforcement offices.

There is no way Fitzy is creative enough to come up with such an idea, he lacks any common sense and would be just like Gary sitting up there not saying a word if it wasn't for the scripts written out for him by the puppet master.

5/13/2014 12:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Muffin Top Bob said...

I love how bootlicker and brown-noser Kent Mora hides behind his lame Art Vandelay Youtube posts and doesn't allow people who watch his dumb videos to comment on them.
What a coward this guy is, he probably can't handle rejection well so it's easier for him to not see how many negative comments he and his second grade level videos would really get. Typical little dictator follower, he can dish it out, but can't take it.

5/13/2014 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Holy Crap. I just watched that video allegedly published by Kent Mora and am embarrassed by anyone who would associate with that piece of trash. First clue? Comments are disabled for that poorly edited piece of garbage. When you have to edit together your opponents message in an attempt to embarrass, dissuade, confuse or otherwise "Not" address the points made, you are already losing. I am so frustrated by the political game of "I didn't do it, I have no knowledge, and blaming others." Politics has to change or change will come to politics. Right now, I am one embarrassed Republican. Signed, Disgusted (A middle-aged, temporarily middle-class citizen).

5/13/2014 07:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Heart for Costa Mesa said...

Mary Ann, please make that "some" white, affluent (and some not-so affluent) Republicans. Not all of us. They don't listen to wider and wider swaths of the community. I don't know what their criteria is but Ronald Reagan wouldn't recognize their brand, ain't Republican. It's a power hungry, ego-driven, hybrid faction of crony capitalists, fiscally careless, listen-to-what- I- say- but-don't-look- too- closely-at what-I-do type of politicians that are all about money, real-estate and power. Their so called "conservative " cloak is just the costume. The way they spend our money is not conservative at all. Neither is their nanny state mentality like the law that forbids a home-based businessman from parking his own truck with his own logo in his own driveway!

Hubris will bring about their fall one day, let's just hope they don't bring Costa Mesa all the way down with them.

Meanwhile, would you please direct your attack on "some Republicans", not all of us. we probably don't agree with all your views, Mary Ann, but we aren't all buying the brand this faction is trying to stuff down our throats either. In fact, it's pretty offensive. We are not all sheep who bleat "baugh baugh baugh" on command.

5/14/2014 12:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

Dear Heart of Costa Mesa, You are so right. I did mean that it is a very small, radicalized portion of the party that has co-opted our Council Majority. I am sorry if I offended you.

5/14/2014 09:08:00 AM  

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