Saturday, December 13, 2014

Former Mayor Jack Hammett Dies

By now you've probably read the Daily Pilot article about the passing of civic leader Jack Hammett earlier this morning at the age of 94, HERE.  I'm not going to attempt to recount the fullness of his life, except to note that he left behind a legacy of public service, both to our community and to the nation, that few could match.  He was regarded as a mentor by many local politicians who followed in public service in our community.

To learn more about Jack Hammett you can read a biography prepared about him by The City a couple years ago, HERE.  And, you can get the sense of the man in this very short video as he briefly talks about his experience at Pearl Harbor.  Services are pending...


Friday, December 12, 2014

Costa Mesa Seeks Eleven Commissioners

The City of Costa Mesa announced this afternoon that it is seeking candidates for eleven (11) vacancies on three (3) commissions which will be filled early next year. 

There are three (3) four-year vacancies on the 5-member Planning Commission; three (3) four-year vacancies on the 5-member Parks and Recreation Commission.  Additionally, the new 5-member Senior Commission has three (3) 4-year positions and two (2) 2-year positions available. Planning commissioners are paid $400 per month.  Parks and Recreation commissioners and Senior commissioners are paid $100 per month.

We presume the seats that are available are as follows:

Planning Commission: Vice Chairman Rob Dickson, Colin McCarthy and Jeff Mathews.
Parks and Recreation Commission: Chairman Byron de Arakal, Dean Abernathy and Robert Graham.

The complete text of the announcement follows:

Citizens sought to serve on three city commissions
Posted Date: 12/12/2014

The Costa Mesa City Council is seeking residents to serve on one of three commissions: Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission and Senior Commission. The application deadline is Jan. 7.

The five-member Planning Commission has three vacancies (each four-year terms). This commission functions as an advisory body to the City Council on issues related to the growth and development of the community. The commission holds public hearings and provides recommendations to the council on requests for General Plan amendments, rezones, specific plans, environmental impact reports and amendments to the city’s Zoning Ordinance. The board has the authority to take final action on a variety of planning applications, including conditional use permits, variances, planned development projects, and tentative tract and parcel maps. 

The five-member Parks and Recreation Commission has three vacancies (each four-year terms). This commission assists the City Council and various city departments with issues related to parks and parkways.

The five-member Senior Commission has five vacancies (three for four-year terms, and two for two-year terms). This newly established commission will serve as an advisory body to the City Council in matters related to the operation of the Costa Mesa Senior Center.

Those interested are encouraged to complete a Committee Application Form from the City Clerk’s Office or from the City’s website ( Planning commissioners and Parks and Recreation commissioners must be registered to vote in Costa Mesa.

The completed application may be submitted online; mailed to Costa Mesa City Clerk, Post Office Box 1200, Costa Mesa, California, 92628-1200; faxed to (714) 754-4942; or hand-delivered to the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall, 77 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa. 

The deadline is 5 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 7. Appointments are tentatively scheduled for the January 20, 2015 City Council meeting.
For further information, please contact the City Clerk’s office at (714) 754-5225 or

Quite honestly, having watched the commissions in action and understanding the configuration of the City Council which makes the appointments, I doubt very much we'll see any changes on either of the Planning or Parks and Recreation Commissions unless current members decide to not apply again.  Of course, the Senior Commission is wide open.  So, here's your chance to toss your hat in the ring to serve the city.

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Snoopy House Closed Tonight Because Of Weather

This afternoon the City of Costa Mesa announced that the Snoopy House opening ceremony scheduled for this evening has been cancelled.  It is scheduled to re-open tomorrow, Saturday, December 13 at 5:30 p.m. You can read the announcement in full HERE.  Watch the website and Facebook page for updates.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

P.I. Lanzillo Arrested in Mensinger/Righeimer Case (UPDATED)*

The office of Orange County District Attorney, Tony Rackauckas, today issued a press release, HERE, announcing the arrest of Private Investigator Chris Lanzillo and an associate, Scott Impola, for what is described in the press release as, "committing crimes against two Costa Mesa council members and a competitor attorney."  According to the press release, each are charged with two felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime of unlawful use of electronic tracking device, one felony count of false imprisonment by deceit, and one felony count of conspiracy to commit a crime of falsely reporting crime to agency.  Both are being held on $25,000 bail and will be arraigned at a later date.  Each could face a maximum of 4 years and four months in jail, plus revocation of their private investigators' licenses.

The press release provides all the details of these allegations.  I won't reproduce them here.

The language of the press release implies complicity by the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association (CMPOA).  That is VERY troubling.  As you will read in the press release, the CMPOA retained the law firm Lackie, Dammeier, McGill and Ethir (LDME) to do "candidate research", which apparently included surveillance on Costa Mesa city council members in the run-up to the November, 2012 election.

This is a VERY unpleasant turn of event for the already-beleaguered CMPD, which has had the staff slashed by 30%, specialty units disbanded and its outstanding police chief, Tom Gazsi, depart for another job last week.

So far, no word is forthcoming from the CMPOA or their legal representatives.  I'll report more when I know more.

Later in the day two attorneys representing the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association issued statements.  The first, Paul S. Meyer, said:
The Association had the Lackie firm on retainer for years for general
legal work and administrative representation for its members. The law firm was quickly terminated when the controversy arose. The Association cooperated with the District Attorney investigation, and appreciates that the Association has not been implicated. The Association puts its members first and continues to provide strong representation.

The second, Seymour B. Everett, said:
"The CMPOA will continue to cooperate and support the DA's office with any investigation and is confident justice will be served for all parties.  As it relates to the Mensinger and Righeimer civil action, the DA's action further demonstrates that the CMPOA did not instruct, direct or encourage any alleged illegal acts by independent private investigators hired by the Lackie firm."

CMPOA President Rob Dimel, when asked about this situation, deferred to his attorneys.

Additionally, Costa Mesa Communication Director Bill Lobdell, when asked if The City would have any comment on this issue, said: "Nope."

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2 P.M. Medical Marijuana Meeting Scheduled! (Amended)


The Costa Mesa City Council meeting to address the Medical Marijuana issue that had been originally scheduled for last night was, as anticipated, rescheduled.  The new date is NEXT Tuesday, December 16, 2014.  The real news is that it is scheduled for 2 p.m.!  2 p.m.!!!?  I'm trying to imagine what set of circumstances would cause the City to schedule such an important and controversial issue for a meeting in the middle of the afternoon!
 NOTEHERE is the agenda for the meeting, published today, Wednesday, just before 3:00 p.m.  It appears the links I provided below are still valid.

Here's the full text of the announcement, which can also be found on the city web site HERE.

City Council meeting to discuss medical marijuana initiatives rescheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 2 p.m.
Posted Date: 12/10/2014
The Costa Mesa City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 9 to discuss two medical marijuana initiatives has been cancelled and rescheduled for 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 16.

On Dec. 16, the council will first review a staff report that details the potential impacts that the two competing initiatives—which have qualified to be placed on the ballot—would have on the city’s various departments, including police, finance and the City Attorney’s Office. The staff report will also include the impacts of a medical marijuana ordinance proposed in August by Council Member Gary Monahan and another medical marijuana ordinance passed by Santa Ana voters in November.

After reviewing the report, the City Council could consider several options, including:

  • Adopting a medical marijuana ordinance (either one of the initiatives or a city-crafted ordinance).
  • Placing the two medical marijuana ordinances on the ballot at a special election as mandated by the state election code.
  • Placing the two medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot at the next General Election (Nov. 6, 2016) since both measures call for tax increases and the California Constitution mandates any proposed tax increases must be voted on during a General Election.
  • Placing a third medical marijuana measure—one crafted by the City Council—on the ballot to compete with the two initiatives (if two or more of the measures pass, the one with the highest number of votes would become law) at either a special or General Election.
No agenda report is available yet for this meeting, but you can read the agenda for the previous, cancelled meeting HERE.  Plus, you can read the full staff report, which includes links to thirty-three (33) attachments.  If you are interested in this issue, I suggest you check out the report from every city department, HERE, on this issue that is part of Attachment #1.


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

It's Snoopy House Time Again!

Hey, Y'all!  It's that time of the year again.  Yes sir, the Snoopy House - a Costa Mesa tradition for more than four decades - will be on display at Costa Mesa City Hall beginning this Friday, December 12, 2014.  Here's the flier that tells you everything you need to know.
This event, moved from the Jordan's Eastside home a few years ago where that family entertained thousands of visitors to the display every year for more than 40 years, to City Hall.  This year, the 48th year of the holiday tradition, begins this weekend.
Santa will be on hand EVERY night this year, and there will be train rides and other entertainment, too.

Come one, come all... it's going to be fun.


Yellowstone Recovery Accommodation Denied, And More

At the Costa Mesa Planning Commission meeting that lasted seven hours and fifteen minutes last night, four hours and fifteen minutes were spent on one issue alone - the request from Yellowstone Recovery for a "Reasonable Accommodation" for their facility at 3132 Boston Way.  More on that in a minute.

Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick pulled Item #2 from the Consent Calendar for discussion, so Consultant Staffer Jerry Guarrancino provided a short report on several items previously requested by the Planning Commission.  They included a report on the Smartphone app, Costa Mesa Connect; Nuisance Abatement Ordinance, Sober Living Ordinances for R2 and R3 Zones and Motel Inspection Data.  You can read all the numbers in the staff report, HERE.

Resident, former councilman and recent council candidate Jay Humphrey - who remains engaged in municipal activities - pulled Item #3, the SOBECA Traffic and Parking study, for discussion.   Actually, he wanted to express appreciation for the information, but bemoaned the lack of similar studies for other vital parts of the City - the Westside and Eastside, for example.

The first Public Hearing, on a Scooter Sales Store, was taken off the calendar and will be re-noticed if it is ever brought back.

Then, at 6:40 p.m., came the elephant in the room - Public Hearing Item #2, the request for Reasonable Accommodation by Yellowstone Recovery for their facility at 3132 Boston Way.  The staff recommendation was to uphold the denial of the request by resolution.  Four hours and fifteen minutes later, including breaks, the commission voted to uphold the denial.

During the hearing - which was conducted more like a trial than a normal hearing, including having many of the speakers sworn-in - the lawyer (Steven Polin) for the appellant (Yellowstone Recovery) presented his "case" for approval of the appeal and, thus, permit Yellowstone to continue to operate a sober living home with 15 residents at 3132 Boston Way.  The maximum permitted is 6.  Before it began, though, Polin suggested that Commissioner Timothy Sesler had a conflict because he was part of a team put together by then-mayor Jim Righeimer to evaluate the Newport Beach sober living situation and Yellowstone had been part of that discussion.  He indicated that Sesler should recuse himself.  That prompted a short break while Deputy City Attorney Yolanda Summerhill consulted with Sesler.  The result was that Sesler - also a lawyer - felt he could be an objective and fair participant and the commissioners agreed.  He stayed on the dais.
Polin's presentation, in which he attempted to convince the commissioners that Yellowstone perhaps should be "grandfathered-in", included short speeches by a dozen current and former residents of the recovery home, plus two other supporters of the program - resident Grant McNiff (shown) and Richard Dumont of the Recovery Network.

The comments by the recovered and recovering addicts were quite moving in many cases.  Each was sworn-in by the clerk before they spoke. Based on the body language of the crowd and reaction and comments by the commissioners, there were few unsympathetic people in the auditorium last night.

Owner of the home, "Honey" Thames, stepped up to address the commission to convince them of the value of the operation, and the value of having more than 6 residents at the site.  She failed to do so.

Elena Gerli led the presentation by the City Staff.  She presented a lengthy slide show, outlining the elements of the issue.  She outlined the law,  and described the request by Yellowstone.  Those slides are shown here.

Additionally, the City also presented testimony by Patricia Shields, a lawyer, recovering addict and consultant, who apparently was being paid $2,500 by the City for consultative support on this issue.  She, in response to questions by Greg Palmer of the City Attorney's office, established her credentials, gave a work history and then provided an assessment of the situation.  The short version is that she, and other highly qualified persons who provided opinions, felt there was nothing demonstrated by Yellowstone that having 15 persons in a recovery home was necessary to the recovery when compared to the permitted 6 residents.

Code Enforcement officer Mike Tucker also aided in the presentation by providing a history of this home, which apparently dates back fifteen years at that site.  He discussed the history of calls for service at the site, including the most recent one which resulted in this action when a resident apparently jumped off the roof of the building into the swimming pool.

In addition, several members of the public, including some from the neighborhood in which the house is located, spoke to address the issue.  It turns out that the Yellowstone Recovery home is but one of four (or five-it was unclear) additional similar facilities close to it.

After all was said and done, and following what certainly sounded like a threat of legal action by Polin near the end which upset at least one member of the commission - Colin McCarthy - the commission voted to uphold the denial of the request for Reasonable Accommodation and directed staff to work with Yellowstone to come up with a transition plan for the reduction of residents in the facility.  I suspect nobody left in the room expected that was going to go smoothly, but the commission gave the staff one month to work out a plan.
Finally, at 10:55, the commission took a short break before moving to the next item and reconvened at 11:05 to discuss the proposal from Saddleback Church to occupy several spaces at the building at 1901 Newport Boulevard.  This issue has come before the commission previously and the last time was sent back for more work on a traffic and parking plan.

It turns out that was a good idea, because several issues were uncovered - like a shared parking arrangement with The Triangle to provide overflow employee parking for that venue.  Several people spoke to this issue, including the Pastor of the church, Moses Camacho and the minister from the adjacent United Methodist Church, Reverend Julie Elkins, whose church is diminishing and could close down if it looses members due to parking and traffic problems.  The discussion went on and on and it looked like Fitzpatrick and McCarthy were going to pull the plug on this request, but when the vote was taken it ended up 3-2, with Fitzpatrick and McCarthy voting NO, at 12:10 a.m.!

Public Hearing #4 is the three-unit development on a skinny little lot on Viola Place.  After a half hour of discussion the commission voted 5-0 to approve the project at 12:40 am.

The final item on the agenda, Public Hearing #5, was a similar kind of development - 5-units on another skinny lot at 2661 Orange Avenue.  The developer made an excellent, and rapid, presentation and - even though this fell under the Small Lot Ordinance and had variances -  the commission voted, 5-0, to move the project forward.  An exhausted commission adjourned the meeting to the January 12, 2015 meeting.

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Monday, December 08, 2014

Medical Marijuana Meeting Rescheduled-Maybe!

The City of Costa Mesa just announced that the Special City Council meeting scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, December 9th at 6:45 p.m. is anticipated to be rescheduled for NEXT Tuesday, December 16, 2014 beginning at 6:30 with a closed session.  Regular meeting is anticipated at 7:00.  Read the notice HERENo specific reason was given for the rescheduling.  It's a curious bit of technical mumbo-jumbo.  I guess they technically can't "cancel and reschedule" the meeting so, in theory, if a quorum shows up at 6:45 tommorrow there could be a meeting.  Brenda Green, the City Clerk, tells me that they do not anticipate a meeting being held tomorrow.

The City MUST hold a meeting this month in order to meet state requirements involving the Medical Marijuana initiatives that form the core of the agenda.

This is good for a couple reasons.  First, we can continue our Christmas shopping and, second, Rookie Mayor Steve Mensinger can continue his withdrawal program from his smart phone and practice conducting a meeting.  "Steve, please turn your cell phone off! See this? This is an "agenda".  This is what you use to conduct the meeting.  Just consider it a song book.  Take it from the top and read, verbatim, what we've highlighted for you.  These are pages.  They must be turned so you can follow along.  Those are staff reports.  You should consider them "homework" and read them BEFORE the meeting.  You remember "homework", right? Like what you did while at USC?  Never mind...  No, don't try to read them on your smart phone - the screen is too small.  When in doubt, just ask CEO/City Manager Tom Hatch.  Good luck."

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Sunday, December 07, 2014

...."A Date Which Will Live In Infamy"...

And thus began the American involvement in World War II.  Seventy-three years ago today the Empire of Japan attacked the American Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, killing thousands of Americans caught unaware.
Here's how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt portrayed that event the next day, when he asked Congress to declare it an act of war.
From that date until August 14, 1945, when Japan officially surrendered the United States of America joined allies fighting World War II on two fronts - Europe and Asia - to defeat the axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan.  For more details go HERE.  I've written about this war a few times, HERE, and HERE, for example.

Today, as the men and women who actually fought in this historic war - Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation" - continue to die, taking with them the first-person experiences from this horrendous war, please take a minute to pause and consider the sacrifice they all made to keep our country free and protect our way of life.  A look at the timeline for World War II, HERE, HERE, and HERE, will be helpful for you to understand what transpired in world politics that led to this strife from 1922 until the end of the war in September, 1945.

I had three uncles who served proudly in the armed services during World War II.  They saw their duty and responded to the need of the nation.  Over the past couple years two local men - who served in the Pacific Theater as aviators and became my close friends - passed away.  Author, teacher and Daily Pilot columnist Joseph N. Bell - about as liberal man as I have ever known - and George Grupe - a local businessman and patriot and about as a conservative man as I have ever met - both served during World War II as flyers.  Both had their college educations interrupted by the war and both were proud of their service and shared stories with those who asked.  Grupe, in particular, gave patriotic presentations to any organization interested in hearing about the war.  He spoke to school groups, business organizations, church groups, for dozens of years, trying to provide perspective to the history books.  I'm proud to have known them and and glad they shared their lives with me.

Several times a month my path crosses with that of Sparks McClellan, a retired local businessman with family roots in Costa Mesa that go back to 1926.  We had mutual friends and have become friends over the past few years.  Sparks is a quiet man, who proudly wears a cap and jacket that commemorate his service as a distinguished Naval Aviator flying Hellcats during World War II.  He and I will chat about his service from time to time.  The memories, now fading with the passage of time, still remain.

Former Mayor Jack Hammett is a Pearl Harbor survivor.  He was there that day, serving as a Naval corpsman, when more than 2,000 of his comrades died in that sneak attack.  He, too, proudly wears the regalia commemorating his service time.

There are still a few survivors of my parent's generation - the one that fought this war - so find time to seek them out and thank them for their service to our nation.  We owe them everything...

And, remember what this day represents.  Remember that our nation remains free as long as men and women like those who stepped up during World War II continue to do so.


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