Thursday, February 19, 2015

OCC Information Meeting Not So Informative

Thursday evening Orange Coast College President Dr. Dennis Harkins and his staff held an informational meeting on campus to attempt to bring interested parties up to speed on the progress of the planned more than $600 million expansion as presented in their original plan, Vision 2020, HERE, and now being fleshed out in preparation of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

There were around 50 people in the room, including OCC staffers and members of the Orange County Fair and Event Center Board.  New OCFEC CEO Kathy Kramer, former interim CEO Doug Lofstrom and board member Stan Tkaczyk sat off to the side, observing and participating when asked.  Costa Mesa Councilwoman Sandra Genis attended and lent her expertise as a land planner and EIR expert.  Coast Community College District Trustee Mary Hornbuckle and former Costa Mesa Councilman Jay Humphrey were among us in the small crowd.
The real media was represented by Nicole Shine of the Daily Pilot and Jordan Graham of the Orange County Register.
Harkins kicked off this third community meeting - the previous two were held last summer - by telling the assembled group that he had expected to be finished with this process by now and had hoped to have the completed EIR and his staff recommendations to the Coast Community College District Trustees by now, but there were complications, including the identification of certain historical buildings that may occupy up to 40 acres of the 160 acre campus site.  That may cause a change in plans.  He explained that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires significant study of projects such as the one proposed.
Rich Pagel then took over for a short time and outlined some of the issues brought up at previous meetings and by correspondence from the community which are now being studied in depth:
  • Traffic Problems - A consultant has been hired and a report is due in mid-March
  • Parking Structure - There is an issue with an $8 million pedestrian bridge proposed by the City of Costa Mesa, which includes complications with Edison power lines.
  • State Funding - No statewide funding measures were on the November ballot - a rarity, and one that complicates the fulfillment of this project.
  • Historic Buildings - Certain buildings on campus - those designed by Master Architect Richard Neutra -  have been identified as having historical significance.  They may take up a quarter of the campus footprint, which will cause some serious re-thinking of the plan.
  • The OCC Village - A consultant has been retained to assist with this segment of the plan.
Pagel told us that the studies are on-going and it is hoped to get the CEQA document to the Board of Trustees by April.  That will be preceded by yet another community meeting at which time many questions will have been answered and more community input will be gathered.
Harkins then took back the microphone and expanded on some of the issues.  He told us that there are two projects virtually "shovel ready".  Those are the expansion of the Recycling Center - the last remaining such facility in the City - and a new Planetarium.

He then fielded questions, but many of those were unfulfilled.  We were told this was not a CEQA meeting, and that that process is ongoing so many of the questions could not yet be answered.  A good deal of frustration was expressed by many attendees, as they attempted to pin down Harkins and the staff on issues important to them.

At one point Hornbuckle made her way to the front of the room, took the microphone and calmed things down.  In her own special way she explained the process and that this is a very long range plan so it's taking time to get it right.  She emphasized that what we see in the plan now may not be the final version.  As the CEQA document is completed and the staff assesses the information it's likely that some elements currently in the plan will be either modified significantly or dropped altogether.

There was a point where the issue of student input was brought up, at which time Lisa Meyer - who identified herself as a student and a "regional delegate" - stepped up to explain her views on things like the proposed 145 room hotel on the plan.  She explained that it would be used as a training ground as part of the renowned Hospitality program, with students learning by doing.  Although Harkins, Hornbuckle and the staff seemed uneasy with her stepping up to speak - citing that she had not been "prepped" - Meyer did a fine job and received a round of applause from the crowd.

So, the upshot of this meeting was that not too much new was learned about this enormous project, particularly by those who had attended the previous meetings.  Several studies are currently underway which will, hopefully, provide some answers.  We learned that we get another shot at this issue in April, before the CEQA document is presented to the Board of Trustees.  In the meantime, Harkins and his staff encouraged members of the public to be in touch with them with their concerns/input.  At one point someone mentioned that 28 letters had been received by concerned individuals.  We now mark time until the April meeting.

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Blogger Joe said...

Well at least we learned a new expression- "shovel ready."

Whenever Riggy and Mensy talk, we can all be shovel ready.

2/20/2015 05:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

So they need a huge 145-room hotel as a training opportunity for their students? Are they training chambermaids? Or are they just trying to justify a huge, traffic-generating money-maker in avoidance of Costa Mesa's General Plan and zoning code, which applies to everything not part of the instructional program?

2/20/2015 11:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Eleanor, I suspect you are correct. There is no need for a hotel/motel to serve as a training ground. A little honesty from this group would go a long way.

2/20/2015 03:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Byron de Arakal said...

Well this is setting up to be an interesting jurisdictional battle, isn't it? College District, City, Fair Board. Pretty sure the attorneys are drooling.

2/20/2015 08:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

A 145 room hotel is ridiculous. Even more It's the 4 story parking garage that repulses me. Not a pretty sight for a corner on a major Costa Mesa street. Sticking this overly ambitious development in a predominately low rise area has the potential to alter the character of the city. And just like all the other 3 and 4 story stuff popping up all over- it cuts off the view of sky and mountains, the feeling of open sub-urban space that is an important feature of our relatively low-rise city.

2/20/2015 09:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Papa Smurf said...

I wonder if we look behind the scenes and scratch below the surface, will we find any developer connections with Righeimer or Messenger?

2/21/2015 06:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Robin, agreed. Driving down Fairview and seeing the mountains, especially when they have snow is nice. The feeling of elbow room with the low rise surroundings is nice. Its comfortable. I understand that OCC needs parking but I'm not sure why they can't structure their own area. Why the hotel? What are they teaching their students over there?

2/21/2015 07:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Teresa Drain said...

These "educators" want to spend tax monies to expand this program, and build a hotel?! I belive they have FAILED to make the grade:

Most of the hospitality programs offered showed a less than 10% completion rate for the 2013-2014 school year. Only two courses had a higher rate:
Advanced Culinary Arts: 20%
Basic Culinary Arts: 16%

See Federal Gainful Employment Reports under each course description:

2/21/2015 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger zennymoon said...

Those stats Teresa,appear to be relevant in this discussion. If the dropout rate is so high, who will be running the hotel? How much staff/students will be needed to operate this hotel? Who will handle security, students in criminal justice? Are there any other community programs similar to this hotel project? Has Goldenwest built a hospital for their nursing students to practice?

2/21/2015 07:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

We already have hotels. Students could perhaps intern at the real deal rather than build another one. We have world class resorts nearby, why not allow a student internship? We don't need to build more.

2/22/2015 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Gericault said...

Let me get this straight,...they want to teach students the hotel industry by building them an actual hotel?....that's just nutty.

2/22/2015 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...


Thank you for that link.
This is the program Karl was unable to complete,needing only the last course,
Internship for completion.

He had been on the Dean's Honor Roll the previous semester.
The reason he didn't complete the program- the instructor who runs the programs was unwilling to make reasonable accommodations for him and would not accept viable alternative settings for his internship.
We had the people from Dayle McIntosh and Regional Center of OC helping us and it still was no go.

2/22/2015 04:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

Speaking of about bumping up the ToT?

2/22/2015 07:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Volo pro Veritas said...

Why don't they take over one of the motels not far from the campus, renovate it and use it as their training facility. Get rid of an eyesore (the Regency comes to mind), it's already on a main thoroughfare as to minimize traffic impact and it will be a nice new place when they complete it. Win-win.

2/22/2015 10:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

Volo pro Veritas - I'm checkng "Like" on your post! Great solution, win-win indeed.

2/22/2015 11:15:00 PM  

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