Monday, February 02, 2015

"Transparency" In "Rehab City"? Not So Much...

Among the balls that got dropped here while I was out of town a couple weeks ago was the acknowledgment of a press release issued on January 23rd from The City of Costa Mesa regarding the dismissal of the group-home lawsuit.

According to the information provided, Federal Judge James V. Selna ruled that the City's ordinance, passed in October, does NOT discriminate against disabled people.  He said it provides a benefit by giving "individuals with disabilities an alternative housing option in [single-family, residential] zones that is not available to individuals without disabilities."  You can read the full press release HERE.

This rehab home issue has been a festering wound in our city for years, and has become even more pronounced since Newport Beach forced many operators from it's borders.  Those operators just moved across into Costa Mesa, with a vengeance, and set up shop all over town.

Activists - particularly a small, but energized, group of Eastside women - have stepped up to monitor group homes and to provide up-to-date information to the City on many of them.  By their count there may be as many as 400 such homes in Costa Mesa.  The City's number is much, much smaller.  And, as one might expect, that activism has rankled more than a few operators and, quite frankly, city staffers, too.  There are stories of group home managers running in front of these women in the street to take photos of their automobiles and their license plates.

I just learned that a new rule has been put in place - although nobody except City staff knows about it yet, with one exception. That  "exception" is an activist who has never hesitated to ride the elevator in City Hall to the 5th floor, where the Community Improvement Division is domiciled, and chat with the Code Enforcement folks responsible for monitoring rehab homes in the City, to provide and receive information.

This particular person - a long-time resident with no axe to grind except to protect the quality of life in our residential neighborhoods from the growing infestation of group homes - speaks out frequently before the City Council and Planning Commission on this issue.  At a recent Planning Commission meeting, while she prepared a speaker card in the rear of the chambers, an official - a burly bear-of-a-man who is actually a contract employee, although he wears the mantle of city official - encountered her and challenged her about speaking.  He told her she shouldn't be speaking about an issue on the Consent Calendar because it was "a done deal".  This woman felt quite intimidated.  And, she was told flat out that she could no longer present herself to staff on the 5th floor.

Now we learn of the new rule which will require anyone wishing to speak with a member of the Community Improvement Division to first present themselves to the counter of the Development Services Department on the 2nd floor and ask to speak with someone on the 5th floor.  The reason given for this new rule is that, apparently, there is concern that sensitive, confidential information about people reporting code violations may be laying about on desks or be visible on computer screens on the 5th floor and that information may be compromised by unannounced visitors.  Also cited was the lack of a check-in desk on the 5th floor.  That sounds like a housekeeping issue to me.

This is just one more example of the bunkerization of the 5th floor of City Hall.  That venue used to welcome ALL visitors, regardless of the reason for their visit.  Before the creation of the private security force that the 5th floor Code Enforcement group has become, there was never a concern about someone coming to visit that location.
The City of Costa Mesa crows about Transparency, but, when the rubber meets the road, this kind of heavy-handed approach to "customers" - concerned residents who have information to share or questions to ask - is anything BUT transparent.

I find myself wondering when the public in general will be made aware of this new rule?  At tomorrow's council meeting?  Seems like an appropriate topic for CEO Tom Hatch to present to the public.  Maybe some interested speaker will ask about it during Public Comments.  I guess we'll see.

In the meantime, another layer of sandbags just got stacked on the 5th Floor Bunker... very sad.

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Anonymous Judy Lindsay said...

The "reception desk" on the 5th floor was In the far back corner, and not identified except by a lady peeking above the counter at who was entering. No reception as you step off the elevation last time I was there a few months ago for a scheduled meeting. I felt unwelcome, there is not welcoming desk downstairs either.

2/02/2015 06:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Another attempt to bully the residents. So now we see residents being followed and photographed. This time its not Mensinger. Its an attempt to shut up the residents that don't agree with the council majority.

Along the same lines, the city council meetings starting at 5:45 pm, is an attempt to keep the working public at bay. Is it working? I hope not.

2/02/2015 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger zennymoon said...

I'll add my two cents, not only did this employee, who I'll call this employee Jeb who intimated this resident but more than that he cut off all flow of information provided to the city on sober living. The city is so far behind in locating, investigating and processing info it's riduculous, so Jerry, I mean Jeb, is trying to hold on fhe lid. This ordinance will have to LOCATE them ALL to be effective. In the mean time every 650 feet is a welcoming spot for slh's in R 1. PS the slh protecting clients via ADA, the woman allegedly threatened by a city employee also is protected by ADA because of severe disability..hmm I have a problem with that attitude toward a resident and it should also be noted when asked for clarification in writing, she was told "no.".

2/02/2015 09:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Sounds like Riggy wants more lawsuits and legal work for his attorney contributors so now there are "policies" in place that will inevitably create more litigation.

Who else might be involved in bad policy and lack of transparency?

Let's see- bullying from the city. Who can we find at its head who might be a bully?

A body rots from the head down. For starters, Mayor Bully should stop distracting with side issues, tell us what he knows about the destruction in Fairview Park, then apologize and reimburse if he was part of it.

Anyone know how much the illegal road in Fairview Park has cost Costa Mesa so far after all the attorney's fees, expert fees, mitigation fees, etc. are added up?

2/03/2015 05:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Papa Smurf said...

So, under this scenario who does this person complain to? If it happened to me, I would file a complaint and email a copy to all city council members so it does not just disappear. Establishing a paper trail for the foundation of possible future actions, and creating a public record for all to see. Transparency and accountability in all things is the only way to stop this type of treatment. If they know they are going to be held to their lack of professionalism, then their will be a greater chance they will do the job that WE the residents expect them to do.

Also, where can I get a copy of those 400 locations?

2/03/2015 06:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Westside4ever said...

I think the 400 locations are the TBON list. I googled TBON Costa Mesa and found this contact us email address - Maybe they could email it to you?

2/03/2015 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

They already did. I will forward it to Papa Smurf shortly. Thanks.

2/03/2015 11:22:00 AM  

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