Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An Evening Of Remembrance And Surprises

An hour before the Costa Mesa City Council meeting was scheduled to convene a small group of friends and former co-workers of Huy Pham gathered adjacent to the employee entrance on the East side of City Hall to pay their respects to the memory of that young city maintenance worker who took his life by leaping from the roof of City Hall at that very location four years ago Tuesday - St. Patrick's Day, 2011.
Candles were lighted by residents and his friends.  Peter Naghavi, retired Development Services Director and Pham's boss at the time, brought flowers.  Quiet conversations took place as those assembled recalled their friend, and how his death was the beginning of such tragic times for the City.  Mayor Steve Mensinger, arriving for the council meeting, took note of the small memorial.


The meeting itself started promptly at 5:45, and without the presence of Councilman Gary Monahan, who, although nobody confirmed it, was very likely at his gin mill, pouring green beer, attired in his kilt, and having a rousing good time.  It also ended early... we were out of there by 9:30.  In between, though, there were some memorable events.

First, Werner Escher of South Coast Plaza, made a presentation of a symbolic check for $17 million - the sales tax revenue the City received from South Coast Plaza last year.  Escher, a long-time friend of the mayor, thoroughly enjoyed the event, which wrapped up by the crowd in the audience singing Happy Birthday to him - his 82nd birthday is on the 19th.  An amusing sidebar... before the meeting began the audience was barely settled and Escher was walking across the front, chatting with folks and he looked up at Mensinger on the dais and, hands cupped, said "All Rise"... Instantly, everyone in the audience stood up and began looking around.  It was quite comical and set the tone for the presentation.
Public Comments, which usually brings up some interesting issues, didn't let us down this time.  Flo Martin asked about reducing the speed limit on Fair Drive from Fairview to Harbor Blvd. because the traffic has become quite dangerous.  Joy Thomas gave us a brief video presentation about "Ability First", a program for developmentally disabled youth.  John Goddard thanked the council for their recent actions with the Senior Center, then praised Wendy Leece for her involvement and suggested she be considered for one of the two open positions on the Senior Commission.  Leece was next, thanked Goddard, then gave a short primer on the Ralph M. Brown Act and called for greater transparency.

Barrie Fisher presented information regarding State-licensed sober living homes. (see the chart)  She felt there must be something that can be done about the fact that Costa Mesa has such a disproportionate ratio of such facilities.  Ann Parker followed her and echoed her comments and suggested City officials needed to do more working with the state.

Jonathon Asperia, a UCI student and intern with the Newport-Mesa Unified School District behaviorally challenged kids and observed that California ranks 42nd in critical assessments of our education process.  Beth Refakes reminded us that the Military Affairs Team is still gathering plastic eggs and candy and toys that can be placed in them for the children of our adopted Marine battalion, the 1/5 at Camp Pendleton.

Then up stepped 21-year resident Steve Chan with a story that got the attention of more than a few activists in the audience.  He thanked the council for getting rid of Garcia Recycling near his home, but was at the meeting last night to complain about a business called The Lions Den, which backs up to his home.  He told us he had contacted then-Planning Commission Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick because he had seen a notice about a liquor license transfer on the door.  Fitzpatrick never got back to him, then he saw construction beginning.  The short version is that he spoke with the owner/operator of the club, one ROLAND BARRERA, who told him the facility was being converted into a LIVE NATION venue, with well-known bands being brought in to perform - adjacent to the residential neighborhood.  Mr. Chan investigated and found there are no permits for this establishment.

If the name Roland Barrera sounds familiar to you, it should.  He was one of the several controversial figures involved in the 60th Anniversary debacle - he provided the entertainment and was paid well over $70,000 based on a review of bills over the past several months. AND, he was also accused in a Ponzi Scheme about the same time, as you can read HERE.  Development Services Director Gary Armstrong will be in contact with Chan on this issue.

Jay Humphrey, again, asked Mensinger and Righeimer what they are doing to enhance police hiring, specifically, of lateral hires from other venues.  Crickets...

Eileen Lewis was concerned about the planned growth at Orange Coast College, including the dormatories and the hotel she's heard about.  Tea Party Tom Pollitt suggested we should require the police officers to pay more of their pension and Jonathon Maulk (sp?) reminded us of the Mika Community Development C3 basketball tournament coming up at the Downtown Athletic Center.

During her time Sandra Genis addressed the OCC issue, and expressed disappointment in the aggressive growth planned by the college.  She also addressed the need to stop using the Emergency Operations Center like a conference room.  She observed that it was designed for a very specific purpose and it should be used as such.  She also observed that we do not have a Hazardous Materials Mitigation Plan.  She addressed the rumor of the City acquiring Talbert Park and observed that we are highly vulnerable to mishaps should that happen.  And, she addressed the anniversary of Huy Pham's death and hoped that we could find ways to resolve issues that continue to percolate since that date.

Righeimer said he was in touch with new Assemblyman Matt Harper about legislation on so-called Group Homes and that he would be traveling to Sacramento on April 9th to meet with state officials in the Department of Health Services.  He also mentioned our ordinance, which he said was the only one of it's type in the Country.  He spoke about the OCC expansion and the proposed 4-story parking structure on the Fairgrounds site across Fairview from the campus and the traffic snarl that is guaranteed to occur.

Mensinger talked about group homes - "We have several in our neighborhood".  He mentioned that he'd recently had a call from the CEO of a large company in the surfboard industry who met with Mensinger to discuss opportunities to relocate his headquarters to Costa Mesa.  Mensinger said the man was interested in Costa Mesa because "the buzz on the street is that Costa Mesa is a cool place".

Katrina Foley spoke about the speed limit on Fair Drive, wished everyone a Happy St. Patrick's Day; told us about meeting with representatives of the City Attorney's office, including Tom Duarte and a senior partner, for a "productive" meeting.  She also spoke of meeting with Assistant CEO Tammy Letourneau on issues involving the 60th Anniversary situation, indicating that they made a lot of progress.

CEO Tom Hatch gave a brief report on the trip he and Mensinger made to the National League Of Cities Conference in Washington, D.C. earlier in the month, including some mini-reports from some of the meetings.  Apparently President Obama gummed up the works by deciding to attend this conference.  He mentioned meeting with Representative Dana Rohrabacher's Chief of Staff on Medical Marijuana and Group Homes.  He also addressed the OCC expansion plans and suggested residents be in contact with OCC directly.

Items 5 and 11were pulled from the Consent Calendar for later discussion.  The remainder was approved on a 4-0 vote.

Public Hearing #1, the second reading of the extension of the side letter with the Costa Mesa Police Management Association took less than 2 minutes of discussion and was quickly approved, 4-0.

At 7:10 Public Hearing #2, the appeal of the Planning Commission approval of the relocation of the current Ganahl Lumber facility on Bristol Street to a venue adjacent to it by business owners across the street from the site.  The presentation before the Planning Commission took more than two hours.  This one was shorter.  The appellant's attorney made his case for why the City had screwed up with this process, criticizing the staff and Planning Commission.  The council seemed unimpressed.  Eventually, Peter Ganahl - CEO of Ganahl Lumber - stepped up and explained why they wanted to make this move and had secured a lease for more than 60 years on the site.  Eight members of the public spoke on the issue before the council made a couple minor changes to the conditions of approval before denying the appeal on a 4-0 vote.

The final item on the agenda was the Professional Services Agreement with RJM Design Group of San Juan Capistrano to update the Open Space Master Plan of Parks and Recreation, which was last updated in 2003.  Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz presented the staff report and Project Manager Zachary Mueting of RJM Design Group answered questions.

The biggest points of conversation were the need for community outreach.  A telephone survey is being planned and it's not clear whether the council was fully satisfied when they asked how folks who have only cell phones would participate.  The interest was to give those folks - a growing number of residents don't have landlines - an opportunity to be heard.  And, three workshops are being planned, and limitation of numbers of participants were part of the proposal.  That was shot down, since Costa Mesa has a large number of concerned residents.  More workshops will be included, including some to cover both the east and west sides of town.

The question of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee was part of the staff report.  The staff was looking for direction about the future of that committee.  Much discussion took place about their role in this process and the 20 months of work they've done already.  Eventually, it was decided that the April 1, 2015 meeting would take place and that the committee would hear the staff reports that have been prepared for them and discuss the controversial potential options for playing fields on the Southeast Quadrant.  However, no further action would take place until after the Master Plan update process is complete.  The work done by the committee will be considered in that process, but nothing more will be done until that process is complete because it will include the long-sought-after needs assessment.  The update process will take 10-12 months, so the committee will likely be on hiatus for a year following their April 1st meeting.

The items pulled from the Consent Calendar were discussed.  Item #5, the minutes five meetings dating back as far as July 25, 2012 were approved.  Apparently the City Clerk's office is almost caught up with the minutes preparation after having a backlog of 5 years in some cases!  That's hard to understand, isn't it?

Item #11, the enhancement of Brentwood Park, was pulled by Righeimer.  The actual staff recommendation was to reject all bids and re-advertise the project.  Righeimer griped about the neighbors complaining in the past when active uses were planned, so they ended up getting a very expensive green belt.  The upshot of the discussion was that all bids will be rejected and WILL NOT be advertised.  Munoz will attempt to find a way to utilize the nearly $300,000 in grant funds obtained for this project on some other project.  It's very possible that we will lose those funds now.  So, Righeimer thumbs his nose at the Brentwood Park neighbors and we'll likely lose some park improvement funds.  The word "vindictive" comes to mind.

Oh, yes... the final item originally on the agenda - the expansion and re-purposing of the old Print Shop on the first floor of City Hall into a meeting room and some other ancillary changes was abruptly yanked from the agenda without explanation.  I later learned that there was some fine-tuning of the proposal necessary to complete the file, so back to the old drawing board and it will be heard later.  There was some muttering around City Hall that it was actually yanked because there was a chance it would have been rejected on a 2-2 vote since Monahan was absent.  Another example of the impact of Monahan just sleepwalking through his job on the Council.

The next meeting is April 7, 2015, but there are a couple study sessions coming up between now and then.  We were out of there by 9:30 p.m.

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Anonymous steven a chan said...

I did not get to finish my comments which specifically go to the safety requirements of the establishment.

Hence, I am appealing to LiveNation to ensure this venue DOES NOT OPEN this weekend or any weekend where the inspection hasn't occurred.

I am on instagram as user nahcanevets i have posted an open letter addressed to LiveNation. If you are reading this and have any connection capability to LiveNation corporate please refer them immediately to the open letter posted at my instagram user.

3/18/2015 05:06:00 AM  
Anonymous steven a chan said...

And Mr. West you point out "Gary Armstrong will be in contact with Chan on this issue."

I have no need to waste any of Mr. Armstrongs time that is better spent with Mr. Roland.

3/18/2015 05:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

My sympathy to Mr. Chen. There is no excuse for Fitzpatrick not doing the job he was supposed to do. Its not a difficult job, being to just do what you are told by your bosses. Fitzpatrick has all day posting all over social media foul and nasty comments, but he can't get back to someone in need of assistance? He was appointed by Righeimer. I hold Righeimer responsible for putting that moron in office. Don't even get me started on Roland Barerra. WTH?

Righeimer complains about $300,000 for a greenbelt park? Seriously? He sure didn't care when Mensinger pulled library money away in order to re-do the medians next to his home, to the tune of $600,000. WTH?

I also have concern with Righeimer going to Sacramento regarding the rehab homes. We found out now that he and Scott Baugh had their hands in bringing the rehab homes to Costa Mesa and Baugh being the lobbyist/representative for Morningside in Newport. When that entity lost their license, they started popping up in Costa Mesa. Coincidence? WTH?

I am a little curious to see how the outsourcing of the print shop is going. I've heard that the outsourcing is costing the city more than the city employees and in-house services. If true, and the print shop is removed, will the next group of councilmembers (and I hope soon) need to build more space if they find they need to replace it? I would like to see numbers, by an independent audit, of what the savings or increased expenditures are before we move forward. WTH?

I agree with Sandy Genis regarding Talbert Park. It is a potential liability. There has been 3 fires there in the last year or so. In fact, one small brush fire yesterday before the council meeting. Leave it to the county.

Sure seems to me our Planning Commission is coming under fire a lot lately. Could it be they are not following city ordinances, granting too many variances, and giving preference to those favored by council? WTH?

3/18/2015 07:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Righeimer, Mensinger, Monahan, and Fitzpatrick need to disclose all of their contacts, if any, with Roland Barrera or anyone working on his behalf, during any time any of those four held a seat on Council or Planning.

3/18/2015 08:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Disgusted Republican said...

I also think the city hall improvements was pulled from last night's cc meeting because the CCM didn't have the majority vote for it that they needed. Why else the last minute maneuvering (as in its definition: evasive movement or shift of tactics; an action taken to gain a tactical end; an adroit and clever management of affairs often using trickery and deception)??

3/18/2015 09:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Steven a Chan said...

After trying most of the night I'm ecstatic that I actually got a liveNation employee on the line, and hopefully corporate Live Nation can squash this bug in the operations. But there is no guarantee, so I reiterate of any of you have a line into corporate pleasE use it

3/18/2015 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Teresa Drain said...

What? The music man from Mensinger's 60th Anniversary Kick Off committee - who ran amok with our tax dollars - is getting a pass on the permit process in Costa Mesa? He failed to get a broker license and profited from a ponzi scheme of oil interests, and is currently in default with the SEC:

Oh, right, the rules simply don't apply to a select few in this city. I wonder what (who?) this guy knows that absolves him from the rules that the rest of us comply with?

3/18/2015 10:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Disgusted Republican said...

Teresa, you sound surprised at this!!;-). No surprise at all, just like mr ghanal (a contributor to the RIGmeister's campaign) getting what he wanted last night despite the attorney's very clear and concise explanation of how the city was violating its own codes in the matter. Of course, mr ghanal is not on same elevated level as "mr roland" when it comes to getting what he wants from our CCM and its "do as WE tell you" PC.

3/18/2015 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Disgusted Republican said...

Teresa, btw, where is all the camera and sound equipment the city bought and shipped at exorbitant costs directly to him to "use for the 60th" debacle? Still in his possession?
"Unaccounted" for?

3/18/2015 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Do not question what Das Rigmarshal does with your money. Schedule a coffee with him and all will be explained.

3/18/2015 05:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

So the city (we) paid for sound equipment that Barrera has? Has Righeimer ever made any effort to have it returned? WTH?

3/18/2015 06:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Teresa Drain said...

I have been told that the camera equipment is at City Hall. I have not seen it, nor an equipment list, so I can not verify. I am still looking into the sound equipment. And thank you for asking, it is always good to know I am not the only one curious!

3/18/2015 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger zennymoon said...

Where to begin? As part of the Brentwood greenbelt, the neighborhood loves it, uses it, and enjoys the open space. Sorry Riggy shove your plans were the ferns don't grow.
...I love Ganahl's but since when does a family history trump city codes. I questioned the lumber mill, never heard the capacity of said mill. Always variances! Well, we are in Costa Mesa...Chan's presentation, David Obbage his partner in Maison West (old Lions Den). Screw the permits, fire safety inspections etc, oh yeah, we are in Costa Mesa.

3/18/2015 11:22:00 PM  
Anonymous David on Lorenzo said...

Those oversized 17 million dollar "pretend checks" are, I assume, South Coast Plaza's way of saying how grateful the Segerstrom family is to have their business in Costa Mesa.

Now it's time to raise the business license fees on South Coast Plaza, etc.

3/19/2015 10:31:00 AM  
Anonymous steven a chan said...

I am ecstatic to hear from Sandy Genis that the new nightclub can't really be a nightclub this weekend (wrong use permit). She wrote me that city staff got a look see and safe building standards will be applied.

Further she writes "The City will be prepared to take action to intervene if attempts are made to move forward..."

To the angry "big money" mouth shouting at me over the fence please google "nightclub fire deaths" and you'll see a wikipedia return. It has a chart of horrifics. Lets not add to it.
(cannot add URL to post)
and I hope you reconsider your attitude regarding this learning episode. Please back your dog(s) off.

3/19/2015 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Are rigbots harassing Mr. Chan?
@Chan: Just tell them you want to make a donation, then tase 'em.

3/19/2015 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger Honeyman said...

FWIW, Maison, the nightclub in question, is still selling tickets for their shows today and tomorrow on their website.

3/20/2015 07:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

They're going to need a police presence there when ticket holders show up and find out the building has been red-tagged and can't open.

3/20/2015 11:31:00 AM  

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