Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Planning Commission Predictible - And Long

The Costa Mesa Planning Commission met last night and handled the four Public Hearings on the agenda predictably - they approved each one - although not without some drama.

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Sgt. Chris Merkle, currently enrolled at Vanguard University.

Beth Refakes briefed the commission on the 1/5 Marines Easter candy event.  Steven Chan asked for help shutting down the illegal nightclub, Maison.  Ann Parker reinforced his request and Mary Spadoni told the commission about the 32,500 homeless children in Orange County, including nearly 250 in Costa Mesa.

During Commissioner comments Colin McCarthy brought up the issue of the possible availability of the Fairview Developmental Center property along Harbor Blvd at Fair Drive.  He cited the fact that the populace at that State-operated facility is steadily diminishing, now down to 280 souls being served.  He speculated about the availability of the property and hoped that if it does become available the community could "pull together" to acquire it and not become "Balkanized".  That's code for "Don't make any trouble if we have a chance to buy the place!".  None of the other commissioners had anything to say, blaming it on the packed agenda.

At 6:20 we got down to Public Hearing #1, the high-rise development that is part of the Wyndham Hotel facility at 3350 Avenue of the Arts.  Following the staff presentation only two members of the public spoke in this particular issue, and then simply begged the commissioners to do what they can to save Fire Station #6, which is slated to close soon.  That station currently serves the South Coast Plaza area.  The commission approved the item on a 5-0 voter just before 7:00 p.m.

Next up was the long, long issue of the evening, Public Hearing #2, the 28-unit high density development on at 1239 Victoria Street.   As anticipated, more than 3 dozen people were in the auditorium for this one.

Following the staff report on this issue - continued from the March 23rd commission meeting - the developer, Eric Nelson of Trumark Homes, gave a lengthy presentation, outlining his public outreach and the steps he was proposing to mitigate the complaints he'd heard at the previous hearing.

Then fourteen (14) people spoke on the issue, nine (9) of whom disagreed with the project and five (5) supported it.  Most of the complaints dealt with the density and the height of the buildings - 37 feet in some cases.  Concerns were expressed about loss of privacy, sun and ocean breezes.  One speaker in favor of the project expressed concern that the rules favor "code versus quality", which I thought was a kind of backhand to the process that is supposed to protect our neighborhoods.  He also gave short shrift to the shortage of open space in this project - one of the many deficiencies.

Much discussion took place on a proposal for the developer to pay for a wrought iron fence at the park across busy Victoria street that, theoretically, would "encourage" folks to walk to the crosswalk instead of jaywalking from the park to their homes.

When the vote was finally taken after more than three (3) hours of discussion and testimony the commission approved it, 4-1, with rookie commissioner Stephan Andranian voting no.  Earlier he had expressed serious concern about this project NOT complying with the General Plan.

I dashed home and watched the remaining two issues on television.  Public Hearing #3, the variance to reduce the rear yard setback at 2967 Ceylon Drive took only a half hour of discussion, after which it passed on a 5-0 vote.

Public Hearing #4, the two-unit development on 16th Street between Tustin and Santa Ana Avenue, took even less time, with the commissioners making quick work of this project that replaces a ramshackle 1950s house with two beautiful new homes, each of which are anticipated to sell for over $1,000,000!  The commission approved this project on a 5-0 vote and adjourned to their next meeting on April 27th.

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Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Good for Andranian for voting against 1239 Victoria! Do we finally have someone on Planning who thinks for himself and doesn't automatically bootlick and kowtow to outside interests like the last Chairman (Fitzpatrick) did?

4/14/2015 07:19:00 AM  
Blogger Honeyman said...

Didn't see the meeting Geoff, and I'm curious as to your take on Andranian. Does it appear he might actually have his own voice here and not rubber stamp every project like the other members of this and past Planning Commissions?

4/14/2015 07:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

My prediction was right! All items passed. You can ask for not setbacks and no parking for a 20 story apartment building and the planning commission will approve it. Borrowing from Nancy Reagan, would it hurt them to "Just say no?"

4/14/2015 07:48:00 AM  
Anonymous It has to be said...

Balkanization is a pretty derisive reference. Yet, ironically fitting coming from this appointed politician. Up next: Drang nach Osten - from Fairview Park to Harbor Boulevard!

4/14/2015 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Yes, it looks like Andranian might actually have a pair, but it does no good, because the others are instructed to vote in line with their handlers. But, I'm glad he did.

Why can't there be a traffic signal at the entrance to those tenements being built on Victoria? Trust me when I say this, there will be very bad accidents there at that driveway. I would much rather see them enter off the street on the other side of Victor's Donuts (if they can make that happen at all).

4/14/2015 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Good for Stephan Andranian!
It's nice to see a planning commissioner who
is concerned about a project not fitting in with
the General Plan.
We need more planning commissioners who
think like this.

4/15/2015 04:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

This city needs to do something AND FAST about traffic. Yesterday, it took 20 minutes to drive to the freeway onramp on Newport Blvd. In the late afternoon, I tried to drive "downtown" on 17th St, and that took half an hour. I only live less than 2 miles from there. Something has gone terribly wrong and our planning commission apparently doesn't recognize it. Or they just don't care. City council "majority" doesn't care, there's no money in improvement of roads, only "development" of inappropriate lots for dense housing.

Where is our money going? Rig said we have a reserve. We actually DO NOT. They're robbing Peter to pay Paul in order to show a reserve. Where is our money going? We should have more than enough money to improve our roads AND repair our dilapidated fire station on Royal Palm.

I think we also need a forensic audit of our city spending. I want to know where our money has gone.


4/16/2015 09:27:00 AM  

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