Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bikeway Committee Struggles With A Flat Tire

The Costa Mesa Bikeway and Walkability Committee met again Wednesday evening and struggled for direction.  This meeting, which was called as a "Special" meeting due to an administrative complication, meant that ONLY the single item agendized - the Work Plan - could be discussed.  That proved to be frustrating to those committee members who showed up.

On that issue, only Chair Ralph Taboarda, Vice Chair Cynthia McDonald, Michael M.S.Chun, Jim Erickson, Leah Ersoylu, Richard Huffman II, James Kane, Jim Kerins, John C. Merrill and Brian Valles made it to the meeting on time.  A third of the members either did not attend or only attended briefly.  Kathleen Brown again showed up 40 minutes late and again left 40 minutes early.  Members Andrea Marr, Flo Martin, Donna Check and Tony Capitelli did not attend this meeting.
However, two new members did attend, which brings the total number of members to seventeen (17).  Dr. Kirk Bauermeister is the representative from the Newport Mesa Unified School District and Santa Monica resident Brent Stoll is the new representative appointed by the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce.  You will recall Stoll was originally appointed, then was found to be ineligible due to residency issues.  And yet, here he is.  In fairness, he does bring significant experience in municipal bicycle issues to the table.

City staffers Ernesto Munoz, Raja Sethuraman and Minoo Ashabi were in the room, along with City Council Liaison Katrina Foley.  Parks Commissioner Bob Graham briefly sat in on the meeting.  A half-dozen members of the public attended the meeting again.

Public comments were permitted, although the speakers were cautioned to address ONLY the one issue on the agenda - the Work Plan.  None did.

Greg Ridge addressed difficulties bicycling around the Westside, and handed out information showing photos of some of the problem areas.

Bill Denton, who identified himself as an Irvine resident and operator of a restaurant at The Lab, addressed the need to include that part of town in any considerations about bikeability.

Teresa Drain spoke of the recent Planning Commission meeting at which a section of public right-of-way was vacated - returned to the property owner - and wondered if that kind of thing would hamper plans for making parts of the city more bike friendly.

Olga Reynolds spoke of bicycling from the Freedom Homes area to the Fair and stressed the need for better communication and mentioned the new Public Information Officer, Tony Dodero. Foley affirmed that was the reason he was hired.

Concerns were expressed by the Chairman, Ralph Taboada, about the need to finish their assignment so it could be included in the General Plan update.  Munoz assured the committee that there was NO RUSH - that they should just go about doing their work at a pace that worked for them because it is always possible to amend the General Plan later.  Foley affirmed that view and encouraged the committe to "just get started".

Consultant Rock Miller of Stantec, a sub-contractor the consulting firm of MIG - the firm working on the General Plan for the City - gave a brief, but somewhat convoluted, presentation.  The slide equipment was not working, so he winged it using paper handouts that seemed not to be in the order of his presentation.  He spoke of Bicycle Levels Of Service on certain types of roadways and referred to a meeting held 23 months ago, the so-called Great Reach Visioning Workshop, that formed the community outreach.  Even those few of us in the room who actually attended that meeting seemed confused.

Then, for about an hour, the discussion went round and round about goal  and objective setting; timing of meetings; the need for the committee members to do their homework before the meetings; the need for the agenda packets to be provided a week in advance so they CAN do their homework; whether or not the once-a-month meeting schedule is sufficient, and more.

It was agreed that the committee members would take the staff report for the Work Plan and review it and send to Munoz - via email - their ideas for modification of the Work Plan and ideas for goals and objectives.  He asked that they be sent two weeks before the meeting date if possible, but no later than one week prior.

And, based on that conversation, he asked for a show of hands for those who would favor meeting twice a month, at least initially... I didn't get the count, but the idea carried, so he will meet with CEO Tom Hatch to discuss the use of staff resources and scheduling.

There was also a need expressed for someone - a consultant - to facilitate the discussions/workshops that will be held in the future.  Miller's scope of work does not include that element, but Munoz will talk with Hatch about it.

And, life got even more complicated when Munoz told the committee that he recommends changing the next meeting date to September 16th instead of the 9th because of a conflict with a big meeting at OCC on their EIR for the expansion planned on their campus.  The group agreed to the date change, but now the issue is, will that again be a "Special Meeting", with all the restrictions that goes with it?  Great concern was expressed by several committee members about that possibility - particularly since many had pent-up comments to make that were forbidden by the Special Meeting rules.

It seems to me that this committee is highly motivated and most bring much to the discussion.  However, the process has been an anchor - ill-defined and structureless -  so it's been slow to get started.  We hope more progress will be made at the next meeting and that the "foundation" and "structure" spoken of during this one will finally fall into place.  It's clear that the group WANTS to move forward.  I think the addition of Stoll and Bauermeister to the group will help with the discussions because they both bring special knowledge to the process.  You may recall that Bauermeister was co-facilitator of the Charter Committee, so he knows how this process can operate.  Stoll brings special "bike" knowledge and seems to be a smart fella.

So, we will see what this next month brings.  If they plan to hold the next meeting in a "workshop" setting, Conference Room 1A is NOT the right venue.  Perhaps space will be available at the Neighborhood Community Center or even the Senior Center.  This meeting wrapped up just before 8 p.m., about 90 minutes after it began.

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