Wednesday, November 04, 2015

A Long And Curious Night

OK... where do we begin?  First of all, those of you who guessed the Costa Mesa City Council meeting would run until 1 a.m. exactly won the pool!  That means I only spent 8 hours in City Council Chambers last night.  And, much of that time was spent in a packed house.. there were only one or two seats empty through the first public hearing.  And those folks walked through a gauntlet of affordable housing advocates, singing to them as they approached council chambers.
And, to give you a clue why it took so long, we had fifteen (15) speakers for Public Comments, thirty-seven (37) for Public Hearing #1 (the Costa Mesa Motor Inn issue) and eighteen (18) for Public Hearing #2 (the Sober Living Ordinance), which means we had three and a half hours of public comments alone!

For the first time in recent memory nothing was pulled for separate discussion from the Consent Calendar, so, silly me, I thought we might have a chance to get home Tuesday night.  Ha!

We had a wide range of issues discussed during Public Comments.  Several residents presented a petition for permit-only parking in their area, which was passed along to Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz.  They were told it would take at least 6 weeks to do the studies and process the request.
Kim Hendricks and Kevin Nelson complained about the "illegally" filled-in arroyo in Fairview Park.
Beth Refakes showed photos of the Camp Pendleton Halloween celebration.  She and other members of the Military Affairs Team took the candy collected for the past couple months down for the event.
Wendy Leece demanded an update on the status of the Fire Department deployment as a result of spending over $1.2 million on Paramedic Ambulances - citing the two-year-old report which outlined the plan.
Ex-employee Steve White spoke again on a variety of issues, including the need for Hemp Cars.
Kathy Esfahani observed that when the Costa Mesa Motor Inn is demolished it will create a need for affordable housing for the residents and advised the need for some plan to help.
Robin Leffler echoed Leece's comments regarding Public Safety staffing.
Chuck Perry praised the council for the new housing around town.
Charlene Ashendorf observed that council member Monahan had recently posted a report about homelessness on Facebook and suggested it be made available to a broader audience.
An anonymous speaker complained about being "doxxed" recently - her background made public by an internet vandal in an apparent attempt to intimidate and silence her.  She has contacted the FBI.

Another anonymous speaker reminded us all to register to vote, endearing herself to Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer by reminding us that he only won re-election by 47 votes the last time around.  She also observed about the group homes and the recent 60 Minutes piece on the heroin plague throughout the country.

During Council Member Comments members Katrina Foley, Gary Monahan and Righeimer had nothing to report.  Mayor Steve Mensinger observed that he had walked 2400 miles around the city.  Sandra Genis expressed concern about not knowing about projects with minor modifications.  She also observed the need for transitional and supportive housing, indicating there were only 2300 units for $1,000 per month or less.
CEO Tom Hatch asked Mesa Water General Manager Paul Schoenberger to make a short presentation.  He told us that the District was doing well responding to the Governor's demand for conservation.  He said we started out with a bang - a 25% reduction in the first three months, but have tailed off to around 20% now.  He said the Mesa Water Directors will meet on November 12, 2015 at District Headquarters and will likely require users to water only one day per week instead of the current two days.  He said there would be no rate increase due to conservation - but didn't say there would be no rate increase for other reasons.  Foley asked him about the shrinkage of clay soil.  He was also asked about enforcement of the conservation policy, to which he replied that there were "ambassadors" patrolling the neighborhoods, issuing warnings.  He said so far no fines have been levied.
At 7:00 we began hearing Public Hearing #1, the Costa Mesa Motor Inn demolition, to be replaced by a 224 luxury apartment complex.  Former Director of Development Services, Don Lamm, represented the owners and made the presentation following the staff presentation.  Three hours and 37 speakers later the council finally voted on the issue.
Here's the shortest summary I can give you.  Genis expressed concern about the amount of recreational space being provided.  She was concerned about how much earth would be removed/moved in the project.  She expressed concern about the number of trips this project would generate - and was told by Lamm it would be negligible, and that the nearby major intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Wilson would remain at an A or B level.  She expressed disbelief at that statement.
Of greatest concern for her was the definition of "moderate" housing - this concern was expressed throughout the discussions.  The issue was "moderate" vs. "median" and which government entity's numbers to use.

Foley was concerned about the 45 children attending Newport Mesa Unified School District schools that would be displaced.  She also expressed concern about the volume of what she described as hateful communications they'd received on this issue.
During his presentation Lamm gave a history of the project and went through the details of the transition planned, including a discussion of the proposed relocation plan that was a condition of approval imposed by the Planning Commission.

Public Comments commenced just after 8:00 p.m. and began with Kathy Esfahani and her compatriots from the Costa Mesa Affordable Housing Coalition presenting six short video interviews with residents of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn.  It was an effective use of their time - six speakers introduced each short clip and also spoke very briefly on the issue.  The thrust of their presentations was the need for affordable housing for low income people - they said this project should have 20% of its units for those folks instead of 9% for moderate income individuals.
Scott Bell, the owner of the Harbor Shopping Center - directly across the street - and the property manager both spoke in favor of the project, citing crime and fear by their customers.  When Bell spoke Foley wanted to ask him a question but Mensinger threw what my Grandmother used to call a "hissy-fit", forbade her from asking the question and, when she challenged him, he pounded his gavel on the desk and called for a break.  It was a bizarre display of infantile behavior, but it wouldn't be the only one we saw last night.

Of the 37 speakers, 10 favored the project as proposed.  The remaining 27 either opposed it outright or, recognizing the inevitability of it, wanted 20% of the new units dedicated to low income residents.  The comments were completed just before 10:00 p.m..

Lamm, in response to the comments, told the council that 20% low income housing was off the table.  If that was a requirement it would be a deal-breaker and the owners would either sell the property or convert it to another kind of motel.  It is presently zoned for commercial, so a retail center or office building could be built.

The discussions took another hour.  The upshot was that the owner agreed to donate $200,000 to be parceled out to help low income folks get on their feet PLUS agreed to modify his relocation assistance package.  In the final form it would provide reimbursement of 3 months rental plus $1,500 dollars per unit for those long-term renters who kept their places up and paid their rent.  And, instead of this becoming effective June 1 with an anticipated closure date of August 1, he agreed to back the start date to February 1st, providing more flexibility for tenants to locate scarce housing in the area.  That $200,000 will be managed by the Housing Authority staff and will be used to help other down-and-out folks based on their needs.

There were four (4) separate issues requiring a vote.  Each passed on a 4-1 vote, with Genis voting no, and Mensinger called for another break before proceeding to the next item - and the crowd thinned by about 1/3.

At 11:15 (Ugh!) we began the second controversial item on the agenda, Public Hearing #2 - the new Sober Living Ordinance and it also proved to be a fun-filled experience.  Rather than try to explain the ordinance to you, here's the slide show presented by the staff.  It's pretty self-explanatory.  That second bullet point in the second slide should get your attention!
The staff presentation only took a few minutes and the Public Comments began just before 11:30 when Fernando Pedroza, representing the Sure Haven recovery operation stepped up and told the council that the ordinance as written violated federal HIPPA and Civil Rights laws because it required the sober living operators to send those who dropped out, or were tossed out, home.  He cited it was impossible to basically hold someone hostage to force them to go "home".  It went downhill from there.

The recovery industry made a full-court press on this issue.  Eleven of the speakers either represented Solid Landings or one of their affiliates or the Sober Living Network or similar organizations.  It was clear that the threat of lawsuits was being floated in not-very-subtle ways.

Eventually, at 12:40 a.m., and following another of Righeimer's classic tirades in which he called a resident a liar from the dais,  the two motions necessary on this issue passed on 5-0 votes.  Let the lawsuits begin!

The third public hearing - the heliport adjacent to John Wayne Airport atop a commercial building, took only about 10 minutes and passed on a 3-2 vote along gender lines after rejecting a substitute motion by Genis and seconded by Foley by the same margin - 2-3.  The male majority effectively spit in the eye of our neighbors in Newport Beach and those folks from the Airport Working Group who have fought the expansion of John Wayne Airport for decades with virtually no cooperation from our city.  This is just the latest example.

Public Hearing #4, the vacation of a little slice of right-of-way at 580 Anton quickly passed, 5-0 and Old Business #1, the Segerstrom Town Center extension request second reading also passed quickly on a 5-0 vote, despite the fact that Righeimer had quick-pitched the process the first time around.

And at 1:00 a.m. today we departed the City Council chambers, hoping to beat the sunrise with this entry... we didn't.  Good night, er, good morning to you all.

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Blogger zennymoon said...

It was a long night..and gave a real insight into our city. The will and resolve is not present for low income housing. The sober living industry is flourishing in CM. My comment, "surrender Dorothy" as a community we have been overtaken and forever changed. The proliferation is increible, even if the ordinance worked (which is questionable at best) legally over 500 homes can exist and then factor in state licensed, homes with no cap. We are indeed Rehab by Costa Mesa, hello rise in crime, the breaking down of a community, which includes proliferation of slh's, depleted police department (but somehow, those remaining, are incredible). Get your ego's in check council boy's, no more rants, hissy fits, no punishing the whole for the actions of a few. CM is not your personal Monopoly game!

11/04/2015 08:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Muffin Top Bob said...

Riggy and his lap dog Mensinger want this City to continue to get thrown into a ton of litigations, once this happens they'll start screaming that the sky is falling and they'll start to throw the employees and their contracts under the bus, again. This is playing out just the way that Riggy wants.

11/04/2015 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Zennymoon, we have Scott Baugh and his office mate, none other than our mayor pro tem, Righeimer, for bringing those sober living homes to Costa Mesa. He was against the lawsuit filed, and simply does not want to get rid of them.

Did anyone think there would be a council meeting without one of Righeimer's mentally unbalanced tirades? Wishful thinking. As for calling anyone a liar, we need only to look at Righiemer himself to see a liar. His attempts to convince people that they are negotiating with the fire department "and they want everything" is a blatant lie. The list of lies by Righeimer is so long they cannot be listed here.

As for affordable housing within the CMMI, the council will not allow affordable housing on a golf course. They've stated same. Not going to happen. Too much greed.

Those 47 votes had better change this next time.

11/04/2015 01:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

Never in my experience has the saying, "Creating is hard, destroying is easy" been so apt. It took many good, hard-working, civic-minded people more than 50 years to create an eclectic, balanced, fiscally sound city with a small-town feel. It has taken 3 men five years to destroy it.

Where one-of-a-kind homes and small businesses once stood, there are now group homes and high-density apartments and fast-food chain stores. Where once an industrial base provided jobs and retail stores provided sales tax revenues, there are increasingly high-density condos and apartments. Where automobile traffic was tolerable, there is congestion, and more to come.

Where once reserves were backfilled when economic conditions improved, revenues are now used to build medians that block access to businesses and to replace new median plantings with newer plantings, using funds that were set aside for a public library.

Where police once patrolled and prevented crimes, they now must scramble to respond after the fact, and crime reaches into every neighborhood. And on and on.

Where once City Councils listened with respect and responded to the concerns of residents, the Council turns a deaf ear and hurls insults.

Can we save Costa Mesa, our home? Or will it be too late a year from now, when we exercise our vote, to undo the worst of the damage?

11/04/2015 03:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

Spot on, Eleanor.

11/04/2015 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger zennymoon said...

karma is a beotch...

11/04/2015 10:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Meanwhile, in Santa Ana, the Salvation Army broke ground on a two story shelter with a 75 bed capacity to replace their old structure and their mayor lauds it for helping with the homeless problem.
What happened to the shelter that was proposed near city hall? Perhaps it was presented poorly to the nearby residents with the idea that it would fail.

11/05/2015 07:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Papa Smurf said...

So, hypothetically if all of us residents filed for a group home permit but never actually used it, we could prevent future licensed group homes from popping up???

Just a thought.

11/05/2015 09:52:00 AM  

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