Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Another Heated Exchange At City Council

Yeah, OK, I know that's a strange title, but it's the truth,  but first, let's cut to the chase...

Last night the Costa Mesa City council gave the second reading to the re-zoning and code amendment that will facilitate the demolition of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn, to be replaced with luxury apartments; it gave second reading to the latest Group Home Ordinance and agreed on a new library complex at Lions Park.  More on all those in a minute.

At the beginning of the meeting Mayor Steve Mensinger, in his usual clumsy fashion, presented his Mayor's Award to Hydee Beth and Donna Barnhard-Swift for their tireless work in the local schools.
Among the nine speakers during Public Comments Beth Refakes lead off and reminded us of the Toy Drive for the children of the 1/5 Marines, currently deployed from Camp Pendleton.
Long time community activist Cindy Brenneman stepped up and told the council that events in Paris last week reminded her that she should not be afraid of speaking her piece before them, even though it might cost her a volunteer position.
Chuck Perry spread a rumor about the Boy's Club on Tustin Avenue shutting down.  Subsequent discussions on this made the eyes of the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem light up as they contemplated yet another chunk of land that might be available for defiling.  Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer was not yet in the room.
An unidentified person raved about the Veterans Day celebration at the Fairgrounds on the 11th, thanked the women on the council for attending, chided the men for NOT attending and observed that the CMPD missed a recruiting opportunity.  It is widely believed that Mensinger and Righeimer chose to miss that celebration because it was hosted by organized labor.

Young Farooq Ansari stepped up to introduce a program that may help fill the knowledge gap among school-age children and was referred by Councilwoman Katrina Foley to Recreation Manager Travis Karlen for followup.
Ralph Taboada again suggested the council re-prioritize their spending, with less going to roads and fields and more consideration for Pension pay down.  He criticized the city for not negotiating with Public Safety organizations, observing that it has cost nearly $1 million in pension contributions that the organizations would have made by now that are being paid by the taxpayers.
Former councilwoman Wendy Leece spoke of Paris, then demanded - again - to know the status of the Fire Department redeployment plan that is now two and half years old.  She also wondered about Fire Station #1, and the study that was done a few years back that suggested a better location would be at the corner of Harbor Blvd. and Baker Street.
Another unidentified person asked Righeimer - now finally in attendance - to recuse himself from the upcoming vote on Group Homes because he was affiliated with Scott Baugh, who was paid to lobby on behalf of sober living groups.  She also displayed the bubble map showing group homes that appeared on this blog earlier.  Righeimer denied ever working for Baugh.

During Council Member Comments Katrina Foley led off with comments about the recent Art event and the Veterans Day event, citing that it was a bi-partisan event and asked CEO Tom Hatch to be sure the city is represented at such events in the future, including publicizing them.  She also asked for 15 volunteers to be docents for the upcoming Costa Mesa Home Tour on December 3rd.
Sandra Genis spoke about the Veterans Day event.  Regarding Affordable Housing, she observed there is a "lot of State and Federal Money" available, but we need to have a site.  She encouraged the City to actively seek such a site.  She addressed the rumor about the Boy's Club, telling us that the City does own the land on which it's located.
Gary Monahan had nothing to say - at that time - as usual.

Righeimer began by telling us that he and Mensinger attended the Veterans Day ceremony at St. John The Baptist School - where his children have attended, and said there was not a dry eye in the house.  And then the fun began....

Righeimer, for whatever reason, decided it was time for him to violate the law by commenting on the status of the labor negotiations between the City and the Public Safety organizations.  He and Mensinger are forbidden to participate in the negotiations with the Costa Mesa Police Association due to the lawsuit they filed against the CMPA.  As he began Foley interrupted him to remind him he was forbidden to comment on this issue because of the conflict of interest.  Mensinger tried to shut her up.  She pleaded with City Attorney Tom Duarte to intervene, and he reminded Righiemer that he could only speak in general terms.  Righeimer kept talking, she kept talking until finally, once again, Mensinger banged the gavel Righeimer gave him when he took office and called for a break.  It didn't help.  When they returned Righeimer came armed with information from the City web site, but Foley interrupted him again, pleaded with Duarte again, who reminded Righeimer again, and he kept on talking.  When he finally finished Foley got the last shot - she accused him of grandstanding and sarcastically thanked him for possibly blowing up their negotiations and making it difficult to recruit officers when our staffing numbers are down.  I looked around the room, which included a dozen students observing government in action, and wondered what they must be thinking about this display...  Good Grief!
It was finally Mensinger's turn, so he asked Hatch to follow-up on the Boy's Club rumor, spoke about the Veterans Day event at the school, the Fire Station and staffing.
Then it was time for the CEO's report, but Mensinger almost forgot Hatch - again... he does that a lot.  Hatch briefly spoke about following up on all the items mentioned, El Nino preparations, the issues in Paris and CMPD and CMFD preparedness

One item was pulled from the Consent Calendar - #7, the "Resident Only Parking Permit" issue for certain streets in the Halecrest section of town.  Mensinger decided to actually hear that item immediately instead of trailing it to the end of the meeting, per policy.  Five residents spoke to the issue - four in support and one against.  The one against lived in the apartments across Baker Street that are the crux of the problem.  After a half hour of testimony and discussion the item was approved on a 5-0 vote.  It would have been anyhow if it had not been pulled for separate discussion.  The remainder of the Consent Calendar earlier passed in one vote.
Next up was Old Business #1, the second reading of the rezoning request and code change for the Costa Mesa Motor Inn to be demolished and 224 luxury apartments built in its place.  Unlike when it was first heard by the council, only four speakers addressed this issue.  There was no other staff report presented since it was a second reading, nor was anything offered by the applicant nor his representative, former city official, Don Lamm.
We heard many of the same arguments by council members about that motel "not being a place to raise families", and yet there are many families living there.  We had sprung on us, and on some members of the council, too, the fact that Larry Haynes of Mercy House has offered to volunteer - free of charge - to help displaced residents of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn find new housing.  You will recall that many of them may qualify to receive the stipend from the owner that could be as much as $5,500 dollars.  Plus, the owner has offered to give the city $200,000 toward helping other displaced people with housing issues.  There was some confusion on the dais about how those funds will be administered.  Foley, for example, apparently thought Haynes would be involved in that money, which Righeimer denied.
One of the speakers asked if the City would back off their active pressure on other motels in the wake of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn situation.  Righeimer blurted out, "Absolutely not!"

Genis said she wouldn't support the motion, again, because it was not properly handled in the process.  She mentioned the Mitigated Negative Declaration as being improper and went on to cite inconsistencies in the General Plan, including the 54 dwelling units per acre that's being granted for this project.
Righeimer made a motion to move it forward and, during the subsequent discussion, snapped at Foley on the issue of affordable housing, saying "You bring a project!" and later said "I'm here to clean up the community."  Funny, I don't recall anyone asking him to do that.  Foley replied that "Mayor Pro Tem Righeimer acts like he's the only one who did anything good up here." and again accused him of grandstanding.  She expressed distrust of what she called "machinations" going on behind the scenes.
At that point Genis asked for a report from the City Attorney on the possible conflicts with council members "Putting together a deal", then voting on the specifics of those deals.  Righeimer is notorious for spouting off about making deals.  The votes on this issue were both 4-1, with Genis voting no.

A little after 8 p.m. we took up Old Business #2, the Sober Living ordinances for other than R-1 zones.  During the presentation mention was made of a Supplemental Staff Report dealing with vehicles being used to transport "clients" around town, from residences to meetings.  No such document was available for review in the council chambers.
A half-dozen people spoke to this issue.  The first was Fernando Pedregon, representing Solid Landings.  He continued to be concerned about the provision in the ordinance that requires the operator to transport a dropout client back to their home.  He cited HIPPA regulations - those folks are considered ill - and offered to work with the City to find a solution.
Jay Humphrey addressed his concern about contiguous units on Royal Palm, observing that they were within the 650 feet restriction zone.  When he stopped speaking and left the podium Monahan called him back and asked him if he supported the item.  Humphrey reiterated his position on the proximity issue, but Monahan persisted.  It was very clear that he was trying to get Humphrey on the record on this issue - most likely to be used against him during the upcoming election season.  It is presumed Humphrey will run again, having lost to Righeimer in the last election by only 47 votes.
An unidentified speaker observed the map that had been presented by another speaker earlier and speculated that the numbers of group homes on that map could be only half-way to being accurate.  It's possible, she opined, that we might have 500 group homes in this city, and that we cannot regulate state licensed facilities.

Wendy Leece observed that Costa Mesa had become "Ground Zero" for group homes in Orange County, and wondered why.  She also observed that we are "really weak in enforcement".
Grant McNiff, who told us up front that he does not own nor operate such a facility, opined that the peer management model is valid, and that we should work together to toss out the bad operators.
The unidentified speaker who first showed the map spoke again, attempting to refute Righeimer's denial of working for Scott Baugh - who was lobbying for sober living interests in Sacramento.  She presented a press clipping from an online radio show that identified him as working for Baugh, but was distracted from presenting it.  She told us that we should be considering the City of Orange ordinance as a model.

Following more discussion Hatch told us his staff had looked at the map presented last night and tried to compare the locations the City knows about with the total number on the map.  He said 27 of the locations will require further investigation, and thanked the activists who prepared the map for their work. 
Just before 9:00 p.m. the council passed both items on 5-0 votes.  Let the lawsuits begin!

Finally, we got to New Business #1, the plans for the new library/community center and improvements at Lions Park.  Assistant CEO Tammy Letourneau kicked it off, then handed it to  the consultants.  I'm not going to try to cover every word, every slide that was shown during the presentation by consultant Steve Johnson of Johnson Favaro.  I'll show you a few that are particularly relevant, but suggest you go to the City web site, click on CMTV at the bottom of the home page, then select Videos On Demand and look for the council meeting clip.  You can use the "jump to" feature to fast-forward to this item.  Johnson's presentation is excellent - I've heard it a couple times now - and Interim Finance Director Steve Dunivent's presentation of funding options is also well worth watching.
In a nutshell, the plan approved last night calls for the demolition of the existing Neighborhood Community Center and the erection of a two-story new library on approximately the same site.  Then, once that's completed, the existing Donald Dungan Library building will be renovated to become the new community center.  One of the byproducts of this plan is the creation of another acre of park space within the footprint of Lions Park.  Parking, although modified will be basically the same number of spaces.
Genis took exception to the numbers used by the consultants regarding available space and how the numbers were calculated.  She chose not to vote against the proposal, but asked the staff to investigate exactly how high-volume users might find replacement sites.

There were several funding options for consideration.  The staff recommended number 3, which is defined on this slide.  It balanced cost and the interest in getting this project going sooner than later. And, it includes funding for a replacement Fire Station for the crumbling #1.  The new complex will cost around $35 million and the new fire station will cost over $8 million.
Helen Fried, Orange County Librarian (the County of Orange runs the Dungan Library) spoke and heartily endorsed the plan.  The county has agreed to staff the new, expanded library. 
Four members of the public spoke, including MaryEllen Goddard who, with her husband, Art, have long sought a new library in our city.  Finally after 90 minutes of presentations, discussions and speakers, the council voted 5-0 to move forward with the staff recommendations.  There were cheers in the audience.

Labels: , , ,


Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Its pretty clear that Righeimer is hell bent on disrupting the CMPA negotiations. If I were his attorney, I'd tell him to shut up, and make it stick. But...his attorney isn't that bright, judging from his history.

Good for Katrina. Glad to see her with the spine to stand up to his arrogance.

So, Rig wants to clean up the city, huh? Wonder how much that is going to cost us. If anyone doubts he's getting rich off this, they need their heads examined. He's ramping up. He has a new remodel to worry about. He sees the motels as "low hanging fruit" and easy to attack for a quick buck. Do you residents really want to live with this mess for 40 or more years?

Our city attorney is gutless and spineless. He needs to be reported to the State Bar Association. He should not let Rig grandstand and ruin the negotiations whatsoever. Righeimer should have nothing whatsoever to say about the negotiations, and its clear that Gary Monahan is filling him in on the details. I'd like to see both in court.

11/18/2015 04:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Allan Mansoor needs to call a press conference and apologize to the people of Costa Mesa for bringing the Righeimer cancer to town when he helped appoint him to the Planning Commission.

Why do Mensy and Riggy hate Costa Mesa so much?

11/18/2015 06:28:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Das Rigmarshal continues the land grab. It's not about him "cleaning up Costa Mesa." It's about grabbing and developing. Love it or go somewhere else.

11/18/2015 06:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

So motels will still be targeted, at least the ones with desireable locations, and sober living homes will be regulated - on paper, but who knows what will happen in reality. Is Solid Landings still operating despite building code violations?

Ironic - Gary inserts a remark into public comments stating the police negotiations have been going on, despite the fact that his absence at meetings has dragged the process out incredibly.

11/18/2015 08:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Teresa Drain said...

Jim and Steve dislocate their shoulders patting themselves on the back for all the great deals* they have been making, but can not give an ounce of respect to Katrina for her legal knowlege or Sandy for her environmental savvy. SMH

*is it really legal for them to be working out deals with the land owners - and then voting for them when they come to City Council?

11/18/2015 04:07:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home