Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Few Surprises At Planning Commission

During their last meeting of this year the Costa Mesa Planning Commission threw a couple curve balls, just to keep us all on our toes.
One anonymous person spoke during Public Comments to remind the commissioners and the audience that proponents of the Smart Growth Initiative will be collecting signatures to place it on the November, 2016 ballot for the next three weeks.  She reminded us to go to www.costamesa1st.com for more information.  She told us that tables will be set up on the following days at each of the following venues, all from 9:45 a.m. - 3:00 pm.

Dec. 19 & 20 - Wilson Elementary School, 801 Wilson (@ Placentia)
                          & at Harper School, 425 R. 18th St. (@Tustin)
Dec. 26 & 27 - Estancia Park, 1900 Adams (@Mesa Verde Drive West)
                         & at Harper School
Jan. 2 & 3 -      Lindberg Development Center, 220 23rd St (@Orange)
                         & at Harper School

Public Hearing #1 - the request for a Tentative Tract Map to carve up a nice piece of property in my neighborhood at 410 Walnut Place into five (5) individual lots for future sale and development - unexpectedly got very interesting.

Following the brief staff report by planner Chelsea Crager in which she explained that all five lots met all current city standards - three (3) measured 6,000 square feet and the remaining two were 7,200 and that no code deviations were being requested and a presentation by the property owners representative, Civil Engineer Rob Hamers - who explained that he didn't think it was fair for the property owner to be required to do a soils study and a drainage plan - several nearby neighbors stepped to the speaker's podium to express their concern.
Of the fourteen (14) speakers who addressed this issue, eleven were nearby neighbors and they all opposed five lots being created for a variety of reasons.  However, one common thread was that it would ruin the character of the neighborhood.  One family member spoke on the reason for the requested subdivision - to provide funds for the maintenance of critically ill family members.
In his response to those concerns Hamers rather cavalierly dismissed most of them as "irrelevant" - and made few friends with that observation.  Some of the speakers implied the five lot proposal was just about money, ignoring expressly stated views of the now-deceased property owner, who said it would be split into four lots.  Family members disputed that presumption.
In the end, after ninety minutes of discussions, it all boiled down to, as Commissioner Colin McCarthy put it, a question of compatibility.  The proposed five lot split would not be compatible with the neighborhood.  A majority of the commissioners agreed with the neighbors, so when the motion was made it was to deny the tract map as presented without prejudice, which means the owners can massage the plan and re-submit it without waiting for six months and paying new fees.  The commission passed it on a 4-1 vote, with Tim Sesler voting NO.  And, of course, they can appeal the denial to the City Council in a week.
Public Hearing #2, the proposal to develop two condo units at 217 Cabrillo, with one of them "fronting" on the alley that separates that lot from commercial development on 17th Street near Orange Avenue, also generated some significant discussion.  Several of the commissioners struggled with this one because of the alley orientation of the rear unit.  McCarthy bemoaned the lack of guidance available within the codes regarding alleys.  In the end, following 70 minutes of discussion, the commission voted, 3-2, to approve the project.  McCarthy and Stephan Andranian voted NO.  McCarthy asked Assistant Director of Development Services Claire Flynn for a memo regarding alleys - how they are viewed differently than streets, etc.
Following a short break Public Hearing #3, which is a state-forced ordinance dealing with the prohibition of cultivation of marijuana, was discussed.  During the discussion Vice Chair Jeff Mathews asked perhaps the most cogent pair of questions.  First, is this a "now or never" situation?  If the City doesn't pass this ordinance before the state-imposed deadline of March 1, 2016 will it be abdicating all control of this issue to the state?  The answer from staff was "Yes".  Second, if this ordinance is passed may the City later modify and soften it later?  The answer was also "Yes".  The commission passed the item, 5-0.  There is brand new - two-week old - case law on this issue. And, the second chart shows the timeline to meet the state deadline.
Next up was Public Hearing #4, the request by the wildly successful new restaurant, The Halal Guys, to extend their operating hours, to midnight Sunday - Wednesday and until 1:00 a.m. Thursday -Saturday.  This item had been heard before, but was continued to this meeting so the operators could come back with a modified plan.  McCarthy had a conflict so recused himself.  After 45 minutes of discussion the commissioners voted, 3-1, with Andranian voting NO, to approve the request, but with the proviso that the issue be evaluated for three months to determine the effectiveness of the new operating hours and be reviewed at the end of that time for the possibility of revoking the minor conditional use permit.  The operator reportedly had already made many changes to satisfy nearby neighbors regarding trash and noise.  Parking is an issue, but the property owner is experimenting with complimentary (free) valet parking to resolve the issue.
Which brings us to the final item on the agenda, Public Hearing #5, the request for valet parking at that center.  Manager Jason Ball outlined his plans to use free valet service - it will cost him $3,000 per month - to help mitigate the ongoing parking issues for the entire center.  Following a short discussion the remaining commissioners passed it, 4-0.  The meeting ended at 10:20 p.m. and will reconvene next on January 11, 2016.

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Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

A project that requires no variances is denied and countless project s that required multiple variances have been approved. Is the property owner on Jim's naughty list, or is this a ploy for Stevie to swoop in and save the day, earning campaign brownie points.

12/15/2015 07:33:00 AM  
Anonymous lovemygarden said...

I think along the lines of Casual Viewer. I suspect The Smith Family Trust did not consult with the Godfather of Development (Righeimer) and did not pay the appropriate "honorarium".

12/16/2015 09:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Truly, gifts of $$$ are alive, well and demanded in this city.

12/17/2015 04:38:00 AM  

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