Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Small Turnout For General Plan EIR Scoping Meeting

Last night a very sparse crowd - a word used very loosely in this case - attended the General Plan Update Environmental Impact Report Scoping Meeting in City Council Chambers at Costa Mesa City Hall.  The meeting began promptly at 6:00 p.m. with only nine (9) people in the audience, including one member of the working press.  Some people arrived late, but the maximum number of folks in the seats - excluding consultants and staff - was eighteen (18).  That seems like a pretty dismal turnout for a city of well over 100,000 residents, particularly when you consider the potential impact of decisions made as a result of input provided at this meeting.  I was pleased to see rookie Planning Commissioner Stephan Andranian in the audience, taking the pulse of the process.
Consultant Laura Stetson, who has been part of this General Plan Update process for more than two years, guided the conversation and was supported by City staffers Principal Planner Minoo Ashabi, Assistant Director of Development Services Claire Flynn and Transportation Services Manager Raja Sethuraman.  You can read the staff report covering the General Plan Update process HERE, and the report with the specifics of this particular meeting HERE.  

As you can read in that report,  the General Plan Update will involve only 4% of the City, with 96% being left unaffected - in theory, at least.  This updated document - the development bible for the city planners - is intended to take us out to 2035.  "The Project", as it is referred to in the documents, involves the following eight (8) sites shown on this image: (click image to enlarge)
1) The Fairview Developmental Center property, proposed to accommodate up to 500 new residential units at specified densities and 25.6 acres of active open space uses.

2) South Harbor Boulevard, with a new proposed Harbor Boulevard Mixed-Use on select properties, allowing up to 20 units per acre and a maximum floor area ratio (FAR) of 1.00 to 1.25.

3) The Segerstrom Home Ranch property to allow up to 1.2 million square feet of development at a maximum FAR of 0.64 for corporate headquarters and FAR of 0.54 for commercial/retail uses.

4) The site of the former Los Angeles Times printing operation, proposed to be redesignated as a commercial land use designation to allow a maximum FAR of 0.64 for corporate headquarters and FAR of 0.54 for commercial/retail uses.

5) Sakioka Site 2 at Sunflower Avenue and Main Street, proposed to allow residential development at up to 80 units per acre but not to exceed the existing total unit allocation of 660 units and not to exceed the established trip budget.

6) Harbor Boulevard Residential Overlay, which proposes an overlay on targeted sites to allow up to 40 units per acre (without any changes to the base zoning districts.

7) Newport Boulevard Residential Overlay, which proposes an overlay on targeted sites to allow up to 40 units per acre (without any changes to the base zoning districts).

8) SoBECA Overlay, which proposes up to 40 units per acre and a maximum residential unit count of 450 units within the SoBECA Urban Plan area.

There are specific images in that report for each of those areas.

Several members of the Bikeways and Walkability Committee, including Chairman Ralph Taboada and Vice Chair Cynthia McDonald,  attended this meeting and were active participants in the discussion.  Early in the proceedings Stetson mentioned that the work product of that committee - which has been working hard to meet a year-end deadline - will be included in the Circulation Element of the General Plan Update.  That committee meets Wednesday evening, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at the Costa Mesa Senior Center.
Members of the audience asked many questions.  Among them were concerns about density and traffic impacts of the proposed sections of this update, both nearby the project sites and in a broader context.  Others, a few of whom had attended all the previous meetings and workshops on the General Plan Update over the past couple years, were concerned because it appeared that very little, if anything, that was expressed as concerns by residents in those meetings have been included in this process.  I attended most of those meetings and the prevailing message expressed by participants was their desire to see less development, not more, and much, much less traffic.
Some expressed concern that many of the project elements seemed to amplify and codify as part of the General Plan the clear intent of the current City Council majority - and their surrogates on the Planning Commission - to increase housing density in many parts of the city.  In the minds of a few of them, this is a "done deal".  When asked about the individual project areas, Stetson told us that this was the direction provided by the council at their October meeting.  Mention was made from the audience of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn project, which exacerbates our renter/owner imbalance by adding 224 luxury apartments and received a density bonus normally reserved, according to Stetson, for projects which include an affordable housing element.
Concern was expressed about the lack of current traffic studies for the participants to consider.  Stetson explained that those will be completed as part of the EIR process now that there are "projects" defined.  The process schedule is shown on this slide:
Although few people attended this meeting, which ended after about 75 minutes when it was clear all the questions had been asked and concerns expressed,  anyone with concerns/questions/suggestions may write to the City at the address shown on this slide.  The deadline is Thursday, December 17, 2015.  And, coincidentally, Claire Flynn's name is misspelled on the slide.

In an interesting sidebar, supporters of the so-called "Smart Growth Initiative" were circulating the petitions for that initiative on the City Hall porch last night, too.  This initiative exists, at least in part, because folks feel disenfranchised from the development process and overwhelmed by what they preceive as out-of-control development.  I suspect those supporters in attendance at that meeting did not come away from it feeling any better.

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Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Andranian wants to run for Council in 2016 if Mansoor doesn't. Beware. He's a rigbot through and through.

12/01/2015 08:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Arthur, copy that. We've had enough BS already.

12/01/2015 12:32:00 PM  

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