Friday, April 10, 2015

Correcting Bever's Effluent On Handling Effluent

Last week former Costa Mesa Mayor Eric Bever published a commentary in the Daily Pilot, HERE, that was very critical of the recently-announced plan in Bradley Zint's Daily Pilot articles, HERE, and HERE,  to replace the aging and pump-driven sewer system on part of Costa Mesa's Westside, in a segment of Talbert Regional Park and a little chunk of Newport Beach with a gravity-flow system.

In his critical mini-tome Bever got it wrong in many ways, which didn't really surprise some of us longtime Bever watchers, so we were not surprised when Scott Carroll,  General Manager of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District (CMSD) - one of the three signatories on the plan, along with the City of Newport Beach and the Orange County Sanitary District (OCSD) - produced a rebuttal.  That commentary appears online in the Daily Pilot, HERE, and will likely appear in print on Sunday.  Unfortunately, apparently space constraints caused a very heavy hand at the editing desk, because the punch line of Carroll's piece was omitted. NOTE: Friday morning the missing segment has been added to the Daily Pilot version and will appear in print Sunday, too.   You can read the agreement approved by the CMSD Board on March 26th HERE.  And, you can read the more than 300 pages of the Environmental Impact Report, from which this image showing the project was lifted, HERE.
(click on image for easier reading)
So, in the interest of continuity and clarity - but certainly not brevity - I have reproduced the entire text of Carroll's submission to the Daily Pilot.  I could have just provided the missing piece, but this way you can read straight through it.  Basically, the last half of the piece - the reason WHY this long-considered project is necessary, beginning with the paragraph that starts, "Finally..." - was not included in the Daily Pilot.  Here is Carroll's piece verbatim:

Commentary: Getting the facts right about Canyon Drive pipeline
By Scott Carroll
April 7, 2015

I want to take this opportunity to clear up the misstated facts made by Eric Bever’s commentary titled, “Railroaded over the Canyon Drive pipeline action” dated April 6, 2015.  On March 26, 2015 the Board of Directors approved a Cooperative Agreement, which is a three party agreement between the Costa Mesa Sanitary District (District), Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) and the City of Newport Beach that describes each agency’s role in the project.  The District did not award contracts for engineering designs and/or construction because the cooperative agreement has not been approved by all three parties, permits have not been issued by regulatory agencies and bid documents need to be prepared.  The District has every intention of completing its fiduciary responsibility to our ratepayers by soliciting bids from qualified contractors, evaluating bids received and then approving a contract to the responsible low bidder. 

In regards to Mr. Bever’s transparency claim, the District has always discussed this project in an open public forum since 2007.  In addition to March 26, the District has discussed this project on February 10, 2015, July 22, 2014 and July 31, 2013 and by subscribing to the District’s E-mail subscription residents will always be made aware of this project.  Also, Mr. Bever believes the District did not listen to concerned residents, but the truth is the District did meet several times with concerned residents regarding Talbert Regional Park and the District even considered adopting the residents preferred alternative identified in the Environmental Impact Report, Victoria Street Gravity Alternative, but it was determined that the impacts and disruption to Victoria Street would be too great.  However, the District did agree to reduce the project scope to protect Talbert Park and save nearly $1 million.

The District has always acknowledged that residents on or near Canyon Drive will be temporarily disrupted during construction, but the disruption will be no way near the two year timeframe that was once reported in the newspaper.    Disruption on Canyon Drive could be as long as three weeks in any one location, which is why the District is going to schedule open meetings with residents.  The District wants to show residents the proposed designs, traffic plan, mitigation measures including dust control, noise abatement and other factors, but to accomplish this we need a set of detailed plans and those plans are not prepared yet because the District still has to solicit bids and award a contract for engineering design.

Finally, I want to reiterate why the Board of Directors believes this project is very important to Costa Mesa. This project, when complete, will decommission force main pipes and seven lift stations (five stations belong to the District).  Force main pipes and lift stations are the number one concern in the wastewater industry because if the pipe fails wastewater would spray like a geyser and contaminate anything it comes in contact with.   Lift stations require an enormous amount of energy to push the wastewater.  When lift stations fail due to power outages the wastewater will rise in the station and overflow into storm drains and contaminate beaches and waterways.

This project will eliminate the risk to the public’s health and the environment, which is the District’s overall mission, “Protecting our community’s health and the environment by providing solid waste and sewer collection services.”  If this project does not proceed, the District will have to reconstruct all the force mains, lift stations, and install gravity sewers on Wilson Street and Hamilton Street, all of which is more expensive and would lead to substantially more disruption than the decommission option.  The same holds true for OCSD, if they do not construct their portion of the decommissioned network, they will have to upsize their existing trunk sewer in Fairview Road, which would also lead to far more disruption than constructing their portion of the abandonment sewers.

Yes, Mr. Bever is correct that this project will be a temporary disruption in some neighborhoods but we believe maintaining the health and safety of the public and the environment significantly outweighs a temporary disruption.   The District will do everything within our means to ensure the public’s quality of life is not disrupted during construction and we will make sure the public is well informed about the construction timeline and scope of work. 

SCOTT CARROLL is General Manager of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District

I spoke with Carroll about this issue.  He advised me that we are a long way from this project commencing.  The two other signatories must still go through their approval process.  All the engineering and design work is still pending.  Several public outreach meetings will be held, probably not until next year, since this project is not anticipated to begin until late in 2016 or early 2017.

He confirmed that some residents on Canyon Drive will be inconvenienced for short times as the new pipe is installed.  He also confirmed that the OCSD will be doing the work in Talbert Park, and will be laying the pipe there beneath the existing service road.  And, he told me that each of the seven (7) pump stations will be removed once the new gravity-flow infrastructure is in place and operating, although one article indicates that one of the pumping stations will remain.  The final engineering details have not been completed.

Based on what I know at this time - the actual facts of the issue presented by Carroll and a cursory pass through the EIR - this complex and expensive project, estimated at over $23 million, of which the CMSD segment will cost around $7 million, certainly seems to be a proactive solution to the problem of expensive and aging pipes and pumps in that part of our city and another example of the CMSD Board and management getting out ahead of a problem.

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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Another "Coffee With A Cop" Success

Wednesday evening, from 5-7 p.m., several members of the Costa Mesa Police Department met with members of the public at Panera, on East 17th Street in an informal setting to just sip some free coffee and chat.
The evening was cool, but the venue seemed just right as the front patio at the store provided an excellent opportunity to sit or stand and discuss issues with the officers.
My sweet and very patient wife and I attended this gathering and were there for most of the time before adjourning inside for a nice, light dinner.  We departed as the officers were wrapping it up and the residents  were making their way to the parking lot.  I didn't do an official headcount, but for the 90 minutes were on site I estimate at least three dozen people, including former council members Wendy Leece and Jay Humphrey, stopped to talk - probably more.

This event was the most recent such opportunity residents have had to meet with members of the Costa Mesa Police Department in a casual setting to discuss important issues with them.  And, this is the first evening event, so most of the officers present had just gone off duty before arriving.  For most it was their first event.
Thanks to the men and women of the CMPD for taking the time to meet with those of us they've sworn to protect and serve.  We hope there will be more such events in the future.
(photo credit to Sue Lester)

And, speaking of "serving", Thursday night, April 9th, is the most recent "Tip-A-Cop" event at the Claim Jumper at 3333 Bristol Street from 5-9 p.m.  You can read the announcement about it below.  Here's another chance to have a meal served to you by some of Costa Mesa's finest and contribute to the Special Olympics, too.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

An Early, But Surreal, Council Meeting Last Night

The Costa Mesa City Council met last night and, near the end of the meeting, demonstrated once again that cronyism guides the actions of the majority on that body.  More on that later.

First, Rookie Mayor Steve Mensinger demonstrated that he is, indeed, a rookie.  Even though he has an agenda right in front of him he still fumbled and stumbled his way through the meeting.  He was embarrassing as he read a prepared statement about the recipient of his Mayor's Award as though he was a kid in sixth grade being told to open a book to page 25 and read the third paragraph for the first time.  It's bad enough that somebody has to write that stuff for him.  The least he could do was read it with some sincerity.  Good grief.

He presented his Mayor's Award to Jeffrey Chon, owner and operator of a bar called Wayfarer on the Westside.  Nothing against gin mills and Chon seemed like a nice fella, but, really - a bar?  Well, Chun got his nice plaque and a shadowbox in which he will place his business license - apparently a rarity in Westside bars these days (think Roland Barrera).

Sixteen (16) people spoke during Public Comments and, to his credit, Mensinger didn't bifurcate them... all the speakers had a chance to address the council early in the meeting.

First up was Friend Of Steve Chuck Perry, who immediately praised the council for the median improvements around town, then asked for more bus benches on 17th Street in front of Ralph's to aid developmentally disabled bus riders.

Susan Shaw expressed concern about the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee being put on hiatus for at least a year without finishing their job, and asked about actual field numbers.  How many do we actually need?  Do we need lighted fields or what?

Teresa Drain, once again, spoke on the need for a forensic audit of the 60th Anniversary debacle.  She thanked councilwoman Katrina Foley for helping sort through some of the issues, and staffers Tammy Letourneau and Sylvia Chalmers, too.  She, once again, emphasized the need for the audit.

Mary Spadoni used her full 3 minutes to inquire about an October, 2014 meeting of many senior members of the CMPD, Assistant CEO Rick Francis and members of the County Probation Department.  She had an attendance roster and wondered what the meeting was about, implying from notes scribbled on the roster that it dealt with the large number of parolees in Costa Mesa.  She's been stonewalled in her inquiries.

A woman who's name I missed inquired about a meeting coming up with the Zoning Administrator concerning a zoning issue near her Westside home and a sign to be placed identifying an area as "Mesa Arts District".

Steve Chan once again addressed Roland Barrera and his flaunting of the rules with his two night clubs on the Westside and proposed a boycott of them and a supporting clothing manufacturer

Jay Humphrey observed that Mensinger was going to receive an award for his role in the building of more than 2,000 rental units in Costa Mesa and noted that NONE of them are affordable housing units, but some are, in fact, replacing affordable units.  He also, again, expressed concern about the status of our police staffing, observing that we are failing to attract lateral transfers, but are filling our open slots with rookie cops.

Ann Parker also addressed Roland Barrera and attempted to link him with Mayor Pro Tem's friend and business associate Scott Baugh - until recently the Chairman of the Orange County Republican Party.  She also mentioned Barrera's part in the 60th and Baugh's, as well.  Righeimer was not happy.

Beth Refakes gave us a slide show of the recent "Eggstravaganza" - the Easter celebration with the 1/5 Marines at Camp Pendleton.  Volunteers on the Military Affairs Team, including Refakes, journeyed to that location to help distribute the candies and plastic eggs that had been collected for the past few weeks for the event.  It was a huge success.

Then came Lisa Salisbury, speaking on behalf of Roland Barrera and his two night clubs, indicating that they want to be good citizens and were sorry for the confusion about permits, etc.  She spoke about the 40 or so jobs that are being created by the two businesses, and the fact that they bring affordable live music to Costa Mesa.

Tea Party Tom Pollett spoke about... The Tea Party!  How about
that?  Then he wandered off into a stream of consciousness mini-rant about Police Department negotiations and expressed an opinion that we should make better use of technology in policing.

Barrie Fisher expressed concern for the "open cul de sacs" in her neighborhood, citing that they had become hangouts for sex, drugs and gang activity.

Greg Ridge told us that Mensinger, during an event a few years ago, admitted to him that he knew the Fairview Park vernal pools came right up to the fence line at Parsons Field.  (more on that later)

Tamar Goldmann commented on the Daily Pilot article on the dramatic increase in public record requests - from 40 in 2008 to 613 in 2014, and opined that residents didn't trust the government now, so were looking for answers in documents produced by those requests.  Yep...  She specifically cited the 60th Anniversary issue.

Cindy Brenneman attempted to correct a misstatement about a South County City and their policing model.

During Council Member Comments, Gary Monahan actually had something to say this time.  Unfortunately, what he said was that the 60th was over and we should put it behind us  He said it was "old, old news.", a view not widely supported by many in the audience.  He should have just kept quiet...

Righeimer addressed the cul de sac issue and the Mesa Arts District issue.  He also reminded us that there will be a second public outreach meeting on his library scheme - which he said was not a done deal yet.  The meeting is Thursday, April 16th at the Neighborhood Community Center from 6-8 pm.  He then told us that the I405 Toll Road scheme is all but a done deal!  He complained that our tax money - Measure M funds - were being used to produce toll lanes and he was not happy about it.  He spoke of bringing "political pressure" on CalTrans on the issue.  I found myself wondering just how that happens, since CalTrans can do whatever they want on the highways - almost verbatim what he said.  He praised our City staff for their "phenomenal" job.

Mensinger also addressed the cul de sac issue and shared a personal story about visiting that area with CEO Tom Hatch and seeing guys swilling beer, only to skip through the openings in the wall at the end of the cul de sac and dash across Victoria Street.  He asked Hatch to update them on the Police Reserves program and reminded folks that they can "Walk with the Mayor" on Friday morning at 5:30 at Estancia High School.

Katrina Foley spoke of the Estancia/Tewinkle gala recently held, and described a traffic issue at Harper school which she suggested be resolved by painting the curb red nearby.  She also spoke of the 60th Anniversary and asked Hatch for a report on the content and cost of a forensic audit.  She also admitted that such an audit wouldn't answer many of the questions, at least a few of which seem to be the result of bad decisions.  She cited some good news from this mess - a whole new set of procedures to help preclude another instance like it.  She also mentioned the library meeting and asked Chief Ron Lowenberg if he could, at least temporarily, increase the visible police presence in the area to discourage the kind of acts described by Barrie Fisher.  She also spoke about the  Signature Academies at Costa Mesa and Estancia High Schools.

Sandra Genis congratulated the Orange Coast College debate team for "blowing the doors off the competition" in a recent competition.  She addressed Barrera's CASA night club and the skimpy costumes and how they might violate our rules.  She also expressed a need for more information on a forensic audit of the 60th.  She spoke of the Fairview Developmental Center, and how the City should be alert in case part or all of it becomes available.

Mensinger then turned to Hatch for his report.. and got nothing...  No comments about the inquiry about police reserves... nada.

Items 7,8 and 9 were pulled from the Consent Calendar and the remainder was passed on a 5-0 vote, with Foley wanted the record to show that she didn't vote on the Minutes - which go back nearly 4 years!

Old Business #1, the second reading of the Small Lot Ordinance modifications hit a snag when something Righeimer thought was removed regarding parking was still in the document.  It was decided to vote on the second reading with that modification, then bring it back AGAIN for a second, second reading.  Somebody was not paying attention at the last meeting, although I recall that vote was just a little confusing.  That's what happens when things get rushed and nobody in charge has the skills to keep things flowing properly.  A lack of leadership...

Then came New Business #1, the appointment of dozens of individuals to positions on the Senior Commission and many committees.  The process was bizarre, to say the least, but the outcome was predictable.

There were two new positions on the Senior Commission to be filled and thirteen (13) applicants, many of whom seemed quite qualified.  Ann Perry was selected for the 4-year term and Sue Healy got the 2-year slot.  Former councilwoman Wendy Leece, a long, long time advocate for Costa Mesa Seniors, was nominated but rejected by the council majority.

The seven positions on the Access, Building, Fire and Housing Board of Appeal were filled from the applicant pool of 8 persons.  All four current members, Bill Mason, Tariq Shamma, Larry Weichman and Gilbert Figueroa were returned and Jacob Batista, Josue Castenada and former Planning Commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick were selected for the other slots.

On the Cultural Arts Committee the nine (9) slots were filled with returning members Kathleen Eric, Lisa Grant, Frank Gutierrez, and Monica Morita.  The remaining positions were filled by Andrea Marr, Tracy Taber, Chrystal Swope, Stacie Wendland, with Rocky Evans and Jason Komala as alternates.

The Historical Preservation Committee, with five (5) slots open, four were filled with returning members - Dave Gardner, Gary Parkin, John McQueen and Karen McKenna-Juergens and Matthew Fletcher selected for the other.

The Housing and Public Service Grant Committee had 6 open slots.  Eight people applied.  The positions were filled by returning members Christian Eric, Denise Rochelle Dew-Bennett, Jeff R. Mathews, Eric Vu, and new members Yvonne Rowdert and Tony Capitelli.

The Pension Oversight Committee process was very interesting.  A dozen people applied for one of the nine (9) open positions.  Returning members Jeff Arthur, Tim Sesler, Ralph Taboada and Gary Parkin filled four of them.  Newcomers James Bridges, Robert Juneman, Al Melone and George Turner filled four more, leaving one vacancy.  The council majority decided to re-advertise and try to find a better candidate for the one remaining slot.  It was very strange, but things would soon get stranger.

Next up was the Traffic Impact Fee Ad Hoc Committee, which had four (4) open slots: 2 at large members, 1 major developer representative and 1 small developers representative.  Six people applied.  George Sakioka, likely representing large developers, and Kerry Smith representing small developers, were chosen and Walt Davenport - a member of the Newport Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustees and a Planning Commissioner for more than two decades - was also chosen.  Cynthia McDonald was nominated for the other at-large slot, but was rejected by the male majority and the majority wanted to re-advertise for the position.  This generated a heated discussion because nobody would provide a description of the qualifications for the position!  Things got so hot for the Rookie Mayor that he called for a break.  It was surreal!

When they reconvened the council tackled the appointment of fifteen (15) members of the Bikeway and Walkability Committee.  The following  ten (10) people were selected unanimously: Kathleen Brown, Donna Check, Tony Capitelli, Jim Erickson, Leah Ersoylu , James Kane, Jim Kerins, Flo Martin, John Merrill and Ralph Taboada. Michael M.S. Chun was chosen on a 4-1 vote, with Monahan voting no.  Richard Huffman was chosen on a 4-1 vote, with Mensinger voting no.  Max Poling was chosen on a 4-1 vote, with Foley voting no.  Andrea Marr was chosen on a 3-2 vote, with Mensinger and Righeimer voting no.  Cynthia McDonald and Jim Drain were rejected on 3-2 votes by the council majority.  The final slot was curiously filled by a man, Brent Stoll, who doesn't live in Costa Mesa - he lives in Santa Monica - and doesn't work in Costa Mesa, although he did say he worked for an outfit that is in the process of acquiring a big piece of property in the north part of town.  That screamed "developer" to me, but he was chosen over nine (9) residents besides McDonald and Drain.  What a travesty!

This brought us to the "pulled" items from the Consent Calendar - and another surprise.  When #7 - the issue of increasing the contract with attorneys Meyers Nave, who are dealing with the Fairview Park Decomposed Granite issue - was called, Mayor Mensinger decided to recuse himself and left the auditorium.  Well, I wrote about that earlier and suggested that, because of his personal involvement (culpability?) in the whole "Decomposed Granite Trail" fiasco, that he should not be involved in the discussion or vote on increasing the contract to the attorney.  When he left Foley and Genis wanted to know why - specifically - he left.  No good explanation was given, although Deputy City Attorney Yolanda Summerhill said something about "in light of the investigation".

Several members of the public addressed this issue.  Susan Shaw and Teresa Drain expressed concern about this whole issue.   Jay Humphrey was concerned about multiple attorneys being involved and referred to a letter from US Fish and Wildlife which basically said "don't do anything".  Greg Ridge expressed outrage that we are about to spend $100,000 on this issue and don't know what it's for.  He wondered if we're paying a lawyer to defend Mensinger - who directed this act, and compared it to the 60th debacle as another situation where rules are not followed.  Earlier he told his story about Mensinger's knowledge of the location of the vernal pools.  Cindy Brenneman wondered when we would get the updated information from USFWS.  Cindy Black then took the podium and presented a slide show with images of correspondence showing that Mensinger communicated with Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz, who, in turn, communicated with his staffer, Rick Simon, asking what could be done.  I've seen subsequent correspondence in which Simon describes what they did to "Steve's Path".

Monahan moved to approve the issue, with Foley seconding it.  She went on to ask about the agreement and what the 20 hours working with the U.S. Attorney was for.  Both she and Genis were concerned about the possibility of the City defending Mensinger.  The item passed, 4-0 and Mensinger was brought back.

Item #8 was the change to policy 100-8 regarding travel distances by council and staff.  Afer a short discussion and a few comments by the public - Humphrey, Drain and Brenneman all expressed concern about lack of council oversight on travel - it passed 4-1.

That vote made half of Item #9 - approval of the trip by Mensinger, Righeimer and several staff members to a convention in Las Vegan next month -  moot.  The council voted, 5-0,  to cancel the May 19 City Council meeting and we were done for the evening.

Mensinger adjourned the meeting in memory of Joel Moskowitz, founder of Ceradyne, who passed away recently.  We were out of there before 9 p.m. with our heads reeling from some of the bizarre behavior we observed.   Cronyism is alive and not-well in Costa Mesa.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Decomposed Granite Trail Drama Continues

As mentioned in my earlier post, tonight the Costa Mesa City Council will meet to discuss a variety of things.  This post addresses Consent Calendar item #7, the "BUDGET ADDENDUM TO ENGAGEMENT OF LEGAL SERVICES LETTER WITH MEYERS, NAVE, RIBACK, SILVER & WILSON AS SPECIAL LEGAL COUNSEL ON FAIRVIEW PARK".  You can read the staff report HERE, which includes links to the original December 6, 2013 agreement and the proposed extension of this assignment.

The original agreement was for $50,000, which has apparently been used up.  This addendum extends the assignment and requires another $38,190, which will come from CEO Tom Hatch's million dollar contingency fund.

The reason for this extension is very interesting.  Here's the section of the extension agreement that describes what this will cover:
We are presuming this deals with the destruction of vernal pools in the Southwest Quadrant of Fairview Park - that effort directed by current Mayor Steve Mensinger and described in the correspondence provided by public records requests by city staffers as "Steve's Path" - that has required thousands of dollars to attempt to mitigate.  It's our understanding that the mitigation work was completed many months ago, so I'm wondering what this legal work is all about?
 User Defined Trail
 Graded Path
Decomposed Granite Path
Removal Process
  • The first item is curious, since we thought that function had already been completed.
  • The second item - permits - is also curious.
  • The third item involves working with "enforcement special agents" from the USFWS.  On what?
  • The fourth item involves meetings and correspondence with the U.S. Attorney!
So, what's the story here?  It's been nearly two years since Mensinger directed City Staff to "do something" about the user-defined path that ran along the fence line that separated the Waldorf School/Estancia High School from Fairview Park.  That path encroached in at least one protected vernal pool and the "fix" - the decomposed granite trail that was wide enough to drive a dump truck on - further defiled those protected areas.

USWFS enforcement officers?  U.S. Attorney?  What's the nature of this situation right now?  We won't find out unless someone pulls this item from the Consent Calendar and asks those questions.  Even then, there's no assurance that we'll actually get answers.

All the current hoopla about sports fields in Fairview Park - which has been put on hiatus for now - could be cut off at the knees if the USFWS, in concert with the U.S. Attorney, finds that we, The City, have been poor stewards of this land and slams the door on any further "enhancement" of that land.  Who knows... maybe they will take the management of Fairview Park away from us... it's my understanding that it could happen.

All this because a guy who would rather spend his recreational time plugging helpless critters using a high-powered rifle with a scope than try to protect the habitat within our city boundaries.  This is a guy who apparently cannot stand to see a patch of land without a playing field, parking lot, multi-story dwelling complex or shopping center on it.  Let's hope his actions have not done irreparable damage to our relationship with USFWS on this issue.  If it has, he - personally - should be held accountable.

My final question on this issue is, since this whole thing is a direct result of HIS actions - which has cost the City thousands of dollars in legal and mitigation fees - should Mayor Steve Mensinger be excluded from ANY conversation and vote on this issue?  It seems appropriate for him to be excluded on this issue.

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