Saturday, August 08, 2015

Planning Commission Meeting Agenda

Monday, August 10, 2015 beginning at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers the Costa Mesa Planning Commission will meet for it's only meeting of the month.  On the agenda, which you can read in its entirety HERE, is a request to cancel the August 24th meeting.  Other items of interest Monday evening are the following:

On the Consent Calendar - items that it is suggested of such routine nature that they can be considered in one motion without discussion - are four (4) items.  They are, 1- the minutes from the July 27th meeting, HERE; 2 - the proposed vacation of a portion of the West 19th Street right-of-way adjacent to 752 West 19th Street, HERE; 3 - the request to cancel the August 24th meeting and schedule a joint study session with the City Council on September 8th, at which amendments to the Westside and SoBECA Urban Plans and the Costa Mesa General Plan Update will be discussed, HERE and 4 - the General Plan conformity for vacation of landscape easement at 580 Anton Blvd, HERE.

There are five (5) public hearings scheduled, four of which will actually be heard Monday.  The fifth and final item, the design review for a triplex conversion at 141 Melody Lane, HERE,  will be continued to the meeting of September 14, 2015.


Public Hearing #1, HERE, is the request by The Hub Restaurant at 1749 Newport Boulevard to extend their hours of operation until 2:00 a.m.  The staff is recommending denial of the request.

Public Hearing #2, HERE, is the application for a two-unit, two-story residential development at 355 Rochester Street that falls under the Residential Small Lot Ordinance.  No deviations are requested.

Public Hearing #3, HERE, is another two-unit, two-story small lot development at 215 Knox Place.  This project also meets the guidelines and requests no deviations.

Public Hearing #4, HERE, is not something we see every day.  In fact, we've NEVER seen it before in the city.  This is a request for nineteen (19) car lifts to add parking capacity to an existing apartment complex at 400 Merrimac Way.  The apartment complex was built in 1968 with nonconforming parking - 95 spaces existing, 112 proposed.  This request would build ten (10) car lifts immediately and nine (9) later as budgetary considerations permit.  This should be an interesting discussion.  The photo is an example of a development currently used in Santa Ana.

There's one new business item, HERE, the review of the Planet Fitness facility's Conditional Use Permit because of initial concerns about parking.  The staff has several recommendations to facilitate more appropriate use of the parking available at the center.

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Friday, August 07, 2015

The Winds Of Change...


Have you noticed it?  Recently there seems to be a gentle breeze of change in the air in Costa Mesa.  It began ever so slightly as folks seemed to have growing concerns about things like rehab homes and public safety.  Lately, though, that breeze seems to be strengthening.

It may have begun earlier this year when Westside resident Steven Chan had finally had enough of what appeared to be illegal activities at a nightclub under renovation on West 19th Street, near his home.  I wrote about it  HERE.  He reported it and the result was a full-blown investigation by the city which resulted in the establishment - what would soon be called Maison and operated by Roland Barrera of 60th Anniversary celebration notoriety - to be red-tagged for a list of violations of codes much too long to list here.  A win for residents.

Then there was the Solid Landings issue.  I wrote about it HERE.  That Westside site is just down the street from Maison and very close to the Costa Mesa Senior Center.  It seems this facility was also operating beyond the scope of what is permitted and without building permits for improvements.  The Zoning Administrator approved their operations, but a resident - Ann Parker - put up the money and appealed that issue to the Planning Commission, which reversed the Zoning Administrator's decision.  That decision was later upheld by the City Council.  Another win for residents.

Then, most recently, there was the proposed Farmer's Market at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church at the corner of Bay Street and Orange Avenue.  I wrote about it HERE. This issue was approved by the Planning Commission, but was appealed by resident Carrie Renfro, who paid more than $1200 in fees and spent hours and hours preparing her case.  It actually took her an hour to deliver it last Tuesday night.  After 30 people spoke on the issue and the council discussed it, the Planning Commission decision was reversed.  Yet another win for the residents.

And, now percolating in the background, is the move by a new citizen's organization, Costa Mesa First, to gather signatures to place an initiative on the November 2016 ballot that would rein in the nearly out-of-control development that has been happening in our city for the past few years.  You can read about it at their web site, HERE.  You can see a graphic summary of the initiative's goals  HERE.  You can read the summary description of the initiative provided by The City and titled, An Initiative To Require Voter Approval On Certain Development Projects, HERE.  And, if you wish to read the entire initiative, you can do so HERE.

The reaction to this effort has been swift.  Within hours of the announcement Mayor Pro Tem Jim
Righeimer - a developer-friendly politician - pronounced that if approved by the voters it would mean the end of Costa Mesa.  He subsequently remarked that one of the sponsors of this initiative, former councilman Jay Humphrey, whom Righeimer beat by a mere 47 votes last November, that he should, "just win an election and do what you want to do."  That is apparently how he feels about elective office - get elected and you can do anything you want.  His actions since being elected certainly demonstrate that view.  If this is placed on the ballot and passes it could be a HUGE win for residents.

The common thread through all of this is major discontent by residents of this city.  They are tired of the heavy-handed mismanagement of our municipal government.  They are tired of no longer feeling safe in our city because the police department has been gutted.  They are just plain tired of being ignored by those elected to serve them.  Many of them have had enough and have taken it upon themselves - sometimes at great personal expense and expenditure of valuable time - to investigate issues and present their views to the folks in charge.  In the case of the initiative, they're taking it to their friends and neighbors - the voters and taxpayers of this city - to get sufficient signatures to place the issue before all the voters.  Indeed, the winds of change seem to be freshening in Costa Mesa and those elected and appointed officials who have been ignoring the views of the residents of the city need to take note of it.  This little breeze may just turn into a hurricane by this time next year - when we will have launched ourselves into the election season.

The next few months are going to be very interesting in our fair city.  Residents have demonstrated that they can be a force to be reckoned with if they do their homework and present a good case.  This is how the system is supposed to work.  Our form of government is not supposed to be a dictatorship, which is what the current power elite in this town has been emulating.  If they don't wise-up, the next election could be VERY interesting.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2015

One Lucky Dude!

Forty-eight years ago on this date I became the luckiest man alive!  Yep, on this date, my sweet and VERY patient wife, walked down the aisle of the little old Saint James Episcopal Church on Via Lido - the one before they tore it down and replaced it with an office building pretending to be a church - and joined me in saying the vows that would launch us on this most wonderful of voyages!

Today, my Sweet Susie and I celebrate our 48th wedding anniversary!  Lucky me, huh?  Some guys have to wait until they're my age now to capture their "trophy wife" - I got mine right out of the chute, the first time around!



Another Rancorous Marathon Council Meeting


That's how long the Costa Mesa City Council dragged out it's meeting Tuesday/Wednesday!  And, even worse - they didn't even cover their entire agenda!  I knew we'd have a long meeting when I saw the agenda published last week.  It included a combination of many items and some I knew would take awhile to discuss.  But, I never thought it would take until after 2 a.m. for them to finally wrap things up.  I apologize in advance for the length of this report, so, let's get to it...

I knew we were in big trouble when the council finally got to the Consent Calendar after 8 p.m. - normally, that segment of the agenda would be addressed before 7:00.  Before that, though, the foundation for the marathon meeting was laid when eighteen (18) people stepped up to speak during Public Comments.  I'm not going to begin to cover every word spoken during that time, but I will give you a few highlights.

Several speakers complained about the recently-implemented resident-only parking rules implemented adjacent to 939 W. 19th Street.  Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz will investigate.  Laurene Keane mentioned an outbreak of Parvo at the Dog Park.  Janet Krochman complained about the proliferation of homeless people in business areas around town, and related recent personal experiences.  Mary Spadoni wondered why the Solid Landings facility on 19th Street is still allowed to operate when both the Planning Commission and City Council upheld the appeal of the Zoning Administrators ruling.  Wendy Leece also addressed that issue, and implied that there may be a double standard at work.

Another resident - he didn't give his name - spoke of a Facebook thread of more than 600 entries addressing homelessness... those in the know realized he was speaking of the Costa Mesa Not-So-Public-Square site, which is touted as "the place to be", but refuse to admit individuals who don't share their views on issues.  Interestingly, Mayor Steve Mensinger also addressed that thread... he's a frequent participant on the site.  A coincidental note - one of the people responsible for the iron-handed administration of that site, Julie Mercurio, was in the audience during that part of the discussion, then left.  Seemed to be an interesting bit of timing.

The pastor of the Lighthouse church addressed their efforts on the homeless issue and others also chimed in on the subject.  They were told that CEO Tom Hatch would address it during his comments.  Public Comments ended at 6:38.

During his comments Mensinger addressed the homelessness issue, spoke of the Homeless Task Force and of well-intentioned people feeding homeless in our parks.  At one point he said, "There's nothing nice about people sleeping outdoors in our city."  Odd comment.  Later, when addressing the parking issue on 19th Street, he told us that all new projects are properly parked.  He also reminded us of the Cattle Drive next Saturday

Katrina Foley expressed concern about the Dog Park situation.  She also, once again, asked when information about the Westside Overlays would be coming to the council, per her repeated requests.  She also complained that her request for specifics about fireworks sales by each of the groups was quashed by Mayor Mensinger in a behind-the-scenes maneuver.  She volunteered that the Costa Mesa High School Football Boosters made only $14,000 for the five days they sold fireworks, but that they made over $8,000 selling parking spaces for the Fair at CMHS.  She said the council needs the full picture.  She also wondered about a progress report from Mesa Water on conservation efforts.  She also expressed concern about the Homelessness issue and crime that might be associated with it.

Sandra Genis thanked the Costa Mesa Foundation for the latest series of Concerts In The Park.  She also commented on the Eastside Picnic, which she described as a nice event.  She addressed the Bark Park issue and suggested keeping inoculations up to date.  She also addressed homelessness, citing an increase in folks with chemical dependency and the lack of transitional housing.  She spoke about the pending availability of the Fairview Developmental Center property, the apparent proliferation of marauding youths along 17th Street snatching purses and the shortage of police officers.  She also expressed concern about the overlays and that her understanding was that there was to be a report back as to how the process was proceeding, but instead, new projects were moving forward at break-neck speed.

Gary Monahan, for a change, actually had something to say!  He made a passing comment about the Eastside picnic - he didn't attend, then touted the Hi Time Liquor Chili Cook-off, which he said was attended by a couple thousand people and it was a huge success.  He said it raised money for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Orange County and "some of that money" would be used at our local clubs.  He also addressed the Fairview Developmental Center, indicating that the State was moving forward.  He spoke about homelessness, then went off for a few minutes about Fireworks, and what a "huge fundraiser" it was for youth groups.  He also said how much money they made was nobody's business.  He said the overlays were doing exactly what we want them to do.  He said they were "phenomenal" - that's the latest buzz word up on the dais these days.  Everything is phenomenal.  Oh, yes.. thanks for the shout-out, Gary... yes, we knew you had a lot to say last night.


Then came Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer's turn - it was now 7:05 p.m - past the time Public Hearings were supposed to begin by policy.  Twenty minutes later Righeimer finally stopped talking!   He spoke about motels and group homes, and said "we're just not here to help everybody."  He talked about crime and mentioned AB 109 and motels.  He then said the next General Plan update is going to address motels by rezoning properties to make it easier for owners to sell them.  Again, for a guy who gripes about attracting businesses, he's sure eager to force some of them out of business.

He addressed Fireworks, and asked Hatch for a report on the gross revenue from all 36 booths.  He wanted to know how that money Foley mentioned from the CMHS Fair parking would be split up.  He addressed the overlays, and mentioned the millions developers were spending to clean up former industrial properties so they could build on them.  He addressed parking, reminding folks that the first place they should be looking for parking is in their garages - giving a backhand to those folks from West 19th Street who took the time to speak in that important issue.  He addressed homelessness.  At one point he mentioned having read enough about fancy fundraisers put on by wealthy folks from south county who then just go home.  He said they "should take the people with you."  Ever the class act.

At 7:22 Hatch took over and spoke about the National Night Out, which was being held at that time.  He spoke about the good work done by all on the Special Olympics and showed a video created by the folks at CMTV.  He briefly addressed parking, then deferred to Gary Armstrong, Director of Economic and Development Services on a few issues.  He asked about the Solid Landings situation and we were told that Code Enforcement was working now on citations.  He asked about the overlays and we were told that there will be a workshop with the Planning Commission on September 8th.  On the issue of the Fairview Developmental Center he said the State is generating an RFP for something called Shannon's Mountain, that might occupy the south corner of the center property, and that the closure of the center is a long process - probably taking until 2018.  It was suggested that a General Plan designation for that area needs to be addressed.

Hatch then addressed the Bark Park, indicating it was one of the most heavily-used in the county and that we probably need a second one somewhere in the city.  Foley chimed in that we just needed some maintenance done - tree and bench replacement, etc., to which Mensinger said we could do interim improvements and suggested to Hatch that it be fast-tracked.

Hatch addressed the homeless issue by giving a brief history, spoke about the new Park Ranger position on the agenda and bike patrols, then turned it over to Assistant CEO Rick Francis and Police Chief Rob Sharpnack to address specifics.  Francis expanded the history lesson, spoke of the Homeless Task Force and how evolved into the Network for Homeless Solutions.  He mentioned that more than 5,000 hours had been spent by that group working on solutions, including finding housing for 88 people and relocating others.  He estimated that there may be 150 homeless in the City - some might argue that number is too low.  He spoke about the proliferation of drugs on the street, including heroin most recently.  He spoke about a program to train mentors for the homeless and expressed disappointment in the County for it's inability to make more progress.  He also said there are "a whole ton" of homeless who don't want any help.

Sharpnack gave a summary from a policing standpoint, mentioned that the CMPD is a proactive department, not a reactive department.  That doesn't really coincide with what has been the most recent understanding of their operations.  He said they are working hard to get back to full staff, and that they are now at 111, with 25 vacancies.  I'm not sure that number is actual boots on the ground, since we have more than 10 officers out with injuries.  The actual number of officers ready for duty is closer to 100.  He told us we recently hired three more bodies - all headed to the police academy, so they won't be available for duty for several months.  He told us we have 15 Field Training Officers so we can't overload them, but that we're moving full steam ahead.  He said his immediate goals are to rebuild the department; address crime statistics and maintain superb service.  He went on to give is a long, long list of things the department is doing, including making sure officers are visible in high crime areas.  He spoke of the bike patrols, overtime, park rangers, overtime for undercover purposes, the Westside police substation restoration, Prop. 47 and AB 109 impacts and much more.

In response to that presentation Mensinger thanked Sharpnack for taking his "early morning texts", which we presume means that he's texting the chief during his walks around town in the early hours, reporting perceived crime issues.  Yet another example of the micro-managing of this city by Mensinger and Righeimer.  It's no wonder cops have left in droves!

Monahan wondered about mental health training for the police and was told that a social worker frequently rides with our officers to provide insights.  He also thanked Francis and the entire team who has been working on the homelessness issue for several years.  Francis suggested using the Costa Mesa Connect App, which will soon be enhanced to make reporting that kind of thing easier.  On that issue, Foley urged GREAT caution about taking photos of homeless folks with the app.  Righeimer told Francis and Sharpnack that they have "our support 1000%".  And that ended Hatch's report - at 8:12 p.m.!!!

Nobody pulled anything from the Consent Calendar, so it passed in one vote, then Mensinger called for a short break.  It's a good thing, because as it was going to turn out, we still had SIX HOURS to go!

Public Hearing #1, the discussion of the new policy on Park Impact In Lieu Fees for Apartment developments began at 8:20 - 100 minutes later than it should have.  The council approved a modification of the staff recommendation.  In the interest of saving some time, please read Bradley Zint's excellent coverage of this issue in the Daily Pilot, HERE.  This discussion took 90 minutes and saw eight people speak to it, including representatives of developers and Apartment Associations.

Public Hearing #2, the appeal of the Planning Commission decision on a Pawn Shop on Newport Boulevard, began at 9:52 p.m.  The smooth-talking owners made the same pitch they made to the Planning Commission.  After an hour of discussion and hearing from five people on the issue, Righeimer moved to uphold the Planning Commission decision, with Mensinger seconding it.  Monahan made a substitute motion to grant the appellants request except for the signage issue. Foley seconded it.  The vote failed, 2-3, and the original vote passed, 3-2, with Monahan and Foley voting no.

At 11:00 we began Public Hearing #3, the appeal of the Planning Commission decision on a Farmer's Market at the St. John the Divine Episcopal Church on Bay Street at Orange Avenue.  This promised to be a long one... and it was.  Planner Antonio Gardea gave the history of the issue, then appellant, resident Carrie Renfro, took over and began her lengthy, detailed presentation.  She avoided the emotional side of the argument, pointing out that the approval of the request as made would violate the original conditions of approval for St. John's Manor - the Senior Housing project contiguous with the Church.  She and her team had done an exhaustive investigation and provided impressive details to make their points.  The issues were the park that was created as an open space for the development plus parking issues.

During her presentation, despite the fact that she had asked the council to permit her to make her entire presentation before asking questions, Righeimer interrupted her not once, not twice but three times!  This is a tactic we've seen him use many times.  He interrupts a speaker to throw them off their pace and, more often than not, he succeeds.  He did so last night.  The last time he interrupted her was at 11:53, when he said, "How much longer is this going to go on?", to which a frustrated Renfro barked back, "As long as it takes - I paid $1200 bucks for this time, baby!"

At that point, because midnight was rapidly approaching, the council moved to extend the discussion past midnight, which passed, 4-1 - Righeimer, in a fit of pique, voted NO.  They also agreed to "continue" several items that remained on the agenda - those that were not time-sensitive.  Then they continued.

Pastor Phil DeVaul made his pitch for the project, covering many of the issues Renfro had made.  Then began the parade of thirty (30) speakers on this issue.  I'm not going to begin to cover all their statements, but sixteen (16) were in favor of the project and fourteen (14) were opposed.  The public comments stopped at 12:55 a.m.

After about twenty minutes of discussion Righeimer moved to uphold the Planning Commission's decision and, after a very long pause, Mensinger finally seconded it.  In order, Monahan, Foley and Genis indicated they would not be supporting the issue.  They agreed it was a nice idea, but in the wrong place.  There were complicating issues for each of them.  Genis, for example, was apparently swayed by the opinions of nearby neighbors - those most impacted by the perceived traffic that would be part of this project.  Foley's decision was affected by the new revelation that there was an expansion of the entire facility in the works and she felt this project should be considered as part of the larger project and not handled piecemeal.  Mensinger then withdrew his second and, after some stumbling around, moved to overturn the Planning Commission decision, which passed, 5-0.

At 1:35 the council quickly dispatched Old Business #1, the re-zoning of the church property on Mesa Verde Drive East to make way for a 10-unit residential development.  It took about 20 seconds.

The final item they heard was New Business #1, the screening plan for a development at 527/531 Bernard Street, in an overlay zone.  Three people spoke to this issue, including Jay Humphrey, who noted that this would be one more underparked project in the city.  They finished this issue at 2:04 and adjourned at 2:05.

The items NOT heard last night/this morning were Public Hearing #4, the first reading of the Capital Asset Needs Ordinance; New Business #2, Council Direction for the Allocation of the Matt Leinart Flag Football payback fees; New Business #3, the refund request for Ann Parker's appeal of the Solid Landings issue and New Business #4, designation of a voting delegate and alternate for the 2015 League of California Cities Annual Conference.

An observation... the biggest culprit in this marathon meeting was Jim Righeimer.  He just cannot resist yapping away, saying the same thing over and over again, meeting after meeting.  If he was an member of the public he could be tossed out because he helped create a rule that prohibits serial commenting!  And his arrogant rudeness was on display for all to see last night as he continued to interrupt Carrie Renfro - a person clearly not experienced speaking to an official body in a formal setting.  His actions were those of a bully and certainly unbecoming any elected official.  We deserve much, much better from him.

There are no more council meetings scheduled this month.  The next one is scheduled right after the Labor Day holiday.  Perhaps I will sleep right through until then!

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Monday, August 03, 2015

Eastside Picnic A Success - Again

Our pals at the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group hosted another community picnic at Harper Park Sunday, August 2nd and, as have the previous events, this was a rousing success.
My best guess - confirmed by folks selling raffle tickets and counting heads - was that a couple hundred people attended, and that may be short, if you try to include all the beautiful children in the mix.  This year there seemed to be more teeny little ones at the event - a good sign for the resurging Eastside.
The day was enhanced by the presence of Police Chief Rob Sharpnack and Fire Chief Dan Stefano, back from his Hawaii vacation.  And, many of their officers and firefighters attended, too.  Engine 83 - that big old ladder truck - and one of our brand new Medical Vans were parked on the street adjacent to the park so folks could get guided tours of the apparatus.
During the couple hours my sweet and very patient wife and I spent at the picnic we met lots of new folks and chatted with some old friends, too.  I saw only Councilwoman Sandra Genis representing The City - no other elected or appointed officials attended while we were there.  We even saw some Westsiders crashing the party, too, as Eleanor and Tom Egan greeted us.  And CMTV's Brad Long showed up without cameras, just to show support for the event - and to snag some food.
Former councilman Jay Humphrey attended, along with his fellow Costa Mesa First officer, Rick Huffman, who explained the petition for their initiative to interested parties.
This was a kid and dog friendly venue, so we had a lot of both.  There were fun contests for the children - like this shoe kicking contest...
And this water balloon tossing contest...
And, the park includes plenty of apparatus for the kids to play on... this pseudo tire swing seemed to be very popular.
Kean Coffee provided iced coffee and tea products and there were hot dogs available, too.   Here a couple of entrepreneurs talked to folks about their plan for a new Chop House on Broadway near Newport Blvd.  They brought samples of pies for the tasting... winner!
So, once again, thanks to my friends at the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group for another fine event.  The weather was perfect and the turnout was great.  We're looking forward to the next one already.

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