Friday, August 14, 2015

Uh, Oh! Another One! Yikes!

By the time you read this I will be fully immersed in the process of celebrating yet another birthday, having every bit as much fun as the guy in that picture!

Yep, we managed to make it one more year, although they don't seem to be getting any easier.  I mean, the process alone of celebrating is a pain in the fanny!  First my sweet and very patient wife must get the fire permit for all those candles - no easy feat in these times of extreme drought.

And then there's the whole deal about blowing them out, for goodness sake!  I mean, just how many huffs and puffs do you think this old guy has left in him?  And there's the very real possibility of torched eyebrows!

And, because of the number of candles on the cake - representing way, way too many years - the whole celebrating thing takes a lot longer.  Like so many things in life at this age, what once was a sprint is more like a stroll.

So, Happy Birthday To Me... one more time.  I plan to fully enjoy myself this entire weekend, allowing my sweet and very patient (I think I said that before) wife pamper the heck out of me!  It's only right, right?

Now, in honor of my advancing geezerness, please help us celebrate by joining these young fellas in singing to me...


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Fountain Valley Planning Commission Denies Sign! (AMENDED)*

Reports from the scene at last night's Fountain Valley Planning Commission meeting tell us that the commission unanimously denied the application by Clear Channel to erect a 79 foot high LED sign near Ellis Avenue, across the Santa Ana River from Costa Mesa adjacent to the I-405 Freeway - at a location that would flood homes in a nearby section of our city with bright, garish lights all night long.

Reader and uber-actvist Robin Leffler attended the meeting and posted the following first-person report on my previous entry about this meeting:
At least 30 State Street residents attended and spoke passionately and informationally. A recurring theme was "Be a good neighbor" and how seeing the sign from their backyards, frontyards, windows and Moon Park would be visual blight. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommended that the City Council not approve the application. It was great, they really cared that this would adversely affect residents even if those residents weren't in their city.

Later, in a subsequent conversation, she told me that Costa Mesa's Director of Economic and Development Services, Gary Armstrong, made a clear and forceful argument against the sign and many other Costa Mesa residents spoke to the issue as well.

I suspect Brad Zint will have something in the Daily Pilot soon with all the details.  Keep your eyes peeled for that story.  Until then, kudos to all who spoke on this issue and who may have sent emails to the Fountain Valley officials on this subject.

*I've been advised early Thursday morning that the Fountain Valley City Council will now hear this item - tentatively scheduled for their meeting on September 15, 2015.  More when we know more.

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Bikeway Committee Struggles With A Flat Tire

The Costa Mesa Bikeway and Walkability Committee met again Wednesday evening and struggled for direction.  This meeting, which was called as a "Special" meeting due to an administrative complication, meant that ONLY the single item agendized - the Work Plan - could be discussed.  That proved to be frustrating to those committee members who showed up.

On that issue, only Chair Ralph Taboarda, Vice Chair Cynthia McDonald, Michael M.S.Chun, Jim Erickson, Leah Ersoylu, Richard Huffman II, James Kane, Jim Kerins, John C. Merrill and Brian Valles made it to the meeting on time.  A third of the members either did not attend or only attended briefly.  Kathleen Brown again showed up 40 minutes late and again left 40 minutes early.  Members Andrea Marr, Flo Martin, Donna Check and Tony Capitelli did not attend this meeting.
However, two new members did attend, which brings the total number of members to seventeen (17).  Dr. Kirk Bauermeister is the representative from the Newport Mesa Unified School District and Santa Monica resident Brent Stoll is the new representative appointed by the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce.  You will recall Stoll was originally appointed, then was found to be ineligible due to residency issues.  And yet, here he is.  In fairness, he does bring significant experience in municipal bicycle issues to the table.

City staffers Ernesto Munoz, Raja Sethuraman and Minoo Ashabi were in the room, along with City Council Liaison Katrina Foley.  Parks Commissioner Bob Graham briefly sat in on the meeting.  A half-dozen members of the public attended the meeting again.

Public comments were permitted, although the speakers were cautioned to address ONLY the one issue on the agenda - the Work Plan.  None did.

Greg Ridge addressed difficulties bicycling around the Westside, and handed out information showing photos of some of the problem areas.

Bill Denton, who identified himself as an Irvine resident and operator of a restaurant at The Lab, addressed the need to include that part of town in any considerations about bikeability.

Teresa Drain spoke of the recent Planning Commission meeting at which a section of public right-of-way was vacated - returned to the property owner - and wondered if that kind of thing would hamper plans for making parts of the city more bike friendly.

Olga Reynolds spoke of bicycling from the Freedom Homes area to the Fair and stressed the need for better communication and mentioned the new Public Information Officer, Tony Dodero. Foley affirmed that was the reason he was hired.

Concerns were expressed by the Chairman, Ralph Taboada, about the need to finish their assignment so it could be included in the General Plan update.  Munoz assured the committee that there was NO RUSH - that they should just go about doing their work at a pace that worked for them because it is always possible to amend the General Plan later.  Foley affirmed that view and encouraged the committe to "just get started".

Consultant Rock Miller of Stantec, a sub-contractor the consulting firm of MIG - the firm working on the General Plan for the City - gave a brief, but somewhat convoluted, presentation.  The slide equipment was not working, so he winged it using paper handouts that seemed not to be in the order of his presentation.  He spoke of Bicycle Levels Of Service on certain types of roadways and referred to a meeting held 23 months ago, the so-called Great Reach Visioning Workshop, that formed the community outreach.  Even those few of us in the room who actually attended that meeting seemed confused.

Then, for about an hour, the discussion went round and round about goal  and objective setting; timing of meetings; the need for the committee members to do their homework before the meetings; the need for the agenda packets to be provided a week in advance so they CAN do their homework; whether or not the once-a-month meeting schedule is sufficient, and more.

It was agreed that the committee members would take the staff report for the Work Plan and review it and send to Munoz - via email - their ideas for modification of the Work Plan and ideas for goals and objectives.  He asked that they be sent two weeks before the meeting date if possible, but no later than one week prior.

And, based on that conversation, he asked for a show of hands for those who would favor meeting twice a month, at least initially... I didn't get the count, but the idea carried, so he will meet with CEO Tom Hatch to discuss the use of staff resources and scheduling.

There was also a need expressed for someone - a consultant - to facilitate the discussions/workshops that will be held in the future.  Miller's scope of work does not include that element, but Munoz will talk with Hatch about it.

And, life got even more complicated when Munoz told the committee that he recommends changing the next meeting date to September 16th instead of the 9th because of a conflict with a big meeting at OCC on their EIR for the expansion planned on their campus.  The group agreed to the date change, but now the issue is, will that again be a "Special Meeting", with all the restrictions that goes with it?  Great concern was expressed by several committee members about that possibility - particularly since many had pent-up comments to make that were forbidden by the Special Meeting rules.

It seems to me that this committee is highly motivated and most bring much to the discussion.  However, the process has been an anchor - ill-defined and structureless -  so it's been slow to get started.  We hope more progress will be made at the next meeting and that the "foundation" and "structure" spoken of during this one will finally fall into place.  It's clear that the group WANTS to move forward.  I think the addition of Stoll and Bauermeister to the group will help with the discussions because they both bring special knowledge to the process.  You may recall that Bauermeister was co-facilitator of the Charter Committee, so he knows how this process can operate.  Stoll brings special "bike" knowledge and seems to be a smart fella.

So, we will see what this next month brings.  If they plan to hold the next meeting in a "workshop" setting, Conference Room 1A is NOT the right venue.  Perhaps space will be available at the Neighborhood Community Center or even the Senior Center.  This meeting wrapped up just before 8 p.m., about 90 minutes after it began.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Fountain Valley Plans 8-Story LED Sign

Our neighbors to the north, the City of Fountain Valley, is moving forward with plans for an 8-story LED message sign to be erected barely within their city limits that will create a huge chunk of visual blight for residents of Costa Mesa.  You can read Brad Zint's piece in the Daily Pilot HERE.  You can also read about this issue on the Costa Mesa web site, HERE

Officials from the City of Costa Mesa have persistently expressed their opposition to this message board, which will tower above traffic flowing past on the I-405 Freeway and the neighboring Costa Mesa neighborhoods.  There are links on that Costa Mesa page to some of the correspondence and it is my understanding that CEO Tom Hatch has written a strongly worded letter to Fountain Valley City Manager, Bob Hall, on the issue today.
This item will be heard by the Fountain Valley Planning Commission at it's meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, August 12, 2015 in the Fountain Valley City Council Chambers at 10200 Slater Avenue, beginning at 6:00 p.m.  You can read the staff report HERE.  Don't let the size of the staff report scare you off.  It's 207 pages, but the issue at hand is Public Hearing #4, early in the agenda.  It will be helpful for residents of Costa Mesa to speak to the Planning Commission to make their feelings known about this issue.  You may also communicate with the Fountain Valley City Manager and Planning Commission by sending an email here:

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Juggled Agenda And Early Departure

The Costa Mesa Planning Commission met for its last meeting of the month last night and the meeting went about as anticipated with a couple of exceptions.

Chairman Rob Dickson shuffled the deck following the Consent Calendar and moved New Business #1, the discussion of the staff review of the parking situation at the new Planet Fitness store in the K-Mart Shopping Center - part of the original approval of that occupancy.  Following the staff report five people spoke to the issue discussed proximity of handicapped spaces, lack of use of the parking spaces at the back of the center and safety due to the transient population.  In the end the commission concurred that some small adjustments could be made from a signage standpoint to encourage parking in the back, then voted to receive and file the report.

Then Dickson moved Public Hearing #5, the triplex on Melody Lane, forward and the commission voted to continue this item until the meeting on September 14, 2015.

At just about 7:00 p.m. the commission began the Public Hearing #1, the request by The Hub restaurant for extended hours.  The CMPD was included in the Staff Report and discussed calls for service to the restaurant over the last nine months in great detail.  The commissioners were grateful for that input.  The General Manager, Stacey Peoples, explained the circumstances of many of those calls, but some of the commissioners didn't seem particularly satisfied.  Questions were raised wondering about comparisons to other similar establishments, but that information was not available.

Resident Mark Korando, who lives behind the restaurant, was not eager to see the hours extended because of the impact on his home and those of his neighbors.  Others were concerned about the number of calls for service by the police and expressed concern that the commission may not give proper weight to that report.  One old fella apparently rolled off his gurney to drag what's left of his body from his cave in Mesa North to the speaker's podium to plead for the applicant, citing that it was not fair to not give them the business hours they requested while other restaurants in the area have them.  At the end they ignored his ideas - another example of his waning influence in this community - and decided to continue this item
until the second meeting in January, 2016.  In the meantime further information will be gathered about calls for service to that location and comparable statistics will be requested from the CMPD for other venues nearby.  The interim will provide an opportunity for the applicant to demonstrate they can be a responsible operator and a good neighbor by "controlling their customers", including the use of private security, if necessary.  Because the issue was continued it may not be appealed.

Public Hearing #2, the small lot development at 355 Rochester, breezed through after only 30 minutes of discussion.  It met all requirements of the Small Lot Ordinance.

Public Hearing #3, the other small lot development on the agenda at 215 Knox Place, also was approved after a short discussion.  By this time Commissioner Colin McCarthy seemed almost orgasmic at the ease with which the last two items moved through the process.

Public Hearing #4, the Conditional Use Permit for nineteen (19) vertical car lifts in an older apartment development on Merrimac, generated some interesting discussion.  The commissioners were very cautious about this one because it would be the first such installation in Costa Mesa and they didn't want to establish a precedent for future developments.  Several times they expressed concern and were told by staff that this was just an experiment, and that NO NEW developments would be approved with this kind of a parking arrangement.  Only existing marginally parked developments would be given consideration, and only after this project had been installed and operated awhile.  Other concerns were expressed about safety - the representatives of the company assured us that there had been no problems at their other installations in 7 cities throughout the county.   When they voted to approve the Conditional Use Permit they modified one of the conditions - #9 - to require the report of property damage or injury as a result of the operation of the equipment within 48 hours.  That tightened-up the issue.  They also added a condition that any malfunctioning unit must be repaired within 72 hours or removed or the CUP might be revoked.

Finally, Assistant Director of Development Services, Claire Flynn, reminded the commissioners that their next meeting would be a joint study session with the City Council on September 8th at which the General Plan, the Urban Plans and the future of the Fairview Developmental Center property would be discussed.  That's going to be a doozy!  The meeting ended before 10:00 p.m.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Tony Dodero New Costa Mesa Public Information Officer

Costa Mesa "leaders" announced today, HERE, that former Daily Pilot Editor Tony Dodero will become the City of Costa Mesa's new Public Information Officer.

OK, BUT...
In that press release no mention about who he reports to directly - one would assume CEO Tom Hatch - nor whom, if anyone, reports to him.  Bill Lobdell - who held a similar job before he bailed out and went to the Irvine Company - had the folks at CMTV reporting to him.  Nobody was around at City Hall who could answer those questions.

The press release speaks almost exclusively about Dodero's background.  The one line that DOES address his job with The City says, "Dodero will be responsible for managing the city’s media relations efforts and expanding the public’s awareness of special events, programs, services, policies and projects."

Dodero will begin his new assignment tomorrow, August 11, 2015.

A word on this subject.  I've known Tony Dodero for more than a dozen years.  He was the Editor at the Daily Pilot when I first began writing commentaries in that fine newspaper.  He's become a friend over those years and I respect his journalistic skills and his integrity.  I look forward to his contributions to the communications coming out of our city very much.  That being said, if we hire one more manager for that 5th Floor bunker I'm afraid the building will simply topple over from being top-heavy.

Good luck, Tony.

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Bikeway & Walkability Committee Meets Wednesday

In case you're wondering how you're going to be spending all that free time since the Planning Commission meets only once this month and the City Council won't meet again until next month, here's some good news for you!  The Costa Mesa Bikeway And Walkability Committee meets on Wednesday, August 12, 2015 at 6:30 in Conference Room 1A at City Hall.

There is only one item on the agenda, the discussion of the Work Plan, HERE, which should fill that evening with lively discussion.  It's my understanding that the fifteen (15) committee members headed by Chairman Ralph Taboada might be supplemented by the two additional members representing the Newport Mesa Unified School District and the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce.  That's going to make an already large group even more fun to manage.  Good luck, Ralph.

The situation is made even more interesting because there is a move afoot within The City to accelerate the General Plan deliberations - the City Council and the Planning Commission will hold a joint workshop that will include on the agenda that very issue early in September.  This will likely put pressure on this committee to produce at least some broad guidelines for their goals and objectives that might be folded into the General Plan.  It's VERY unlikely that they will have time to fully vet any kind of detailed plans - like routes, landscaping, surface composition, and on and on.

So, if you have an interest in the plans for making our city more bicycle-friendly and more walkable, please plan to spend a couple hours in the cozy confines of Conference Room 1A, hearing how this committee plans to move forward.  The meeting is NOT covered live by CMTV.  If previous agendas are any indication, the public will have a couple minutes to address the committee on issues that are important on this issue.

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