Saturday, October 24, 2015

Westside Costa Mesa In Peril?

I suspect many of you, while flipping the pages of your Daily Pilot Friday, failed to notice the following advertisement that appeared in the lower left quadrant of my paper on page B7.  Click on the image to enlarge it, if necessary.
This advertisement should cause every Westside Costa Mesa resident to snap to attention.  Here's a little map that includes the area involved.  The Hixson Metals plant is in the lower section, on Production Place:
For some history, Hixson Metal Finishing has been cited for high emissions of hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing pollutant.  You know, that stuff Erin Brockovich uncovered a couple decades ago in the drinking water in Hinkley, California.  The Orange County Register wrote about Hixson a couple times last May.  You can read one of the articles HERE.

At a Costa Mesa Planning Commission meeting last June a resident, having read that article and others, expressed concern to the commission about airborne cancer-causing pollutants invading the Westside of Costa Mesa, in response to which Chairman Rob Dickson assured her that it was a situation in Newport Beach, and that the Air Quality Management District has responsibility for any nuisance odors and referred folks to the AQMD.

Well, take a look at their chart in the ad, then look at the map.  If you're one of the folks thinking of buying one of those $700,000+ stacked homes along 17th Street or nearby on Industrial Way, are you comfortable with the proximity of airborne cancer-causing pollutants?  Is that something you think should be disclosed?

A little more history.  Back in 1987 an in-plant electrical fire resulted in a disaster at that site.  According to reports at the time, HERE, more than 500 people were evacuated and public safety folks were injured.  And, again to subsequent news reports, Newport Beach first responders, HERE, HERE and HERE, were reported to have suffered life-ending exposure to toxic chemicals while responding to that blaze, like Newport Beach Police Sergeant Steve Van Horn, who died 10 years later of leukemia.

According to the report issued to Hixson Metal Refinishing on May 8, 2015, HERE, the company is required by the AQMD to issue an annual public notice, which I assume is why they placed that ad, above.  Part of that report includes this exhibit.  I also visited the AQMD site and found a page, HERE, that provides an extensive background on its interaction with Hixson Metal Refinishing.  Compare this to the map above.  Again, click to enlarge.  If you still can't read it, go to that link I provided in the first sentence of this section and see it in full size.
Thanks to a friend who saw this ad - I confess that I did not - and brought it to my attention Friday.  I think it's important for those folks living nearby understand what's happening, and has been happening, at that site for decades and continues today.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Parks and Rec. Commission Stumbles Through The Agenda

The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission had one of its more interesting meetings last night.  It managed to make it through the agenda, HERE, but not without some hiccups along the way.

Beth Refakes reminded us, for the final time, she says, that the City continues to collect candy for the children of our adopted Marine unit, the 1/5, at Camp Pendleton.  All candy, indiviually wrapped, may be placed in the foot locker in the lobby of City Hall.  The Military Affairs Team will deliver it to Camp Pendleton before Halloween.

Things began smoothly enough when, without discussion, they approved the Consent Calendar items - memorial tree, bench and plaque placement for Frank P. Forbath and a memorial tree and plaque for Katherine Libel.  We were on a roll at 6:07 and I was optimistic that we'd be out of there by 8:00.  Ha!  Silly me!

Next up was a simple tree removal request by resident Hennie van Doorn at 954 Governor Street, or so most of us thought.  It took 40 minutes to finish this one off.  There were only 8 people in the audience at the time.  By the time the commissioners struggled through this one, with Commissioner Byron de Arakal throwing a curve ball (note baseball metaphor in honor of the season) by trying to get the commission to do what they will likely do routinely once the new set of rules is finally adopted next year - let the applicant pay for removing the offending tree and the city pick up the tab for the replacement.  Round and round the conversation went.  In fact, they actually voted on this twice - the first time failing to meet de Arakal's objective.  Finally, after another ten minutes of discussion, Commissioner Robert Graham proposed exactly the same motion and it passed, 3-2, with Chairman Kim Pederson and Vice Chair Brett Eckles voting no.  I'm not sure what they did was by the book, but they did it, nonetheless.  One of the concerns was that this would be setting a precedent... which it did, as you'll see in a minute.

Next up was the tree removal request for 1969 New Jersey Street, where the resident, Mathew Martinez, is re-landscaping his home with more drought-tolerant plantings and wished to replace a parkway tree that doesn't fit with his plans.  This time the deliberations took five (5) minutes and the commission agreed unanimously to allow the removal of the tree, the replacement with two fan palms and further addition of three trees to the city inventory, all at the owner's expense.

Then came the final tree removal item on the agenda, requested by Mona McClanahan at 2822 Ellesmere Avenue.  This actually involved three (3) trees, one of which was causing problems with the sewer lines and it, along with the other two were causing sprinkler damage and creating algae problems in a salt water pond, plus the roots were creating problems with concrete and grass failed to grow adjacent to them.  This applicant was savvy enough to recognize what happened with the first tree removal request, so requested the same consideration for hers.  The commission, hearing that door slam behind them, agreed.  The city will pay for the first tree to be removed as a health and safety hazard and will remove the other two, as well, but the applicant must pay for the replacement trees for those two.

At 7:00 we began the discussion of the Harbor Boulevard Bicycle Trail Plant Palette, which took about five (5) minutes and was approved on a 5-0 vote.

Then Recreation Manager Travis Karlen began the discussion of the Costa Mesa Community Garden Report, which included new rules for the use and maintenance of the two gardens.  As this discussion progressed, and the five (5) speakers addressed the commission, it became apparent that there were some missing links, although it took nearly an hour to arrive at that conclusion.  A couple of the speakers were long-time gardeners and also helped launch the second community garden on Hamilton Street.  Another was the only member of the volunteer group that is supposed to be administering the current rules, but apparently that's not happening.

The upshot of this was that the new rules will be put into effect and Karlen and his staff will pull together those individuals that are theoretically part of the volunteer group and help implement the new rules.  This will come back to the commission in six months.  One was left feeling that the new rules, which may be found as part of the staff report, HERE, are a very good beginning, but the administration of them is going to be problematic.  It's interesting that there's an estimated two-year waiting list for each of the two parks and no new people are being added because of the low turnover.  These new rules may create new openings.

After a short break we heard Karlen's "Per Player Fee" Analysis, requested by Chairman Pederson at an earlier meeting.  Karlen surveyed several neighboring communities for information, the spreadsheet for which is attached to the staff report, HERE.   Pederson works with a per player fee program at his job with the City of Newport Beach and he's convinced it's a good way to go.  It isolates fee charges for individual players into an account that can be used for ONLY enhancements or maintenance of specific fields/other infrastructure relevant to the individual user group.  After a few minutes discussion he asked that the staff prepare a plan and bring it back to the commission for consideration.

Then we heard from each individual commissioner on their Parks Districts Report.  I'm not going to attempt to quote the praise most parks received, but issues of lighting and trash cans were universal.  Dead or dying trees were also mentioned by several commissioners.
de Arakal suggested a meeting with neighbors around Tanager Park to discuss their wishes for a big slab of concrete that is no longer used as a court.

When it was his turn Vice Chair Brett Eckles spoke with concern about Lions Park, speculating that space there might be found for a skate park or additional fields, among other things.  He also expressed concern and disappointment for the apparent damage done to brand new infrastructure at Shalimar Park.

Bart Mejia gave his Parks Project Manager's report, which was simply a referral to the published report provided to the commissioners.  It's not included in the information online.

During Commissioner Comments Eckles wondered how the new "strikes" policy was working under the recently-revised Field Use and Allocation Policy (FUAP).  Karlen explained some of the context and some of the current violations being tracked.  This is new ground, so users are a little slow to adapt.

Don Harper suggested the City take a more proactive role in instructing the public on proper water use practices.  Oddly, nobody suggested that is the purview of Mesa Water, and they've provided information to the public on that very subject.

As Chairman Pederson was about to adjourn it was pointed out that he'd forgotten the Recreation Manager's report, so he gave Karlen a chance to present three items of interest.

The first was a new event - an Art Adventure - conceived by the Cultural Arts Committee which will take place the middle of November - the 13th, 14th and 15th.  It will be a "juried art show" with only Orange County artists, and more.  Publicity on the event is forthcoming.

Also, he told us that there will be a new R.O.C.K.S. program at Rea School this year.  And that a new Field Ambassador has been assigned to that school during California Youth Soccer Team games and practices.

Pederson reminded all of us left - both of us - that the next meeting will be held earlier in November because of the Thanksgiving holiday.  The meeting will be on November 19th.  Mark your calendars.

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Loss Of Affordable Housing Protested

A funny thing happened on the way to the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting last night!  I stopped on the way to view the peaceful demonstration by members of the Costa Mesa Affordable Housing Coalition and other concerned residents to protest the planned demolition of the 236-room Costa Mesa Motor Inn and in its place erect a 224-room luxury apartment complex, which will result in the loss of some of the few remaining "homes" for very low or low income residents.
I perched across the street from the Costa Mesa Motor Inn, arriving just before 5:00 p.m. - the announced start time of the demonstration - and saw a Costa Mesa Police car staged in the exit of the Home Depot shopping center, watching.  He left shortly after I arrived, heading north on Harbor Boulevard for parts unknown.
I parked in the parking lot adjacent to McDonald's nearby and leaned against a light pole on Harbor Boulevard and began observing the demonstrators as they formed-up across the street.  When I arrived there were already nearly 50 people - men, women and children - lined up along the curb, waving to the passing traffic and holding signs of all shapes and sizes.
I noticed Daily Pilot reporter Bradley Zint arrive and begin to chat with folks.  In this image he's talking, or rather, listening to organizer Kathy Esfahani.  You can read his coverage of this event, including interviews with participants and tenants, HERE.  You'll see him in other images I took yesterday afternoon.
I spent approximately 30 minutes, standing, watching and photographing.  I think you'll get a flavor for the event as you scroll down through the images I've provided.  I saw many familiar faces - many folks who are concerned enough about civic affairs that they take time out of their busy lives to study issues, write to officials, speak at meetings, participate on committees, run for office and attend events like this one.  You'll probably recognize a few yourself.
I found myself wondering just what effect this demonstration will have on the elected officials that will make the final decision on the future of the planned development on that site.  According to reports from the owner and some residents, things are much, much better now that the owner has instituted what amounts to a "lock down" condition at the Costa Mesa Motor Inn.  And, in theory, he's "taking care of" those residents who pay their rent and keep their rooms serviceable until they are eventually evicted before demolition of the building, sometime next spring or fall.  August was mentioned as the departure date.  He said he will return three months paid rent plus $1,500 dollars to tenants who stick it out until that date under the terms he prescribed.  That's hardly enough to find permanent housing in Costa Mesa, but it might be enough for a starting point elsewhere.

An interesting side note.  At the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, one of the items on the agenda is the request for permission to place a tree, bench and plaque in the memory of Frank P. Forbath, the long-time resident and activist for the downtrodden.  I couldn't help but notice that his widow, Jean, and their daughter, Kathy Esfahani, were among the demonstrators.  They chose to participate here rather than attend the meeting where a memorial to Frank was happening.  It seemed somehow perfectly correct and exactly what Frank would have preferred.  Spoiler alert - the memorial to Frank was approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission.

As the sun set behind the Costa Mesa Motor Inn and the, by now, around 100 demonstrators, and I was getting ready to depart for the meeting at City Hall, a young couple departing the shopping center behind me on foot stopped to ask me what was going on.  I told them about the demonstration and answered a couple of their questions.  As they left I asked where they were from, since they had the look of tourists.  They said "back east", which I found out meant north of Boston.  I asked where they were staying and was surprised when they told me the name of a sober living facility - and proudly admitted they were here because of heavy drug and alcohol use!  I wished them well and they walked on up the street.  Something's always happening in Costa Mesa....

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Mensinger, You Dolt! Shut Up!

I was heading to bed after a long day of contemplating my navel and our city, not necessarily in that order, when a "Watchdog" article by the Orange County Register's outstanding reporter, Teri Sforza, caught my eye.  It's titled, "Evening The Score On Disclosure", HERE, and addresses Senate Bill 331, recently signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.  I've written about it before.  It's known as the Civic Reporting Openness in Negotiations Efficiency - CRONE or CRONEY, depending on who's writing about it.  Sforza's piece is actually very good, as usual. 

As I began reading this piece I thought to myself, "Well, this is old news.", but kept on reading and that's when I found this paragraph, in which she quotes Costa Mesa's mayor, Steve Mensinger.

"The unions are using the Legislature to spank us," said Costa Mesa Mayor Stephen Mensinger, who birthed the original Civic Openness in Negotiations ordinance that the unions hate, and that the county adapted and adopted.  "They're saying, 'you've been bad, and anyone else who wants to leave the plantation will be punished.'"

"Leave the plantation"?  How is it possible for an elected leader of a city of more than 100,000 souls, well into the 21st Century, to blurt out such a racially-charged, insensitive, stupid comment like that?

Now, some of you will say, "Geez, West, just give it a rest.  After all - as his wife told us in his original swearing-in ceremony - 'That's just Steve being Steve'".  Well, if this was an isolated incident maybe, just maybe, I could cut the guy some slack - but it isn't.  He continues to spout malaprops and just plain dumb stuff in public forums.  He continues to chide and vilify speakers and fellow councilmembers.  And worse, he's unleashed his inner-dumbbell on social media sites, apparently thinking that anybody seeing that stuff will just smile and agree with him and think, "Well, that's just Steve being Steve".  Guess again, Steve-o.  We see it... we don't like it...  and we archive it.

So, using my 2,800th post on this site, here's my request to my mayor.  "Mr. Mayor, you're the top elected official in Costa Mesa.  You represent us, the residents, when you make public pronouncements.  So, when you get the urge to comment on something - DON'T!  When you get the urge to spit back some kind of epithet at a critic - DON'T!  In fact, to be on the safe side, whenever you get the urge to open your mouth on any subject - DON'T!  And, when you sit down at your keyboard or phone to type something you think is a clever comment or retort on a social media site - DON'T!  Not only do you demonstrate your stupidity, but you embarrass us as residents and probably embarrass your friends and family, too, but they won't tell you.  Well, I'm telling you - SHUT UP!"

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