Friday, November 06, 2015

Small Planning Commission Agenda Monday Night

The Costa Mesa Planning Commission meets again in City Council Chambers beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, November 9, 2015 for what should be a very brief meeting since there are only two Public Hearings on the agenda, which may be read HERE.

There is one VERY interesting item on the Consent Calendar - items that normally will be voted upon in one motion without discussion - Item #2, the Comparison Matrix For Orange County Cities.  I cannot imagine this one escaping discussion because the four attachments included are fascinating.  Go to the agenda item, HERE, and you'll find the short staff report plus the four attachments, which are listed as:
  • Attachment 1:   Residential Building Heights
  • Attachment 2:   High Density Residential Designations
  • Attachment 3:   Comparison of Parking Requirements with Select Surrounding Cities Only
  • Attachment 4:   Overall Residential Parking Requirements in Orange County (Single-Family and Multi-Family units)
These attachments are worth a few minutes of your time.

Public Hearing #1, HERE, is the Planning Application and Tentative Tract Map for a five-unit Small Lot Subdivision Residential Development at 261 Mesa Drive, across the street from the Santa Ana Country Club.  This project requests five (5) units on a site that could have 6.  Each of the units will be two-story, 3-bedroom units of over 2,000 square feet each.

The final item on the agenda, Public Hearing #2, HERE, is a request by the Boathouse Collective - a successful, fairly new, restaurant on the Westside of town - for a new Conditional Use Permit because their previous CUP has expired and the venue used for off-site parking is no longer available.  See the staff report, which outlines the details of the new request, including the operating hours and valet parking elements.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Addressing Homelessness In Costa Mesa

As some who follow this issue closely may know, a couple years ago the City of Costa Mesa formed a Homeless Task Force, which threw itself headlong into the growing issue of homelessness in our city.  Public meetings were held, the definition of a "Costa Mesa homeless person" was created and outreach to faith-based organizations were established.

Then, that organization - which had a significant public input element - morphed into something called the Network For Homeless Solutions, which is a closely-held group within City Hall that continues to attempt to conjure up solutions to the problem of homelessness in the city.  Unfortunately, based on a conversation I had with Assistant Chief Executive Officer Rick Francis - the city's extremely capable point man on this issue - it's not possible for a resident to participate in the group.  I know... seems strange, doesn't it, to exclude members of the public who are actually experiencing, first hand, the impact of the homeless folks in our city?  But, that's the way it is.

Anyhow, there is now available on the city web site, HERE, a full array of information on this group, with links to helpful bits of information.  Nowhere does it say how one can join the group, only how to volunteer or donate to other groups working the issue.

In the meantime, we demolish picnic pavilions (Lions Park) remove picnic tables and lock restrooms (Wilson Park) and remove covered bus benches throughout the city.  Those activities can only be interpreted as being designed to make homeless folks even more uncomfortable than they already have been.  If the goal is to drive them out of town, it may well on the way to succeeding.

And, in an ironic twist, the City Council just approved demolishing the Costa Mesa Motor Inn, which will almost certainly result in more folks residing in our city being forced out onto the streets, into their cars or seeking shelter wherever they can.  We live in strange times.

Now, don't misunderstand me... homeless is a HUGE problem and, clearly, not one easily solved.  As has been said more than once - the solution to homelessness is a home - but there's no evidence that this city is doing anything toward that goal... we're treating symptoms, not the malady.

However, at the last council meeting - the one that ran until 1 a.m. and in which we spent most of the time talking about the demise of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn and, tangentially, the loss of around 50 affordable housing units - at the 4:18:00 on the video HERE, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer began a nearly fifteen minute rant, telling us we didn't understand about financing affordable housing, that he'd done it while on the Orange County Housing Commission and on the board of Mercy House, so we should shape up and shut up because HE - the royal HE - was going to fix it!

He told us that HE is going to put on the ballot next year a $20 million bond which was, theoretically, going to facilitate the creation of affordable housing in the city!  Yep, he's going to ask us to give him twenty million bucks for affordable housing.  He kind of just waived off the "technical details", as you'll see if you go to that link and drag the scroll bar over to that mark.  It was another of his "just trust me" moments!  He talks about the owners of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn finally seeing the light, realizing that this motel model doesn't work anymore.  HE DOESN'T tell you that one of the reasons it doesn't work is because he and his majority have crafted ordinances and other rules of enforcement that have bludgeoned them into submission.  And, near the end of his little rant, he implies that he hopes other motel owners will also see the light so these "cancers" can be removed from our city.  Yeah, he used that word several times to describe long-time businesses in this city.

That's actually pretty funny when you think about it.  There are more than a few people in this town who consider him and his majority as the real cancers in this city.  They've made Costa Mesa less safe through their ignorant, vindictiveness toward public safety organizations.  They gutted what was arguably one of the most effective, professional police departments in the region by capriciously establishing an arbitrary staffing level that was 25% below previous deployment models.  They abandoned the A.B.L.E helicopter program, a force multiplier in police work and the model for ALL other municipal helicopter programs in the country.  They delayed the recruitment of officers to replace those seasoned veterans who, due to the toxic nature of their management, left for other venues or retired earlier than anticipated, which resulted in the department having to operate 20% below that already-inadequate staffing level for more than a year... and counting.  They've delayed the implementation of the Paramedic Transport Van program, even though we've spent over $1.5 million for the equipment, half of which sits unused - apparently protecting the lucrative medical transport business of a major campaign contributor.   These acts, and many, many more, are the true cancers in our city.

So, here's my solution... let the ballot box become our "chemotherapy".  Let your vote be the surgical knife that excises the cancerous growth that is the Righeimer/Mensinger/Monahan majority from our body politic.  Monahan will be termed out - evacuated from the system again like a painful kidney stone finally being passed.  Mensinger now has a body of "work" that demonstrates he is unfit for office.  It's time for this electorate to tell these guys that we're tired of their malignant mismanagement and they have to go.  It's time to shrink the tumor that has invaded our city and repair the damage done.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Bike Committee Hears OCTA Report, And More

Once again I attended the meeting of the Costa Mesa Bikeways and Walkability Committee last night.  This one was held at the Costa Mesa Senior Center, as usual, but this time in a smaller, warmer room.  What a nice change to, 1) be able to hear the participants from my position in the cheap seats and, 2) not have my teeth chattering throughout the meeting.  Nearly a dozen members of the public attended this meeting - a new record.
The committee, which again failed to have all members present, but did have enough to form a quorum, heard a presentation from Paul Martin, Active Transportation Coordinator for the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA).  What follows is part of his slide presentation:

Then Melissa Dugan from the consulting firm, Stantec, provided us with a brief presentation of the information gathered at a community meeting two years ago, September 18, 2013.  She showed us slides of four maps that were used to gather data, then showed us a combined map.  She also handed out a hard copy of that map for the committee members to use to doodle their own ideas on for a segment of their process later downstream.
Then, guided by Chairman Ralph Taboada and Vice Chair Cynthia McDonald, the committee began the slog through the Goals and Objectives once again.  This is slow going, but essential because this process will form the foundation of their future activities and must be done so a proper set of recommendations can be presented to the City Council early next year.
Once again, this committee works very effectively together.  Discussions are respectful and none of the members seem impatient with the process.  The staff, headed by Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz, continues to provide excellent professional support to the committee.  They will continue to meet twice a month through this year, hoping to complete the first segment of their assignment in time to have their handiwork included in the General Plan.  Their next meeting is on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Senior Center.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

A Long And Curious Night

OK... where do we begin?  First of all, those of you who guessed the Costa Mesa City Council meeting would run until 1 a.m. exactly won the pool!  That means I only spent 8 hours in City Council Chambers last night.  And, much of that time was spent in a packed house.. there were only one or two seats empty through the first public hearing.  And those folks walked through a gauntlet of affordable housing advocates, singing to them as they approached council chambers.
And, to give you a clue why it took so long, we had fifteen (15) speakers for Public Comments, thirty-seven (37) for Public Hearing #1 (the Costa Mesa Motor Inn issue) and eighteen (18) for Public Hearing #2 (the Sober Living Ordinance), which means we had three and a half hours of public comments alone!

For the first time in recent memory nothing was pulled for separate discussion from the Consent Calendar, so, silly me, I thought we might have a chance to get home Tuesday night.  Ha!

We had a wide range of issues discussed during Public Comments.  Several residents presented a petition for permit-only parking in their area, which was passed along to Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz.  They were told it would take at least 6 weeks to do the studies and process the request.
Kim Hendricks and Kevin Nelson complained about the "illegally" filled-in arroyo in Fairview Park.
Beth Refakes showed photos of the Camp Pendleton Halloween celebration.  She and other members of the Military Affairs Team took the candy collected for the past couple months down for the event.
Wendy Leece demanded an update on the status of the Fire Department deployment as a result of spending over $1.2 million on Paramedic Ambulances - citing the two-year-old report which outlined the plan.
Ex-employee Steve White spoke again on a variety of issues, including the need for Hemp Cars.
Kathy Esfahani observed that when the Costa Mesa Motor Inn is demolished it will create a need for affordable housing for the residents and advised the need for some plan to help.
Robin Leffler echoed Leece's comments regarding Public Safety staffing.
Chuck Perry praised the council for the new housing around town.
Charlene Ashendorf observed that council member Monahan had recently posted a report about homelessness on Facebook and suggested it be made available to a broader audience.
An anonymous speaker complained about being "doxxed" recently - her background made public by an internet vandal in an apparent attempt to intimidate and silence her.  She has contacted the FBI.

Another anonymous speaker reminded us all to register to vote, endearing herself to Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer by reminding us that he only won re-election by 47 votes the last time around.  She also observed about the group homes and the recent 60 Minutes piece on the heroin plague throughout the country.

During Council Member Comments members Katrina Foley, Gary Monahan and Righeimer had nothing to report.  Mayor Steve Mensinger observed that he had walked 2400 miles around the city.  Sandra Genis expressed concern about not knowing about projects with minor modifications.  She also observed the need for transitional and supportive housing, indicating there were only 2300 units for $1,000 per month or less.
CEO Tom Hatch asked Mesa Water General Manager Paul Schoenberger to make a short presentation.  He told us that the District was doing well responding to the Governor's demand for conservation.  He said we started out with a bang - a 25% reduction in the first three months, but have tailed off to around 20% now.  He said the Mesa Water Directors will meet on November 12, 2015 at District Headquarters and will likely require users to water only one day per week instead of the current two days.  He said there would be no rate increase due to conservation - but didn't say there would be no rate increase for other reasons.  Foley asked him about the shrinkage of clay soil.  He was also asked about enforcement of the conservation policy, to which he replied that there were "ambassadors" patrolling the neighborhoods, issuing warnings.  He said so far no fines have been levied.
At 7:00 we began hearing Public Hearing #1, the Costa Mesa Motor Inn demolition, to be replaced by a 224 luxury apartment complex.  Former Director of Development Services, Don Lamm, represented the owners and made the presentation following the staff presentation.  Three hours and 37 speakers later the council finally voted on the issue.
Here's the shortest summary I can give you.  Genis expressed concern about the amount of recreational space being provided.  She was concerned about how much earth would be removed/moved in the project.  She expressed concern about the number of trips this project would generate - and was told by Lamm it would be negligible, and that the nearby major intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Wilson would remain at an A or B level.  She expressed disbelief at that statement.
Of greatest concern for her was the definition of "moderate" housing - this concern was expressed throughout the discussions.  The issue was "moderate" vs. "median" and which government entity's numbers to use.

Foley was concerned about the 45 children attending Newport Mesa Unified School District schools that would be displaced.  She also expressed concern about the volume of what she described as hateful communications they'd received on this issue.
During his presentation Lamm gave a history of the project and went through the details of the transition planned, including a discussion of the proposed relocation plan that was a condition of approval imposed by the Planning Commission.

Public Comments commenced just after 8:00 p.m. and began with Kathy Esfahani and her compatriots from the Costa Mesa Affordable Housing Coalition presenting six short video interviews with residents of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn.  It was an effective use of their time - six speakers introduced each short clip and also spoke very briefly on the issue.  The thrust of their presentations was the need for affordable housing for low income people - they said this project should have 20% of its units for those folks instead of 9% for moderate income individuals.
Scott Bell, the owner of the Harbor Shopping Center - directly across the street - and the property manager both spoke in favor of the project, citing crime and fear by their customers.  When Bell spoke Foley wanted to ask him a question but Mensinger threw what my Grandmother used to call a "hissy-fit", forbade her from asking the question and, when she challenged him, he pounded his gavel on the desk and called for a break.  It was a bizarre display of infantile behavior, but it wouldn't be the only one we saw last night.

Of the 37 speakers, 10 favored the project as proposed.  The remaining 27 either opposed it outright or, recognizing the inevitability of it, wanted 20% of the new units dedicated to low income residents.  The comments were completed just before 10:00 p.m..

Lamm, in response to the comments, told the council that 20% low income housing was off the table.  If that was a requirement it would be a deal-breaker and the owners would either sell the property or convert it to another kind of motel.  It is presently zoned for commercial, so a retail center or office building could be built.

The discussions took another hour.  The upshot was that the owner agreed to donate $200,000 to be parceled out to help low income folks get on their feet PLUS agreed to modify his relocation assistance package.  In the final form it would provide reimbursement of 3 months rental plus $1,500 dollars per unit for those long-term renters who kept their places up and paid their rent.  And, instead of this becoming effective June 1 with an anticipated closure date of August 1, he agreed to back the start date to February 1st, providing more flexibility for tenants to locate scarce housing in the area.  That $200,000 will be managed by the Housing Authority staff and will be used to help other down-and-out folks based on their needs.

There were four (4) separate issues requiring a vote.  Each passed on a 4-1 vote, with Genis voting no, and Mensinger called for another break before proceeding to the next item - and the crowd thinned by about 1/3.

At 11:15 (Ugh!) we began the second controversial item on the agenda, Public Hearing #2 - the new Sober Living Ordinance and it also proved to be a fun-filled experience.  Rather than try to explain the ordinance to you, here's the slide show presented by the staff.  It's pretty self-explanatory.  That second bullet point in the second slide should get your attention!
The staff presentation only took a few minutes and the Public Comments began just before 11:30 when Fernando Pedroza, representing the Sure Haven recovery operation stepped up and told the council that the ordinance as written violated federal HIPPA and Civil Rights laws because it required the sober living operators to send those who dropped out, or were tossed out, home.  He cited it was impossible to basically hold someone hostage to force them to go "home".  It went downhill from there.

The recovery industry made a full-court press on this issue.  Eleven of the speakers either represented Solid Landings or one of their affiliates or the Sober Living Network or similar organizations.  It was clear that the threat of lawsuits was being floated in not-very-subtle ways.

Eventually, at 12:40 a.m., and following another of Righeimer's classic tirades in which he called a resident a liar from the dais,  the two motions necessary on this issue passed on 5-0 votes.  Let the lawsuits begin!

The third public hearing - the heliport adjacent to John Wayne Airport atop a commercial building, took only about 10 minutes and passed on a 3-2 vote along gender lines after rejecting a substitute motion by Genis and seconded by Foley by the same margin - 2-3.  The male majority effectively spit in the eye of our neighbors in Newport Beach and those folks from the Airport Working Group who have fought the expansion of John Wayne Airport for decades with virtually no cooperation from our city.  This is just the latest example.

Public Hearing #4, the vacation of a little slice of right-of-way at 580 Anton quickly passed, 5-0 and Old Business #1, the Segerstrom Town Center extension request second reading also passed quickly on a 5-0 vote, despite the fact that Righeimer had quick-pitched the process the first time around.

And at 1:00 a.m. today we departed the City Council chambers, hoping to beat the sunrise with this entry... we didn't.  Good night, er, good morning to you all.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,