Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Fireworks At The Planning Commission Meeting

In what most expected to be a pretty mild, routine Planning Commission meeting Monday night turned out to be anything BUT!

The agenda was fairly routine - a time extension on an long delayed project with a deed complication was about the only controversial thing we might have anticipated.  So, let's take THOSE items first - kind of a flip-flop of the order of march - to get them out of the way.

The Consent Calendar, with only the minutes and a General Plan Conformity Resolution for the possible relocation of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Headquarters from 19th Street to a new location near the airport, passed on a 4-0 vote without comment.  Commissioner Stephan Andranian was absent Monday night.

Public Hearing #1 was the request by developer Red Mountain for a two-year extension of their Planning Application for a much-delayed project at Harbor and Hamilton.  This issue got some unnecessary discussion on the processing of the original planning application - a complication with the actual transfer of a sliver of city property to the developer and the timing thereof.  It seems Mayor Steve Mensinger finally signed the transfer in November, 2015 - a couple years after this process began.  Several speakers addressed this project, presenting evidence of the deed complication and expressing concern for the Community Garden, which is contiguous to the potential development and it's appropriateness, but in the end the short-handed commission approved the 2-year extension on a 4-0 vote.

Public Hearing #2, the Planning Application and related matters for the two-unit development at 146 E. 18th Street breezed through the process - there were no public commenters.  The developer praised the staff, but did indicate he went through three planners. (This is a problem, since we have turnover throughout city government, including in Planning).

Public Hearing #3, the 8-unit development on East 21st Street also moved through the process quickly.  The only complication was the existing utility pole, which will be directly in front of the driveway.  Normally, the staff would require the developer to underground the pole.  However, since that would require spending more than $500,000 and replace one pole with 3 - maybe 4 - the commission waived the requirement.  Commissioner Colin McCarthy was nearly orgasmic again as he praised the developer, Matt White, for this project - one of many he has done in the city.  These homes are targeted in the high $900,000 range.  At the end, before the vote was taken, McCarthy, pointed at White and said, "Look at that evil developer", with that big Cheshire Cat grin he sometimes gets on his face.  He, of course, was mocking critics of development in the city.  More on that at the end of this post.  The project was approved, without the undergrounding, on a 4-0 vote.

After a short break, during which McCarthy apparently decided he'd had enough for the evening and bailed out, they moved to the last item on the agenda - Public Hearing #4, the 4-unit development on 22nd Street.  This one also was handled with dispatch.  The only questionable portion of this one was the setback along 22nd Street - necessitated by right-of-way requirements for possible future widening of the street and the creation of a bike path - combined they sucked up 11 feet of space.  These homes are also targeted at the high $900,000 range.  It passed, 3-0 and the meeting wrapped up at 8:35.
I skipped over the really interesting part of the meeting, so let us now backtrack to discuss what was, in my view, the most disgusting display of partisan rudeness by this commission since I've been watching it.

During Public Comments  Tim Lewis observed that the commission and City Council have been getting shoddy work from the staff - he later spoke about that specifically on the hearing on Item #1.

 Beth Refakes told us again about the Easter candy/egg drive for the children of the 1/5 Marines at Camp Pendleton.

An unidentified speaker pushed back at Commissioner Tim Sesler for his chiding of her at the last meeting when she suggested folks go see "The Big Short", telling Sesler and the rest of us that it was an important movie - one of only three in history that had been viewed by Congress.

The final speaker, who also failed to identify herself, wondered about the status of the injunction on enforcing our ordinances on Sober Living Homes.  She never got an answer. 

In between speakers Teresa Drain, Mary Spadoni and Anna Vrska spoke about the so-called Smart Growth Initiative, referencing the website, commenting about the fact that the signatures have been certified and that they were at the meeting to help dispel some myths about the initiative that have been widely publicized.  They referred folks to the Costa Mesa First website, HERE, for more information. They presented their information in a clear, respectful manner and all went smoothly until Vrska, unfortunately, criticized the Sergeant-at-arms for enforcing the "no clapping" rules, opining that it was their right to clap - and called the officer a "Nazi".  That was uncalled-for and basically wrong.  Yes, it's her free-speech right.  No, the Chairman decides what is disturbing the meeting and can - but he didn't - demand no clapping.  From there we went straight down hill.
When they segued into the Commissioner Comments segment  Colin McCarthy immediately jumped in with a scathing criticism of Vrska for her reference to the officer as a "Nazi".  He then proceeded to go into a long monologue, which I will transcribe for you verbatim below so there's no doubt about what he said.   When Chairman Rob Dickson turned the floor over to him he began:
"Nothing from me tonight except the absurdity of the no-growth hater crowd never ceases to amaze me and I guess it never will."
Let me insert my thought right here... Right there you have demonstrated for you the mind set of those in charge in this city who consider people with opposing viewpoints as "haters" - a term that's thrown around on the Costa Mesa Public Square Facebook page, which has become their bully pulpit - with great frequency.  McCarthy - a long-time planning commissioner and former chairman of the group - showed his true colors with that statement.  Clearly, he has no respect for residents who dare to speak out with an opposing viewpoint.  It's precisely that kind of arrogant attitude that kept him from being a serious City Council candidate when he ran a few years ago.
He went on to say: "The City Council will be receiving soon at some point, and I believe we'll get a copy of it and I hope the public will, an analysis whatever initiative you want to call it - no-growth, Smart Growth matter and that will have some factual analysis and I understand it on dispelling some of the myths on what it does and what it doesn't."

Let us pause here again for a minute.  He mentions an "analysis" that will be performed, yet this issue has NOT YET been heard by the City Council.  The process is for it, the initiative, to be presented to the City Council at a meeting soon - sometime in March, for sure - at which time the council will accept the certified signatures.  It then can decide to NOT require an election and simply vote to adopt the initiative.  We ALL know that's not going to happen, so they will authorize it to be placed on the November ballot.  They also may order "reports" from any number of departments on any number of issues regarding the possible impact of the initiative on the city and it's many operations.  However, THAT has not yet been decided - at least, not in public.  It sure sounded like McCarthy KNEW that those reports would be ordered by the council, didn't it?  It makes one wonder just what kind of backroom conversations - illegal conversations - have been taking place among commissioners and council members that produced the assumption that those reports would be ordered, doesn't it?
McCarthy continued: "My biggest concern with the initiative has always been and continues to be that it puts the brakes on our General Plan - and it does.  It's gonna force our General Plan to get frozen in time until it gets voted on.  It's going to be subject to the initiative.  I love the citizen's voice and power and all that and measures, but the idea of us putting through the General Plan, which has bone through a significant heavy lifting process, public hearings and staff and it's going to be discussed here in March and, ultimately going before the City Council.  The idea that we could implement a General Plan and that it would not go into effect until an election two years later is just silly."

Well, he's got that all wrong, which is no surprise to me.

He continued: "I ran into one of our old developers not that long ago at a family function and I asked him why I haven't seen him around in Costa Mesa and he said 'We're doing projects in Santa Ana.  We don't have any interest in being in Costa Mesa anymore.' And that just kinda broke my heart."
And finally: "So, looking forward to seeing some good fact-based discussions.  I agree with what a couple speakers said about dispelling myths about the initiative and I look forward to learning more about it, but everything that I'm reading is really troubling, not just as a commissioner, but as a resident."

So, he admits he really doesn't know enough about the initiative, yet he pillories the folks who attempt to educate the public - the speakers last night - and refers to them as "haters".  And, I wonder just where he's "reading" whatever he's reading?  Is this like former commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick's frequent comment, "The voices I'm hearing."?

Next up was Commissioner Tim Sesler, with comments that evoked an outcry from members of the audience, who were so upset with him that a few stormed out of the auditorium.  He began:
Thank you, Mr. Chair.  Just a few comments.  I know that the Costa Mesa First supporters came out and were directing people to their own web site and that's fine.  I encoursage everyone to do so.  I also encourage citizens that are really interested in perhaps a more objective approach to visit Costa Mesa Public Square.  It's a web site which people on both sides can visit.  It's a web site for people to gather information and people can have discussions there and have discussions there on a civil manner.  They don't call individuals who they disagree with "nazis" because they're police.  I think some of the resident's comments tonight kind of illustrate that the supporters for Costa Mesa First really aren't interested in a full public debate.  So, I think that's really a worthwhile place to visit and have a good discussion.  And I wish our sergeant of arms luck as he checks our outgoing film critic.  Otherwise, I have no comment, Mr. Chair."

As you might imagine, it was that "Costa Mesa Public Square" comment that got some in the audience so upset.  First, it's NOT open to the public, so for him to refer folks to it with the expectation of being able to even SEE what's going on there, much less participate, is a lie.  If, perchance, a person were to find his way onto that Facebook page what he will find is group-think, where only one side of the issue is discussed, and in terms like McCarthy's "hater" comment.  Sadly, ALL of the planning commissioners are denizens of that site - I see screen grabs of many of their comment threads every week - so I KNOW what they're saying - about the initiative and other issues.

Next Dickson handed the baton to Vice Chair Jeff Mathews - he of few words.  This time he had a little something to say.  He began:
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Usually none, but just briefly.  So, what does that say about some of the people are leading that initiative?  What we just heard, how they just acted - Really?!  I'm really, I find that disappointing, troubling and amusing all at the same time.  I would think that other right-minded, logical citizens might take a look at that and incorporate that into their judgment of what's going on.  It's ridiculous.  But that's just my opinion - I could be wrong."

So, Jeff, "right-minded, logical citizens", huh?  Why, how superior of you!  Make yourself a note:  "When tempted to open my mouth - DON'T!"  And, yes, Jeff - not only could you be wrong, but you ARE wrong.

Finally it was Dickson's turn to comment.  He said:
"Thank you very much.  I hope that everybody reads carefully the city documents that come out when the analysis comes forth they get their own facts."
So, yet another pre-judgment of "city documents" being produced soon - just as McCarthy mentioned above.  Again, what kind of insider, inappropriate, illegal conversations have they had with council members who have NOT yet heard this issue in open session - or closed session, either, for that matter.  It comes as no surprise that there has likely been major Brown Act violations by members of the City Council in which they discussed this issue among themselves, either as a majority or in a serial conversation, and have decided that there WILL be reports prepared.  They're just not letting the rules get in the way of their opinions and decisions - as usual.

So, the meeting began on a very sour note, with the use of the words "nazi" and "hater" - and those were the high points.  In my view, it is absolutely unacceptable for sitting commissioners to chide and vilify concerned residents who present opposing views to them.  My friend, Bruce Garlich, must be spinning in his grave about now.  This behavior is unprofessional, at best.  The residents of this city deserve better.   November provides an opportunity for that to happen.

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Blogger mesa verde madman said...

I guess they've never seen Jami Jo's comments. Civil is not a term I would use when describing them, among many others. If that's where people go for facts, we're all doomed.

The good news is, most people I know go there merely to get a taste of the crazy. I think November is coming soon, and the power base is getting nervous.

Regarding the initiative, I'm not even sure I support it. If we can get reasonable people on the council, and in turn the planning commission, rather than the developers and attorneys that currently reside, smart growth could return all on its own.

2/23/2016 06:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Anna is a tireless worker who often does the city staff's job when she researches records that they don't seem to want to find. She stands up to Jimsteve and speaks the truth. Even though this group can rile emotions, it's important not to sink down to their level when it comes to name calling. Even though they provoke it, they will use every slip up to discredit the cause. After all, they don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to facts.

2/23/2016 07:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

The OC Grand Jury should investigate just what the planning commissioners are being told to do, who is telling them, and when they are being told. None of this seems right.

How funny is it when Jabba the McCarthy calls other people "haters?" This is a guy whose ideas and persona were clearly "hated" by voters when they rejected him for a Council seat.

All those years of bootlicking for nothing.

2/23/2016 08:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Absolutely right, Geoff, when you indicate its clear to everyone why McCarthy did not get elected as councilman, and never will. He is likened to a creature that slithers with no arms or legs, no neck and no conscience. He thinks he can appropriately act like Righeimer. He cannot. I hope for the sake of this city that he, Sesler and Dickson lose their jobs in November.

Everyone is encouraged to go to the website Costa Mesa 1st, and read the initiative. The description is easy to read and there should be no mystery. It gives a vote to the residents, on large projects that require a general plan change, add 40 or more units to what is existing, 200 or more car trips to what is already existing, or adds 10,000 additional space for retail/office. That would make a huge project. The vote is to insure that it is a good project that will benefit the city and the residents, and not just provide campaign funds for a certain few. It will insure that our intersections are not gridlocked and traffic is appropriately considered.

As it stands now, the retail/commercial area all the way down Harbor and Newport Blvd. is to benefit the residents. We need it upgraded with new businesses that will benefit the residents. Our council along with the use of their appointed planning commission wants to take that area and build more high density residential. Not for the residents' use. There is no reason that area cannot be used to provide business space, with upgraded shops, restaurants and retail. We need that. We need jobs. We do not need to look like Wilshire Blvd.

It may have been out of line for Anna Vrska to say what she did, but it is what many are thinking. Every citizen in this city, except for those on Public Square, are feeling used, abused and betrayed. So its just too bad if the people perpetrating these feelings have to hear what people think. Tough.

And now we can expect to hear the council's misguided beliefs and comments about the initiative.


2/23/2016 09:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Mesa Verde Madman, the initiative would protect us from any future council that gets in office that would take up the ideas of Mensheimer wherein it destroys our neighborhoods, increases our traffic, and has taken all the parking on the streets. We will be great if we get a majority in November, but what about after that? We need a general plan in place that isn't drawn on kleenex. We need it to have some teeth that can provide this city with some stability. Don't believe the Mensheimer rhetoric. The sky won't fall.

2/23/2016 09:10:00 AM  
Anonymous lovemygarden said...

Ms. Vrska’s comment was probably an emotional one. Each of us has our own reaction to seeing a large police officer headed our way. If your family experienced the worst parts of communism or Stalinism, or if you are an old hippie that participated in 60s-70s protests, you react differently than someone who has only had the safety of the good ole parts of the USofA.

A few months back I was at a City Council meeting and a gentleman leaned over and asked a question, and I believe commented on what a circus the meeting was. I think I chuckled and responded to his question. The officer came up to us and loomed over us. He didn’t say a word, but just stood there for little while, and then went away. We didn’t disturb the meeting or anyone around us (to my knowledge), but it struck me as odd.

I now see there is a pattern for trying to deny First Amendment rights in the chamber and this officer has probably been instructed to do just that. Perhaps it is time for members of the audience to start recording the goings-on. Residents who are unable to come to the meetings could see a glimpse by watching recordings made by the audience. Also, perhaps if the ACLU saw the recordings they might take an interest in our City Council again.

2/23/2016 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Muffin Top Bob said...

The reason Colin has insider information is because he's always at Riggys feet, licking his boots and he overhears alot of talk.

2/23/2016 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous It has to be said...

Little Timmy promotes Costa Mesa Pubic Square because: "They don't call individuals who they disagree with "nazis" because they're police." - this from the guy who likes "CopBlock" on his facebook.

Any golly gee, Colin has conversations with Costa Mesa developers at family functions? Has he ever recused himself on this conflict?

2/23/2016 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Honeyman said...

Maybe Anna confused the sergeant-at-arms with Millard. Did he look like a cadaver?

2/23/2016 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Heart for Costa Mesa said...

Couple years or so ago Lee Ramos campaign manager and would-be blogger named Dennis Popp called the community group CM4RG Nazis and compared their leader with Hitler. I don't think it's cool whoever says it unless they are talking about the real Nazis in a historical sense. Although this time I can't help observing that some of Anna's biggest critics were some of Popps biggest supporters.

2/23/2016 10:55:00 PM  
Blogger mesa verde madman said...

Trust me, WMC, I don't believe a word those guys say, and I'm almost insulted you would think I'm falling for their rhetoric. As McCarthy says, that dog won't hunt (gosh, I hate that). I'm just not totally convinced I like the initiative, that's all.

True story, and one I forgot to share when it happened last summer. An old friend of mine that I grew up with in CM is married to a developer, and he asked me at a party if I would ever consider running for city council, not because I was worthy in any way, but because they needed someone to do their bidding, a warm body essentially. I said no, but he continued to explain himself, and how important it was that they essentially buy another vote on the dais. I said, "You've already got three votes," but he insisted they need another.

That's what we're up against. The CMPS crowd can rail all they want about 'haters' and deny the presence of developer money backing Mensheiemer Conglomerated, but they are out there salivating over the possibilities here.

The heart of Costa Mesa and what we are all about is truly at stake. Remain vigilant.

2/24/2016 06:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

It was unfortunate, but sadly understandable. I've heard multiple complaints about this cop wannabe attempting to throw his weight around.

2/24/2016 07:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

MV Madman: Good to know. Don't take offense. It was just a comment. I believe you completely. Out of curiosity, who would you like to see run in this next council election?

2/24/2016 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger zennymoon said...

Sorry no apology necessary for Ms. Vrska, because they were her words. I cannot deny her words or feelings because she has the right to express herself in any way she sees fit. Anna is articulate, passionate and expressed herself, as that moment dictated. Now the PC. baffoons made their biased feelings perfectly clear. Who apologizes for those morons? Unprofessional nincompoops!

2/24/2016 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger Honeyman said...

On the council agenda for March 1st:

Mayor Pro
Tem Righeimer
is requesting that the City Council terminate the membership of Anna
Vrska from the Fairview Park Citizen’s Advisory Committee.
On April 16, 2013, then Mayor Righeimer nominated Anna Vrska to be appointed to the Fairview
Park Citizen’s Advisory Committee.
(Attachment 1)
The motion passed on a 4

1 vote.
According to Council Policy 000
2, under Section 2 “Membership Terms”, subse
as follows: “The City Council, at any time, may request the resignation of or terminate membership
of any committee member.”
(Attachment 2)
Members of City Council Appointed Advisory Committees and
Boards may be terminated by the
action of the City Council
. The Council Policy does not require
need to show cause for such an

2/25/2016 11:40:00 AM  

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