Friday, June 10, 2016

CM4RG/CM1ST Town Hall A Success!

Thursday night two Costa Mesa grass roots organizations, Costa Mesans For Responsible Government (CM4RG) and Costa Mesa First jointly hosted a Town Hall at the Neighborhood Community Center to present facts and answer questions on several development-oriented issues.  The meeting was attended by more than 100 individuals and it certainly seemed to be a great success.

Issues to be discussed included the General Plan, the so-called Smart Growth Initiative, the Fairview Park Initiative and the future of the Banning Ranch and it's impact on Costa Mesa.
Among the members of the audience I noticed Planning Commission Chairman Rob Dickson and City Council Candidates John Stephens, Lee Ramos, Jay Humphrey and Julie Mercurio.  Mercurio was accompanied by a cadre of minions from the Costa Mesa Public Square Facebook page that she rules with an iron fist.  In fact, she live-streamed the meeting on that page.  Sources tell me that several city officials participated in the comment thread during her event, offering up caustic critical comments.  A few of her minions bailed out midway through the meeting and didn't return.  She and Ramos left before the Question and Answer period began.  I guess they didn't really care what potential constituents were concerned about.
Barry Friedland, of Costa Mesa Brief, was onboard to record the meeting.  His completed work product should be available for viewing on his YouTube channel, HERE, sometime late in the weekend.
My sweet and very patient wife and I arrived in advance of the advertised start time and had a chance to view the many display posters propped around the walls.  Here are but a few of them.  Gift bags were distributed to every attendee and each included a raffle ticket for a drawing at the end of the meeting.  We had a chance to chat with some old friends and to observe that the room was filling up with many unfamiliar faces.  There were many more than just "the usual suspects" - activists and residents who regularly show up at important meetings.  It was good to see more concerned folks attend this meeting.
NOTE:  There will be a lot of images below.  Click on any of them to enlarge for easier reading.

We saw folks from all over the city - Westside, Eastside, Mesa Verde, College Park and from Mesa North, too.  We also saw major landowners represented, apparently interested in how this discussion might affect their operations.

Robin Leffler, representing CM4RG, kicked the meeting off  with an introduction of the purpose, a brief history of Costa Mesa and a description of what was to follow.
Leffler handed it off to Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Sandra Genis, who makes her living as a professional land use planner and who is likely running to retain her seat on the council in November.  She provided us with the benefit of her significant expertise a discussion of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), most of the details of which are covered in the following slides.
Next up was Teresa Drain, who discussed the Land Use Element of the General Plan.  Again, the details of her presentation are included in these slides.
Anna Vrska spoke about the Circulation Element of the General Plan, and specifically the traffic increases anticipated.
Dr. Richard Mehren was up next to discuss Open Space issues and most specifically Fairview Park.  Dr. Mehren was instrumental in Costa Mesa acquiring the parkland decades ago and has been an active shepherd of that venue - described by many as the Jewel of Costa Mesa - ever since.  He was the Chairman of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee until he abruptly resigned in disgust with the direction it seemed to be taking.
Suzanne Forster, Vice President of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, provided us with an update on the status of that project, which lies fully within the boundaries of Newport Beach but will have a very dramatic impact on Costa Mesa from a traffic, noise and pollution standpoint.  She encouraged folks to attend the hearing at the Newport Beach City Hall on either September 7th or 8th - the specific date is as yet undetermined, but it will be on their website.  One of the items she mentioned was that the City of Newport Beach apparently does not have enough water to handle this project, so that likely will mean some kind of contractual arrangement with the Mesa Water District, the organization that provides most of Costa Mesa's water.  An interesting factoid to consider.
Rick Huffman then spoke directly about the Smart Growth Initiative, outlining the reasons for its existence and providing details of the facts about the initiative.
Finally, Mary Spadoni wrapped up that segment of the meeting by reminding all that this was a collaboration of two true grass-roots organizations, who work with passion but no compensation other than to try to make the community better.  She cited her personal reasons for being active, among them High Density of housing, Traffic and quality of life degration as a result.  She wants to see a better balance between homeownership and rentals.  Right now there is over 60% rentals vs homeownership.  And, she doesn't want the city to become Santa Monica.  She encouraged folks to be informed and involved.
During the Question and Answer segment beginning around 8:30 things got a little ragged after a very crisply-run program.  Concerns expressed by attendees involved the demand for water by the high density development.  Leffler handled on about the General Plan and encouraged folks to attend the June 14th special council meeting and then the next regular meeting on June 21st, when it will be discussed and voted upon.

Rick Huffman fielded a question about dedicated bike lanes in the city, which brought the discussion back around to the fact that Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer had emasculated the work product by the Bikeways and Walkability Committee when he demanded the "policies" that had been crafted as part of their Goals and Objectives be referred to as "recommendations", which took all the teeth out of the document.

Forster address a question about the proposed Orange Coast River Park, indicating that it was still in the works.

Genis reminded folks of the proposed increase in traffic in the upcoming General Plan update.

The meeting was wrapped up with the aforementioned raffle.

After the program ended and folks began milling around we had a chance to visit with more than a few, to take their pulse on the meeting.  The consensus of those with whom we spoke was that it was an excellent presentation, which had provided valuable information on several issues.  I noticed that Dickson lingered and spoke with residents, too, as did Stephens and Humphrey.  I encourage you to wait for the Costa Mesa Brief coverage of this event this weekend, then take a couple hours to view it.  It will be time well-spent.
 And look for Luke Money's article in the Daily Pilot shortly.  He was on the job last night, too.
In this campaign season we're likely going to see many more such events, either as Candidate Forums or specifically for some of the many issues on the growing November ballot.  With two - probably three - medical marijuana issues on the ballot, along with the vote-by-district issue, the Smart Growth Initiative and a probably counter to it by the City, the Fairview Park issue and a likely state-wide recreational marijuana issue also available for November voters, it's going to be a very busy summer and fall.

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Anonymous Xyn Bohemia said...

thank you so much for this summary of events. it provides a quick way to go back and review all the information that was presented at the meeting. along with costa mesa brief's video, i will be referring back to it/them when it's time to vote.
it's so nice to see the facts about the issues that are most important to me as a resident of costa mesa.
i appreciate the hard work you do geoff, AND the hard work of all of the participants in the Town Hall Meeting. great job by all.

6/10/2016 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger JimE said...

Thanks so much for helping to keep us informed. Too many in power seem to think that if you aren't at meetings, you don't care. And if too many of the same people are at all the meetings, they are a minority. Well, there are a lot of us who care deeply about the future of our city, but are busy putting kids to bed, working, or otherwise obtained during these meetings. Thank you again, for providing a source whereby we may inform ourselves, and also for so eloquently separating information from your opinion.

6/10/2016 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Geoff --
Suzanne spells her last name "Forster"... Look her up on the web. We are fortunate to have such a celebrated person in our community, especially one who advocates for the preservation of Banning Ranch.

6/10/2016 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Thanks, Terry. I'll fix it. Remarkable woman.

6/10/2016 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

A masterful job of reporting, Pot Stirrer! And it only took you until 3 A.M. to post your story. You’re getting pretty good at this. You ought to ask for a raise … I’d support doubling your going rate.

I've been to many public meetings over the decades, some put on by amateurs such as this one, and some put on by professionals. This was the best I've seen by far. A ton of useful, new info presented in a very accessible way.

Initially I had planned to not attend, thinking I wouldn't learn anything new. At the last minute, I changed my mind, and I’m glad I did, as I learned quite a bit.
Particularly impressive were the dynamic PowerPoints, something you can’t get from the printed page. Some showed photos of Harbor and Newport Blvds. morphing into the Chicago-like canyons they’ll be when Mensheimer’s overlays break the small-town look and feel of those streets.

Especially eye-opening was the PowerPoint about the gargantuan apartment project that was spot-zoned and shoehorned into 125 Baker. It showed the parking structure morphing movie-like, floor by floor, into its full 6-story height. Then it showed the apartment structure gradually enveloping the parking structure. Incredible graphics! Light years ahead of the pencil and paper graphs I was so proud to draw back in the 1960s.

So, thanks a lot for all your work, P.S. You got it right. Much appreciated!

6/10/2016 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous lovemygarden said...

What Geoff couldn't capture were the gasps from the crowd when the renderings of the four and five story buildings came up. It is one thing to look at aerial maps, but is it another thing to see these things from street level. If you want to personally visit one, just drive to Beach and Ellis and check out the monstrosity on that corner. But keep in mind that it is only four stories and Costa Mesa will go higher (125 Baker being the example that is under construction of five stories). The time is now, folks! Get yourself down to City Hall and give 'em hell on June 14 and 21!

6/10/2016 12:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Geoff, thank you for the coverage of the meeting. I can't wait to see the video. I hear it was fantastic. Thanks to everyone who put their time and energy into this event. Would like to see more of this from these groups.

6/10/2016 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Tom, thanks. I'm glad you attended. You really had to be there to get the measure of the crowd reaction, as lovemygarden mentioned. The juxtaposing of the images really drove home the points. The gasping was real - something the folks watching Ms. Mercurio's streaming video likely didn't hear. And, Tom, I agree with your assessment of the evening. It was an excellent, very professionally produced, event. Kudos to all.

Oh, yes, please send that pay increase to the usual address. :-) Double the usual amount seems about right.

6/10/2016 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

Thank you, Pot Stirrer, for once again providing an outstanding, informative review and summary of Costa Mesa events. Your blog's value to our community is inestimable!

6/10/2016 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

You're much too kind, Eleanor. You make an old fella blush. 😉 Was good to see you both at the meeting along with all those new faces. It's hard not to been encouraged by that quest for knowledge.

6/10/2016 02:47:00 PM  
Anonymous It has to be said...

It looks like more residents attended this event than the outreach events hosted by the city.

6/10/2016 04:08:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

By far, if you count individual meetings. Headcount would be close if you tally all of them together.

6/10/2016 04:36:00 PM  
Anonymous It has to be said...

Exactly. For a 10 year General Plan update, we start with a 2013-2023 update that morphs to a 2015-2035 Update. Why? They didn't like the results from the expensive Consultant's "Great Outreach" of "visioning", roadshows and workshops? How much did we pay for that?

And a couple of grass roots citizen groups get the point across in one meeting.

All we get from this majority is contracts with their donors, Consultants, lawsuits and bogus parties!

PS do they really have to widen Del Mar at Newport - where they are putting in a monument sign, tree, and boulders? The infrastructure improvements are fixing up their bank accounts!

6/10/2016 10:28:00 PM  

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