Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Taste Of What's To Come

The Costa Mesa City Council met last night and this meeting may have given us a little taste of what's to come after the new council is seated.  In many ways, this was a very strange meeting - it even ended fairly early, for goodness sake!
As anticipated, termed-out lame duck councilman Gary Monahan didn't show up last night.  I doubt we'll see him again on the dais since he's basically checked-out following the receipt of the Mayor's Award a couple meetings ago.
Mayor Steve Mensinger, apparently nursing a cold or suffering from some other affliction that made his nose run, was clearly off his game and, since he's usually off his game anyhow, it really showed last night.  He is not a good loser.  He told us he only has a couple more meetings and I found my cheeks hurting from smiling.
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer was strangely concilliatory - nary a single rant was heard from him all night.  I kept looking up at my television screen to be sure I'd tuned into the right channel.  I suppose he thinks folks will forget all about his dictatorial demeanor over the past almost six years when he and Allan Mansoor are on the short end of 3-2 votes starting next year.  HA!  As if!
Katrina Foley fought off - with only limited success - the temptation to gloat about the election.  It became clear as the night wore on that she expects changes to happen once the new council is seated.  Most council watchers will not be surprised if LOTS of stuff changes after the first of the year.

One of the things referred to was "Study Sessions" - something that was abandoned by Righeimer/Mensinger/Monahan because they'd already made up their minds on important issues and didn't see the need to waste time on a study session.  I suspect we'll see Study Sessions reinstated quickly.  Both Foley and Sandra Genis - who appears to be the top vote-getter in the recent election - mentioned issues they wished to discuss in a study session before the end of the year.
OK, let's talk about the meeting itself.  It began with Mensinger honoring the Estancia High School Sister-City program and recognizing the students who participated in that program.  It was nice.
Eighteen (18) people spoke during Public Comments and many of their comments evoked applause from the audience, which, in turn, evoked anger from Mensinger.  He threatened several times to call a break in the meeting and/or have the violators hauled out of the chambers by the Sergeant-at-Arms.  One of the speakers, Anna Vrska, politely reminded him that applause is a free speech activity protected by Federal law, and urged him to use caution.  She reminded him of the Benito Acosta affair, which cost the City hundreds of thousands of dollars and cause there to be a change in the Municipal Code permitting "insolence".
Several speakers called for Civility, including Robin Leffler, who brought a visual aid with her.
Sue Lester, a less-frequent visitor to the speaker's podium in recent months, returned with a quickly-spoken call for civility and expressing joy that the majority was broken up by the election because it could/should result in more thoughtful consideration of issues.  It was good to see her back.
Mary Spadoni congratulated the members of the public who participated in the grassroots effort that got Genis and John Stephens elected and got Measures Y and AA passed.  She also took a backhanded swipe at political king-maker, consultant Dave Ellis, for his ham-handed attacks on the Costa Mesa public safety personnel during this election cycle.  She suggested that may be what turned the tide throughout the city.
Flo Martin provided an entertaining reading of a recent NextDoor thread that bemoaned the increase in traffic and vehicle speed throughout town and closed with "We need more cops!"
Dr. Richard Mehren was the final speaker and he praised all the folks who helped get Measure AA passed and protect Fairview Park from development.  He then launched into a short condemnation of the recent election, citing the slanderous flyers that circulated through the city against the citizens.  He received much applause, causing Mensinger to almost lose his temper - again.
During Councilmember Comments Righeimer praised the St. John The Baptist Church/School - his girls attend that school - for their Veterans Day celebration.  He then commented on the recent election, referring at first to the national, state and local races.  Commenting on the changes the election will bring about, he said, "The public decides the direction they want the city to go.... and so, you take those cues from where it's at because how politics works is culture happens first, politics happens second."  He congratulated the winners in the campaign and praised the folks who didn't win for running good campaigns.  He said he's still going to vote the way he wants to vote, but pledged to listen to his colleagues on the dais during deliberations.
Mensinger congratulated the winners and Jay Humphrey for a good campaign.  He praised the staff.  He managed to mangle his attempt to praise the folks who disagree with him, saying, "We don't always disagree but I think, in our hearts, we all have the same objective and the same goal and that's to make our city a better city and we all live here together."
Foley asked the audience to raise their hands if they are eligible to vote, then asked them to raise their hands if they voted.  She didn't tell us the result of that exercise, but did exhort all to vote.  She spoke about the Veterans Heroes Hall celebration last Friday.  She spoke about the collaboration between the Home Tour on December 1st and the Heroes Hall.   She praised Flo Martin for her presentation on speeding/traffic.  She asked CEO Tom Hatch to look into scheduling a study session if all council members are available on December 20th to begin contemplating the integration of Measure Y.
Genis thanked all the volunteers for their election activities, regardless which side they participated on.  She spoke of the Veterans Day celebration and observed that we need to do much more for our veterans.  She asked for a Study Session soon - before the first of the year - to initiate a General Plan amendment to roll back the overlays on Newport and Harbor Boulevards.  This is how it begins. She cited the meeting in 2009 when the OC Fairgrounds was up for sale and they stopped it.  She observed it as an example as what can happen when residents work together.  She reminded us of the Halecrest Chili Cook-Off on Saturday at Halecrest Park.
Hatch had no report.

Items 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8 were pulled from the Consent Calendar for separate discussion.
Public Hearing #1, the amendment of the Municpal Code to conform with state codes.  Consultant Sherri Vander Duessen, as interim Assistant Development Director, made the presentation.  This presentation took only three minutes and was passed, 4-0.
Next up was the controversial Holiday lounge on West 19th Street, pulled for review by Genis.  Senior Planner Mel Lee made the presentation.  During the Public Comments segment Chuck Perry praised the place; Mary Spadoni asked for a way to cede time for other speakers.  She then asked Mensinger if he had a conflict that would require recusal and cited contributors.  She also called into question the participation of Righeimer and Monahan (absent).
Before other speakers could address the council Mensinger asked for a clarification about his eligibility to participate.  He consulted with Contract City Attorney Tom Duarte.  After about five minutes of conversation they took a break.  When they returned it was determined that Mensinger did, in fact, have a conflict and he recused himself from further discussion on this issue.
Wendy Leece continued the public comments, observing competing interests - reviving the Arts on the Westside and quality of life of Westside residents.
Steve Chan, who lives nearby to this site and who has been the tip of the spear on this issue, spoke next.  He first contested the way the recusal was handled, observing that Mensinger's comments on the issue BEFORE his recusal may have been inappropriate.  He then cited the infringement of his rights of peaceful enjoyment of their property because of the late-night noise which violates state laws.  He asks for abatement of the nuisance.
Foley,  observing that there were still many more speakers in the audience and citing the multitude of issues, including a sound study they just received a few minutes before, asked to continue the issue until there is a full council.  It was decided to select January 3rd, when there will be a full council.  She made the motion, which passed, 3-0.

Old Business #1, was the second reading of an ordinance for a self-storage at 375 Bristol.  There was no discussion and no public comments and the item passed, 4-0.  It took one minute.

Old Business #2, the second reading of the ordinance for the old Los Angeles Times property on Sunflower.  There was no discussion and no comments and this also passed, 4-0.  It took one minute.
Next up was New Business #1, the General Plan Screening for a proposed Self-Storage facility on both sides of Ford Road at the corner of Newport Boulevard.  During the discussion both Righeimer and Mensinger commented on the stubbornness of the property owner, who "kept jacking up the price" whenever a project was presented.   The Floor Area Ratio (FAR) gave all the council members heartburn.  One member of the public, Ford Road resident Judy Ann Smith, who cited many of the transient-related problems at that location and explained that 21 residents of Ford Road oppose the project.  After a short discussion the proposal was rejected.
As a sidebar here, during the above discussion reference was made to an event four years ago when the council met with residents on Ford Road to address problems.  Some will recall the curious situation that precipitated that visit by council members, the Police Chief - Tom Gazsi - CEO Hatch and other staffers at the time.  At the council meeting the night before, following a complaint by several members of the Ford Road community, Righeimer commanded the Chief, Hatch and others to meet at Ford Road at 3 p.m. the next day to meet with the neighbors.  I thought at the time it was an unprecedented and curious command.  Following that meeting - at which not much was accomplished - Mensinger and Righeimer decamped to Gary Monahan's pub.  Then the whole "Chris Lanzillo" affair commenced which resulted in a lawsuit being filed a year later that is still pending.  Just in case you forgot about this situation...
Next up was New Business #2, the Urban Master Plan Screening for a mixed-use development - The Plant - in the SoBECA area.  This involves a re-purposing of existing buildings and adds 48 dwelling units, including some live/work units.  Several members of the public spoke, including the husband and wife team of Rick Huffman and Cynthia McDonald, who live close to the proposed development.  Parking was the major concern for most of the speakers.  All thought the concept was interesting and typical of a project proposed by Shaheen Sadeghi, the developer of The Lab and The Camp.  The developer was sent away with instructions to address the parking issue and to engage in more community outreach.

Item #2, the Warrant was pulled but the person didn't stick around.  The item passed, 4-0.
Item #5, deals with the re-landscaping of the medians in Mesa Verde and generated a lengthy conversation dealing with the types of plantings being proposed and complaints from council members that it appeared that Mesa Verde - where Mensinger and Righeimer live - seem to get all the expensive infrastructure improvements at the expense of other parts of town - like the Westside, for example.  A community meeting was held and only 20 people showed up to hear and discuss the project earlier this year.  During the discussion, in which council members expressed an interest in scaling down the plantings to save money. Robin Leffler, who has special expertise in plantings, spoke about that meeting, citing the limited discussion which was controlled by only a couple of people.  Righeimer was flummoxed by what he saw as an attempt to revisit this entire project and said, "We just had an election.  Things are gonna change.  I got it.  But I think it's not a good idea for people to start overturning everything as they go, especially a budgeted, funded and ready to go to construction project.  I think that is, uh, I don't know.  I don't think it's a good idea."

The solution was to continue the item until December 5th, at which time staff will bring back what could be done as a change order to the project as proposed.  The plan would be for the council to then vote on this expenditure as-is if they're happy with the proposed change order (s) which may save some money.
Item #6, is a final tract map for a development on the Eastside in an area that was annexed from the County of Orange not too long ago.  The resident who pulled it is in a tug-of-war with the developer, Melia Homes, regarding the property line between their properties.  It was resolved by having the staff agree to provide a document that appears to be missing to satisfy the property owner's surveyor.  Geez!
Item #7, an increase in the contract with Best, Best and Krieger, was pulled by Genis to try to figure out why we're spending money on another outside law firm instead of it being handled by our Contract City Attorney.  When asked about it Hatch admitted they used this firm because they specialize in the issues involved, and that they could do with less than the  $75,000 requested - we could do $30,000.  Assistant to the CEO Dan Baker provided a further explanation.  Wendy Leece spoke to this issue.  Foley asked to delay this vote because of an anticipated review of our legal processes by the new council.  She moved to hear it at the second meeting in January.  It passed, 4-0.  I suspect Duarte found that particular exchange to be VERY interesting.
Item #8, the increase in the contract for Kimley-Horn and Associates for the services of Sherri Vander Duessen as interim Assistant Development Services Director to an amount not to exceed $499,999.00 through next June, was passed.  Foley emphasized the need for this position to become an inside position.  Mensinger asked for a report on how these costs compare to an employee with pension burden applied.  A parting shot at greedy city employees and their darn pensions!

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Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

By the way, I can answer Mensinger's question. I checked the 2015 Employee Compensation Report - which can be found at the Transparency tab on the homepage - and found that last year we paid now-departed Claire Flynn just over $200,000 to do the job! That number is fully burdened with vacation and pension included. That's way less than half of what we're paying the consultant for Vander Duessen. Flynn left The City this summer for a job in the private sector.

11/16/2016 10:21:00 PM  
Anonymous And So it Goes said...

I hope that one of the first things the new Council does is to (a) change Hatch's "CEO" title, which is wholly inappropriate, back to City Manager, and (b) find someone who is more qualified and that actually has a spine.

Following that, I hope they can/will fill the other various Commission seats and Boards with QUALIFIED people who love Costa Mesa and are not in the pockets of developers or other business entities that have a financial stake in CM.

Then - look at how to address the voting districts, see what can be done about SLH's, look at the Homeless issue, undo the Small Lot Ordinance, see if they can change the overlay zones, support the CMPD and CMFD to get up to full staffing in anyway possible, .... the list of "To-Do's" is long but I know they're up to the task.

11/17/2016 03:39:00 PM  

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