Friday, March 31, 2017

Another Packed Agenda For Tuesday's Council Meeting

The Costa Mesa City Council meets again on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 for a meeting full of interesting stuff.  The meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers but a Special Closed Session precedes that meeting at 5:00 p.m.  You can read the full agenda HERE.

The Special Closed session has two items on it.  #1 is a conference with legal counsel on existing litigation - Timothy Dadey, et al v. City of Costa Mesa.
Item #2 is a conference with labor negotiators - Assistant City Manager Tamara Letourneau, regarding the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association (CMFA).

Any public comments on these two items only will be heard at 5:00 p.m., after which the council will recess to Conference Room 5A for deliberations.

The regular open meeting will commence at 6:00 p.m., or as close to it as possible following the Closed Session.

Following the opening events - National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, Public Comments and Council Member Comments the council will consider the Consent Calendar.  There are seven (7) items on the Consent Calendar Tuesday.  These are items that could be moved in one motion without separate discussion unless a member of the council, staff or public pulls one.  Those items will be discussed immediately following the vote on the remainder.  I'm not going to address them all - just a couple.  You can read all about them on the agenda link above.
#2 is Warrant #2574, HERE, which shows us how we spent about $4 million of our tax dollars.  I did notice that our list for our Contract Attorney firm, Jones & Mayer, is significantly lower this time around - just over $67,000.  However, combined with other legal charges from other firms, we still spent well over $100,000 on legal fees on this warrant.  And, of course, we continue to rack up large amounts for consultants for Plan Check, Building Inspection, Engineering, Department Management for Development Services and the like.  We also spent another $60,000 for helicopter support by the City of Huntington Beach.  Feel free to go to that link and scroll down to see for yourselves.
The first Public Hearing, HERE,  on the agenda will be a doozy.  This is the required first hearing under the Civic Openness In Negotiations (COIN) Ordinance for the adoption of the salary and benefits agreement between The City and the Costa Mesa Division Managers Association (CMDMA).  This group has not seen an increase in salary ranges since 2008 and they agreed to increase contributions to CalPERS without a salary increase in 2012, which resulted in a pay reduction.  Recruitment and retention is proving difficult under these circumstances.

The staff recommendation includes salary range adjustments between 2.00% and 15.88 % and has a handy chart to show those changes.  Changes in contributions to the CalPERS plan are included, as are reduction in the vacation cap and Executive Leave.  A Technology Allowance is created and the Car Allowance is increased.  Read the staff report.  It also includes those employees described as "Confidential".
Public Hearing #2, HERE, is a request for a retroactive time extension on a Planning Application and Conditional Use Permit for a private helistopat 3132 Airway Avenue that expired last November.  If approved the extension would run until November 3, 2017.  When the original request was approved in November of 2015 it was a split vote, with Foley and Genis voting NO.  This will be interesting.
New Business #1, HERE, is Professional Services Agreement for Fairview Park Maintenance, Management and Biological Services in the amount of $397,640 for one year.  That number might increase by $30,000 or $60,000 if the council decides to include a Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) Program for one or two years.  Read the staff report.
New Business #2, HERE, is the Placentia Avenue Median Improvement Project between Adams Avenue and Wilson Street.  Depending on which plant palette is utilized, it could result in 140 trees and over 3,000 plants installed in this median.  The Public Services staff secured a grant of $844,200, of which $738,400 is available for the construction phase.  See the full array of conceptual landscape plans HERE.
New Business #3, HERE, is the final item on the agenda.  This is Appointments to various commissions and the Senior Commission.  The City Council will be asked to appoint forty-nine (49) regular committee positions, four (4) alternate members to committees and one new member to the Senior Commission.  Here we go again...

The Bikeway and Walkability Committee consists of fifteen (15) members and we received sixteen applications (16).  Membership will be split between 8 for two years and 7 for one year.

The Cultural Arts Committee, which consists of eleven (11) appointed members, which serve staggered two-year terms, has seven (7) positions available, including one (1) alternate.  Fifteen (15) applications were received.  The newly-appointed members will serve two years.

The Historical Preservation Committee also consists of eleven (11) appointed positions which serve staggered two-year terms.  There are eleven (11) positions available - nine (9) regular and two (2) alternates.  We received nine (9) applications.  Newly appointed members will be  5 for two-years and six for one year.

The Finance and Pension Advisory Committee, created by combining two other committees will have eleven (11) members, one of which will by the Mayor's designee - Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Genis -  for a two-year term.  Of the remaining ten (10) appointments, four shall have pension knowledge and others shall be residents or other individuals that conduct business within the City and have significant financial background as defined in the staff report.  We received thirteen (13) applications.  Five will be for two-years and 5 for one-year.

The Housing and Public Service Grants Committee will have ten (10) appointments, nine (9) regular and one (1) alternate and will serve staggered two-year terms.  We received ONLY seven (7) applications for the positions.

The Senior Commission has a vacancy because member Olga Reynolds resigned before she could take her appointed seat.  There are seven members of this commission, four of which serve four-year terms and three serve two-year terms.  This position will have an expiration of 2019.  We received two (2) applications.
No mention in the staff report is made about the method of selection for these committees and commission.  You will recall the fiasco we had during the last such event.  I'm hoping we will not see a replay of that event.  When you go to the staff report for more information you will find links to all the applications by committee/commission as separate attachments.  Enjoy.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

SPOILER ALERT! Lions Park Project Moves Forward

Yeah, I know... you were waiting for the big build-up.  You wanted the drama, to see if the combined deliberative body - the City Council, Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission - would, at this late date, fail to move the Lions Park Project forward.  Ha!  Not a chance!  After years and years of meetings and presentations, this baby was a done deal last night.... but getting there wasn't a quick decision.
As mentioned, the Costa Mesa City Council, Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission and most of the senior city staff met in a Special Joint meeting at the Costa Mesa Country Club - ironically, the current Neighborhood Community Center is now closed pending demolition - to discuss this monumental project.  Nearly 150 of your friends and neighbors attended this meeting.  Some questioned whether they could actually meet and do what was planned on the agenda, but City Attorney Tom Duarte assured us that it was all legal.  You can read the full staff report HERE.
This meeting, which took five (5) hours almost to the second and played to a full house of around 150 people, actually seemed to move very quickly.  City Manager Tom Hatch kicked things off, gave us some history of the project and, with the exception of a few brief comments scattered throughout the meeting, allowed his staff and the architect to carry the ball.  Assistant City Manager Tammy Letourneau shepherded the initial staff presentations by Senior Planner Mel Lee and Interim Finance Director Steve DuniventSherry Toth, representing the Orange County Libraries who actually will run this new facility, also spoke briefly.
About thirty minutes into the evening Steve Johnson, of the architectural firm of Johnson Favaro, made the main presentation which took just over two (2) hours, including questions from the assembled officials.  His presentation was outstanding, although he provided a little too much architectural history from my perspective.  Still, it was interesting.  The new library will be created using contemporary technologies and concepts - apparently libraries are no longer about books, but about meeting, creating using the technology available - and there are books, too.  I'm not going to try to provide you with every word that was uttered.   Suffice it to say that the new two-story building will meet the contemporary demands of all age groups, from toddlers to us geezers and every part of the age spectrum between.
Dane Bora, Brad Long and the CMTV team were on hand to record the event and will present it for delayed viewing sometime within the next day or so.. lots of editing to be done.

Some of Johnson's highlights:

The old single story, 22,000 square foot Neighborhood Community Center will be razed and a new two-story, 22,000 library will be erected within part of that footprint.

The result of that vertical construction will provide a new acre of parkland on the site.

The existing Donald Dungan Branch Library will remain open while construction takes place on the new building - the 2017-2019 time frame.
A restaurant - dubbed Cafe'Mesa - will be constructed in that first phase and will be located between the new structures.

Once the new library building is complete the library operations will be transferred to it and the existing circular structure will be renovated and become the NCC, with a meeting room large enough to accommodate 300 people, plus another smaller one.  Analysis by staff and the architects determined that the current NCC was very underutilized - it was only being used 30% of the available time.  So, the more compact - fewer rooms - combination of the new NCC and the New library should suffice.  There are two meeting rooms in the new library building with outside access.
Financing was a big question.  Interim Finance Director Steve Dunivent did a great job of explaining it in laymans terms.  The shortest version possible to explain it is - it will cost $36,000 for this project and the city will finance $18.5 of that amount with a Certificate of Participation (COP).  Because so much of the cost is being paid in cash, and because existing COPs will be either retired or re-financed at current lower rates, our monthly payments on this project will remain about the same as we are currently paying on the other ones - about $1.2 million a year.  Read Attachment 5, HERE, for the full details of the financing.  This image is a snapshot of one segment that might help you.
It's safe to say that there was nearly universal euphoria among the council, commissioners and staff about this project.  Some of the comments made were almost orgasmic, but that may have been due in part to the lateness of the hour.
Twenty-two (22) people spoke during Public Comments.  Opinions were fairly even.  Slightly more than half loved the idea.  The others didn't like it, or had major concerns about it.  Sorry about the camera angle.  Among those who addressed the officials were:
Art and Mary Ellen Goddard, who have been involved in seeking a new library for the city for twenty years.  To say they were happy with the result last night would be the understatement of the decade.
Robin Leffler was among those not sold on the extravagance of this project, suggesting that we may be squandering money that might be used to purchase the Fairview Developmental Center when it actually comes available sometime down the road.

Terry Koken bemoaned the current dearth of open bathrooms at the park and suggested that, in the case of the homeless folks who currently infest this and other city parks, they're gonna do what they're gonna do, bathroom or not.
Alex Reich decried no 2017 public outreach and actually plugged this blog... thanks for that, Alex.  He suggested that THIS project was not the right project.

Cindy Black, a 36-year resident of the near Westside, described the site as "my 'hood", said this was not the project she saw in the early meetings.  She observed that libraries are a dying breed.

Greg Ridge was among those who complained about the locked fences around elements of the park, making them unusable to most park visitors.  He complained that he had to climb the fence at Davis Field to play football on Thanksgiving Day.  He suggested the park should be more open - tear down those fences.
Senior Commission Vice Chair Darrell Neft was one of the many enthusiastic supporters of this project, observing that no project is perfect.  He observed that libraries are NOT dead, that millennials are using them a lot.  He encouraged the officials to get going with it.
Mark Korando and his wife, Cherie (who passed on celebrating her birthday last night to attend the meeting) - nearby residents - complained about the inability to take their grandkids to the park and fly a kite and just run and play, citing the fences and homeless folks.
Public Comments ended at 9:40 and then the fun began.  After nearly 30 minutes of discussion retread Council member Allan Mansoor asked for the decisions by each body present be split into separate meetings.  The Parks and Recreation Commission would hear their issue at a normal meeting, as would the Planning Commission and the City Council.  After all this hoopla last night, and with the assurance by the City Attorney that this process was appropriate, he wanted to drag this out for another month.  Councilman Jim Righeimer blew his top, saying "This is offensive to me!", and call it "obstructionist".  Mansoor made the motion and it failed on a split vote, 3-2.
During the deliberations Planning Commission Vice Chair Byron de Arakal addressed some of the earlier concerns - like why the new library couldn't have been placed at the Civic Center Park near City Hall, indicating it wasn't a large enough site.  He said the Fairview Developmental Center - another site suggested by several speakers - was no slam dunk and was still off in the future.  He observed that this project would be creating a defacto new Civic Center, where arts, culture and commerce would converge.  He described this project as a "Legacy" - something this council and others who got the ball rolling could look back on as a major positive accomplishment in their tenure.  He also observed that it was the Genesis of the revitalization of that part of town.
Just before 10:30 the voting process began.  Parks and Recreation Chairman Kim Pederson moved to approve the Lions Park Projects Master Plan as proposed.  Commissioner Arlis Reynolds, after a long explanation, attempted to make a substitute motion, but it failed for lack of a second.  The original motion then passed, 5-0, and the ball was tossed to the Planning Commission.
Chairman Stephan Andranian moved to Adopt the Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration.  Commissioner Carla Navarro Woods suggested that the plant palette be softened to include some more drought tolerant, yet colorful species.  The issue passed, 5-0.
Vice Chair de Arakal then moved the second issue before them - the adoption of a resolution to approve Planning Application PA-16-71 for the Lions park Projects Master Plan, subject to the conditions of approval and mitigation measures.  Commissioner Jeffrey Harlan observed that this project was creative, imaginative and shared de Arakal's enthusiasm for it.  He observed that usually cities rely on developers for this kind of project and he was pleased that the City had chosen to move forward with this excellent project.  Commissioner Isabell Kerins agreed.  Andranian also agreed but expressed concern about the displacement of the homeless during the project and the additional debt.  The motion passed 5-0.  It was now 10:45.
The City Council then took their turn at motions.  Councilman John Stephens moved to adopt the plans in the first of two motions, which ended up being considered in one vote.  The motion was to adopt plans, specifications, and working details for the Lions Park Projects Master Plan, City Project No. 17-03 and to authorize staff to advertise the Lions Park Projects for construction.  Now, you'd have thought this would be a simple vote, but it took fifteen minutes of yammering before they finally passed it unanimously.  Even at that late hour, so deep into the proceedings, Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Genis again expressed concern about the location of the buildings, which Johnson again patiently explained. 
Councilman Jim Righeimer told us he'd "looked at this like 50 times."  He said, "We need this library!" and told us a personal anecdote about hauling his fifteen-year old daughter from library to library, from town-to-town because of the lack of a library in our city.  Personally, I thought that was a bunch of manure, but it may be true.  Regardless, it gave him a chance to exercise his jaws before the meeting ended.  He told us this is the best site, that we can't wait for the Fairview Developmental Center and he explained how this is just trading existing debt for new debt.  He said, "If we don't do this the money will be spent."  He stopped short of saying that the current council would just give it to the employees, but I could see those wheels spinnin'.
Genis again went on and on, saying we should build two of them.  She recited history - the purchase of the Farm site, where Jack Hammett Sports Complex now sits, and told Righeimer, "You got me."
Mayor Katrina Foley expressed her great enthusiasm for this project, that it was the right time for it and she was proud of all involved.  She had Letourneau re-state the number of meetings - at least 50 - with stakeholders, trying to flesh out their interests and needs.  She recalled the 9 public meetings and hearings over the past couple years.  Her point - not stated - was that if folks didn't have a chance to provide their input it was certainly not for lack of opportunities.  She just bubbled with enthusiasm as she described this new venue as a place for the people.  She also acknowledged that we still have many other issues that need to be addressed, but we should move forward with this project as scheduled.  The vote was taken and passed, 5-0.  The meeting adjourned at 11:03 p.m.  Ugh!

OK, this is a really cool project.  Get past the money part - that's been resolved and we're paying a big chunk of cash from anticipated revenue sources based on development projects already in the pipeline.  Measure Y seems to have no impact on this project.  You can argue the architecture all day - it's all a matter of taste.  Johnson's presentation won me over.  This is going to put most of Lions Park out of commission for nearly two years.  That's a tough consequence, but in the grand scheme of things it's a short-term problem and it seems worth it in the long haul.  I'm looking forward to watching this unfold.  I encourage you to watch the CMTV coverage of this meeting, if only to see Johnson's presentation... you can watch politicians anytime.  Read Luke Money's Daily Pilot report HERE.
For me, of much greater concern is the homelessness issue which, hard as we try, seems only to be getting worse.  I fear that if we don't get a handle on it, once this new magnificent project is completed - as several speakers observed - we may end up having to regularly treat the chairs for lice infestation and hose out the bathrooms daily.  This is a SERIOUS problem that needs a resolution.  We NEED transitional housing ASAP.  It's unacceptable that we allow a couple hundred homeless people to destroy the ability of residents - taxpayers - to enjoy our parks.  We need to do MORE to fix this problem... NOW!

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Happy Birthday To My Sweet Susie!

Please permit me another little side trip in this journey to wish my sweet, wonderful, patient wife, Susie, a VERY Happy Birthday.
I wrote about her last birthday HERE, so you can return to that particular magic moment.  Her spirit of adventure and willingness to try new things keeps our lives exciting and new.
I'm the luckiest guy in the world - I have a woman by my side (almost 50 years) who supports me, loves me and tolerates me under any conditions.  AND, this week she retires from a job she has loved for more than 40 years, so she will be underfoot all the time beginning this weekend!  Yea!

Happy Birthday, Honey... You make my life complete.