Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Leaders Get A Raise, Committees Filled, And More

The Costa Mesa City Council met last night in a meeting that finished before 9:30 - a rare occurrence - and accomplished quite a bit.
Mayor Katrina Foley arrived more than an hour late to the meeting because she and Assistant to the City Manager, Dan Baker, had flown to Sacramento to testify on behalf of Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva's bill - AB 572 - which would place a State Enforcement Officer in Orange County to help manage the proliferation of Sober Living Homes.  When she arrived and subsequently provided a brief report we were told that there are 108 such licensed homes in the OC and 82 of them are in Costa Mesa!  She told us she actually offered office space in City Hall for the Officer if the bill passes.

Dan Goldmann thanked the City for their plans for a new Library, then bemoaned the lack of visionaries - like former Governor Pat Brown and President Dwight Eisenhower.  He observed that we should be looking for a way to purchase the land where the Fairview Developmental Center is located.
David Couch complained about the condition of a portion of Adams Avenue where a dirt path has not been improved despite frequent requests.  Public Services Director Raja Sethuraman later addressed this issue, citing improvements that are in the works.
Dorothy McNiff once again stepped up and complained about the parking situation at the Beach Pit BBQ restaurant next door to her home.  She cited the failure of the City to enforce the shared parking agreement with the old Paint Store, since gone and replaced by a Jiu Jitsu academy.  The approval of the permit for the Beach Pit BBQ - which apparently has also changed hands - was conditioned on a shared parking arrangement.
Dr. Richard Mehren, President of the Fairview Park Preservation Alliance, advised the council about a recent incident where a 4-wheel drive truck somehow made it's way into Fairview Park and drove through Vernal Pool #4, digging it up.  The truck apparently got stuck and a tow truck had to come pull it out.  Both vehicles are NOT permitted in the confines of the park.  He asked the City to more clearly delineate the vernal pools with fencing, and to pursue the miscreant and prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.  He also asked that tow truck firms in the city be advised about the rules concerning Fairview Park.
Terry Koken quoted Councilman Jim Righeimer from a debate on Measure Y last year and ended by suggesting that he resign from the City Council.
Reggie Mundakis advised the council that the Fairgrounds Master Plan is being reviewed and observed that the Board had hired Ken Karns, VP, Operations, from Canada who has a background of  developing sites similar to the Fairgrounds and painted a specter of areas like The Forum and Staples Center.  She beseeched the City to remind the Board that the City has a say in what development happens on that site before they get too far down the road.
Gary Parkin praised Recreation Manager Justin Martin and Senior Center Administrator Yvette Aguilar for their hard work and professionalism in managing their areas of responsibility.  He also praised the organization that performs the Meals on Wheels delivery - he did a ride along recently.

A gentleman who's name I did not get observed that the homelessness is a regional problem.
Barrie Fisher addressed what she called the deplorable condition of the fundraising bricks that are part of the Veterans Memorial at Harbor Lawn Memorial Park.  She wondered who is responsible for keeping them in good condition and showed a few slides reflecting how bad they have become.
Al Melone brought us another Dog Park story, complaining about the water dishes which apparently may have become swimming pools for rats.  He was not a happy guy.
Steve Ray, Executive Director of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, stepped up to advise the council of the recent State Supreme Court decision regarding Banning Ranch.  He said the developers are apparently going to start all over again with another scheme to develop part of that property.  He told the council that his organization wants to buy the land and is looking for some support from The City.
An unidentified woman observed that single individuals CAN make a difference, then spoke on the Sober Living Home issue.  She said they are blooming all over town and demanded to know who put forth the recent changes to the Sober Living Ordinances - she got no reply.  She complained about the lack of Code Enforcement.  She chided Righeimer for not paying attention to speakers, but looking in his lap all the time, describing it as "really rude".

Mary Spadoni, addressing the plans for the renovation of Lions Park, described it as "Disneyland", indicating that such an extravagance is unnecessary.  She said she's OK with an improvement, but not a "Taj Mahal".  She expressed concern for the cost and the fact that if and when the Fairview Developmental Center becomes available The City may not be in a condition to try to purchase some of it.
John Stephens thanked Assistant City Manager Tammy Letourneau for all her efforts on the Library/Community Center issue.  He spoke about Foley's trip to Sacramento.  He also addressed the forum he and Councilman Allan Mansoor will be hosting on Thursday at Newport Mesa Church on Homelessness.  He said many subject experts will be on hand to let us know the current status and to listen to the residents.  That meeting begins at 6:30 at the church on the campus of Vanguard University, next door to City Hall.  He also told us that he, Mayor Foley and City Manager Tom Hatch will be traveling to San Antonio, Texas next week to visit "Haven for Hope", apparently a very successful homelessness effort that might be replicated locally.
Jim Righeimer spoke about Tuesday's Lions Park Meeting, observing it was long, but probably necessarily so for the many new commissioners (a not very subtle dig at Foley and her plan to sweep the commissions clean and start over).  He praised "previous councils" - the ones he was part of - for requiring 6.5% of the budget to be earmarked for Capital Improvements - like the new Lions Park project.  Citing the need for cooperation on the dais, he said, "We're not a 3-piece band, we're an orchestra."  I though it was amusing, since when he and Steve Mensinger ran they show the operated EXACTLY like a 3-piece band, showing no consideration for the minority on the council.  His level of jackassery never ceases to amaze me - even after all these years.  He also observed about Foley's trip to Sacramento, stating that "we are in Sacramento begging them to let us pay for one of their inspectors to come to Orange County."  He then affirmed that Costa Mesa is a "rule of law" city and wondered to Hatch whether the City needs to affirm that in writing to someone in Sacramento.
Allan Mansoor spoke of the Homelessness Forum Thursday.  He asked Hatch to investigate the Adams Avenue issue for Mr. Couch and investigate the Harbor Lawn Brick issue.  He joined Righeimer in affirming that Costa Mesa is a "rule of law city".
Sandra Genis addressed the truck in Fairview Park issue and asked that tow truck operators be made aware of the policy about vehicles in the park.  She expressed concern about probable cost overruns for the Lions Park project, then observed that we may even need another library.  She also observed that Civic Center Park - on Fair Drive across the street from Police Headquarters, could handle a two-story, 20,000 square foot library with parking for 150 cars.
Three items were pulled for separate discussion - #2, #4 and #7.  Item #6 had been removed from the Consent Calendar earlier.  The balance was approved, 5-0. (Foley had just arrived in time for that vote).  Each of the pulled items were discussed by the unidentified person who pulled them and each was passed, 5-0.
Public Hearing #1, the COIN hearing for the proposed labor contract between The City and the Costa Mesa Division Managers Association (CMDMA) and salary and benefits adjustments for unrepresented executives and confidential management classifications was conducted by Assistant City Manager Tammy Letourneau.  The staff report describes the recommended adjustments to salary ranges and changes in benefits.  Only one person spoke to this.  Al Melone said the "merit" element is missing.  Letourneau advised that many are reviewed by the City Managers, but the Division Manager's raises are automatic, based on the contract.  I've looked at this contract proposal and the changes they will mean.  This is crucial for us to remain competitive and, in many cases, the "raises" are offset by the additional contributions to the CalPERS plan by the individuals.  It was moved on to the second required hearing on April 18th on a 5-0 vote.
Public Hearing #2 is he request for a retroactive extension of the approval for a helistop on Airway Avenue, adjacent to John Wayne Airport.  Foley and Genis had voted NO on this the first time around.  The construction of the landing pad on the roof of an existing building was delayed due to the approvals necessary from all the various entities - the applicant described it as a "Catch 22" kind of situation.  Concern was expressed about the potential proliferation of such requests in the future.  Two members of the public spoke.  Terry Koken said, "Give them their heliport!"  An unidentified person said this is outside the airport footprint and could lead to expansion of John Wayne Airport in the future.  She observed that Disneyland has been trying to get the airport expanded and had made significant campaign contributions - including $27,000 to Righeimer.  Mansoor asked the applicant, "Why do you need it?"  The applicant said it would make for more efficient use of the helicopter, since it could take him 45 minutes or more to get from his office onto the airport grounds to his helicopter.  In fact, his helicopter is located a few dozen yards away from his office.  Mansoor wondered to Senior Planner Mel Lee if we are opening up the door to more such requests.  The applicant said he had no intention to sell his property to the airport.  Yeah, well....  Anyhow, the council passed the request for an extension on a 5-0 vote.  Righeimer asked staff to return with options for managing these type of requests - those involving multiple approvals from multiple agencies - to determine if some flexibility is necessary.
New Business #1 involved the professional services contract with Endemic for a variety of services involving Fairview Park, including management in the interim until a Fairview Park Adminsitrator is hired.  After the discussion commenced Righeimer recused himself because he is currently renting a home that backs up to Fairview Park while his mansion in Mesa Verde is being built.  City Engineer Bart Mejia led the discussion, supported by the consultant, Barry Nerhus.  They spoke about the scope of the assignment and the possibility of enhancing it with a so-called MAPS element wherein birds are tracked.

Four members of the public spoke on this.
Terry Koken observed that Barry is not perfect, but is the cheapest.  He observed that he liked what he had to say.

Richard Mehren said Barry would do a great job and offered the volunteer support of his organization - the Fairview Park Preservation Alliance -  to assist in any way they can.

Young Joshua Snyder observed that Fairview Park is not a Nature Preserve and wondered about the funding.
Cindy Black, a member of the Fairview Park Preservation Alliance, said she was against the MAPS element, expressing concern for the stress such a program places on the animals involved.
During the discussion mention was made that "Pete Bloom" would be used during the MAPS element - Genis thought that was a good idea.  Mansoor moved the staff recommendation without the MAPS element.  It passed, 4-0.
New Business #2, was the discussion of the proposed Placentia Avenue medians from Adams Avenue to Wilson Street.  Public Services Director Raja Sethuraman led this discussion, supported by landscape consultant Tom Munoz.  The plan basically involves different kinds of plantings - trees and shrubs - along that stretch of roadway to enhance the safety.  Drivers typically speed down that part of the road as it goes to and from Estancia High School.  Genis expressed concern about the trees blocking the views of the park.  Sethuraman suggested that, if that was a major concern, the number of the trees could be reduced by 50%.  Stephens was concerned about the public safety aspects and asked Police Chief Rob Sharpnack to opine on the issue.  He told the council that he was in favor of almost any plan that would calm the traffic in that section of roadway, observing that in recent years past they had officers assigned to ticket/warn drivers, many of whom were Estancia students.  He said that got them a lot of "attention".  I'm presuming he meant that officers may have stopped fast drivers that were known to some council members and they got grief for it.  Don't know for sure, but...

Seven members of the public spoke to this issue.
Al Melone didn't like it one bit.  He suggested, instead, the use of speed traps.

Robin Leffler didn't much like the use of the trees, citing the loss of views of the park which she described as "restful to the eyes and soul."  She suggested, instead, low plantings in the median, and the use of plants that are, in fact, native to OUR area, not just southern California.
Ralph Taboada observed that it's a good idea to slow traffic on that segment of roadway.  He also observed that there will soon be a traffic signal for the bike trail at the bottom of the hill which should contribute to slowing.  He suggested fewer trees.  And, he suggested that although much of this would be paid with grant funding, it's not "free money".  He wondered how much money the City will contribute.  Turns out, according to Sethuraman, the City will pay $650,000 for this project beyond the grant funding.
 Cindy Brenneman observed that we never saw a grant we didn't love and that Harbor Boulevard looks like something from Arizona.

Cynthia McDonald, a member of the Bikeway and Walkability Committee, said safety is always a concern and slowing down traffic is always a good idea.  She also suggested fewer trees  be used.
Rick Huffman, also a member of the Bikeway and Walkability Committee, supported the project, observing that it's not always easy to get grant funding.  He called this an important project.
Young Joshua Snyder said we should speed people up.
Righeimer moved to approve and thanked Raja for a great job.  He said, "I'm all for safety, but it's OK for something to look nice."  Well, of course it is, Jimbo.  We all know that since you and your pals changed the entry way to your neighborhood.... twice!  When the vote was taken it was for a project with fewer trees and it passed, 5-0.
The final item on the agenda was New Business #3, the Appointments to various committees.  Amazingly, there were NO public comments on this issue!  Foley decided to have each council liaison nominate applicants, which could be affirmed by the council or amended as they chose.  I'll give you the shortest version of the results as I can.

Bikeway and Walkability Committee. (15 appointments)
Two-year Term
Alan Engard
Michelle Fay
Robert Graham
Michael Habitz
Dan Leibson
Andrew Levins
Scott Porterfield
Kari Nieblas Vozenilek

One-year Term
Jim Erickson
Richard Huffman
James Kane
Florence Martin
Cynthia McDonald
John C. Merrill
Ralph Taboada

This passed on a  5-0 vote

Cultural Arts Committee. (7 appointments - 6 plus one alt.)
All Terms 2 years
Kathleen Eric
Rocky Evans
Frank Guiterrez (alt)
Monica Morita-Hayden
Andrea Marr
Irma Ramirez
Tracy Taber

This passed on a 5-0 vote
Note:  Mayor Foley requested that this committee be expanded to 11 members.  This requires a separate authorization so it will be brought back to the council at the next meeting.  Current applicants will be encouraged to keep their applications in the mix, plus others will be considered.

Historical Preservation Committee (11 appointments - 9 plus 2 alt.)
Two-year Terms
Christopher Ganiere
David J. Gardner
Mary Ellen Goddard
Dave Goodman
Karen McKenna-Juergens

One-year Terms
Kristyn E. Kohut
John McQueen
Gary Parkin
Kari Nieblas Vozenilek

This passed on a 5-0 vote.
Note: Due to insufficient applications to fill all vacancies, this will also be re-advertised.

Finance and Pension Advisory Committee (11 appointments)
Two-year Terms
Robert Juneman
Wendy Leece
Richard Riva
Ralph Taboada
Anna Vrska

One-year Terms
James Fisler
Lee "John" Hinson
Al Melone
Nick Peterson
Tom Pollitt
Rebecca Trahan

This passed on a 4-1 vote, with Foley voting NO.
Note:  This took three (3) slices at it before the agreed configuration was reached.  It seemed like Foley was trying to exclude member Jim Fisler - a man who has viciously pillaged her on social media for serveral years.  Genis supported Fisler's membership.

Senior Commission (1 appointment)
Two-year Term
Stephanie Love

This passed on a 5-0 vote

Before closing the meeting Foley gave us a thumbnail report on her trip to Sacramento earlier that day.  AB 572, sponsored by Fullerton Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, is moving forward based on a vote taken today.  Foley testified in Sacramento in support of the bill and, as mentioned above, offered office space at City Hall for a state inspector for this program.
City Attorney Tom Duarte gave a report of a disposition of a pending lawsuit between Americare and The City.  It was dismissed in both Federal and State court.

Foley closed the meeting in honor of Sherry Sheldon, a local teacher who passed away after a battle with colon cancer.

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I also would like to know what Rig is always doing in his lap. One can only hope its a phone he is playing with.

Don't like the thought of Fisler on any city committee. I wish we could get him off the water district. He truly is vile, just for the sake of being vile.

I'm surprised and grateful we don't have to see those horrible boulders in the middle of Placentia Avenue. The "dead look" is awful.

4/05/2017 09:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

I hate to pollute your coffee, but as far as I could tell, the plan still has a bunch of stupid boulders. I'm glad half the trees got taken out of the plan, but sad that the ones left will still block sunset views from the East side of the park. I love that view! And the City really doesn't need any more Rolls- Royce medians. If medians are necessary, attractive medians could be much more economical.

I mentioned that a lot of the speeders are Estancia students, fairly new drivers, and didn't think this plan would slow them down much. Then "the kid", 20 yr old OCC student Josh Snyder who is new to City Council meetings,told the Council how young drivers including him liked to speed on that road and said he doubted the medians would slow kids down, and also how as a bike rider he was concerned medians would push traffic into the bike lanes. Pretty insightful observations for a "kid". Trees, boulders, -- it's just more stuff for the kids to run into and are very expensive landscape components. Traffic enforcement is what we need.

4/05/2017 10:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

I'm horrified about the wanton destruction of a vernal pool in Fairview Park. I urge the City to track down the identity of the miscreant and make sure he reimburses the City for every cent it will cost to repair the damage. That is in addition to whatever law enforcement steps are appropriate. His conduct is pure meanness, without redeeming value whatsoever.

Also, the City has done a poor job of protecting the vernal pools and needs to step up and provide adequate protection. It may be necessary to install fencing all along the boundary of the western portion park where it meets Placentia Avenue and see that the access gate is securely locked at night. It's a pity we need to protect a public park in that manner, but some people just have no respect for others.

4/05/2017 10:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

The person (or people) who drove into the vernal pools had to move barriers to do so; it was not simply a case of someone veering off the street. It seems they wanted to try "off-roading." I have heard that company that towed them was able to provide their identity.

4/06/2017 07:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Robin, I have to agree. I don't see medians having any ability or influence on drivers. Its an unobstructed road, with little ingress or egress, so it seems a natural speedway. I see people running the light at the park entrance quite often. Too bad about the stupid boulders but they will keep cars from crossing over, I suppose.

Eleanor, I'm with you. The area in front of Waldorf School has become a huge party area for kids, largely from out of town, to come and drink and use drugs and in the mornings, there is broken glass, drug paraphernalia and condoms all over the ground. It really needs to be stopped. The gate to Fairview Park on Canyon really should be moved to the south side of the parking lot so no one can drive in there after dark, unless there is a reason. Its being used as overflow parking for the condos on Canyon, which really isn't they city's problem.

4/06/2017 08:04:00 AM  

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