Saturday, April 15, 2017


The Costa Mesa City Council meets again on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 for what appears, based on the agenda report, HERE, to be another barn-burner of a meeting.  The public meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. and is preceded by a Closed Session at 4:00.  The Closed Session contains four (4) items - two labor negotiations with Fire staff and two items of existing litigation.  Those wishing to address the council on closed session items can present themselves before the council at 4:00 and have three minutes to speak on those issues.  Warning:  It's going to be a long night.
Following the Public Comments and Council Member Comments segments the council will consider the Consent Calendar - ten (10) items that might be considered on a single vote without separate discussion.  It's unlikely that will happen this time due to the nature of some of the items.
Item #2, HERE, is the Warrant Resolution #2575.  This one lists more than $3.6 million in expenditures.  As is usually the case, Legal Costs leads the way, accounting for more than $200,000.  Jones & Mayer accounts for $168,951.82; Liebert Cassidy Whitmore for $32,685.38 and Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth $11,311.00.

Item #5, HERE,  is a request for Sale, Service and Consumption of Beer, Wine and Liquor beverages at the Senior Center. I know, images of tipsy seniors just flashed before your eyes, too.  I suspect there may be a few comments on this one.  Theoretically, this is just a temporary measure, while the Lions Park Project is being completed.  Again, I suspect we'll hear from some folks interested in this issue.

Although it may not get pulled for discussion, Item #8, HERE, is a request from the City Manager's Office to cancel the regularly scheduled City Council meeting of July 4th.
Item #9, HERE, is a request to replace an antiquated, non-functioning Fire Department Alerting System to the tune of $369,497.78.  I doubt anyone will pull this for discussion, but it's good to know that we may finally get a system that actually works.
The first public hearing is the COIN ordinance second hearing for the new salary and benefit resolution between The City and the Costa Mesa Division Managers Association (CMDMA), unrepresented executives and confidential employees.  This won't take long.
Public Hearing #2 is actually two hearings combined for discussion, HERE.  This is going to take some time because the Planning Commission massaged it with a virtual meat-axe during their hearing, so it will be interesting to see how the City Council responds to those recommendations.  The first amends the municipal code relating to group homes, residential care facilities and reasonable accommodation, and the second amends the code regarding operator's permits for group homes of seven and more located in the City's multi-family zones.  I expect this one to take a couple hours of discussion, comments and negotiation.  In a related matter, see New Business #4, below.

Public Hearing #3, HERE, addresses the Fees to Process Applications for Medical Marijuana Businesses Allowed via Measure X.  You may recall my entry about the Stakeholder's Meeting recently on this subject.  Here's an exhibit that shows the proposed fee Schedules.  This one may generate some serious discussion by many of the proponents of the businesses proposed for that little section of town north of the 405 Freeway where such businesses are permitted.
New Business #1, HERE, is an Urgency Ordinance necessary for The City to be able to continue to collect a public, educational and government access fee (PEG Fee) from ATT.  It is possible that because the authorization for the collection of this fee expired 3/31/17, the city will be prohibited from continued collections unless and until it is re-authorized.
New Business #2, HERE, is the most recent iteration of Fire Chief Dan Stefano's plan for Ambulance Transportation in The City.  This issue has been batted around for several years, beginning with then Interim Chief Tom Arnold's first proposal.  This proposal asks the council to review and approve the updated option of the public/private partnership ambulance transportation model.  It also asks the council to authorize the City Manager to allocate an amount not to exceed $100,000 for the comprehensive administration and facilitation of the Request for Proposals (FRP) process for both the ambulance and billing services.  It also asks for the approval to annually utilize the billing rate structure that is consistent with those identified through the Orange County Health Care Agency EMS Policy and Procedures.
Here's my problem with this report... not enough specific data about how this new - and it appears to be new - proposal will impact staff deployment.  In the previous, two-year-old, report there were charts and graphs showing deployment models.  And, this model slices more than a half-million dollars of cost recovery money from the previous "Model #3".  While these questions and many more may be answered during Chief Stefano's presentation on Tuesday, it would be helpful if that information also appeared in the staff report.  And, the new Finance and Pension Advisory Committee DID NOT hear this report last week, even though it was on the agenda.  It seems to me that this subject required a Study Session environment during which council concerns could be fleshed out in a less formal setting before being brought to the council for a final approval.  We'll see how this plays out late in the agenda on Tuesday.
New Business #3, HERE, is rookie Councilman John Stephens' multi-pronged plan to mitigate the impact of illegal fireworks throughout the city over the Independence Day holiday.  It involves:
  • A centrally-located July 4th Celebration at the Orange County Fair and Event Center.
  • Allocation of $50,000 in new revenue and expenditures for FY 16/17 to cover event costs.
  • A proactive campaign announcing the city will vigorously enforce the prohibition against illegal fireworks and seek a maximum penalty for such violations.
  • No changes in current sale or discharge ordinances regarding safe and sane fireworks.

I guess you could say the objective is to have a safer, legal holiday marking Independence Day while generating a more community-oriented major event at the Fairgrounds.  Stephens held a community forum on this issue recently, and the staff report includes a summary of comments from that event.

The staff report provides great detail of the event as Stephens perceives it, including the kind of entertainment and the kind of pyrotechnic - not concussive - display planned.  We're told there will be no "bombs bursting in air" - unlike what typically happens over several days in most of our neighborhoods in recent years.
And, the plan includes the imposition of a maximum penalty of $1,000 and/or six months in jail for the discharge of illegal fireworks - not the $150 fine that's been imposed in the past.
New Business #4, HERE, presumes that the modifications to the municipal code regarding group homes mentioned in Public Hearing #2, above, will be approved.  This item remands back to the Planning Commission previous decisions for reconsideration.  It involves decisions involving:
2 Conditional Use Permits
4 Special Use Permits
1 Denial of a Conditional Use Permit
21 Applications for Reasonable Accommodation for CUPs
1 Special Use Permit back to the Director for Further Consideration

It's unclear what happens if the City Council does not follow through with the recommendations in Public Hearing #2.  The discussion will be lively on this issue.

One thing is clear, though - we now know why Interim Development Services Director Jay Trevino admonished the Planning Commission at their last meeting to get some rest even though their next meeting will be canceled.

New Business #5, HERE, is the final item on the agenda, which may actually be heard Wednesday morning.  This is a request by Councilman Allan Mansoor for the City of Costa Mesa to send a Letter of Opposition to SB 54, which involves repealing a segment of existing law involving sharing of data on certain offenders who may be subject to immigration enforcement action.  This bill is opposed by most major law enforcement organizations.  I'm not going to address whether I think this is a good bill or not - the text of the bill and an analysis is available as attachments to the staff report.  I do find it ironic that Mansoor, whose previous tour on the City Council was marked by controversy involving the Latino community in our City and who became the face of intolerance during that time, is the one putting this forward.  We'll see how this one goes.  

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Remembering "Four-Letter Words"...

More than a dozen years ago I wrote the following epistle as a commentary which the editors of the Daily Pilot very kindly published on their pages.  I thought it might be time to reprise this.  A couple of the references show their - and my - age, but the core message remains.  Enjoy...


And now, a few words ...

By Geoff West

August 24, 2004

I've been thinking about four-letter words lately. Now, don't get all excited, I'm not talking about those four-letter words, the ones that seem to have saturated casual public discourse more and more in the last decade or so. I'm talking about some others.

Four years ago, as we ramped up for the last presidential election, there was a little joke going around: "No matter who wins the 2000 election, we're going to end up with a four-letter word for a president." I smiled then, and I'm smiling now. Among the four-letter words I've been contemplating lately is "work." It's one of the few four-letter words many of our kids don't seem to use these days, especially when combined with another four-letter word, "hard."

Seems to me that too many of our young folks just kind of skate by, willing to drift with the tide rather than work hard to accomplish their goals — academic and otherwise. Of course, not all of them are set on cruise control. There are many outstanding overachievers in this neck of the woods. There seem to be many on the other side of the equation, though, and it's a problem.

I don't know why. Maybe it's because the levels of academic achievement have been so ratcheted out of reason to avoid damaging self-esteem that even accomplishing a straight-A average seems not to be enough. How can we expect our kids to keep their eye on the ball, when we keep changing the target?

A couple other four-letter words I've thought about recently are "love" and "hate." Both of these seem to have gotten diluted. Hate is a word that has gotten watered down by overuse. People will say they hate someone when what they actually mean is, "I don't like your opinion," or "You're different, and I don't understand you." They hate the dress, when they actually mean, "I don't like that color much." Heck, I use the word — among others — when I'm tied up in traffic. It's an easy word to use, although not always accurately. I do know what real hate is, though. Hate is what I felt as I watched the airplanes hit the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001 and viewed the aftermath later. I hated the cowards who conceived the plan and those who fulfilled it. Almost three years later, that feeling has not subsided, and I still find myself contemplating appropriate punishment for those responsible.

Drawing and quartering is one of the more mild solutions I've considered. That is hate.

"Love," on the other hand, seems to have gotten confused with another four-letter word: "lust." Believe it or not, I was actually a teenager once — a long time ago — so I still remember lust. It was easy to confuse the words back then. Today, the difference is quite clear to me. Lust is seeing Halle Berry in a black cat suit and Sharon Stone in a white pants suit, frolicking together on the silver screen. Love is what I feel for my sweet wife of 37 years every hour of every day; it brings a smile to my face and makes my heart skip a beat when she walks into the room. Love makes me ache when we are apart.

"Fear" is another four-letter word I've thought about, usually in close proximity to "hate" in my thought process. Fear is what the Sept. 11 terrorists have given to this country. I guess I do hate them for that. Fear exists in our community for other reasons, too — fear of the new, the different, the unknown. There are those who use that fear to fan the flames of hate and try to convince us that their way is better. Sadly, sometimes that plan seems to have worked. I think we all need to do a better job of overcoming that fear and douse those flames.

Another four-letter word rattling around in my skull lately is "best." You know, as in "be the best." Lance Armstrong's recent win at the Tour de France has made me think about this word. Can there be any doubt that he is the very best at what he does? Even if you ignore his successful battle with cancer, his accomplishment is without equal in sport.

In this Olympic year, we are seeing young people from around the world become the very best and marvel at their accomplishments. We sometimes let "be the best" overshadow "do your best." In the Olympics, for every winner there will be others who will not stand on the top step of the podium and hear their national anthem played. Many of those individuals will have done their very best and still not win the gold.

Being the best is an admirable goal, achieved by very few. Doing your best can be attained every time you compete and in everything you do. In my mind, it's OK if you are not "the best" as long as you do your best.

The last four-letter word on my mind a lot in recent months is "life." There are many aphorisms that describe views of life, but I've discovered one thing at my rapidly advancing age: Life is usually not what you anticipated. This message was driven home to me, loud and clear, last winter when I spent 45 days at the bedside of a man who had been my best friend since we were 5 years old. He didn't expect that he would crash his motorcycle, but he did. I certainly didn't expect to be the one to tell the doctors to stop trying to bring him back at the end of his life, but I was.

So, I leave you with these thoughts: It is hard work to lead a good, happy, productive life, but it's worth the effort. A little lust is OK, but not at the expense of deeper feelings. Don't let fear of the unknown overcome you. Don't let others turn it into hate. If you do your very best, that's good enough.

Finally, learn what true love is — and share it.

•  GEOFF WEST is a resident of Costa Mesa.

Oh, yes... In case you're wondering, we'll get to the loaded City Council meeting in our next post... I have to pound myself on my shoulder pads and get pumped up for that one...

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Two Committees Off And Running

As mentioned in my earlier post, the new Finance and Pension Advisory Committee and the re-constituted Bikeway and Walkability Committee both met yesterday, elected leaders and have launched themselves off on their assigned tasks.  Although I attended neither meeting, sources who were in attendance provided some insight for us.
The Finance and Pension Advisory Committee chose former Planning Commissioner and current Mesa Water Board member Jim Fisler as Chairman and Ralph Taboada as Vice Chair.  Members Wendy Leece, Taboada, Robert Juneman, John Hinson and Anna Vrska were selected to become members of the Pension Working Group, a sub-committee that apparently will be charged with examining the pension issues and providing information to the broader group.  Although the information was a little fuzzy, it seems that Taboada will act as chair of that group.  It's unclear when they will next meet.
Among the issues discussed were the current year budget - apparently all signs indicate a slight budget shortfall by the end of the fiscal year in June.  I'm told Interim Finance Director Steve Dunivent provided a series of options for the council to consider.
There was a plan to hear from Fire Chief Dan Stefano on the latest iteration of his deployment plan, but that didn't happen.  This item is on the agenda for the City Council meeting on Tuesday.

So, this group is organized and ready to operate.  Thanks to the volunteers who formed this group.  They meet next on May 10th.

The Bikeway and Walkability Committee met at the Senior Center last evening and chose Jim Erickson as Chairman and Cynthia McDonald was selected to continue as Vice Chair.  All members, as well as Chamber of Commerce liaison Brent Stoll, attended.  Mayor Katrina Foley and NMUSD liaison Dr. Kirk Bauermeister were absent.
According to Public Services Director Raja Sethuraman, the committee was briefed on important procedural issues - the Brown Act, etc., - and were oriented about recent accomplishments and discussed issues they would like to address moving forward.  Again, another good group, willing to work for the betterment of the of the community.  Thanks to them all.  They will next meet on Wednesday, May 3rd.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Of Bikes And Bucks - Two Meetings Today

Two re-constituted Costa Mesa committees meet for the first time today, will select officers and make sub-committee assignments for the work ahead.
The new Finance and Pension Advisory Committee, combined by the City Council recently to blend the technical expertise required for discussions of both the Pension issue and the broader Finance issues, meets for the first time today in Conference Room 1A at City Hall beginning at 4:30 p.m.  You can read the agenda report HERE.
This group is an amalgamation of old and new members of both the two previous committees, so it should be interesting to see how the backgrounds and personalities mesh (or clash) as they work to provide potential solutions for the City Council.  The members of this committee are:
Jim Fisler
Robert Juneman
John Hinson
Wendy Leece
Al Melone
Nick Peterson
Tom Pollitt
Richard Riva
Ralph Taboada
Rebecca Trahan
Anna Vrska
Sandra Genis is the Mayor's Designee
I did notice on the agenda the selection of the Pension Working Group members.  One of the reasons for combining the Pension and Finance committees was to save on staff time.  I wonder if this sub-group will meet separately, how frequently and how much extra staff time will be required for this particular activity?  It makes me wonder of the wisdom of combining the two committees if they're going to have a separate group discussing pensions.  Curious, indeed.
Then, beginning at 6:00 p.m., the new Bikeway and Walkability Committee meets at the Costa Mesa Senior Center, 695 W. 19th Street.  This is an earlier start time than previously and this is an unusual date due to the recent creation of this group.  You can read this agenda report HERE.

The new members of this committee are:
Alan Engard
Jim Erickson
Michelle Fay
Robert Graham
Michael Habitz
Richard Huffman II
James Kane
Dan Leibson
Andrew Levins
Flo Martin
Cynthia McDonald
John C. Merrill
Kari Nieblas Vozenilek
Scott Porterfield
Ralph Taboada
City Council Liaison is Mayor Katrina Foley
Newport-Mes Unified School District Liaison is Dr. Kirk Bauermeister
Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce Liaison is Brent Stoll
This should be an interesting afternoon/evening for you committee-watchers.  It will be especially interesting for Ralph Taboada, who has previously held leadership positions in both committees, as he sprints from one to the other today.
A previously-scheduled social event precludes me from attending either of these meetings, but I'll attempt to report of each from alternate sources.
Thanks to all above for their dedication and for volunteering to spend the time and energy to improve things in our city.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Trip Down Memory Lane - The Beginning


Did you ever find yourself muttering to yourself, "Where the heck did this guy, West, come from?"  Well, here's your answer...


Fifteen years ago Byron de Arakal - then a columnist for the Daily Pilot - wrote a provocative column about the Costa Mesa City Council, HERE.  I usually didn't pay much attention to that stuff, but that particular day I did and decided to write a letter to the editor to the Daily Pilot in response.  And.... they printed it!  A month later he wrote another one that provoked me, so I wrote another letter... And they printed it!  That was the beginning of this whole thing.  Blame Byron... it's all his fault!


One thing led to another - lots of letters and commentaries published by the Daily Pilot and elsewhere, lots of offers to write a column (12 from the Daily Pilot alone), a few awards and - after two different blog hosts, more than 3,400 entries and more than 3 million page views - what you see published here nearly every day is the result of this very first Letter To The Editor and the encouragement from my sweet wife and readers like you.   Thanks...


So, for your reading pleasure, here's that first letter as dredged up from the Daily Pilot archives.  A lot has changed... and some has not.  It sure has been fun...


April 11, 2002
As a longtime Costa Mesa resident -- 28 years and counting -- I have
been concerned about our present City Council and its apparent inability
to work together to get things done in our city. For months I have
struggled with feelings of extreme frustration as, month after month, the
council seemed to blow in the wind on almost any issue you care to
discuss. They, as a group, seem to lack the ability to focus, analyze,
prioritize and act on the many serious issues that face this city.

Byron de Arakal's column ("Merrily on our way to nowhere at all,"
April 3) was a masterful piece of work. He managed, in his own special
way, to hit the nail right on the head. As he stated in his column, "It's
as if the mother ship has a guitar pick for a rudder and dysfunction for
a captain." That's a perfect description of how the leadership of this
city is operating these days.

On Monday, April 1, I sat at home and watched as much of the council
proceedings as I could stomach. I stayed up until the bitter end, which
turned out to be just after 1:30 Tuesday morning, hoping for signs of
accomplishment. I went to bed disappointed.

I know that the members of the City Council have chosen to make
sacrifices in their lives for the overall well-being of the city. I'm
sure that each of the current council members try to do a good job.
Unfortunately, as a group, they are just plain ineffective. There is no
leadership evident, as witnessed by the frequent breakdown of decorum
during the council meetings.

Over the past months I have watched council meetings, looking for
signs that would help me decide who, if any, of the current crop deserves
my vote next time around. Painfully, the answer is none of them do.
Mayor Linda Dixon, who is probably a very nice person, is in over her
head. It's absolutely no surprise to me that the Downtown and Eastside
Transportation Ad Hoc Committee has accomplished so little since it was
formed way back last summer. Clearly, she provides no more leadership for
that committee than she does at council meetings. She seems much more
concerned with "fluff" than the nuts and bolts of keeping a city running.
Gary Monahan has chosen to take himself out of the running next time
around but is clearly frustrated by the way things are going on the
council. He makes no effort to hide that fact.

Karen Robinson seems to be uninformed on issues facing the council.
She appears to have way too much on her plate these days, and her
performance on the council suffers because of it.

Libby Cowan is clearly the strongest personality on the council. As
she sits beside Linda Dixon on the dais, you can almost see her pulling
the strings. She has clearly displayed her own agenda, which has more to
do with empire building than consensus building, over the past months.
Her unwillingness to take a firm stand on issues that affect her employer
-- and our neighboring city -- should disqualify her from further

Chris Steel is, well, Chris Steel. Not only does he attempt to appeal
to the basest parts of human nature, he lacks the ability to articulate
whatever is going on in his head. He is a perfect example of what happens
when the electorate doesn't take an interest in the process. There were
good reasons he ran unsuccessfully so many times in the past. Perhaps
nothing else more accurately defines Steel than the entry on the official
city of Costa Mesa Web site. At the link that introduces the City
Council, with photos and summaries of professional accomplishments,
beside his photo is a blank page.

The leadership vacuum in this city is so great that you can almost
feel the life being sucked out. Without clear, strong leadership, this
city is in big trouble. Without clear direction from the council, the
city staff will continue to run around in circles, trying to guess what
kind of a curveball the council will throw next. Do you suppose
exceptional public servants like City Manager Allan Roeder would even
consider another job if he was satisfied with the leadership in this
city? Neither do I.

It's getting to the point where it might be better to just recall them
all and start over.

Do you suppose it would be possible to Shanghai Peter Buffa and Joe
Erickson for another tour on the good ship Costa Mesa (by-the-sea)?
Again, my thanks to Byron de Arakal for stating the problem so

Costa Mesa

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Planning Commission Takes Flight

Monday night's Costa Mesa Planning Commission meeting was an interesting one, indeed.  You will recall that I suggested it might be a tough agenda for this new group... well, it was, but the commission proved worthy to the task.
In recent meetings it has been a little like watching a group of fledglings shedding their shells, squirm around the nest for positions and try to find space to spread their wings.  Last night we saw them make their way to the edge of the nest, flap those wings a little, then just drop off the edge and hope they could fly... and they did!  But, let's take the meeting in order and we'll get to that "flying" part shortly.
Only one person rose to speak during Public Comments.  An unidentified woman stepped up and addressed the commission on the recent Measure Z Stakeholders Meeting at City Hall last week.  She opined that, based on what she saw and heard, the City has no clue about what it's up against with the Marijuana crowd in attendance.  They have no idea about the probable collateral damage in the way of crime that may accompany the creation of our own "drug zone" in the north part of town.
Commissioners Woods, Harlan and Kerins had nothing to say.
Vice Chair Byron De Arakal said he wants to open a dialogue with staff regarding the boundaries of the Mesa West Urban Homeownership plan and will likely have to get permission from the City Council for the staff time.
 Chairman Stephan Andranian congratulated Commissioner Isabell Kerins for being appointed liaison to the Traffic Impact Fee Ad Hoc Committee.
The Consent Calendar - which contained only minutes from their last meeting - was passed without comment on a 5-0 vote.

Right off the bat the commissioners had a BIG issue to discuss in Public Hearing #1, which was the proposed ordinance following the adoption of Section 5 of Measure Z - the bogus issue placed on the ballot by the last council majority to try to counter Measure Y.  Certain portions of Z will become law, including establishment of an open space and public park impact fee and the creation of an advisory committee.
The City Council has already tinkered with this and combined two committees - the Youth Sports Committee and the Open Space and Recreation Advisory Committee - expanding the latter from a seven (7) member committee into a seventeen (17) member committee with a revised scope of operation.
Four members of the public spoke on this, none of whom were in favor of it.  Cynthia McDonald described Measure Z as deceptive and misleading and described the Youth Sports Committee as a "stacked" group that would place emphasis on youth activities and ignore the growing active aging population.  Rick Huffman agreed with her - they are husband and wife, after all - and described the heavily-youth sports oriented committee as being front-loaded and would form a voting block.
Vice Chair de Arakal expressed concern about the expanded committee and suggested they leave the committee out of the ordinance.
Commissioner Jeffrey Harlan agreed, and said it hurt his head contemplating this issue.  He observed the conflicts between Measures Y and Z demonstrate the unintended consequences of the initiative process.  Commissioners Kerins and Carla Navarro Woods concurred.

Chairman Andranian asked if they have the option to leave the committee aside.  The answer was yes.
de Arakal expressed much concern that nowhere in the ordinance does it even mention the Parks and Recreation Commission, which he described as a very smart group of people who already perform some of the responsibilities of the proposed committee.  He served eight years on that commission and understands the scope of it's operations and authority.
The discussion went on and on and, eventually, after nearly an hour, de Arakal moved that the commission approve the ordinance as staff proposed WITHOUT any mention of the committee at all.  Rejecting the City Council plan, that motion passed, 5-0.  It was at this point the fledglings had launched themselves off into the unknown and took wing.  I smiled...
Public Hearing #2, a combined motion that attempted to clean up two issues - sheds and banners - was presented by Zoning Administrator Willa Bowens-Killeen, who explained the reasons for these suggested changes.  After a short discussion in which de Arakal asked Deputy City Attorney Yolanda Summerhill if the restrictions on size and duration of display of banners as recommended was a free-speech issue, (the answer was no), the commission approved the staff report, 5-0,  but changed the maximum size of the sheds to 8 feet tall and 120 square feet max.  That means that now you can place a shed in your yard without worrying about a 5 foot side setback and a 10 foot rear setback.  The fledglings were circling, gaining skills...
Next up was Public Hearing #3, a small lot development at 174 Costa Mesa Street that replaced a single family residence and detached garage with two single-family residences that conformed to the Small Lot Ordinance without variance requests.  This project was praised as one that was exactly what was in mind when the Small Lot Ordinance was created.  An added benefit - apparently this project displaces what was a sober living home and all the attendant problems that were associated with it.  It passed, 5-0.
Public Hearing #4, the review of the 99 Cents Only Store request for a finding of Public Convenience and Necessity for a permit to sell beer and wine, which had been called up for review by Mayor Katrina Foley, generated some interesting discussion.  For example, during the conversations it turned out that this permit would make #5 in an area only approved for 3.  Only one member of the public, Barrie Fisher, spoke in favor of the request, who based her support on the fact that the property owner, not the lessee - the 99 Cent Only Store - should be held accountable for unsavory activities on and near the property.  In the end the commission voted, 4-1, (Andranian voted no) to reject the application based on a few factors - over saturation and the failure of the operator of the store to even show up.
After a short break the final item on the agenda - Public Hearing #5, the replacement of the old, closed Grant Boys store on the corner of Rochester Street and Newport Boulevard with a Chick-Fil-A drive-through, walk-up restaurant - was launched.  The staff recommendation was to reject this plan due to serious traffic considerations.
We knew right off the bat that this one would be interesting.  Chick-Fil-A showed up with a crew of experts and smooth-talkers.  Randy and Alexa Garell of Grant Boys were present, as were a cadre of Grant Boys fans ready to heap praise on their community contributions of 66 years, and to express the opinion that they deserved to be cut some slack on this project, even though some elements made it unworkable in the view of the staff.
After the brief staff report Chick-Fil-A main man Ed Hale made their pitch.  Keep in mind that his company has a reputation for being good citizens - their presence in Costa Mesa with their other store has been only positive - and Hale tried to explain how this project would really work on this site.  He said this is the 26th or 27th iteration of their plan, trying to fine-tune it.  He praised the Planning staff for their professionalism and cooperation.  This diagram shows their latest cut at how to make this work.  Traffic into the site could ONLY enter off Rochester Street and ONLY exit on Newport Boulevard.
Hale explained that this was a prototype store, with a new kitchen arrangement that permitted rapid through-put of cars in the line.  I don't think anyone in the room thought that their process wouldn't work... that was not the problem.

Twenty-one (21) people rose to speak on this issue, twenty-two if you count Randy Garell who spoke as part of the team presentation.  He and his wife, Alexa, spoke with great passion about the Grant family contributions to the community - nobody questions that, for sure - and, unfortunately, Randy closed his comments with a critical comment about this hearing being held the first day of Passover.  It was an unnecessary dig that seemed to bother some folks in the audience and on the dais.
Of those other twenty-one speakers, all but five spoke in favor of the project and almost all because of the Grant family contributions and Chick-Fil-A's reputation as a good neighbor/citizen.  Included in those were Chamber of Commerce President Tom Johnson - a fixture in this community since his days as the publisher of the Daily Pilot - and iconic former Costa Mesa Police Chief Dave Snowden, who did nearly 18 years in that role and was broadly active in the community for more years than that.  His sons and their families live in the city.
Friends and business associates of Garell and the Grant family, like Alan Greeley, 37-year owner of the Golden Truffle across the street from the Grant Boys store, spoke in glowing terms.  They went on and on.
Those who spoke against this project, like activist Beth Refakes and businessman Iggy Israel, did so based on the fact that it would create a traffic nightmare on Rochester Street, and that it likely would be impossible to exit onto Newport Boulevard - the real crux of the issue.
Following Public Comments Hale attempted to address some of the issues raised.  He, for example, said that left turns into the property from Rochester would be forbidden.  Well, I wonder how that's going to happen?  Same with prohibiting right turns into the exit to Newport Boulevard.  Public Services Director Raja Sethuraman explained the process of traffic analysis, and why this project doesn't work.
de Arakal interrogated the Traffic Consultant from Chick-Fil-A, observing that the Escondido store that was used for many of the comparisons REALLY isn't a valid comparison because, unlike the proposed Costa Mesa store, it doesn't front on two public streets - it's  part of a mall parking lot, where overflow traffic isn't much of an issue.
Finally, as the clock crept past 10 p.m., Vice Chair de Arakal opined that this really was not an issue about the Grant family, nor was it about Chick-Fil-A, both of whom have multitudes of supporters and a history of community support that is undeniable.  This is an issue about a project that simply doesn't work at that particular location, regardless of the emotion involved.  There is NO question that Chick-Fil-A has refined their processes to improve through-put of cars and walk-up customers.  In fact, those improvements may only exacerbate this issue by actually moving cars through the property faster than the Newport Boulevard traffic can handle.
Each of the commissioners joined his concerns and, at 10:10 p.m., they voted unanimously - 5-0 -  to deny the project as proposed.  I could see those fledglings now soaring like eagles with this difficult decision behind them.  I smiled again...
Chick-Fil-A proponents and members of the Grant contingent hovered around on the Council Chambers porch for a long time, clustered in little groups discussing this rejection.  I presume they were trying to decide whether to appeal it to the City Council.
As Andranian was about to adjourn the meeting Acting Development Services Director Jay Trevino told the commission that their next meeting - normally scheduled for April 24th - was being cancelled because there are no Public Hearings nor New Business items scheduled for that night.  The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be on May 8th.  Trevino encouraged the commissioners to get some rest...

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