New development, a proposed city charter, traffic and the future of Fairview Park were among the topics discussed Thursday during a Costa Mesa City Council candidates' forum.
The two-hour event, hosted by Mesa Verde Community Inc. and moderated by its president, Darnell Wyrick, took place in the Neighborhood Community Center before a crowd of about 175.
Seven of eight candidates for two open council seats attended: Mayor Jim Righeimer, who is up for reelection; school board Trustee Katrina Foley, an attorney and former council member; retired certified public accountant Al Melone; sports agent and Banning Ranch activist Christopher Bunyan; retired Auto Club of Southern California consultant Rita Simpson; former Councilman Jay Humphrey, a retired pharmaceutical executive; and congressional aide Tony Capitelli.
Retired businessman Lee Ramos, who serves on the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee and served on the charter committee, did not attend the forum. His campaign manager told the Daily Pilot earlier this week that Ramos "will be focusing on meeting with voters rather than performing at PR events."
The first question was about Costa Mesa's charter proposal, a constitution-like document that would have the city governed by home rule rather than Sacramento guidelines.
Righeimer, Simpson and Capitelli said they favored it.
"I am always an advocate of local control," Capitelli said. "I think the City Council having more control over contracts is a good thing."
Righeimer said organized labor will fight the document. Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Irvine function well under their charters, and Costa Mesa can too, he added.
Foley, Humphrey and Bunyan said they opposed the charter.
"It's not going to give any more power to the city," Bunyan said.
Foley called the document a power grab by the Righeimer-led council majority.
Melone was more indifferent.
"It seems like it's being overblown," he said. "The day after the election, the city is going to be the same. Most of us aren't going to be dramatically affected for years to come.... If it loses, I won't lose any sleep over it."
When it comes to new developments, particularly residential units in the Westside, Foley, Capitelli and Humphrey said they support smart growth and projects that are compatible with existing neighborhoods.
"I want to remain sure Costa Mesa remains a quaint, cool, coastal place to raise a family," Foley said.
Humphrey said residents need to consider the cumulative effect of new developments.
"The additive effect is far more problematic than the single impact of one development structure," he said.
Bunyan said Costa Mesa is becoming more like Irvine and losing its "organic feel."
"Irvine is nice, but Irvine is too much of a master-planned community," he said.
Melone said he is worried about the potential traffic that developments could bring to Costa Mesa, making the city feel congested like Los Angeles. He pushed for a moratorium on new developments until the city's general plan update is finished