Pacific Avenue Trail

Pictured is the northern terminus of Pacific Avenue that borders Costa Mesa's Fairview Park. Much to the dismay of some residents, the Parks and Recreation Commission approved plans for a 10-space parking lot here that would be within the park. Councilwoman Sandy Genis says she plans to appeal the decision. (Mat Luschek / Daily Pilot / August 22, 2013)

Costa Mesa's Parks and Recreation Commission approved a conceptual design for a Fairview Park parking lot Thursday evening, but a councilwoman who attended the highly contentious session plans to appeal the commission's decision.

The five-member panel heard 21 speakers who were universally against adding the 10-space lot at the northern terminus of Pacific Avenue.

In the end, the commission voted 4 to 1 — with Commissioner Bob Graham dissenting — to approve the design.

Councilwoman Sandy Genis said Friday that she will appeal the decision, forcing the issue to go before the City Council. The council would then decide whether to hear the appeal, and if a majority agrees, the plan would be subject to a hearing during a future council meeting. At that point, the council could suggest changes to the plan or uphold it as is.

"Somebody may have thought it through, but it wasn't presented in that matter," she said. "It didn't even seem like there was a lot of thinking in the interim."

She and other residents questioned the size of the parking lot. Last month the plan had been to have 42 spaces and landscaping.

After the commissioners learned that the Fairview Park Master Plan calls for only 10 spaces there, city staff went to work and came up with a 10-space design with a nearly identical overall footprint as the 42-space version.

Among Genis' concerns is the location's proximity to vernal pools — a sensitive habitat that can contain the San Diego fairy shrimp, an endangered species.

"I just feel that even though there were two hearings, I don't think there was a whole lot of additional thinking," she said.

Thursday's nearly two-hour discussion was marked by shouting at the dais. Just before the commissioners were ready to cast their votes, Chairman Byron de Arakal attempted to settle things down.

"This meeting is out of order," he said, before initiating a five-minute recess. The panel voted after the break.

Graham, who called for a "minimalist approach" to the lot, said Friday that he felt aspects of the Fairview Park Master Plan, created more than a decade ago, were somewhat arbitrary, including the Pacific Avenue parking lot.

"This wasn't brought down the mountain by Moses," he said, adding that people then were just trying to do their best to anticipate future needs.

"People were just looking through the fog. … It wasn't Gospel," Graham said. "It wasn't scientifically arrived at."

The commission's approved project also includes plans for a children's play area near the Pacific Avenue lot and new entryways to the park from Canyon Drive and Placentia Avenue. The entryways would not include new parking.

"This is a natural bluff area," said Pacific Avenue resident Ronda Gilbert. "It does not need to be developed. It's developed enough as it is. We don't need a parking lot, especially at the end of Pacific Avenue, a residential street."

The idea for the parking lot there was proposed years ago in the park's master plan, adopted in the late 1990s and revised several times since then.

Vice Chairman Kim Pederson said he appreciated the public comments but noted that the issue was about adhering to the master plan approved more than a decade ago.

Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz said with an approved concept — and successful resolution of the appeal to the council — a final design could be drawn up. Construction could begin as early as April.