After hearing criticism about a parking lot planned for inside Fairview Park, Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer proffered a potential solution during his Meet the Mayor session Thursday night.
What if the proposed 10-space lot at the end of Pacific Avenue were replaced with a simple turnaround, which the Fire Department needs for its vehicles, and no parking?
Most of the attendees remaining, many of whom were standing in the street a few feet from where the lot would be constructed, seemed to like the idea. But by then, the sun had set and the crowd had dwindled.
At its peak, the nearly two-hour session, which took place on the driveway of a private home at the end of Pacific, had drawn more than 100 onlookers of all ages, many of whom spent several minutes speaking publicly and privately with Righeimer.
Though the focus of the meeting was all things Fairview Park, the dominant topic was the proposed parking lot. The Parks and Recreation Commission last month approved the lot's design on a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Bob Graham dissenting. The idea for a lot at the northern terminus of Pacific, however, had been in the Fairview Park Master Plan for years.
In July, city staff presented a proposal for a landscaped parking lot of 42 spaces and enough turnaround space for emergency vehicles. Soon after, activists told the commission that the master plan called for only 10 spaces, prompting the commissioners to ask that the proposal be in compliance.
Councilwoman Sandy Genis has appealed the commission's decision to go ahead with a 10-space lot, which means the matter will go before the City Council on Tuesday.
When asked about the feasibility of changing the proposal, city Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz, who also spoke at the gathering, said, "We can do whatever the community wants to do."
A turnaround is not in the master plan, so that may require an amendment, he said, adding that the council may also give new direction on the matter.
The Fire Department prefers a turnaround space, Munoz said, and the proposal calls for one that could handle the department's biggest vehicles.
Those who oppose the
lot contend that it would be too close to unstable bluffs, ruin the natural look of the park, contribute to traffic and be used primarily by Huntington Beach residents.
Many of those sentiments were repeated Thursday, as was a denial that Pacific Avenue residents are harboring some NIMBYism over the matter.
Pacific Avenue residents Jim Tolan and Kim Hendricks told Righeimer they had started a petition against the parking lot. They said they have 300 signatures of the 20,000 they're seeking.
"No one says no," said Tolan, a 25-year resident. "It's rare to hear no."
When accused of not listening to people's concerns, Righeimer said he and the council have to consider the needs of the entire city, not just Pacific Avenue and environs. Fairview is a citywide park, not a neighborhood park, he emphasized.
"I listen. I'm here," Righeimer said. "When's the last time a mayor of the city was here?"
He also took offense at the notion that something underhanded was afoot regarding the initial 42-space plan.
"To make it look like somebody sneaked it or pushed it through is not right," Righeimer said.
The southeastern quadrant of the 208-acre Fairview Park, where the lot would be built, is undeveloped land containing basic signage, dirt trails, a few trees and a guard rail.