The community of Mesa del Mar, located between the Orange County Fairgrounds and Baker Street in Costa Mesa, has been a great place to live for many years, 34 in my case. I've raised three sons here and spent many idyllic hours with my grandson, age 5 now, at TeWinkle Park.
Angels Playground, the beautiful lakes, and the area's ducks and fountains are sought-after destinations for many families. The proposed privatization of the athletic complex between the Mesa del Mar tract, Davis Magnet School and TeWinkle Park, and directly across the street from the fairgrounds, is going to change things radically and, in my opinion, cause great harm to the area and the residents.
We homeowners were aware of the fairgrounds when we bought our homes, so we, more or less, willingly endure the noises, traffic and parking problems created by that establishment. During the fair we hear the rodeo, the screaming from carnival rides, the mariachis, the motorcycle races, the concerts in the new Hangar. The rest of the year, we hear the Barrett-Jackson auto event, more motorcycle races, the recent Pet Expo, the Scottish Games and many more.
The notorious Pacific Amphitheater has thankfully reduced the noise level down to bearable. The fair's new chief executive, Jerome Hoban, and the sound engineer, Gary Hardesty, have guaranteed the residents of Mesa del Mar and surrounding areas that they are seriously working to reduce the sound invasion into our neighborhoods. We thank them for their sincere efforts.
The fair staff is also working with the city to control the parking and traffic problems caused by the overlapping events at the fairgrounds. The recent Pet Expo, coupled with the Orange County Market Place, created a disaster for anyone trying to enter or leave our tract, or find parking at or near the fairgrounds. This includes TeWinkle Park, one of the nicest, premier treasures of Costa Mesa.
All of the streets at that edge of the Mesa del Mar tract were inundated with cars that didn't belong in our community. This is what happens every time there are two large events at the fairgrounds.
And now, as if those overlapping events weren't enough, the city is considering privatizing the baseball fields that are literally in the backyards of some of the residents of Mesa del Mar.
The company that has been called upon to give the city a proposal is Big League Dreams Sports Parks. The dream is to develop a big, sensational, "best on the West Coast" facility for games and tournaments that will run all year. The idea is to make more money for the city through greater usage and additional fees.
The projected figures are not overwhelming, and greater usage means greater disturbance into our neighborhood and the surrounding area.
They want to build a concession restaurant that will serve alcohol. That's extremely inappropriate so near to the park and potentially problematic in our backyards. And by the way, this land was given to the city for recreational, not commercial, use.
The expanded, enhanced facility means continuous, all hours of the day, every day, all through the year cheering crowds, with lights in our windows late at night, and traffic and parking problems beyond our wildest imagining.
To handle all those extra cars, there's a possibility of creating a small additional parking lot between Davis Magnet School and the baseball fields. This requires approval by the school district to relocate the track that's on the school grounds.
I don't know who's kidding who, but there's no way that the huge number of cars involved with a tournament can be fit into an area already bursting at the seams. One tiny additional lot is not going to be sufficient.
Some other suggested fixes include sound walls that block only a portion of the sound and block the open, expansive view the public now enjoys. There are photos of a Big League Dreams facility on Facebook, "Save TeWinkle Park."
They also want to lock a gate in the rear of the complex, across the path that is presently used by many residents and park visitors to discourage the baseball players from parking in that small back lot. That's wishful thinking.
Instead, that lot seems to be planned for Big League Dreams employees to use, and I can just imagine the late hour they'll be going to their cars after tournaments that should end no later than 11 p.m. and preferably 10 p.m.
It seems a bit naive to assume that all of these problems can be fixed to the comfort and satisfaction of our already overburdened community. Our neighborhood is being threatened and the beauty and serenity of TeWinkle Park is at stake.
Mesa del Mar should not be the sacrificial lamb for someone else's big dreams. We endure more than our share already. For our community, this plan is a scary nightmare, not a dream. It should be a scary nightmare for the city as well.
We, the residents of Mesa del Mar, and all the citizens of Costa Mesa, deserve better from our elected city officials.
Please go to http://www.savetewinklepark.com and Facebook for more information.
Columnist misstated Righeimer's position
Jeffrey Harlan, a new columnist for the Daily Pilot, used his first time on the soapbox to accuse Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer of exaggerating when he recently told CNBC that Costa Mesa "can't slurry seal its streets" because of budget woes.
Harlan then wrote that the Mesa Verde neighborhood got "more than 100 streets [repaved] last fall to the tune of $3 million" and that Eastside Costa Mesa "is about to undertake a $6.3-million street rehabilitation project."
Proof that Righeimer lies, right?
Here's the problem with Harlan's hypothesis: Righeimer and the new City Council majority are the very ones who made it a priority to fund these initiatives in the first place.
City staff recently estimated that it would take $8 million annually to keep Costa Mesa streets in good order on an ongoing basis. For the past decade, the city invested an average of about $3.5 million. This means routine maintenance called slurry sealing was being pushed back or even skipped entirely.
So now, Righeimer and the council are forced to find money for far more extensive (and expensive) repairs, such as what we saw in Mesa Verde. It costs roughly 50 cents per square foot to slurry seal a street, yet $5.50 to do more extensive work (like Mesa Verde).
To see more clearly exactly what Righeimer meant, all you have to do is look at the city's past budgets. In the city's adopted fiscal year 2010-11 budget (before Righeimer was elected to the council), less than 3.5% of the city's total spending was for capital Improvements; yet just 10 years prior in the fiscal year 2000-01 amended budget, the city spent 29% toward capital improvements.
That is a pretty stark contrast.
Anyone with any kind of financial or business sense knows that routine maintenance leads to lower costs down the road (pardon the pun) as well as cleaner, safer streets for our residents. As an urban planner I would suggest Harlan go back and re-read that chapter in his textbook, because this is a very simple concept that he ought to know.
What Righeimer stated was simple: We haven't been spending enough on routine things, such as slurry sealing. Could he have stated it differently? Of course.
But facts are facts. Our city had steadily been underfunding our roads, parks and alleys, and he and the new majority are the very ones reversing that trend and pursuing the projects Harlan cited.
You can't blame someone for solving the very problems they bring up; if anything, Harlan should commend Righeimer. Under this council, we finally have leadership that is ready to move us in the right direction and reverse the trend of the past 10 years.
The writer is the co-founder of the Costa Mesa Taxpayers Assn. and a parks and recreation commissioner.
Who are they representing?
I read this morning that the city of Costa Mesa is using my tax dollars to hire an outside law firm to keep sick and disabled people from getting the medicine that their doctors have recommended. The Jones & Mayer firm says they feel vindicated by the ruling they helped bring about.
If our City Council is not representing the sick and disabled, not representing the small businesses that legally sold medical marijuana, and not representing the voters who approved its use, who exactly are they representing? I'm deeply ashamed to say that, as a Costa Mesa resident, it's me.
Upper Newport Bay warrants protections
As I walk the naturally manicured path, the sand and tiny pebbles crunch softly beneath my sneakers. The heady smell of California sagebrush and other indigenous plants fills the air.
Spring is in full swing, as the meadow-type birds sing to impress one another. A hawk circles overhead. The breeze pushes past the tall, green bushes and out over the saltwater marsh — a twinkling, beautiful blue in the morning sun.
The wild flowers dot the scenery with golden yellows and delicate purples. A small, dusty squirrel scurries across my path. Momentarily, I am wonderfully consumed by nature.
Suddenly, a burst of unnatural energy breaks my Zen. A giant, metallic object thrusts itself loudly through the air overhead, gaining altitude. I stop to watch and wait for the mechanical entity to move past my presence. Just as the sound dissolves into the distance and I get over the assault on my senses, another does the same — and then another, each about a minute apart.
It is the morning procession of airplanes departing John Wayne Airport. I sigh in frustration, as I am brought back to reality.
Less than 1 mile from the runways is Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve. At approximately 1,000 acres, it's one of only a few remaining coastal estuaries in Southern California. This unique slice of nature, where freshwater from San Diego Creek and saltwater from the Pacific Ocean meet, is home to nearly 200 bird species, as well as many other animals, fish and native plants, some of which are endangered.
The bay's wildlife includes not only a wide variety of year-round inhabitants, but also migratory waterfowl and shorebirds on the Pacific Flyway, a 9,000-mile, north-south, bird migratory travel route extending from Alaska to South America. (It is important to understand that the Pacific coast of California has few natural harbors in comparison to similar lengths of the Atlantic coast of the United States.)
Every year, migratory birds travel the Pacific Flyway in spring and fall, heading to breeding grounds or traveling to wintering sites. It is estimated that up to 30,000 birds fly, frolic, feed and rest in the Upper Newport Bay, rich in natural resources, during the winter months.
These birds include herons, egrets, pelicans, coots, ibis, loons, grebes, swallows and osprey, among many others. Anna's hummingbird, the great horned owl, the marsh wren and the red-tailed hawk all breed in the tall grasses, sandy shoreline or in the surrounding bluffs of Upper Newport Bay.
In addition, coyotes, rabbits, squirrels, lizards, a few passing bobcats and more consider this land home. Additionally, the local public enjoys this area for walking, jogging, biking, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding and more. Nestled into the landscape is the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center, as well as the Back Bay Science Center. Clearly, the Upper Newport Bay is an ecological gem nestled into our now densely urbanized Newport Beach.
Today JWA is home to 600 general aviation aircraft. According to OCAir.com, the number of passengers flown in and out of JWA in 2011 totaled 8,609,000. The number of takeoffs and landings in 2011 equaled nearly 253,000.
This scenario has serious inherent problems. It does not take a scientist to conclude that these two close entities — the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve and JWA — do not make for compatible neighbors. Both birds and airplanes use wings to fly, but while birds flap their wings for flight, airplanes require jet fuel, which contains chemicals harmful to human, plant and animal health.
I was bothered by the airplane-induced noise pollution, which has its own negative health effects. However, I believe the even greater issue of JWA is the threat to the environment: our wildlife, our own health and quality of life, local housing values and more.
Upper Newport Bay has simpler challenges in that it is nestled into our now very populated Newport Beach. In developing our coastal bay area, we have already placed challenges on the wildlife.
This makes it imperative that we do our best to maintain the nature that we have here. If we don't, this gem will be destroyed, day by day, flight by flight, and once this valuable resource is gone, it is gone.
As such, we must continue to fight expansion of John Wayne Airport, while keeping the current curfews in place. Our health and quality of life depends on it, and lives of the birds and animals that inhabit Upper Newport Bay depend on us.
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