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Council adopts Homeless Task Force's recommendations

Ideas in the carrot-and-stick approach include overnight parking permits, a storage center, motel vouchers, sex offender ban at parks.

April 07, 2012|By Lauren Williams

As with many of its votes, the Costa Mesa City Council adopted the Homeless Task Force's recommendations with a majority on one side and a single dissenter on the other.

But this time, the rebel wasn't Councilwoman Wendy Leece, who often finds herself in the minority on the council dais. Instead, during the March 20 meeting she was part of the majority alongside Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and Councilman Steve Mensinger. Councilman Gary Monahan was absent from the 3-1 vote.

"Wendy and I go way back," Righeimer said, adding that it shouldn't be surprising that they voted together on this issue.

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Mayor Eric Bever cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he feared the recommendations would open a Pandora's box that, like toothpaste, would "squeeze the [homeless] to the other side of town."

There aren't many things that Righeimer and Leece, a Homeless Task Force member, agree on when it comes to changing the city's direction, but providing services to homeless Costa Mesans and doing the city's "fair share" in addressing homelessness was enough to unite them.

The vote wrapped up more than a year of work by the task force in examining policies adopted by other cities, including Laguna Beach, Ontario, Pasadena, Seattle and St. Petersburg, Fla.

Among the goals established early on was helping homeless people who last lived in Costa Mesa, or had ties or close relatives in the city. Task force members said they wanted to help those who have lived here for at least 90 days, and in a period that began no more than 24 months ago.

On the stick side of the task force's carrot-and-stick approach are ordinances affecting parks, including permits for parking overnight and stricter parking enforcement to prevent overnight camping.

"A lot of the things we're doing are already in place," Muriel Ullman, the city's neighborhood improvement manager, told the City Council in March. "It's just a new way of doing business."

Other ordinances include barring smoking at athletic facilities — which was introduced at the task force meetings and pushed through by the Parks and Recreation Commission last year — a sex offender ban from parks and a multifaceted legal strategy for stronger prosecution against repeat ordinance offenders.

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