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Park lighting debate splits council

June 14, 2013|By Bradley Zint

Let there be light — or not?

A proposal to add lighting to existing and planned parking lots at Fairview Park is coming up for Costa Mesa City Council approval Tuesday — and, potentially, additional debate — as part of the city's $131.8-million budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

But while city officials and the council majority say the lights are needed for a multitude of safety reasons, particularly for children using the area's sports fields, one council member contends that the lights would further encourage nighttime activity in a park not designed for it.

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"If we're having the gate open after dark for people to come into the park, that's a really bad idea," said Councilwoman Sandy Genis. "Once you do that, you really have to light the entire park, which would be prohibitively expensive ... I don't want to be encouraging people to be in Fairview Park at night, and I see it as a potential security issue."

What's more, Genis said, the $650,000 proposed toward the lights and others near the park might better be spent elsewhere.

"There's a lot of stuff we could do with $650,000," she said. "That's a lot for doing something that I don't think is consistent with the long-range planning for the park."

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger disagreed.

The lack of lighting at the Fairview Park lot has been an issue for years, he said.

After practice or games at nearby Estancia High School or the Waldorf School's field, children who then go to the Fairview Park lot to be picked up by their parents do so without any lighting help, he said.

"The goal is not to have kids walking in the dark," Mensinger said. "No park is a nighttime park. Streets aren't nighttime streets, but you have to put lights on them because you have safety issues."

Councilwoman Wendy Leece sided with Genis, calling the lights "a luxury we can't afford" from a "wish list" that only benefits a small constituency.

"I don't think there's an outcry from the community for $650,000 to be spent on these lights," she said, adding that "we gotta get arms around the pension issue before we go off and put lights in a park."

Genis and Leece said the parking lots at Estancia, Waldorf and Canyon Drive — which are already lit — should be sufficient and residents don't have to use the Fairview lot.

"The question is: What's wrong with this parking?" Genis said.

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