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City Council schedules charter hearing

Councilwomen Leece and Genis express doubts about document getting voter approval.

March 19, 2014|By Bradley Zint

The Costa Mesa City Council weighed in on a proposed charter Tuesday night, giving city attorneys direction on when to schedule the first of two public hearings.

The first hearing is April 22 — a change from the originally proposed date, April 15, to avoid conflicting with the second night of Passover.

Throughout the year, council members will have a chance to amend the five-page document before voting whether to place it on the November general election ballot.

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A majority of the 13-member Charter Committee, after 10 months of work and debate, approved the draft document last week.

Councilwomen Sandy Genis and Wendy Leece expressed reservations about the charter, both saying it has some of the same flaws as Measure V, the 2012 charter measure that was hotly contested and ultimately denied by 60% of the electorate.

Leece called the matter "a waste of money" and "waste of time."

"I would be surprised if, in the long run, I were to support this charter," Genis said.

Mayor Jim Righeimer, who presented each committee member a congratulatory plaque before Tuesday's meeting, called their efforts "a phenomenal amount of work."

"I think, really, the next step is to at least look at what they did," he said.

Councilman Gary Monahan was absent.

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Small-lot ordinance delayed

In other business, the council voted 4 to 0 to wait on giving a final vote for the Small-Lot Subdivision Ordinance, which would ease restrictions for new developments on small land parcels containing up to 15 units.

In March, a majority of the council approved a first reading of the law, saying it would create more home ownership opportunities, replace old buildings with better quality housing and better utilize valuable land in the city.

Leece and Genis dissented, partially on the grounds that the ordinance would encourage more building and, consequently, more noise and traffic.

The ordinance would be applied only in areas previously zoned for multifamily units. It would not affect density levels or parking standards.

Righeimer said he would work with the council to reach consensus on the law. If ultimately approved, Costa Mesa would become the first city in Orange County with such an ordinance.

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A symbolic check

Werner Escher, executive director of South Coast Plaza, received birthday greetings at the outset of Tuesday's meeting.

City officials noted the continued commercial success of the internationally renowned shopping center, as well as its importance to the city's budget.

Costa Mesa receives roughly $14 million each year in sales tax from South Coast Plaza, Righeimer said.

He and Escher then showed off an oversized ceremonial check to signify the remittance.

Escher said South Coast Plaza has been happy to witness Costa Mesa evolve from "Goat Hill" into the "City of the Arts."

It's now not only a city of arts, he said, but it has "the art of dining, the art of fashion [and] the art of theater."

"I can't say enough about the opportunity to be a part of Costa Mesa and the people of Costa Mesa," Escher said.

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