Hopes for more parkland meet concerns about costs as Costa Mesa council reviews proposed update to open space plan

Hopes for more parkland meet concerns about costs as Costa Mesa council reviews proposed update to open space plan
Young soccer players chase the ball at Costa Mesa’s Jack R. Hammett Sports Complex in 2015. (File Photo)

How to acquire additional parkland and concerns about costs were among the issues raised Tuesday when Costa Mesa City Council members reviewed a proposed update to the city's Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan.

For about the past three years, the city has been working with a consultant — San Juan Capistrano-based RJM Design Group — to overhaul the plan, which is meant to help Costa Mesa prioritize projects and identify goals for coming years.


"This document is really a tool to guide the development of parks and recreation over time," Zachary Mueting, a principal landscape architect with RJM, told the council. "This is meant to be a long-term document — five, 10, 15 years out."

Costa Mesa last updated its open space master plan in 2003.

Because Tuesday's meeting was a study session, the council took no official action. A decision on whether to approve the update will come later.

The meeting did, however, give those in attendance — Mayor Sandy Genis, Mayor Pro Tem Allan Mansoor, Councilman Jim Righeimer and about 20 residents — the chance to offer their thoughts.

Though the plan outlines proposals to upgrade existing facilities, Genis said she thinks it also should include more creative ideas for how Costa Mesa can secure additional parkland and open space in underserved neighborhoods.

"While I realize real estate is really hard to find, I hate to see us just concede defeat, and that seems sort of what we're doing here," she said. "I would like to see us discuss a little more of a strategy for acquisition of land."

The plan includes a detailed inventory of Costa Mesa's parks and recreation resources, programs and facilities, as well as a hefty assortment of recommended projects.

While many of those suggestions could be considered routine maintenance or small-scale upgrades — such as renovating restrooms, lights and play equipment or installing new sports courts — several bigger-ticket items are identified, such as developing a new city aquatic center.

An earlier draft of the master plan referred to the possibility of building one in Tanager Park — an idea that was scrapped following fierce opposition from many residents in and around the Upper Birds neighborhood.

The latest version doesn't identify a precise location for an aquatic facility. It does, however, include a conceptual layout that carries an estimated $2.2-million price tag.

Some residents at Tuesday's meeting said they're concerned with the amount of spending that would be required to accomplish everything in the plan update.

"I think it's woefully out of touch with the financial realities of our city," said resident Anna Vrska. "There's no sense of fiscal prudence. I feel like when we get a consultant it's like we have an unlimited amount of resources that they base their analysis on, and that's just not the reality."

A few people praised the plan for identifying what they say is a pronounced shortage of available sports fields in the city.

"All you have to do to prove the point is to go out and look at the condition of the fields and see how they're overutilized," said Brett Woods of AYSO Region 97. "We have kids playing in a lot of dirt. … If we had more fields, if we had plenty of fields, they'd all not be overused and there would be lots of green grass everywhere. That's simply not the case."

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