The Costa Mesa electorate is faced with eight ballot measures in November — the most ever for the city in one particular election, a city spokesman said.
In one fell swoop, voters will chart a course for the future of the community: which election system should be used for future City Council races; what level of review residents should have on development projects or changes proposed for Fairview Park; and how, or whether, the city should regulate medical marijuana.
Residents and activist groups championed half of the measures on the Nov.8 election ballot, saying it's time to wrest control of the city's future back from a council that has for too long ignored their input.
The council majority responded by drafting its own array of competing initiatives — necessary ones, they say, because the measures proposed by the activists go too far.
Those disputes have spilled over onto the ballot itself, with supporters and opponents painting drastically different pictures of how approving or rejecting each measure would affect Costa Mesa.
Aside from the eight city measures, Costa Mesa voters will also weigh in on a ninth measure: an advisory ballot question asking if they support the idea of the Mesa Water District and the Costa Mesa Sanitary District pursuing a merger.
The two independent districts have waged an escalating war of words in recent months over the measure — and recently tussled in a court in a case that led to much of the measure's original wording being struck from the ballot.
Ratepayers, the majority of whom live in Costa Mesa, for either district will be able to vote on the measure.
Title: Allow Operation of up to Eight Medical Marijuana (Cannabis) Businesses in the City of Costa Mesa
The measure would allow up to eight medical marijuana businesses to open in commercial and industrial areas of the city. Such businesses would be subject to a 6% tax on the distribution, sale or transfer of medical marijuana products. Whichever of Measures V, W and X receives the most votes will become law.
Sponsors: Robert Taft, Kevin Gardner, Randall T. Longwith
Ballot argument for: Sponsors are urging support of the city-sponsored Measure X instead of their own. The city's measure, they say, will promote research that could improve patient safety. [Argument written by Robert Taft, Natalie Dragotto and Randall T. Longwith.]
Ballot argument against: Opponents are also asking the public to support Measure X, which they say is more in line with state law and helps provide safe access for patients seeking medical marijuana. [Argument written by Robert Taft, Randall T. Longwith and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer.]
Title: Allow Operation of up to Four Licensed Medical Marijuana Businesses in the City of Costa Mesa
The measure would allow up to four medical marijuana businesses in Costa Mesa's commercial and industrial areas. It would levy a 6% sales tax on such businesses. Whichever of Measures W, V and X receives the most votes will become law.
Sponsors: Taylor Webster, Michael Levesque
Ballot argument for: None submitted.
Ballot argument against: The city and supporters of the other citizen-sponsored effort, Measure V, are urging voters to support the city-sponsored Measure X, saying it will help provide safe access to medical marijuana for those who need it. [Argument written by Robert Taft, Randall T. Longwith and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer.]
Title: The City of Costa Mesa Medical Marijuana Measure
Sponsor: Costa Mesa City Council
The measure would allow businesses that research, test, process and manufacture some medical marijuana products to open in the industrial and manufacturing zone north of South Coast Drive and west of Harbor Boulevard. They would be required to obtain permits from the city. Over-the-counter dispensaries would remain banned. Whichever of Measures X, V and W receives the most votes will become law.
Ballot argument for: Proponents say the measure will create a new revenue stream, bring good-paying jobs and high-tech entrepreneurial opportunities to the city while maintaining existing restrictions on dispensaries. Businesses will be restricted to one specific area of the city. [Written by Mayor Steve Mensinger, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, Jim Fitzpatrick and Measure V sponsors Randall T. Longwith and Robert Taft.]
Ballot argument against: None submitted.
Title: An Initiative to Require Voter Approval on Certain Development Projects
Sponsor: Costa Mesa First
The measure would require voter approval of some larger development projects, namely those that require a general plan amendment or zoning change and would also add 40 or more additional dwelling units or 10,000 or more additional square feet of commercial space on top of what already exists. This measure directly competes with Measure Z, meaning whichever one receives the most votes will become law.
Ballot argument for: Proponents say the initiative will promote responsible smart growth and protect local quality of life by giving residents the power to approve or reject significant projects. The measure, supporters say, will help the public rein in politicians who ignore what citizens want for the future and who put the interests of developers over residents. [Argument written by former Councilman Jay Humphrey, Councilwoman Sandy Genis, former Councilwoman Wendy Leece, former planning Commissioner Eleanor Egan and Mary Spadoni, a retired investigator with the Orange County district attorney's office.]
Ballot argument against: Opponents say the measure is overly restrictive and will stunt the city's economic growth by scaring away potential new businesses and suppressing housing development. The measure will cripple the ability to reinvigorate decaying areas, detractors say, and the city may be forced to raise taxes to counter the loss of revenue. [Argument written by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), Julie Fowler, Park and Recreation Commissioner Julie Mercurio and Christopher Scott Bunyan.]
Title: Measure for Sensible Community Development and Development-Funded Open Space and Recreation
Sponsor: Costa Mesa City Council
The measure would ratify the city's existing land-use regulations, including a recently approved general plan update. It would also create a fee applying to all new development north of the 405 Freeway and west of Fairview Road, with the purpose of increasing recreation, open space and public park facilities. A seven-member committee would be created to advise the council on spending the fee money. This directly competes with Measure Y, meaning whichever one receives the most votes will become law.
Ballot argument for: Supporters say the measure would help address a shortage of sports fields by allowing the city to collect additional money for such efforts. The measure will also keep intact the city's recently adopted general plan. The plan calls for dedicating 25% of the Fairview Developmental Center, which is proposed to close in the coming years, for open space and recreational uses. [Argument authored by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, Senior Commissioner Lee Ramos, Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Brett Eckles, Costa Mesa United President Gordon Bowley and AYSO Region 97 Commissioner Bruce Skibby.]
Ballot argument against: Opponents argue the measure is a trick meant to deceive voters and maintain pro-developer policies that degrade Costa Mesa's quality of life by allowing high-density projects that reduce open space and increase traffic and pollution. The new fee, they say, would have questionable benefits because it applies only to one area of the city that's mostly developed. [Argument authored by Councilwoman Sandy Genis; former Councilman Jay Humphrey; Mary Spadoni, a retired investigator for the Orange County District Attorney's office; former Councilwoman Wendy Leece; and Costa Mesa First Treasurer Richard Huffman.]
Title: An Initiative Requiring Changes in Use at Fairview Park be Subject to Voter Approval
Sponsor: Fairview Park Preservation Alliance
The measure would require voter approval for a number of changes that could be proposed at Fairview Park, such as extending the park's operating hours, installing additional lighting or building permanent structures. Maintenance, preservation or restoration work would not be subject to a vote. This directly competes with Measure BB, meaning whichever one receives the most votes will become law.
Ballot argument for: The measure is needed to protect the park's natural resources and shield it from being repurposed for more active uses. Proponents say approving the measure would give voters the power to maintain the park as natural open space, while still allowing the city to do work related to habitat restoration, education, maintenance, safety or to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. [Argument authored by Fairview Park Preservation Alliance President Richard Mehren; Councilwoman Katrina Foley; Andy Campbell, a geologist and water resources planner; Fairview Park Advocates founder Larry Courter; and Councilwoman Sandy Genis.]
Ballot argument against: Opponents say the measure is an overly restrictive political ploy that will subject everything — from remodeling bathrooms to changing operating hours — to a citywide vote. Detractors also claim proponents misled the public when gathering signatures for the measure. They also believe it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and would be found unconstitutional. [Argument authored by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, Costa Mesa United President Gordon Bowley, Mesa Water District board Vice President Ethan Temianka, Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Brett Eckles, and Ron Amburgey, a former member of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee.]
Title: Costa Mesa Measure Prohibiting Athletic Fields at Fairview Park
Sponsor: Costa Mesa City Council
The measure would prohibit the development of athletic fields in Fairview Park without voter approval, but would allow implementation of other recreational uses, such as those identified in the park's master plan. This directly competes with Measure AA, meaning whichever one receives the most votes will become law.
Ballot argument for: Supporters say the measure upholds the Fairview Park master plan. It allows for limited improvement and new facilities in the park without a public vote, including park projects that would provider greater access to those who are handicapped. The measure, proponents say, maintains the park's open and passive natural spaces by requiring public approval for sports fields. [Argument authored by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, Councilman Gary Monahan, Costa Mesa United President Gordon Bowley, Mesa Water District board Vice President Ethan Temianka, Senior Commissioner Janet Krochman.]
Ballot argument against: Opponents claim the measure provides no real protection to the park and places no limits on facilities for individual or indoor sports. It doesn't limit grading or paving and would allow up to one-quarter of the park to be developed with buildings. The city has previously encroached into the park's environmentally sensitive areas. [Argument authored by Fairview Park Preservation Alliance President Richard Mehren, Councilwoman Sandy Genis, Councilwoman Katrina Foley, former Councilwoman Wendy Leece and former Councilman Jay Humphrey.]
Title: City of Costa Mesa, Voter Districts Formation
Sponsor: Costa Mesa City Council
This measure would split Costa Mesa into six voting districts covering different parts of the city. Residents in each district would elect one council member from that area to represent them. It would also add a mayor elected by citywide vote, increasing the number of council members from five to seven.
Ballot argument for: The measure will help the city avoid a threatened voting-rights lawsuit and create districts that give residents a chance to elect council members who reflect their neighborhoods. The proposed plan would also reduce the cost of campaigning because a candidate would only have to focus on one area of the city. [Argument authored by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, Mayor Steve Mensinger, Councilman Gary Monahan, Senior Commissioner Janet Krochman and Costa Mesa United President Gordon Bowley.]
Ballot argument against: None submitted. However, residents have indicated in previous public meetings they would have preferred splitting the city into five districts without a directly elected mayor. Some have criticized the council for going against the public's comments.
Title: Advisory Measure Seeking Public Input Regarding the Potential Consolidation of the Mesa Water District and the Costa Mesa Sanitary District
Sponsor: Mesa Water District
This non-binding measure asks voters whether the Mesa Water District and the Costa Mesa Sanitary District should pursue a merger.
Arguments for: Mesa Water officials say a merger would reduce the size and cost of local government. They commissioned a study showing that consolidating with the sanitary district could result in $15.6million in upfront savings, and another $2.7million in annual savings — which could result in as much as $650 in rebates for each customer and up to a 28% reduction in wastewater rates. [Argument authored by all five members of the Mesa Water District board: President Shawn Dewane, Vice President Ethan Temianka, Jim Atkinson, Fred Bockmiller and James Fisler.]
Arguments against: Sanitary district officials say Mesa Water is attempting to stage a hostile takeover. The water district has substantial debt, they argue, and wasn't transparent in its decision to move ahead with the merger study. Sanitary officials have also criticized the projected savings in the study commissioned by Mesa Water, saying the findings are incorrect and flawed. [Argument authored by sanitary district board President Mike Scheafer and board member Bob Ooten.]
Sources: Orange County Registrar of Voters, Costa Mesa city clerk's office