The Costa Mesa resident behind an effort to recall Mayor Jim Righeimer said Friday that he will not have enough signatures by the deadline to bring his petition to voters.
Chris McEvoy needed 15% of the Costa Mesa electorate — or more than 9,000 voters — to sign his petition by May 15.
“It's kind of fizzled out,” he said. “I'm not gonna get the signatures.”
McEvoy's grounds for the recall stemmed primarily from his anger at Righeimer's approval, when he was a councilman, of an agreement between Costa Mesa and the developer of Banning Ranch. The $4.4-million agreement was designed to help improve roads to accommodate the expected increase in traffic to the proposed West Newport development.
McEvoy has contended that Banning Ranch, and by extension the agreement, will lead to a decreased quality of life for Costa Mesa residents, such as more cut-through traffic on the Westside, loss of quiet streets and increased spending by Costa Mesa on its roads leading to Banning Ranch.
McEvoy declared his recall during the public comments section of the Oct. 16 council meeting. By December, he had created his petition and hosted an open-door gathering that attracted about a dozen supporters and curious parties to his Westside home.
Though the recall petition was directed first and foremost at Righeimer, McEvoy said at the time that it could be “considered a symbolic recall” of then-Mayor Eric Bever and Councilmen Gary Monahan and Steve Mensinger. On July 17, the four voted in favor of the Banning traffic agreement.
McEvoy, a high school math teacher, would not say how many signatures he gathered, but said the people he met during the process were nearly universal — 20 to 1, he said — in their opposition to Banning Ranch.
“People are very opposed to this development,” he said, adding that most had “no clue” about “the monstrous development, the traffic it's gonna create, how our elected officials stand on it.”
The proposed mixed-use project is slated to have 1,375 homes, a hotel, commercial properties, parks and open space. Though it would be in Newport Beach and therefore out of Costa Mesa's jurisdiction, some of Banning's street entry points would pass through Costa Mesa's Westside — a long-standing point of contention for critics and some Westside residents.
Peter Naghavi, Costa Mesa's deputy chief executive and economic and development director, said Friday that the Banning traffic agreement remains unsigned and officially unapproved. A version of it is still up for council consideration, however, he said.
Righeimer couldn't immediately be reached for comment Friday afternoon, but the day after first hearing of the recall while sitting on the council dais, he called it a political “stunt” before the Nov. 6 general elections.
“It's just political, and people can figure it out for what it is,” Righeimer said at the time.
Righeimer also said that while anyone has the right to organize a recall, “It's amazing what politics has gotten to now. If you don't like the vote, you go for a recall.”
Had McEvoy gotten the necessary signatures, they would have been sent to the Orange County Registrar of Voters for official validation at a cost to the city of $20,000 to $25,000.
If validated, a special election would have been needed by a council vote.
McEvoy unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the council in 2008 and 2010 and has said he doesn't plan on running again. In both races, one of his opponents was Righeimer, who ultimately got elected in 2010.
McEvoy said despite his ultimate goal not being achieved, he saw positives in the end, such as the city not needing to spend any money on the special election itself and increasing overall knowledge of the issues.
“I'm bummed I didn't get the signatures, but at the same time people are aware,” he said. “That's the important thing: to make people aware.”