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Costa Mesa prepares to start improving technology at City Hall

Costa Mesa prepares to start improving technology at City Hall
The council chambers at Costa Mesa City Hall is set to close this month as part of a renovation and technology-replacement project. (File Photo)

Walking into council chambers at Costa Mesa City Hall, one of the first things you see are two large display screens at the front of the room.

You’ll also quickly notice that one of them doesn’t work.

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That darkened screen, which has been out of commission for weeks, is just one of the issues city officials hope to address as part of an upcoming project aimed at upgrading the chambers and, hopefully, elevating the viewing and listening experience for those following the proceedings in the nerve center of local government.

A primary focus of the long-planned project — which is expected to officially start next month — is revamping the room’s technological infrastructure to replace decades-old equipment that’s either behind the times or, in the case of that one screen, plain doesn’t work any more.

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“Technology is driving it,” said Dane Bora, Costa Mesa’s public affairs manager. “We are woefully behind with the current technology that’s in the room.”

Take for example the projectors used to show hard-copy materials on the display screens. They’re essentially a slight step up from the kind seen in old college classrooms.

The cameras in the chambers are more than 30 years old, according to Bora, and let loose a sometimes-jarring mechanical whir when they move. They also record in standard definition, which is hardly standard these days.

“Everyone made the switch to HD a while ago at home,” Bora said. “There aren’t many standard-def televisions still around, so this is overdue.”

Along with upgrading the recording quality, the project will increase the number of cameras in the chambers from three to six. The two display screens, which can be difficult to see even when they’re working properly, also will be replaced with six monitors placed strategically throughout the room.

“When the Planning [Division] is showing maps, people are going to be able to see what they’re talking about — and in an exponentially higher resolution than they can now,” Bora said.

Removing the existing screens at the front of the room also will provide a clearer view of the entire council dais, which is notable considering the body will expand from five members to seven following next month’s election.

“I’m excited about the upgrade in technology and what that will do for the person who’s in the live audience and their overall listening and viewing experience,” Bora said. “For the folks watching at home, it’s going to be a major upgrade as well.”

Work on the almost $3-million project is expected to start in November and take six to seven months to complete, according to city Public Services Director Raja Sethuraman. The chambers will be unavailable during that time, so the meetings typically held there — such as City Council and Planning Commission — will temporarily shift to the Costa Mesa Senior Center, 695 W. 19th St.

That change in venue will start with Thursday’s Parks and Recreation Commission meeting.

Due to technological constraints, public meetings at the Senior Center won’t be televised in real time. However, Bora said the city is looking to live stream them in some capacity, as well as record them so they can be posted online or broadcast later.

Work on the council chambers is just one aspect of the project. Also planned are a retrofit of the former City Hall print shop — a holdover from when the city had full in-house printing capabilities — so it can function as a community room and upgrades to a first-floor meeting space known as Conference Room 1A.

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