City Life: Longtime business gets no thanks

A review of some of the recent decisions of the Costa Mesa Planning Commission and the City Council may lead one to believe the city is flush.

Last February, for example, the council blew an opportunity to collect an easy $39,000 by renting out the downtown gym to a Santa Ana-based basketball league that needed a temporary home while its gym was being renovated.

Just a few weeks ago, the panel allowed a small number of complaining residents on the Eastside to dictate the delay, or possible cancellation, of the installation of an LED billboard at the corner of 19th Street and Newport Boulevard. That sign was meant to drive patrons to the mall, where they would spend money, which would benefit the city and, well, you get the idea.

Last month, however, the council has made its most absurd decision to date.

Garcia Recycling has been on a busy stretch of 19th in Costa Mesa for more than 20 years. During that time, Garcia Recycling has been a good business partner, generating revenue for the city and managing to avoid committing even one violation of any of the rules set forth by the city.

Last June, at the request of Planning Commissioner Steve Mensinger, the Commission reviewed Garcia Recycling's conditional-use permit.

In August, the commission debated whether to revoke Garcia Recycling's permit.

At that meeting, Garcia Recycling was represented by attorneys Stephen Miles and Patricia Chen, who attempted to halt the revocation process. The problem that Miles and Chen had was that they were using that "logic" stuff, which does not apply to many matters before the Planning Commission and City Council.

It was illogical, for example, for the city to not fast-track that $39,000 in basketball money, which was approved by staff, and it was illogical for the council to delay the installation of the Triangle Square sign, which, it should be noted, was approved by the Planning Commission.

Some folks may complain that Garcia Recycling is an eyesore. I am on that stretch of street five or six days a week and I'll be the first to admit that what amounts to a trash collection facility on a thriving retail business zone may not be appropriate, but then, I also cringe at the sight of "Cash for Gold" shops and tattoo parlors.

I also see Triangle Square as a hulking, worthless monstrosity. And I really don't like the huge piece of vacant land near the upscale Mesa Verde neighborhood that used to be Kona Lanes, an ice rink and a movie theater. It has been undeveloped for years, surrounded by nothing but an ugly chain-link fence.

On its best day, that lot is uglier than the worst day of Garcia Recycling, yet, I'll bet there isn't a soul on either the Planning Commission or the City Council who has threatened, or would even think of threatening, any action against the Segerstrom folks for that blight. And that is blight.

Following Mensinger's spotlight on Garcia Recycling was a complaint of noise, which, if you've spent even a minute on that section of 19th, you will understand is laughable.

The point is not whether Garcia Recycling is an eyesore, or whether it has violated any conditions of its permit. The larger issue is the city's failure to be a good business partner to a company with a complaint-free 20-year history and whether this particular business has been treated in the same manner as other businesses undergoing permit reviews.

Garcia Recycling was shown the door in a highly unceremonious manner: When given the opportunity at the Planning Commission meeting of Aug. 9 to ask the owner, Jesse Garcia, anything he wanted, after three months had passed between Planning Commissioner Steve Mensinger's initial concern and the hearing that evening, Mensinger's only query was, "Do you live in Costa Mesa?"

I'm hoping that the answer was not the deciding factor in Mensinger's vote to recommend the revocation of this 20-year business partner.

At a time when cities across the nation are begging for revenue, Costa Mesa kicked out an old friend.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to

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