Planners review public-nuisance law

The Costa Mesa Planning Commission explored an ordinance Monday that would expand the city's ability to fight public nuisances.

The proposed law broadly defines nuisances to include properties that operate without licenses or permits, produce excessive noise, are dangerous to children, are unsightly or place unreasonable demands on police resources.

Deputy City Attorney Elena Gerli called the ordinance a collaborative effort in its creation and a more cost-effective, streamlined process than what current code provides. The ordinance also outlines an appeals process that gives affected property owners due process and ample opportunity to correct violations.

"This is not a particularly controversial ordinance in any way," Gerli said. "Cities have this all over the place."

In the majority of cases, the enforcement strategy will be "the thing that will catch the property owner's attention and actually get him to fix the violation, which is what we want," she said.

In response to Commissioner Colin McCarthy's inquiry about the city's resources to handle appeals from cited property owners, Gerli said the city is unlikely to frequently utilize its new powers.

"This is not something that all of a sudden we're going to be going out there enforcing and declaring public nuisances to every other property," she said, adding that there will not likely be "dozens of public nuisance abatement hearings in one year."

Planners will again review the proposed law May 28 and pass their recommendations onto the City Council for consideration.


Joint meeting

Prior to Monday's regular planning meeting, the five commissioners met to discuss goals in a joint session alongside four of five City Council members. Councilman Gary Monahan was absent.

Among the discussions was adopting a small-lot subdivision ordinance and addressing parking problems for nightclubs, small food and beverage establishments, and coffeehouses with free wireless Internet.

If Costa Mesa adopts a small-lot subdivision ordinance, it would be the first Orange County city to do so, officials said. Such an ordinance could provide guidance in future development processes for single-family, detached homes.

The group also talked about Costa Mesa's motels, which many city officials, including Mayor Jim Righeimer, have long cited as being blighted, problematic pockets of the city that require a disproportionately large amount of police calls.

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger called for quarterly crime statistics of motels.

Commissioner Robert Dickson said now is a ripe time to address motels, with assistant city CEO Rick Francis, the commission and others examining the issues at hand. Motels have been a long-standing problem, he said, and the city has had a motel task force since 1995.

"I think it's important to note that we really have some great momentum right now," Dickson said.

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