Fairview Park committee holds initial meeting

During its first meeting Thursday, the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee selected its leaders before discussing several topics, including the group's purpose, renewal of lease agreements and the possibility of adding soccer fields to the 208-acre park.

The reconvened committee, which hasn't met in about a decade, first heard some lesser-known tidbits — such as the park's land value — during a city staff presentation by Bart Mejia, parks project manager. If sold today, the park, which contains 50% of the city's total parkland, could be valued at a conservative $350 million to $400 million, Mejia said.

After his overview, the nine-member committee selected Richard Mehren as chairman and Steve Smith as vice chairman.

Mehren, a retired dentist, served on the previous Fairview Park committee, which adopted the Costa Mesa park's master plan. Smith is a writer and former Daily Pilot columnist.

Some committee members said they felt unclear about the board's purpose.

Should they immediately discuss project goals for the park, like land planning and lease agreements? What about the big-picture view? Can the committee weigh in on the projects planned for the park that soon face a council budget vote?

And what of the park's master plan, which hasn't been updated in years?

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger, who requested earlier this year that the committee be reconvened, said the committee's vision for the park should come from the community represented. Mensinger and Councilwoman Sandy Genis are council liaisons to the committee.

"This group is pulled together to look at Fairview Park and say, 'We like what we have or we don't like what we have, and this is what we want to see in the future,'" Mensinger said.

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Lease agreements, fields, lighting

Mehren's raised the issue of whether to renew lease agreements with the Harbor Soaring Society and Orange County Model Engineers. The Soaring Society is on a year-to-year agreement but has requested a five-year lease.

The engineer group's 25-year lease expires in the fall.

"It's kind of hard for them to make plans unless they know they're going to be there for some time," Mehren said.

Committee member David Stiller recommended bringing representatives from the two groups to future meetings.

Mensinger said the lease agreements "may not be what they're hoping for, but I think they're appropriate and cover what the community needs are. I don't think there's any intention of" ending them.

Mehren also asked if there was a preference for maintaining the park for activities such as hiking, walking, bird watching and kite flying or if it would be better to focus on baseball diamonds and soccer fields.

"I think we should make a recommendation to the council," Mehren said. "Do we want those kinds of things or not?"

When the idea of nighttime lighting for a parking lot came up, Genis quickly said she didn't think it wasn't allowed, based on the master plan.

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Council members' roles

Mensinger briefly spoke about his involvement in youth sports while also reiterating his desire for a vision of the park. He warned that committee members shouldn't have predetermined ideas of "what each of us thinks the other one cares about."

"Mr. Mensinger, does that mean that at future meetings you will sit and just listen to us work?" asked committee member Anna Vrska. "Or will you continue to have active input as a liaison?"

Mensinger said he intends to listen and provide input when needed. Genis said she felt she was "probably the biggest offender" as a council liaison. Mehren said he appreciated Mensinger's input.

"Sometimes I get a little carried away," Genis said Friday. "But I think it will be better if we raise our hands to speak. That will be preferable."

Near the meeting's conclusion, Mehren directed members to provide ideas for a vision of the park by the next meeting.

However, the group didn't decide on a future meeting date or regular schedule. Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz said city staff will work on facilitating the schedule and that the next session will be around July 10.

City staff also will put together a work plan for the committee, Munoz said.

The group may also meet on a Saturday to tour the park.

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