Split council funds Fairview Park lights

The eleventh-hour debate Tuesday about Costa Mesa's budget largely focused on a single line item: lighting for parking lots in and around Fairview Park.

The council unanimously approved the $132.3-million budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. A $650,000 allocation for the lighting was approved in a separate 3-2 vote, with Councilwomen Wendy Leece and Sandy Genis dissenting.

Speakers widely criticized the lights, which would be added at the park's parking lots off Placentia Avenue. The allocation also includes new lights or improvements for existing and planned lights at the end of Pacific Avenue and Canyon Drive, both of which abut the park's southern edge.

Critics said the 208-acre park is supposed to be used only from dawn to dusk and that residents should use the ample parking available elsewhere, particularly at Estancia High School, which has lighting.

Proponents countered that the lights are needed for safety, particularly that of children who walk in the dark to their parents' cars after sports practices or games.

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger showed a homemade video of the dark conditions to provide perspective on the lighting situation along Canyon Drive.

He called the lack of lighting a longtime complaint of parents whose kids are involved in the area's youth sports.

"We're not talking about lighting the park," Mensinger said. "We're talking about lighting the parking lot ... this is a traffic and public safety issue."

Richard Mehren, who chairs the newly reconvened Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee, but spoke on his own behalf, urged that money be put into the bluffs on the southern edge of the park, which are deteriorating.

Resident Brian Burnett said the lights within Fairview Park would "ruin the nature of the park experience," while another resident, Lisa Manfredi, asked for supporting documentation on the stated safety concerns.

Manfredi, who lives near and frequents the park, said she worried that portions of Fairview would become another sports complex with athletic fields, rather than the passive open space that it is now.


Other budget items, committee appointment

The council also approved various late changes to the budget, as recommended by city CEO Tom Hatch's office.

They include $85,000 appropriated for a fitness and basketball program at local elementary schools. An additional $30,000 went toward a flag football program and other athletic activities for the middle schools.

The initial $500,000 toward improving Smallwood Park was whittled down to $250,000, with the remaining $250,000 going toward rehabilitating other parks' parking lots and walkways.

Pomona Elementary School was also given $7,524 to start up R.O.C.K.S, an after-school program.

The council also asked that the new budget reflect the anticipated savings from this month's approval to outsource the city jail to a private company.

Funding an entryway for the Mesa del Mar neighborhood and upgrading the audiovisual and broadcast systems at City Hall, including those in the council chambers, will be reexamined later this year, possibly in September.

Giving about $38,000 to help keep the Downtown Aquatic Center open year-round was also postponed for future discussion, potentially in August.

The council also approved a meeting in September to discuss the city's capital improvement projects.

The budget represents a decrease of $295,460, or .22%, from last year's, city officials said.

The council also appointed Ronald Robertson to the Pension Oversight Committee. Roberston, a local business owner, replaces Shawn Dewane, who resigned in May because of a scheduling conflict.

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