Costa Mesa public officials weighed in on the future of their city Tuesday night in a study session about the six "visioning statements" prepared thus far for the general plan.
The state-mandated document, updated about once a decade, acts as a citywide blueprint with conceptual guidance on development. Tuesday's study session in the Emergency Operations Center brought City Council and Planning Commission together for their input. Commissioner Tim Sesler was absent.
The general topics for the six visioning statements — created after the public was heard from last year — deal with land use, housing, economy, open space, culture and transportation. More specific ideas under the general topics include having neighborhoods reflect the city's diversity, fostering conditions that support a modern and diverse economy, providing parks and natural open spaces, celebrating the arts and supporting transportation projects for cars, mass transit, pedestrians and bicycles.
Councilwoman Sandy Genis said there must be a balance of land uses that serve the changing needs of Costa Mesa's residents. Businesses are important, she added, but residents must come first.
"We're not the City of Industry or the city of Commerce," Genis said. "We're a residential community."
Genis and Councilman Gary Monahan said they didn't feel that the "cultural" vision was appropriate in the context of the general plan. The statement suggests that Costa Mesa — home of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and officially known as the City of the Arts — be the place to experience visual and performing arts and support creativity.
"I'm not a big 'visions statement' kind of person, because things change over time," Monahan said. He added that while the statements were largely good, he wanted to see more emphasis on the region's car culture.
"Let's face it: Southern California is auto traffic," Monahan said. "We're all in our cars."
Councilwoman Wendy Leece said the plan should reflect the importance of education and public safety. She inquired about adding the term "safe neighborhoods."
"That makes a statement," Leece said. "We care about public safety in our city."
She also asked about incorporating in the plan the Harbor Boulevard of Cars, local churches and faith-based and service organizations, as well as a statement about preserving the small-town Americana character.
"All of those are an integral part of our city," Leece said.
Mayor Jim Righeimer specified that he didn't want the general plan to imply that bicycle transportation is more important than automobiles.
"I don't think we're going to spend $40 million on bike trails if we're spending $40 million on a road," he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger said he wanted language that focuses on neighborhood character. People say they're from Costa Mesa first, he said, before they clarify which city neighborhood, such as Mesa Verde, the Eastside or College Park.
"It's something we should promote and talk about a lot," Mensinger said. "It does separate us from other communities."
Planning Commissioner Colin McCarthy asked about improving the visioning statements with fewer passive verbs and tighter language overall. Commissioner Robert Dickson called for beefed-up discussions on a stimulus plan for the Harbor Boulevard of Cars, to which Monahan replied that previous plans for other areas never seemed to get pan out.
"The problem is they end up on a shelf somewhere and collect dust," Monahan said.
Since last year, in a campaign officials have called the Great Reach, Costa Mesa has hosted nine workshops and six "road shows" to gather a wide variety of public input on the general plan, which will be reviewed by the Planning Commission and then face final City Council approval.