Commentary: All sides in Fairview debate warrant consideration

Re. “Harlan: Tread carefully before altering Fairview Park,” (Aug. 1): I appreciate Jeffrey Harlan’s recent column in which he urges care and caution in deliberations relative to Fairview Park.

Costa Mesa is fortunate to have such an incredible island of land rich with opportunities to experience open spaces, a huge diversity of plant and animal life, the iconic treasure known as Goat Hill Junction and plenty of space to run, ride a bike, take a train ride, fly a kite or model plane, and enjoy an evening stroll.

As Harlan notes, Fairview Park’s role in our community is governed by the Fairview Park master plan. Originally approved in 1998, the plan has twice undergone revisions to ensure that this valuable land continues to meet the needs of the entire Costa Mesa community.

Currently, the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee — which is made up of a smart, diverse and dedicated group of Costa Mesans — is conducting a comprehensive study of Fairview Park, the Fairview Park master plan and the contemporary recreational needs of our community. It’s important and necessary work given that the last tweaks to the Fairview Park master plan took place in 2002. Those modifications were based, in large part, on 2000 U.S. Census data and the recreational needs of Costa Mesa at the time.

Harlan understands these periodic reviews when he writes: “Of course, plans need to be reviewed periodically to adjust to new conditions or future needs. Strictly adhering to the plan may not always be practical, feasible or cost effective.” I completely agree.

In the proceeding 11 years, our city has clearly changed and so has its recreational demands. Objectively deciding whether or not Fairview Park is capable of meeting these changing needs is the role of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee.

All viewpoints need to be heard and examined. I have every confidence the group will engage in its work with care, thoughtfulness and extensive input from every corner of our community.

That said, the proposed parking lot and children’s play area at the southwest portion of the park adjacent to Pacific Avenue are elements that have been a part of the Fairview Park master plan for at least the last 11 years. They were designated for funding in earlier capital improvement budgets for this fiscal year, before the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee was established.

I support the parking lot as defined in the master plan, since it will improve access to the upper bluff trails and the proposed children’s play area. I will never oppose more and better access to this communitywide asset — it belongs to all of us.

However, I was not willing to proceed with the proposed 42-space lot presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission on July 25. The extent of the project was clearly inconsistent with the Fairview Park master plan. The commission will revisit the issue at its Aug. 22 meeting, at which time I anticipate the presentation of a modified plan that reflects what’s allowable in the current master plan.

BYRON DE ARAKAL is chairman of the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission and a 20-year Costa Mesa resident.

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