Commentary: Leave Fairview Park the way it is

Those who attended the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Aug. 22 saw the overwhelming majority of commissioners approve a radical and damaging change to Fairview Park, Costa Mesa's precious resource.

In doing so, they rejected the views of their own advisers, as well as the important ideas of 22 speakers.

Fairview is a park for all Costa Mesa residents. It is important to keep the original intent of the park, a place in which the natural world is more important than swing sets and sandboxes.

Since it is a citywide park, notices of any changes should be sent citywide, but a rule dictates that only those who live within 700 feet of a project need to be notified. Those few people will decide for all who are affected.

But I would argue that all Costa Mesa residents should be able to point out when they see that their park is not being developed according to its stated purpose.

The project involves opening the now-closed end of Pacific Avenue, constructing a one-way circular driveway, and putting in 10 parking places. In addition, a playground, which the staff and some commissioners have euphemistically called a "tot lot," would be constructed.

Since no water or restrooms are in the area, a walkway would be built to the facilities 76 yards away. It would be constructed of concrete and composition and be 8 feet wide through a sensitive area.

One more thing to consider is that the current project was originally designed for 42 cars, but that number was reduced to 10 when it was pointed out that it did not fit the 2003 master plan. However, the revised proposal still has much the same footprint. Why? Is someone going to build those 42 spaces anyway?

The chairman of the commission even said we must get our "value" out of the parks. How does one measure that value? With dollars?

Look now at the routes people will have to take to get to this new entrance: One way is to go down Victoria Place through a 15 mph curve to Pacific and on to its end. Another is to go down Canyon Drive to Wilson Street to Pacific. The third way would be to go from Placentia Avenue to Wilson and follow it to its end at Pacific.

These streets are narrow and much of the time have cars parked along them because of the number of housing units. Wilson Street goes by Wilson Elementary School, which has children running about and sometimes into the street. Pacific has curves. I could go through each route and find problems with it.

However, let's suppose the driver gets to the end of Pacific and drives into the proposed circular driveway to find there are no parking spaces open. So the driver has to continue around the circle and leave through those same streets, unless there is a parking space on one of the streets I have mentioned. Good luck.

And if the driver does find one, he or she is taking it away from residents of an already-overcrowded and dangerous street. On a nice day when people would want to visit the park, the street could be busy with cars driving up and down, into the circular driveway and out because the parking lot is full.

The park is on both sides of Placentia. At the park there is a walking/biking bridge over Placentia connecting the two parts of the park, the east and the west. This has been called the "bridge to nowhere." But why not make it a "bridge to somewhere"?

The east side of the park has the railroad with its fine facilities, the station and tracks, but the hillside below it has no improvements aside from some ill-maintained, small-trees planted here and there.

The project proposed and approved by the commission would be built on the west side of the park. The current entry to the west side of the park has its own traffic light and a left-turn lane for those going north — easy and safe. For parking, there are four lots strung together. The total capacity is about 104, depending on how many vehicles can squeeze into the parallel-parking places.

The plan for the park also includes a 100-car lot across the street on the east side. If we are going to spend money on a parking lot, there are more efficient ways to do so and not impinge on the natural areas.

Why are officials in such a hurry to do this? After the three-minute presentations by members of the public, commissioners discussed parts of the project briefly but did little or nothing with the suggestions or questions the speakers presented.

I think our problem as residents of Costa Mesa lies more with the City Council, which will make the next move. Without the project being stopped, construction will begin as early as April.

Costa Mesa residents and those in government who really care about this city will look carefully at this project and stop it now.

As residents, we want serious research into what would fit the purpose of the park and what would be good for the city.

BILL GILBERT lives in Costa Mesa.

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