This week’s Costa Mesa City Council meeting ground to a halt after a bit less than three hours when Councilwoman Sandy Genis walked out of City Hall, leaving the body without enough members to do business on some items.
Genis’ departure Monday night came as council members were discussing an urban plan amendment to allow as many as 450 residential units, at densities of up to 40 units per acre, to be built in the city’s Sobeca district.
Those development capacities for Sobeca — a 39-acre area around The Lab and The Camp shopping centers on Bristol Street — are already outlined in the recent update to the city’s general plan. The council, though, needed to amend the urban plan to make the two documents consistent.
As discussion wound down, Genis asked Deputy City Attorney Tarquin Preziosi if the item needed affirmative votes from all three council members present Monday: herself, Mayor Steve Mensinger and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer.
Preziosi said it needed only two votes, a majority of the council members there that night, to move forward.
However, at least three of the council’s five members, known as a quorum, must be present in the council chamber to conduct a meeting. Council members Katrina Foley and Gary Monahan were absent from Monday’s meeting, which had been rescheduled from Tuesday because some members were planning to attend an event that night at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts honoring Julianne and George Argyros.
If the quorum is broken, a meeting can’t continue.
After learning the item could be approved with two votes if a quorum were present, Genis picked up her papers and other belongings and walked away from the dais, saying, “OK, then I’ll be seeing you. Goodbye.”
As she left, Mensinger and Righeimer hurriedly voted to approve the item.
“To sit there and try to break a quorum at the 11th hour is very unprofessional,” Righeimer said after Genis left the chamber.
In an interview Tuesday, Genis called her departure a parliamentary maneuver aimed at halting the meeting and preventing the Sobeca amendment — which she opposes — from being adopted.
“To me, that was actually the most responsible thing I could have done,” Genis said of leaving the meeting. “I don’t want to enable someone to do something I think is ill-advised.”
City staff members and attorneys are reviewing whether Monday’s vote was sufficient to approve the item, according to city spokesman Tony Dodero.
If it’s determined the Sobeca amendment was not passed Monday, it would have to return to the council for further review.
Three items on the council’s consent calendar were not voted on before the end of Monday’s meeting and will have to be considered later.