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Costa Mesa voting district plan subject of special meeting Tuesday

Proposed voting districts

A map shows the six proposed voting districts for electing Costa Mesa City Council members under a plan the council endorsed Tuesday.

(Courtesy city of Costa Mesa)

A proposal to give Costa Mesa’s governing body a substantial shake-up could clear another hurdle Tuesday if City Council members officially sign off on a plan to add another member — and a mayor elected directly by residents — to their ranks.

If council members give the plan their final endorsement after a special public hearing at City Hall, it would then be up to voters to decide in November whether to implement it.

Currently, the council has five members chosen by voters citywide. The mayor is selected by a majority vote of the five members.

Under the new plan, Costa Mesa would be split into six voting districts, each with roughly 17,500 to 19,000 residents. Voters in each area would elect one council member to represent them.

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Those six council members would be joined by a mayor elected by voters citywide.

The proposed districts are:

• District 1: Mesa Verde, Upper and Lower Birds, the State Streets, Wimbledon Village and the SoCo area. Includes the Fairview Developmental Center.

• District 2: Halecrest, Mesa North, South Coast Metro and the Sobeca District.

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• District 3: College Park, Mesa Del Mar and a small slice of the Eastside just east of the 55 Freeway. Includes Orange Coast College, Vanguard University and the OC Fair & Event Center.

• District 4: Dense Westside pocket south of the Fairview Developmental Center, ranging from Harbor Boulevard west to Monrovia Avenue and south to West 17th Street.

• District 5: Wraps around District 4, taking in downtown and about half the Westside. Includes Fairview Park and Talbert Regional Park.

• District 6: Covers virtually all of the Eastside, except the portion in District 3.

Council members agreed earlier this year to put the district method up for a vote to prevent a threatened lawsuit over allegations that the current citywide balloting method dilutes the power of Costa Mesa’s Latino residents to influence council elections.

Though moving to voting districts hasn’t seemed to inspire much pushback, some residents objected to the idea of a directly elected mayor.

A city consultant told council members at their meeting Tuesday that people who attended a series of community meetings in June made it clear “they do not favor a mayor at-large” and would prefer the council adopt a five-district voting map.

But Mayor Steve Mensinger, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and Councilman Gary Monahan were the majority in a 3-2 council vote to support the switch to six districts and a publicly elected mayor. Council members Katrina Foley and Sandy Genis were opposed.

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Righeimer said “it’s really important that we do have a mayor who overlooks everything” and that he supports a six-district layout because it would create more-compact voting areas and keep the College Park neighborhood in a district with Mesa Del Mar.

Monahan said he has long supported the idea of a publicly elected mayor.

Genis said she believes the proposed changes “may actually create problems in getting the map adopted.”

Should residents reject the proposal, the lawsuit threatened by Kevin Shenkman, an attorney with Malibu-based law firm Shenkman & Hughes, could become a reality, city officials say.

Fairview Park measure

Also on the agenda for Tuesday’s special meeting is a city-sponsored ballot measure that would require voter approval for future athletic fields at Fairview Park.

Council members endorsed the idea with a 3-2 vote this week but still need to vote to officially place it on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The measure would rival one sponsored by the Fairview Park Preservation Alliance that is already on the ballot.

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The activist group’s initiative would give voters the power to approve or reject several changes that could be proposed at the park, such as building permanent structures, installing additional lighting or expanding operating hours.

Tuesday’s meeting will start at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.


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