Saturday, February 18, 2006
There's Good News Tonight!
It's been an interesting couple of days here at A Bubbling Cauldron. Friday, The Current - the Orange County Register's
weekly supplement distributed to Newport Beach and Costa Mesa - provided a profile of our young jailer/mayor, Allan Mansoor.
As part of that profile they included comments from residents and included some of mine - as well as a nice plug for this
web log. I'm very grateful for both. Then, this morning the Daily Pilot, our fine daily community newspaper distributed
by the Los Angeles Times, published another of my commentaries. This one is very similar to my 2/2/06 blog posting entitled,
"Hidden Wires - Who Pays and Is It Worth It?" You can review it by going to the bottom of this page and clicking
on the link marked 2006.01.29.
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I heard through the grapevine late last week - since confirmed by several newspaper articles this morning - that a man in
our community who very much resembles my theoretical character, "Your Neighbor", has recently tendered his resignation
from the Redevelopment and Residential Rehabilitation (3R) committee. I'm sorry, but when I heard the news just the slightest
trace of a smile crossed my face.
This man has become a lightning rod for much discontent in this city for several years. Eyebrows were raised a couple years
ago when he was appointed to the committee and even more so once the impact of his presence was exhibited during the committee's
recommendations on the distribution of community development block grant (CDBG) funds. Contributions to some charities were
reduced the last time around, with more reductions anticipated this time.
This man has been under fire from several sides recently, including this forum. He and I have traded barbs on our respective
web logs for several months. He was the subject of critical comments, both in news articles and editorials, in La Opinion,
the Spanish language newspaper which has the second largest circulation in Southern California, trailing only the Los Angeles
Times. In fact, his resignation made the cover of that newspaper this morning, accompanied by his scowling photograph. His
presence on the 3R committee has been denounced by speakers before the City Council in recent weeks.
While I'm happy to see his departure from this particular committee, I really don't expect much to change as far as his influence
on certain members of the City Council is concerned. Personally, I would love to see him slide back under the rock from whence
he slithered, but I fully expect him to continue to be a vocal presence before most official city bodies - the City Council,
Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission. I doubt if he will cease his persistent demands on the city staff,
with frivolous Freedom of Information Act requests and not-so-veiled threats of lawsuits if action is not taken on fabricated
I doubt if we will see him back off from his attacks on the minority community. His blog will continue with inflammatory
rhetoric and his essays on the far right-wing web sites to which he contributes will almost certainly continue the same thread
of intolerance that they've contained for years.
I don't really know how to interpret his resignation. I don't, for example, know whether he was asked to resign or not, but
I think his departure is a good thing for the city. Perhaps now the focus of activists can be directed toward other more
positive, productive efforts - like identifying strong candidates to fill two positions on the City Council in November.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Triangle Square - Redevelopment Turned Rancid
I found myself at Triangle Square this week, catching a movie, so I took the opportunity to wander around that shopping center
to check out it's current condition. Talk about a sad and depressing experience! If you enjoy visiting ghost towns like
Bodie, up in the Sierras, or Rhyolite, out near Death Valley, you'll feel right at home at Triangle Square. The few businesses
that remain seem to be barely hanging on. There's enough white paper covering the windows of the empty business locations
to decimate a small forest.
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No longer is there the spirit of fun and excitement on the plaza. No longer are there shoppers strolling from shop to shop,
restaurant to restaurant. There is no vitality at the mall - no promise of things to come as there was when it first opened
nearly two decades ago. If you don't like crowds, Triangle Square is the place for you.
The anchor tenants, Virgin Megastore, NikeTown and Barnes & Noble Booksellers have all departed, citing the mall's inability
to attract sufficient traffic to support their presence. North Face, long gone from it's difficult-to-reach location on an
outside corner with no parking access, was among the first "name" retailers to pull up stakes. The basement - site
of a couple failed markets - sits empty, like a medieval dungeon.
Triangle Square is a failure in many ways. It's a failure of the redevelopment process - which claimed the land via eminent
domain and ousted long-time, thriving businesses. It's the failure of a series of owners who obviously lacked the vision
and/or interest to find a theme on which to build a successful venture. It's the exception which proves the old real estate
axiom - location, location, location. With more than 100,000 vehicles passing that location every day - including those regurgitated
from the terminus of the 55 Freeway on their way to the beach - attracting customers should not be a problem.
This location could - and should - be the gateway to a reinvigorated Westside, the plans for which are rapidly making their
way through the government process. I fear, however, that our myopic City Council lacks the wisdom, vision and motivation
to provide guidance and incentives to the ownership of Triangle Square so they will participate in the Westside renaissance.
The closest thing to "guidance" I've seen from them was Mayor Pro Tem Eric Bever's not-too-veiled threat to reclaim
the center as an "under performing asset" via eminent domain. Beyond that, I've neither heard nor seen any positive
recommendations from anyone on the council about Triangle Square.
The problems with this mall are numerous. In no particular order, here are just a few:
1 - The structure itself, while unique, doesn't lend itself to casual shopping. Potential customers of the stores along the
exterior streets must find their way from the bowels of the parking structure - usually a hike, because the elevators are
difficult to find - then trek along three of the busiest streets in Orange County before arriving at their destination.
2 - Those wonderful, cooling onshore breezes for which we are always grateful seem to accelerate up Newport Boulevard and
make the plaza area of the mall a cold and windy place except on those few days when Santa Ana winds prevail. Back in happier
times, when music groups frequently played, it was hard to get comfortable sitting and listening with your teeth chattering
3 - The dark, uninviting lower level parking has frightened off many a female shopper. As mentioned above, a couple markets
have failed in the basement primarily because women just couldn't get comfortable with the dark, dank surroundings.
Beyond those infrastructure difficulties, the aforementioned lack of vision will continue to haunt the mall and contribute
to the failure of future businesses. Someone needs to decide what Triangle Square will be - beyond an object lesson of the
failure of redevelopment in our city, that is. Until that happens, this city will continue to be be burdened by this example
of failed municipal vision and the voters should be, necessarily, apprehensive about the future of broader redevelopment plans
for the Westside.
Here's a thought to chew on... perhaps someone like Shaheen Sadeghi - the visionary behind The Camp and The Lab and a major
contributor to the current SoBECA plan for Bristol Street - could be enticed to consult for the ownership of Triangle Square.
It may take a man who is obviously willing to think in non-traditional terms - "outside the box", as it were -
to provide some leadership for the salvation of this municipal white elephant. He may be just what the doctor ordered - a
man of creativity and vision with the guts to take those defibrillation paddles in hand and jolt the failing heart of the
Westside back to life.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Costa Mesa is in turmoil these days because our young jailer/mayor has proposed a plan to usurp the responsibility and authority
of the federal government when it comes to screening criminals who might be illegal aliens. For more than two months, since
he proposed his ill-advised plan, this city has been engaged in a big tug of war - pulled every which way.
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One thing that really bugs me about this fiasco is that the most vocal and divisive groups addressing this situation are from
outside this city. On one hand we've got the slick and suspect Nativo Lopez - recalled from the Santa Ana School Board by
the wise electorate up there a couple years ago - leading the call for boycotts, demonstrations and non-cooperation with local
police. Abetting his efforts is the angry "nativist", OCC student Benito Acosta and his band of chanting compatriots.
Acosta has done a great disservice to his cause by, in two consecutive city council meetings, cussing out our mayor with
language not usually heard in civilized company and managing to get himself arrested. More recently, he disrupted a community
forum at a local church where our police chief was attempting to explain the current plan and answer questions posed by a
frightened Latino community.
On the other side we have Minuteman Project founder and failed congressional candidate, Jim Gilchrist, who, along with his
cadre of wild-eyed vigilante disciples, have embraced our mayor as some kind of savior. They practically genuflected in his
presence as Gilchrist anointed him as an honorary Minuteman and presented him with a baseball cap last month. That must be
pretty heady stuff for a young man who spends most of his day job as an Orange County Deputy Sheriff assigned to the jail
dodging body fluids and hearing epithets from the worst among us.
I wish these outside rabble-rousers on both sides would just take a hike and let us try to sort out this issue ourselves.
The most calm, reasoned viewpoints presented before the council on both sides of this issue have come from residents of this
city - those with a real vested interested in doing what's best for the city. Most of the frothing rhetoric has been delivered
by the outside agitators, elbowing each other out of the way for face time on camera.
The mayor's plan is a bad idea - for Costa Mesa and for this country. He's got the cart before the horse. First, we need
to close our borders and make sure they are secure. Then the FEDERAL government needs to exercise some wisdom when addressing
the issue of the illegal immigrants among us. This might involve some kind of an amnesty program. It might involve a guest
worker program. I'm comfortable with those concepts and/or a combination of both. Once those issues are resolved, then -
and only then - should consideration be given to the kind of plan Mansoor proposes. Without secure borders, the deported
criminals he says he wants off the streets will just keep coming back across the border to prey on residents at will. Without
the assurance of secure borders his plan will only divert precious law enforcement resources from their real jobs. Until
the broader federal issue is solved Mansoor's plan will only continue to divide this community.