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2020 Costa Mesa Candidate Questionnaire Responses

Two weeks ago we sent a short list of questions on streets-related issues to everyone currently running for Costa Mesa City Council and Mayor, so that the voting public might know what the candidates think about this oft-neglected yet important topic. 


We are grateful that three of the candidates were able to take the time to respond. Scroll down to see what they said, and please share with any friends or neighbors who are trying to figure out who to vote for! Note that as a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization, we are not endorsing any candidates, but we are sharing all responses we received, verbatim.

Wendy Leece - candidate for Costa Mesa mayor


1. What is your vision for Costa Mesa’s infrastructure in 2050?


In 30 years, I would like to see all our streets maintained and cleaned perfectly with no potholes. I would like all streets with sidewalks. I would like problems with parking on residential streets resolved (people will have few cars). Specifically, I would like to see more connectivity to our neighborhoods with bikeways and walkways to maintain the “hometown” feel of Costa Mesa. Infrastructure will probably include super telecommunications systems, better electrical, sewage and water delivery services.


What are our neighborhoods like?


Our neighborhoods are still unique and eclectic where seniors, families and singles enjoy the benefits of a small community in a metropolitan setting with easy access, possibility without automobiles, to shopping, schools, parks and work.


How are people getting around?


By then, there may be more electric cars, or self-driving cars or mass transit and there will be more skate boarders, walkers, bikers, and probably some new form of transportation yet to be invented.


If elected, what will you do to prepare Costa Mesa for the future?


Our current Costa Mesa General Plan runs through 2035 but that does not mean the Plan collects dust on a shelf until 2035. We need a new vision for the City as we enter Covid recovery and grapple with the many changes in our lives, city resources and expenses. How will the elements approved in 2015 need to be adapted to the “new normal” after Covid? Elements of land use, circulation, growth management, housing, conservation, noise, safety, community design, open space and recreation and historical and cultural resources need careful review by the Council in 2021 and extensive community outreach and input. I believe collaboration with all stakeholders is a “win win" for the City and the people we serve. City government operates best with transparency and citizen involvement, then there are no surprises and citizens are happier. What would I do? I would hold regular Town Hall meetings, appoint ad hoc committees, and work with all stakeholders to create a new vision for the Costa Mesa’s future.


2. In light of revenue losses due to the pandemic, what would you prioritize in Costa Mesa’s transportation budget?


The breakdown of the Transportation Services Budget for 20-21 was $2,047,144 million including Road Maintenance Rehab, Traffic Planning, Active Transportation Improvement and Traffic Operations. I would prioritize the most necessary costs for safety projects first. Lawsuits such as trip/falls cost the city. Some active transportation projects might have to be put “on hold” temporarily while we weather the storm and get back on our feet, but community discussions and “visioning” sessions could be ongoing and projects “shelf ready” when funding is restored. We got through the Great Recession and we will get through this. (I was on the council 06-2014 which included a time of many cuts to services and staff).


Do you think anything should be cut?


As the Vice Chair of the Finance and Pension Advisory Committee I look forward to this Thursday’s (10-14-20) staff presentation to the committee on the status of revenue and expenses from June through August. It is not wise to anticipate making any cuts from transportation or other departments until we know the total picture of our finances. The meeting is at 4 pm on Zoom.


Do you have any ideas for new funding sources or ways to reduce ongoing costs?


Grants and public-private projects. I’m also looking into the feasibility of an Opportunity Zone in two census tracks and its benefits to Costa Mesa.


3. From 2010 to 2019, 70 people died, 314 were seriously injured, and more than 10,000 were hurt in traffic crashes in Costa Mesa (data from UC Berkeley’s Transportation Injury Mapping System). What do you think Costa Mesa should do in response?


Those figures are alarming! Several things: enforce speed limits. Maybe it’s Covid, but more people are speeding in residential zones. We need real speed bumps (like the ones on 16th St and Mesa Verde Drive, not like the fake ones on Wilson); We need police motor patrols to give tickets to speeders and stop sign and red light offenders; more of the mobile city traffic warning signs in residential zones to remind drivers to slow down. We do not need LED signs at the three Triangle Square intersections—which would cause more distracted driving. (The owner of TS has proposed LED signs).


4. Many Costa Mesa residents complain of cut-through traffic and speeding on the streets near their homes. Do you think Costa Mesa should increase efforts to address these issues? If so, how can this be done in a cost-effective manner?


Yes, efforts should be increased! ASAP! It is a police department priority issue. The Council communicates with the City Manager who informs the Police Chief that the Council wants more enforcement. We used to have officers who won annual awards from the State for issuing tickets. The Council must make it a priority.


Also, when I was on the Council from 2006-2014 I promoted the use of a County grant for bar owners to train restaurant/bar workers in “safe service” to customers who drank alcohol. The City of Newport Beach closes its bars earlier than Costa Mesa’s. (Probably drunk drivers from Newport have accidents in Costa Mesa). We should consider changing our hours. Many accidents happen when drivers are intoxicated. The State pays for police to hold frequent Drunk Driver “spot checks” although I have not heard of many taking place during Covid.


5. Nationally, about a third of all car trips are two miles or less. How do you think Costa Mesa could encourage more people to make these short trips on foot or by bike?


It is hard to change (old) people’s habits. I am an educator. We should start with education programs in our schools and encourage young people to walk, ride bikes. Hopefully parents and grandparents will catch on. We need more “Safe School Zones” for kids to be able to ride bikes to school. Many of our streets are not safe for bike riders, children, or adults. It is risky without dedicated bike lanes and distracted drivers. I love New York City bike lanes!

The Broadway bike lane/median project was a State Safe Schools Project in collaboration with Eastside residents who were concerned about kids being injured/killed because there was no bike lane. The State gave the City a $1 million grant. The medians slowed down the traffic and kids have a safe way to school. Success!


6. Do you think Costa Mesa’s transportation system serves everyone equitably? Why or why not?


Yes, I think so. There are buses, bike lanes, sidewalks, and good streets on which to drive. Everyone has a choice in the mode of transportation they choose. But we can create more equity with more focus on improving transportation options, such as biking and walking. The collaboration between residents and the city of a bike trail along the golf course to the traffic light/crosswalk to allow bikers and walkers to cross Placentia into Fairview Park is an example of staff working with residents to bring equity into the transportation system. The City of Irvine is a master planned city. We are not. We must tackle each transportation challenge and work together on solutions with the idea of creating more equity with each project. Each Council district should have a list of priority transportation projects to plan.


7. Currently, many restaurants are expanding their dining areas outdoors, into former parking spaces and aisles. What are your thoughts on maintaining this allowance after the pandemic abates?


I think owners should decide for themselves. It is hard to predict what will happen tomorrow and when the pandemic will officially end. People may want to distance for a long time and that should be an option for the businesses to stay open to survive. The winter weather is an issue to contend with in the outdoors dining areas, but owners can put up special screens, etc.


Katrina Foley - candidate for Costa Mesa mayor


1. What is your vision for Costa Mesa’s infrastructure in 2050?  What are our neighborhoods like?  How are people getting around?  If elected, what will you do to prepare Costa Mesa for the future?


We are currently undergoing a visioning plan to gather community input to help us decide on a community vision.  What I will say is that any long term vision will take into consideration elements such as implementation of  our active transportation plan, activation of all of our flood channel systems to help people move in protected pedestrian and bike travel around the city and from the Back Bay to the beach, sustainability, electric vehicle charging stations available in every neighborhood, more neighborhood centered amenities that allow families to walk for necessities as well as entertainment, and quality affordable housing units in each neibhorhood.

2. In light of revenue losses due to the pandemic, what would you prioritize in Costa Mesa’s transportation budget?  Do you think anything should be cut?  Do you have any ideas for new funding sources or ways to reduce ongoing costs?


The cuts we voted on related to projects that were not design or shovel ready.  I don’t forsee greater cuts.  Grants are available to assist with some of these projects which we continue to aggressively pursue.  We need to focus on economic recovery and increasing revenues. Our cuts are deep already and the city is running quite lean.  Measure Q if passed will increase revenue. 


3. From 2010 to 2019, 70 people died, 314 were seriously injured, and more than 10,000 were hurt in traffic crashes in Costa Mesa (data from UC Berkeley’s Transportation Injury Mapping System).  What do you think Costa Mesa should do in response?


I support the work of our bike and walkability committee supplemented by your group’s support to address these concerns.  Added protected lanes will help.


4. Many Costa Mesa residents complain of cut-through traffic and speeding on the streets near their homes.  Do you think Costa Mesa should increase efforts to address these issues?  If so, how can this be done in a cost-effective manner?


Yes.  We are working in several communities on traffic calming options.  It’s more than just about speed bumps. I’ve long supported and advocated for traffic calming throughout the city.  I worked to help bring traffic calming to Broadway and St. Clair and a stop sign in the Halecrest neighborhood.  We can do more and better.  Current streets under consideration for traffic calming are Meyer, 19th st, and areas of Placentia.  Hopefully next year after we return back to a more regular staffing regime we can get back to working on many of these important quality of life issues.  


5. Nationally, about a third of all car trips are two miles or less.  How do you think Costa Mesa could encourage more people to make these short trips on foot or by bike?


Encourage more flexible zoning to allow more amenities near housing; more protected paths of travel for short trips; and enforcement as a supplement where necessary.


6. Do you think Costa Mesa’s transportation system serves everyone equitably?  Why or why not?


It depends.  We could do more work to develop free public transportation to and from job centers in OC and neighborhoods. I would love to see an electric rapid transit system.  Implementation of our ATP that I helped to work on and create would help to develop a more equitable system.

7. Currently, many restaurants are expanding their dining areas outdoors, into former parking spaces and aisles.  What are your thoughts on maintaining this allowance after the pandemic abates?


We are working on extending the TUP to February. I hope many restaurants will be allowed to remain outside.  Better for all regardless of pandemic. 

The following mayoral candidates did not respond to the questionnaire: Sandy Genis, Al Melone, Quentin Pullen

John Stephens - candidate for Costa Mesa City Council District 1


1. What is your vision for Costa Mesa’s infrastructure in 2050? What are our neighborhoods like? How are people getting around? If elected, what will you do to prepare Costa Mesa for the future?


I would like to see substantial improvements to the City’s infrastructure with respect to bike and walking safely. In my district, the primary project is the Adams Avenue project. I am committed to that project happening during my term. There are other pathways I would expect to be done in the next 30 years such as the proposed bikeway through Mesa Del Mar from Bristol to OCC. By 2050, I’d like to see metro train connectivity to extend to Costa Mesa and throughout the county, and many options to get around the city other than automobiles such as shared electronic bikes and scooters and whatever other methods of movement are invented in the next 30 years (like a hoverboard?).


2. In light of revenue losses due to the pandemic, what would you prioritize in Costa Mesa’s transportation budget? Do you think anything should be cut? Do you have any ideas for new funding sources or ways to reduce ongoing costs?


My priority is the Adams Avenue project. Due to my advocacy at the Traffic Impact Fee Ad Hoc Committee, Traffic Impact fees can now be used for active transportation projects. Our a staff and consultants are looking for all options to fund that project. One possible new source is a public-private partnership with shared bike or scooter companies.


3. From 2010 to 2019, 70 people died, 314 were seriously injured, and more than 10,000 were hurt in traffic crashes in Costa Mesa (data from UC Berkeley’s Transportation Injury Mapping System). What do you think Costa Mesa should do in response?


First, we should improve our engagement with the residents to identify areas that are dangerous. For instance, I just received such feedback from a resident in Mesa Verde and we are looking for ways to calm traffic on Mesa Verde drive near Adams.


We should look into the entire array of traffic calming measures, including stop signs, yield signs, medians and inlets, speed bumps, etc. Also, increasing our bike and walking opportunities will get some cars off the road, improving safety.


4. Many Costa Mesa residents complain of cut-through traffic and speeding on the streets near their homes. Do you think Costa Mesa should increase efforts to address these issues? If so, how can this be done in a cost-effective manner?


Reducing speed can be done through traffic calming measures above. I’m not aware of any way to avoid cut-through traffic because we cannot regulate who uses our streets. We have two streets used to cut through to HB and they are very busy, especially on weekdays. I live off of Adams so I’m very aware of cut-through traffic. I’m open to hearing ideas to address this.


5. Nationally, about a third of all car trips are two miles or less. How do you think Costa Mesa could encourage more people to make these short trips on foot or by bike?


Provide safe bike and walking lanes in major thoroughfares. Change the culture around walking and biking. For instance, when I attended law school in Davis, I always rode a bike. I didn’t have a car. The drivers in Davis are very respectful of bikes and walkers and look out for their safety. This is not so in Costa Mesa. With markings and protected lanes we can improve this, but it should be a PSA campaign as well. Also, we should consider including micro mobility options such as electronic scooters and bikes, which I have been asking for my first term.


6. Do you think Costa Mesa’s transportation system serves everyone equitably? Why or why not?


No. Costa Mesa’s transportation system favors people who drive cars over bikers, walkers, and people who ride busses.


7. Currently, many restaurants are expanding their dining areas outdoors, into former parking spaces and aisles. What are your thoughts on maintaining this allowance after the pandemic abates?


I agree with it. Also, this hasn’t been asked above, but I’m interested in looking into a Costa Mesa trolley that people would be able to use to get around our commercial areas. This would improve our parking situation.

The following District 1 candidates did not respond to the questionnaire: Don Harper, Jason Komala

The following District 2 candidates did not respond to the questionnaire: Ben Chapman, Loren Gameros, Gary Parkin

Jeff Harlan - candidate for Costa Mesa City Council District 6


1. What is your vision for Costa Mesa’s infrastructure in 2050? What are our neighborhoods like? How are people getting around? If elected, what will you do to prepare Costa Mesa for the future?

I envision Costa Mesa's transportation infrastructure being retrofitted over the next few decades to address our new and changing mobility options. With relatively flat terrain, excellent year-round weather, and few physical barriers, our City has tremendous potential to be a walkable community, with increased connectivity among neighborhoods and expanded bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. I intend on making investments in our infrastructure that provide multiple benefits (e.g., increase safety, enhance aesthetics, improve environmental performance) and connect our various systems (e.g., bus, car, rideshare, bicycle, pedestrian). I believe we should focus on improving the public realm by carefully designing streetscapes not just for traffic flow, but for people and everyday human-scale activity. As well, I will work to develop better access to our current rail system--Costa Mesans should be able to travel easily on the heavy rail lines that serve our region and the rest of Southern California.

2. In light of revenue losses due to the pandemic, what would you prioritize in Costa Mesa’s transportation budget? Do you think anything should be cut? Do you have any ideas for new funding sources or ways to reduce ongoing costs?

Our transportation budget should balance vehicular roadway improvements with those that promote bicycle and pedestrian mobility. But we should recognize that traditional streets focusing on vehicular movement, in contrast to bike/pedestrian infrastructure, require additional maintenance demands; long-term maintenance and life-cycle costs should be factored into how we prioritize budgeting projects. With more people working remotely due to the pandemic, the desire to simply walk or bike in our neighborhoods has increased. We can build on this interest and enhance our infrastructure by focusing on key circulation segments throughout the City. As for funding, I would explore more local, state, and federal grant opportunities, and collaborate with OCTA, Caltrans, and other agencies to address both our local and regional transportation issues.

3. From 2010 to 2019, 70 people died, 314 were seriously injured, and more than 10,000 were hurt in traffic crashes in Costa Mesa (data from UC Berkeley’s Transportation Injury Mapping System). What do you think Costa Mesa should do in response?

Improving street safety and increasing pedestrian mobility options should be a top priority. On the Eastside, in particular, we have had fatalities and other serious injuries to cyclists and pedestrians, in part because of poor roadway design. We can increase safety by improving pedestrian street crossings, creating safe routes to our schools and businesses, and educating the public about new traffic calming measures. Our neighbors will feel safer walking and biking if we embrace these as core planning principles to reduce traffic overall, and invest in infrastructure improvements to local streets and alleys.

4. Many Costa Mesa residents complain of cut-through traffic and speeding on the streets near their homes. Do you think Costa Mesa should increase efforts to address these issues? If so, how can this be done in a cost-effective manner?

Regulating traffic in residential neighborhoods is extremely difficult. Generally, residents want some kind of traffic calming measure (e.g., speed humps) to deter cut-through traffic, but are resistant to implementing wholesale "road diets". In my experience, we want to avoid measures that simply shift the traffic to the next street, and ultimately become an annoyance to the street's residents. There are other traffic calming measures--chicanes, roundabouts, bulb-outs, adding bike lanes--that slow traffic, promote walkability, and create a more aesthetically pleasing streetscape. I'm willing to listen to ideas and work with residents to fix this on a neighborhood level.

5. Nationally, about a third of all car trips are two miles or less. How do you think Costa Mesa could encourage more people to make these short trips on foot or by bike?

People will be more inclined to choose biking and walking for short trips when streetscapes are designed for safety and interference with vehicles is reduced. We should focus on redesigning streets not just for cars but for people--adding landscaping, lighting, and other amenities that make walking and biking easy and desirable. As well, we need to make sure our investments in new streetscapes actually help people get to their desired destinations, from residential neighborhoods to commercial areas to parks and civic spaces.

6. Do you think Costa Mesa’s transportation system serves everyone equitably? Why or why not?

Although we do have a few bus lines in the City, our transportation system consists largely of single-car drivers, recreational cyclists, and occasional walkers. We could do more to expand options for all residents to move around the City, and better integrate these various systems. At this point, it's difficult to evaluate the equity of our transportation system without having real standards and policies to measure how we are performing. I believe our decisionmaking should be based on metrics so that we can prioritize, and gauge the value of, our transportation investments.

7. Currently, many restaurants are expanding their dining areas outdoors, into former parking spaces and aisles. What are your thoughts on maintaining this allowance after the pandemic abates?

In my conversations with both restaurant owners and their patrons, all have expressed an interest in maintaining the outdoor dining areas that occupy parking areas. I agree this creative re-use of space has been beneficial and should remain in some form for these and other businesses. In fact, I would like to see an expansion of "streateries" and "parklets" to enliven our streetscapes and neighborhoods, which will also encourage more pedestrian and bicycle activity.

The following District 6 candidates did not respond to the questionnaire: Hengameh Abraham, Jeff Pettis, Lee Ramos

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Costa Mesa Alliance for Better Streets is a 501(c)(3) public charity located in Costa Mesa, California.