Costa Mesa OKs landscaped medians and more environmental management for Fairview Park

Costa Mesa City Council members approved two items Tuesday night aimed at protecting and maintaining biological resources in Fairview Park and improving safety and aesthetics on the road that runs through it.

On a pair of votes with no dissenters, the council awarded a $397,640 contract to Huntington Beach-based Endemic Environmental Services for biological, maintenance and management work in Fairview and signed off on specifications for new landscaped medians along Placentia Avenue, which cuts through the 208-acre park.

Council members and city staff said adding a series of raised, landscaped medians between Adams Avenue and Wilson Street will not only improve the look of the area but also deter jaywalking and improve the overall safety of the thoroughfare.

“I think it’s long overdue that we provide some calming on this street,” Mayor Katrina Foley said. “I think all of us who travel on this street know that.”

Adding the medians, city staff said, will help slow traffic by making the roadway seem narrower to drivers. The actual speed limits along that stretch — 35 mph and 40 mph — will not change.

“Whatever we could do to help calm the flow of traffic and reduce speeds is a good thing, in my opinion,” said Police Chief Rob Sharpnack.

Some, though, questioned whether the landscaped medians are necessary or a prudent use of city funds.

Costa Mesa resident Robin Leffler said she doesn’t think adding medians would do much to curtail speeding in the area because many teenage drivers use the road and “they’re still going to speed.”

Other speakers, though, said adding the raised medians could improve safety not just for drivers but for bicyclists and pedestrians as well.

“I think this is a great project because we’re going to be slowing down the traffic to a normal speed,” resident Cynthia McDonald said. “We’re not going to slow it down to 15, we’re not going to slow it down to 25, we’re going to slow it down to the speed limit.”

More than $738,000 in federal grants is available to help cover the project’s cost, and the city’s share will be about $650,000, according to Public Services Director Raja Sethuraman.

Councilman John Stephens said that “is a lot of money to spend” but that he thinks the project is “a beautiful capital improvement and it will potentially save lives, so I think it’s a good use of city resources.”

Mayor Pro Tem Sandy Genis said she wants the medians to include as many local plants as possible, though she also was worried that planting too many trees could block views of the park.

“I really do feel it’s important to maintain the views across the street,” she said, referring to Placentia Avenue. “We call it Fairview Park for a reason.”

Council members directed staff to reduce by half — to 50 — the number of trees planned for the Fairview Park portion of the medians. Staff had proposed about 140 trees for the entire project.

Endemic contract

Separate from the median discussion, council members said their vote to approve a contract with Endemic Environmental Services was about ensuring proper maintenance of the park.

As part of the $397,640 agreement, Endemic will coordinate with Costa Mesa staff to provide reports on Fairview's wetlands and its grassland and oak tree restoration site.

The firm also will monitor wildlife and for 20 hours a week have an employee in the park to be on the lookout for maintenance needs, incidents of vandalism and any non-native plants in restoration areas.

Endemic also will conduct seasonal tours of the park and help with implementing the park master plan.

“I think this is a very integral part of preserving Fairview Park, which is a priority,” Foley said of the agreement.

The pact lasts through May 31, 2020, with an option to extend a year after that.

The council approved the contract on a 4-0 vote. Councilman Jim Righeimer recused himself because he is renting property near the park.

Twitter @LukeMMoney

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