Barbara Venezia...
Stirring the pot of controversy
 one column at a time...

Fairview’s $2-million mystery is solved, and it doesn’t look promising


Last week I started to track down the parameters of the $2-million site survey the state is planning for closing the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa by 2021.

What prompted this was my column last month about Fairview and Sen. John Moorlach’s bill, SB 59, which would require the state to include the city and county in any decision regarding repurposing of the state-owned property. Currently, Sacramento doesn’t have to do that.

I also talked about how Moorlach, a Costa Mesa resident, was working with a coalition from Hoag and St. Joseph hospitals, as well as county and Costa Mesa city officials, to address mental health issues and homelessness as part of a network.

Included in this coalition’s scope is how a portion of Fairview could be used by such a network.

Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley says of the more than 105 acres at Fairview, 50% could be set aside for single-family housing, 25% for open space, 15% for mental health institutional services of some sort and 10% left for an undetermined use.

In that column, Moorlach mentioned a $2-million site study in the state’s budget for the property. A reader wondered what that “site study” meant.

That simple question certainly lacked a simple answer. It has taken me two weeks of emails and calls to get somewhat of an answer.

Moorlach’s office tracked my progress. They too were interested in the details of the survey.

The question on everyone’s mind was: If you don’t know the scope of the survey to begin with, how do you price it at $2 million?

The answer would finally come from the state Department of Finance in a seven-page budget summary request document, which I posted to

The summary starts out explaining how on April 1, 2016, the California Department of Developmental Services submitted a closure plan for Fairview that was approved by the Legislature.

It also said the state Asset Management Branch (AMB) is responsible for identifying alternative reuses for the Fairview campus and is requesting $2,168,000 toward contracting consultants.

It goes on to say the “consultants will assist with the evaluation of appropriate re-use options in order to identify constraints and opportunities; to make revenue estimations; to work with the city of Costa Mesa to identify local stakeholder interest in the reuse of the property; and to identify options that will generate the highest return to the state.” Such a return could include revenue to fund programs for the developmentally disabled community.

With Californians paying a high rate of income taxes and the large government bureaucracy in Sacramento, you’d think there’d be staffers who could handle this and not have to spend $2 million on consultants. Apparently not.

The document states that for a “project of this size and complexity, AMB needs to contract for external consultants with expertise in stakeholder outreach, biological and cultural resource assessment, property condition and infrastructure capacity assessments, traffic studies.”

It also says in phase one and two, if required, will need “environmental site assessments, hydrology and water resource studies, master planning studies and collaboration, alternatives analysis and adaptive repurposing studies, market studies, economic modeling, cost estimating and financial analysis, appraisal, and contract negotiations that are not available within existing staff.”

This wordy document is drafted in the broadest of terms with the sole purpose of justifying hiring consultants.

Between the legalese and repetitiveness, it seems this was written so no one could actually understand the specifics totally — a prime example of government circle jerk at its best.

So here’s what’s budgeted in the $2,168,000 for consultants:

Project management: $160,000

Civil engineering and “site related”: $210,000

Environmental assessments: $740,000

Market and economic analyses: $210,000

Traffic analysis: $75,000

Structural engineering: $30,000

Architectural and planning services: $485,000

Cost estimating: $60,000

Disposition costs: $130,000

Distributed admin: $68,000

I question how they can budget for architectural and planning services, as well as structural and civil engineering, when there’s actually no building plan in place.

And taking into consideration how Fairview has operated since 1959, why is there $740,000 for environmental assessments? Shouldn’t they know its impact already?

Do we really need to start from scratch here?

I could go on and on taking this consultant list apart, but this proposal is only the first step for the state to determine what to do with the property.

It has nothing to do with a post-closure plan, which will eventually fold into this multistep process. Who knows how many millions each step along the way will cost.

I’m sure consultants are already lining up for those paydays.

So how much of our tax dollars will the state eventually spend on this Fairview closure?

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at


The Fairview  Developmental Center and its $2-million mystery


From time to time I like to update readers on storylines they’ve shown interest in/.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa, which is slated to close in 2021 and state Sen. John Moorlach’s Senate Bill 59, which would force the state to include the city of Costa Mesa and Orange County in any decision regarding future reuse of the Fairview property.

Moorlach proposed the bill to address concerns about how Sacramento could hypothetically do whatever it deems fit with the state-owned land without consulting local governments.

Moorlach noted $2 million in the governor’s budget for a site survey. That prompted a reader to ask me what exactly a $2-million site survey includes.

I went back to Moorlach.

The Costa Mesa Republican explained this price quote was also given by the state Department of General Services for the Sonoma Developmental Center, which is also closing.

Speaking with spokeswoman Monica Hassan from the Department of General Services, she really didn't have any information other than saying the survey should take place before the closing of Fairview, and no parameters for it have been determined.

She said part of the survey would most likely include options as to what to do with the property moving forward.

That left me wondering: If you don't know the scope of the survey to begin with, how do you price it at $2 million?

Hassan suggested I call the Department of Finance. I’ll keep readers posted when those folks get back to me.

Vist on KOCI radio program

On Sunday, I was a guest co-host with my Feet to the Fire pal Tom Johnson on his radio show, Stu News Sunday on KOCI 101.5 FM

Johnson tackles controversial issues in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, as well as sports and community events.

His topic on this particular show: the recall effort of Newport Councilman Scott Peotter.

At the top of the show, Newport resident Susan Skinner from the Recall Scott Peotter effort called in.

Skinner rehashed the reasoning why she felt the community should recall Peotter now, before he starts working on updates to the city’s general plan and before he’s up for reelection in 2018.

She raised many of the issues I’ve written about in past columns, such as Peotter’s votes in favor of the Museum House condo project and ensuring that some 1,000 pages got tucked into Line in the Sand’s referendum to fight that development. Skinner questioned Peotter’s personal finances and her recent complaint filed against him with the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

Next up was Peotter, who was in studio.

I’ve been critical of the councilman in many columns, so he’s not a fan of mine, but, to his credit, he was cordial and sat next to me.

I found it interesting as Johnson asked him about his accomplishments on council.

Peotter began by saying, “when we were elected,” rather than “when I was elected.”

This showed me he thinks of his “Team Newport” as one voting bloc. Could he influence his “team” during the general plan update to see things his way?

He is certainly high-density development-oriented.

This concerns me. It concerns Skinner’s group too.

Peotter claimed Team Newport was elected because residents were unhappy with unfunded pension liabilities unaddressed by previous councils and overspending on the Civic Center project.

He called the former council “tone deaf” and criticized the way council members — like former Mayor Rush Hill — spoke to residents at council meetings.

Well, isn’t Team Newport now guilty of these same things — being tone deaf, especially when it concerns high-density development?

Peotter didn’t agree.

I asked him if he felt the whole recall issue was really about his personality, not his political principles.

Here, he agreed.

That being said, doesn’t Peotter have to own up to his behavior?

People liked him enough to elect him. Have they soured over time as a result of his behavior on the dais and his numerous snarky email blasts?

Peotter claimed he was “speaking the truth.”

I reminded him how council members have always disagreed but in a much more civil manner than what he’s exhibited. As I’ve said in previous columns, his behavior steps over the line of decorum in my book.

It was an interesting interview. I give Johnson kudos for presenting both sides of the recall argument.

I’ve kept an open mind on the recall, but after sitting with Peotter and listening to him answer our questions and give his reasoning, I’m now convinced he’s got to go.

Fairview site could be a cornerstone for addiction and mental health services

You can’t talk about addressing the mental health crisis in this county without including the issues of homelessness and addiction.

This is why a coalition of addiction and mental health experts from Hoag and St. Joseph hospitals, as well as local and state government officials, have been meeting to come up with a plan.

No one facility or community can bear the burden, but networked campuses countywide just might.

Could a portion of the Fairview Developmental Center property in Costa Mesa be one of these?

Fairview is slated to close in 2021, with a proposed plan to transition residents into smaller regional centers.with a proposed plan to transition residents into smaller regional centers.

The state Department of Developmental Services has the ability to lease the land to a nonprofit organization or sell it without any say-so from local city or county officials.

Faced with this possibility, Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) introduced Senate Bill 59 .

Co-authored with Sens. Ted Gaines (R-Redding), Mike McGuire (D-Eureka) and Jim Beall(D-San Jose), the bill would give local cities and counties a voice in repurposing the land.

Now that Gov. Jerry Brown is ready to sign a new budget, and there’s $2 million allocated for a site study for Fairview, Moorlach says it’s time to move SB59 forward.

Moorlach has been meeting with Hoag and St. Joseph and county and Costa Mesa city officials, as the group looks to address mental health issues and homelessness as part of a larger county network.

“We are meeting on a regular basis, and the coalition we are building is phenomenal,” Moorlach says.

Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley says of the 105 acres at Fairview Developmental, 50% could be set aside for single-family housing, 25% for open space, 15% for mental health-institutional services of some sort and 10% to be determined.

I’m hearing 25% for mental health, however, is being discussed by the coalition.

The mental health aspect of this plan would be part of a larger countywide public-private partnership.

Costa Mesa City Manager Tom Hatch likes the regional approach because trying to solve the county’s homeless and mental health crisis with just one site isn’t the answer.

Hatch wants help available in every community.

As part of this coalition’s research, a group including Hatch, Foley and former assistant City Manager Rick Francis, hospital and county mental health officials, made a trip to Haven for Hope in San Antonio.

Haven for Hope is a successful model of how combining services with a public-private partnership, including local nonprofits, state and local agencies, can make a difference in addressing mental health services, addiction and homelessness.

A center there allows law enforcement to bring those needing to sober up only for the night as an alternative to taking up space in jails. Individuals opting for longer addiction care programs can stay.

Haven of Hope also has transitional housing for homeless families, along with more than 80 service providers, to help folks get back on their feet with training and job skills.

And it has a shelter for those looking for a safe haven for a night, rather than a long-term stay.

With a capacity of 1,500, the Haven of Hope model could be applied here.

In theory the concept being explored holds promise, but will political difference hamper progress?

Though Moorlach has reached across the political aisle, there are those with reservations.

Foley, a Democrat, is concerned the state’s assessment study could value Fairview at a high price, making it prohibitive for any kind of affordable project.

She questions why there isn’t another O.C. senator supporting Moorlach’s bill. Until I told her two Democratic senators co-authored it, she was unaware of the bipartisan cooperation and went online to look up the bill’s progress for herself.

Foley admits her trip to Haven of Hope was enlightening, and there are components — like having service providers for the homeless in one location and the transitional housing concept — that could work here.

But she isn’t counting out another concept being considered by the city for Fairview: affordable housing. And she tells me there have been talks with a provider.

There’s certainly a need to address the full scope of local mental health issues. The coalition’s plan may be a good start to a comprehensive solution, barring politics getting in the way.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

Copyright © 2017, Daily Pilot


Remembering Charlotte Dale and her beloved Villa Nova

Charlotte Dale, the former owner of the Villa Nova Restaurant, died of complications due to pneumonia on June 7. She was 93.

Dale was a staple in the Newport restaurant scene for decades when she took over management of the restaurant after her husband, Allen, died in 1971.

With six children at home, Dale was faced with either entering a male-dominated industry or selling the business.

She blazed a new trail.

Dale had some business experience helping her husband with back office duties, but there was more to learn.

In time she’d turn the Villa Nova into a waterfront landmark.

“What I always appreciated about my mother was her courage, strength and ability to prove to those around her that she could indeed run the Villa Nova successfully after my Dad died in 1971,” said son Jim Dale. “Believe me, there just weren't many female fine dining restaurant owners in that era, and she proved all of the naysayers wrong.”

The Villa Nova and Dale have an interesting history.

Charlotte Dale, the former owner of the Villa Nova Restaurant, died of complications due to pneumonia on June 7. She was 93.

Dale was a staple in the Newport restaurant scene for decades when she took over management of the restaurant after her husband, Allen, died in 1971.

With six children at home, Dale was faced with either entering a male-dominated industry or selling the business.

She blazed a new trail.

Born on June 24, 1924, in Duluth, Minn., to Margret and Duncan Wilson Frick, Dale’s family moved to Beverly Hills in the 1930s.

Graduating from UCLA in 1946, Dale worked for a time at the William Morris Talent Agency and was a personal assistant to “F Troop” star Forrest Tucker.

The Frick Family had a summer home on Lido Isle, where Charlotte and her brother, Andrew, spent summers and holidays.

In 1948 she married Allen Dale, who had changed his name from Carlo Alfredo Di-Lisio when he came from Italy to Hollywood in the 1920s, finding work as an actor and stuntman.

He opened the Villa Nova Trattoria on Hollywood and Vine in 1933 with financial backers Charlie Chaplin and Vincente Minnelli.

According to Alison Martino’s Vintage Los Angeles website, that’s where the couple met. After marrying, they ran the restaurant together, which moved several times before settling on the Sunset Strip in 1944. The site is now the location of the Rainbow Bar and Grill, a rock star hangout. The site has an interesting article about Dale’s visit to the Rainbow when she was 90.

Villa Nova was frequented by Hollywood’s elite on the Sunset Strip. Legend has it, it’s where Marilyn Monroe had her first date with Joe DiMaggio and Minnelli proposed to Judy Garland.

In 1967 the Dales relocated their family and business to Newport, where they flourished.

But by 1992, trends and changes in the restaurant business forced Dale to make the tough decision to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy and retire.

Andy Crean bought the place in 1993. He ran it for 20 years, selling the land and business at auction in 2013.

The iconic site is now home to the Winery.

My friend Artie Dinucci worked at the Villa Nova from 1978 to 2013 and remained close with Dale. We talked this week about his special relationship with her.

Dinucci started as a waiter at the Villa Nova and then became assistant manager and, later, maître d'.

“I worked the door, and Mrs. Dale worked the register,” he said, noting that Rat Pack member Joey Bishop and singer Buddy Ebsen were among the celebrity regulars.

In its heyday the Villa Nova had lines outside every night before opening, he remembers.

Dale made everyone feel special.

“It’s was good food, and everyone knew your name,” Dinucci said.

After closing, “We’d sit, and she’d share stories about her husband and their time in Hollywood,” recalled Dinucci. “Her intellect was incredible.”

Dale was involved in her community. Through the restaurant she supported organizations like the Assessment & Treatment Service Center Coastal Orange County (ATSC), Hoag Hospital and the Newport Chamber of Commerce. She was also recognized by the National Organization of Women Business Owners.

Her generosity extended to her employees.

In 1985 Dinucci was facing a long recovery after back surgery and unable to work.

“She was my savior,” he said. “Mrs. Dale paid me for the whole year, and I never forgot her kindness.”

Dinucci says Villa Nova staffers were a “tight knit family,” which carried on after Crean bought the business.

In her later years Dale lived in a care facility close to Dinucci’s home in Costa Mesa.

The last time he visited this year, he could see her time was coming to a close.

“We sat and talked about old times, and I wanted to let her know how she affected my life in my time in need,” Dinucci said. “She will always have a special place in my heart.”

Dale and the Villa Nova remain an integral part of Newport’s fine dining history.

And for those, like me, who enjoyed family dinners, birthdays, anniversaries and countless boat parade evenings dining on the bay there, we mourn the loss of Dale and an era gone by.

But everything has a season. Dale and the Villa Nova certainly had an amazing one, leaving a legacy of wonderful memories for many.

She’s survived by her children: James, Thomas, Margaret, Laura, Andrea, Jeff and Charles, as well as many grandchildren.

Funeral services will take place at 10:30 a.m. July 29, 2995-A Airway Ave., at Saint James Anglican Church in Costa Mesa.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

Copyright © 2017, Daily Pilot

Foley is ready to talk

 about elected mayoral

 run; Monahan’s not.


In 2018 Costa Mesa will directly elect a mayor for the first time. Previously, elected council members took turns at this ceremonial role.

When this new mayoral concept was being discussed and presented to the voters in 2016, it didn’t make much sense. In this new incarnation, mayoral power structure and duties remain largely the same as before.

I agree creating voting districts -- where candidates only have to run within those districts, making it far more affordable and manageable to campaign -- forms a more-diverse council. But I didn’t think coupling this issue with the mayoral one on the ballot made sense.

To be clear, anyone can run for mayor, even if you’ve served on council and are termed out. Now there’s no need to wait the required two years to be able to run again.

This newly elected mayor will have a vote on issues, so in essence that person really becomes another councilmember. And because of redistricting, one district will have two voices.

Putting those facts aside, whoever becomes the first elected mayor at large certainly takes their place in Costa Mesa’s history books, which is a big deal.

So far it seems Mayor Katrina Foley and former councilman Gary Monahan want the job.

Announcing intentions to run this early is a smart move politically and could deter lesser-known candidates.

Both Foley and Monahan have their own fan bases and each has the ability to raise money, making them hard to beat.

As I’ve watched Costa Mesa politics these last 10 years, I’ve noticed that voters are issue-oriented and tend to recycle their politicians. That’s certainly been the case with Monahan, who’s served multiple turns. Foley, who left for the school board for a stretch, is on another council tour.

I contacted them both, hoping to talk about issues important to them, their choices for political consultants and why they decided to run.

Foley was happy to chat.

She’s enjoying her role as mayor, “working with business leaders, connecting people and problem-solving,” and wants to continue this momentum she explained as her reasoning for running for mayor in 2018.

Foley had the option of running for re-election of her four-year council term in 2018, so why is she opting for a two-year mayoral term instead?

She “only wants to serve another two years” and feels it will be a good time to transition new people into leadership roles with the new district concept in place and new folks serving on city commissions.

Foley is proud of the progress made during her mayoral year so far. Projects like completing the staffing of public safety and affordable housing top her list. She’d also like to see motels on Newport Boulevard once again attract tourists and feels she needs two more years to accomplish these goals and more.

“We have a good momentum and stability; that’s important right now as we transition into directly elected mayor and districts,” she says.

Foley also plans on working with her same team of “DeSnoo & DeSnoo, Michele Mullen, Kimberlee Belli and the hundreds of volunteers” that brought in her last council win.

With an elected mayor, I wondered what will happen to the position of mayor pro tem.

“That’s a good question,” she says. “You’re the first person to ask it.”

Apparently the council still needs to figure that out.

And as I mentioned in my May 16 column, former Councilman Gary Monahan posted on Facebook: “OK I have Steve Mensinger, Jim Righeimer, Jim Fitzpatrick, Jim Fisler, Lee Ramos, Dana Rohrabacher, John Moorlach and a heck of a lot others behind me… Let’s do this.”

At the time he told me, “Nothing is final,” but that’s changed.

"My run for Mayor is now ‘officially’ endorsed By Congressman Dana Rohrabacher & Angel’s Auto Spa Owner Surat Singh,” he posted June 8.

On June 9 he posted a link to his fundraising page, as well as announcing a fundraiser for June 29 to coincide with his restaurant Skosh Monahan's 17th anniversary. He also asked for suggestions on a campaign theme song.

I was especially interested in talking with Monahan, because after he was termed out in 2016, he told me he was done running for council and wanted to focus on his business and family.

And though he’s posting on social media about running for mayor, I guess he didn’t want to talk to me, as my call and email went unanswered.

I am ready to share his ideas with readers whenever he is ready to talk.

In the long run, it will be interesting to see if voters welcome him back.

Or has he “jumped the shark,” as they say in TV when a show’s been on too long and has lost its sizzle?

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at


As recall effort moves forward,Toerge clarifies views on high-density development


As Newport enters new waters with the Councilman Scott Peotter recall effort, the first in the city’s history, there has been some innovation alongside the continued controversy.

Tasked with obtaining about 8,500 signatures by October to bring the issue to the voters, the Recall Scott Peotter Committee is taking advantage of the digital age.

Typically, petition drives in the past set up tables in front of grocery stores and other high-traffic public areas with volunteers collecting signatures.

And the committee is doing this, but it’s added another component by launching a massive email campaign with the actual petition.

Supporters are sending the petition, along with specific instructions as to how to fill it out, print it and mail it back to the committee at 2618 San Miguel Drive, No. 1708, Newport Beach, Calif. 92660. The petition can also be downloaded at

This move is groundbreaking. They’ve made it convenient to sign in private , and they’re urging supporters to forward it to their friends. If successful, this could change the way petition drives are conducted from here on out.

But even with the modernized method of signature gathering in addition to manning tables in the community, the recall effort still has a way to go.

I will continue to examine the complexities of the issues surrounding the recall effort. In my last column I raised the notion that with only one candidate at the moment running against Peotter, his former opponent in the 2014 election Mike Toerge, there were those in the community who questioned Toerge’s past decisions on high-density development.

Toerge supported Measure Y in 2014, while residents overwhelmingly did not.

Toerge and I spoke about that this week.

Reflecting on 2014, Toerge admitted that not supporting No on Y cost him the election.

“I got bad advice,” he said in reference to political consultants who urged him to support Y, though his initial instinct was not to.

“I made a mistake,” he said. “I made the decision, and I own it.”

He went on to say he’s always been a “residents-first guy, and I compromised my ideals. I’ve dealt with it, I’m past it and moving on.”

Toerge tells me this experience will make him a better councilman, should he prevail in this recall.

But I had to ask, is this recall really just “sour grapes,” as Peotter and his supporters claim?

“Absolutely not, I didn’t organize this recall, but I am supporting it,” Toerge said.

Now is the time to replace Peotter, as a new General Plan update is being discussed, Toerge said.

Toerge served with Peotter for a time, when both were planning commissioners, and says Peotter voted overwhelmingly for land-use changes and development during that time.

With “little land-use expertise on the current council,” Peotter, an architect, could have “undue influence” over current council members, Toerge said, adding that Peotter’s propensity toward high-density development worries him.

Toerge said that as a planning commissioner he made his decisions based on residents first and city economic gain second.

He also touts his past experience working on the last General Plan update in 2006, zoning codes and the current local coastal plan. His expertise in review, and analysis of code compliance, is what he feels the city needs in the council mix right now.

“In this political arena people want to label you either pro- or anti-development,” he said. “I support the General Plan.”

But even if Peotter is recalled, Team Newport would still dominate the council.

Toerge said he’s not worried, feels he has a good relationship with Brad Avery -- they hike together -- is impressed with Councilman Will O’Neill and has no issues with working with Councilwoman Diane Dixon or Mayor Kevin Muldoon.

“Jeff Herdman is going to need someone with conviction who is realistically prepared to change his mind when confronted with compelling factual information,” he said.

Toerge believes all on the council would welcome his planning experience and says he “can work with anyone who is rational and wants to help community — but not someone with an agenda.”

And Peotter has been accused of having a very specific agenda, according a Fair Political Practices Commission complaint filed by activist Susan Skinner.

Among her allegations, Skinner questioned Peotter’s alleged financial ties to Capitol Ministries in Washington, D.C., which according to its website, “plants and develops biblical ministries of evangelism and discipleship to public servants.”

As a strong believer in separation of church and state, I found what I read on the organization’s site,, regarding its political and religious agenda disturbing.

Skinner also raises questions about Peotter’s 700 financial reporting forms, as Newport Beach planning commissioner from 2006-10, where he reported no “reportable interests,” including income, spousal income, business interests, investment income and gifts received, yet he managed to live in Newport.

Peotter later told the Daily Pilot he was out of work during the recession and didn’t have income to report. He was living off savings.

He also explained to the Pilot that he stands by everything on his forms and has no problem answering any questions by the Fair Political Practices Commission.

“I don’t have anything to hide,” he said. “That’s why we file these things publicly.”

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

Can Toerge carry the recall torch now that Brenner is out of the running?

Who is, and who isn’t, ready to rumble with recall this summer?

As the political temperature rises in Newport, the recall process of Councilman Scott Peotter took another step forward this week when City Clerk Leilani Brown approved the recall petition.

“The petition format is sufficient,” she wrote to proponents.

The Committee to Recall Scott Peotter can now start gathering the approximately 8,500 signatures needed in the next five months to bring a recall vote

Symbolically, what happens here is a game-changer, regardless of who prevails.

If the recall is successful, it sends a message to council members and their power brokers that there are consequences when the voice of the people is ignored.

If this fails, Peotter and his supporters both on and off the council become stronger than ever.

But like any good summer mini-series, this recall is already presenting unexpected twists and intrigue.

As I reported back in April, if signature-gathering successfully leads to a vote, residents will be asked if they want to remove Peotter, and, if yes, choose someone to replace him.

Mike Toerge, who lost to Peotter in 2014, is still a candidate if Peotter is recalled, but apparently Friends of the Corona del Mar Library chairwoman Joy Brenner isn’t any longer.

Back in April, Brenner was enthusiastic, saying she felt “compelled” to serve and had been urged by friends and neighbors to run for office for decades.

This week she’s singing a different tune.

“It is with a huge sense of relief and some sadness that I have to announce my decision NOT to run for Newport Beach City Council,” she said in an email to supporters.

Brenner did some “soul searching, and with so many dear friends battling illnesses, I feel like I need to make the most of whatever time I have left. I still have traveling to do and many other things.”

Though I respect Brenner’s reasons, I wasn’t convinced it was the whole story.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen it before, that moment when a potential candidate realizes the depth of the ugliness ahead, how negative politics is in this town, and concludes they want no part of it.

When Brenner and I spoke, she admitted this weighed greatly on her decision. She just couldn’t see herself in that kind of fight.

Brenner still supports the recall effort and is hoping someone else will throw their hat into the ring.

But with Brenner bailing, this changes the dynamics of the recall’s success, in my opinion.

I’ve heard from more than a few in town who feel that as much as they dislike Peotter, they’re not crazy about longtime planning commissioner Toerge either. And faced with a choice between the two, they’d stay with the devil they know, so to speak.

Some aren’t convinced Toerge opposes high-density development, a divisive issue in town with Museum House and other issues. Though he says he now opposes new high-density, he supported Measure Y, a failed initiative that would have allowed more large development at Newport Center, in the 2014 election.

Many saw Brenner’s entry into the recall race as a welcome alternative.

Now that she’s out, I feel that unless the recall committee attracts other candidates, betting the farm on Toerge might be a fatal mistake.

If an alternate candidate, who is a longtime resident, well-respected and without political baggage, doesn’t jump in over the summer, I don’t see this recall effort being successful.

On the flip side, in Peotter’s camp, he continues to send out his email blasts using a photo of the city seal and stating the email isn’t official city business.

He’s been reprimanded before for using the seal, but I guess he’s technically within the rules by using a “photo” and the “unofficial” label to make it clear his missives aren’t from City Hall.

But this is just another example of a guy exhibiting behavior unbecoming his office.

In this latest blast, May 15, he claims the “Recall is being used to Stifle Free Speech.

“Seems as though the Recallers are trying to intimidate me and others by using the recall to scare us into inaction,” he writes. “They have even said that they can’t let me vote on another budget. They really can’t have me stopping their tax-and-spend ways.”

From where I sit, this whole recall is not about stifling speech, spending or scare tactics.

Simply stated, there’s a growing section of the community who may not like the councilman’s behavior or opinions, but, more importantly, disagree with his vision for the city, especially when it comes to high-density development.

In interviews with recall committee members, I’ve never heard anyone once say Peotter isn’t entitled to his views; they just don’t agree with where he’s taking this city.

So is a difference of opinion really censorship?

Or is this recall merely a civic way to hit the reset button when enough constituents disagree with whom they elected?

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at


Meeting a `Soprano,' hitting the Press Club dinner, talking to Monahan about his run


From pasta sauce to politics to the OC Press Club Awards, there’s lots of interesting tidbits to report this week.

On Mother’s Day, Stasha the Wonder Dog and I sat in with Tom Johnson on his weekly KOCI-FM radio show, “Stu News Sunday,” and was delighted to meet actor Steve Schirripa, who was in studio hawking his new line of organic Italian pasta sauces.

Schirripa, who played Bobby Baccalieri on “The Sopranos” and currently portrays Detective Anthony Abatemarco on the CBS show “Blue Bloods,” listened to the show in his car a few weeks ago. He has a place in Laguna and told his publicist to see if he could get him on the show.

Schirripa’s created a line of pasta sauces based on his mother’s recipes that are now available at Vons and on his website.

I haven’t tried his sauces yet, but they’re on my grocery list!

Fairgrounds on the Fourth

Costa Mesa Councilman John Stephens also stopped in and talked about the OC Fairgrounds and the city's collaboration on the upcoming July Fourth safe and sane fireworks events.

As reported in the DP, Stephens was successful in raising the $50,000 needed to pull off an event that he hopes will discourage illegal fireworks.

Fines for those naughty, noisy illegal fireworks will now be $1,000, if the cops catch you. Stephens hopes this event will be a deterrent.

Stasha, like most animals, hates the loud booms of July Fourth.

Stephens, a dog owner, says the fireworks display won’t have those scary noises; it will be more of a “pyrotechnic” display.

Stasha gives Stephens four paws up and kudos for his efforts.

Starting at 3 p.m. on the Fourth, the event is free to the public and will include entertainment, food, games and fun. Parking is free up until 5 p.m. Fireworks are later in the evening.

Gary Monahan weighs mayoral run

And speaking of Costa Mesa, former Councilman Gary Monahan raised a few eyebrows Sunday when he posted on his Facebook page he was planning to run for mayor in 2018.

“OK I have Steve Mensinger, Jim Righeimer, Jim Fitzpatrick, Jim Fisler, Lee Ramos, Dana Rohrabacher, John Moorlach and a heck of a lot others behind me,” he wrote, “… Let’s do this. ”

When I emailed him Tuesday about his plans he wrote: “Nothing is final”.

Yes, the 2018 elections are going to be interesting, and not just locally.

GOP backer raises money for Newsom

This week I received an invitation from neighbor Jim Glidewell regarding a fundraiser he’s having at his home for California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a candidate for governor in 2018.

Newsom is a Democrat, while Glidewell is a Republican and Lincoln Club member who previously held a fundraiser at his digs for Marco Rubio during the presidential election.

Why the switch?

Glidewell said Newsom “will make an excellent governor of California,” though he readily admits some have questioned his choice.

“The Republican Party, of which I am a staunch supporter, will not have a viable candidate for office this coming election,” he said. “I feel Gavin is the obvious winner, and I’d like to vote for someone who can actually win for a change.”

Glidewell says he introduced Newsom to his conservative friends, and were impressed with Newsom’s grasp of the issues and his moderate views on some issues.

Glidewell is among a growing number of O.C. Republicans who are fiscally conservative, but feel the party isn’t in line with their social beliefs.

“I’m liberal socially, I take care of my employees,” said Glidewell, president and CEO of Glidewell Industries. “I’m trying to improve industry and my employee’s lives; that’s my focus, not just profits,”

The fundraiser is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. June 6 at Mesa Manor, 2300 Mesa Drive, Newport Beach.

And if this address seems familiar, it was formerly the Village Crean. Glidewell bought the estate at auction in 2013, and renamed it Mesa Manor.

If you’re interested in attending, RSVP by contributing $250, $1,000, $5,000 or $10,000 online at

A win at the OC Press Club Awards

Rounding out this week, I attended the annual OC Press Awards at the Balboa Bay Club Monday night.

Winners included: Best Feature Story, honorable mention, the Daily Pilot’s Hannah Fry, who also received second place for the Real OC award; Best Food/Restaurant Story, third-place prize, the Pilot’s Bradley Zint. Pilot contributor Nuran Alteir also won third place for feature writing in Weekend, a sister publication of the Pilot.

And the David McQuay Award for Best Columnist went to my buddy and Feet to the Fire cohort Norberto Santana Jr., publisher of the Voice of OC.

I was awarded second place.

Stasha unfortunately didn’t win in the Best Lifestyle/Family Blog category she’d entered. But when I broke the news to her she didn’t seem to mind, she just yawned and went back to watching DOGTV.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

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