Chargers honcho Dean Spanos has pledged to soon reveal whether the team is moving to Los Angeles. Meanwhile, an Orange County city infamous for a 33 percent jump in crime last year is at work preparing a warm embrace.
“On behalf of the Costa Mesa City Council and our entire community, we are elated that the Chargers organization has selected Costa Mesa, the City of the Arts, as their new home if the LA stadium option is exercised,” said recently installed mayor Katrina Foley in a December 23 statement on the city’s website.
“Costa Mesa is uniquely eclectic with wonderful neighborhoods, world-class shopping, exceptional performing arts venues and fairgrounds, the best restaurants in Southern California, and a thriving tourism industry. Costa Mesa is also known for an edgy, trend-setting apparel industry, quality educational institutions, beautiful open spaces and recreational options, and it is full of friendly and creative people.”
Adds Foley, “Costa Mesa is prepared to graciously welcome [the Spanos] organization and his family of employees as they make us their home for their new headquarters, practice and training facility.”
Not that there aren’t a few problems to take care of at city hall, Foley admitted to the Orange County Register in a December 21 piece about hiring and other problematic municipal issues.
“We’re down in nearly every department. We will not be creating an environment where our staffing is cut so low because we’re not an employer that people want to work for,” she was quoted as saying.
As for that festering crime wave, Costa Mesa chief of police Rob Sharpnack blames Proposition 47, passed by California voters in November 2014, reducing some drug and petty-theft felonies to misdemeanors, among other provisions.
“We’re seeing this recycling of criminal offenders in our city,” Sharpnack told the Register last January.
“It has impaired our ability to keep criminals locked up and conduct proper enforcement. There’s no teeth to the bite in our ability to thwart the rate of recidivism.”
Per the Register’s account, “law enforcement officials reported signs of increased and more brazen criminal activity in Costa Mesa even before Prop 47 was passed.”
An in-house law-enforcement memo obtained by the paper said that “conducting criminal activity, especially drug sales/use activity, is more desirable in Costa Mesa now than previous years due to a perceived lower risk of arrest and greater prevalence of drug and related offenders in the community.”
The document called out some particularly egregious goings-on, including open sales of illegal drugs at a “popular Costa Mesa shopping center,” and “a known Costa Mesa gang member...arrested after driving in broad daylight in a stolen vehicle...in possession of narcotics...[which] would have been traditionally viewed as reckless behavior by a gang member on probation.”
Sharpnack also told the paper that “the influx of sober living homes to the city have brought in young drug addicts, who can become homeless if they fail out of the programs and resort to theft to feed their habit. The city’s cheap motels lining Harbor and Newport boulevards have also attracted drugs and crime.”
Not that the Chargers aren't already used to their share of crime and violence.
Incidents involving members of the putative Costa Mesa–bound team have included Shawne Merriman’s allegedly violent 2009 run-in with ex-girlfriend and reality show star Tila Tequila, as well as the case of linebacker Steve Foley, shot by an off-duty Coronado cop during a September 2006 traffic stop.
Foley (unrelated to Costa Mesa’s current mayor) missed that season, passing up a $775,000 salary. He pled guilty in May of the next year to a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence.
But the player hit the jackpot in July 2008 when his lawyer negotiated what was widely reported to be a cool $5.5 million settlement with the City of Coronado over the incident.
“I believe the officer was way out of line,” alternate juror Randy McClellan told the Union-Tribune after the deal was reached.
“I believe Mr. Foley should be compensated for what he went through. It pretty much ended his career and he's a great football player.”