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If you haven't already done so, please read the Costa Mesa section on the Camera Towns page.

Costa Mesa Chronology

City of Costa Mesa, California

Costa Mesa, pop. 110,000, is immediately north of Newport Beach, in Orange County.

This page contains details of trials of Costa Mesa tickets.

Ticket counts and signal timing for Costa Mesa's cameras are available at:  Costa Mesa Documents.

May 27, 2004, Costa Mesa:  Yellow Too Short
On April 5 a defendant emailed me that the signal for northbound Newport Blvd. at 17th in Costa Mesa had a yellow of 3.6 seconds, while it should have been longer - 4.3 seconds - in keeping with the posted speed limit of 45.
(For an explanation of the law regarding the length of the yellow, see Defect # 2 on the Home Page.)
That defendant received his ticket in late December.  He measured the yellow by using a video camera (see the Measuring the Yellow section on the Your Ticket page), and then, in January, requested the official signal timing chart from the local CalTrans office.  He received the chart in late February.  Here is part of that chart, showing the length of the yellow phase.

(Excerpt from Newport/17th CalTrans chart.  For full chart, see: Costa Mesa Documents.)

That defendant pled not guilty, and at his trial session in late May his ticket was dismissed by the police before the case was called, with no explanation as to why.  (They're not required to explain.)  He never got a chance to show the timing chart to the judge.  In the courthouse hallway after that session, I asked Sgt. Andersen of the Costa Mesa police department what the City was going to do about the other tickets previously issued there.   He replied that any action would be up to his supervisors. 
This Costa Mesa section of was started shortly thereafter.

Costa Mesa (cont'd), June 7, 2004:  No Official Action Yet
By June 7 the City had made no announcement about the tickets, so I phoned them.  On June 9 they called me back and told me that they would come to a decision within two weeks.

Costa Mesa (cont'd), June 10, 2004:  Big Refund!
On June 10 the City of Costa Mesa issued a press release indicating that it would be asking the court to reverse all convictions, provide refunds of fines, and dismiss any unresolved citations, for red light camera violations that occurred at northbound Newport/17th prior to Feb. 12.  (They said it would not apply to southbound tickets.)  See: 
Costa Mesa Documents.
The press release did not mention refunds for Community Service, traffic school fees, increased insurance premiums, or lost wages.  If you did Community Service in lieu of paying your fine, you probably will not automatically be receiving a check.  You should file a claim with the City - for at least the $326 value of your labor, plus the Community Service registration fee.  If you went to traffic school, lost time from work, or experienced higher insurance premiums as a result of your ticket (and your insurer will not refund the increase), you should file a claim for that too.
I have posted an easy-to-use claim form here: 
Costa Mesa Documents
The June 12 LA Times carried an article with the headline "Error Slams Traffic Tickets Into Reverse," and another short article on the 17th.  See:  Costa Mesa Documents.

Costa Mesa (cont'd), June 26, 2004:  Yellow Lights Too Short - Left Turns
Costa Mesa's yellows for left turns are less than their yellows for straight ahead movements.
See Defect # 2 on the Home page.

Costa Mesa (cont'd), June 27, 2004:  Ticket Counts Available
Intersection-by-intersection and month-by-month ticket counts for Costa Mesa's cameras are now available here:
Costa Mesa Documents.

Costa Mesa (cont'd), July 7, 2004:  Blackout on Refunds for Community Service, Etc.
As of July 7 the City website (see link at: 
Costa Mesa Documents) contained new information about Newport/17th, but still no mention of refunds for Community Service, increased insurance premiums, traffic school fees paid to schools outside Orange County, or lost wages.  Nor were these refunds mentioned in a News Pilot article published July 7.

Costa Mesa (cont'd), July 29, 2004:  Details of Trial Session
I attended the July 29 trial session.  Half of the cases were dismissed.  More details are in Set # 9 of
Costa Mesa Documents

Costa Mesa (cont'd), Aug. 6, 2004:  Full Scope of Changes to Signal Settings Revealed
On June 24 I made a public records request to CalTrans for the current signal timing charts for Newport / 17th and Newport / 19th.  (The signals are maintained by CalTrans as Newport Blvd. is a State highway.)  The charts arrived on Aug. 6 and revealed that there were many more changes made than just a lengthening of the yellow for northbound Newport / 17th.  For full details, see the footnotes at the bottom of  Set # 6 of
Costa Mesa Documents.

Costa Mesa (cont'd), Aug. 9, 2004:  Request to Discontinue Camera at Newport / 17th Left
See the letter in Set # 10 of
Costa Mesa Documents.
The letter also reveals a near-doubling of rear-enders there since the camera went in.

Costa Mesa (cont'd), Oct. 14, 2004:  Who To Complain To . . .
The most recent figures show that "violations recorded" at Newport / 19th are still high.  Clearly the length of the yellow needs to be increased.  To bring pressure on CalTrans (they control the signal timing) I recommend calling the state legislators where you live, and also those who represent Costa Mesa.  The phone numbers for the legislators representing Costa Mesa are below.  Your local phone book will have the numbers for the assemblymember and state senator who represent your home town, or you can find them by using the automated locator at:

Costa Mesa Representatives:
Assemblymember Ken Maddox (714) 668-2100 or (916) 319-2068
Senator Ross Johnson (949) 833-0180 or (916) 445-4961

Costa Mesa (cont'd), Feb. 2005 Trial Session:  Many Tickets Dismissed
Here is a note from a defendant
"And thank you for all your help and the time you took to reply to my correspondence.  I did beat my red light ticket....  All I did was plead not guilty and on the day of the court took a similar looking 2nd cousin's picture with me.  Also I took pictures of the Anton and Bristol intersection.  However, I was not even given a chance to give my defense.  Judge Odriozola came out and read a list of people whose tickets would be dismissed and I was one of them.  I was relieved!  I guess they could not see my picture very well.  Thanks again and keep up the good work, maybe someday these illegal red light cameras will go away."
There's another possible reason why all those defendants' tickets were dismissed.  See the Feb. 11 entry, below.

Costa Mesa (cont'd), Feb. 11, 2005: Cameras Suspended for a Month, or More
Articles in the Feb. 12 Orange County Register and the Feb. 15 LA Times said that Costa Mesa is suspending, for 30 days, the use of three of its four cameras (all but the one at Harbor and Adams).  [Ticket counts received in late April indicate that in the month of March, the Newport Blvd. cameras did not operate at all - so it is possible that they have been suspended for more than just 30 days.]  In Jan. 2005 an appellate court found (in
People vs. Fischetti) that the City should have issued warning tickets for 30 days upon the installation of each new camera but didn't (Defect # 6), and that it should not have allowed a separate government agency (CalTrans) to set and control the timing of the signals (see Defect # 10 on the Home page).  That appellate decision could affect all the tickets issued thus far at those three intersections.  An article in the Feb. 12 Daily Pilot said the City says it is not going to do a refund on tickets already issued.  So, if you want a dismissal or a refund, you will have to plead not guilty and contest your ticket.  I have posted a new Trial by Declaration form, at the bottom of the Your Ticket page, so that you can fight your ticket without having to attend a trial in person.
This appellate decision could affect thousands of tickets in other cities, too.

Costa Mesa (cont'd), Feb. 23, 2005:  The City Will Appeal
According to an article in the Feb. 23 Register, the City has decided to appeal Judge Margines' decision.

Costa Mesa (cont'd), March 16, 2005:  Appeal Rejected, City Goes to Supreme Court
According to an article in the March 16 Register, the Fourth District Court of Appeals has rejected the City's appeal, so the City is taking the case to the California Supreme Court.

Costa Mesa (cont'd), May 11, 2005:  Fischetti Wins
On May 11, 2005 the Supreme Court denied the City's petition to review; so, the decision in favor of appellant Fischetti, and against the City of Costa Mesa, is final.
If you want to fight your ticket using the warning tickets issue, see the sample Trial by Declaration, at the bottom of the Your Ticket page.

Costa Mesa (cont'd), Aug. 11, 2005:  New Speed Surveys Could Be "In the Bag"
On Aug. 11 CalTrans put bags over the cameras at Newport and 19th and 17th, just for the day, while they were conducting a new speed survey.  The speed survey will determine whether the speed limits need to be changed.  If the speed limits are lowered, they will be able to shorten the length of the yellow lights.  They might not automatically do so, but the lower limit would allow them to do so if they wished.
CalTrans' reason for bagging the cameras doubtlessly was honorable; they didn't want the threat of a camera ticket to influence driver's speeds during the survey.  But  I think the presence of the bags will cause people to be curious and slow down and look, and could have more of an effect than the presence of unbagged cameras.  I have just written to CalTrans to make that point - but they might ignore a comment from just one person.  If you want to call them too, their # is (949) 724-2000

Costa Mesa (cont'd), Sept. 1, 2005:  Still in the Bag!
On Sept. 1,  I got a reply from CalTrans about the bagged cameras - see Aug. 11 entry, above.
Deputy District Director James Pinheiro wrote:
"The reason for covering the red light cameras during the data collection portion of the  Speed Zone Survey is for compliance with Section 2B.116 of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices 2003 California Supplement.  Among other things, the Engineering and Traffic Survey portion of this section stipulates that "The speed of traffic should not be altered by concentrated law enforcement, or other means, just prior to, or while taking the speed measurements."  We consider the red light cameras to be concentrated law enforcement and the City of Costa Mesa agreed to shut down this enforcement during the period of speed data collection."
Following the receipt of Mr. Pinheiro's letter, I wrote to overall CalTrans Director Will Kempton, in Sacramento, and asked him to look into the matter.  I sent that letter on Sept. 1.  As of Oct. 24, Mr. Kempton still had not replied.  His # is (916) 654-5266.

Costa Mesa (cont'd):  More Coming
There may be some more Costa Mesa developments.  If you got a red light camera ticket in Costa Mesa, mark your calendar to remind you to come back here and look!