Official to low-income earners: If you can't afford Costa Mesa, look somewhere else

Depending on which Costa Mesa City Council member you ask, the idea of requiring some developers to include affordable housing in their projects is either a viable strategy to secure much-needed shelter for lower-income residents or essentially a municipal money grab.

Either way, such a requirement isn't likely coming to Costa Mesa any time soon.

Council members declined to move ahead with a so-called inclusionary housing ordinance during a meeting Tuesday night. Such an ordinance could have required developers of certain projects to incorporate affordable units or pay fees to the city instead.

"The goal is to try to protect the quality of the community — don't overbuild it, use measured development that is planned and thoughtful," said Councilwoman Katrina Foley, who requested that city staff bring the matter forward. "I don't see that we're doing that in any way, shape or form, and we're definitely not providing housing for our workforce."

Such an ordinance could apply to projects that receive some sort of incentive or benefit from the city, Councilwoman Sandy Genis said.

"If we're giving something, we need to get something," she said. "If we're going to have a healthy community, we need to have housing for our workers."

According to city documents, "one-third of cities and counties in California have adopted some form of inclusionary zoning," including 10 cities in Orange County.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, however, said he was "completely against" the idea, which he called "socialized housing."

"What it is, is stealing," he said. "It's taking money from somebody that doesn't belong to you. Government comes in, passes laws to say, 'You pay money because I have power over you; I've got votes up here and you can't develop on your own property unless you give money to somebody.' That's called theft."

People struggling to find homes they can afford in and around Costa Mesa should look elsewhere instead, Righeimer said.

"I'm going to be very clear, and this is a wakeup call to people: If you cannot afford to live here and your kids can't have decent housing, you should look at where you can afford," he said.

Foley said it's "ridiculous" to tell families, even those with deep roots in the community, that "it's time for them to go live in Arkansas or somewhere because, you know, we're just too expensive for them now and they don't have any more rights to live here.

"It's not theft; it's not socialist," Foley said of the inclusionary housing concept. It's about negotiating to receive "a benefit for our community," she said.

After debating the issue, the council eventually decided not to move forward with the ordinance.

Lucas.money@latimes.com

Follow @LukeMMoney on Twitter

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A version of this article appeared in print on April 23, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Costa Mesa punts on housing plan - Divided council decides not to move forward on affordable housing requirement for developers." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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