New Westside event venue gets Costa Mesa council approval

Calling it a positive addition to the area, Costa Mesa City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve plans for the Harper, a new event and banquet center in the city’s Westside.

The decision upheld the Planning Commission’s earlier endorsement of the project and denied an appeal by an executive of a nearby business.

The venue will be in an existing one-story, 6,461-square-foot building at 1618 Ohms Way. It will be part of Hospitality Collaborative, a catering and event collective that includes the Fig House, an upscale venue in Los Angeles.

“We have a client base here in Orange County that we’ve been servicing with our catering companies for a very long time and are excited to, at long last, have a venue for our community of clients and friends where they can host meaningful occasions,” said Steve Fortunato, owner and founder of Hospitality Collaborative.

The Harper could host private parties, weddings, receptions, exhibitions, corporate gatherings and similar events.

“I think these are the kind of projects we want on the Westside,” Councilman Jim Righeimer said. “I think it’s an eclectic area ... there’s a real coolness factor and I think they’re going to have a lot of great events there.”

The proposal went to the council because Ryan Warren — chief executive of Bright Guard LLC in a business center at 711 W. 17th St. — appealed the Planning Commission’s November approval of the project.

Warren said the appeal was filed “on behalf of several property owners” in the center and expressed concern that opening the facility could strain already scarce parking in the area.

In a letter dated Tuesday, Warren asked the council to postpone the appeal hearing, as he would not be able to attend due to a recent medical emergency with his mother.

Council members said they were sympathetic but opted to proceed.

Costa Mesa city codes require a venue the size of the Harper to have 86 parking spaces. However, there are only 15 striped spaces available onsite.

To meet the standard, Hospitality Collaborative will use spots available at nearby properties, along with valet service to maximize those spaces.

The original plan was to use shared parking at 729 and 1626 Ohms Way and 1609 Pomona Ave.

However, the owner of 1609 Pomona decided not to participate. . Though Hospitality Collaborative secured additional parking at 705 and 722 Ohms, the project came up three spaces short of the requirement, according to city staff.

When businesses at those other properties are open, the Harper will be able to host only smaller-scale events.

Fortunato said he doesn’t anticipate using all the required spaces and that he and his team will know head counts for events well ahead of time and can operate accordingly to avoid adverse effects.

Council members said they were willing to give Fortunato a bit of wiggle room. But added should problems arise, they would have a chance to step in.

“I imagine we will get complaints if it doesn’t work and, as a business owner, he’s either going to address the complaints and fix the problem or we’re going to be back here fixing it for him,” Councilwoman Katrina Foley said.

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