Costa Mesa City Council members voted unanimously to process a general plan amendment request for a proposed townhome project near the downtown area.
Tuesday night's vote didn't approve the development itself but allowed the applicant, The Olson Co., to move ahead with the process of potentially rezoning the project site from commercial to residential.
As proposed, the project would include 27 three-story townhomes, each with two or three bedrooms, on two parcels to the north and south of Ford Road at its intersection with Newport Boulevard. Those properties currently contain public storage and RV storage facilities.
The Olson Co. also is in negotiations to buy an adjacent property on Ford Road that could expand the project to 38 units, according to city staff.
A portion of Ford near Newport would be closed to through traffic as part of the project.
Though the precise layout and design aren't final, some residents and council members said Tuesday that the company should consider reducing the height of the proposed buildings.
"Three stories is a concern," Councilman Allan Mansoor said. "I'm more comfortable with two stories."
Some residents of the nearby Rolling Homes mobile home park told the council they regularly use Ford Road as a way to get to Harbor Boulevard without having to battle traffic that regularly builds up where the 55 Freeway ends at 19th Street.
Closing part of the road, they said, also could make it harder for emergency responders to get into the mobile home park or for residents to leave quickly should the need arise.
A few residents living along Ford, however, said they favor the closure. They said it could help slow traffic and reduce problems stemming from people cutting through the neighborhood or loitering in the area.
Council members said several issues will need to be ironed out, including how to address concerns raised by Rolling Homes residents.
"I don't know what the solution is, but we do need to look at how the mobile home residents are going to take access so that it's safe for them," Mayor Katrina Foley said.
Councilman Jim Righeimer expressed concern over the potential use of tandem parking, as detailed in the conceptual site plan. In tandem parking, spaces are lined up so the one in front is accessible only by passing through the one behind it.
"I'm supportive of going to the next step but very concerned about the tandem," he said. "So let's see if we can fix that."
Mayor Pro Tem Sandy Genis said the city needs to determine soon whether the project is subject to Measure Y, a local initiative that requires voter approval for building projects that necessitate a general plan amendment or zoning change and meet certain other criteria.
"If the applicant is facing a potential Measure Y election, they should know now," she said. "They shouldn't be going down the primrose path thinking they're going to be OK."