The developer of a controversial project to replace a College Park commercial center with a multi-story housing development withdrew his application ahead of Tuesday night's Costa Mesa City Council meeting, sparking a smattering of applause from project opponents.
Council members had been scheduled to decide the fate of the proposal to demolish the existing two-story building at 440 Fair Drive and replace it with 28 residential units.
Instead, Steve Sheldon — chief executive of Newport Beach-based Sheldon Development LLC — pulled the application before the council could consider it, Mayor Katrina Foley said during Tuesday’s meeting.
“It’s withdrawn from consideration, and if he wants to bring a project forward, he will have to start all over again,” she said.
Sheldon said Wednesday that he intends to “resubmit one or two alternative plans” for the site, possibly within the next month.
“We look forward to working with city staff and going out and meeting again with neighbors in College Park,” he said.
For more than a year, Sheldon has sought city approval to level the building on the 1.66-acre property and replace it with eight detached units and 20 duplex units in multi-level buildings.
Sheldon has said the project would rid the area of an aging and blighted building and reduce traffic to and from the site, since residential properties typically generate fewer car trips than commercial uses.
Several residents, largely in the adjacent College Park area, have bristled at the project’s proposed density and said it would increase traffic and cause parking headaches in their neighborhood.
Those living near the property have flooded the city with emails and letters outlining their concerns and packed City Hall on several occasions to voice their opposition.
Residents, some wearing stickers with the slogan “College Park united,” were on hand again Tuesday to oppose the development.
Some said they aren’t opposed to the commercial site being improved or redeveloped but said whatever is put there needs to fit with the surrounding area.
“We do want to see this property redeveloped, either with a new business/office project that would benefit our community or residential homes that are more compatible with ours that wouldn’t be a burden or problem for the residents of College Park,” neighborhood residents Dane and Sue Till wrote in an email to the council before the meeting. “High-density housing is ruining the city of Costa Mesa.”
Businesses currently at the center include Hotties Pizza, small offices and several spas and massage parlors.
In an interview with the Daily Pilot last week, Sheldon said he has met with several residents in College Park and tried to tweak the project to address their concerns.
Those changes included reducing the height of the eight proposed detached units and keeping the entrance to the property on Fair Drive rather than providing access from Carnegie Avenue, as originally proposed.
The Planning Commission voted 3-0 in November to recommend that the council deny the earlier version of the project, citing concerns about building a high-density development next to the single-family neighborhood.
The alterations didn’t seem to placate the project’s opponents. About three dozen sent emails or letters to the city in just the past week.
“As a resident of 19 years, I don’t want this in our College Park community,” Nafey Wennerberg wrote. “It will congest our neighborhood and our streets. The parking will be a mess.”
Two people sent messages favoring the project. College Park resident Ty Brown said the development would be an asset to the community.
“The current 440 Fair building must go,” he wrote in an email. “It is an eyesore to Costa Mesa and College Park. It has a negative impact on surrounding property values.”
Sheldon said that “with all the emotion and some residents either not understanding or not caring about the substantive changes made, it was apparent I needed to hit the reset button.”
“We’ll come back with concepts to discuss with the neighbors and the city,” Sheldon said.