Future of Fairview Developmental Center site is topic of general plan dissension in Costa Mesa

As Costa Mesa approaches the finish line for updating its general plan – the city's blueprint for new development through 2035 – the future of the Fairview Developmental Center was among the plan's items discussed Tuesday during a special City Council meeting.

State officials have proposed closing the 114-acre facility off Harbor Boulevard that is home to about 240 developmentally disabled people, some of whom require round-the-clock care.


In advance of a closure, the City Council unanimously recommended last year that the updated general plan allow for 500 new housing units on the property, as well as about 28 acres of open space and additional space for public or private recreational facilities. The housing would include apartments for the developmentally disabled under a project nicknamed Shannon's Mountain, approved by Gov. Jerry Brown last year.

On Tuesday, the council denied a proposal for an adjusted plan for Fairview featuring 582 housing units, with 250 of them single-family homes on 51 acres and the remaining 332 as multifamily units on nine acres.


The plan also called for nearly 26 acres of open space and about 17 acres of "institutional" uses, which could include medical offices.

The adjusted plan was based on a suggestion in May by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer.

The proposal failed on a 2-2 tie, with council members Sandy Genis and Katrina Foley dissenting. Councilman Gary Monahan was absent.

The city received a letter Tuesday from the California Department of General Services, which oversees Fairview, opposing the 582-unit plan. The letter said the state has not completed its economic analysis for Fairview and wants more flexibility on the acres and density permissible for Shannon's Mountain.

The council also rejected a series of suggestions by Foley. She sought to have the Fairview property be 37% open space and 40% institutional, with the remaining acres set aside for 450 housing units – 50 fewer than she recommended last year.

Foley suggested 150 single-family homes at a density of 10 per acre and the remaining 300 units at 40 per acre. She said the housing should prioritize the needs of social services, the homeless, veterans and other groups.

Her motion failed on a 2-2 tie, with Righeimer and Mayor Steve Mensinger dissenting.

Righeimer cautioned against such changes, saying that while it would be ideal to turn the entire facility into a park, the state wants money for its land. Plans for homes overlooking the city golf course, which surrounds much of the Fairview property, will help sell the project, he said, and in return, Costa Mesa will get about 25 acres of parks to help fulfill its demand for sports fields.

Foley also suggested removing plans to offer owners of motels along Harbor or Newport boulevards incentives to demolish their businesses – some of which have been known locations of criminal activity – and build new high-density apartments. Her motion failed, with Righeimer and Mensinger dissenting.

Foley, who along with Genis voted against the incentive plan when it came up for a recommendation vote last year, said she doesn't want motel "pimps and prostitutes" either but doesn't favor replacing the businesses with high-rise apartment complexes.

Much of Tuesday's meeting was devoted to public comments, in which longstanding community issues resurfaced: traffic, crime at motels and new development, which was called both a blight and a blessing.

One affordable-housing advocate called the general plan an "attractant for greed" because it doesn't include provisions encouraging new housing for the poor.

Other speakers said new development is causing more traffic. Resident Katie Arthur called the construction of new high-density housing a "frightening" and "unabated" trend.

Jim Kerins, who serves on the city's Bikeway and Walkability Committee, said he favors Costa Mesa's current direction, compared with what he called its "decay" in the 1980s and '90s.

He urged more urban-style housing favored by Generation X and millennials and said the majority of people against such housing who were in attendance Tuesday seemed to be older than 50.

"I think we've got to realize that most of the people in the city are not here [at the meeting]. ... Let's not allow a local selfish minority" to speak for all of Costa Mesa, he said.

The council is scheduled to complete the general plan update with a public hearing and subsequent vote June 21.

Meetings to update the plan began in 2013 and included several workshops with residents and others. Costa Mesa's current general plan was approved in 2002.


Bradley Zint,

Twitter: @BradleyZint