Shalimar Drive barriers discussed

The Costa Mesa Planning Commission and City Council during a joint session Tuesday discussed removing traffic barriers along Shalimar Drive.

The barriers, as well as parking restrictions, were put in place years ago in an effort to curb street crime that plagued the small Westside residential area throughout the 1980s and '90s.

Councilwoman Sandy Genis said "the barricades made a giant, giant difference" in improving conditions for Shalimar.

Still, some 20 years later, she added, "I think it's time to look at it again."

Commissioner Robert Dickson said some Shalimar property owners want the barriers removed so the community "can move forward."

Concerns were raised Tuesday about city code enforcement duties — like making sure car dealerships don't store inventory on residential streets or use them for test drives.

Councilman Gary Monahan said he worried that Costa Mesa could "become too much of a nanny state" with such government interference.

"Public roads are for cars," he said, adding that while some homeowners may complain about business patrons parking on residential streets, business owners complain about residents using their parking spots.

"At the end of the day, it's a public street, and you can park there," Monahan said.

Commissioner Colin McCarthy urged reexamination of the Westside urban development plans, which were approved around 2006.

Those plans "sat and sat" for years but are finally coming to fruition after the recession, as new developments come forward and get approved for the Westside, McCarthy said.

Still, many Westside residents have protested the developments, he noted, and so the plans could use updating.

Mayor Jim Righeimer said he was wary of changing the Westside plans because only about 60 or so new homes have been built.

Changing the Westside's game plan would be premature, he said.

"We're just not there," Righeimer said.

Commission Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick said the area near John Wayne Airport could use more City Hall attention, possibly a development plan of its own.

"We've really never looked at the airport area," he said, adding that a plan would give that community its own voice.

Fitzpatrick noted that without city guidance, the airport area is evolving into a mixed bag of businesses, light industry, schools and churches. And just last month, the council approved development of a 240-unit apartment complex.

Righeimer said approving the apartments for 125 E. Baker St. was a unique situation, and that other residential projects or rezoning proposals for the airport area are unlikely.

Monahan said he didn't favor city development plans because, after all the work that goes into them, they "just sit on shelves and collect dust."

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