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Relatively roomy lots proposed

Owners of a roughly 2-acre, undeveloped parcel in Eastside Costa Mesa are proposing a new housing tract that they contend will ease neighbors' initial concerns about lot size, density and setbacks.

Newport Beach-based Meadows Asset Management is planning a 13-home development near Santa Ana Avenue and East 22nd Street.

The parcel, which is near Newport city limits, is among the largest undeveloped swaths of valuable land on the Eastside, where homes routinely fetch $1 million and above.

The tract, preliminarily named Harper's Cove, is within a nearly 14-acre piece of unincorporated county land known as Santa Ana/Colleen Island.

The existing 51 homes there are within Costa Mesa's sphere of influence, and the city is positioning itself to annex the area, though that decision will ultimately be up to a county commission.

For months, residents of Santa Ana/Colleen Island have told the City Council that they have concerns about the empty field behind their homes being developed. That is where they have long understood new homes will be built.

Rear setback spacing between the proposed development and Colleen Place backyards has been a primary concern.

But Meadows' plans call for large setbacks surpassing city and county standards, said Peter Naghavi, a retired Costa Mesa administrator who is serving as a consultant on the project.

The seven homes that would abut eight existing Colleen Place backyards are to have 18-foot rear setbacks for the first floor and a generous 25-foot setback for the second floor, Naghavi said. The remainder of the tract would have varying setback dimensions. 

If the new development were bound by current Costa Mesa citywide "R1" zoning standards on single-family homes, the rear setback requirement for the homes' first floors would be 10 feet, Naghavi said.

The county's R1 setback requirements for Harper's Cove, whose lot depths are less than 100 feet, would be about 17 feet.

Naghavi has met with Santa Ana/Colleen residents during community meetings and said he received positive feedback about the adjustment.

"I think they were surprised with what we presented," Naghavi said.

Harper's Cove would have two entrances — a primary one off Santa Ana Avenue and a secondary off East 22nd.

Speed bumps in the tract would deter drivers from using it as a bypass, Naghavi said.

Naghavi, who retired in 2013 after some 24 years at City Hall, said he saw many housing projects — mostly of medium and high density — built during his tenure, but nothing quite like this.

Over the years, many residents have said they would prefer high-quality developments of single-family homes in low-density settings; Harper's Cove fits that scenario, Naghavi said.

"It's what the city wants," he said.

Harper's Cove would be low-density, with roughly 3,000-square-foot, two-story homes starting around $1.3 million. Some would have three-car garages. Five guest spots on the street would complement parking on driveways and in garages.

Meadows had considered as many as 18 homes on its 2.11-acre plot, but the company wanted to be more responsive to community needs and ultimately went with 13, Naghavi said.

The tract's proposed name is a reference to the village of Harper, a predecessor community to modern-day Costa Mesa.

Naghavi said Meadows Asset Management is requesting 6,000-square-foot lot sizes for Harper Cove's current site plan, a smaller lot size than the council initially approved in June.

The council approved 6,600-square-foot lot sizes for any new Santa Ana/Colleen developments. Councilwomen Sandy Genis and Wendy Leece dissented.

In her dissenting motion, Leece called for maintaining the county's larger lot-size minimum, as the residents had requested. Genis suggested delaying the matter and bringing back more proposals at a later date.

"The city's not going to catch on fire if we don't do this [tonight,]" Genis said during the June 17 meeting.

The move was considered a compromise solution between the city's 6,000-square-foot lot size minimum and the county's 7,200 square feet.

The council is scheduled to reexamine the pre-zoning ordinance Sept. 2.

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