Costa Mesa : Condo Project Rejected on Portion of Oil Field

Plans to build a condominium development on a Costa Mesa oil field went down in defeat when the City Council, concerned by the proximity of residential development to oil production, failed to approve the environmental impact report prepared for the project.

The 4-1 vote Monday effectively doomed the project, which is stymied without an approved environmental report, said Kathryn Lottes, an associate planner for the city. "The applicant would be free to start over again, but that would involve a new (report) and a new project," Lottes said.

Susan Bemis, vice president of Ocean Development Co. Inc. of Costa Mesa, said Tuesday the company will ask the council to reconsider.

"I'm obviously going to appeal the decision and try to show them that other cities such as Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Santa Fe Springs have all sorts of developments amid oil fields," Bemis said. "There are loads of them and I think it's an appropriate use."

Ocean Development has a week to file for the appeal and Bemis hopes the matter will be back on the agenda by next month.

Under the proposal rejected by the council, the 160-unit condominium development would have been built on a 10.9-acre parcel, roughly one-third of which would have been an oil "tank farm," while the rest would have been devoted to housing construction. Eight active oil wells would have been scattered throughout the residential portion of the development.

When the project was approved by the Planning Commission last week, several conditions were added to the development, including requirements that oil and gas pipes be equipped with automatic shut-off valves. Also, all drilling and work could only be carried out during daylight hours and wells, tanks and other fixtures were to have been screened from residents' view.

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