Segerstrom Applies to Build Skyscraper : 32-Story Costa Mesa Structure Would Be County’s Tallest; Some Opposition Voiced

Times Staff Writer

Rushing to beat a planning deadline today, the C.J. Segerstrom & Sons development firm has filed plans with Costa Mesa to build a 32-story skyscraper that would be the county’s tallest building.

The company filed an application Wednesday to combine its earlier proposals for two 15-story high-rises into a single 32-story building, topped by a three-story cupola, on the north side of the San Diego Freeway at Harbor Boulevard.

The proposed building would overshadow the company’s 21-story Center Tower in Costa Mesa, now the county’s tallest building, and add yet another silhouette to the city’s growing urban skyline.

Segerstrom officials acknowledged that they were under the gun because of a one-year city moratorium, effective today, which would delay any change in development plans for the office project.

11th-Hour Move

The company’s 11th-hour move has raised the ire and concern of at least two City Council members, who say the project will lead to the further urbanization of Costa Mesa, which already is at the center of the county’s high-rise office building boom.


The change in plans would apply only to the first phase of the Segerstrom plan for developing about 90 acres of prime land--a project to be named South Coast Place--adjacent to the San Diego Freeway between Harbor Boulevard and the old Segerstrom family homestead on Fairview Road.

About 18 months ago, the Costa Mesa City Council approved the company’s master plan for the entire area, which calls for a 400-room hotel, 2.7-million square feet of office space and 80,000 square feet of retail space. A 25-story building still is tentatively planned for another part of the property.

Segerstrom officials said the change in plans will not increase the total amount of office space in the project, and added that the consolidation of two proposed buildings into one skyscraper would free more land for open space. They declined to reveal the cost of the proposed 32-story building.

In Wooded Park

In a statement released Thursday, the Segerstrom company said the proposed high-rise of granite and marble would be “placed in a 14-acre wooded park with large grass malls radiating from each of the building’s entrances.” A nonprofit day-care center that will serve children of employees in the development and be subsidized by the buildings’ tenants will be constructed in the first phase of construction.

However, Costa Mesa Vice Mayor Mary Hornbuckle and Councilman Dave Wheeler contend that the 32-story building would create an eyesore for nearby residents. They said it would be preferable to delay any decision on the skyscraper until the City Council completes its reassessment of the existing citywide plan for future growth.

“We should formulate the master plan first and then evaluate the project to see if it’s compatible with our land-use goals,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler added, however, that he personally considers the proposed new skyscraper “a travesty.” He said: “It will severely impact half the city by sight and the whole city in terms of air quality and traffic.”

Moreover, he predicted that the employees who work in the building will increase demands on the city’s scarce supply of rental housing, causing rents to rise.

Wheeler acknowledged that Costa Mesa already is an urban hub but said it is time for the city to draw the line.

“Unfortunately we are stuck with a lot of bad decisions made by former councils. But it is not what the people want. The people want less congestion and less high-density development,” he said.

Hornbuckle said she felt the most sympathy for homeowners who would live less than half a mile from the proposed building. “If I lived with a skyscraper in my backyard, I wouldn’t like it,” she said. The vice mayor added that Segerstrom’s proposed plan revision is “sure to require” additional environmental impact review by the city’s staff.

Officials Contacted

Segerstrom spokesman Tom Santley said the development firm had contacted all the City Council members and as many planning commissioners as possible in the past two weeks to outline the change in plans.

He conceded that some information about the project was sketchy--which he blamed on the company’s haste to beat the moratorium deadline. But he added that questions about construction schedules and the number of persons who would work in the new structure would be answered at a future time.

Doug Clark, development services director for the City of Costa Mesa, estimated that the Segerstrom proposal would be heard by the Planning Commission next February and in March by the City Council.