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Modified Proposal for Segerstrom Tower Goes Before Costa Mesa Council Monday

Times Staff Writer

On land that is now a bean field, one office tower would rise 20 stories. Beside it, connected by a circular pavilion, would be a 12-story office building.

For more than a year, these plans or an earlier version of them have pitted C. J. Segerstrom & Sons against residents who say they don’t want such intense commercial development near their homes.

The showdown will come Monday night when the Costa Mesa City Council will consider the One South Coast Place project.

This will be the council’s second chance to vote on the controversial development.

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Segerstrom lost the first round. The firm initially sought approval for a different design, a single “visionary” 32-story skyscraper on the same 100-acre parcel just east of Harbor Boulevard and north of the San Diego Freeway. But in March of 1986, after 300 hostile residents crowded the council chambers and the council appeared ready to turn down the plan, Segerstrom withdrew it.

First Major Defeat

That decision marked Segerstrom’s first major defeat before the Costa Mesa council. In the past 10 years, the city had approved half a dozen major Segerstrom projects, including the successful South Coast Plaza, an extension of that mall and Town Centers I and II.

This time, however, Segerstrom officials are optimistic that One South Coast Place will be approved, although “it’s best not to count your chickens before they’re hatched,” said Malcolm C. Ross, Segerstrom’s director of planning and design.

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Ross said the developer has spent several months explaining the project and showing models of it to community groups.

Also, he said, opposition had lessened because of the new design. “Before it was a landmark building--a great presence--but now it has been redesigned so that its presence is as slight as it can be,” he said. Now it appears “graceful,” he said, with its two towers sheathed in beige limestone and topped by copper-colored mansard roofs. If approved, the project could be built by December, 1989, and would have as its major tenant the regional headquarters of International Business Machines Corp., Ross said.

Opponents of the project say the new design is not an improvement. Jim Aynes, a leader of Mesa Action, a local environmental group, said the highest of the two Segerstrom towers, at 321 feet, still would be the tallest building in Costa Mesa. Last week, Mesa Action mailed about 5,000 flyers that warned “Skyscraper Returns! . . . Unless we do something, the developers plan to turn Costa Mesa into a DOWNTOWN L.A. or New York City.”

Councilman Objects

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Councilman Dave Wheeler, the project’s most vociferous opponent on the council, also objected to the new design. “It’s farce,” he said. “It’s the same square footage, (722,000 square feet as the single-tower version). It has the same traffic and other problems. All they did is lop off the top 12 stories and put them on the ground.”

Wheeler claimed that Segerstrom’s project was in the wrong place. “It’s the final step towards the urbanization of north Costa Mesa and it will rival Century City when it’s built out,” he warned.

But Wheeler said he believes the buildings probably will win approval Monday night. But if so, he said, he may circulate a petition seeking a citywide referendum on the issue.


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