C.J. Segerstrom & Sons asked a judge Wednesday to invalidate a proposed ballot referendum on whether the developer should be allowed to proceed with a scaled-down version of its controversial Home Ranch development in Costa Mesa.
The vote, sought by a group of neighborhood slow-growth advocates, would allow area residents to decide whether the Costa Mesa general plan should be amended to allow a 2.2-million-square-foot office project to be built.
The City Council approved the alternative, scaled-down density limit in June, months after citizens qualified a referendum on the 3.1-million-square-foot project that developers had initially sought.
A vote on the larger version already has been set for the November ballot and is not affected by the motion filed Wednesday. Neither does it affect the group's traffic-control initiative set for November.
Segerstrom officials told Orange County Superior Court Judge Tully H. Seymour that the second referendum should be declared invalid because it interferes with efforts by the developers and the city of Costa Mesa to comply with his 1987 court order to bring the general plan to state standards.
The judge took the motion under consideration and scheduled a hearing for Aug. 24.
As a matter of formality, the scaled-down version of the general plan was presented to Seymour Wednesday for review. Representatives for the citizens group did not appear in court to contest it.
At a news conference later, Segerstrom officials said if both amendments are overturned by voters, the city would be left without a state mandated general plan and would be in violation of the law.
"Clearly, we support the idea of the process. . . . But if the voters were to approve this, it would be an illegal act," said Tom Santley, a spokesman for C.J. Segerstrom & Sons.
Though he had not yet seen a copy of the motion, Dr. Stephen Goldberger, president of Costa Mesa Residents for Responsible Growth, one of the groups that sought the referendum, accused the developers and city officials of trying to deny citizens their right to participate in the planning process.
"If 5,600 citizens in Costa Mesa sign a petition saying they want to have some input on the general plan, which obviously . . . they feel is faulty and not in their best interest, you have one landowner against 5,600 citizens and the citizens have the law on their side," Goldberger said.
"Unless (Segerstrom and city officials) can pull some shenanigan and bend the law . . . and even if they can't . . . they are saying that they don't care what the citizens want. They want to build their project at all cost."
The 94-acre Home Ranch property, situated on farmland bounded by the San Diego Freeway, Fairview Road, Harbor Boulevard and Sunflower Avenue, has been the main issue of contention for the city's slow-growth advocates.
The larger version of the project, a $400-million complex to include office space, shops, a hotel, a health club and child care center, was approved in February by the City Council. The scaled-down version would still include two large office towers--One South Coast Place--the first of the multiphase project.
Seymour halted construction on One South Coast Place in October, 1987, at the request of the slow-growth group, which argued successfully that the city's general plan was inadequate because it did not set population density and square-footage standards for the site.
In February, the City Council revised the city's general plan specifying the 3.1-million-square-foot version. In May, the judge approved the amended plan and the city's revised environmental assessment.