Officials Hear Catcalls on Plan

Times Staff Writer

Facing a crowd of more than 300, the Costa Mesa Redevelopment Agency on Monday postponed a decision on a controversial plan that would place a large portion of the city's west side in a redevelopment area.

Under consideration is a proposal to expand a 200-acre downtown redevelopment area to include an additional 434 acres representing about 600 property owners, a designation that would give the city the right to buy the land through eminent domain.

The City Council, sitting as the redevelopment agency, convened the meeting. Although city officials say they haven't determined what should be developed in the mixed zone of residential and industrial buildings, some have suggested that streets could be better maintained and zoning altered to create a more uniform look -- possibly including upscale housing.

More than two hours after Monday's meeting began, however, no audience members had had a chance to speak. But many reacted with boos and catcalls to statements from a representative of Urban Futures, a consulting firm hired by the city, regarding which parcels might be condemned.

"They are making decisions without information," complained Dan Gribble, owner of a marine engine sales and service company in the proposed redevelopment area. The decision by the agency, he said, will affect his net worth, business outlook and retirement plans. "They do not have adequate information," he said, "but what they decide could affect the rest of my life."

Councilwoman Libby Cowan also expressed doubts about a process she said has "created angst" in the community. Like many in the audience, she questioned why a vote was being sought before there was a clear vision of what should be done in the area.

"While I certainly think there is a positive aspect to redevelopment," she said, "I have a lot of skepticism."

Councilman Gary Monahan, who has supported redevelopment in the past, seemed to share that mood. "I have no desire to go forward to all 434 acres," said Monahan, adding that he would consider redevelopment only along 19th Street.

Resident Bruce Wilson said he opposes the redevelopment plan because it punishes those already trying to improve the area. In the end, the council announced that the meeting would be continued to an unspecified time next month. The reason: With 90 people signed up to speak for three minutes each, hearing them would take too long.

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