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O.C. supervisors approve moving mental health clinic within Costa Mesa, despite city objections

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Orange County supervisors decided this week to lease property at 2801 Bristol St. in Costa Mesa to use as a mental healthcare clinic.
(Daily Pilot)

Despite objections from Costa Mesa officials, the Orange County Board of Supervisors this week approved moving a mental healthcare clinic within the city from its current location by John Wayne Airport into a former sober-living facility.

The Orange County Health Care Agency has for years provided behavioral health services for children and adults out of a 12,093-square-foot office space at 3115 Red Hill Ave. County officials determined they needed more space, however, so they proposed signing a 15-year lease for 15,518 square feet at 2801 Bristol St.

Both properties are in Costa Mesa, about a 1.6-mile drive from each other.

The Bristol lease, which the board approved on a 4-0 vote Tuesday — with Supervisor Andrew Do absent — begins May 1.

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“This board has made it a priority to support mental health services for Orange County residents,” said Vice Chairwoman Michelle Steel, whose supervisorial district includes Costa Mesa. “This is one of the pillars of those services. It has existed for 30 years and, with this item, will continue to exist to provide support for adults, children — mostly children and youth and families — with mental and behavioral health issues.”

Steel emphasized that the agency will not be running a sober-living facility at the site.

“The services are provided [for] residents of this community and we will not bring in other people from around the county. ... We will simply transfer over the same services that have been provided down the street for over 30 years,” she said.

Costa Mesa officials, however, opposed the move. Principal Planner Minoo Ashabi read a statement from the city that said Costa Mesa “strongly objects” to the lease.

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She pointed out that the city Planning Commission reviewed the concept Sept. 9 and decided the proposed use would be inconsistent with Costa Mesa’s general plan.

“The commission’s decision was in part due to proximity of the proposed use to an established residential community immediately adjacent to the site and ongoing negative impacts from an existing counseling facility at the site, as well as over-concentration of similar uses within the general vicinity,” Ashabi said.

County officials, though, said that determination didn’t preclude them from moving forward with the lease.

“We are a government entity; this would be a government use and, as such, the county is not bound by city zoning laws,” said County Counsel Leon Page. “It’s strictly a notice issue, and that notice was provided to the city of Costa Mesa.”

Steel said Tuesday that the proposal previously was delayed “to follow up some community concerns,” but couldn’t be put off any longer.

“This lease is being proposed because the county has been in the current building for 30 years and because of the building conditions and the need for more therapy rooms,” she said.

Ashabi said the city “would appreciate further cooperation between our organizations to ensure that the negative impacts from the proposed use are limited to the extent feasible.”

City News Service contributed to this report.

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