Costa Mesa Planning Commission begins discussion of environmental impact of One Metro West mixed-use project

A rendering of One Metro West shows a development that would replace an industrial building at 1683 Sunflower Ave. in Costa Mesa with a campus of residential buildings, an office building and retail space.
A rendering of One Metro West shows a development that would replace an industrial building at 1683 Sunflower Ave. in Costa Mesa with a campus of residential buildings, an office building and retail space.
(Courtesy of Brent Stoll)

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the wheels of development are slowly grinding forward in Costa Mesa.

During a crowded conference call Monday night, the Planning Commission heard a presentation about One Metro West, a proposed development featuring 1,057 housing units in addition to 6,000 square feet of retail, a 25,000-square-foot office building and 1.7 acres of open and park space on about 15 acres at 1683 Sunflower Ave.

The project would replace an existing industrial building.

The developer, Rose Equities, addressed a draft environmental impact report nearly a year in the making, analyzing the development’s potential effects on traffic, noise, visibility, greenhouse gases and Sunflower Avenue. To get sign-off from the city, the project must go through an arduous review process, including the environmental report.

The development would affect traffic flow on Susan Street and South Coast Drive, as well as several onramps to the 405 Freeway, said Nancy Huynh, city associate planner.

Part of the goal of the project, which would have parking garages under every residential building, is to contain workers within Costa Mesa, said Brent Stoll, partner at Rose Equities. He alluded to workers at the Press, a commercial development in the works just down the road at 1375 Sunflower.

“Very soon, 3,000 jobs at the Press will go home every night. The question is, where will they go?” Stoll said. “Will they stay in our neighborhood north of the 405?”

Commissioners peppered city staff and Stoll with questions about specifics — how many electric vehicle parking spots would there be? Why were there no homeownership options? Where is the internal walking path?

But much of the discussion took a tone familiar to previous Costa Mesa housing projects: concern about mandated housing allocations.

The Southern California Assn. of Governments says Costa Mesa needs to plan for an additional 11,734 housing units over the next 10 years. One Metro West’s 1,057 units would “make a dent, of sorts, in that number,” Planning Commission Vice Chairman Jeffrey Harlan said.

Stoll said it would include a mixture of units designated as affordable — at least 105 — and apartments of varying sizes.

He described the project as a “cohesive ecosystem for residents to thrive.”

The development would include 1.5 acres of privately owned and operated open space that would be open to the public, Stoll said. The area would abound with public art, garden and seating areas and a connection to the Santa Ana River trail.

“The vision for this open space is to create that lazy Sunday feeling,” Stoll said.

Brent Stoll, partner at developer Rose Equities, calls the proposed One Metro West a "cohesive ecosystem for residents to thrive."
(Courtesy of Brent Stoll)

Sunflower Avenue would be redesigned to accommodate the buildings, narrowing from four traffic lanes to three and adding a bicycle lane, landscaping and parallel parking spaces. Power lines would be placed underground along the front of the project.

“Sunflower’s arguably going to become the nicest-looking street in Costa Mesa,” Stoll said.

Most members of the public who submitted comments for the meeting expressed excitement about the project. Others questioned how many units would be affordable and some mentioned concerns about possible visibility issues, given the height of the buildings. The tallest would be seven stories, Huynh said.

Assistant City Attorney Tarquin Preziosi said his office “has not made a determination if [One Metro West] would be subject to Measure Y,” a local ballot initiative that voters approved in 2016. The measure requires some larger development projects — namely those with a general plan amendment or zoning change that adds 40 or more dwelling units or 10,000 or more square feet of commercial space — to go before city voters.

As written, the project would change the general plan land use designation from “industrial park” to “high density residential” and rezone the property.

Though the development would be squarely in the city’s Measure X “green zone” — an area north of South Coast Drive and west of Harbor Boulevard where marijuana businesses are allowed to operate — One Metro West would not house cannabis businesses, Huynh said.

The project accounted for the bulk of Monday’s nearly six-hour meeting, which most commissioners and developers attended via phone. The meeting location — the council chamber at City Hall — is closed to the public, and those who wanted to participate were asked to email comments to the city clerk to be read aloud during the meeting.

The Planning Commission fielded complaints from residents upset that a key project was being considered without the usual channels for public participation.

“While the whole world is debating what is essential business, the city of Costa Mesa is going full speed ahead and acting disrespectfully to its residents as if COVID-19 is nothing and city business can be [business as usual],” former Costa Mesa Councilwoman Wendy Leece said in an email. “How is discussion of these items essential?”

The discussion of One Metro West’s environmental impacts will continue at the commission’s next meeting April 27. If the city approves the project as a whole, construction could begin in January 2022 and last five years, with the first tenants moving in in 2025, according to a city staff report.

Also Monday, the commission voted 4-3 to continue until late May discussion about a proposed sign policy at the Triangle, the shopping and dining complex at the corner of Newport Boulevard and 19th Street that marks the entrance to the city from the 55 Freeway.

Developer Tyler Mateen and the Triangle LLC are proposing a revised “planned signage program” that would allow for nearly 5,000 square feet of signage on the property, including LED screens.

The signs would be used for advertisements, event promotions, public service announcements and other community engagement, according to the application.

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