Costa Mesa is ‘investing in progress,’ mayor says in annual State of the City address

Mayor John Stephens Friday at the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce's State of the City luncheon at the Hilton Orange County.
Mayor John Stephens speaks Friday during the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City luncheon at the Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Speaking before 250 people assembled Friday in a ballroom of the Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa, Mayor John Stephens found himself rushing through a five-page list of the city’s recent accomplishments.

Breaking down the past year of civic achievements into the broad categories of public safety, homelessness, business, education and community, the mayor at one point acknowledged he was getting a gesture from city staff to wrap things up.

“No more clapping,” he joked at one point. “No clapping, no laughing, no fun — we’re going to get through this stuff.”

Mayor John Stephens before a picture of the city's permanent bridge shelter Friday at an annual State of the City luncheon.
Mayor John Stephens speaks as a picture of the city’s permanent bridge shelter Friday at an annual State of the City luncheon at the Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

But levity aside, there was much to convey at the annual State of the City luncheon, an annual event presented by the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce during which mayors reflect on the happenings at City Hall, in the business community and beyond.

Sticking to the theme of this year’s talk, “Investing in Progress,” Stephens provided highlights of recent developments, partnerships and commitments that have been made for the benefit of the public.

He shared how the city acquired state funding through Project Homekey to transition an aging Motel 6 into 88 units of permanent supportive housing for seniors, veterans and at-risk individuals and described an effort with state officials to determine an effective use for the 114-acre state-owned Fairview Developmental Center that could also include housing.

“We received $3.5 million to help us decide what goes [there], and we will need feedback from the community,” he said.

Mayor John Stephens speaks during the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce annual State of the City luncheon Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Stephens pointed out achievements in public safety, including the hiring of eight police officers and 13 new fire department personnel. Officials are currently considering automatic license plate recognition cameras that will check the license plates of cars in key areas in search of numbers flagged by police jurisdictions, and they are eyeing software that will allow first responders to hear 911 calls live when en route to calls.

The mayor listed an entire calendar of dedications, ribbon-cutting ceremonies and improvements made at city-owned properties, including the installation of two pickleball courts at Tanager Park and an instrument play area outside the Donald Dungan Library.

With breakneck speed, Stephens touched on recently granted retail cannabis use permits, recognition of the city’s Michelin star-rated restaurants, the opening of a 432,000-square-foot headquarters for defense contractor Anduril and the efforts of volunteers doing good deeds as part of “Love Costa Mesa,” a community-wide day of service.

He listed the city’s core values, homing in on inclusiveness. He recalled how a group of monolingual Spanish-speaking residents came to a recent City Council meeting to express their concerns about rising rental costs and got answers and assistance via translation devices and directly from council members who spoke Spanish.

“It wasn’t always like that in the city of Costa Mesa,” he said. “But it’s a new day with a new council — we’re Costa Mesa for everybody. And together, we’re going to continue to make progress.”

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