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Could Fairview Developmental Center’s 100 acres ease Costa Mesa’s housing shortage?

Costa Mesa's Fairview Developmental Center, pictured in February 2020, is being eyed as a housing opportunity for the city.
Costa Mesa’s Fairview Developmental Center, pictured in February 2020, is being eyed as a housing opportunity for the city that could accommodate up to 2,300 units. The state, which owns the property, has paid $3.5 million for city officials to determine a plan for its use.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

As the city of Costa Mesa strives to meet a state mandate requiring officials to zone for 11,733 residential units by 2029, a vast and largely unused property could play a significant role in meeting the city’s future housing needs.

The City Council in a public hearing Tuesday will discuss possible uses for Fairview Developmental Center, a state-run facility adjacent to the Costa Mesa Country Club that served individuals with developmental disabilities from 1959 until its last patients were relocated in 2020.

The center was equipped during the COVID-19 pandemic to house up to 760 low-acuity patients, allowing hospitals to admit more serious cases. Yet its patient census throughout the pandemic remained much lower than its capacity.

Costa Mesa's Fairview Developmental Center in February 2020.
Costa Mesa’s Fairview Developmental Center housed coronavirus patients during the pandemic. Now, state and city officials are determining whether the vacant 100-plus-acre site might be rezoned for residential use.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Considering the site as a possible housing opportunity, city officials sketched out a concept for 1,500 mixed-use, mixed-income housing units. An ad hoc committee reckoned the site could provide workforce housing, living options for veterans and permanent supportive housing for individuals at risk of homelessness.

As California’s housing crisis reached critical levels, state officials agreed to draw up a plan for the disposition of the property. Now, the state has agreed to fund $3.5 million for the city to conduct public outreach that could lead to the potential rezoning of the property for residential use.

Council members are set to consider whether the site may be configured to hold up to 2,300 residential units in their regular meeting Tuesday. Initial options include assembling a project team and potentially seeking consultants to assist with the process.

To fulfill a mandate that Costa Mesa accommodate 11,760 new residential units by 2029, leaders are surveying every possibility before an Oct. 15 deadline.

The discussion comes as the city spreads the word about Measure K, a ballot initiative that would ease restrictions against development in certain commercial and industrial corridors.

Its passage would effectively undo, in those areas, the mandates of 2016 voter-backed initiative Measure Y, which calls for voter approval of large-scale developments that seek entitlements beyond the city’s zoning code.

The council meeting begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Costa Mesa City Hall, 77 Fair Drive. For the meeting agenda, visit costamesaca.gov.

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