Costa Mesa’s Measure K, which won by 22 votes, challenged by resident seeking recount

Signs for a Nov. 3 rally in support of Measure K in Costa Mesa.
Signs for a Nov. 3 rally supporting Measure K in Costa Mesa. The initiative, which passed by 22 votes, is being challenged.
(James Carbone)

Costa Mesa’s Measure K passed by a narrow margin — 22 votes — in a contest that amassed 32,944 ballots, but its fate may hang in the balance as county voting officials confirmed a request for a recount has been filed.

The Orange County Registrar of Voters reported Thursday a written request to have Measure K ballots recounted was submitted Tuesday by Costa Mesa resident Mary Spadoni. Such requests must be filed within five days of the certification of results, which occurred Dec. 2.

An outspoken opponent of the initiative, Spadoni addressed the City Council in a regular meeting Tuesday, accusing city officials of selling out to developers by backing Measure K.

“The 22 votes that passed this measure was certainly no mandate,” Spadoni said in a public comment via Zoom. “The residents who opposed ‘Yes on K’ saw $150,000 of developer money plus all of the tens of thousands of funds the unions flooded into this election, and we gave it a damn good fight.”

Mary Spadoni, seen in August 2021, at her home in Costa Mesa.
Mary Spadoni, pictured in August 2021 at her home in Costa Mesa, submitted a request to the Orange County Registrar of Voters Tuesday to recount Measure K ballots cast in the November election.
(Susan Hoffman)

Spadoni said Thursday the closeness of the results of Measure K — which received 16,483 yes votes and 16,461 against — and the fact that 1,311 more ballots were cast in that contest than in the city’s mayoral race were the two primary reasons behind the request for a recount.

“As of this time, we are awaiting information on moving forward with the ROV process of a recount,” she wrote in an email.

The passage of Measure K allows for the easing of an existing rule requiring voter approval of certain large-scale developments in identified commercial and industrial corridors in town, a move advocates say will allow city officials to amend outdated zoning codes and make room for needed housing.

Opponents like Spadoni, however, claim the initiative overrides the say of residents who would normally be allowed to vote on projects that exceed the parameters of the city’s General Plan and zoning code (granted by Measure Y, passed in 2016) without creating affordable housing.

Newly reelected Costa Mesa City Council members.
(Courtesy of Miss Darcy Photography)

Registrar Bob Page said voting officials are developing a cost estimate for the recount, indicating if Spadoni provides a deposit for the first day of work, recounting would begin Tuesday, according to laws that give the registrar seven days after a request is made to begin the process.

The by-precinct results of the recount would be released in daily updates at and would include an original tally alongside the recounted tally, the registrar explained in an email Thursday.

County officials certified final election results last Friday, after nearly one month of counting in-person ballots and votes received by mail. In turn, the City Council certified the returns in its meeting Tuesday.

Those results indicated Costa Mesa voters granted council incumbents Andrea Marr, Manuel Chavez and Arlis Reynolds, in districts 3, 4 and 5, respectively, another four years in office.

Mayor John Stephens was also reelected over challenger John Moorlach, a former state senator and Orange County supervisor, to serve two more years in the at-large position.

Costa Mesa Mayor John Stephens is sworn in to office Tuesday by City Clerk Brenda Green.
Costa Mesa Mayor John Stephens is sworn in to office during a regular City Council meeting Tuesday by City Clerk Brenda Green.
(Courtesy of Miss Darcy Photography)

Marr beat out two challengers in District 3, earning 2,220 votes to JT Patton’s 2,142 and Jorge Miron’s 651. Chavez ran unopposed in District 4 but still saw 1,881 ballots cast in his favor.

Reynolds earned 3,175 votes, or 64% approval, over challenger Rob Dickson’s 1,784 ballots, while Stephens led with 54.7% of the vote, or 17,297 ballots, over Moorlach’s 45.3% with 14,336 ballots cast.

Stephens noted at Tuesday’s council meeting this was only the second time in the city’s 70-year history voters backed all the incumbents running for reelection, keeping the council as it was after the last cycle.

“It happened one other time in 1982, exactly 40 years ago,” he said. “People on that council were names like Norma Hertzog, Arlene Schafer, Don Hall and Ed McFarland, so this is really quite something.”

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