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Sticker shock causes Costa Mesa resident to rescind request for Measure K recount

Costa Mesan Mary Spadoni, center, at a May 2021 protest against One Metro West, a 15.23-acre project north of the 405.
Mary Spadoni, center, at a May 2021 protest against One Metro West, a 15.23-acre project north of the 405 Freeway that would have required voter approval under 2016 initiative Measure Y but will not now that Measure K has passed.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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A Costa Mesa resident who asked for a recounting of ballots cast for Costa Mesa’s Measure K — which passed by just 22 votes — has rescinded her request due to prohibitive cost estimates offered by county voting officials.

Mary Spadoni submitted a Dec. 6 request asking the Orange County Registrar of Voters to recount some or all of the 32,944 ballots cast for and against the initiative, a representative from the office confirmed Thursday.

Officials cannot provide cost estimates specific to a particular recount until a request has been filed, and the process of re-tallying ballots cannot begin until a deposit for the first day of work is received.

Costa Mesa residents rally in November in support of Measure K at the intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Baker Street.
Costa Mesa residents rally in November in support of Measure K at the intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Baker Street. They say the initiative will help the city build needed housing.
(James Carbone)

Estimates given to Spadoni Friday ranged from $42,333 for a machine recount of returns to $114,585 for a hand recount of every single Measure K vote made during the election, according to figures provided by the ROV.

Spadoni, who’d acted on behalf of a grassroots group of residents opposed to Measure K, withdrew her request Friday after learning how much it would cost.

“The decision to rescind the recount was based solely on the prohibitive costs,” she wrote in an email Monday. “Without a doubt, this grassroots effort was a David versus Goliath venture, but once again the opposition won by 22 votes after spending almost 25 times the amount No on K spent.”

The measure loosens the strings on an earlier initiative, Measure Y, requiring voter approval of large-scale developments exceeding the city’s General Plan and zoning code in certain commercial and light industrial areas.

County voting officials confirmed Measure K opponent Mary Spadoni filed the request this week. If she pays a deposit for the first day of work, the recount will begin Tuesday.

Costa Mesa officials, who drafted and advocated for Measure K, said that loosening of restrictions would allow the city to amend outdated zoning laws and create opportunities for more housing projects to be built in areas that have been blighted by a lack of development under Measure Y.

Some residents have also speculated the passage of Measure K would bring Costa Mesa into compliance with state housing mandates that call on cities to plan for additional housing in roughly the next decade.

But when asked whether the results of the election would aid the city in getting its Housing Element plan approved by the state — already more than a year past an initial deadline — city staff did not respond to multiple requests for information.

Those for and against the initiative, which would ease development restrictions in certain commercial and industrial areas, are sounding off as campaign dollars roll in.

Cynthia McDonald, a resident who worked alongside Spadoni in 2016 in support of Measure Y and campaigned with her and others against Measure K, said Monday they knew a recount wouldn’t be cheap but felt compelled to make the request.

“The ROV won’t tell you the cost unless you request a recount,” she said. “The thought was maybe we’d find some angel who’d come along [and help with funds] — but there was no angel.”

McDonald said the grassroots group’s work wasn’t over just yet. A recent version of Costa Mesa’s housing element mentions fully eliminating voter approvals guaranteed by Measure Y, including in residential areas, by 2025.

Spadoni agreed.

“We live to fight again,” she said Monday.

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