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Costa Mesa taps out in fight with state over Fairview Center

Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa
What happens next and how Fairview will fit into the city’s future housing plans will be up for discussion Tuesday at 5 p.m., when the City Council hosts a study session on that and other housing-related topics.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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After months of fighting over the fate of the 114-acre Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa — where state officials plan to redevelop a portion of land into a regional emergency operations center — city officials are hanging up their gloves.

Mayor John Stephens delivered the news in a regular council meeting Tuesday, saying he and City Manager Lori Ann Farrell Harrison traveled to Sacramento Monday with state Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris to meet with state department heads.

The trio toured a larger statewide emergency command center in the nearby city of Mather, which serves as a hub of communication and coordination during disasters and other crises, to understand its layout and function.

“We had a pitchbook in hand, and the city manager and I did our best to try and convince the powers that be to relocate the [proposed] emergency services center someplace else,” Stephens said Tuesday.

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“That is not going to happen. They are very strident that the emergency operations center will be at Fairview Development Center.”

Costa Mesa leaders penned letters objecting to the redevelopment of a 15-acre portion of the property, saying the proposed facility would not be compatible with the up to 2,300 residential units envisioned for the state-owned site.

City officials submitted a letter claiming a regional emergency operations center, if built, would devalue the 114-acre parcel they’re eyeing to house 2,300 residential units.

Oct. 19, 2023

The state is decommissioning the grounds of what served for decades as a hospital for adults with developmental disabilities and has allocated $3.5 million to the city to rezone the area for residential use. Once that’s been done, state officials plan to develop the property in accordance with the new code.

What happens next and how Fairview will fit into the city’s future housing plans will be up for discussion Tuesday at 5 p.m., when the City Council hosts a study session on that and other housing-related topics.

Stephens elaborated on his trip to Sacramento in a phone interview Thursday, saying any concerns he had about ongoing, disruptive activity happening at the proposed emergency center were allayed by the visit.

“My concern was there would be, in times of emergency, helicopters coming in and out or trucks going back and from the warehouse,” he said. “[But] It’s like a command center for when there’s an emergency. You have an office complex, where people go in and talk and work on their computers — I’d call it an information-gathering and decision-making hub.

“My temperature went way down when I understood what the reality of the functioning of the emergency operations center will be.”

The visit also introduced city leaders to the various state departments and officials that would be developing and potentially working at the center once it’s up and running, which could happen sometime in 2027.

Meanwhile, Costa Mesa officials have begun drafting a Fairview Developmental Center Specific Plan that will set development standards for any future build-out of the property.

As for the actual construction of residential units, that’s likely still several years out. But, Stephens said, it’s a start.

“It’s a very positive thing, it’s just going to take a long time to figure out,” he said of Costa Mesa’s partnership with the state over what to do with the remaining 90-plus acres of land. “It’s a unique opportunity for a city that is otherwise built out.”

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