Council upholds East Haven changes

The Costa Mesa City Council upheld a Planning Commission decision on Tuesday night approving various aspects — including the distance between the houses, open-space requirements and setbacks — for a proposed Eastside residential development.

During its April 8 meeting, the commission approved a host of variances and deviations for East Haven, at 2157 and 2159 Tustin Ave. The 1.24-acre parcel is planned to have 14 single-family homes, which are permitted for that area in the city zoning code. 

This article has been corrected to clarify that there was no variance made with regards to East Haven’s planned density. The 14-unit project of single-family homes on the 1.24-acre site is permitted, per city zoning code, to have 14 units at a maximum of 12 dwelling units per acre. There was not a change to allow 14 total units instead of 12.

After the president of an adjacent homeowners association filed a request for the council to review the commission’s decision, the council heard from concerned residents and the Costa Mesa-based developer of the project, Matt White Custom Homes.

After about two and a half hours of debate and discussion, the council voted 3-2, with Councilwomen Wendy Leece and Sandy Genis dissenting, to uphold the commission’s approval.

Neighbors who spoke against the project — many from the adjacent 12-home community along Catalina Shore Drive — cited concerns about increased traffic, noise and loss of privacy if East Haven were next door. Moreover, they almost universally spoke against the construction of 14 homes. One person said why not build something more like seven or eight homes.

Kathryn Anderson, who has lived for 62 years at the site where the planned developed is set to go, spoke in favor of the new homes. Two homes currently on the site would be demolished to make way for the new development.

Saying she had no personal financial interest in the project, Anderson said the council should vote “yes to East Haven, yes to 14 families to find the home of their dreams in which to raise their families the way we did.”

Genis cited her concerns for the project, namely that the city shouldn’t be “handing out variances too easily” in a “make-it-up-as-you-go-along zoning” style. Approving the variances unjustly becomes “de facto” zoning changes, she contended.

“You’re just blowing off your zoning ... and essentially rewriting the zoning code,” Genis said.

Councilman Gary Monahan, who approved the project, said the concerns raised by Catalina Shore residents were the “same complaints” raised when their own development was up for approval in the mid-1990s — a point that Mayor Jim Righeimer echoed.

“It’s no different,” Righeimer said. “It’s the same items every time.”

Added Monahan, “At the end of the day, this is about the big picture in improving our neighborhoods.”

Matt White, the site’s developer, called the development “extremely fitting” to the neighborhood. He cited the success of another project he did on Thurin Avenue called Midtown. He also said he has worked at appeasing Catalina Shore residents concerns, including meeting with them in a public meeting on their street.

Leece in stating her disapproval of the project called East Haven a quality project but one that is too dense.

Genis also said the city should get to formulating a small-lot subdivision ordinance that will provide guidance to future projects of this type in the city.

As of press time, the council had not addressed the charter committee or restructuring of the Fire Department, which includes closing one fire station.