Council OKs small-lot ordinance


The Costa Mesa City Council on Tuesday gave a second and final approval for easing standards for small-lot developments.

The 3-2 vote on the Small-Lot Subdivision Ordinance — with Councilwomen Sandy Genis and Wendy Leece dissenting — came after considerable discussion about the future of residential construction in the city, which is largely limited to what’s known as infill development, or new projects surrounded by established areas.

The ordinance would be applied to areas already zoned for multifamily units and would not change any zoning designations or parking standards. It would also eliminate a required minimum distance between structures.


The law, a first for any Orange County city, would be applicable to developments containing up to 15 units.

While supporters said the ordinance will encourage the creation of new housing on underutilized land throughout Costa Mesa and sometimes replace older housing with new, detractors argued that more development will invariably lead to more traffic, noise and other quality-of-life issues.

The Westside has been the site of several recent small-lot developments, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger noted, and now there’s “buzz” about their positive effects.

Genis said she supports the idea of the ordinance, but had concerns with the specifics of the one proposed, particularly its changes to open-space requirements and setback spacing.

“I don’t know why this should be special,” she said.

Genis said she thought there might be some give and take in the process, but “it seems like it’s all take and no give, unfortunately.”

She also said the law should have been susceptible to review under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.

City staff have said the ordinance will save them time because it would involve fewer developer requests for variances or deviations. To that point, Leece said, “I don’t think we should be in a hurry for our planning department just to make things easier for the developer at the expense of the residents.”

Mayor Jim Righeimer said Costa Mesa has some of the strictest parking conditions around, and difficult parking situations that residents see now were implemented before such requirements.

The current setup is beneficial for attached housing, like row houses and apartments, not the detached, single-family product that is at issue, Righeimer said.


Organ donation

Righeimer presented Donate Life California, a state-authorized nonprofit that manages the organ and tissue donor registry, with a city proclamation at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting.

John Whalen, a Costa Mesa resident and the city’s ambassador for Donate Life California, thanked the council for its support.

Whalen also shared that he received a liver donation in February 2013. He was told the previous June that he needed the organ, only to find out that 120,000 others were on the waiting list.

When he did get a liver, he learned that it was from a 30-year-old man. Whalen said he realized that while the donation was the “best moment” of his own life, it came after tragedy for another family.

“They saved my life on Feb. 26 due to that generous gift,” he said.