Council approves 28 homes for Victoria Street hilltop

The Costa Mesa City Council approved a new 28-unit residential development at 1239 Victoria St. on Tuesday. The homes will replace a 1960s-era office building that is mostly vacant.
(Courtesy CITY OF COSTA MESA, Daily Pilot)

After more than two hours of discussion Tuesday night, the Costa Mesa City Council approved a new Westside residential development that will replace a nearly vacant 1960s office building.

The 3-2 decision, with Councilwomen Sandy Genis and Katrina Foley dissenting, helps pave the way for 28, three-story homes at 1239 Victoria St., a hilltop parcel overlooking the Santa Ana River and Huntington Beach.

The council also changed the zoning of the roughly 2-acre parcel from an office-building area — officially called an “administrative and professional district” — to high-density residential.

The property and its existing 55,000-square-foot building, first built in the 1960s for manufacturing, is owned by Westar Nutrition. About 20 people work there now, down from 100 in its 1990s peak.

The developer, Newport Beach-based Trumark Homes, was granted several deviations, including allowing the units to be about 35 feet tall instead of 27. The community will contain 112 parking spaces — the city’s required amount.

The three-bedroom units, either 1,997 square feet or 2,244 square feet, feature a contemporary design of stucco, fiber cement siding and stone veneers, with light and charcoal grays, whites and earth tones, according to city staff.

All the homes will have rooftop decks. To solve privacy concerns raised by neighbors, Trumark will install high walls on some decks to deter viewing into adjacent backyards near Valley Road, Sea Bluff Drive and Gleneagles Terrace.

“We believe we have a pretty fabulous project here,” said Eric Nelson, Trumark’s vice president of land development.

Construction could begin in July or August. The homes are expected to start in the mid-$800,000s.

Several Costa Mesa residents praised the project for positively developing the Westside and replacing an aging office building. Bill Turpit, who served on a Westside revitalization committee years ago, complimented Trumark Homes.

“This is the right kind of applicant, an applicant that is responsive for neighbors,” he said.

Others, however, still harbored worries about the rooftop decks and complained that affected residents didn’t receive proper notice about the meeting. One resident compared himself to Carl Fredricksen from the Pixar movie “Up,” saying he wants balloons to lift his house away and escape “encroaching development.”

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer called the decks the “most dynamic thing” on a project that’s bringing “a vibe” to the Westside.

Genis said she didn’t like the project’s density and the height of the homes.

Still, she added, “this is not a bad project, but it doesn’t fit, I don’t think.”

Elijah Fan, whose family bought the 1239 Victoria property in 1992, commented that the site was originally zoned for manufacturing. In 1998, however, in response to neighborhood complaints about noise and odors, the council changed the land’s zoning to an administrative and professional district.

For Westar Nutrition, this “shut out” all manufacturing and made the property practically useless, even though the company was in compliance, Fan said.

“I’ll never forget how scared how I felt, how hopeless I felt, really, at that point,” Fan said.

The family business moved several times over the next decade and spent millions along the way before they bought other property in town in 2008, he said.

Now, the only viable solution for 1239 Victoria was selling to a developer, Fan said.