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New project in Costa Mesa’s Sobeca district brings optimism, and parking worries, from council

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Campout, the latest mixed-use venture from Lab Holding LLC — developer of the Camp and the Lab commercial centers — would include an eight-room boutique hotel on Randolph Avenue in Costa Mesa.
(Illustration courtesy of city of Costa Mesa)

A project eyed for Costa Mesa’s Sobeca district wins praise for its concept and design but sparks concerns about whether it could further strain parking.

Sound familiar?

It’s a dynamic that has popped up for many proposals in that 39-acre area, and it played out again Tuesday night when Costa Mesa City Council members gave their initial thoughts about Campout, the latest mixed-use venture from the developer of the Camp and the Lab commercial centers on Bristol Street.

At the heart of the proposal from Lab Holding LLC is turning vacant tenant spaces in a commercial complex at 2944 and 2948 Randolph Ave. into an eight-room boutique hotel.

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As envisioned, the project would complement other businesses under development in the center — the Modern Coffee cafe and Salty Bear Brewing Co. — and provide synergy with the Camp to the east, which would be linked to the properties by a pedestrian path and share an outdoor common space.

“We think it’s going to round out the experience, and tying this into the Camp is exciting for us,” said Chris Bennett, Lab Holding’s director of development.

Though the council didn’t take official action on the project Tuesday — the purpose of the meeting was to provide feedback for the applicant to consider before entering the formal review process — it was clear that parking was weighing heavily on council members’ minds.

Thirty-eight parking spaces are proposed for the project site, compared with the 54 that would be required by the local zoning code. As a result, a parking study would be necessary to determine whether the project would provide sufficient spaces and, if not, what alternatives could be considered.

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Some council members expressed optimism that there are creative ways to address any potential parking deficit — such as encouraging the use of ride services, developing bike- or scooter-sharing programs or partnering with Lab Holding to increase the parking supply on Randolph.

“I want us to be supportive of these kinds of projects that help us to make Costa Mesa something different than just another Orange County suburban community,” said Mayor Katrina Foley. “This puts us on the map as a space for creativity and ingenuity and community.”

City planning also needs to take into account that residents — particularly younger ones — are increasingly using alternative forms of transportation to go out to eat, shop or socialize, council members said.

“It’s a different world … and the new folks that are coming up, they live differently, they move around the city differently,” said Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens. “And if we don’t adapt to that, we will lose them … to cities where people are addressing their concerns.”

Others, though, were more skeptical. They said available parking in and around the Camp and the Lab can already fall far short of demand and that surrounding businesses and residents are regularly contending with overflow.

“We can’t keep building stuff if there is no parking,” said Councilwoman Sandy Genis. “I think it’s a nice project, but there’s got to be something that gives.”

Councilman Allan Mansoor said he wants to see the project “be successful and sufficiently parked.”


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